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Escape Velocity

Introducing Teeth Of The Sea, The Band Gnawing Noise A New Hole
John Doran , January 8th, 2009 11:16

'Only Fools On Horse' the opening track on Teeth Of The Sea's debut Orphaned By The Ocean starts with a burning drone, like the noise Gary Numan hears in his head when he walks too close to a power station while eating an ice cream cone. Then there are fingers moving slightly over the strings of a guitar which is turned up extremely loud. A friend who is one of the world's leading winter Alpinists, said that when on his own soloing the Reticent Wall on El Cap he would listen to Brighten The Corners on his Walkmen. His grip on reality had become so weakened, yet his senses so enhanced, he thought he could hear individual beads of sweat pressed between wound steel guitar strings and finger tips. This sounds like that.

One of the many techniques employed by Can during their imperial period was to turn everything up really loud and wait for noises to 'appear' from the crackling set up and then respond to them, building grooves organically. Do Teeth of the Sea do this? I don't know - I forgot to ask them. But it sounds like they might. Although, brilliantly, one of the group had never played in a band before taking part in this new London based noise band. Maybe they should have been called Can't.

The track progresses with echoing Delia Derbyshire Radiophonic beeps and blats, which suddenly transports the listener from the North Atlantic to a fog shrouded quarry in Lincolnshire. And then a muted trumpet plays a mournful refrain. The mix of instinctual, DIY explorativeness and assured rock foundation makes for a sumptuous electronic/guitar noise which side steps all the tropes and senseless pomposity of the 'mainstream' post rock scene.

The group (Sam Bourne, John Hirst, Jimmy Martin [and their Australian member Darren Strickland]) were inspired to come together one night after experiencing an epiphany during a Wolf Eyes gig. This unholy inception, has caused them to view any kind of pretension with suspicion, and perhaps can be linked to the fact that they decided to celebrate the recent New Year's festivities by playing all of the Flash Gordon OST (by Queen) as a gig. As Orphaned By The Ocean is already in contention to be one of the Quietus albums of the year, ladies and gents please be upstanding for Teeth of the Sea!

I like the story about how you formed. Would you care to elaborate for the readers?

Jimmy: "John and myself had initially had a few jams way back in late 2004, along with Darren, who is still officially in the band although he lives in Australia these days. Unfortunately, this largely consisted of us banging away at a Fall-esque riff to an endless loop of the start of ‘Some Girls’ by Rachel Stevens. It all sounded a bit like Earl Brutus, and great though that band are, we became slightly disenchanted. However, the idea of this mythical band JAWS was still looming the darker recesses of our collective subconscious. It all crystallised when we went to see a Wolf Eyes show at the Electrowerkz (one of my least favourite venues in London, incidentally). We’d all seen Wolf Eyes before, and Burned Mind was a big collective fave of ours, but this in particular was a debauched and exciting night. Myself, John, Darren and Mike were blitzed all to hell, down the front, surrounded by band T-shirted lunkheads literally swinging from the rafters, not to mention lads and lasses actually dancing to this arrhythmic cacophony, and being bombarded by this sickeningly abject but utterly euphoric wall of dystopian noise. I remember afterwards, at the crossroads by Angel tube, all four of us standing in a gormless, boozy ceremonial circle , and banging our fists together to the rhythm of ‘Village Oblivia’. The pact was thus formed. Our next step was to enlist Sam."

Sam: "I would just like to state for the record that I personally had no part in this narcotically charged noise feeding-frenzy and was in fact safely ensconced at home enjoying a Jeremy Brett-era episode of Sherlock Holmes and an '89 vintage Rioja. I like to think that my evening has had at least as much influence on the band's subsequent direction as that enjoyed by my fellow band members."

You don't really sound like Wolf Eyes though do you?

John: "It was more the euphoria of the noise and evening (and the drugs) which inspired us rather than the actual music being a direct influence."

Sam: "No, although it's more the principal of playing intense/serious music with a bellyful of beer and a glint in your eye."

