The Pocket Gods
THERE are some bands that come and go…
and then there are those who endure and continue to inspire. The Pocket Gods are in the first camp – oh, wait, no: the second one. I catch up with them to talk about the new single, Another Sunny Day, and what it is all about. I learn more about the record-breaking album of one-hundred songs: all thirty-seconds in length (or less). It is a shot against streaming services like Spotify – and their egregious and borderline-unethical payment to artists.
Being such an established and well-heeled band; I learn about the album, The Jesus and Mary Chain – and what it is like knowing such a famous band. The Pockets Gods have been on the scene for years and gained plaudits from the likes of Steve Lamacq.
Hi. How are you? How has your week been?
Crazily busy which is great gigs, interviews - and sorting out launch party for the album!
Can you tell me how The Pocket Gods got together and the secret behind your decades-spanning endurance?
Oh, crikey, well: “It was twenty years ago....Sgt. Pepper...”.
Erm, yes. I formed the band whilst working in Tower Records in London, with keyboardist Noel Storey, and recorded a demo of a song called My Next High and we were more Alt-Country at that time - even had a pedal steel, harmonica and a guy on decks!
Well, Noel and I are still in the band - which is a good start – and, despite having a cast of a-thousand ex-drummers and bass players, we all remained on friendly terms.
We just kept at it I suppose and kept recording albums - think there's about fifty-odd albums out there and nearly eight-hundred tracks been released. Also, not taking ourselves too seriously - so no massive egos.
Tell me a bit about Another Sunny Day and the inspiration behind that?
Well. I wrote the basis for the song while surviving a hot summer living in London - some dodgy bedsit in E17 and there was just know where to go to escape the heat.
I was just wishing the rain would come and wash it all away - my then-band-mate Nigel Parrington then added great bits to it and it was a hit single in Belgium for our band at the time, The High Ones. I've always thought it to be a great summer anthem so I wanted to re-record it for this album.
There is a new album out, too. What can you reveal about it?
It's our Sci-Fi-Indie-Pop opus - featuring new versions of old songs and some new more experimental tracks. It's written like a classic L.P. with an A and B-side kind of all flows together - there is even a ten-minute track on the end - which is kind of ironic; seeing as we're known for our thirty-second songs!
It is titled after the legendary Scottish band, The Jesus and Mary Chain. What is your experience of the band and how important are they to you?
They were fab. My brief experience of playing with them inspired me to form The Pocket Gods so, without them, I wouldn't have started the band. The funniest moment was when I went to audition for them at their own studio in South London - appropriately called, The Drugstore.
I learnt all the bass lines note perfect (ala Paul McCartney) and was happily playing away when Jim Reid came and whacked the bass amp on full-fuzz and distortion all the way to eleven - it was just white-noise and served me right for playing too many notes!
The band has a Guinness World Record for releasing the most tracks (one-hundred) on a digital album. How did you manage to write so many tracks and how long did it take to get them all together?
Oh, yeah, to be honest; it was hard work and was running out of ideas after about seventy songs - especially as I wanted them all to be about the music industry.
The whole album was a critique of the industry and the whole digital streaming - and lack of royalties for artists. To be honest, I wasn't aware that it was a world record until they contacted me. I chose one-hundred as it sounded cool. I wouldn't have been able to finish the album if it wasn't for friends and fans of the band recording tracks for me as well - so, thank you all!
Each track lasts thirty seconds. What is the reasoning behind this?
Ah, there you go...
Well, simply; services such as Spotify pay out a very small royalty of approx.. 0.007 after a track play reaches thirty seconds - and then no more. So, your track could be eighteen-minutes-long but you would still get the same royalty - so I thought: why give them more why not write songs that are thirty-seconds long and, by putting one-hundred of them on one album, you maximised the royalties!
The thirty-second song idea came from Professor Mike Errico in the U.S. - who wrote about it in The Independent - and challenged bands to start writing thirty-second songs.
I took up the baton!
Was there a sense, putting that album out, it would be seen as a bit unconventional? Has it been quite humbling getting such great feedback and kudos?
No, not really.
I did chat to Mike Errico about how I would never write or record conventional longer songs anymore - and we did do two more albums after the first. But, at the end of the day, I fell back in love with playing longer songs and also wanted to show our new fans that we weren't just some fad novelty protest band - but we could actually record great albums.
Yes, it's been very well-received and, especially with a young audience, even the great Steve Lamacq has said we were sounding fresh - which is great.
