Saturday, 16 April 2011

The Millipede Engine - Exclusive Interview and Competition!

Last week I was all of a buzz about the discovery of a gem of an album, Bye Bye... We're Melting by The Millipede Engine. This week my excitement has been cranked up yet another notch, as one half of the band, singer Brill Nudie, has kindly granted me an exclusive interview. And that's not all... there's also a double competition with 3 copies of the album up for grabs, as well as an ultra-rare 12" Millipede Engine test pressing. But more on that later... Now it's over to Brill....


How did you and Honey meet?
Well, you can read the full version of this tale over at millipedeengine.com, but, in a nutshell, Honey and I were early teenage friends and did make music together on and off over the years, including as an early incarnation of The Millipede Engine. In fact, we got as far as test pressings of Angry Aeroplanes/Skyscraper (both re-recorded for Bye Bye... We're Melting) and we had artwork for the cover depicting all manner of aircraft buzzing around a couple of skyscrapers in the style of Gilbert and George's Flying Underpants painting...can't remember if that's the correct title.

original draft design for the cover
 of Angry Aeroplanes/Skyscraper

However, this was before 9/11 and in the light of that event it seemed inappropriate. We didn't want it to look like we were cashing in on the misery of it, or, perhaps worse, that we were just trying to be controversial...which would have been a bit boring...so we scrapped it. Then things just kind of fizzled out before we even started. I guess that's the opposite of serendipity, whatever that might be.

Anyway, it was definitely serendipity that reunited us three or four years ago when Honey and I were involved in a gentle head-on collision with each other.. There's more detail about that on the website too, but aside from the high improbability of the crash itself happening, the strangest thing was that we were both listening to Wire's 154 at the moment of impact. It would have been even spookier had we been listening to the same track, but I happened to be listening to 'A Mutual Friend' and Honey was listening to 'Two People In A Room', both songs somehow appropriate. Obviously it was a sign to reconnect, particularly as it happened on the A303 right by Stonehenge.

The Millipede Engine? What's all that about??!
Briefly, The Millipede Engine is a kind of heavy industrial tunnelling machine, like a gigantic metal worm, with a dual head part that controls the whole thing. The body is comprised of many different replaceable motor segments, which means the thing never breaks down and it can just keep on trundling along while faulty sections are replaced on the fly. It seemed somehow fitting for us with our nucleus of Honey and I and various other contributors that come and go along the journey... plus I like the underground connotations.

Sorry to keep referring you to the website, but again it's more fully explained by an entry reproduced there from the Industrial Machinery Digest.

What other possible names did you come up with?
Oh, there were a few... Diesel Fish, Cuckoo Spit, Majestic Giant and even The Radium Dazzlers spring to mind. Ha Ha Bonk was another, which you may remember is the sound of a man laughing his head off. Aside from the humour of Ha Ha Bonk, I liked the fact that the name could be reduced to a logo of 2HB, which you probably know is a great Roxy Music song. Anyway, in the event we didn't use any of those.


How would you describe your sound?
That's possibly a task best left to others, as our version of what we think the sound is might not tally with the reality of it. We do seem to confound expectations in that people have a hard time trying to pin us down... we've had the full gamut of comparisons, from rock to art rock and prog through to alternative, indie and noise pop.

Who knows, perhaps all of those labels are appropriate, but I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing. What I can say is that, despite not having an easily identifiable sound, we don't intend to dumb down to a more uniform style throughout the next album just to make it easier to categorise The Millipede Engine. We have more faith in the listener as it's clear that people can handle a range of different flavours on one album quite easily.

Which artist(s) have inspired you along the way?
It's probably apparent listening to the album and all the comparisons we've had so far are certainly things we've enjoyed over the years. I pride myself on my good taste, which may come across as arrogant, but it's true. Much of the music I've liked from the off does seem to be made by bands with a certain longevity. In the song Killing Time, there's a line that goes: "We like our music with some razzmatazz, art-punk, noise-pop and all that jazz"... which I suppose is a bit of a clue.

Can you list your top ten albums and singles to give us a bit more of a clue?