Jimmy: "It was the spirit of the assault that really clicked with us. A lot of folks castigate Wolf Eyes for being crass and boorish in relation to their whole ‘Animal House-meets-Throbbing Gristle’ thing, but I think they’re completely missing the point. We were all sick to death of going to avant-garde and noise shows and being bored to tears by either uncharismatic self-important post-rock style muso behaviour or dull laptop-staring showmanship. This was the antithesis of all that-bracing, uncompromising art, but rendered in an unpretentious, unselfconscious and recklessly hedonistic fashion. We never wanted to be a noise band per-se, and although that particular show kicked things off for us, the band developed a life of its own pretty soon after."

I take it what you do is fully improvised?

John: "Only to the extent that we improvise around an idea (be it a drum part, bass part, guitar line, whatever) in practice. Once the structure's there and we're happy with it we don't tend mess around too much."

Sam: "Actually the pieces are exquisitely realised strophic compositions. We actually take music stands to practise and dispense with them only when the subtle nuances are all in place. Our sheet music makes Cornelius Cardew look like a pussy."

Do you play live and if so what is that experience like?

Sam: "Normally drunk"

John: "It's very loud on stage. I can get quite oblivious to pretty much everything else. My favourite gigs have been when we get as intense as we do in the practice room and only really remember we're doing a gig once we've finished."

Jimmy: "We’re always on some kind of mission to reach that transcendent state of ‘The Red Mist’, where you’re completely lost in the bedlam."

Who is your brass player and is that what is commonly known as a Mariachi trumpet sound?

Sam: "Samuel T Barton. I like to think so."

Please name three non-musical influences

John: "London's psycho-geography, Werner Herzog, Kronenberg 1664."

Sam: "Philip Marlowe, Monty Cantsin, Nikola Tesla."

Jimmy: "Nicolas Roeg, Asia Argento in The Last Mistress, The bon mots of Clement And Le Frenais (more on this later)."

How are you planning to develop the Teeth Of The Sea sound? If you are at all.

John: "The next album will be a stripped down album of contemporary cover versions produced by Rick Rubin."

Sam: "We're currently looking for a child drummer."

What place does humour have in music?

John: "A very large place in the approach and attitude; a very, very small place if we're talking about comedy songs. A very, very small place occupied solely by Half Man Half Biscuit."

Jimmy: "Unintentional humour also plays quite a big part in the enjoyment of music, naturally. The arch example being Guns N’ Roses’ version of ‘Down On The Farm’, and Axl’s attempt at an English accent therein."

What place does theory have in music?

Sam: "Very few acts can successfully negotiate the sexy/theoretical inverse ratio thing, but the two things shouldn't necessarily be inversely proportionate. Look at Charlie Parker."

Jimmy: "It’s just yet another case of ‘It ain‘t what you do…’ In relation to us, I think as a band Teeth Of The Sea are more akin to say, The Shaggs than Dream Theater, but I can also think of plenty of cases of technically and theoretically adroit musos who make thrilling records, like Robert Fripp in the early seventies, say, or Marnie Stern more recently."

What place do biscuits have in music?

John: "Ritz crackers and chocolate digestives played a very large part in the recording of 'Orphaned By The Ocean'.

Sam: "Ask The Guillotines."

Jimmy: "To elaborate, we shared a practice space with the lovely lads and lass from The Guillotines for a while, and we hope it won’t tarnish their freewheeling, hellraising reputation to relate that they were always careful to keep their packet of digestives down there in a sealed Tupperware container."

I read somewhere that noise takes as much practice as 'normal rock'; is this true and how much practice do you do?

John: "Not as much as we probably should owing to work commitments and general slackness. If, by practice, you mean 'improvise wildly and loudly for an hour, record it and release it on CDR via Volcanic Tongue', then I would say that Prurient practice as much as Neil Peart ever did."

How do you know when performing if your good noise is turning into bad noise?

John: "At the risk of contadicting our anti-pomposity stance, if any member of the band is grinning during practice or a gig it generally means things are going badly."

Sam: "When the white guy with dreads in front of the stage starts bobbing his head."

Have Liars had an influence on your music or other related groups like Pylon, This Heat or Health?

