Here at the Gonzo Division of Hellfire we have one simple aim, to track down, review and bring to you reports and interviews of all the best local up-and-coming musical talent. The Gonzo Division have had some huge moments in our one year of existence; VIP invites to a Stone Roses’ private 50th birthday party, where I rubbed shoulders with members of the Roses, Oasis, Primal Scream, Marillion, and The Verve to name a few, as well as reviewing and interviewing Bad Company members at The Wake Up The Sun Big Bang gig and many others, but we remain dedicated to local unsigned music because we understand fully that the underground scene is where legends are born and heroes are forged, it needs supported and it needs a media outlet, and that’s what Hellfire is, a non-profit organisation for the discovery and support of local and unsigned acts. They gave us our own separate division because we’re too crazy. Jamie Mcdermid even said that I am the reason Hellfire has a disclaimer, which was a proud moment for me! The Gonzo division are of course, acolytes of the works of Hunter S Thompson, but we’re not imitators, we’re pure gonzo man! The division is spearheaded by Will Johnstone and me with valuable assistance from Uriah Sheep, Robert Goldie, Jay Coleman and Sara Lee Smith, we hit gigs weekly the length and breadth of Ayrshire and Glasgow. I have recently moved to Glasgow so I can be closer to the pulse of the scene, and over the coming months I intend, as a journalist, to be more prolific than gonorrhea and more ubiquitous than AIDs!
The first band I ever reviewed (published) as a music journalist was Culann, back when the world was supposed to end on 21/12/12, Culann blew are minds back then and went on shortly after to win the SAMA Best Alt. Rock award, ever since then we have followed the boys closely and they have adopted us somewhat as personal journalists. Culann have blew our minds many times since with live shows on their extensive tours of Scotland, and you can check out my review of their album here http://www.newhellfireclub.co.uk/2013/04/culann-album-review-chris-herron.html?q=chris+herron or live reviews here http://www.newhellfireclub.co.uk/2013/01/culann-event-review-k-t-211212-will.html and here http://www.newhellfireclub.co.uk/2013/10/culann-corvus-experiment-29th-september.html?q=chris+herron. The last time Will Johnstone and I saw them they were playing Audio with Keeping Dirt Clean, Wrongnote and the Sonic Templars (11th April 2014). We caught up with PJ and Ross for a quick interview after the gig which can be found here… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35HLG_eAmQ4 We also interviewed the Templars and that is to be released shortly. If you don’t know Culann check out the song ‘Jerusalem’ or ‘Beat My Chest’ as a taster, then get a hold of the album, you will not be disappointed. Their sound is akin to prog-rock meets celtic-folk, they are rapidly becoming Scotland’s new homespun heroes. They deserve every success, they work hard against the odds to put on shows for their ever-increasing army of fans, and one day they will be rewarded for their efforts. Until then, look out for Culann playing live round Glasgow and get a ticket, unless of course you don’t like having your mind blown by fresh, vibrant and exciting new rock music, then you can fuck off to a One Direction concert can’t you! Culann’s keyboardist Ross McCluskie is my new Rick Wright! He is to the keys what Clapton is to the chords! Every time I go see Culann I have an amazing night, the music, the fans, the devotion, it all conspires to make great times, and you should be a part of it too! https://www.facebook.com/culannband?fref=ts
For eighty weeks now I have been doing a radio show for KA Radio (Gonzo Radio, Sundays 4-6pm), and the owner of KA is an unstoppable force named Cheryl Scott. She has formed and fronted a band, Insectways, and their debut album ‘Time’ is a revolutionary record, I have described it as contemporary grunge and the description has stuck and can even be found on their business card! That album review can be found here http://www.newhellfireclub.co.uk/2014/03/insectways-time-album-review-chris.html?q=chris+herron After hearing how good they sounded on record I was itching to get out and catch a live show, and I caught them playing King Tut’s in April on the 19th and was not disappointed!
