Interview:
Whole Sky Monitor
 

Grand Grand Grand

It’s 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 album?

WSM: (Having read Atomicduster’s 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 man!
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: That’s 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 believe.

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. Or robots.
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 fun

Or…

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 Bland 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 the girls!
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 like.
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, it’s impossible NOT to think this album’s 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 they’ll be up in arms about some of the lyrics and he’ll 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 Monitor’s “Bland Bland Bland” has just been released and please, please, please trust me on this – it’s an absolute corker. Buy it. Buy it now.

Interview: Tone E

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