Friday, 24 July 2009
Conform or Die
A cup of tea with Prolapse
from Conform or Die issue 1 by Gordon Moakes
Not in a literal sense, of course, pop stars don't do such mundane things as having a cup of tea. But, as Alan Titchmarsh would agree, our alternative rock stars deserve the slightly irreverent cosy chat treatment just as much as his two-dimensional second rate celebrities do.
Still at work on their imminent album The Italian Flag, Prolapse's Linda, Geordie Mick, Tim and Pat enter for a 'Hello' magazine-style dissection of their back catalogue and current aspirations...
'What are you currently engaged in doing?'
'We're near Wrexham,' says Pat, 'in the studio mixing the album. We're really pleased with it so far.' Geordie Mick, on the other, is listening to Bowery Electric song on John Peel. 'It's bloody amazing.'
I ask about Prolapse as a phenomenon.
'Prolapse is a collection of six unfashionable irritating gits,' Geordie Mick begins, to set the scene. 'Dave is a married geezer who is so vague it takes him 13 hours to put his socks on; Tim is a fat beast who rubs kebab grease on his lips; Linda is a complete lunatic - one minute fluffy bunny, next minute axe-wielding psychopath. I get irritated by every petty... ' he continue, but Linda finishes his sentence for him: 'by every petty insignificant murmur which nobody else with a brain would ever notice.' The sense of harmony in the group is almost tangible. 'Scottish Mick is a blinkered argumentative alcoholic and Pat is depressed 24 hours a day. Here is the delicately balanced chemistry which seems vital in securing the unique creative chemistry at work... and it's hardly as if the band are averse to letting this tension spill out onto their records.
'Me and Mick don't want to kick each other in most of the time,' explains Linda. 'I can't explain why we feel drawn to play such fraught roles in the songs. We fall into it naturally.'
I ask the usual uninspiring questions about influences. Linda's obviously been here before. 'I've tried for ages to think of influences through numerous interviews but honestly can't. I don't think I've got any.'
Guitarist Pat tries to help. 'There are so many really. From Scott Walker, to Kraftwerk, to early Fairport Convention.'
You're usually compared to The Fall, yet in one of your songs [the Volume 14 version of Move to Limit Slabs] I remember the lyric 'We're not The Fall - they're some other band.'
'Yes indeed,' says drummer Tim,' but I don't think we sound as much like them as we're supposed to.' He goes on to mention Echo and the Bunnymen, the Chameleons, Blumfeld, Stereolab and Simon and Garfunkel amongst others.
In that case, who are your true enemies?
Here the band seem to an extent to agree. 'Blatant retro ripoff shite that smacks you round the ear-lobe every time you open the fucking front door,' says Geordie Mick unreluctantly. 'The worst tendencies of Britpop and safe uninspiring guitar pop,' concurs Pat. 'Mansun make me physically vomit, as do Herman's Hermits,' continues Mick even less compromisingly. 'Oh yeah, people who think liking early Cilla Black gives them some sort of inversed esoteric credibility.' Pat's enemies seem even more wide-reaching. 'Adolf Hitler, unimaginative journalists, Man United, people who don't like weasels, stoats etc... ' I begin to worry whether I might fall into any of those categories.'
'I think it's dangerous to cite people as enemies in case I ever need to be rescued by one of them,' puts in Linda. 'You never know.' I have visions of Mansun's Paul Draper rushing to Geordie Mick's assistance when it seems he might be choking on his own vomit.
I do think the Prolapse sound is a small part of The Fall, but their clanking has never been as stripped down yet tuneful at the same time. Things like 'Move to Limit Slabs' (B side to Killing the Bland, previously appeared in the Volume CD series) shows that concrete, chunky side to your sound, but there's always been songs like 'Hungarian Suicide Song', which is minimal, but aching and emotional too.
'Some review in America described us as all the bands you missed the first time around. Which I think is quite a compliment,' says Tim. 'No matter what you do you're always going to sound a bit like someone else. The trick is to sound like people you respect - The Fall and Joy Division is certainly true.'
I thought the last album, Backsaturday, was a progression. 'Zen Nun Deb' was particularly mature and emotional, and one of the few songs I have heard that successfully conjures up that unique Joy Division mood.
'I think they key of D minor helps,' says Pat. 'The second side of 'Closer' is nearly all in this gloomy key, But yes, it was probably our attempt to sound like 'Decades' and 'Heart and Soul' in one song - although the vocals are really very different to Joy Division type vocals.'
'It was written 30 minutes before it was recorded, very late at night when things were in a very Joy Division mood,' Tim adds. 'As far as the new stuff being more of a progression - the new album certainly follows that pattern. There's not a great deal of scratchy punk - though I never thought we were at the time - and there's quite a lot of keyboards on it which helps bring in new textures.'
How about another irrelevant question - what are your favourite record sleeves?
'I love, predictably enough, the minimalist Factory stuff,' says Geordie Mick. 'I used to love the montage cut up kind of stuff that loads of American bands ripped off from The Fall, but that's getting pretty boring. My favourite of all time is 'Primitive Painters' by Felt.' Pat adds 'all three Neu! albums and every Krankies album.' Tim's favourite is "Heaven up Here' 'from the days when standing enigmatically on a beach with a big coat on was deemed acceptable.' And it's no surprise that Mick's least favourite record sleeve is 'that ridiculous pile of crap 'K' by Kula Shaker.'
Linda recalls how one of their very own record sleeves came into being at a gig. 'Our first album was on very limited vinyl and 50 of the sleeves were painted by the audience behind us as we played. We didn't have any idea how they would end up. People brought things with them to stick on the sleeves and we provided paint, I think.'
I ask what a song like Chill Blown, from the first album, is an attempt to describe.
'Paintings,' says Linda simply.
'Musically, it's having a pretty good stab at describing a track off the first New Order album - possibly 'The Him'' says Pat. So it's not just me that thinks the first New Order album is actually one of their better works.
Anyway, to change the subject... is one of the lines in 'Every Night I'm Mentally Crucified (7000 Times) 'Your parents must love you to call you Kay?' I ask because I put this on a tape for a friend called Kay - absolutely true story - but I didn't notice the lyric until later.
'Yep that is one of the lines, but in this case it's a bloke called Kay,' Linda explains. 'Like called a girl John'.
It seems that this scenario is at the core of Prolapse. An axe-wielding fluffy bunny of a band, whose lyrics, similarly to The Fall, make you laugh out loud at times, before you realise the seriousness of the situation. A prolapse, in medical terms, in no laughing matter - I won't go into details. On stage there is often mayhem - two vocalists prowling around arguing with each other - and there is quite a sense of politeness, and getting down to the facts. But I wouldn't want to be Crispian Mills bumping into the six of them down a dark alley.
All of which bodes well for the release of The Italian Flag. The suspiciously on-form catchiness of Killing the Bland ('I might have to kill you,' offers Linda during the song, 'which wouldn't be fair... on me.' And what could be more affirming of its own assuredness than that kind of sentiment?) is just a starting point for the album, along with songs like 'Flat Velocity Curve', 'Autocade,' and 'Boston' ('working title'). New Prolapse. New danger.