Delusions Of Adequacy: In your MySpace.com profile at http://www.myspace.com/prolapseuk it says you (Mick Derrick, Mick Harrison, Tim Pattison, and Pat Marsden) formed the band in 1991 while at Leicester Polytechnic. What were you all studying at the time? Did you form Prolapse out of ambition, boredom, frustration, or a need for creation – or as an escape mechanism from your studies?
Pat Marsden: Three of us were postgraduates at university and one at polytechnic in Leicester. We formed when we were drunk and sitting under a table at the Polytechnic’s Friday disco – we used to go there because they played good music sometimes – well usually more interesting and obscure than what the University offered. Scottish Mick and me were doing archaeology, and Tim Environmental Studies and Geordie Mick ceramics. We formed the band because we were into the same sort of music and we were friends really.
Mick Derrick (being Scottish, his replies were originally in red): I moved to Leicester the year before to do a master’s in archaeology (I had already taken a degree in archaeology in Glasgow). I, like Pat, went on to work in archaeology throughout the 90’s. I’m still an archaeologist and work for the Norsksjøfartsmuseum in Oslo. I never really wanted to be in a band never mind being a singer but perversely I always seem to force myself into doing lots of things I don’t want to and quite enjoying it – (I played the bagpipes for 10 years and hated them).
Tim Pattison: Mick D and Pat were both archaeologists doing a Masters. Mick H had just dropped out of Art and I was doing Environmental Management Masters. I guess if anything we formed as a need for creation, there was no real ambition with Prolapse at the start. Mick H and I (and Dave) were in another band at the time and we had ambition with that one, but Prolapse was different.
Mick Harrison: We formed Prolapse basically as a drunken laugh. We certainly weren’t great musicians, it was all very simple repetitive stuff but we saw no reason why we couldn’t do gigs. The Leicester music scene was shit. At least we knew we were shit.
DOA: How soon after you formed the band did Linda Steelyard and David Jeffreys join forces with you – and how did you meet up? How did Donald Ross Skinner enter the picture?
PM: Within about 6 months I think. Dave had already been in a band Smile with Geordie Mick and Tim – so they all knew each other. We were friends with Linda too. Was quite easy in that way.
Linda Steelyard: I can’t remember when I joined the band but it happened when my friend Angie and I, who looked a bit like me, were invited to stand on stage peeling oranges during a gig, looking a bit like the twins in The Shining. She didn’t turn up, I got put in front a microphone, and never left. I don’t recall anybody asking me to join. They just never asked me to go away.
I met Scottish Mick first, when he came up to me at a club and asked if he could put my fist in this mouth. I said yes, and we were buddies from then on.
MD: …Linda was my girlfriend of the time and the usual happened- I tried to get my girlfriend in the band-I’m sure the others didn’t like it at first.
TP: As I said, we already knew Dave and Mick H and I were in Smile with him, after about our 3rd gig, Dave said “great but you need a second guitarist”. With Linda, she was mates with Mick anyway and there was an idea that she would stand at the side of the stage with her mate looking like the twins of The Shining, I don’t think her mate turned up and her role then grew into the band.
David Jeffreys: I was in a band called Smile with Geordie Mick and Tim and another geezer with nice hair and weak vocal chords.
Donald Ross Skinner: Prolapse (from the perspective of a latecomer)
I first met Prolapse late 97 after Tony, their manager, called me to say they were after a producer for their new album. We all convened in a pub on Upper Street. At the time I didn’t realise I was the third of three producers they had met that afternoon. We got on pretty well and I found out that at least half the band were into stuff I had done in the past with Julian Cope (Tim and Scottish Mick especially). This stood me in good stead but the primary reason they decided to work with me was that I bought a round of drinks.
DOA: One of the unique aspects of your band is the dual (and dueling) vocals of ‘Scottish’ Mick and Linda. Did you start out knowing exactly how you wanted to sound and express yourselves (musically, lyrics-wise, and vocally) – or were the first few years before you released your debut album (Pointless Walks To Dismal Places) spent developing your sound?
LS: Nobody told me what to do vocally and I expect nobody told Mick either. We just did our own thing – separately – and, somehow, it worked. Sometimes we’d change our “bit” right up until the moment a song was recorded. It could have been disastrous.
MD: The first album came really quickly for us and we didn’t really have a particular sound apart from wanting to sound like joy division with a girl, that was too hard though so then we just all did our own thing and the producer Steve Mack, sorted it all out. The lyrics on my part were completely improvised and were all completed in one take, Linda read from books and I thought I was great. I think Linda read from the book of lists and a Kurt Vonnegut book. I liked lots of British bands who were hard to listen to such as big flame, bogshed, throbbing gristle and yeah yeah noh! (the latter not hard to listen to) I tried to be like all of them with a Scottish accent oh aye and also the Sensational Alex Harvey Band.
TP: No, there was never any plan for the sound, especially re the vocals.
DRS: The band was good to work with. Not everyone felt the need to be in the control room all the time which made life easy as well as making it possible for them to be patient enough to wait until they had their say. One time Scottish insisted on a certain lyric (“Camphor for the masses, Nature’s common butterfly”) being in the middle of “Killing The Bland”. We couldn’t find it on any version and he was away on an archaeological dig so we called him and got him to say the line ‘down the line.’ People often use studio trickery to create that telephone effect but in this case Mick sounds ‘telephony’ because he’s on the telephone and we are recording that telephone. That’s how state-of-the-art we were.
