Friends! Summer is Dead & Trees are aflame with Fiery Leaves. A Biting Wind howls a Promise of Winter. It hasn’t Stopped Raining in about 5 years.
Do Not Despair!!!
Here at PROLE JAZZ we have words of subtle beauty to dazzle the senses & lift the spirit, sentences like joy elevators to distract the roiling temperament, cunning interviews to titillate and edutain, paragraphs of pomp, musical opinions of Great Import & Limited Influence! It’s gonna be OK!!
In this splendid episode of Broc on the Bloc, Gonzo Femme & Interlocutor Extraordinaire Celestial Broc caught up with wonderful kraut-punk hepcats Snapped Ankles before their recent Picture House Social show. What ensued was a psychedelic and possibly shamanic series of ramblings from Broc and the Ankle-boys that transcend common notions of sense and meaning.
All that remains is a Rorschach-splattered glimpse into the psyche of one of the most exciting bands you’re gonna see in 2019, a rollicking ride through tales of wonky swimming pools, the thing that happened at the French festival, and the cosmic weaving of the leaves of the Baobab tree…
READ ON!! THERE BE DINOSAURS…
Celestial Broc: Tell us who you are, why you’re here, and what your favourite dinosaur is.
Austin: Er, my name is Austin, we go by our surnames in Snapped Ankles, can’t remember why now – I think it was decided during the time of the dinosaurs. My favourite dinosaur is an Austinosaurus.
CB: Not a dinosaur…
A: OK, not really, it’s a living one, it’s a fern.
CB: Oh, that’s an excellent answer, well done!
[smug look from Austin]
Parry: I’m here because I like horrible noises and I do not know what my favourite dinosaur is. I used to watch ‘Walking With Dinosaurs’ all the time, but I can’t remember – oh, Diplodocus?
CB: Yes, that is a dinosaur.
A: Nope, that’s a disease.
P: Yes – final answer. Brontosaurus.
CB: Great, thanks. So, in general, what do you think of Sheffield?
[Austin resonates with some distinct ‘Are You Being Served?’ noises]
P: Every time we’ve been here it’s been amazing and all the people I know from Sheffield are fantastic humans, but we’ve spent probably under 48 hours in total here, which is a big disappointment.
A: We’ve only hung out in graveyards here in Sheffield, so we’ve only seen the past. We’ve perused the tombs of the old and wealthy of Sheffield. Actually, we did see a few of the current Sheffield inhabitants shuffling around amongst the tombs.
CB: And what do you think of Picture House Social as a venue?
A: We entered through the back portal and it was well clunky, so we missed the nice bar section and glamourous smoking area.
P: We got really excited because it’s quite divey back here and it feels like where we come from. Like kinda rotton old spaces that were used for other functions and now are used for fun and stuff. So yeah, really excited, because it’s a bit dive back here, but swanky out there [points to super swanky bar area]. Some places are devoid of vibe – they look nice but you know that there’s nothing really there. This place has soul, you know?
A: I wouldn’t want to do an asbestos report here though.
CB: I think there are a lot of fungal spores hanging out back here.
P: We love fungi.
CB: Me too! While we are talking nature – what species of tree make the best logs to make music with?
A: [puts hand up] I know this – the current fave, coz obviously there are thousands.
CB: 60,000 species of tree [approx.].
A: Yeah – current favourite is the Cherry tree. Cherry wood is nice and dense and plentiful. Obviously, we never cut it off the tree, we let the tree drop the log and give it to us.
CB: Cherry offerings?
CB: do you have any classical training in Botany?
A: Me, no.
P: No. But there are a couple of witches in the crew at the moment.
Russell: Why are you looking at me? Oh wait, my housemate did an online herbal remedies course once.
P: Yeah, and then he became a landscape gardener…
A: Getting there.
CB: Yup definitely close. What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: Not there yet.
P: As I said, I watched a hell of a lot of ‘Walking With Dinosaurs’ and so that was kind of the goal.
CB: You wanted to be a paleobiologist?
P: No, a dinosaur.
CB: You wanted to be an actual dinosaur?
R: I used to play my mum’s cake tins and that’s why I’m a drummer. I guess.
A: I thought you were going to say you were going to go on ‘Bake Off’ or something
R: Nope – I used to get her cake tins and play them with a wooden spoon.
P: [valiantly declares] THE MIGHTY OAK WAS ONCE JUST A SEED THAT STOOD ITS GROUND.
