Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

2014 has marked the best annual vinyl sales in a very long time. It is the first year since 1996 for sales to break the one million record mark. It’s something that can be attributed to several things, and most will instantly jump to conclusions relating to Record Store Day, and the increasing attention to poor sound quality on online music streams.

However, Nick Pollard had other ideas, having spotted some very unusual music shops popping up around the UK over the last few years. Nick visited one such store, Pie & Vinyl in Southsea, a ‘record cafe’, to chat to Steve Portnell – one of the founders of the rather distinguished shop. No prizes for guessing what they have for sale.

(NOTE: If you do visit Pie & Vinyl, the pie really is marvelous. I recommend the wild mushroom and asparagus pie. Nom.)

Image by Dan Smyth. www.pieandvinyl.co.uk

Image by Dan Smyth. http://www.pieandvinyl.co.uk

What compelled you to open Pie & Vinyl?

It was believed that people still wanted to buy physical format music, but using a different experience. That’s the key to Pie & Vinyl: an experience. We’re a record shop first and foremost, and we offer food alongside that. We just sell modern vinyl. Brand new music. And as you probably know, often comes with CDs or download codes inside. Plus it’s the 18-25 year olds that are the biggest part of our customer base.

Has there been a big wave of customers? 

Yeah. A lot of kids are buying records again, purely because they’ve never been able to buy them before. The fact that they pick them up and they realise there’s a ‘Side A’ and a ‘Side B’. All these mind-boggling things that we take for granted. It was the belief that people didn’t just want to press RETURN for one song, but want to actually buy a physical album, look at the artwork. The sound quality is vastly improved compared to a CD. MP3s are horrible. They run at 3-bit, CDs at 12-bit and vinyl at 24-bit. It’s not compressed either. You can hear the bass, and all of the diferent layers. The vastly improved sound is a big thing as well that young people have appreciated.

The records are all heavyweights as well. They’re all 180-gram standards, so they’re very thick, the grooves are deeper, and the sound quality is a lot better. So that’s a kind of standard thing now, whereas in the Sixties and Seventies, the albums were very thin. They were shellac then.

I would appreciate this more were my record player not broken!

Well we fix them here, mate! You’ll have to bring it in. We sell hi-fi as well. We’re actually going to open a unit just down the road, called Pie & Hi-Fi. We’re hoping to open it this weekend, and specialize in hi-fi equipment, separate styluses, repairs, brushes, alcohol… cleaning alcohol I should add!

How busy was it here around Record Store Day?

Record Store Day is a great day. It’s great for us. The idea of Record Store Day is obviously get more people in for it, and then come back again another day. This year we had the road closed and we put some bands on. We had the Young Knives play. We had a week’s worth of events in the days leading up to Record Store Day. We showed a film in here, Last Shop Standing, about the rise, and the fall and rebirth of record shops.

We’ve got a big, drop down screen here. We have lots of in-store performances as well. We take all the furniture out, and you can fit 60-70 people in here. The performances are usually full to the brim, and we have some very well regarded artists. We’ve had Frank Turner play in here. The night before he played The O2, and he came here! He’s a local lad isn’t he, and he’s always played around here. There’s a strong music scene here. He’s really supportive and hasn’t forgotten those days. We have loads of artists from The Feeling to The Wedding Present, so some pop acts as well as alternative acts. The support that’s out there… I guess they realise that we sell their product, so we work together! It’s fantastic.

The (look of the) shop is all very Southsea. Everything decorated is sourced locally and it’s all got like… a local affiliation as well. There is a lot of Portsmouth and Southsea memorabilia around.

Which is the biggest draw, the pie or the vinyl? Or the ‘and’?

They work very closely together, and nine-times-out-of-ten people buy both. We play nice music, people come in, they talk about music, and especially at the weekend they come in and have pie and mash as well. So, yeah. It works well together. We sell an experience, but we are a record shop first and foremost. Everything we do is based around music.

The shop is the experience. We sell pie and mash alongside music. Basically a hub for people to discover music, discuss music, and eat high quality food. People are very conscious of what they put into their bodies now so we offer a very healthy selection of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free pies. They’re award-winning pies. You can’t get a better pie around here, I can guarantee that!

How much vinyl do you have in here?

