Friday, 24 July 2009
By Simon Williams, NME
*Fist of fun*
Like tabloid hypocrisy, stroppy bus conductors and careless estate agents, certain aspects of reality will never, ever let you down. And the music business -'alternative' or not - is no exception.
Take Prolapse, for example: a haphazard collective of half-a-dozen studey types seemingly drawn together by a penchant for shouting and Sonic Youth B-sides and armed with a name about as hospital radio-friendly as FrankieWank & The F----ers, surely few acts could compete with them on a thoroughly low-rent scale of Transit van-trundling, bedsit-bundling indie schmindie on-the-road nightmares.
Sure enough, ruddy-faced ranting vocalist Scotch Mick is fondly recalling some of the more glamorous moments of Prolapse's career. Like that time in Germany when they arrived in a huge squat in Hanover after spending light years on the sodding autobahn to find they were playing with the Gay City Rollers - oh yes - the majority of whom appeared to be getting intimate in the boys' toilets.
Anyway, it was really bloody cold and Prolapse were all shaking'n'quaking from a high-octane blend of on-tour psychosis and the DTs, and the larger-than-life singer of the Gay City Rollers - a chap called Elvis, natch - well, he reappeared from the bogs and he had blood, like, under his armpit. By the time Scotch Mick had seen the wall of a nearby bar burst into flames, the actual gig itself had become something of an irrelevance. Suffice it to say the show was rubbish.
'It was,' growls Mick with masterful understatement, 'f---ing horrible.'
Spending a weekend in Rome with Prolapse should therefore fill the more sophisticated among us with the sort of dread normally associated with cold concrete floors, stinking syringe-littered toilet venues and cockroach-infested lunacy. But that's enough about Camden.
And, in a very real sense, that's enough about the potential social perils of being in Prolapse, for this weekend is blissfully free from any touring traumas or tribulations - primarily because they aren't even playing any gigs! They're just here to chew the fat with NME over their new album 'The Italian Flag' - the rather piss-poor excuse for our current location -and to have the odd discreet conflab with their continental paymeisters at Warner Brothers. In fact, with the luvverly blue skies and visits to the Pantheon and the Vatican, these 48 hours could almost be described as classy.
Prolapse? Classy!???? Skankin' shrimp paste sandwiches, tomorrow Scotch Mick will be on a British Airways flight with Brian 'Queen' May. And Anita 'EastEnders' Dobson! And not only that, but he's also been pissed in Los Angeles! With Drew Barrymore!
'I pulled her ear!' he beams, ruddily. Yeah! Really! 'Yeah, I said "Cheers, Big Ears" and she went, "What? Cheers, Big Ass?" so I said, "No, ears!" and pulled one of hers to show her what I meant.'
Even better, we find Scotch Mick and co-conspirator/co-vocalist Linda Steelyard in a local backstreet restaurant, guffawing heartily at the Inglese menu and its poorly translated promises of Spaghetti on Angler's Way, A Little Walnuts by Vernaccia and, of course, the soon-to-be legendary starter, The Salmon Fill With a Smoke, because the menu reads like a Prolapse set list.
Yes indeed, 'Slash/Oblique', 'I Hate the Clicking Man', 'Return of Shoes'... you'll find all these and more stumpily-titled delights on 'The Italian Flag', the 'Lapses fine forthcoming (third) album. More Prolapse facts? The other two-thirds of the band consist of The Other Mick (Harrison, bass), Dave Jeffreys (guitar), Pat Marsden (guitar), Tim Pattison (drums) and Donal Ross-Skinner (keyboards). They all sound like they should be modelling donkey jackets in a Vic&Bob sketch, and they are all currently back in Leicester or London or wherever else it is that Prolapse have been accused of 'coming from', maaaaan.
To the average discerning punkoid punter, Prolapse have been around for blatheringly ages, whipping out such a stompingly comprehensive string of sniggles'n'sniggers for such a baffling variety of record companies that Mick and Linda struggle to remember, a) the song titles, b) the label names and c) what the hecksie becksie they're going on about.
