The Cubical return to the fray, with a launch of their new album ‘It Aint Human’, The album receives it’s launch party at Liverpool’s Mello Mello venue Friday, November 25. Steve Janes finds out a little more from the engaging and it seems, ever-enthusiastic, singer Dan Wilson…
Anyone who has caught The Cubical on stage will agree they fall into the latter category. That’s why titles like The Guardian, Mojo, and Artrocker quickly converted after discovering how Liverpool’s modern day saviours of raw garage blues look through psychedelic eyes.
With a wailing mouth organ, frantic riff and propellant drumbeat, then add a gruff vocal delivery that one critic claimed would make Tom ‘Waits sound like Tiny Tim – oblivious;y that writer was at the back, or had never seen Tom waits live, or never heard Swordfish trombones. However Dan Wilson’s vocal growl is enviable, the power he can conjure, reminds me more of vocalist and piano proto=punk, Paul Marotta frontman for The Styrenes. before I wander even further off track, cubical in 2011 are drawing on even more influences. described as a bluegrass band I think listening to some of the new album ‘It Ain’t Human’ I see exactly where that comes from, but with a twist, listen to ‘Dirty Shame’, ‘Paper walls’’ or ‘An Ode to Franz Biberkopf’ the one thing that hits you is the diversity of the north west band in 2011. Hearing something the at first listen grabs a peculiar amount of attention, like so may good things, like a good book that keeps you turning the page
As gas been pointed out before, I hope I have prepared you a little, don’t expect a predictable ride. The bluegrass bar brawl come sax onslaught that is The Ballad of Willie McGrath, and the acoustic journeyman stylings of Paper Walls reference the roots of this canon. But elsewhere Dirty Shame threatens to make dead feet dance with a low down sleazy hook, while the brooding and dishevelled An Ode to Franz Biberkopf offers perhaps the darkest moment. Opinions to one side, both are essential, contemporary readings of these genres.
Led by enigmatic and irrepressible frontman Dan Wilson, a growler and natural born showman, with Craig Bell’s rumbling bass, Mark Percy’s rhythmic mastery, Alex Gavaghan’s twanging guitar, along with John Green’s irrefutable command of all things slide and harmonica related it doesn’t take long before you’re hooked on The Cubical’s intoxicating infusion. That’s the roll call. Comfortable? strapped in
“…Your description isn’t too bad, the post punk thing is quite accurate, I leave it to other people we just continue making the music we love and keep on keeping on. Maybe we could be described as the band The Bee Gees could have been if they had mutineed from HMS Falsetto.”
How would you or the mass media these days best describe Cubical? First impressions, a little more robust, I think maybe could be a post-punk grassed rock n roll band? Is that fair? Or totally inaccurate? (after your press release cited Trout Mask Replica leanings)
“We have been described in a number of ways but generally journalists tend to mention Beefheart and Tom Waits because of the voice. Your description isn’t too bad, the post punk thing is quite accurate, I leave it to other people we just continue making the music we love and keep on keeping on. Maybe we could be described as the band The Bee Gees could have been if they had mutineed from HMS Falsetto.“
Looks like you have won over partially everyone that caught your gigs, it must have been a shot in the arm, to win over writers for The Guardian, Artrocker and Mojo from virtually the word go?
“Yes it was great to get approval from Mojo and The Guardian and we were particularly pleased that Kelly Stolz thought we were the “coolest” band of that particular year. Live we have often been well received as we aren’t the usual band to watch and try to put on a good show rather than just standing there looking moody, so generally when people see us they take something away with them.”
With the ‘It Aint Human’ album launch at Mello Mello in Liverpool, it suggest that Cubical perfected their sound and performance primarily in the North West a few years ago? Any memorable tales? Is it still a good scene in Liverpool? Are you back there much?
“Yes we have been based in Liverpool for a while and have written and recorded this album there in a great studio in Waterloo with a wonderful Producer Keith Thompson. We have done a fair bit of travelling, recording our first album in Hollywood and recently recorded what will be our third album in Berlin, we are also regularly touring in Spain, Norway and The Netherlands but Liverpool is a great base for us. It is fair to say this is where we evolved playing with some great bands along the way. The scene may have flagged a little lately but there is always that enthusiasm and endeavour that characterises Liverpool and there are some interesting artists and musicians knocking about.”