Honey Lane: Albums
1. The Beatles – The White Album
2. The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street
3. David Bowie – Hunky Dory
4. Blur – Thirteen
5. Iggy Pop – The Idiot
6. Wire – 154
7. Elvis Presley – The Sun Sessions
8. Bob Dylan – Desire
9. The Clash - London Calling
10. Brian Eno – Here Come the Warm Jets

Honey Lane: Singles
1. The Beatles – Hey Jude
2. The Rolling Stones – Paint It Black
3. Flying Lizards - Hands 2 Take
4. David Bowie - Life On Mars
5. Rod Stewart - Maggie May
6. David Bowie - Heroes
7. The Clash - London Calling
8. T-Rex - Get It On
9. Jimi Hendrix - Cross Town Traffic
10. David Bowie - Fame


Brill Nudie: Albums
1. David Bowie - Low
2. Iggy Pop - The Idiot
3. Blur - Think Tank
4. Roxy Music - For Your Pleasure
5. Brian Eno - Here Come The Warm Jets
6. The Divine Comedy - Promenade
7. The Rolling Stones - Beggars Banquet
8. The Smiths - Strangeways Here We Come
9. Pixies - Doolittle
10. Wire - 154

Brill Nudie: Singles
1. Roxy Music - Pyjamarama
2. The Sex Pistols - Anarchy In The UK
3. The Flying Lizards - Hands 2 Take
4. The Sexual Objects - Here Come The Rubber Cops
5. John Lennon - #9 Dream
6. The Fire Engines - Candy Skin
7. Swell Maps - Let's Build A Car
8. Sparks - When Do I Get To Sing "My Way"
9. Suede - Trash
10. Ten Benson - The Claw

Your album 'Bye Bye... We're Melting' came out for 'download only' in December 2010, with the CD released in March 2011. Why did you chose not to release them at the same time and what reaction have you had to date on the album?
To be honest, it was only ever going to be a digital release, which saddened me because I'm a fan of decent packaging and I still can't get a thrill from an iTunes download. Also we started getting a few enquiries about a physical version, so thankfully HotSkull gave us the go-ahead to include the free EP and splash out a bit on the packaging...which we're really pleased with. It's very limited though, I think there are less than 500 copies and if we repress it won't be the same package.

It's early days regarding press feedback as we've only just sent the thing out, but so far we've been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm. Though we're obviously proud of the album, it's almost impossible to gauge how good it is until we start getting honest opinions from people who don't actually know us.

What's the weirdest\oddest instrument in your armoury that you have used on a recording?
Hmmm... In terms of traditional instruments we have things like a zither, a euphonium and a harmonium in there and I think a nose flute made it to the finished mix too. But I'm no Harry Partch or even Thomas Truax come to that. Life's hard enough. Having said that, I wouldn't mind having a bash on Truax's Mother Superior!

Do you stick to your own roles in the band or do you mix it up and experiment?
Simplified, I'm the singer and Honey is the guitarist. I pretty much stick to vocals but I like to contribute the occasional easy-to-play part on an easy-to-play instrument... I'm no musician. Honey contributes more to the overall soundscape and always manages to create some very interesting sounds with guitars and general wizardry... not to mention some wonderful chord changes for me to write my vocal melodies over.

Do you ever write songs with other artists in mind?
Not as of yet, but whenever we hit that first creative block, that may be a good device to move things along... thanks for the tip!

Who would do a great ME cover version?
Erm...I could spend a few hours answering this one. Robert Smith would most likely make a good fist of Angry Aeroplanes, if not only because The Cure are one of the more frequent comparisons we receive... alongside Bowie, Brian Eno's early albums. Blur and even Pink Floyd. All highly flattering comparisons, which we're obviously not worthy of.

The Man Who Gave Everything would benefit greatly from the Arcade Fire's magical touch. I bet MGMT could do something special to Planet Tasters and I would love to hear Bowie tackle Fifteen Forty Three. Killing Time by Johnny Cash would have been cool, if only to hear him say Disco-Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes!

Who would you most like to collaborate with on a song and why?
Lady Gaga, simply because we would generate enough sales with the association to pay for the next album! Artistically, too many to list here, but because of the weirdness of the crash Honey and I had, probably Wire. Still a great band, but for me they were The Velvet Underground of the 70s in that they were so influential but didn't sell so many records.