CB: Well, that was poignant, thank you. Um – you’ve probably been asked this many many times, but, which is your preferred route to a snapped ankle? Three options: a) a hobbling, b) an Achilles severing, or c) a super concentrated sonic boom from running too fast?
A: A hobbling from a superfan please.
P: Yes, a hobbling.
Chestnutt: What’s the question?
CB: Welcome Chestnutt!
C: Hello, can I have disco dancing?
CB: Sonic boom induced ankle snap from disco dancing?
C: Sign me up. Wait, there might be a curse going on with the band. Three people have seriously hurt their ankles, either on the way to one of our gigs, at one of our gigs, or couldn’t come to the gig because they’d hurt their ankle. We are cursed, no?
CB: Nah, you’re over analysing that – that could happen to all bands and all gigs, but you just hear of it because of the name of your band.
A: We were originally going to be called “Brushing our Teeth” but we just didn’t want to have to deal with everyone coming up to us every single day wasting so much of our time to tell us about those weird coincidences, you know?
CB: Sure do. So, your stage clothes look quite cosy. What we all want to know is, how do you stay cool and hydrated during gigs?
A: Obviously, bands are fuelled mostly by crisps and lager so we encourage the members of the band to drink two litres of water a day. Small sips.
CB: But how’d you keep cool?
C: The outfits are like beards; they keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter, they are self-regulating, constant temperature suits.
CB: But what are they made of?
C: They are made entirely of leaves of the Baobab tree, each hair is a hand rolled leaf.
A: The Baobab tree, the tree of life, is planted across Africa, mainly on trade routes because they hold like 200 million litres of water….or something.
CB: The suits are a way to keep hydrated?
A: YES, and that is why we wear them – they are our hydration stations.
CB: This is great stuff guys.
P: Come for the noise, stay for the facts.
CB: Can you talk the readers of PROLE JAZZ through your song writing process?
A: Fermentation is the core process. We lock ourselves in a dungeon and record hours and hours of free jazz log noodles, and from maybe three days of recordings there will be about three seconds where it all comes together. We ferment that bit and go from there. As a process, its dead slow.
CB: So it takes ages ?
A: Three years maybe.
CB: Per song?
A: [sniggers] Yup.
P: Well it’s a combination of jamming, taking those jams and cutting them up and trimming them, jamming that, taking snippets of that and cutting that up – kind of an organic, digital, organic, digital…
CB: Is that called induction? Or deduction? One of the two.
A: I think it must be deduction because induction is where if you want to go into a workshop to use the big lathe they have to induce you so you don’t chop your own hands off. Isn’t it?
C: Is it an induction heater?
CB: Wait, no, what’s abduction?
A: That’s where you put someone you don’t know in the back of your van.
CB: How do you choose your set list for the gig?
A: It’s through a process called induction. No, we have a very sophisticated process.
P: Some of us come from a DJing background and we bring together our knowledge and experience of the venue, the crowd, the vibe and we select the songs based on that really. So, for example, we played a metal festival in Camden, there we used our heavier more metal songs. When we played a techno festival, we went for the core electronic songs, etc.
A: Parry, we have our menu remember [shows CB sheet of paper]; starter, main course and dessert. It’s a journey and we adapt as we go, based on our core menu.
P: Yeah, but we use the DJ mind to work the room.
C: Come on guys, you know we just make it up as we go along. It’s Jazz, man.
CB: What’s your stance on a vibroslap?
A: ALWAYS! [starts oddly humming a bit]
C: There is always time for a Vibroslap.
[Parry spills CB’s beer during the excitement of the Vibroslap discussion]
A: Kind of goes well with a Wah-Wah pedal.
CB: Tell us the highlight of your career so far.
P: We’re not allowed to talk about that.
A: It hasn’t happened yet.
P: It has, but, remember, we’re not allowed to tell anyone about it.
R: Why aren’t we allowed to tell anyone?
P: Because, remember, the crazy woman said “you are not allowed to tell anyone about this”.
R: Oh yeah, so it’s the French festival – we CAN tell you about that.
CB: [feeling puzzled] Right, French festival, not a secret?
P: Yeah, we played this festival somewhere near Toulouse, and it was in an abandoned waterpark and the main stage was in an empty swimming pool.
C: Yeah so it was sloped and everyone was in it, and we were at the deep end and the crowd went up the slope.
A: There was no water though.
CB: Got it, no water.
C: But remember that woman who set off all the crowd surfing? She was wearing a swim suit and as she crowd-surfed towards us it looked like she was swimming because she was being held up at the height of where the water level would be.
P: Oh, and playing Glastonbury was pretty spectacular. It was packed out because Frank Turner was on after us.
