hello dear readers at home, you might be wondering why it is so dark over here… But you see (or possibly you don’t see) we are sitting in the dark obscure corners of the underground. And with ‘We’ I mean, you, me and a band named ‘The Bordellos’. I believe they are from the UK… Are you from the UK?
Yes, we’re from the UK, we’re from an industrial town called St Helens which lies between Liverpool and Manchester. Or rather that should be former industrial town as all the industry has now closed down, so it is in fact a onetime industrial town now a town dying on its arse.
Let me tell you a bit why we are here so you won’t be left in the dark all too much.: Every time when I go up in to the skylight and browse a certain popular anti-social media website, I come across the rants of Brian Bordello (who obviously sits here with us as an important part of The Bordellos). When I read his rants, I feel like saying ‘hello, hello!’ and ‘over here!’ as I’m always dying to hear more about it.
who had done some interviews with less glorious music blogs as YIKIS. They did not publish their final interviews for (according to Brian) the simple reason that they didn’t agree with the band their answers. Next time these interview questions should be given in multiple choices as to not waste a busy band like The Bordellos their precious time and money. Anyway that’s why I went down to their hiding place in this dark underground grotto in order to do an actual real interview –900 % real – no editing or change of being left to rot in the closest shredder. So uh, why do you think they didn’t like your answers
THE BORDELLOS (Talking over each other)
Well some people do not want to hear the truth, they don’t want to offend anybody. Everything has to be nicey nicey we are all in this lovely music business together let’s all be friends and like one another, sing along to each other’s songs…well, they can fuck off. There is too much stuff that’s either average or aspires to the dizzying heights of average and from page to stage beige is the rage. There are many blogs who I would imagine don’t give a flying fuck about music and know even less about it. As long as it’s safe and their mum would like it that’s the main thing. It’s all just a business, so they can sell advertising space and the big labels will send them free tickets and vouchers for hair gel.
They couldn’t give a fig for music that isn’t strummed by some pretty indie chaps and don’t want some working class oinks who aren’t even from London perish the thought telling them that the music they write about is safe shite which demeans us all. One of the music blogs that annoys the most is Drowned In Sound, they think music started and ended with Loveless. It’s like they review an LP and say “Oh yes this band has obviously heard Loveless, give it 8” then “Well this is disappointing, give this one a 2, this band hasn’t heard Loveless and if they did they weren’t paying attention”. They probably queue up in a supermarket, get to the till and see someone who doesn’t look like they’ve heard My Bloody Valentine or Spacemen 3 (nothing wrong with either of these bands by the way) so they load their goods back in the trolley and go off in search of someone more middle class.
Another thing that annoyed us a lot was when that young indie band Viola Beach died in a car crash. We’re not belittling the band or the tragic nature in which they died because it was a fucking huge loss as all young lives cut off in their prime are. But the tastemakers jumped on this and revelled in the ad revenue, and you know that if they’d just been plugging away and trying to make a name for themselves they wouldn’t have crossed the street to piss on them. It’s appalling to the way human life can be so cheap as to be reduced to click bait.
There are a number of blogs written by hobbyists who have taken writing about music to the artform it has been in the past and can always be, like Monolith CocktailMonolith Cocktail and The Sunday Experience. Talented writers who aren’t afraid to write something you might have to look up to find the meaning of, it’s not done to make money either but even if it was that’s fine because people like that deserve to be compensated, putting a bit of effort in. Writing about music is not reprinting a press release and adding a link. And God help a band who doesn’t think Soundcloud is the medium of all mediums. We hate Soundcloud. The sound quality on it is shit, it auto-plays music you don’t want to hear and the interface is terrible. And when a bunch as un tech-savvy as us can tell that you know it’s bad.
I wanted to ask this all the way at the very end, but I like to trick myself and ask it blatantly here: How did you guys even meet? And who does what within The Bordellos?
Well we are all related: Ant is Brian’s older brother, Dan is Brian’s son and we’re all passionate about music so it makes sense that the family that plays together stays together.
Brian – Vocals, Guitar, Main Songwriter
Dan – Vocals, Multi-Instrumentalist, Occasional Songwriter
Ant – Vocals, Harmonica, Percussion, VERY Occasional Songwriter
Dan does the techy stuff like mixing and production; Brian has the Sisyphean task of trying to promote it all; Ant makes tea.
As a band you have received praising music reviews in your music career, yet it seems that your sound prospers more here in the darkness; putting up your middle fingers and spitting around then shining in the limelight. What would The Bordellos do when given the opportunity to perform on a program like Top of the Pops (if that still exists?) or as a distinguished guest at any other televised talent show?
