Interview with British band Dogs, April 2005

I recently unearthed a collection of interviews and articles that I wrote in the mid-00s for Nottingham student magazine The Mic, where I was an editor. The magazine still exists today, which is great to see given I was there at the very start. I’m going to post a few of the articles over the next few weeks in their original format.

Here’s the first – an interview from 2005 with the band Dogs, a British band very much on the rise at the time. They disbanded in 2011, but six years earlier they’d just hit the top 40 for the first time and had taken time out from their soundcheck at Rescue Rooms in Nottingham to speak with me.

Brand new band Dogs are set to take the world by storm with their new LP ‘Turn Against This Land’, which features the recent successes ‘London Bridge’ and ‘She’s Got A Reason’. Luciano Vargas (guitars and vocals) and Johnny Cooke (vocals) turned up early for the Nottingham leg of the sell-out Jim Beam Tour to have a quick chat with The Mic.

You’re currently in the middle of your tour supporting The Raveonettes. How are you finding it?

Luciano: It’s brilliant! 

Johnny: Yeah loving the tour. It’s a bitch! It’s really, really, really good fun but really gruelling. 

Luciano: It started off really well, which we weren’t expecting. We usually start off quite slowly on tours, but we started off with a blinder, at the Zodiac in Oxford. It was really good. The Brighton gig was being filmed for MTV and that went really well as well. Birmingham was probably the best so far -we were really pleased with it. So we’re pretty hot. We’re all enjoying it. Plus there’s lots of free Jim Beam, which is always fuel for the fire. It’s going really well. We’re enjoying it a lot.

You had your single in the top 40 as well.

Luciano: It’s all a bit surreal really. I’m confident with the next single as well, ‘Tuned To A Different Station’. We just had a meeting today about trying to sort the video out. We’re getting so busy now there’s no time to do stuff. We’re flying to the States for the SXSW. When we get back we’re getting picked up from the airport so we can go and play a gig back on this tour. We have to fit the shooting of the video into that schedule, which is getting pretty hectic. You don’t get a minute to breathe.  

Do you prefer recording or playing live?

Luciano: LIVE! I don’t like recording at all. It does my head in. When we recorded the album with John Cornfield he loved getting that live sound, so we used as many as we could. He’s done loads – most of Supergrass’ work and a bit of Oasis. It’s an amazing place to record. Fucking amazing. Oasis were in there at the beginning of the year actually before we were. I mean, they’re fucking crap now, but their ‘Definitely Maybe’ and ‘What’s The Story?’ albums are hugely influential, on Johnny especially. And to a degree it’s the reason we’re doing this. It influenced us and made us think, “if those oiks can form a band then fucking we can do it as well”.

What are your feelings on being tipped as the next big band by NME?

Johnny: They haven’t said that. Have they? If they haven’t they fucking should.

Luciano: Those magazines always say everyone’s the next big band. They’re always gonna say it. It’s a waste of time.

Johnny: Fair shout though. Thank you very much NME. We’ll take that.

Luciano: Gladly.

Johnny: It’s still early days for us and it could still be a hit or miss affair, if we don’t reach out to the people. At the end of the day it’s not about how much we like ourselves and believe ourselves or value ourselves, it’s how much other people do. That will keep us in this job. Otherwise its back to driving vans. What we won’t do is compromise and change ourselves. If they want to join in with that and they get it we will be eternally pleased and thankful. It’s looking good. The signs are good.

Three years ago guitar bands were none existent, now they’re all over the place.

Johnny: It was a dire state wasn’t it?

Luciano: All you had was bands like Feeder.

Johnny: There’s a lot of wet-fart music about. Like Stereophonics. They saw the bit of carrot and they chased it. They weren’t like that and all of a sudden a new trend comes along and they thought, “Oh I’ll tell you what, it’s a 4/4 with a Strokes guitar”, and they followed. They’re playing catch up. Then you’ve got bands like The Futureheads, Bloc Party and Maximo Park giving it some fucking attitude. Thank the lord for British music at the moment. I’m really excited about it.

Luciano: The whole deal with the next best thing is that for some people the next big thing is The Polyphonic Spree. That’s the whole point you’ve got to remember and not get carried away with it.

Johnny: Some cocks thought Keane were the next big thing.

Luciano: Also, when someone slags you off I don’t think it matters. You’ve got to realise that some people like you and some people don’t, and the more people that like you the better.

Johnny: Be it 200 or 200000, if they get it then it’s a bit of fuel to make you stamp your foot and sing songs. As long as they let us keep doing what we want to do then that’s terrific.

‘Tuned To A Different Station’ is released on 2nd May, and proceeds the album ‘Turn Against This Land’, due out on 16th May.

Film review – They Shall Not Grow Old (Peter Jackson, 2018)

Peter Jackson’s World War One documentary ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’ does a great job in telling the story of some of the front-line soldiers, from the outbreak, through training and joining the war effort and finally returning home. This is achieved partly through archive audio from the BBC, which is interesting in its own light, but not really what this film will be remembered for.

The really mesmerizing and memorable part of this film is the visual footage, which Jackson has sourced from the Imperial War Museum as part of their 14-18 Now initiative. The team working on this film have taken whatever was available and worked wonders. It now looks vibrant and sharp and immediate, with no signs of what was probably very grainy footage used as the source material. The claim that it would look like it was filmed last week rather than 100 years ago is perhaps a little too far-fetched, but it isn’t far off.

In most places, the footage is accompanied by audio dubbing from actors, reading lines as determined by expert lip readers and matched to the visuals. It is, literally, The Great War as you’ve never seen it before.

