Interview:
Dizzy Valise
Please Valise Me

Throughout history, Leicester has a long line of hugely successful artists to its credit. Honestly. We’ve got….erm….Engelbert Humperdinck, Mark Morrison, Showaddywaddy and … um… Showaddywaddy. Well, Ok I concede. If you put that lot on your CV you probably wouldn’t exactly be favourite for the job….unless of course you’re trying to be a Butlins’ representative. But fear not, for our saviours are with us now, in the guise of Dizzy Valise. The band have attracted more than a little attention of late, with slots at the In The City festival gaining favourable reviews in music mag colossuses such as the NME, generating a solid fan base and striking up a lot of interest within a little publishing company that just happens to go by the name of EMI. It’s easy to see why. The guys possess an awful amount of talent and their songs are often so innovative that gold seems to ooze from their fingertips. For the uninitiated it will be like a blow on the head with a musical mallet as anyone who hears them will undoubtedly list them as one of their favourite bands from then on.
Atomicduster popped in on John and Naim for a coffee. And ate their samosas.

AD: Seeing as you’re a relatively new band, we ought to start off with the dull, predictable question for a change – so where did the name come from?
J: We were originally called Beautiful Losers, from the Leonard Cohen novel, but we felt that was a little bit self derogatory, so we thought long and hard about other names. We made lists of them and nothing really inspired us, and then I was looking through this book of jazz greats and there’s a picture of Dizzy Gillespie. Underneath it there was a picture of his trumpet and the title of the picture was “Dizzy’s Valise”. We thought – it looks nice, it doesn’t really mean anything – and ultimately it stuck.

AD: How did the band get together in the first place?N: Me and John were working at the Factory, which was a great venue when it first opened. A lot of Leicester bands came to play and it really brought the band community together. It was a great opportunity to get up there and do something yourself, and I’d engineered loads of bands then I thought “I can do better than that” so I started supporting bands, playing on my own. The drummer, Heetan, saw me at Abbey Park festival and remembered me so we got him in. Then there’s a silly little story – I quite fancied this singer in a band that used to play at the Factory….
J: He was a lovely bloke wasn’t he?
N: (laughs) …and her band had a gig booked for the next month, so we just went upstairs, made up the band name Beautiful Losers and said “we’re supporting you”, so in a panic we had to put this band together!

AD: Did you get the girl though?
N: Nah she had a boyfriend. Anyway, then Dan was kind of…stalking us for a while. He came to see us play a few times and we got talking. He seemed like a really nice guy, and I mentioned we were looking for a bass player. He said “I’d LOVE to join a band and I play bass!”, so we roped him in. We found out later on that he didn’t play bass at all!
J: He still doesn’t!

AD
: Why have you taken the lyric “You’re a slag” out of one of your most celebrated songs of late?
N: I love the musical arrangement on that track. I love the drama of it, and then it gets to the point where everything stops after a big build up and it just goes….”you’re a slag”. I mean, it worked for some people in a big way, and for others it really didn’t. We found it became like a novelty song where people were just remembering it for being “that slag song”, but I think the verses and the music are really lovely. We were starting to think, if we kept the line, the song could become a real albatross for us. Another thing was, I’d give someone a CD with four or five songs on including the “slag” track and they’d come back and say “Oh you’re a real woman hater aren’t you? Are you a misogynist or something?” Yet I’d give people a CD WITHOUT the track on and they’d come back and say “Oh these songs are really lovely!”
I certainly don’t want people to think I’m a misogynist. The line had to go.

AD: The songs seem to possess an almost autobiographical quality. Are you just one of life’s casualties or is that just the way you like to write?

N: (pause) It’s a release. Completely. It’s funny, because going back to “Slag” (NB that track is now called “Don’t Read This”), after I wrote the song I didn’t feel that way about that person anymore. It was gone. In the same way, when I write the love songs, it feels like an obituary sometimes. So yes they are autobiographical…but I’ve become very settled recently so I feel the lyrics have maybe become not so “direct” in terms of relationships now. I’ve got a lovely girlfriend and every time she hears a new songs she’s like “Who’s that about?”
I hate questions like that though because I just prefer people to take the songs how they are and make their own meanings from them.

AD:
Who in the group is responsible for the musical arrangements and do you enjoy the complexity of it?
J: The way the stuff’s generally written is, Nayim writes something on the guitar and 4 tracks it, - but his arrangements are quite…ambling…for wont of a better word. So he normally gives me an arrangement and I melt it down, edit it and work from there. Recently we’ve been doing it a little more in rehearsals – as normal bands do I suppose!
Complexities are something I really do like, but there’s a fine line between complexity and over indulgence, so it’s finding the balance between that. It’s difficlt because we are self produced, but I think we are getting better at producing, because we’re not as precious anymore. Plus the last bit of recording we did, we worked with Steve Hillier (ex-Dubstar) who was producing us, and that was an interesting experience – to see how he “touched the band”. He was a lovely bloke and he had an identical record collection to me!
N: He looked like John’s older brother…but sort of bigger and fatter! But yeah he’s a really nice bloke and so well spoken. He’s been really helpful these last few months.