Cheryl came out wearing flashing glasses and we knew we were in for an entertaining set; it’s the first time I’ve ever been to a gig and watched Easter eggs being thrown out to the crowd! Cheryl is wearing a ‘Cheryl Rocks’ t-shirt, and she certainly does! She has an even more incredible on-stage presence than she does in real life. She is a blur of movement and alacrity and you can see and feel the passion in her music coming out. She has a powerful and penetrating voice and her on-stage charisma is the likes of which we’ve not seen since Freddie Mercury! There was a lot of sound coming out of just two guitars, which backed and matched Cheryl’s strong vocals perfectly. A swift wardrobe change as Cheryl steals the bassist’s hat and frolics around the stage, waltzing with the mic stand. The live show proves that Insectways are every bit as good, even better, live than they are on the CD. My notebook has a scrawled sentence that simply reads ‘Holy fuck, Insectways are fuckin’ rockin’ this gaff!!!’ and that says it all really. Cheryl, ever the absolute professional, even subtly averts a microphone malfunction and acts as a mic stand for the guitarist as he sings one of his songs, she was obviously born to be on stage, pumping up the crowd at all times while juggling microphone disasters and singing her parts and her heart out. Sister songs ‘Convergence’ and ‘Divergence’ flow seamlessly into one another and sound even greater live than on the album. This band are strong because every one of them is a vocalist in their own right and they are all very skilled with their specific instruments, I also notice (as a hardened mosher) that Cheryl has a very good head-banging technique, haha! The blistering rock n’ roll ditty ‘Soap’ was a highlight for me, it translated magnificently live. They finish a job well done with a bass solo, guitar solo and drum solo to announce each member and they’re off.
Afterwards it takes me ten minutes just to get near Cheryl to congratulate her on a good gig because everybody in the crowd has the same notion. Insectways are anthemic and poignant, the band have been compared to many others, Placebo, Radiohead, Fleetwood Mac and even Meat Loaf! Although I describe them essentially as modern grunge, they have a very diverse and eclectic sound, veering wildly from grunge to pop to good ol’ fashioned rock n’ roll, it’s all here! Cheryl rocks! And Insectways will rock you insexyways! They have now played two of Glasgow’s most prestigious venues, King Tut’s and The Garage, so the zenith is the limit for this band, I’ll be there every step of the way and so should you be, get on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/insectways?fref=ts and find out when they’re playing near you and I promise you will be knocked off your feet by this four-piece tour de force on tour!
Also playing alongside Insectways at Tut’s that night was the Barstow Bats (who I really wanted to see because of their name being a reference to pop-culture’s Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas) who sadly, I missed, I also saw the Senses that night but was disgusted by their lugubrious sound. I did however manage to catch the Saint Secaire. The lead singer was very impressive; he definitely had a Doors vibe about him, backed by a proficient band providing driving insistent power chords, with a graceful drummer and a pounding bass. They put me in mind of Joy Division sometimes. Their music was punky with grungy undertones and a slightly psychedelic feel, the vocal delivery was exceptional, as well as the frontman’s showmanship, which was most entertaining as he writhed around on the stage like a serpent on fire, his ear-piercing screams putting me in mind of Syd Barrett at his most madcap. They had a tight, structured chaos to their style, an impressive style with splashes of metal and swirls of intoxicating, spacey rock. I enjoyed the punked-up Motorhead-driven riffs, complete with cracking breakdowns, bridges and guitar solos. I’ll look forward to monitoring the progress of this exceptional group…look out for them. https://www.facebook.com/SaintSecaire?fref=ts
A MILE WEST OF NOWHERE
On Saturday May 3rd, I headed back down my old haunt Ayrshire, to Stevenston, to an up-and-coming new live music venue, a night called A Mile West of Nowhere, to catch old flames the Well-Fired Rolls and Will & The Wild Horse play with Gary ‘The Human Jukebox’ McLennan’s new band Dirty Grin, and backed by a host of talented singer-songwriters, including Adrian Blom, Chris Hart and not to mention Hellfire’s own promo-sapien and multi-mental multi-instrumentalist Will Johnstone, the Han Solo to my Chewbacca! Will has recently wrote a song called ‘Five Pounds a Week’, which I consider to be his crowning achievement to date, the song is a wonderful and satirical stab at the Job Center, drenched in black humour and lyrically perfect, the song is catchier than leprosy, it’s a rolling, break-neck ditty of dirty-blues and country-folk-style, it is his opus, that song alone deserves to make him famous. I propose ‘Five Pounds a Week’ should be Christmas no.1. Will Johnstone is one of the most talented musicians I have ever met, expect big things from him, whether in his heavy-rock psychedelic-prog-metal band The Corvus Experiment who’s live review you can read here http://www.newhellfireclub.co.uk/2013/10/culann-corvus-experiment-29th-september.html?q=chris+herron or through his incredible solo acoustic material. You can catch Will playing open mics weekly, so look out for him if you want to see some raw talent. The sound for Will’s set that night, provided by Wullie Smith was a little off, but despite that, Will, ever the consummate professional pulled off a cracking set to much rapturous applause. After all, his family motto is ‘Nunquam Nonparatus’ (always prepared, Latin) and you better be too, prepared to see Will shake the stratosphere with his music! https://www.facebook.com/will.j.music.journalist?fref=ts