It only falls short near the end where it feels like they were running out of source material and needed to re-use some video footage – one shot appears four or five times in a short period. It doesn’t spoil anything; indeed it serves in part to underline how precious what little footage that remains is to the project and how lucky we are to see anything so beautifully restored. Whether that effect could have been achieved with fifteen minutes cut out of it is another question.

It’s not the best documentary I’ve seen recently, but it is technically one of the best restoration jobs I’ve ever seen. There will undoubtedly be a debate about whether he went too far – detractors will say he could have simply restored the footage rather than also enhancing it – but the detail and beauty it has revealed is more than worth the risk.

You can do much worse than allowing yourself to be absorbed into this masterpiece of restoration.

Recommended podcast alert!

I love FilmFour. For those outside the United Kingdom, FilmFour is a channel available to all television license holders via Freeview channel 15, and supplies a thoroughly deep and diverse set of programming for everyone to immerse themselves in.

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the FilmFour season on Studio Ghibli. Today they are screening Howl’s Moving Castle. Yes I have them all on DVD or Bluray and yes they have adverts in the middle, but I am currently in the middle of a house move so this is excellent timing.

Accompanying the scheduling is a brilliant podcast titled Ghibliotheque, which is run by Jake Cunningham (C4 Random Acts, Curzon Cinemas podcast) and Michael Leader (Sight and Sound, Little White Lies). Aside from the astonishingly simple name, which will make podcasters and bloggers around the world think “Why didn’t I think of that!?”, it is an excellent bite-sized podcast that serves as an introduction to each film.

Princess Mononoke is this week’s episode, ahead of its screening next Tuesday afternoon.

Check it out here.

 

Haiku Oscar Week!

This week I’m going to make up for my lack of posts in recent weeks with a quick haiku for all the big Oscar nominees, ahead of the ceremony on Sunday night.

Check back at 9 for a slightly spoilery haiku for the brilliant film The Shape Of Water.

Film review – Нелюбовь / Loveless (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2018)

The announcement that ‘Loveless’ was nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category at this year’s Academy Awards may well have brought welcome attention to both the film and the director, Andrey Zvyagintsev, who underwent a turbulent time last time this happened. The Russian film industry and government championed their new protege, embracing the excitement felt across the world following his pictures The Return, The Banishment and Elena, all of which were nominated for awards at either the Cannes Film Festival or the Venice Film Festival. However, when the state-funded ‘Leviathan’ was released, the government all but disowned the director, owing to the view of Russia he was showing to the world. His is a broken Russia, and it’s something that apparently shouldn’t be celebrated.

‘Loveless’ was recently screened in a special preview at Broadway Cinema in Nottingham, with the audience joined by director Andrey Zvyagintsev and co-writer Oleg Negin. Zvyagintsev looked tired when answering question on his involvement with the Russian government. He has spoken frequently and honestly about his opinion on the matter, and there must be a slight frustration for him having to retread old ground when he is trying to promote his latest project. Quite justifiably too; there is plenty to celebrate from the film alone without concentrating on his dealings with a country that no longer supports him.

‘Loveless’ is a harrowing tale that hangs around two young divorcees who are in the process of separation. Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) is a younger woman obsessed with the material side of life, spending her time in beauty salons and ensuring every key moment of her shallow days are captured on social media. She has entered into a relationship with a rich older man named Anton (Andris Keyshs). Her former husband, career man Boris (Aleksey Rosin), is now involved with a much younger woman named Masha (Marina Vasileva).

Both Zhenya and Boris are desperate to start their respective new lives with their new lovers. Unfortunately, their pre-teen child, Alyosha (Matvey Kovikov), is the one sticking point. He has an anger in him that is typical of a teenager with parents going through an untimely divorce. One night he overhears his parents in a heated debate about his fate, and in the morning skips school to run away. It is this action that forces his parents to work together to try to find him, however tough it may be for them both.

Zvyagintsev has created a film that is really tough to watch, partly because it shows a reasonable account of each of the three central characters. It is sympathetic to each of them to a certain degree, however unreasonable their actions are. The parents married too young and now hate each other and are paying for their mistakes. Alyosha is a young boy who needs the support and stability at home but gets nothing.

The long period between him running away from home and his parents realising is an indictment of both a country that does little to find missing people and a planet growingly obsessed with self-betterment and social media. The former is underlined by the formation of Liza Alert, a not-for-profit organisation that organises volunteers to look for missing people, which is featured prominently in the final third of the film. It’s horrifying to watch both parents living out their day, spend passionate time with their respective lovers, sleep, wake up, go off to work for a second day and only later realise he isn’t there. Alyosha is a real after-thought now in their lives, which in some ways justifies his decision to run away.

It’s beautifully shot by director Zvyagintsev and cinematographer Mikhail Krichman, even if the Russian authorities don’t like what is being shown. It was shot entirely in Moscow, a city that Zvyagintsev is proud of and wanted to show in all its beauty, albeit drenched in more realism than is expected.

It is also a film filled with symbolism, which is left dangling for even the least aware viewers to see. It’s hard to miss the statement being made as self-obsessed Zhenya runs outside on a treadmill, ignoring the beautiful backdrops and juxtaposing political unrest on the television, instead focusing solely on her own agenda of shallow betterment. In case the hint wasn’t too obvious, she wears a full tracksuit with the words “Russia” emblazoned in bold letters across the front.

‘Loveless’ is unique and worthy of its Academy Award nomination. With a meaty storyline and a trio of brilliant performances in the leading roles, it is a worthwhile way to have your mind challenged and your conscience displaced.