been a busy year for John Parkes. Not only has he been putting the finishing
touches to his latest solo album Illegal Songs, due for
release in early 2008, he has also managed to complete his erstwhile
band The Sinister Cleaners long awaited debut album Shine
(20 years in the making!) after the members all contacted each other
through the Internet, and, best of all, his current band have just released
one of the undoubted albums of the year. The chances of finding a real
gem amongst all the Christmas releases are about as good as finding
a lawyer for Gary Glitter. Nobody told Whole Sky Monitor, it would seem...
AD: "Bland Bland Bland" is a very angry sounding album. I
thought we blokes were supposed to chill out more as we got older? What
planted the seeds of all this anger, and what would you say shaped the
WSM: (Having read Atomicdusters review of the album) First
of all 10 out of 10! We like the sound of that! That gave everyone a
buzz, so bags of coke all round. Anyway, these answers are actually
cobbled together from three of us and kind of processed through me -
I am the adult seagull regurgitating the WSM fish soup for the chicks
Like James T Kirk I need my anger - and I won't have it trivialised
as 'grumpy old man' - ho bloody ho! The other three encourage me too.
Idiots in charge of the country (other idiots waiting in the wings),
idiots buggering up the city, idiots training up people to be 'consumers'.
There's also the music side of things - idiots trying to sound like
whatever successful band was signed 18 months ago - and Whole Sky Monitor
are not going to take it any more!
AD: Thats where I figured the album title came from - presumably
it is referring to the million and one soundalike bands doing the circuits
at present, or does it go deeper than that?
WSM: You're part right - it's also part homage to the Damned (Damned
Damned Damned), part a take on the state of 'society' - how shopping
is the number one pastime etc. & finally it also pays homage to
the 'best' review we ever got. But it doesn't get particularly deep
- beware people in bands who talk about their 'art'!
AD: One of our other favourite releases this year was your old band
The Sinister Cleaners' "Shine". It must have been weird getting
together after all this time, but did you enjoy the experience?
WSM: Yes! It was difficult organising everything with four people
scattered across the country and beyond but we just reverted to our
old selves without being as intense as we used to be. We even found
we had 'respec' for each other's musical abilities! Thought there's
something peculiarly satisfying about reviving trivial squabbles over
margarine or marmalade from years ago (we used to spend a lot of time
together). We had a few curries too.
AD: On the blurb for each track on the new album, it says "The
King of Africa boards the No.50 bus...shouting match with driver ensues"
for one of my favourite tunes on it, "Three Cheers For The Weirdo".
Can you elaborate further? Same goes for "Mary Moses" - apparently
it's true, so what's the story?
WSM: Three Cheers... is just an everyday tale of Harehills
life. A man got on the 49 bus (also featured elsewhere on the album)
explaining that he didn't need to pay because he was the King of Africa
(as well as the King of America and the Queen of England) adding, apparently
as an aside, 'you motherfucker!'.
The bus driver explained that he still had to pay and 'you're the motherfucker'.
So a man in traditional dress and a man in a bus driver's uniform shouted
'motherfucker' at each other for ten minutes. This is just living in
Harehills for you - 49 languages (that number again) horses on the main
road and duelling minicabs. Meanwhile Gogs (our drummer) went travelling
a couple of years ago and discovered that Africa is as mad as Britain.
'Mary Moses' befriended him and spun stories not even a drummer would
AD: How far can you go with Whole Sky Monitor? What plans do you
have for 2008 and what's your biggest ambition either where the band
is concerned or not?
WSM: We live in a Kraftwerk style bubble. Except we're not German.
I mean we're kind of insular so we're never sure whether what we do
makes sense outside our studio. However, if pushed we would like to
rule the Galaxy with an iron fist & punish all the rude people -
and defend grass verges from cars. I guess we'll continue to make music
we all like.
There's no 'plan' beyond that really. Getting 10/10 in Atomicduster
makes us think we're going in the right direction though! Perhaps it's
because we're all music fans we make music that other music fans (who
might be looking for something new and not wearing its influences on
its sleeve) like. If that means we'll never be the Stereophonics or
Keane, so be it.
AD: If you could wish for three things to happen over the next 12
months (and they don't have to be band related) what would they be?
WSM: Leeds United to win division 3 (15 points etc.) Alan Partridge
series 4 and that all the Whole Sky kids (we've got 3) have tons of
For as many people as possible to hear our music. Whether they like
or not it is up to them...
To create a new batch of songs which we think is better than 'Bland
To catch up with the King of Africa
AD: I really enjoyed "Just Let Me Talk To Her" when you
released it a couple of years ago, but somehow this time around your
sound seems twice as urgent as well as doubly impactive (is that even
a word?!) - What did you do differently this time around that's made
you sound HUGE?
WSM: We decided that we wanted to write short, sharp songs that
didn't outstay their welcome. We also did a gig with a seriously ambitious
band that clearly wanted to be Coldplay. They did everything 'right'
- (I bet they employ a robot to click on their Myspace) - and we hated
them with a passion. However credit must also go to Matt Elliss, the
man at Axis studios who is Mr Rock and Roll (as well as Mr Hip-Hop).
AD: Incidentally, the actual SONG "Just Let Me Talk To Her"...did
you write that AFTER the last album or were you deliberately holding
it back for this one?
WSM: The 'secret' track at the end of the first album is an early
version of 'Just Let Me..' from a cassette - so it was written, but
not in time. We were in time to use the name though. There's a select
group of albums with titles taken from songs that aren't on that album
(though I can't think of any just at the moment!)
AD: What's been your career highlight to date?
WSM: Being dour Northern agit-propers we don't really do 'highlights'
but getting played by Steve Lamacq was pretty good. There's a whole
set of industry people who 'target' the man and what did we 'do' to
get played? - Sent him a copy in the post. Ha ha! - and for once those
people who study the demographics can go fuck themselves. The ghost
of Peel occasionally travels with the Lam. Owen the bass player says
he knows how Dennis Wilson felt when he described hearing the Beach
Boys on the radio for the first time as 'the all time high'.
AD: How on earth are you going to better this album?!!
WSM: Saving the tough ones 'til last eh? - Bet you say that to all
Well we're working on it & you'll be the first to hear...We're trying
to do the nigh-on impossible - write songs that all four of us actually
We'll need to eat less take-away pizza and have less tea breaks though...
Well, on the strength of Bland Bland Bland, I personally
hope Parkes and co have as much takeaway pizza as their bellies can
take, perhaps even a stuffed crust one for that matter. After all, its
impossible NOT to think this albums the height of perfection if
you have any sense. And no, in case you were wondering, I have to sheepishly
admit that impactive is NOT a word after all. It bloody
well should be though
John Parkes releases his lovely acoustic Illegal Songs album
on January 14th 2008. I hope he sends a copy to the Daily Mail. I imagine
theyll be up in arms about some of the lyrics and hell probably
be front page news
The Sinister Cleaners debut album Shine came out earlier
this year and is well worth your hard earned cash.
Finally, Whole Sky Monitors Bland Bland Bland has
just been released and please, please, please trust me on this
its an absolute corker. Buy it. Buy it now.
Interview: Tone E