Thursday, 23 July 2009
VOLUME 12, Winter 94 article
Vol 12, Winter 94: 18-track CD and booklet - includes Visa for Violet and Van
Article by Susan Corrigan
Note: Two lines seem to be missing in the original, symbolised by * *
'You're making this up as you go along, aren't you?' Mick Derrick exclaims, from a payphone somewhere in boredom-torn Leicester (the clink of a glass on the receiver confirms that this particular payphone is located in a pub).
Possibly, but isn't that wholly appropriate when we've convened to discuss the pleasures and perversions of Prolapse, the band most likely to pull a song from thin air? Is it not right, in this instance, to improvise?
Over their short career - two singles and an LP, to be precise - Prolapse have given their music some serious unpredictable schtick. Reference points that don't annoy the band include The Fall and Huggy Bear, DIY with more than a spark of life and plenty of irreverent attitude. Not to mention some nice clangy bits.
The six members of the band met a few years ago at university in Leicester but have since scattered around the country and now collide only for gigs and interviews. Gigs are shambolic affairs with singer Mick and co-singer Linda Steelyard battling for control of the Prolapse beast, smashing stuff up and making a satisfyingly happy mess. Practice, it seems, does not make perfect in the eyes of this band.
'I prefer not to practice,' Mick laughs. 'It's mince!'
Instead, he's using the conversation to develop some tasty new rants. He's been in this hostelry all destiny * * pouring glasses of nasty brown stuff down his neck. He is, as they say in the Gorbals, his 'hood of origin, pished.
'It's one of my favourite things to do, sitting in pubs. Yesterday we sat in the pub and got pished, then we went to Snibston Discovery Park, which is like a science museum.
'I like places where you can press buttons and pull knobs all day, but there were all these crying kids and I wanted to kill them, so we went back to the pub and got soaked.'
Mick Derrick is the ranter of Prolapse, who swears blue murder in deepest Glaswegian across the band's entire catalogue. He doesn't seem to have mellow moments. Safely ensconced in a pleasant chamber several hundred miles away, co-singer Linda confirms Mick's reputation as a nutter. 'The only things I can remember about Scottish Mick and either very offensive or highly illegal,' she says, wincing. With guitarist Pat Marsden and bassist Mick Harrison (known to all as Geordie Mick), Linda is gleefully dissecting the band's latest weird weekend. They have, as it happens, met more nutters at a gig. They often do that. 'One boy brought an entire bag of potatoes for us to sign,' Linda says. Geordie Mick was pretty freaked out as well: 'He said he wanted to be reincarnated as a patch of lichen.'
After a slight flutter of worry - potato nutter knows where they live - Linda sighs: 'Oh well, potatoes today, nuclear weapons tomorrow.' She breaks into a pixie smile. 'Boom.'
Crash, bang, wallop. This is the sound of Prolapse detonating on Visa for Violet and Van, their track on Volume Twelve. Founded on a bedrock of industrial strength percussion, Visa thrusts ahead on pealing guitars as Mick spins a disorienting but brilliant narrative over Linda's enunciated wordplay: 'Painful aimless blameless nameless squareless famous playless shameless... '
It's a great introduction to Prolapse's multitude of difficult charms, not least because the track is completely improvised. 'It's quite scary wondering how it will turn out,' Pat says.
'We wanted to take the opportunity we were given to just experiment,' Linda says. Usually when someone mentions the dreaded 'i' word, it conjures up visions of pretentious men in black turtlenecks auditioning for Glenn Branca's Guitar Orchestra. Prolapse have a more gleeful, hands-on approach.
'We used to improvise every song when we started out,' Geordie Mick explains, 'partly because we were appalling but partly to push ourselves harder.'
Linda giggles: 'I used to say whatever words entered my head when I joined,' she says. 'Now when we decide to improvise a track, like we might do for Volume or a Peel session, there's a little more... direction to what we do. I don't think any other band do what we do though. The six of us all come prepared with our bit and just jam. Can you think of anyone else who really does that?'
But where are Prolapse going? Some might call * * at the last straws of that strange early 80s austerity/autonomy vibe best evidenced by bands like the Au Pairs and many of Prolapse's departed Cherry Red labelmates. Others see the band's vein of miserablism as a rich seam of humour, which helps Linda because some of her songs are transcripts of nightmares she's had, like Burgundy Spine from the LP. 'Being miserable is funny,' she says. 'It's like Coronation Street or the Smiths.'
Prolapse records range from what Pat calls dirges, to the upfront poppiness of their last single, Doorstop Rhythmic Bloc. The schizophrenia of the records doesn't offer any clues, but Linda is adamant that Prolapse stay out of pigeonholes altogether. 'People wanna adopt you and put you in a little box. It really annoys me when people imply that we're like other bands, because we're not like anyone else at all! Everyone says that, but there are bands that jump into someone else's formula and that's not us.'
So what do Prolapse want? Success? High street adulation?
'Well we won't exactly be playing Wembley this time next year,' deadpans Pat.
'What I'd really like is to make the kind of records you see when you look through a mate's collection - you stop at ours and think Cool!' Linda says. 'That's perfect.'
Back in the pub, Scottish Mick is getting philosophical, and everyone has become his friend. He's going on about the potato nutter - clearly this man has made an impression - and contemplating the next round. So what are you having Mick?
'I dunno, I'm making it up as I go along.'
Volume's review of Pointless Walks...
In agricultural circles, they'd call it a grower. Prolapse's debut LP manages to blend the murky, the morose, and the mischievous in equal parts, served up with Mick Derrick's diatribes, Linda Steelyard's gorgeous singing, and some of the roughest percussion this side of Test Department. By no means for the faint of heart, Prolapse have crafted a record worth coming back to. As Mick says: 'Even our friends like it!'