Linda’s big moment was “Autocade” which was an altogether more melodic and poppy affair. Scottish didn’t appear on it for the simple reason that he hated it. The rest of us had fun with it, though, and it was probably the first song that featured the keyboard prominently.
DOA: In your MySpace.com profile you say that your aim was to be “…the most depressing band ever” – but, at least in my opinion, it seems like you’ve achieved quite the opposite because of the vitality of the music and vehemence of the vocals – your energy is just so exhilarating that it balances, and even overwhelms, the depressing and disconnected nature of the lyrics. Were you always striving to be ‘depressing’ – was that a goal, and if so, why is that? Were you trying to reflect yourselves, or your surroundings, or just trying to do something different?
PM: That was maybe because at least some of us were listening to Joy Division a lot at the time and were attracted to bleak music, things, places, etc. Parts of Leicester were a bit like Manchester in the late 70s – though it’s getting all fancy these days – shame. I agree though it didn’t always sound like that in the final Prolapse songs.
LS: Lyric-wise, I just wrote down what was in my head, which was always miserable stuff for some unknown but slightly worrying reason. I wasn’t trying to help the rest of the band fulfill their desire to sound depressing. I’d still have written the same words if the band had sounded like S Club 7.
MD: We came from Leicester it was depressing but somehow uplifting (a bit like Portland on a rainy day but in the Midlands of England). This probably both inspired us to greater things i.e. trying not to be another Britpop, Riotgrrrl, Romo, Queer Core sound-alike or whatever other craze was around then but and also kept us firmly rooted in the culture of a small city whose motto is Semper Eadem – ‘always the same’.
DJ: I think, in reality, the use of the term depressing was humorous in intent. It was something to do with disliking bands taking themselves too seriously combined with the British talent for the horrific post-war urban developments that we all grew up in, especially in industrial cities, small town Britain, self-deprecation, ‘kitchen-sink’ drama and humour. Oh and did I mention obsessive worship of Joy Division?
MH: We failed miserably at being depressing (most of the time, anyway) but we did make the most depressingly funny video for “Autocade”, it seemed like a great idea at the time (to me anyway) but 4 unglamorous pissed up indie farts running like spastic spiders on treadmills was not the best career move. Great song though.
DOA: I know I’m covering previously-trodden ground here, but during the years as a band, did you all consider yourselves friends? Did you all hang out together after shows or on the weekends/evenings – or did you mostly go your separate ways?
PM: We were friends yes, and drank together, went to gigs and all that.
LS: Heaven help you if you aren’t mates with people you have to spend weeks stuck in a van with! Away from the band I didn’t hang around with the others really because I lived in London and most of them lived elsewhere.
Me and Scottish Mick were going out for some of the time, not going out for the rest of the time. If we hadn’t been in a relationship we might have sounded exactly the same but I suspect not. There’s a lot of joy to be had in screaming at your ex, calling them all kinds and scrapping with them quite violently night after night without actually falling out. And you have a connection with someone when you go out with them which you wouldn’t have otherwise, which probably helped the strange “I don’t know how it works, but it works” aspect of the vocals.
MD: Yes we did hang out together a lot especially in a pub called the Durham Ox where we drunk, talked crap and argued. Dave lived by the seaside for a while and Linda was seduced by the big lights of London. Me, Pat and Tim stayed in Leicester, with Mick for a lot of the time in Northumberland.
Me and Linda got on fine – very boring for the interview I know – if only we were Fleetwood Mac you could have had a field day. The only juicy bit was Linda ended up going out with Geordie Mick the bass player. I was not Joey Ramone though and I did not write a song about the KKK taking my baby away – maybe I did though I can’t remember. Oh aye, I hate that fucking bitch….only kidding.
TP: Most of the time Dave and Linda (and Geordie Mick) lived in different cities so we hardly hung around like a band but the Leicester contingent certainly seemed to see a lot of each other.
DJ: I think we got on great most of the time. In the early days, when we all lived in the same place we were drinking buddies but then I went off to another town and me and my wife had our first kid. Then Linda moved to London and Geordie went back to Newcastle. In fact the (partial) success of the band really kept us together as mates for most of the 1990s. The only time we argued was when we were tired and on tour. I personally never laughed so much as when I was with the band. We seemed to share, or at least develop, the same sense of humour and I think the near insanity of our discussions was also an aspect of the music we made. Sometimes our back of the bus ‘chats’ were so off-the-wall that at one point you’d be pissing yourself with laughter and the next you’d be looking at the stain on your trousers and wishing you could go home to bed. I think the best Prolapse music is like that: Part ecstatic, part hell on earth.
DOA: What was the studio recording process like for your albums – and how on earth do you record a song like the electric and frightening “Tina This Is Matthew Stone”?! Do you do it all in one live take (well, at least for the vocal meltdown at the end for that song) with everyone in the room, or do you record bits separately and then put it all together to form a song?
PM: The studio processes varied really – though we tried to get a live feel to stuff if we could. “Tina” was very much the song we finished gigs at the time of its recording. I don’t actually think the recorded version has the energy of the live versions I remember – same with “Headless in a Beat Motel” on that album. I think the drums and bass are from the original recording but we re-did the guitars and vocals but my memory is a bit hazy…
LS: Vocally, some songs, like “Tina”, we recorded at the same time because it’s
impossible to get really worked up with and shout at someone who isn’t there. Others we had to do separately because Mick would make me laugh.