AD: I noticed that you have a lot of banter on stage. Do you regard that as an important part of your live act?

J: That kind of varies. I don’t think you can plan that sort of thing. The last gig you saw us at….
N: So many things went wrong we HAD to have banter! (howls of laughter – honestly if you were at the gig you’d understand, believe me)
J: It was a complete comedy cavalcade of wrongdoings, and it got to the stage where it was, like, laughable. I mean, we haven’t got “planned banter” but you have to know when to laugh at yourselves.
N: When we played In The City festival, there wasn’t really ANY banter. It was a very cold atmosphere – a bit regimented.

AD: Like “Go on. Play your songs and then get off”?

J: Kind of, yeah. The thing is, because it was an industry festival, we were looking directly into the eyes of A & R men and it was quite unsettling.
N: It would have been great to win them over with banter, but, you know, we looked great and we sounded great anyway! I think you have to pick the right time and place for things like that too. You know, if people are just standing there straight faced, things can go horribly wrong if you try to pick someone out of the audience and go “Wur wur”.

AD: Go what?

N: Wur wur.
AD: Erm…ok then. Moving swiftly on, you’re certainly one of Leicester’s burgeoning talents….
N: Virgin?

AD: Burgeoning!! Your music seems to possess a quality that belies your humble background, and would perhaps be music of a group with a far greater history to them. I know you have had a certain amount of industry recognition. Can you expand on that, and why do you think you haven’t been picked up before now?

N: That’s a question we try to answer every hour of every day. You start to play mind games after a while.
J: We have had kind of a plan this year, and the plan’s gone well but it’s taken longer then we imagined. The A&R men all seemed to say “Well your songs are great but how do you do this live? That’s what we want to see”. So we spent a few months honing our live show and presenting it in a way that was a little more traditional, as we hadn’t ever played in a 4-piece “drums, bass, guitar, programming” way before that. It used to be all just loops and it had no soul to it really, so we honed the live set and in the meantime we got the London management, who got us heard by many more people. We’re at the stage now where our name as known in the industry as “ones to watch”. The one worry that I have is that, because we’re not strictly on genre, I think the record companies will be thinking “Hmm..well, they’re not this and they’re not that. Where are we going to put them?”
N: Regarding EMI, it’s important to remember when you’re dealing with record companies, you’re generally dealing with A&R men. And A&R men change – all the time! We experienced that first hand when at EMI the first time, someone took us under their wing, giving us advice and studio time. Then that same week they left and that was it. So for the next few months you’re trying to build with someone else. We’ve had a plan and it does seem like it’s going to be a long hard run, but then we’ve met other bands for whom it seems to have been all too easy.

AD: Do you ever get bitter about that?

N: Yeah of course you do. Especially when you hear how BAD they are! You see, we ARE recognised in the industry as a good band but we’re still waiting for that one maverick A&R person to stick their neck out and put all their faith in us.

AD: They’d be foolish not to. Anyway, I want to get my Smash Hits type question in now…Naim, what’s John’s worst habit?

N: Well he hasn’t done it recently. He’s been very good. (Pause)

AD: What is it then?!!

N: I don’t really want to say….

AD: Go on, you can say it. I know what it is.
N: You know? (pause) No it’s too horrible!
J: It’s pissing on the side of….actually I lift the seat up, but erm…my aim isn’t true!

AD: And John, what’s Naim’s worst habit?

J: Leaving a millilitre of milk in the carton when it’s absolutely useless.

AD: Meaning you end up using it and having to buy the next pint?
J: No. Just the fact that it’s there at all in the first place when it’s pointless!
N: Is that it? That’s not that bad actually!

AD: Finally, what’s next for Dizzy Valise?
J: We’re recording some new songs at Peer Studios, which is a beautiful, beautiful studio. Then the rest of the year we’ll be writing new material and playing a load of local gigs in January.
N: And our next door neighbours have invited us to their super heroes costume party, but we’ve got limited resources.

AD: Can’t you just wear your pants over your trousers?
N: Nah. I think I’ll just go as Zorro!
Whether this is because he wants to remove some articles of some foxy young female’s clothes a la Antonia Banderas, or because he is a fan remains unclear. Whatever, this band are more than equipped to become super heroes in their own right. You never know, in 3 years time, kids across the country may well be going as John and Naim from Dizzy Valise.
PS I really DID try to get that Z to look like a Zorro mark but never mind.

For anyone itching to hear some of the Valise’s new material, they will be releasing the single “Navigator” at the beginning of January (see this month’s reviews). It will be available from all most stores in Leicester including HMV, Virgin, Rockaboom and Ainleys. The four piece will be playing a mixture of old and new stuff at the Barfly in Camden on January 10th. You’d be a fool to miss it.

 
 
 
 
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