Is it possible to recreate the ME experience live?
Right now it's not a priority as it would be good to get the second album finished and have a stronger repertoire before people start noticing us. We have a notion to do one-off events as opposed to trawling the usual venues, etc... partly down to my mild agoraphobia. If that becomes an issue though, particularly as Honey is keen to play live, I might have to do a Brian Wilson and send somebody in my place.

What does a Millipede Engine run on?!
RP-1, Rocket Grade Kerosene... actually it's simply a desire to create something special and hope we can persuade a few people along the way that that's what we've done. One of the factors that has stopped me personally doing anything much over the years is my feeling that I can't possibly compete with the music I love and that we can't add any new colours to the palette. But when you look at the bigger picture you realise that everything is insignificant anyway, so we may as well throw a couple of little pebbles into the ocean along with everything else and if it's a nice calm day we may even create a momentary ripple or two.

You talk about Honey being a lady in your promotional blurb. But the photographic evidence doesn't really bear that out does it?!
She's not a woman in terms of her physicality... but to me she is female. I'm not even suggesting she's a woman trapped in a man's body, but you know how it is when a person's general outlook belies there actual gender. Honey is like that. I guess I see most people as either male or female and it often has no bearing on their birth sex.

You and Honey live some distance from each other, but you grew up in the same area. Has that distance changed the way you work?
You would think so, but not really. We do still get together now and again and we've had the kind of simpatico that often comes with long-term relationships since we were kids. The geography and my agoraphobic tendencies don't help matters, but obviously the internet has made things much easier generally.

On the occasions that we do see each other, Honey will usually travel to me, we'll plug in a couple of guitars and without even speaking we'll 'jam', for want of a better word, for hours at a time. Even though much of that stuff never makes it to tape, it can be magical. As I say, I'm no musician, but Honey is about the only person I can feel comfortable enough with to pretend I am one. She is very generous in that respect and seems to enjoy those moments as much as I do.

You are curating the ME Festival. Pick 10 artists (past or present) that you'd want to perform.
I've gone for the old cop out of bands doing whole albums... Again, this list could be endless so I've not included bands who I've seen since they reformed but missed when they were originally together, such as The Sex Pistols and The Velvet Underground... And obviously the reformed Pixies are keeping their flame alive with plenty of live work... Morrissey almost fills the gap left by The Smiths... so this list is made up of sets you're not likely to see anytime soon... in no particular line-up order as that would be an impossible task...

- The Fall - their yet-to-be-released double album compilation of singles.

- Grandaddy - the first three albums...with an encore of the best from the rest.

- The Clash - the whole of the first album and highlights from the rest...up to and including Sandinista.

- The Associates - The Fourth Drawer Down and Sulk.

- Adam & the Antz - Dirk Wears White Socks and pre-Dirk stuff... original band but with Marco supplying all the feedback.

- Wire - Chairs Missing and 154... (already saw them do Pink Flag at The Barbican).

- David Bowie doing whatever he wants as it's been so long since he did anything live...but with Ronno guesting on Moonage Daydream and Hendrix opening the show with a ten minute intro to Station To Station before Bowie even strolls on.

- Iggy Pop - The Idiot and Lust For Life with the line-up combined from both those original tours. Iggy would have to get his hair cut though!

- Brian Eno - All the songs... no instrumentals. Don't get me wrong, I love the ambient stuff, but after the teaser of a couple of songs from Before And After Science at Brighton last year it would be great to see him back up front... perhaps Roxy could join him for an encore of the entire For Your Pleasure album.

- The Beatles and The Stones share a set with The Beatles doing Beggars Banquet and The Stones doing Abbey Road.

Ten is nowhere near enough!

What next for The Millipede Engine?
We are about half way through the second album which we're very pleased with the progress of and really hope we can get it out there later in the year. The working title is 'You're Coming To London', which I thought was the phrase lucky contestants on the likes of X-Factor would hear if they had enjoyed a successful audition. So I thought it was nice and cheeky for a second album title. However, when I've mentioned it to people they've looked at me blankly so I may have that wrong.

