Friday, June 19, 2009


Name: Iroha
Latest release: Iroha [later in 2009]
File under: Metal/shoegaze

I first heard Iroha at that Mono gig I posted about. I didn't realise it at the time, but the un-announced, un-named support act that did 3 or 4 songs was Iroha. The first thing that hit me, as a big Jesu fan, was "this sounds like Jesu". Of course, although I didn't realise it at the time, standing on stage in front of me strumming away was Diarmuid Dalton...of Jesu. That would explain the resemblance, then.

So I did some digging when I got home, found out they were called Iroha and checked out some familiar stuff on Myspace. If you like the shimmery guitar that's prominant in shoegaze then you'll like these guys. Add some heavier riffs more a metallic edge and that's where they'll appeal to the Jesu crowd. A self-titled debut album is on the way soon...and a lot of touring.


Who are you, where are you from and what is your role in Iroha?
Andy: "My name is Andy Swan. I’m from Birmingham, England and play guitar and write songs for Iroha."

What kind of emotions do you try to convey in Iroha's music?
Andy: "There isn’t any specific emotion I deliberately set out to convey via the music and lyrics of Iroha although, if I take an objective view, I do tend to unconsciously lean toward themes relating to the passage of time and melancholic feelings of nostalgia."

You have worked with Justin Broadrick in Final and Diarmuid Dalton has worked with him in Jesu. How big an influence is Justin?
Andy: "I first met Justin when he was 14 or 15 and I was 16. We met, quite by chance, at a music stall in Birmingham’s Rag Market. Unbeknownst to eachother, we had both visited the stall on a regular basis but quickly struck up a friendship when the owner of the stall introduced us both to the music of Throbbing Gristle. We were both obsessive about music and quickly became immersed in the burgeoning experimental electronics scene of the early 80’s. We formed Final as a result and, being of such tender years, I guess we were both very receptive to new sounds and ideas but Justin was a huge influence on me personally what with his enthusiasm, love of music, endless ideas and friendship. And now, 25 years later, I don’t think there would be an Iroha if I’d not met up with Justin and Nic [Bullen, ex-Napalm Death, Final etc.] again in late 2007."

There are obvious similarities, but what do you feel are the main differences between Iroha and Jesu?
Andy: "I think Iroha’s songs are more traditional in a verse-verse-chorus sense whereas Jesu’s songs seem to be less defined in their structure; almost like abstract poetry. I’ve tried writing like that but have always ended up frustrated and have had to revert back to a regular structure."

You supported Mono on some dates here in the UK earlier this year. How were you received and how was the experience?
Andy: "It was an incredible experience and one that we wouldn’t have had without the generosity of Mono who are amongst the most humble people I’ve met. Playing only our third gig at The Scala was a little daunting although nowhere near loud enough for our liking!"

Cheers Andy. Good luck with the touring and new album.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Name: The Owl Service
Latest release: The Fabric of Folk [2008]
File under: Folk

I love throwing arbitrary adjectives at music, so here's a few for The Owl Service - rustic, medieval, nostalgic and whimsical. I hope that gives some idea as to the sound.

I also love music that transports you to another world. The Owl Service really manage to take me back to, say, the 1800s or something with their old English folk music, but you do get flourishes of anachronist electric guitar and suchlike which fits in superbly well and gives the music extra character. The vocals are gorgeous and enchanting and fit the stories told perfectly - almost narrating in places. Their second album, A Garland of Song, is full of wonderful stories, singalongs, interludes and wonderful acapella. You can check out a live album they released freely here.

I want to meet Pretty Susie and Katie Cruel.


Who are you, where are you from and what is your role in The Owl Service?
Steven: "My name is Steven Collins, I'm originally from London but now reside in the town of Leigh-on-sea along the Thames Estuary. For live shows I play electric guitar, on our records I play a bit of everything."

Your music seems very focussed on telling stories. Your upcoming release, The Pattern Beneath the Plough will be released in several parts. How important do you think storytelling is in music?
Steven: "For the last year we've focussed mainly on playing traditional British songs, and for that particular genre the storytelling aspect is everything. It's the reason the songs were written in the first place, and the primary reason they've survived for so long, and continue to be sung and to have resonance today. We've all adapted a bit of that into our own songwriting too. I expect the third Owl Service album might be a set of original songs in the traditional style, retaining the strong storytelling angle."

Who or what is the bands biggest muse?
Steven: "The English folk revival of the 1960s and '70s is the thing that continues to inspire us most. With the exception of Nancy [Wallace], who has English folk music in her blood, it's the route which we've all taken to discover this wonderful music. The passion, excitement and devotion felt by those young artists, who were all on their own journey of discovery, is a very tangible thing and it still emanates from the grooves of their dusty old LPs and continues to spur us on in our own exploration of the material."

There are a few other UK artists using folk elements in various ways - Phelan Sheppard, Sons of Noel and Adrian etc. - what are your favourite artists in the genre, old and new?
Steven: "See above; our favourite artists are those that we discovered 10+ years ago when we began listening to folk music; Shirley & Dolly Collins, Anne Briggs, The Watersons, The Young Tradition (particularly Peter Bellamy), Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Trees and (perhaps more than all of the aforementioned combined) Martin Carthy. In terms of newer folk/roots acts, we like Alasdair Roberts, Sharron Kraus, Micah Blue Smaldone and Ellen Mary McGee."

Last year you released a free live album, Field Music. What are your views on distributing music freely?
Steven: "I think that the free distribution of music via the Internet legally is always a good thing, and that occasionally even 'illegal' filesharing can have positive effects. I can understand how World famous artists and their multi-billion dollar corporate labels feel that unlawful sharing of their music is tantamount to theft, but for new artists it can actually end up being a useful promotional tool. Look at how The Arcade Fire exploded once kids started sharing Funeral on the Internet. I know plenty of people who use blogs and filesharing networks as a means to discover new music - the vast majority of these people then go and buy the albums they like, as well as t-shirts and concert tickets. So it's not all bad. Even if the big distros do get ISPs to work with them and even if we do see a drastic reduction in Internet-based activity, at the very least file-sharing will still exist in a similar way to how home taping did prior to the advent of the Internet, but with much better sound quality and portability."

Thanks Steven. Keep an eye out for their next album, The Pattern Beneath the Plough: The View From a Hill later this year.