MD: As I said before the lyrics were by and large improvised, to the point where if we did live radio we would make up a song from scratch. I would normally come into the studio after the music was laid down and sing over the top of it. I didn’t really like to sing with the music a lot and would often sing out of time or make my lyrics not fit and sing over the top of Linda’s stuff but I liked it that way – quite chaotic at times. I usually left when my lyrics were done as I hated being in a studio.
DRS: Next stop was Falconer 2 Studios in Chalk Farm to begin recording what was to become the ITALIAN FLAG. All the amps and drums were set up in the same not too big room which made for a pretty live sound. Scottish was the last to arrive after having been at a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar in the West End. He loves musicals.
This session was intended as a warm-up to try out the songs and, I guess, to try me out, too. We all seemed to get on fine and we recorded a whole bunch of stuff with the players doing their thing first and Linda and Scottish adding their bits after. Sometimes the lyrics would be the result of the two of them putting their heads together but generally they would come from two separate directions and meet in the middle (sometimes fitting well, most times being pretty disparate and un-connected – an approach I hadn’t heard since the Gang Of Four’s “Love Like Anthrax”).
On to The Windings Studio in North Wales to record the album proper. Same approach but with more detail, more experimentation and more alcohol thanks to a nearby pub. There was an old guy in the pub every night who would burst into song at the slightest provocation. The weird looped yelling at the end of “Visa” is made from a (secret) recording Geordie made of him one night. With competition of this calibre, Scottish Mick had his work cut out for him.
One trip to the pub inspired the last track on the album “Three Wooden Heads” which was recorded completely live in one take. Fun it was, indeed, to have a break from the usual.
DOA: What was the reasoning behind the ‘recorded in a weekend’, totally improvised backsaturday (mini) album? Were you trying to challenge yourselves or just having fun with the process?
LS: I think we only had enough money and time to record a single, so the idea was “let’s see whether we can write and record an album with the cash/time most bands would use for one song”. We didn’t make life easy for ourselves…
MD: We liked improvised things and this was our over indulgent Court of the Crimson King like album. Of course me and Pat were riding high in the indie charts at this time with a folk version of Autobahn under the moniker Cha Cha 2000 – this was better and very under indulgent. As a footnote, Backsaturday was the nearest we got to being the most depressing band in the world ever.
TP: To start with it was going to be a single, a long version of “Flex” and a couple of improvised B-sides. We thought that if we’re going to make up 2 tracks and do a single why not stretch ourselves and do a few more and make an album. The working title was “long flex shit specs”. I’m rather glad that was dropped. It was challenging and fun at the same time. Luckily I think we got away with it.
DJ: This guy gave us some money to make a 12″ single for him. We got a studio on the cheap and treated the weekend as a big practice. Songs, or noisy, chaotic ramblings such as are on that album actually came pretty easy to us. Hard to imagine I know.
DOA: The Italian Flag album was your ‘breakthrough’ album – the one that brought out the critical accolades and expanded your fanbase. Can I ask why you named it The Italian Flag? Is it a totally obscure reference point or something glaringly obvious that I just don’t comprehend…I mean, Scottish Mick is Scottish…so I’m just wondering if maybe some of you are of Italian descent…?
PM: I’m afraid it’s just a random name – we used to take it in turns to come up with song titles. Though there was a strong split at the time I remember over whether it should be The Italian Flag or just Italian Flag.
LS: It wasn’t my idea & I’d be interested to know too… I argued it should have been called Italian Flag but was overruled. I still hate the “the”.
MD: …if you listen to a lot of Prolapse songs you will also hear a lot of references to Spain for some reason. I think I got a bit obsessed.
TP: The Italian Flag was originally the name of a proposed improv group with me, Mick H and Dave. After supporting Sonic Youth I asked Lee Renaldo if he would sing and he kind of agreed but got the wrong end of the stick saying that he would love to work with our vocalists! Nevertheless it can go on record that we were in a band with Lee Renaldo (obviously nothing ever happened). As for where the Italian Flag name itself came from… I’m afraid It’s not very interesting, I had green Doc Martin Boots at the time and Tony our manager had Red ones, once stood next to him I looked down and said, If only we knew someone with White Docs then we would have The Italian Flag, someone must have then said “Good name for a band” which used to happen quite a bit in those days.
DJ: Tim can fill you in on how the idea for the name came up. I’d just like to point out that in breaks between rehearsing the Prolapse songs, the non-singers would fart around with this incredibly pretentious type of start-stop music that I guess we used to liken to post-rock bands like Tortoise or Truman’s Water or Polvo – I think this kind of thing has mutated into what you Americans call math rock. Irritating Radiator on Back Saturday is of that ilk. It was fucking hilarious to play (although I don’t think Pat was as enamoured of it as Tim, Geordie and I were!). This ridiculous entity had the working title of Italian Flag!
DRS: Other highlights:
The radio interference at the beginning of “Day At Death Seaside” which happened to be coming through Pat’s amp at the time. Linda’s fake French and Scottish’s bagpipes on “Deanshanger”. “Bruxelles” for being moody and distant. “Visa” for being relentless and in your face. Also “Pro Loop” which was a b-side. For a while we had a tape loop going round the whole control room around mike stands and through the machine. That’ll be fun, then.