Anyway, I'm a bigger fan of Britain's Got Talent and why James Boyd isn't a household name after consuming four Ferrero Rocher in a minute, I'll never understand.


ANGRY AEROPLANES:


So there you have it! Sincere thanks to Brill for taking the time out to answer my questions. And thanks also for kindly donating some cracking prizes for an exclusive Millipede Engine competition....

Yes, THREE copies of their storming debut album 'Bye Bye... We're Melting' are up for grabs. This is the full, glorious pack (as described in my review), complete with bonus 4 track EP, postcards, fridge magnets and more. But that's not all... In recognition of Record Store Day today, Brill has also kindly donated one of the last remaining 12" test pressings of Angry Aeroplanes/Skyscraper from his own collection (as mentioned in the first answer of the interview) as an extra special prize.


There were only around fifty of theses pressed, the majority of which were distributed to friends and family at the time. These are both completely different versions to ones that appear on the album, and unavailable anywhere else! Surely an instant collectors item that will exchange hands for a fair few quid in the not too distant future.

So what do you have to do??!!

1. To be in with a chance of winning a copy of the CD, send an e-mail with 'Millipede Engine CD Competition' in the subject line to: pileys@googlemail.com (or just click here and it'll do it all for you!). 3 e-mails will be drawn at random after the closing date to each receive a CD pack.

2. If you want to be in with a chance of winning the 12" test pressing of Angry Aeroplanes/Skyscraper, all you have to do is identify the three band names from the list below that weren't considered before The Millipede Engine was settled upon:

Diesel Fish
The Solar Flares
Cuckoo Spit
Majestic Giant
Sugar Glider
The Radium Dazzlers
Ha Ha Bonk
Blonde d'Aquitaine

Send the bogus names in an e-mail with 'Millipede Engine 12inch Competition' in the subject line to: pileys@googlemail.com (or click here and it'll do it for you). One lucky winner will be drawn at random to win the 12".

The closing date for both competitions is Saturday 30th April 2011. Good luck!!

Piley

COMPETITION UPDATE! SUNDAY 1st MAY 2011

Thanks to everyone who entered these 2 competitions, there was a very healthy number of entries for both. The closing date has now passed, so I have just added all the entrants for each competition into a 'random name selector' tool (which can be found here: http://classtools.net/education-games-php/fruit_machine). I can now reveal the winners as follows:

CD's go to:
John Medd,
Just Jacqui and
Gary Fowles.

The 12" test pressing goes to:
Rob Banks.

Congratulations to you all!

Piley

15 comments:

marmiteboy said...

An excellent interview Piley. I haven't heard more than a couple of tracks by ME yet but I will definitely be checking them out on the basis of Brill's interview. I loved the whole 'Meltdown' bit. Now that would be a festival. I'd have The Fall doing '50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong' myself plus an encore of 'Lay Of The Land' but maybe that will be on the mythical double album.

They sound an extremely interesting band and I one that really take there influences and put a spin on them. I love the full sound they produce. Really reminds me of early to mid 80's when I was spending most of my wages on vinyl.

John Medd said...

Heavy industrial tunneling machine? You mean The Mole?

I'm in to win it - check your ME inbox!

Piley said...

Thanks Marmite, great interview wasn't it? (Brill's answers I mean not my questions!), glad you enjoyed. If you want to hear more, pop over to their website, the whole album is being streamed over there.

Ta JM, your entry is officially logged sir!

P

phsend said...

Great interview and a really interesting band. Perhaps all political decisions should be made by Magic Robot. I do mourn the loss of 7 inch singles, picture sleeves, full size album covers, proper top 40 music charts etc but I do like the instantness of digital downloads and the accessibility of our favourite songwriters and musicians via things like twitter and myspace. Love the strange mechanical device streaming the tracks on the millipedes website too!! Happy Days !

Anonymous said...

Fucking hell , a new band that doesn't make me puke. Liked the tracks you've put up, great guitar licks, excellent songs. I'll deffo check out more by these guys. Great to hear some one playing some Rock N Roll rather than shoe gazing miserable kak for once. Great influences no oner they are good. Great interview too. I know you have had hundreds of hits for this post but it disappoints me that people don't bother their arses to comment. COME ON PEOPLE !!!!. Good stuff , a really cool band.