How do you think music has changed since you started out? Do you think the digitisation of the music world is a good or bad thing? Is it harder being in a band now?
Overall, the industry has changed so much...
It was way too slow to adapt to changing technologies which allowed piracy to reign supreme for a while - it's now only just starting to recover. I do think though people do look back with rose-tinted glasses about how great it used to be. People forget the reality was although bands got advances they were, basically, in debt to the major labels and had to pay it back.
Also, to get a decent demo. made you, would have to spend a lot of money in a decent studio to get something that sounded good - now you just pick up a MacBook and away you go.
So, technology has allowed more people to make music but, consequently, there is a lot of artists out there trying to make an impact which is hard...hence my reason for trying to create an angle and make it newsworthy - with the one-hundred-times-thirty album.
Back in the 1990s; you were discovered by John Peel. How important was it to have your music backed by such a legend?
Actually, it was much later: it was the year he died, tragically.
I wrote a song called The Ballad of the Peshwari Naan about our local Asian restaurant and thought, after recording it, that John Peel would love it - as it was a mix of Sonic Youth and Cornershop.
So, I sent him a C.D. and forgot about it. Two years later, he calls me up saying he loved the track and gave me his home address to send more stuff (to him).
Tony Wilson died shortly after finding you; your former manager nearly died of an asthma attack after taking you on. Have you managed to halt the Grim Reaper streak and, in all seriousness, was having Tony Wilson recognise your music your greatest moment?
Yeah, I think we have halted the so-called ‘curse’ to some extent - especially as Huw Stephens and Tom Robinson are fit and well (fingers-crossed, chaps).
Yeah, Tony was a legend I loved the whole Factory music scene and ethic - and he was a one-off and definite character.
He was hailing St. Albans, where we're from, as the ‘new Manchester’ - as we had bands like Enter Shikari around and we were part of that scene (but obviously not as heavy - great band though, E.S.).
It was a shame not to meet him as he died a few months before In The City festival that year - which he used to organise. We got to play the St. Albans showcase, where the best new bands from our area got to play this fabulous festival. I even accosted aforementioned Huw Stephens in a petrol station shop and asked him to come to our gig....which he did and said he enjoyed it!
You have toured with some legendary acts over the years. Who has been the most memorable?
There's been a few, but I loved playing with The Ramonas: an all-girl tribute to my fave band, The Ramones. They were great and the gig was memorable as my wife Claire (Bass player) was seven-months pregnant at the time - but she rocked.
What are your plans for the rest of the year? Any tour dates coming up? Another album?
Wayne Rooney-style hair plugs if the albums sell well...or shoes for my kids (do you know how expensive kids shoes are?!).
Yep; a few gigs looking for a decent support slot (nudge, nudge Noel Gallagher!). Gosh, another album I was supposed to be writing - another thirty-second song album this time; one-hundred-Elvis-x-thirty but have been busy promoting this one.
We also should be back on Sky T.V. as house-band on the Nub T.V. music show - which is always fun.
We got to play with Joan Armatrading, Junior and our friend and collaborator, Owen Paul on the last series!
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Please check out our label-mates, Flaunt - as U.S. Electro-Indie duo who has been described as a "mellower Nine Inch Nails". Their new album, Spectra, is out now and is simply the best album I've heard since Nevermind.
If you had to select the album (of another artist) that mean the most to you; which would it be and why?
Teenage Fanclub - Grand Prix
Following on from the J.A.M.C. stint, I was hanging around with a lot of the Creation bands such as Slowdive - but I really love ‘The Fannies’ (as they're known). It's (just) great Indie-Pop, lush harmonies and great song.
A very underrated band
Do you get much time to take a break from music? How do you like to spend your free time?
Ha, free time: that would be nice!
Well. My three, wee nippers take me out to the park and make me play football - I'm a massive Huddersfield Town fan (yes, there are some and, after Patrick Stewart, I'm probably the second most-famous fan).
I also like to go U.F.O. hunting as, shush, don't tell anyone, but we live next door to the U.K.'s own Area-51...seriously!
What advice would you give to any new artists starting out right now?
No, sorry, er…don't give up. Keep at it; believe in yourself but also keep honing your craft.
Also (sounds a bit hippy-ish), but follow your destiny and follow the signs the Universe is sending you.
On a more practical-level: get out and meet contacts face-to-face. There's still nothing better and industry people are more likely to work with you if they have met you - and like you as a person
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Mine is Something Different by Flaunt!
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