Do you want me to show you around? It’s good fun being creative with the space that you have. Here we have our new releases. Every Monday there are about thirty new releases, both 7”s and 12”s. This is our classic reissue box. We also sell limited edition screen posters. These are some of the hi-fi bits that we sell, but they will move soon into the other unit. Our merchandise is really popular as well. We sell lots of T-shirts. This is a Record Store Day Pie & Vinyl one. There are record bags, and hats are very popular. People around Portsmouth and Southsea are quite passionate about the area and we like to support that. There are a lot of independent shops in it, and it has a kind of anti-corporate feel to it all, which is fantastic. So there’s lots of grubby little independent shops around. It’s good not only in the Portsmouth. It’s getting a bit of a reputation nationally as well. We sell a lot on our mail order service. A good way to support independent record shops.

I’ve just noticed some cassettes over there as well. And your own record label. You’ve been busy!

Yeah! Cassettes have come back as well. That’s another factor of why vinyl has come back so strongly – because they contain a CD or download code in them. We’ve got our own record label as well, so we’ve released things from three artists – B of the Bang, The Boy I Used to Be, and Rickyfitts.

How much do you have to restock for orders?

We order as we need replenishment. We work with twelve different distributors and labels, and nothing’s changed in that respect. You still go to the labels and distribution and there are weekly pre-sale order sheets and lots of catalogues that come out that you order from.

We’ve got quite a bit of stock, and when we get new music we turn over some of the A-Z section quite often to keep it all fresh, as we continually get new releases in. Every week on average, we get at least twenty new releases in a week. This week, it’s probably about thirty. We also restock as we get a lot of orders coming in online.You’ve just got to get to know your customer base, take a bit of a punt and being a music fan is obviously a big help. You certainly satisfy that, because you keep buying lots of records!

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What do Steel Panther, Frank Turner, Funeral For a Friend, Trivium, Sonic Boom Six and Blitz Kids taste like? I decided to find out.

During my time at university music site Electric Banana, I interviewed Corey Beaulieu of Trivium. Due to the tasty name of the website, and Matt Heafy’s obsession with food, he got a very unusual question.

“If your music were a food, what would it taste like?”

As a result, this became a mainstay of most of my interviews while I was a university student, and every so often since. Here is a compilation of some of the answers that I have received from musicians over the last couple of years. Some sensible. Some creative. Some bloody revolting.

Bon appetit.

STEEL PANTHER: Pizza, strawberries and watermelon

steel-panther

Michael Starr: I’d taste like pizza.

Stix Zadinia : He would definitely taste like pizza.

MS: I definitely would. A little garlicky. Not too much. But a lot of cheese.

SZ: I like to think that I would taste like strawberry. With a hint of watermelon.

MS: You’re so fuckin’ Californian, dude.

SZ: Dude! That’s how I roll, bro! It’s where I was born, man!

 

SONIC BOOM SIX: Curry

 sonicboomsix

Laila K: (very quickly) Curry!

Barney Boom: Hot curry.

LK: Yeah, curry. Madras or above! Our band’s daily life revolves around food. What are we going to eat when we get to the venue? What are we going to eat when we get to the hotel? We had a roast today. It was the most disappointing roast. We were depressed for like… two hours afterwards, because it was so rubbish. We had been looking forward to that since last Sunday! So, yeah. It all revolves around food. And if you don’t like curry, you can’t be in our club!

 

FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND: Fake bacon

Funeral For a Friend

Funeral For a Friend

Matt Davies-Kreye: Oh Christ… very weird, because you’ve got one vegan, two vegetarians and two carnivores, so it would be a very odd food.

Pat Lundy: It would be ‘fake-on’ I guess. Fake-on strips.

MD-K: Yeah, fake bacon.

Me: That’s what I have to put up with at home. My mum is a vegetarian.

PL: It’s a girl thing.

[Matt sticks middle finger up at Pat]

 

TRIVIUM: A buffet

trivium_comp3Edit

Corey Beaulieu: That’s hard! That would be a good Matt (Heafy) question ‘cos he’s a real food guru guy. It would probably be something really… weird. Matt likes to try a lot of weird foods and stuff. A lot of stuff I’m not really familiar with. It would have to be a meal with a lot of variety to it, cos we do a lot of stuff with our music that’s all over the place as far as our style stuff goes. A buffet.