Carl.

Anonymous said...

I loved reading this interview. Refreshing, subtle intelligent wit, mixed with an intriguing air of mystery and the feeling of wanting more. Which is exactly how I felt after listening to the ME album. Great find Piley. Jacqui

Just Jacqui said...

Lovely interview P.
What an admirable list of influences.
Like many others (Silvery for example) you have championed here I shall keep my fingers crossed that at some point there will be a Manchester area gig!

Piley said...

phsend - thanks for the comment, glad you enjoyed the interview. Know what you mean about the 'instant access', but somehow, even the waiting was part of the excitement for me! Had forgotten quite how much I missed the packaging until this little lot turned up.

Carl - praise indeed Sir! It's a belter isn't it? Am sure you'll like the whole album. Follow the links to their website and hear the whole thing over there.

Jacqui - Many thanks, sounds like you are already a fully fledged ME convert! Delighted you enjoyed the interview, and thanks for the comment. Don't be a stranger!

J Jacqui - Buzzin' to see them live too. Thanks for the kind words on the interview!

P

John Devlin said...

Great stuff as ever Piley - good work. I love what I hear of this band so far. So much modern stuff leaves me cold but they've taken a really superb mix of influences (check out their fav albums/singles, spot on!!) and blended them into something really new. The thing thats really attracted me to the band as well is the care put into the packaging. Such a lost art these days and it needn't be environmentally unfriendly! I mean blimey theres another paper/cards pushed through front doors and inserted into newspapers - surely a few inserts etc packaged up with a CD won't hurt. It just shows to me a band that really cares about what they're putting out. Fingers crossed with the CD - will buy one anyway if I'm unlucky!

Gary Fowles said...

Yeah that was a decent interview Piley. Good answers too, I'm always pleased to hear someone give props to Eno for his vocal work as well. It really comes across that they are both absolute fanboys/girls (um that bit confused me), and they also make music. Just the fact that they have a thing for Wire would do it for me, but mix in all the rest of it and well…

Mondo said...

I knew the album was a walloper from the opening notes - checking the references it all falls into place now. It's like someone listing my fave albums and artists - For my earth pounds reckon Bowie could make a good go of Skycraper too....

Also some of the unused band names - would make for fab song titles.

PS have you pitched The Wolfmen at ME, reckon they'd like the vibes?

Peejay said...

Brilliant interview Piley, and after getting the album (this package can not be called just a cd!) the music makes more sense when you look at Brill's influences. There really are some classic tracks on this debut and it is worth buying for the packaging alone, not to mention the free ep.

On first play track's like Angry Aeorplanes,Magic Robot and Skyscraper jumped out but the more I listen (and take in the very clever lyrics) I am hooked on fifteen forty three and the man who gave everything, also till the world dies down from the free ep is brilliant, such an unusual track that really works well, it is hard to compare this album to anyone/thing else, yes there are echoes of The cure, bowie, roxy and eno in there but I do think this band are good enough to stand on there own, they certainly deserve to when you check out the effort they have put in to the production and the best packaging under £10 you will ever see.

ps I am a massive radiohead fan and it is a shame they have not put halve the effort in to the king of limbs (music and packaging) as ME have in to this cracker.

Piley said...

Hello John, thanks for the comments. The top tens are spot on aren't they? Two musicians with quality tastes like that are going to make a decent racket, and they do! You will love the packaging, and I love the fact that you get MORE by buying the CD than getting the download. The EP isn't on the download, and the cards, magnets etc etc, well...

Gary - That's a good assessment. Both are certainly music obsessives, and think that really shows in their own material, and certainly in their packaging. Certainly 'heart on their sleeve' stuff.

Mondo - Agreed. I can almost hear Bowie doing a number of the tracks on that album!

Thanks PeeJay. Glad to hear you are a convert! Not a bad track on there is there? And you are right, there are tracks that are instant, and others that mature after a few plays.

P

Martin said...

Great interview with some nice thorough answers. Good to see a full list of influential albums. Still waiting on the cd but still looking forward to it.

Piley said...

Thanks Martin - Hope the CD has arrived by now! Be sure to let us know what you think?!