C: I thought they’d all come to see us!
CB: Biggest regret?
A: Not stage-diving in a swimsuit at the swimming pool gig. Forever my biggest regret.
P: Remember when we gave Russell’s predecessor his P45 onstage during his last gig at End of the Road festival? All he wanted to do was stage-dive at his last gig, and he had this massive P45 to surf out there with him.
A: Is that a regret?
C: We have no regrets
All in unison: No regrets!
CB: What can we expect from Snapped Ankles moving forward, upwards, and/or underground?
A: We’re doing a show in Liverpool in a couple of weeks and then at Village Underground, where we are going to turn the venue into a sound installation, and we’re going to start literally playing the room. So, we’ll deconstruct the stage, get band members to play different sections of the room. Then we’ll see what happens and how much chaos ensues. We’re working with Daisy Dickinson who is doing visuals with Adrena Adrena, our first support act tonight, and combining moving the sound around the space with having people in the space. We’ll link that up with films that Daisy has made that are all about the venues that are under threat, so it’ll be a bit of a concept piece. We’re also working with Natalie Sharp the Lone Taxidermist who has a new show called Body Vice. She’s got one of those model surgical spine things and she’s turned it into a MIDI controller. With that, she makes a kind of chronic pain mega rave. We’re trying to be diverse in all ways in our collaborations.
P: And we’re doing some stuff with an female Icelandic DJ called Flugvel og Geimskip.
A: Or DJ Aeroplane Spaceship, as a translation.
P: She does all her own artwork, and she created her own videogame to release her last record. She’s like a Gabba version of Björk.
CB: Where’s this going to be held?
A: This will be at Village Underground, end of this month, 29th and 30th October, and Liverpool is on the 25th October at the Substation. So that’ll come after we’ve finished this current mini tour that we’re on right now.
C: We brought our own support acts with us; Nuha Ruby Ra and Adrena Adrena.
CB: You know Andrena is a genus of solitary bee
P: A what now?
[medium length discussion ensues about how the support act said the word has Japanese origins and means Yeah Yeah in Japanese or something but CB suggests it likely has Latin roots, and something about the importance of wild bees as pollinators and then CB realises that she is wrong and that Andrena and Adrena are not even the same word]
CB: have you ever heard of the band Poppers Revival?
A: No, I didn’t know they’d gone out of fashion even – we’re really behind the times.
CB: I think you’d like them – Felix finds things in bins and builds them into musical instruments.
A: Snapped Ankles say no, we have not heard of Poppers Revival until now, but we will absolutely check them out.
CB: Okay – any advice or closing statements for our readers?
A: I, erm, what’s your names? Yeah, erm, so how’s it going?
P: [starts chanting] Speak your truth, act your truth, do what you wanna do.
C: Be nice, and if in doubt, say yes.
R: Put your phone away.
[CB: Even though I expected a rather well curated show from these wonderful creatures, I still usually feel a tiny bit miffed when bands bring their own support acts because I feel like it’s a wasted chance for a local band, HOWEVER….] the interview ended just as Adrena Adrena began to play and we all legged it to the front of the stage. Here we were greeted by a really big ball but no solitary bees. Both the keyboard player and the drummer were positioned in front of the stage facing this really big ball. Projected onto the really big ball were some completely undistorted visuals. How was it so?! This is when I became transfixed and probably quite distorted. An industrial, instrumental, electronic, pulsating sound clash of epic proportions, with epic styling ensued.
I remained transfixed as Nuha Ruby Ra took to the stage. Also, not a solitary bee, and she didn’t have a really massive ball. However, her facial expressions, her movements, her incredible voice, everything was hypnotising and I could feel the room being absorbed by her. As she slowly moved into the crowd, it was quite hard to move out the way because of the fixative she was somehow emitting. This person has special powers. Dramatic lyrics, haunting soundscapes, electronic vibrations.
I took my single blink of the night and Snapped Ankles were on stage, all of them, even the drummer. The drummer started screaming amidst earthly murmurings of the instruments, the trees were alive with the sound of music and my eyes really dry. The drummer is so measured, despite all the screaming, the sounds feel so progressive and so punk; a battle of powerful synths, electronic bass and beats, punk guitar riffs and transcendent crowd control from a charismatic collection of Nordic warriors. The entire performance felt earthly and primal and a bit virtual reality. Snapped Ankles invite the audience into a novel ecosystem that they have constructed. The ecology of which is built on interactions between flora, fauna and machine, and its so bloody wonderful. Please go and see them play, you will never regret it.