 

BLACK VEIL BRIDES: Dog food

640px-Black_Veil_Brides_Video_shoot

Jake Pitts: Probably dog food.

Me: That is revolting. Why?

Jake: We all like so many things so I don’t know.

 

BLITZ KIDS: Faeces and beer (really)

Blitz Kids

Blitz Kids

Nic Montgomery: (laughs) Pffff… probably shit.

Me: Ugh, that’s the nastiest one yet. I thought Black Veil Brides were bad. They said dog food.

No, that’s pretty good. I think we might be a burrito. Or beer. We taste like beer. We taste like poo in a beer. Beer poo. Or poo beer.

 

HACKTIVIST: Weird junk food

Photograph taken at the event by Connor Ockwell

Photograph taken at the event by Connor Ockwell

Timfy James: Deep-fried chicken. No! J likes it!

J Hurley: Yeah, definitely chicken! Juicy chicken. Really juicy.

Josh Gurner: No, we’re like those people who take their McDonalds chips and dip it in a McFlurry. They’re two things that are pretty good on their own, and then if you mix the two together, some people think it’s the shit, and other people go ‘what the fuck is that?’.

TJ: Yeah! There you go. That’s brilliant. I would have said chips and McDonalds milkshake. Basically, any two foods that shouldn’t go together and taste amazing. Bacon on syrup and pancakes.

 

SUCH GOLD: Communion wafers

suchgold

Nate Derby: Salty.

Skylar Sarkis: Gluten free.

ND: It wouldn’t be very thick. It would be like a flax cracker.

SS: Or a communion wafer. It would come with a nice glass of red wine.

ND: And some humus.

SS: And it would be administered by a priest.

 

FRANK TURNER: Steak and ale pie

Frank Turner

 

Frank Turner: Probably a steak and ale pie. Wholesome. I don’t make particularly radical and adventurous music. It’s just country rock music. It’s also damn fine and tasty!

(NOTE: If this was a joke about him abandoning being straight-edge and vegetarian, I missed it. Oops. Sorry Frank. If not, I’m quite proud of now noticing the coincidence…)

 

VERSES: Banoffee Pie

verses 

Jason Danzelman: I would go with a nice banoffee pie, I’d say. It’s got like a slightly crunchy base (bass?), it’s soft in places and sweet and tasty at the same time.

Me: That is the deepest, most poetic answer I’ve been given for such a stupid question. I’d promised Critical Wave I would stop asking that too.

True story. For that reason, I refuse to put this question away.

I couldn’t help but feel referring to albums as ‘life-changing’ is a bit overdramatic. Waking from a coma to the sound of some religious gospel, which compelled you to follow your selected deity since you suspect that they saved your life, then maybe. However, after giving this a little more though, I realised that it might not be the overstatement that it first seemed.

NME recently compiled a list of albums, submitted by readers as their ‘life-changing’ albums. I’m not sure of a single album, as so many come to mind. For this reason, here are five, pretty much giving you all a quick skip through my musical childhood.

THE ‘PARENT ALBUM’

Meat Loaf – Hits Out of Hell

meatloaf

Yes, really. Having heard Dad playing it, I was intrigued and borrowed his Meat Loaf CD. He never got it back.

I think that this ‘best of’ is a breakthrough moment for me, as aged 6, I already knew that the ridiculous length of tracks were something special, to the point that I got a stopwatch to time ‘Bat Out of Hell’. This was the very first album to really draw me in, and played it a heck of a lot, enough that I would have happily played the aforementioned nine-minute-and-forty-three-second behemoth twice in a row.

At the time, I didn’t understand what Mr Loaf’s plea for sex in his car ‘Paradise By the Dashboard Light’ was about, and young enough that I was grossed out by ‘You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth’. Kissing? Ew.

This sentimentality led to me not being able to resist seeing him live at the O2 last year, which was great fun.

Favourite track: Bat Out of Hell

THE FIRST ALBUM

Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory

linkinpark

2000. I was 10. This year saw a massive rise of sales of band hoodies. My friend mentioned to me this awesome hoodie that had the cover of this amazing band called Linkin Park’s new album, on the back AND the front! I needed it, but was irritated by the monstrous £28 that it cost. Mum bought it for me, and the friend was very impressed. This all happened before I had heard a single track by Linkin Park, something that I discussed on Steve Lamacq’s show (listen to me on Lamacq’s BBC Radio 6 Music show here).