When it came time to play some gigs to promote the album I ended up joining the band making the requisite keyboard noises. Touring was a great laugh. There was the occasional sulk and moody argument but it was, on the whole, an uncontrolled experiment to see how distorted humour could become. If you’ve ever sat in a van listening to a game of ‘I am more African than you’ then you’ll have a clue.
MH: Italian Flag was going to be an offshoot band so the musicians could play noisy fucked up self indulgent stuff for hours on end without getting on the singers nerves. I think we just liked the name. Me and Tim asked Lee Renaldo if he wanted to join and the bastard said no!
DOA: I’m always amazed how band members juggle their music careers, plus go on with the 9-to-5 daily grind of ‘regular’ jobs – I’m assuming most of you were in this situation while in Prolapse. Where did you find the time and energy to be in a band?! What were you doing when you were not working as Prolapse?
PM: Amongst other things Scottish Mick and me were being archaeologists (on excavations and writing about old bits of pottery) and Dave was doing a PhD in Art History. Tim and Linda had jobs too. Was hard to get back home from a gig in Liverpool or somewhere – having ‘over done it a bit’ after the gig – then try and go to work the next day – don’t think I could today.
LS: For some of the time I worked for a music distribution company, which meant endless days of phoning up record shops saying, “I know you haven’t heard of this band but will you take 100?” It could be soul destroying but was fab when someone bought a record by a new band I loved for their shop, and they discovered they loved it too. Energy-wise – it’s not hard to summon the energy to disappear for weeks and get paid (however little) to have a ball on stage.
MD: Archaeologist at the University of Leicester. They were very understanding and seemed to like it really, even going to the extreme of congratulating Prolapse in getting 2 songs in John Peel’s festive fifty in their end of year corporate annual report. There are a few archaeologists in music – John Peel’s son and the guy from the Delgados for a start.
TP: Being in a band uses different bits of you to do a job, so as long as you can cope with the sleep deprivation it’s workable. I couldn’t do it now though, the 15 gigs a year of the Validators is about enough.
DJ: I was a student, then I worked in an office, then I was a student again. I was also a parent for most of it. It was rather complicated and stressful for me. But worth it? Hell yeah!
MH: It was ridiculous, incredibly hectic. Once a fortnight I’d have to sign on at the dole office and once every 2 months we’d have an 8 hour practice, 4 of which we’d be down the pub.
DOA: I don’t recall exactly how I found out about your band, except that I remember reading ecstatic critic reviews in the British music papers (that I bought at import prices in the U.S.), especially for your live shows. What was a typical (or specific, if you prefer) show like?
PM: We were either rubbish or great live – not much in between. Don’t think the audience was usually bored though. The video of “Flex” from a gig on the Prolapse MySpace page (originally from YouTube) gives an idea. I suppose the gigs could be noisy, chaotic, unpredictable, repetitive and different.
LS: I loved doing gigs and miss them (but you can keep your long uncomfortable journeys to get to them in a transit which broke down every half and hour on godforsaken European motorways). In the early days me & Mick occupied ourselves with junk people brought to gigs (bikes, mannequins) for us to play with because we got bored just standing there. We’d usually wind each other up somehow and then sometimes have a bit of a scrap towards the end. I sometimes wanted Mick to leave me alone and he’d say OK then pounce on me. I seem to remember someone getting on stage once to defend me. Thank you, whoever you were. Journalists always seemed think what we did on stage was choreographed “performance art”. Choreographed! We barely rehearsed the songs! We certainly weren’t going to waste time rehearsing the bits in between. Choreographed indeed.
MD: At the beginning we used to scour street before gigs for old tv’s or anything breakable and smash them up on stage (not in an industrial noise kind of way but more a smashing up and making a mess kind of way). Sometimes the band coming on after us would look a bit funny standing in the middle of our rubbish (Huggy Bear spring to mind) and sometimes I would find something totally inappropriate like a desk which just happened to be filled with old keys and iron filings and they would all fall into the speakers and ruin them – this happened. Later me and Linda progressed to fighting and shouting abuse. I once crowned her with the inside of a broken TV which cut her and blood started flowing down her face, she threw me off a stage in Edinburgh and in Leicester we both fell off a stage onto lots of glass but came out of it uninjured. In Seattle I had a guy in the audience trying to pull me off stage by the leg and that same night Calvin Beat Happening said he liked it but was frightened with the fighting. Aw aye it’s also the only time no one clapped at the end of the gig, I think they were a bit worried.
DJ: We were definitely a live band and we were very affected by the dynamics of the audience. If the audience was receptive, all we had to do was get going and the gig would take on a life of its own. I like to think our music was like a rip-chord that, when pulled and it worked, would set off a big explosion of energy which would take on a life of its own. I think our music was powerful live because we designed it simply, using basic structures and rhythms. The dynamics of the singers just sat on top perfectly and, ideally, mirrored or evoked the energy of the music and the crowd. It was like good punk music but not as stylized. On a good night, there would be people getting up on stage and diving off and we’d be diving off stage too. On a bad night – and there were plenty of those – we tormented ourselves and the few audience members pinned to the back wall. HA!