We have received many fine reviews, normally from serious music blogs and magazines by writers who have more than two brain cells to rub together and hence to not appeal to the masses. In fact we’ve been featured in three music books over the last 18 months so critically we’re doing alright but the limelight is something we have avoided and not really sought out. In our time we have turned down a record deal with a very well known indie and American tours with the Brian Jonestown Massacre, support slots with Jane’s Addiction and the Fleshtones. We thrive in our little cocoon but maybe we SHOULD step out of it more.
If we did get the chance of primetime TV we would no doubt self-sabotage but it’d be beautiful and people would talk about it. It’d be great to be on later with Jools Holland (a very popular music show that keeps getting blander), it always has Jools rattling away on his rinky dink piano behind some upcoming major label signing or a legend or two. Only last week Barry Gibb was on doing his celebrated jive talking. I’d love to see Jools try and play along to us: in my dreams we’d slam the piano lid on his hands, punch him in the head and then as he lay on the floor saying “Wasn’t that wonderful viewers?” we’d form a circle around him and piss on him the way he has pissed on his legacy as the keyboardist on fine pop classics like Up The Junction.
The headlines the next day…The Bordellos piss on national treasure. People writing in to the BBC to say we do not pay our license fee to see talentless ruffians who probably don’t even have an agent piss on a national treasure. We recently played a 30 minute live radio set on a charity gig, Musicians Against Homelessness, a very worthy cause. We took the opportunity to play a 30 minute set consisting of five songs, one being called Piss on Spotify which is ten minutes long and about the death of the music industry and the dearth of excitement in mainstream music and we closed with These Boots Are Made for Stalking where lots of screaming of “I will be your tampon, I will be your wonder horse” is alternated with phrases like “motherfucking crazy guy” and farmyard noises. We’d probably do that on TV.
What do you think of these modern times in which everybody seems to download music for free? And do you actually pay for music and if so; what would it be?
Modern life is rubbish, the music industry is in the doldrums and the major labels and big indies bemoan the fact that people are not buying their product blissfully unaware that they’ve answered their own question by addressing it as product. Not art. Product. Why on earth should people pay for something which even the people involved wouldn’t pay for and are totally disengaged from?
I find it sad that artists who release things themselves or on tiny indie labels like us or my son’s other band for that matter have to put everything up for free to download or on a pay if you want basis (and let’s face it, who really wants to pay? It’s just common sense) just to get people to listen to the stuff. They’d prefer people to download their music for free than not download it at all because if you make music and you care about it you want to share it with others and for it to touch their lives the way the great songs you heard have touched yours. The independent artists and tiny labels are the lifeblood of the music industry but slowly and surely the blood flow is being stopped as the artists spend money recording and releasing and promoting their music but get nothing back. I know for a fact most small indies run at a loss. I know Small Bear does who release most of our stuff which actually comes out on a physical format. Our new LP for instance is being released on CD as well as download. CDs cost money to manufacture, money these people won’t get back but they see every LP as a small piece of art that is worth the cost (i.e. the proper attitude for a label to have).
I of course will buy a copy of our CD as I do with every release because as I see it if I am not willing to buy a Bordellos album why should you? Yes. We pay for music in fact the only addiction we really pursue is buying music, it’s cheaper than most drugs won’t kill you (mostly) and keeps you high for longer. Yesterday I bought a double best of CD by Neil Sedaka for 99p then got home and downloaded (and paid for) the new EP by Welsh pop maverick Pulco. The music we buy is much and varied. In fact Ant is the only one of us to make a living from selling music, he has his own secondhand music store called Pop In Th’Attic. So if you have an option to pay when downloading and can afford to do so then I think it is the morally correct thing to do especially when you’re supporting a small independent artist or independent label. If you can’t afford to do it then download it, listen to it, take it in your heart and go out and watch them if they play near you or somewhere you can get back from without it costing you an arm and a leg. Then maybe buy the album when you can afford to. Or even just tell people what you heard, how great it is and share it with them. To quote that Ciccone woman you may have heard of, music makes people come together.
Is the name (The Bordellos) inspired from frequent brothel visits? If yes, can you tell us a bit about it? And if no; where does the band name come from? Can’t be just Brian’s surname is it?
