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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Interview: Men on the Border - Live in Brighton

Live in Brighton
Recently, the Laughing Madcaps, Syd Barrett, group sat down with Goran and Phil, from Men on the Border, to ask them about their newest Syd tribute effort - Live in Brighton.

Stream the album on Spotify:

Here is the interview:

OK, who is the band and how did you manage to convince everybody to try to make a go at playing Syd Barrett music?

Goran: We are borderline men of course. Caught between the conflicts of life. The seed of an idea germinated after a visit to the Idea Gallery arts and letters exhibition in March 2011 and then a Floyd festival in July. Phil and I started recording in October. The first song we completed was Octopus, which was quite a challenge, and then we sort of entered the whole amusement park. 

Phil: Goran convinced me to give this project a shot with a couple of very rough and weird acoustic demos recorded on his iPhone which he sent me. I found Octopus intriguing with its odd non-structure and I got lots of psychedelic vibes which I found inspiring. It was a difficult song to learn to play for working out all the parts, but it was actually a very satisfying experience. We spent a few weeks working on and off with Octopus and found a pretty good way of working together – mostly based around sending suggestions back and forth. As it was just the two of us at that time and we were both travelling a lot in our day jobs that was a good way to progress. 

We loved that first attempt at an arrangement and I had no qualms about immediately starting on another song, which I think was “Feel” – 7 minutes of dreamy opus. The first half is piano and acoustic 12-string guitar-driven, then it concludes with a strummed Rickenbacker like John Lennon’s rhythm guitar on “Hey Jude” and a wailing solo on top. That song kind of clinched the deal and sparked off the idea of maybe putting together a whole album of Syd songs. Right from the start the aim was to make these songs our own and I didn’t once refer to Syd’s original recordings. Goran could play them all on guitar, but I had never heard any of them! So my starting point was only Goran’s demos.

It's exciting to see a whole new album of Syd Barrett music performed live. Is the CD out? Where can the fans buy it? Give up the information! Do you have your papers!? Let me see your papers!

Goran: We have earlier made two CD's and a total of 24 tracks. Then we wanted to release a single in July this year but decided that streaming was the way to go. Our fan base is global and CD distribution is a hassle. Besides, it seems plastic is selling less and less, so finally we decided not to waste time and money by producing a CD for the “Live in Brighton” album. CDs are now totally dead in Sweden except for the Christmas albums you can buy in supermarkets and gas stations. All the music stores have closed down, so how do you sell them?

Live in Brighton
Phil: The live album was recorded in Brighton in June this year at a great little venue called the Prince Albert. The sound guy had 24-channel recording capability on his mixing desk, but at the time we had no idea at all that everything was being recorded. Goran and I found that out 3 months later when we visited Brighton again for David Gilmour’s tour premiere and we were sent the files a few weeks later. They were very clean 48 kHz, 24 bit recordings of our 45 minutes on stage. About 9 gigabytes in total. I still don’t know the name of the sound guy, though. I’ve asked, but there’s been no panic rush to tell me. I mixed and mastered it in Cubase. 

Interestingly, the entire outside wall of one side of the Prince Albert is painted with deceased rock and pop icons like Jimi, John Lennon, Syd, Brian Jones, Phil Lynott and many more. So we took a photo and put that on the album cover. We had to move some images around in Photoshop to cover up the door and windows, but it’s still pretty striking. That evening was a Syd/early Floyd event with five or six bands playing. We agreed on a set with the organizer the week before the concert so as not to play the same songs as everybody else, but that worked fine for us. The album is fairly short, only 9 songs, but that’s the slot we got! 

I haven’t heard of any other releases from that gig, though I did hear from Stuart that Ham Legion’s superb bass player Nick was mixing songs. There could be some songs on YouTube, but I haven’t looked. 

It's cool to see that our friends at Neptune Pink Floyd were involved. Why, I remember when Keith Jordan was knee-high to a scarecrow. Tell us about how that happened. The full story!

