On 17th January 2006 at 17:55 Anonymous 4705 wrote...
has anyone seen my nut sack???
The scheme brewing in the collective mind of ˇForward, Russia!, Leeds' pioneers of screeching, mercurial noise, is a simple one. It goes like this...
Katie: "We're gonna rule the world. Well, not rule the world, but we're gonna... we're gonna... hit the world."
Tom: "Very hard. In the kidney."
Whiskas: "With open palm."
Tom: "Hopefully we'll leave really red marks."
On the world?
Tom: "Yes. On the world."
We're here - 'here' being a claustrophobic rectangle of a dressing room, backstage at Manchester's Music Box venue, whilst The KBC's strangled bits of megaphone shake the walls in front of us and a door emblazoned with a marker pen list of altered band names ('David Joey', anyone? 'VHS Or Peter'? 'The Gary Glitterati'? ˇForward, Russia!'s very own 'Shut Your Eyes And You'll Burst Into James', perhaps? Inspired.) compiled by decades of bored musicians having already eaten everything on their rider and finding themselves with nothing left to do, slams behind us - to talk progress, plans and pants; although you'll have to wait until the end for the latter.
It all began back in mid-2004 when a small yet ambitious and rather loud embryo was formed in the belly of a beast. It bubbled, it thrashed, it emitted ultra-high-frequency whirrs, bleeps and gargling screams. It shouted out lots of different numbers, sometimes in the wrong order and always amidst a pummelling rifle-round of scrapheap, caveman drums and slavering, hi-tech banshee shouts. A painfully beautiful and goddamn loud birth ensued, whereupon a disturbingly heavenly baby was born. They called it ˇForward, Russia!. Or, as guitarist Whiskas explains succinctly, "I was in a band, they [nods towards bassist Rob] were in a band, we jammed, she [jabs finger at drummer Katie]'s my sister, he [shifts direction of finger to point at singer Tom]'s good. That's how it worked."
"I remember the first time I met Tom, in The Hyde Park pub," remembers Katie, glancing affectionately and a little slyly at the singer. "He just kind of stumbled in and I was, like, 'Hmmmm.'"
"Whaaaaaat? Why, what did I do?" he exclaims, looking a little hurt.
"Just 'cause I didn't know you and stuff," she squirms. "Then I got to know you a bit and I was like, 'Yeah, he's lovely!' It was just the way you stumbled in. I think it had been raining or something... your hair wasn't like a boyband frontman's."
"Katie's response to me was that I wasn't fit enough," he whimpers to me, pulling a plum face.
"You didn't realise 'til Katie told you that the whole idea was actually for us to be like S Club 7" jokes Whiskas, sounding a tad too serious for comfort. Katie's not quite happy with that. "I'd have thought Steps," she says.
"Okay, yes, Steps."
"I think we're all a bit giddy. I am."
"Well, I had some really dark beer up the road" nods Whiskas.
"Was it a bit grim looking?" asks Tom.
Anyway, back to business. After a split 7" with This Et Al, 'Nine', and the double A-side of entirely their own output, 'Thirteen/Fourteen', last year, Monday 16th January 2006 will see ˇForward, Russia! blasting off both the New Year and the face of the planet with next single 'Twelve', a tight, coiled spring of intergalactic debris cooped up in a shrink-wrapped bottle of hysteria, on the verge of exploding and shooting glass shards into your eye. They've come, as the saying goes, a long way; and an especially long way from Katie's stint in "school brass band, promoted to the second section." Or, indeed, from her time as part of metal side-project, Death Wizard.
"I found some of their lyrics once. What were they, Katie?" laughs older sibling Whiskas, eyebrows raised in mischief and disbelief, before they both erupt into a spoof goth-rock rampage: "Death! Death! Death, death WIZARD!" Headbanging. Rock poses. Apologies for behaving stupidly in an interview. Forgiveness.
So, yes; from this, to sold out tours - "The gigs that we're doing now are not like any that we've done or ever experienced, ever. We sold out Oxford. Just, why? Why would that happen?!" exclaims Whiskas - a second Dance To The Radio compilation - "It's fucking ace, isn't it?" he nods. "KOMAKINO!" squeals a hyper Katie, in response - and the recording of an album in January, the expected success of which will, hopefully, help to fund the work of other artists the band adore. Oh, and an appearance at South By Southwest, possibly the world's largest music industry convention, incorporating hundreds of bands and about thrice as many hog roasts as there are people. Oh, and also "a very very slight tour of Ireland". And Italy. And Spain. And Germany. Anything else? "Well, that should take us to the back end of April", calculates Whiskas with a casual shrug. They work hard, don't they? "Someone said to me the other day, 'Don't you find that, like, when you stop touring, the day after, you're fine, the day after that, you start feeling a bit shit and then the day after that, you're fucked?'" continues the taskmaster.
