British Sea Power: Krankenhaus Update!

"These are deranged times, but good times."

This Friday, the Quietus will be heading down to Brighton for the third installment of British Sea Power’s Klub Krankenhaus, the band’s monthly residency at their adopted hometown’s Haunt venue. It’s no surprise that a band so adept at self-sufficiency have made the series a cracking success, with reports of unusual one-offs, drunken enthusiasm and bravura performances of back catalogue well-known and obscure. Indeed, the Quietus was at the first Krankenhaus, where we witnessed the debut performance by the brilliant Savages, and saw a British Sea Power performance that was as gritty and powerful as any we’ve witnessed over the past decade.

At Krankenhaus Three, we’ll be doing some work on the gramophone playing an extra special set of fruity disco. Also on the bill are Thomas White accompanied by choir, our friend and yours Mr Simon Price DJing, with the night topped off by brilliant long-haired rock troupe Bo Ningen and a DJ set by SAS Dirtyman and Old Sarge, "incorporating the Girl Brutus Time-Travelling Tanz Team." Ah yes, and British Sea Power will be playing three sets, an opener that features Jock Scott, a second early one billed as "100 per cent Hamilton", and a third featuring tracks taken from Valhalla Dancehall and the brilliant Zeus EP. British Sea Power are accompanying the Krankenhaus gigs with a series of limited-edition demo EPs – see below. Interestingly, many of the tracks seem to be leaning towards BSP’s more unusual musical instincts, something that as big fans of the odd Zeus we certainly applaud.

We caught up with British Sea Power guitarist Martin Noble to find out more about Krankenhaus and the new material. How is Klub Krankenhaus going for you? We hear deranged things bout the last one.

Martin Noble: The first one was just finding our feet, you know, scenting the place. But the second one changed a few things, and pulled out the stops. We had an 18-piece Brass band to open the night up, and 6 Music DJ Shaun Keaveny sang his own lyrics and mimed to the brass band playing ‘All Creatures Great and Small’. It was a remarkable piece of performance art. We had the fantastic Race Horses play, as well as bon viveur poet Jock Scot. Also, in the week prior to Krankenhaus 2 i found out that the Japanese Queen Tribute act ‘Queer’ were arriving in the country on the day of the gig, and miraculously they came down to play the show. Big hair, tight pants, twin delayed guitar amp solos, press ups, medleys. They were fantastic.

Our own set, played as the original four-piece, ended in chaos, first of all a man-fox crowd surfed, then the rest of the band, then the 9 ft bear crowd surfed too. The brass band joined us on stage for a very northern version of ‘Waving Flags’. Said brass band, Brighton and Hove City Brass are due to join us on Krankenhaus Six too.

How can the new one live up to this fearsome reputation?

MN: We aim to change it sideways each time. We have Bo Ningen to the late 12.30 slot, for an audio and alcohol assault. Tom White will be playing earlier some of his lovely understated solo work with a six-piece choral group. You can expect live amplified rock music, communist table tennis, and we have plans to expand the realms of the DJ set into a more inclusive affair. Maybe a prize dance competition and prizes for best costumes. The sartorial theme: ‘Hawkwind’s Stacia joins Tito’s partisans while disguised as ferret in beret’. And we asking people to bring PENS AND PAPER for the new prize quiz.

Why the decision to do things this way, with the Klub and self-recording?

MN: We have been hard at it for a while, especially with the release of the Man of Aran soundtrack it meant we’ve never really been away. So we wanted to lie low for a bit. Doing the club on home turf, and releasing limited edition demo EPs means we can keep it fairly underground, recharge at home and write lots of songs. We aim to do six EPs, so thats 30 songs in six months. It has given us more time to take on a few soundtrack projects as well which we are all enjoying. We’re actually working harder than ever now, but it’s been great so far.

Has it given you a creative boost?

MN: Definitely, we’ve not been too precious about songs, and the monthly deadlines mean you have to work quickly and instinctively. It’s difficult handing out songs when they are clearly not finished. You always wish you had another week to improve them.

We hope people understand that, and are enjoying the process we are going through. Also, with the soundtrack projects we are doing, we are writing a real mix of songs, from more electronic based stuff, to drones, and slow eerie ballads. At this point in time we feel the freedom to write whatever we want, and we don’t have to worry that they fit together as 11 songs on an album. We’ll worry about that come summer time when we have 30-plus songs to pick from.

The new material seems to be odd and experimental, the personality of some of the Zeus tracks perhaps. What’s been inspiring the new songs?

MN: All of the above really. I think some has been quite personal lyrically, and even songs like ‘French Pornographic Novel’ and ‘K-Hole’ must have autobiographical elements. I’ve personally been running a lot. I thought I’d try and do a marathon while I’m home. It’s tough going. Drinking is much harder. I ran 15 miles across the South Downs Way the other day though, skylarks in the air, lots of sheep, amazing views. A great day. I think the running inspired the music to ‘Machineries of Joy’, it has that motorik Neu! feel. In fact ‘Fur Immer’ is a great track to run to.

Any requests for the Quietus DJ troupe for Friday night?

MN: You will be the bread in a BSP sandwich….so the first slice, warm the audience up, whip them up into a frenzy. Then the second slice, before Bo Ningen is when drinks happy hour begins, so some suitable music for that. Cheap drinks while waiting for Bo Ningen, these are deranged times, but good times.

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