Monday, February 12, 2007

The Night That Celebrates Itself

If you are a regular reader of this site, you’ll know that The White Noise Revisited is crazy for all things shoegazey so it stands to reason that we'd be big fans of the successful club night and fledgling label, Sonic Cathedral. In celebration of the release of the label's third single and short nationwide club tour, we sent Dave to interview founding father Nat Cramp to chat about how they have resurrected the much-maligned genre and taken it forward into the 21st century. For your listening pleasure, Nat has kindly given us an exclusive demo version of The Tamborines’ ‘Sally O’Gannon’, the first 7” release on the Sonic Cathedral label. And in case you were wondering what a sonic cathedral sounds like, we’re posting ‘Avalyn II’ by Slowdive, an ethereal classic from the band’s first 12”, released on Creation Records in 1990. As a final offering, you get Amusement Parks on Fire's blistering cover version of My Bloody Valentine's 'You Made Me Realise' - aren't we good to you? Take it away Dave and Nat…

Nat Cramp - Mr Sonic Cathedral

The Tamborines - Sally O'Gannon (Demo)
Slowdive - Avalyn II
Amusement Parks on Fire - You Made Me Realise

What goes around comes around, and if what went around in the first place was damn fine music, then for a second coming we should give thanks. The place for this is at Sonic Cathedral, a night that celebrates an early 90s revival, revelling in the timelessness and influence that “shoegazing” bands such as Ride, My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus And Mary Chain still hold today. However, as Nat Cramp, the minister behind the prayers points out, it is as much about celebrating the music made now as it is the music from the past.

Dave: In your words, what is Sonic Cathedral?

Nat: It’s the night – and now the label – that celebrates itself. That tagline is obviously a bit tongue-in-cheek, but the intention of Sonic Cathedral is to celebrate the music and the bands that fashion has ridiculed, ignored or left behind.

D: How did it all come about?

N: About three years ago a friend started a club playing all the Madchester-era stuff, so I half jokingly said the logical next step was to start a night playing all the shoegaze records from the early ’90s. Then I realised that at that time – 2004 – there were plenty of bands around who were obviously drawing inspiration from those very same records. A few months later, there we were with The Radio Dept playing the very first Sonic Cathedral night…

D: What do you classify as “shoegazing” exactly? I loved Ride, and have one House of Love record, am I a shoegazer?

N: It’s very hard to classify – especially as it was originally a slightly ironic term with negative connotations. When bands such as Ride and Slowdive went to America, however, the irony was lost and it became simply a descriptive term. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that a lot of indie records from the early ’90s do sound similar – probably because they were all influenced by My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus And Mary Chain. There’s that huge wall of white noise and an underlying sense of melancholy all going on at the same time. I can’t tell you whether you’re a shoegazer or not, but if you like Ride or The House Of Love I know you’ll like Sonic Cathedral.

D: So would you say that Sonic Cathedral, musically speaking, looks backwards or forwards?

N: Definitely both. You’d run out of records pretty quickly if you just played tunes from 1991. We also play the records that influenced those bands – that takes in anything from the Velvets and 13th Floor Elevators to Neu! and Nancy Sinatra – and bands they in turn influenced such as M83, Secret Machines, Ladytron etc. It makes for a pretty eclectic mix. It’s the same with the bands we get to play and the people we get to DJ – we often have a new band playing alongside a DJ who was originally in one of the bands that influenced them in the first place. Everything seems to come full circle and there are always some surprises to be heard.

D: Many of the Sonic Cathedral nights that I’ve been to have been sold out. Why do you think it is so popular, and did you expect that when you first started out?

N: I was nervous when the first night happened – so much so that it was supposed to be a one-off indulgence. But as soon as the doors opened a stream of people wearing old Slowdive T-shirts piled in, along with loads of kids who weren’t even born when ‘Isn’t Anything’ came out it was obvious that I should make it a regular thing.

D: Do you have any major influences, musical or otherwise, that inspired you to set up Sonic Cathedral?

N: Nothing but a love of music in general and fond memories of all those great records coming out when I was 17 or 18 – all those Slowdive EPs, ‘Nowhere’, ‘Loveless’ and so many more in quite a short space of time. Growing up in Devon I never got to see Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine play live either, so I always wonder whether that spurred me on – I didn’t want to miss out this time around!