A huge surprise that night, was when a ghost-of-the-past showed up out of nowhere (a mile West of nowhere to be precise) – the pub literally went wild when David Spence, who hasn’t been seen since the Windy Ha days walked through the door. Spence, if you don’t know, is arguably Ayrshire’s most talented singer-songwriter, with such local hits as ‘Trippin’ Girl’ and ‘Miserable Day’ under his belt, and those tunes are more infectious than the clap! Spence’s seamy, sordid, sexy, suave and sensational scherzos are worth checking out at https://soundcloud.com/davidspence Few people can appreciate the magnitude of Spence being there that night, since his schism with the Ayrshire scene he has been sorely missed, and he made that night at the Glencairns an historical night for all who knew the scene, especially when he got up and gave us a rendition of ‘Miserable Day’ between acts, this got the most thunderous applause of the evening, and for good reason, Spence has the potential to be an iconic musician of our times, he has the Jim Morrison feel about him, so expect great things from Spence before he dies at 27. The following week Spence came and played in the Dive Lounge on my radio show and he is embarking on a comeback tour round Glasgow this Summer, so look out for him at open mics around the city…
Will & The Wild Horse are still touring with the same material, but if you haven’t heard it you should definitely check them out, Wullie of Winton Street, he is a masterful mercenary of music, with some very wonderful original songs in his repertoire, but what has really made the group complete, is the addition of Allan Trotter, apart from a few examples, he’s the closest thing I’ve seen to a living breathing Jimi Hendrix, when Allan plays that guitar on stage there might as well be fire flying from his fingertips, listening to him shred a solo will screw you to the spot like a strong hit of Sunshine Acid, dumfounded. Playing intricate solos with the instrument behind his head, the whole nine yards! His immense guitar-skills earned the Wild Horse an absolutely booming round of applause. If you want to see some serious skill on the strings, you want to see Mr. Allan Trotter! https://www.facebook.com/willandthewildhorse?fref=ts https://www.facebook.com/groups/718480561514360/?fref=ts
The Well-Fired Rolls (still one of my favourite band names ever) are the combined force of Sandy McFadyean and Mike Scott Jr. (no, not the son of the Waterboys’ frontman unfortunately). Sandy is a commanding presence, but a gentle giant, he has a Frank Black thing about him on stage, but let me tell you, everyone in the scene agrees on one thing, Sandy is the best male voice around! He can muster a holler that would knock Meat Loaf clean out his stupid white silk shirt, backed by the competent guitar skills of Mike, the Well-Fired Rolls bring an old-school sound, drawing influence from such styles as Pokey Le Farge and are a joy to see live with their original and unique sound, if they don’t have you doing the twist again, nobody will! https://www.facebook.com/wellfiredrollsmusic?fref=ts
The Juke, Gary McLennan, is a phenomenal young talent, a while ago he played my Dive Lounge and I christened him the Human Jukebox, because there is nothing this boy can’t play, from blues, to rock, to metal, to pop, to just about everything you can throw at him. Just pop in a quarter and watch him go like a Wurlitzer! He’s done the sensible thing and started his own band, The Dirty Grin, https://www.facebook.com/thedirtygrin?fref=ts and when they took to the stage it was like being in the eye of a hurricane, with amps cranked up to eleven they rocked the place to its roots, we were going so wild moshing that I actually broke Spence’s foot (Oops!). When they ended their set with a storming rendition of the Cult’s classic ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ they might as well have burned the place to the ground, because they reduced everyone to cinders with the awesome energy of their sound, and there was no following it, they left a stunned and stupefied audience in their wake, another round of ear-splitting applause and a perfect end to a perfect night, the first time in ages, and probably last time all of us will be in the same building together again, and it was an apt and beautiful final curtain on a brilliant era in our lives for the Ayrshire music scene, as Spence and Will and I are basing our operations in Glasgow now. The Glencairns however, is continuing to put out great gigs with brilliant bands and the venue is becoming Ayrshire’s new hot-spot, so get out there if you’re local, and support your burgeoning scene.