DRS: The ensuing gigs saw me ditch the keyboard and pick up the guitar. This wasn’t to be a third guitarist. If Dave couldn’t make the gig because of college commitments then I’d play his parts. Likewise with Pat when he was simply too down to make it. Seemed to balance out either way. I was either being one of the two but that suited me fine. My favourite show, however, was part of an all-dayer at the Garage in Highbury. This was the only one that was to feature three guitars. More onslaught than overkill. My brother came along and said that the PA sounded like it was having a nervous collapse. The gig ended with everyone lying in a huge pile in the centre of the stage. That’s how it’s done…
MH: Gigs were usually quite intense, noisy, drunken messy affairs. Sometimes utter shite, sometimes brilliant and quite often daft. Fans seem to vary between serious balding nodding ex Wire fans and pissed up indie kids with Pavement t-shirts.
DOA: Speaking (well, writing) about the British/U.K. music press, what did you think of NME and Melody Maker and that sort of paper? I’m just curious because it seems like there is a difference in opinion depending on whether you live in the U.K. or the U.S. (I found those magazines to be very helpful and informative for breaking new bands that I would have never heard of in the USA otherwise).
LS: NME and Melody Maker were good to us, so they’re OK by me.
MD: I liked the Melody Maker a lot as it did genuinely seem to champion the smaller band, NME as now, would champion the smaller band but only if they became really big. I think everyone should read Plan B magazine (I think run by Everett True as it is very informative and more like a better melody maker).
TP: They were great. WERE being the operative word. I don’t know whether everybody goes through this but compared to the Shit that is served up these days by the NME it was a really good read then. Having the Melody Maker as competition was definitely healthy. There just seemed to be so much more words in it then, now it’s somewhere between comic and tabloid.
DJ: They were my bibles when I was getting into music and it was interesting to see the juxtapositions of our name alongside other bands when we started to get written about. The almost universally positive critical writing on us in those papers, however, had an interestingly minimal effect on our career. It became clear quite early that column inches did not equate with any broader version of success, such as people getting into us enough to buy our records. So, although we clearly fitted into the definition of an interesting, press-worthy band for those papers, we clearly weren’t translatable into a you-must-buy-their-records entity. I guess the point is that their circulation, although notable, is insignificant on any other scale. Now if we’d been in Pitchfork…(sorry, joke!)
DOA: I hope I’m not bringing a sore subject, but during the run of your albums, you were on various record labels (Cherry Red at first, then JetSet, and Cooking Vinyl). Why all the changes in record companies?
PM: I guess it’s mostly because we didn’t sell millions.
MD: Cherry Red – naïve deal but I still think the right thing for us at the time. Fucked us publishing wise though. Oh aye also let us run riot in their vaults and steal lots of records which we sold being on the dole at various times.
Jetset – America, bright lights and a lot of good bands on their label.
Radar (don’t forget them) – Nice people gave us money to buy beer and bagpipes with and let us do what we wanted really.
Cooking Vinyl – same as radar but can’t even remember anybody there sorry.
TP: Cherry Red – Dropped (they stopped doing new music after that)
Lissys (in the UK) – Only ever going to be 1 album
Radar – Dropped
Cooking Vinyl – Split Up, simple really
It’s probably worth mentioning that before Radar we were going to do something with Flying Nun which amazingly went bust after talking to us, the curse of Prolapse at its worst/best.
DJ: Low rent, low esteem, high turnover. We were difficult to market. See The Fall for a good comparison. Or better listen to them on their many different labeled CD’s.
DOA: You’ve done Peel Sessions with the incomparable John Peel. What was the experience like? What songs did you play and are they available in any format at all? I noticed that the Peel Sessions are not in your Discography at The Palace of Prolapse site at http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Towers/9068/. Is that site run independently by a fan of yours or do you have input as to what is posted there?
PM: It was amazing to go to the BBC and do those –where so many bands musicians had recorded before –even Bing Crosby! For songs played at Peel Sessions see http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/johnpeel/artists/p/prolapse/
and click on the various sessions. Unfortunately only “When Space Invaders Were Big” is available as a Cherry Red vinyl single – if there are any left.
LS: Having John Peel say he wanted you to do a session was always an honour – and we did more than one which was a real honour. The first time he played one of our records we were in Camden in a car on a way to play a gig and were ridiculously excited. You knew you’d made it if John Peel said nice things about you.
MD: The experience was great…and it was one of my biggest ambitions fulfilled (3 times I think or 2 – I don’t know). John Peel isn’t there when you do it but you are recording in a studio where Bing Crosby did his last recordings aw aye and something about the Beatles but they are crap anyway.
TP: No, the site is done by a Fan, I met him once but have no contact.
The Peel Sessions were:
• “Doorstop Rhythmic Bloc”
• “When Space Invaders Were Big”
• “Broken Cormorant”
08/09/95 (From Reading Festival)
• “Psychotic Now”
• “Headless In A Beat Motel”
• “Tina This Is Matthew Stone”
• “Slash Stroke Oblique”
• “Outside Of It”
• Place Called Clock”
DJ: It was, obviously, a dream come true to do sessions for Peely, although we didn’t actually get to meet him until a live broadcast gig in Oxford. The BBC studios and the engineers are fantastic, but we didn’t get to hang out with the man himself.