It’s just as well that I liked the album. I asked for Hybrid Theory for Christmas, and loved it. This was my first album, and I think I chose well. Those screams of “shut up when I’m talking to you!” in ‘One Stop Closer’ were, as far as I was aware, the most awesome thing ever. Tied with those screams of “GO AWAY!” during ‘A Place For My Head’ anyway. This was the dawn of someone who wished he had the guts to be rebellious. However, I felt slightly short changed with the longest track being 3:36. I guess that Meat Loaf had his negative effects too.

This friend circle lead me to also be hooked on System of a Down’s Toxicity and Marilyn Manson’s Holy Wood. However, what came next was perhaps the most important of all.

Favourite track: Forgotten

THE FANBOY ALBUM

Muse – Origin of Symmetry

Muse-Origin_Of_Symmetry-Frontal

2002. I was being driven to a birthday party, and the birthday boy played me Muse’s Origin of Symmetry. I was blown away in particular by the sheer speed of Matt Bellamy’s fingers, and intense coda of ‘Space Dementia’. And what the hell was there a church organ doing in ‘Megalomania’? Linkin Park had been a rocking twist on the rap that dominated the charts, with Eminem taking centre stage, but this was plain bizarre. I had to hear the rest of this album. It’s no surprise that this was on my Christmas list.

At this age, I wasn’t following music news at all. However, with the release of Absolution, I had to get it as soon as possible. After Kerrang’s 5K review of their Earls Court shows in 2004, I was enticed by Muselive.com, signing up just to download the bootleg recording of that show, that a cruel friend went to without me. Eight years and 12,000 forum posts later, despite hating their last two album, I’m still there.

Favourite track: Citizen Erased

THE EYE-OPENER

Outkast – Stankonia

1279659459_allcdcovers_outkast_stankonia_2000_retail_cd-front

2002. It was around this time that I listened to local station Power FM, avidly in the evenings to hear the Online Hitline show. Outkast’s ‘Ms Jackson’ was a mainstay on the countdown for weeks, but I still headed to Woolworths to buy the single. I was chuffed to bits when my cousin visited with a copy of Stankonia. It was then recorded to cassette for me to treasure for years. I have a photographic memory of forgetting that it was recording, and rewinding during ‘Humble Mumble’ to hear our favourite lyric (“Too democratic, republic fuck it, we chicken nugget, we dip into sauce like mop and bucket”) meaning that we had to play the song over again, but we didn’t care. It was awesome. After all, aged 12, this was the age where quality was gauged by the quantity of profanity.

This was the first departure that I had had from the genre that I followed for the entire time that I had followed music. I lost some ‘cred’ at school, for quoting an Outkast lyric in my MSN name (“What could make a nigga wanna take another nigga life…?”, from the infuriatingly titled ‘?’) and then making poor attempts to say that I didn’t, although everyone saw it. In the long run, it was a small price to pay. Over the years, more unusual albums would provide steps in being more adventurous, most notably Radiohead’s Kid A and Sigur Ros’s ( ), but this was where that transition began.

Favourite track: B.O.B.

THE TEENAGE LIFE CHANGER

HIM – Love Metal

 

HIM - Love Metal

2003. Rock was well and truly cemented in my taste, but this would be the album to shape a chunk of my teenage life, lasting several years. While without the others I wouldn’t be where I am today, this had the most profound instant effect. This was my real Jackass phase, thinking that Bam Margera was God incarnate and that the whole CKY ‘franchise’ was amazing. I was basically a skater boy… who never skated. Myself and friends made our own CKY style film around this time (entitled Random TV), consisting heavily of us jumping into bushes and sitting on all-terrain boards, luging, because we didn’t have the guts to stand up. Our website, is still there ten years on. (HERE!)

I fell in love with Infiltrate Destroy Rebuild by CKY, released in 2002, but it was HIM’s Love Metal that began this phase for me. As Margera gushed over them regularly, it was part of the whole community that we so wished that we could be a part of. I can also recall being really peeved that a friend’s copy of the album had a bonus track (‘Love’s Requiem’) and mine didn’t. It is all as corny as a cornfield, but it’s still fun to listen to.

Favourite track: Sweet Pandemonium