Another special guest in my Dive Lounge last month was Damien Frazer, another extremely gifted and talented individual. His solo acoustic stuff is exclusive, he rarely plays open mics, but he plays to his friends and even makes my girlfriend cry with the evocative, emotive and sensual potency of his songs, hear some here https://soundcloud.com/bozeuk On top of this he fronted the stoner rock band Bastard Killed My Rabbit https://soundcloud.com/bkmr they weren’t around long, but they left their mark, I went to every one of their shows, a tremendously talented group of musicians, they unfortunately disbanded after their bassist ‘The Andy Peffers Experience’ (who is one of the greatest bassists I’ve ever known!), moved abroad. Excitingly though, there is talk of perhaps another project on the horizon in a similar vein, so here’s hoping. In the meantime, Damo, on top of all these other magnificent projects is the leader of Scotland’s (and perhaps Britain’s) greatest samba band, Sambayabamba. Now I’m not a fan of samba but none-the-less I have seen these guys play many, many times and they shake my soul from the inside every time! Their sound is so energetic and intense it’s impossible not to get caught up in it! If you don’t know what I mean get out and see them at the West End Samba Parade Party on June 7th, it’s sure to be a day of epic proportions! And I’ll see ya’ there!
On Mondays, we’ve been frequenting Pivo Pivo in Waterloo Street Glasgow, where there is an open mic night, and any musician who performs is rewarded with free beer. I even got a free beer for doing a twenty second rendition of ‘Anarchy in the UK’, which was fun! Then Will Johnstone won a bottle of vodka and a case of beer in their raffle and we went and got absolutely fucking moroculous! But not before we had viewed performances such as a reggae group at the beginning, which had some very good vibes and harmonies, a girl named Steph, who had an astonishing voice and was playing a ukulele of all things! She did some dazzling versions including Queen’s ‘I Want To Break Free’, Johnny Cash’s ‘I Still Miss Someone’ and Elvis’ ‘Suspicious Minds’. David Spence kicked off his comeback tour with the pulchritudinous ‘Miserable Day’, the inimitable ‘Trippin’ Girl’ and a version of Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, I loved how the other musicians backed him up with drums and bass, this added a lot of beat, weight and balance to Spence’s already unbelievable tunesmithery. Another beautiful woman on stage with a beautiful voice in the form of Claire Campbell, Sandy McFadyean of the Well-Fired Rolls gets up and strums and treats us to the remarkable power of his booming voice, Will Johnstone gets up…Kerr Thompson…someone else gets up…uh, my memory fails me a little here, and judging by the hieroglyphic notes in my pad I was very drunk at this point, but I do remember being incredibly excited to hear a version of one of my all-time favourite songs, the piscatorial ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ by The Waterboys, followed by a quality version of The Specials’ ‘Message to You Rudy’, and my inebriated handwriting vaguely describes something about ‘some kind of weird and wonderful psychedelic prog-jazz’ and then peters off into white space as I black out. Anyway, If you’re a musician with a guitar and some songs, get down to Pivo on a Monday and blow your blues away. Fans of music will excite in coming down to watch all of Glasgow’s raw talent gracing the stage, and Glasgow is a city that is as bulging with gifted musicians as it is with alkies, Neds and junkies! And to see these skilled musicians, Pivo is the perfect place to piss-up and party while perusing a plentiful plethora of poetic, promising, pioneering, piquant, progressive, pivotal, pleasurable, performances, pooled together on one platform in one programme. https://www.facebook.com/pivo.pivo?fref=ts
WHAT LIES AHEAD…
Tonight, (4th June) I’m heading along to Pivo to see Insectways, Sneaky Russians, L.I.G.R.E, and the Sonic Templars, On Friday I’ll be taking in The Iqons, All Suns Blazing, Swinging Mables, Quaid, Oskar and Naked Nellies at Pivo Pivo again – see a previous review I did of The Iqons here http://www.newhellfireclub.co.uk/2013/05/live-windy-ha-review-from-chris-herron.html and on Saturday and Sunday the West End Samba Parade Party at the QMU with Sambayabamba and the amazing Juba do Leao so there’s three more reviews in the pipeline. Not to mention the Kelburn Garden Party festival being crazy and kind enough to, for the third year running, grant the Gonzo Division press-passes! Check out last year’s coverage here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4Dchoclkuk I’m also excited to announce that Hellfire are going into collaboration with Underground Mayhem, the strongest coalition since the Avengers, and that’s going to lead to some very interesting times, it basically means NHCG are going on the telly, check out Underground Mayhem here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CNk1PXbaFA&feature=youtu.be needless to say, where there is mayhem, there will always be the Gonzo Team, lurking in the background- so it’s all happening this year, and I guess there’s nothing left to say except…seeya’ in the pit!
Glencairn’s ‘Mile West of Nowhere’ photography supplied skilfully by Michael Scott Jr.
Originally published on NHC Music 06/06/2014