Can I just say, and I’m sure that the rest of the band will concur, that I really miss John Peel. I was in the US when he died and I didn’t realize how much he was part of my life until he went. For left-field bands like us, he was a life line, a reason for keeping going and for sticking at what we were doing no matter how bizarre it was. I think I can safely say that if it hadn’t been for Peely, there might have been no Prolapse or countless other great bands.
MH: Hearing our first single on John Peel was fantastic, but being invited to do a session was unbelievable. I seem to remember John Peel phoning Dave up just to see how the band was doing. Steve Wright wouldn’t do that, now would he?
DOA: Pat and David – what kind of guitars did you use to achieve the ‘Prolapse’ sound? Tim – your drumming has kept many a song precariously on track, when it could be easily derailed by Scottish Mick’s and Linda’s biting, barbed back ‘n’ forths. What is it like as musicians, in the live performance environment, to work with Scottish Mick and Linda? I’ve never seen you live, so I don’t know from experience, but I’m guessing that there is some leeway in Mick’s rants, so I’m wondering if songs ever veered off-course during shows – and how you deal with that situation.
PM: I used a Telecaster and Dave a Les Paul – which give pretty different sounds. We borrowed various other guitars for recordings to make it a bit more interesting though. We used some pedals too of course – I was much more guilty than Dave though.
I don’t remember having too many problems working with Mick and Linda live. We usually just played the songs and somehow it all worked – everyone doing there own thing but also part of the same machine, which sort of hurtled along.
LS: I’m looking forward to reading this answer.
MD: Yippee I can skip this one.
TP: A few songs had room for manoeuvre and gave us all the ability to adlib but mostly we were almost like 2 bands on stage at the same time. The guitarists often back to the audience I guess heightened that.
DJ: Do you really want us to get into that sort of thing? Weeell, I did consciously choose a Gibson Les Paul and a, slightly updated but still classic Marshall valve amp. I used the standard overdrive on the amp, nothing else. When we first started I bought what must have been either a prototype that never went into production or home-made, valve amp plus a big home-made speaker cab. The output was huge; I could only turn it up to between 1 or 2, even when Tim was beating the hell out of his drums. But that enabled me to keep things simple, to detune the guitar and bang it with bits of metal and still get a noise that cut through the Prolapse cacophony. The Gibson and Marshall combination is really powerful and full – that was good enough for me.
DOA: How did the lyric-writing process take place? Who came up with the themes of the songs and did Scottish Mick write his parts, and Linda hers separately, and then somehow made the pieces fit together after the fact – or did they collaborate on the lyrics for their (for lack of a better term) ‘duets’?
LS: We did our own bits, separately, on all but about two songs. We wouldn’t know what each other was doing, or what it was about, and never said “you do that bit and I’ll do that bit” or “I think it would be good if you sang about cakes/dogs/ trumpets in this song”. I think if one of us had told the other what to do we’d have made sure we did exactly the opposite. I usually wrote words in advance after hearing the music, Mick usually didn’t. Like I said, it could have been disastrous.
MD: We very rarely collaborated – possibly only on “killing the bland”. The rest of the time me and Linda (I know I should write ‘Linda and I’ but it’s how we say it in Glasgow) ‘wrote’ separately. Linda may have tried to fit her lyrics into the music but I tried not to (not always with success). As I said I preferred leaving no space for others and would rather sing for too long or over the top or under Linda’s lyrics. I wouldn’t stay for the mix (hate studios) and would tell the producer and the band to do what they liked with my track and sometimes they would add effects or remove my vocal in part or completely.
DOA: Ghosts Of Dead Aeroplanes was your last album as a band. How did the end of Prolapse come about – was it a sudden break-up or a slow disintegration?
PM: I think we just agreed we were getting a bit bored with it and it was time to call it a day. I think it was better to avoid going on forever and getting worse and worse – like a lot of bands.
LS: Maybe some of us got a bit sick of the sight of each other, but also people wanted to get on with other things. I’d always wanted to be a journalist and needed to go back to college to do that, and didn’t want to put it off any longer.
TP: Slow disintegration really. It took us about a year to finally split up after the decision had been made. I (and a few others) had been getting a bit fed up with the restricting nature of being in a band (that didn’t sell many records). Especially when signed to a label that expected (and why not) a fair amount of input from you. If we could have gone on with 1 week on the road a year and 1 week in the studio then I’d have been quite happy to continue. As it was that was never going to happen without the industry wanting more of you. It was really good to get a real life again.
DJ: I think slow disintegration just about does it. We were so dispersed for much of the latter part of the 90s and mainly holding down jobs or, in my case, full time study, that we really didn’t feel as if we were a unit by the end of that decade. I stopped touring near the end because I really didn’t want to be away from Pen and the kids; they were still pretty small back then. Donald stepped in on guitar and did an amazing job of replicating my parts even though I don’t think he used my tuning (but then, he could do anything with a guitar, the bastard!) I remember they did one BBC session without me and Donald’s playing was so spot on I just thought, hang on, did I do this session after all?
For me, the (modest) success of the band happened about 2 or 3 years too late. By the time we signed our first record contract, my daughter Ella had been born. Our first US jaunt (tour with Stereolab, early summer 1996) happened just before my son was born. I wasn’t going to go but got talked into it. Next thing I know, I was in LA on the phone to Pen and she tearfully told me that the doctor wasn’t happy about how the baby was progressing. She was 7 or 8 months pregnant. I was on the other side of the world. It didn’t feel right. I was never going to be totally committed to the band, as fucking great as I thought we were and as much as I loved my fellow band members. Sometimes they didn’t understand why this was the case but I like to think they do now. Funnily enough, I’m pretty confident that I wasn’t the guy who set the break up in motion. I think that everyone just decided they weren’t up to it, or for it, anymore.