Goran: It was all much by chance and through the wonders of web searching. We had this gig in Cambridge on June 13 and were looking for more places to play. Not quite sure how Neptune Pink Floyd was involved, but I believe they had done something similar earlier. Stuart Avis was the key person there and he seems to have a great network. 

Phil: Goran found the event on the net, and it was an incredible coincidence that there happened to be a Syd evening the day before our gig in Cambridge. So we rang the organizer Stuart at Black Bunker, sent him some links to YouTube, iTunes, Spotify etc. and a day later we were in! The only slight problem was that there was already a bunch of people booked, so it meant squeezing us in with a short set. But it was easy to do as the backline and PA was all fixed. We just needed to show up with guitars and pedals. Stuart put us on as next to last band, but we were first up for the sound-check. That was easy too, basically just to plug in and play! We got to Brighton from the Channel Tunnel just a few hours before the gig, and left for Cambridge directly after. We got there at 4 in the morning. 

The posters for the gig. Where can I score some? I want!

live in brighton
Goran: Yeah! We missed picking one up. Stuart Avis of Black Bunker Studios is your man. 

Phil: We also have digital copies which could be printed. I think. 

Tell us about the gig. How many people showed up. What was the sound system like. What did you use to record the gig and whose idea was it. You know, EVERYTHING!!!

Goran: Maybe a hundred people. But the right kind, you know! Really avid fans and great in music knowledge. The other bands were very good and fun to see. It was pretty varied too. Some did Syd stuff and others did Floyd. And who is in the audience, but Monty Oxymoron from The Damned. He really loves his Syd Barrett and gave us some compliments on our version of Scream Thy Last Scream. Although my singing is honestly not in good form. I had a cold. Probably from that damned tour bus and a strange gig and late night in Copenhagen two nights earlier. 

Phil: The audience wasn’t huge, but was enthusiastic. They were there were for what we were going to do, so we were able to relax and just enjoy playing. Goran’s voice was in fact pretty shot, but that gave the whole performance some bite and it shows how far we’ve come as a live band since recording the songs. I’ve played with David Parkin, the bass-player, since the late 80s and we’ve made four albums together as a duo in the last 20 years. It’s a similar thing with Bjorn Hammarberg, the drummer. We’ve played together in various constellations since 1980. The line-up for the album is completed by Lasse Forsberg on rhythm guitar. He was front man for one of bands I’ve played with for the last 12 years.

The PA system at the Prince Albert looked ancient but sounded great and the engineer had what looked like a new digital mixing desk, which he put to good use. So the sound was very good and we know that from watching the other bands. Onstage the bass sounded a bit like a horse farting but in front of the PA it was massive. So kudos to the engineer and I hope someone tells me his name one day.  

What are the future plans for the band? Playing the USA! Are you going to add some Nick Drake and Roky Erickson to the setlist?

Live in Brighton
Goran: USA! That would be amazing. If somebody can get us the right audiences we'd come. Next thing is actually a symphony. No kidding! Tentatively titled Dark Floyd and it is all Syd related. Nick is an old love, but we like it more edgy. Roky, yeah, but that's too much edge! 

Phil: We’ve started working with a symphony orchestra and we’re now waiting for an offer from an arranger. The concert itself will take place in October 2016, but Goran and I have been asked to put together a promotional package by mid-January 2016, for release at the beginning of February. This is serious shit! So I expect that we’ll start collaborating with the arranger in the New Year and the thought of that is mildly nerve-racking. I’ve never worked on symphonic arrangements, but I believe the arrangements on the albums will lend themselves to this form without any problems. This will be truly awesome! We have plans to take a small section of the orchestra with us for a couple of major gigs in August next year. That idea has so far also been bought by the orchestra. 

We'd love to play in the States, but how the hell do you do that without someone to organise it and pay for it. Our pockets are not that deep, but it's an interesting thought.

To book Men on the Border contact them HERE or on Facebook.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

These guys are great musicians but they play the songs as if they are trying to get on the radio in 1997.

April 18, 2017 at 2:12 AM  

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