In reality, the sextet fell into (mis)shape about three years ago in between studies in Leicester, and Mick was so shy he wore a balaclava onstage for the first, ooooh, 20 gigs. They have subsequently played a sweltering welter of maniac live shows with Pulp, Sonic Youth and Stereolab, the majority of which have dwelt upon the deranged antics of Linda and Mick. Crucially, every year Prolapse bung out a fantastic single like 'Pull Thru Barker' or 'TCR' and everyone goes 'BRILLIANT!' but nobody buys it so they slide back into saggy old oblivion; and this week Prolapse's BRILLIANT new single is called 'Autocade', which is so poptastically fantastic that Mick hates it.
'I choose not to be on it,' he says dismissively. 'I just don't like the song - it's not my cup of tea. But that's OK, we're in a band where it's not gonna cause any fuss. I just don't like our new single, that's all. It's too pop. That's the way the cookie crumbles.'
'It should be pointed out here that we didn't set out to write a pop song,' defends Linda. 'We don't want people thinking that. It just happened!'
'I still think it's crap,' mutters Mick.
'I could have shouted all over it ad then it wouldn't be a pop song,' insists Linda. 'It could've easily been someone boiling a kettle over the music or whatever. I mean, the next single could be ten minutes of Hoover noise!'
It probably will be, as well, which is precisely why Prolapse are hardly ranked alongside Fairy Liquid and Uncle Berkov's Ratcatcher Delight in the household name stakes. 'I can't write words that are about anything other than murder,' sighs Linda. 'And death. Oh, and relationships splitting up. I'm probably the nastiest person in the band, really.'
True, she has just spooned an entire mouthful of - wait for it - Parmesan cheese into her mouth, which is pretty damn nasty.
'We're somewhere between Throbbing Gristle and The Razorcuts,' leers Mick. 'Some of our album is unlistenable! A lot of it sounds on first listen like there's no structure to it. It's just the rantings of a madman and a madwoman!'
Brilliant! Of course, on the second and third and tenth listens you're convulsing along to the delirious rushes of sonic mayhem and Stereolab-in-a-madhouse grooves and understanding exactly what Linda means when she says that, 'There are a lot of people who are really fanatical about our music - they really do love us!'
Yip! Especially in America! But we digress. Anyhow, some Prolapse songs 'depress the shit' out of Linda, and that's brilliant as well, because, she says, 'I'd like people to get off on the words and I don't mean that people should go out and murder people but I'd like them to relate to it like a Smiths song: I'd like them to say, 'Oh, it's really miserable, but I know what she's going on about.'
What about the somewhat haphazard take on your career plan?
'We're not one of those bands that are really intense and go, 'Where shall we take it now?', sniffs Linda. 'Maybe that's where we're going wrong. We're quite take-us-or-leave-us, really. We're not into licking arses or anything like that.'
'If we'd put our minds to it, we could be as big as Symposium,' beams Mick. 'Or Morbid Angel.'
'I don't know what I'm doing in a band, actually. I don't really care about it. I'd be quite happy if 80,000 people bought the album - I'd be like, f---in' hell, people do appreciate us! But I'm not a wee crappy indie kid, I really don't care.'
He doesn't either - he prefers his job as an archaeologist back in Leicester to being a pop singer. But, of course, he does as well, because beneath his charmingly cantankerous Crass-rousing melody-loathing anarchist-with-a-small 'a' hollerings, one heartily suspects that Scotch Mick is as enamoured of his band's furious pop noise as the rest of the radiator-lugging Linda-hugging Prolapse fanatics are.
'I had to list my three current favourite bands the other day,'reveals Linda, blushing with the social importance of it all. Excellent! And, pray, which particular globally-renowned publication was canvassing your opinions on the likes of Tiny Too, Spraydog, and (possibly) Frankie Wank & The F---ers?
'It was for the Prolapse newsletter.' More blushing. 'Heeheehee!'
'Hurhurhurmph!' gurgles Mick.'And we wonder why we've never been big?'
Still class in a pint glass, though.