Had Will Sargent (Echo And The Bunnymen) tell me just how good it was having Eric’s there, later I travelled down to see lots of bands from The Picket venue and at the Uni; Guess it has all changed, is it still a good city to play, rehearse etc?
“Yeh there are still some really good venues such as The Kazimier, Mello Mello and as ever The Zanzibar and a good music magazine Bido Lito that helps spread the word. Also there are great places to watch live music such as The Grapes for the Free Jazz on a Sunday and The Caledonia that has resident bands for music in a more informal less wristband orientated setting. There are a number of great musicians in Liverpool so there will always be that creative swell. During the days of The Kif (a warehouse art project on near Parr st) there were some really great organic/ vibrant events and parties etc. I think the city is crying out for something like that again especially in the current climate.”
I am a little late to the party, sorry; but I feel watching You Tube videos and checking social media brought me up to speed a little; first song I watched was ‘Dirty Shame’ and like so may before me, I was hooked. Was it a fast shoot? Easy to keep an classroom of 20-somethings in line?
“We accept all converts however late and I am just glad that you like what you saw and listened to. The Dirty Shame video was a bit of a homage to an Italian musician and comedian from the 1970s Adriano Celenteno and the classroom idea etc was our scaled down version of that. To be honest they behaved superbly throughout and were a little taken a back by my Dad dancing if anything. They were great to work with and pretty easy going. I think they may have enjoyed a little respite from CATS and all that lark. We shot it in a day, it required a good bit of planning and preparation but was great to work with Stan Howells again (he did Like Me I’m a Peacock) and he is a fast and intelligent Director.”
One look at You tube and you come to the conclusion that you;re prolific. I ember ‘I’m A Peacock’ fro, a year or two ago, how would you say things are now when playing Paper Walls or something from Almost Human back to the 08, 09 releases. I like both as I am sure most do, but the sound is evolving?
“We write constantly and have always been trying to catch up with ourselves. As I mentioned earlier the next album has already been recorded on reel to reel in Berlin and we aim to release that next Summer. The sound has evolved as is only natural and still is part of a similar process. Our aim is to give each album a balance and a journey so that it works as a cohesive whole rather than separate ideas stuck on. I think this album is more well rounded than the first and the use of more instruments and a longer more considered approach to recording has helped us with that.”
Could you tell me something about An Ode to Franz Biberkopf it is a little darker and heavier…
“Yeh sure, it is a bit darker and we really wanted to perfect that particular guitar sound we also used a lot of different instruments including a Marxophone (the perfect instrument for Marxist Leninists) and used a lot of primal percussion to give it that driving feel. It is based on an Alfred Doblin novel called Berlin Alexanderplatz.”
Also, hope you don’t mind ‘Dirty Shame’ and The Ballad of Willie McGrath’?
“It was great working with a horn section for these songs and working closely with James Blow and producer Keith Thompson arranging specific parts to add the right amount of impact etc. I think they add real punch to Dirty Shame which is a more conventional song in structure than Willie but in the latter’s case hearing the horns on the recording was probably one of the best bits for the whole band as we finally felt and heard our ideas realised.
The songs are very different in theme and feel but we are relishing the chance to play with the horns live at Mello Mello for the album launch on the 25th of November. It will be a great experience for us to hear the songs the way they were recorded up close and live.”
Finally, any plans for more of an extensive UK Tour? In the New Year?
“We aim to play more UK shows in the New Year as we know December is a quiet old time unless you are Cliff Richard or one of the X Factor robots. We will be playing a New Years Eve Party (details tba) and then will be touring the Netherlands and Norway again in February with another Spanish tour in the pipeline. I am sure more UK gigs will filter through, so catch us in a town near you.”
Fri 25th November – It Ain’t Human Album Launch, Mello Mello, Liverpool.
Support from: The Post War Glamour Girls, GORP & FREQ
Fri 9th Dec – Planet Goo Goo @ the New Empowering Church, Hackney, London
Wed 14th Dec – Religion Clothing Xmas Party, Religion Showroom, Shoreditch, London
Any future string of gigs or full blown European Tours should always appear on With Guitars as fast as we get them.