John: "Yeah, we all loved They Were Wrong..., and as none of us can play the drums and we couldn't afford a full drum kit, the minimal tribal drum thing on that record and Drum's Not Dead is probably the most direct influence on us. They've really jumped the shark lately though. Don't really like Health and only very recently heard Pylon, but I like it so far. As for This Heat, I got the box set around the time we started and burned everyone copies. They were certainly one of the bands I wanted to rip off the most, especially as Gareth Williams worked at HMV during his time in the band. Don't know if the others remember this but 'Sentimental Journey' came out of us playing along with the second half of Health & Efficiency. Fucking great band, This Heat."

Sam: "Certainly Liars and This Heat. Clever but still visceral and sexy."

Jimmy: "They Were Wrong might be my favourite record this decade. When I heard it was going to be a concept album about the Salem witch trials, I almost loved it before I’d even heard it, but then the actual racket turned out to be even more exciting than the idea. I was initially looking forward to hearing Health,, but I found that band a real disappointment. That debut record just sounds a bit clinical and contrived to my ears, and almost as if they’re a bit too adept at playing their instruments. There’s none of the charisma, freakish wildness or atmosphere that a band like Liars bring to the table. They also were quoted as saying ‘We all like Sabbath, but you can’t play that kind of thing nowadays without coming across like a cheesedick.' That just speaks volumes to me. If you want to play in a band who sound like Sabbath, fella, just fucking do it. Don’t worry about what your trendy mates are going to say."

What is wrong with angry guys dissing each other on the internet? Why don't they just chill out and have sex with someone?

Sam: "One for John to answer."

John: "The thing that puzzles me about this is that these people obviously have small penises and are extremely insecure in real life and so they spend all their time online fashioning an alter-ego with which to take over the world. Except their online alter-egos always seem like extremely insecure people with tiny penises."

Is it true that two of your group had never been in a band before this? What conflict/texture does this create?

John: "I'm actually the only member that had never been in a band before; the reason being I was never that confident I could create something decent and was reluctant to add to the increasingly large pool of rubbish bands. I still worry a great deal about not being rubbish, not just musically, but in the way we conduct ourselves. I think I tend to have an idealised view of being in a band which comes from reading to many books and articles about Big Black and the Minutemen rather than the reality of playing down the Dublin Castle twice a week. I'm also quicker to dismiss things than the others, which results in me seeming overly negative, when in actual fact it's purely from a fear of being a bit rubbish.

"On a positive note, I think mine and Mike's amateur approach to our instruments serves to keep us the right side of the prog/post rock/noodle line. A lot of the droney/krautrock aspects to our music I think are borne out of mine and Mike's inability to play more than two notes in any one song or anything other than the simplest of drum beats. On the other side of that, Jimmy and Sam's musicianship prevents from being either a total mess or extremely dull."

Sam: "I think it's good to have people who aren't 'seasoned' in the band, it gives a different perspective. Likewise it's useful to have people who have experience of playing toilet venues, dealing with pissy promoters, recording, and all the attendant problems those create."

'Only Fools on Horse' is a great song name. Isn't that bit where David Jason falls through the bar hatch a moment of genius? Like Richard Madely dressing as Ali G.

Sam: "And the bit on One Foot In The Grave where Richard Wilson goes to answer the phone but instead picks up a puppy and puts it to his ear."

Jimmy: "British comedy is actually probably our strongest non-musical influence, for me at least. Only Fools and Horses is great, but my favourite comedy writers of all time are Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, who wrote Porridge, Auf Wiedersehen Pet and The Likely Lads. The pathos, the perfomances and the sparky dialogue in those shows are endlessly inspiring. I also always get a kick out of any episode of Dads Army. We all know deep down, even in the darkest depths of this image-obsessed rock n’roll demi-monde, that John Le Mesurier’s Sergeant Wilson will always be cooler than Alice Glass. And probably sexier, too."

Orphaned By The Ocean is released on RocketRecords on Monday January 19th.

The band take over The Olde Peculiar on Saturday January 17th at the Mucky Pup in Islington to wreck damages on your ears and play tracks from Orphaned By The Ocean.

For more Teeth of the Sea info, visit the band's mySpace.