Tom laughs and shakes his head. "It can never happen. How many times have we had three days off?!" Anyway, after we stop for two or three days I really wanna play a gig."
"I don't understand bands - " begins Whiskas.
"Boys?" yelps Tom, mishearing. "You don't understand boys?!"
"Eeeeeeew!" giggles Katie, evidently in agreement.
"I don't understand bands who don't do band stuff," continues Whiskas, laughing, trying to maintain some form of composure. "I don't understand boys who don't do boy stuff, either! But... you get bands who are not in the studio, they're not recording, they want time to, like... think ...about stuff. They have days off to do artwork," he complains, baffled.
Still, it's not as if ˇForward, Russia! aren't in charge of every little itty bitty piece of their world, whether that be music, artwork or general organisation. Whiskas' history of hard graft in and around Leeds is already becoming something of a regional legend, after having started up and operated The Vine, that wonderfully slightly-crumble-down venue we know and love in the city centre, for a good chunk of his teens. "I set the whole Vine up. I put on every night of the week for about eighteen months," he explains. "The whole point of it, when I started, was that there was nowhere smaller than Joseph's Well where you could play a proper gig and The Vine seemed like it had the potential to be that place. Leeds was ridiculous in terms of, like... your first gig in Leeds, as an upcoming band, would be at the Well, which held 400 people. Then you'd play the small room of the Cockpit, which holds about 250... and then you'd play the main room of the Cockpit which holds 600. That doesn't actually make any sense at all. Plus, most of the gigs were half empty, especially at the Well and for local bands. How many local bands could pull 400 people? How many bands could pull one hundred people?" However. "It was probably one of the most horrible places in the world and had all the regulars generally try to stab us once a week."
"Happy days," smiles Tom.
"I wish I was there right now," the guitarist sighs, sardonically.
It's this commitment and dedication to providing artists and music lovers with places to go and things to see that's earned him a reputation worthy of Number 42 on the NME Cool List 2005. "The Cool List itself is bollocks," he says, confirming many people's dubious views of anything the NME laud or loathe, "but I also do think it's wicked in that the guys [who've compiled the article] do genuinely think it's cool that we do things ourselves, and that's why we're on there. They've shown us..." "Respect!" Katie chirps up, finishing his sentence.
"I heard that Conor McNicholas is being lined up to be number one in the NME Cool List next year," sniggers Tom.
"It's a matter of time before an actual NME writer is in it..." ponders Whiskas. "The headline will be something like 'The New Hunter S. Thompsons.'"
It's an undeniable fact, then, that the Russians, this year, are going to become something monstrously large - that's if they haven't already. "The other night, there was someone requesting a drumstick after every single song," Tom recounts, looking pleased and baffled at the same time. "In the end I resorted to saying 'Oi, eBay boy, shut up!' You could tell the only reason he'd gone there was so he could get memorabilia from a gig. I bet if we'd have given him one he'd have gone home."
"I gave him a plectrum," says Whiskas.
"Yes but he's probably not bothered about that."
"I don't know why people even want plectrums. I mean, they're only 50p" he wonders, confused.
"It's because you've touched them, Whiskas" Tom says, a little camp, casting adoring, puppy dog eyes towards the vicinity of the guitarist.
"But I'm not... I'm not..." he splutters. "I'm not... er... who's Number 41? I don't even know. Anyway, there are forty one people who it'd be better to get a plectrum from than me."
So there we are, then. One young gaggle of four earnest, eager, excitable musicians wielding their instruments and bodies in front of us, erupting in a big, beautiful, silver bang of rippling, squelching audio; a group who make, in conversation as well as music, lots of cogent sense - and a whole lot of crackers madness. "I used to rock out to Iron Maiden on a little plastic guitar when I was about that big," smiles Tom. "For the benefit of the Dictaphone, that's about a foot. Me and my mate, we competed in the national air guitar championships at the Electric Ballroom in London, a really big venue and, like, absolutely full. I ended up standing on a broken bottle and not being able to walk for about two months. I was only wearing a thong."
A refreshingly unconventional, funny and frank bunch of noise traders, they're surprisingly less frightening than I thought they might be (c'mon, have you heard 'Sixteen'?!) and set to mutate into a band of fully-fledged stars unafraid to say - or scream - what they want. "Someone once told us that 'You think too much, your music is too intelligent and you need to turn it down,'" snarls Whiskas. "I was like, 'Fuck off! D'you think we think about what we do?!'"
No - and that's the way it should be, right? No guidelines, no boundaries, no rules. Just instinct. Listen to them roar; and you can feel it...