D: Who are your favourite band(s) that you have had play at Sonic Cathedral?

N: I’ve enjoyed them all for different reasons. I always try and ensure that the bands and DJs complement each other to make the whole evening an experience rather than just another gig. I’m not just putting bands on for the sake of it. One of the occasions this worked best was when I got Damo Suzuki over to play with The Early Years – an amazing night.

D: Anyone you’d not invite back again? Why not?

N: There are a couple that haven’t quite worked out for one reason or another, but I’d rather not say who.

D: Your dream Sonic Cathedral line-up would be…?

N: The Slough Festival of 1991 (Ride, Slowdive, Chapterhouse etc) relocated to Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable at the Dom in St Mark’s Place, New York, with special guest headliners The Velvet Underground.

D: What was your favourite record of 2006?

N: Apart from the first two singles on the Sonic Cathedral Recordings label (by The Tamborines and Mark Gardener) it was a dead heat between The Early Years’ self-titled album and ‘Passover’ by The Black Angels.

D: Any tips for us to listen out for in 2007?

N: The debut album by Maps is going to be incredible. Imagine a Venn diagram of Sigur Rós, Spiritualized and Boards Of Canada – they’d be the bit in the middle.

D: And what does the future hold for Sonic Cathedral? Any further dates or planned releases on the label for instance?

N: In February I’m doing five dates around the country (Norwich (3), Manchester (11), Nottingham (12), Leeds (15) and Reading (25)) with a number of bands including The Early Years and Maps, then two dates at The Legion in London (22, 26) with Troubles (featuring four ex-members of Hope Of The States) and The Black Angels headlining. The third single – SCR003 – is out on February 12 and it’s called ‘Something For You’ by Sarabeth Tucek, a singer-songwriter from LA who has sung with Smog and The Brian Jonestown Massacre. The original is like a countrified Nico, while Tim Holmes and a multi-instrumentalist called Rupert Clervaux have done a really cool, droney remix for the AA-side. It’s an amazing record and I’m very proud to be releasing it. Steve Lamacq has already chosen it as his single of the week on his 6 Music show and other DJs, including Sean Rowley, have fallen for it too. Sarabeth will be playing two of the forthcoming Sonic Cathedral dates in Reading (Feb 25) and at The Legion in London (26). It’s going to be a busy month!

Fact check 1: All these people have DJd at Sonic Cathedral in the past -

The Telescopes; Sonic Boom (Spacemen 3); Will Carruthers (Spacemen 3/Spiritualized); Emma Anderson (Lush); Phil King (Lush); Russell Barrett (Chapterhouse); Ulrich Schnauss; Maps; Tim Holmes (Death In Vegas); Ladytron; Beyond The Wizards Sleeve; Engineers; Secret Machines; Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins)

Fact check 2: All these people have played live at Sonic Cathedral in the past -

The Radio Dept; Engineers; Amusement Parks On Fire; Mark Gardener & Goldrush; Jim Reid; The Morning After Girls; Televise Sing-Sing; The People’s Revoltionary Choir; Mainline; Greenspace; Howling Bells; Paperlung; Sennen; My Visor; Dead Meadow; The Lea Shores; Serena-Maneesh; The High Dials; Loz Colbert; My Latest Novel; Fields; iLiKETRAiNS; The Tamborines; The Lovetones; Cyann & Ben; The Sky Drops; The Early Years; Kontakte; Damo Suzuki; The Strange Death Of Liberal England; Deep Cut; Maps; Pete Fijalkowski; Longview; The Second Floor; Model Morning; Sarabeth Tucek; The Black Angels; The Flowers Of Hell; Troubles; The Ponys; Headlights

Visit the Sonic Cathedral website for details of all the remaining dates on the tour. The Early Years, Maps and Model Morning play The Social in Nottingham tonight - buy tickets here
Visit the Sonic Cathedral shop to buy the single by Sarabeth Tucek which is released today, along with the previous 7s by The Tamborines and Mark Gardener
Sonic Cathedral at My Space
The Tamborines at My Space
Great Slowdive fansite
Search Norman Records for Slowdive
Amusement Parks on Fire website
Buy Amusement Parks on Fire from Norman Records