The First Quietus New Band Ulterior Talk Noise, Sex & Hot Leather
, October 2nd, 2008 10:57
The Quietus begins our foray into the world of new music with Ulterior, the missing link between S&M, the Mary Chain, and Underworld
Ulterior can, at times, be a frustrating band. Last week, they appeared in NME draped in a snake and lounging on a bed in front of the US flag, making the kind of proclamations that the early Manics used to wind up the shoegazers. Taken out of context, and coupled with their predilection for leathers and calling themselves, in all seriousness, things like Motorcycle Boy, these capers can make them seem more than a little daft.
Yet Ulterior have consistently played some of the most intense gigs I've seen in the past couple of years. Emerging in East London at a time when everyone was wetting their skinny jeans about twee wittering folksters called Something and the Somethings, they made for an aggressive, truculent blast that didn't quite fit in anywhere - too heavy for chi-chi electro clubs, too intense for lolloping indie chiddlers, too much pouting rock'n'roll and good looks for the noise geeks to stomach. Even the fash mags seemed to find Ulterior too fash mag to cover.
And while it might be all very well demolishing tiny clubs with strobes and feedback (as Ulterior are wont to do), what if you can't transfer that to the bigger stage, and end up sounding like a wimpy firecracker down a well? For me, Ulterior's breakthrough moment came when they faced up to these challenges and surpassed them at this year's NME Astoria gig. They played an astounding first-on slot that shredded the rest of the line-up, and left the American Apparel-clad children gawping. Afterwards, they insisted to me in all seriousness and total conviction, that this was only the start. It may be that Britain, with its sneering disdain of ambition and sleazy glamour, isn't the place for Ulterior. But does that mean they're left with a more appropriate stage on which to strut their stuff - the world? See, it's catching.
Can you tell us your names, and what devices you are responsible for within the Ulterior beast?
Benn- keys and machines
Honey - vocals
Simmons - guitars
Motorcycle Boy - bass
Where in this forsaken world do you call home?
Anton Street, Hackney - where ARE Weapons met Rockstar Energy drink/Jaega bombs...
How do you describe your music?
Electronic rock and roll - music for make-up sex.
What is the point of Ulterior?
To channel all our energy to take on the mediocre piss weak packaged "music" that drips out of the radio and magazines. Out of something ugly, has to come something beautiful.
Can you tell us a bit about your new record please?
Out latest record is called '15', and its our second release through DiscError Recordings. Rather than get a bunch of trendy remixes on it we decided just to release three great tracks on the 12", so 'Fireships' and 'The Death of Everything' are on the B Side. It's got a noiser heart than our first release, 'Weapons', and goes a step closer to capturing what we sound like live. Plus the artwork (which comes in three styles) looks shit hot. Reckon that covers it.
Listen to 'The Death Of Everything'
Your music seems to be on the move, from the more white noise approach of your early gigs, to the current incarnation with live bass and so on. Why is it important to keep evolving?
The early gigs were pure energy, it wasn't really a direct idea to be "white noise" as such. Sometimes you have no choice but to fight the sound system at small venues. We've learned how to translate the sound that is in our heads to the PA and therefore to the audience. It still feels very us. We found with the electronic side of things that we almost had too much choice with the kit we had, so decided we wanted to strip certain aspects back a bit, hence the old drum machines and live bass coming in. All our gigs are great fun but sometimes you'd get people coming to our shows to see a spectacle, you know? strobes, leather, energy etc. But the songs are bigger than that. We're bigger than that. So we wanted to make a bit more space for the new songs. Feels a lot sexier too - sex and aggression make good bed fellows so it feels right. Plus our bass player is too fucking pretty to keep hidden behind that keyboard stand...
You seem to get booked in Eastern Europe and countries like Turkey as much as you do England. What is it about Ulterior that you think people from those places understand?
I reckon it's because they like seeing big bands. That's not an arrogance thing - we feel, and have always felt, like a big band. Our sound floods the venues we play. When we tried the Astoria on for size it fitted very well. Now, in the UK, where a lot of people moan if they don't get free entry into a gig, and half the crowd see themselves as amateur music critics, that may sound a bit strange. But overseas (in countries like Germany, Poland, Turkey etc), punters want to see a proper show. There's a bit more honesty involved. The audience has they're expectations, and when you deliver, they'll love you for it. They aren't too cool to have a good time. We played in Istanbul a few weeks ago in this beautiful gallery called URA! and the place was rammed. We've never sold our records out there but the place was full, and everyone was up for a show and a good time. We love playing on home soil but it can be frustrating at times, especially when starting out.
Ulterior play '15' in Barcelona:
At Offset festival, at the end of August, you played on what might be termed the Stern Stage curated by the Exp. Circ club, which emerged from Southend's Junk Club scene. Do you get worried about being stuck in a scene of buttoned-up shirts and doe-eyed girls with the hump?
In the last couple of years we've been associated with a number of different 'scenes'. Some people find it easier to digest new music when it's slotted into pigeon holes. There's been a couple of times recently where we've read about some trendy clubnight where we supposedly hang out, despite never being invited! There's certainly some great acts playing at the associated club nights (like ddd and Selfish Cunt) but we don't really see ourselves as part of the 'buttoned-up shirts and doe-eyed girls' community that you're referring to. Not so much as a statement or anything, we're just busy grafting and doing our own thing.
People might compare you to the likes of Suicide and the Jesus and Mary Chain, but would you say they're influences? What musical milk did Ulterior suckle from their stereo's teat?
The best hate mail we ever had was some guy mailing us "if you want to be original, stop trying to sound like a cross between Spacemen3, Suicide and JAMC!" What the fuck? Sounds like our dream band! Yeah, they are influences, we are very open about that - so what? They certainly aren't alone. You always have to learn lessons from the past to create something new. We get our kicks from a number of bands, from the Manics to Burzum, Big Black to Guns'N'Roses, Suede to Simple Minds. We used to run a bi-annual party soley dedicated to our biggest hero, David Bowie. Some you can hear in our songs, some you can't.
What's been the best moment of the Ulterior history thus far?
There's a few contenders. Playing the Astoria would definitely be one. Also seeing two heroes, Douglas Hart and Bobby Gillespie, walking out at the end of our gig with the first single under their arms would be up there. Or at the Barfly when we got smoke coming out of the monitors after a three track set - that was a proud moment.
What are three non-musical influences?
Boredom Frustration Being broke
What is the ultimate ambition for Ulterior?
To put out great records, to get to where we believe we deserve to be, and to remain brothers always.
_Ulterior play the Stool Pigeon stage at the Concrete & Glass festival, this Friday, October 3rd before heading out on tour with ARE Weapons. Visit the Ulterior mySpace.