DRS: Recording Ghosts Of Dead Aeroplanes was a bit more haphazard and largely came from jams and mess-abouts, the best of which got knocked into shape as songs. Recorded mostly in Foel Studios in Wales and partly in Seamus Wong Studios Leicester. Considering it was culled from hours of tapes it ended up sounding pretty cohesive. The band was in great form and a lot of it is Linda and Scottish at their best, but you could sense a drift appearing. Everyone seemed to be nearing the end of their tenure and finding more interest in different projects.
“Essence Of Cessna” for Tim’s (impossible for me to play) syncopations and the fact that it was an all-round good collaboration.
“After After” sonically but also because we all thought it was such a stupid title but kept it anyway.
“Government Of Spain” mainly for that bit when Scottish’s voice breaks. Unreal.
“Planned Obsolescence” I think that was Linda’s title. Whatever, it was a good one for the swansong. Nice that everyone swapped instruments, too. Dave came along to the mix of this one to make sure the bass was nice and loud. That’s Dave you can hear playing bass. Good lyric.
I know it had run its course but I still miss playing those songs. It was an unhinged good time and I’m glad I could join in for a while. I can only sum it up by relating a joke that Tim made up: A guy goes into a record shop in Glasgow and says “Have you got Madness?” to which the owner replies “Why would I have your d’ness?”
I love you…I love you…I love you….
MH: It was a sudden disintegration.
DOA: Which album that you’ve done is your favorite – and why?
PM: The Italian Flag. It was recorded over a couple of weeks at an isolated studio in Wales one snowy January – was a bit like something from the Shining! No, but I think it’s the most consistent musically – and from a purely personal standpoint I’m happier with the bits I did than on the other albums.
LS: I think Italian Flag because we had a bit more money and a better idea of what we were doing. But my favourite title is Pointless Walks to Dismal Places.
MD: Probably Italian flag as it’s better than I remember it and it still sounds fresh and not dated at all (yet). I think Italian flag and backsaturdy would be a good gatefold doublepack though as they’re pure Jekyll / Hyde.
TP: Hard one really, Italian Flag has the best songs on it but a lot of the detail gets lost in the wall of fuzz in places. Ghosts… has got the best sound. I think a combination of the 2 would have been great.
DJ: I have a big soft spot for Back Saturday. Although it is really low budget stuff, it is a document of a weekend during which we were really inspired and able to indulge the experimental side that I think was a major motivation behind what we were trying to do. Touring and playing live can be repetitive and that has a tendency to shave off all the spontaneity that I think gave us the edge over other bands and I think BS is the nearest we ever got to capturing spontaneity and building music quickly and randomly.
That said, probably one of the best experiences for me was putting together the recordings that became Ghosts of Dead Aeroplanes because that was all stuff that was done off the cuff in a studio too. We spent 4 days in the middle of nowhere just getting up in the morning, tuning up and going. The tapes were just left rolling and, again I think we excelled ourselves. Whilst I think GoDA is really good, the subsequent over dubbing means that it doesn’t really reflect the stuff when we first recorded it. BS does as far as I’m concerned.
DOA: Music is not created in a vacuum and usually musicians are influenced by band and singers that have gone before, or are their peers – and I know the music press has oft-compared your band to other, specific bands that shall remain nameless so as not to annoy. What I want to know – from you directly – is what bands/singers do you think influenced your sound?
PM: Joy Division, Neu!, The Fall, Sonic Youth, Stereolab, The Shop Assistants, Wire, Suicide, My Bloody Valentine, Public Image Limited and the others probably have many more.
LS: I’d love to say someone arty and obscure but the real answer is nobody at all.
MD: Alex Harvey, Mark E Smith, Wire, singer from Bogshed, Red Crayola and Electric Eels oh aye and joy division of course.
TP: I WOULD read the music press for that answer. I know others would have their own answers but for me it was very much as the papers said it. But add Loop to the usual list.
DJ: A perfectly legitimate question, even if it’s been asked before. I guess you are referring to the Fall, Stereolab, Krautrock comparisons, which in my case I’d have to say is not far off really. I always point out that we were listening to the German stuff like Neu and Can and Faust at the same time as Stereolab were, so we were inspired by the same stuff not Stereolab’s reading of those bands. But Stereolab were supportive of us and we all loved their early records, so I guess they inspired us too.
Other than the above my inspiration came from all sorts of sources, from artsy stuff like Glen Branca, Steve Reich through Sonic Youth, Dinosaur jr., Tortoise, Polvo to more obvious stuff like dub reggae, Syd Barrett and the Pink Floyd, late 60s early 70s Rolling Stones. I think that Keith Richards is such an underrated guitarist. I’d much rather be in a band with him than say Hendrix or Clapton (ugh!). He once said that he wanted to play guitar like a drummer, which I think is close to how I think I played guitar with Prolapse. I tried to make my guitar playing as machine-like as possible – I detuned it so that I could play bar chords really easily. That meant I could change chords or play extra notes quickly and easily while still keeping a strong rhythm going. Pat was responsible for the more high-end ‘effecty’ stuff so we were very different stylistically. Actually I would mainly look at what Geordie Mick was doing on the bass than Pat.
By the way, the others might tell you that the reason Prolapse sounds like it did is because we all had different taste, which I think is true, but I mean, when Linda and I were both living in London (not together) we would mainly agree on what were the bands worth seeing and turn up at the same gigs. It’s not like I liked hip hop, Linda liked opera and the Micks liked Irish traditional. We knew where the good stuff was and what it sounded like.
DOA: I’ve read that there have been many off-shoots from the band – Cha Cha 2000, Ears Go FFF!, Washing Up Liquid, and the current MJ Hibbett & The Validators (Tim plays drums). What’s the scoop about these bands, especially MJ Hibbett & The Validators? Is anyone else besides Tim doing music-related projects?
PM: I’m not really though I do play various instruments, including guitar and five string banjo (not very Prolapse I know!) at home – so you never know – might lead to something in the end. Will probably sound like bleak repetitive folk music…bet you can hardly wait!
LS: I do sing to my cats every day. Does that count?
MD: I was in my girlfriend’s band Je suis Animal (half Norwegian half English) but she threw me out cos I still like singing any old way and didn’t write lyrics. Now I do nothing and if I was to be in a band it would have to be someone making me do it or sending me a tape and saying sing over this. I can only sing and play the bagpipes – this is limiting to a solo career.
TP: I think Dave was in a ska band in Georgia USA. (which actually sounds like a joke but isn’t).
MH: Me and Donald carried on doing stuff for a while, but being lazy sods and living 100 miles apart we never got it together. I still fart about playing with friends and doing Garage band stuff, I’ve cunningly planted a delay pedal inside me big slipper.
DOA: What types of music/bands/singers are you into these days?
PM: Clarence Ashley, early Fairport Convention, Martin Carthy, Marissa Nadler, Kraftwerk, The Tights, Dock Boggs, a hawk and a hacksaw, Propergol y Colargol, Je Suis Animal, The Faces, Nate Frazier and loads of other stuff depending what I feel like that day.
LS: I went right off music after the double whammy of the band and music distribution and haven’t bought anything for ages – my playlist usually goes something like: a track from a Pebbles LP; a favourite Stereolab song; a Dusty Springfield classic; a track someone’s emailed/sent to me; a bit of Franz Ferdinand; something I love and have had for ages but I can’t remember what it is because it’s a demo and I’ve lost the insert. And so on.
MD: Aberfeldy, Camera Obscura, Bricollage, Dead moon, Peter, Bjørn and John, Yeah Yeah Noh and still all the old favourites wire, gang of 4, throbbing gristle, Bogshed, delta5, Kleenex, swell maps, liliput.
TP: Same as ever really, The Fall, The Wedding Present, Sonic Youth, HMHB. There has been some decent stuff in the last year or so, Maximo Park’s album was excellent and they’re Geordie’s too!
DJ: Its always been eclectic and rather pretentious stuff for me. British guitar-based music is really embarrassing at the moment isn’t it? Its like nobody really got the message that Britpop – Prolapse’s nemesis – was total, total shite actually. I like some dance stuff, or electronic as you American’s call it. I’ve just found out about Muslimgauze, who in case you don’t know, is this guy from Manchester UK called Bryn Jones (I think) who died in the early 2000’s but up to then made these amazing home studio homages to a variety of genres of dance as well as Middle Eastern music. Its not eclectic actually just totally absorbingly, y’know, right. Plus I’ve finally got into Blackalicious who are stunning. The Coup are hip-hop with something to say about what a shitty state the US is in, not just how big a woman’s ‘lady lumps’ (ugh!) are. I like the Vashti Bunyan and Animal Collective E.P. mid 70s reggae DJing like Big Youth (always have come to that) and, thanks to pandora.com, I found a great album of Gospel Soul and Funk which is as raw as the Warsaw stuff (proto-Joy Division) but with rich voices and stunning guitar licks. I still like Bell and Sebastian too!
MH: The Brian Jonestown Massacre.
DOA: How have these years after Prolapse been treating you? What are you all up to?
PM: I’m living in Copenhagen – still doing archaeology in Denmark and England.
LS: I’m a local newspaper journalist.
MD: I live in Oslo and work for the Norwegian maritime Museum. I look at mud and take pottery out of it. I get drunk and my hangovers are getting worse but it’s fun getting them in another country even if a pint costs 10 dollars.
TP: Good really, married, 2 kids (to quote The Fall), enjoying getting back to a few old haunts with the Validators.
DJ: I teach Art History at an art college in Savannah, Georgia. I am happy in myself and enjoying life in the US, despite the violent crime, racism and pig ignorance of many of my students. I sometimes collaborate with Pen on art works (I was a visual artist before I was in Prolapse). She is using a lot of sound, so I’m hoping to do some artsy fartsy noise-stuff with her. I write stuff about art and politics and wish the world was rid of your current president and his cronies. Surprise! Surprise eh?
MH: I live in a hermitage at Robin Hoods Stride near Matlock, Derbyshire with my good lady, tuning SM430’s and RX350’s.
DOA: What are your interests besides music?
PM: Everton football club and often associated disappointment, weasels, rubbish tv programmes and celebrities, saag paneer and Eastern Europe.
LS: I read, read, read everything in sight.
MD: I have a boat and I like to drink.