Well no, being a happily married man I don’t visit such places and we’re very lucky Dan hasn’t read this and gone on a rant about the “continued exploitation of women in this sick society” (he’s got a point though). The name actually was chosen by our ex-lead guitarist Geoff who wanted a manly rock name for the band, so of course he named us after Spanish ladies of the night. Hmmmm. I wanted Honeyfuzz Mole or The Colourset Configuration Board but no one else did. When the original three members of the band left (we were originally a 6 piece), they thought it was the end of The Bordellos and that we’d split up. So instead I replaced them with Dan, my then 13 year old son, and kept the name The Bordellos just to prove a point although what the point was frankly escapes me.
You sound like you have ran into many ignorant assholes in the music industry. I remember one of those fine rants about idiots nitpicking about sound quality, not getting the whole concept and feel of lo-fi music. We at YIKIS love it; the lower it goes the more loved it will be.
Besides it takes much more talent to make an excellent song in an ultimate lo-fi sound then it does in a crystal clear top notch high-tech super-duper music studio sound. Can you (once and for all) clarify your stand on this?
The music industry is full of assholes, yes, but this is not surprising as so is the world in general. Smallminded, shortsighted, money grabbing bastards who cannot get past the wrapping of the song (not rapping, we’re saving that for Ant’s solo record). It’s like receiving a beautifully wrapped gift not caring that beneath the bow and the fancy paper is in fact a large, stinking, disease carrying shite. In fact they cannot tell that the large shit is shit because they can’t get past how beautifully wrapped it was. Same with music.
Some people say to me I would like The Bordellos if you spent more time on the production and went in a studio as your songs are great. They then go on to say about how much better our songs are than those by some band they’ve just bought a record by but they won’t buy ours because it is not produced in a studio, which just goes to show what we’re up against.
A few points on this: We probably take more time on the production than the band whose record you bought. Can’t say it for definite but it’s a distinct possibility. For one we’re using broken equipment because we’re skint, because you won’t pay for our music and thus allow us to put some more money into getting better equipment. Although I know a few bands who get mates rates from great producers and again Small Bear rears its head here. It takes more time to use broken equipment than it does to use a shiny state of the art Digidesign rig (although Pro Tools is shit and less advanced and intuitive than most free or cheap software but I digress). This is a labour of love and not dashed off while clock watching. The medium is not the message. We record most of our songs on a small digital 8 track in Ant’s house but have also used 4 track tape recorders, ghetto blasters, broken webcam mics and even clock radios. We don’t care what we used to record it or where we recorded it as long as it sounds good and is identifiably us. It doesn’t matter if we recorded in Abbey Road or Ant’s bathroom it does not make our writing any better or worse.
I have NOTHING against records made in a studio. A lot of the best records were but whether it’s Alan Lomax recording someone on a reel to reel, Elvis surrounded by mics in Sun Studios so he could dance as he sang, Martin Newell singing in his shed or Prince at Paisley Park all that matters is that these are good songs. If you want to put a 100 piece orchestra on something and you can afford to then do it. We like recording in our own little way, and it is our way. It annoys me that alternative radio won’t play us because we’re too lo-fi, they’ll only play punk rock recorded in an air conditioned studio with Starbucks coffee available from the canteen.
You have made many releases, which ones are you the most proud off and can you explain why
We have made many releases, close to 200 tracks that we’ve released and that’s scratching the surface. I’m proud of all the music we have released otherwise, you guessed it, we wouldn’t release it.
I’m especially fond of our Ronco Revival Sound LP on Daddy Tank Records from 2013, it includes some of our best songs and was only released on CD, not download so controversially you could only listen to it if you’d bought it (I know about Soulseek, etc. but for someone to put it up to download for free they’d have to have bought it in the first place and have the inclination to do so). That’s one I’d recommend.
I am also proud of our It’s Lo-Fi Folk Off LP which we released as a free download on ou Bandcamp page and its still there if anyone wants it.
Third choice is our new LP released on the 9th of October on Small Bear Records, How To Lose Friends and Influence No One. It is mostly an LP of us ranting about the death of the magic in mainstream music and how as a society we’re going backwards instead of forwards, all bigotry and little Englander cuntery. It includes probably my two favourite Bordellos songs Piss on Spotify and I No Longer Speak The International Language of Kojak, Kapiche. The latter is our own Positively 4th Street or You’re So Vain. It likely won’t get played on the radio (for a change) and be ignored by a lot of critics as it attacks both the press and radio and some of the unpleasant music industry types (but I repeat myself) we’ve encountered.
What do you think of the whole radio system in the UK? Is it rigged?
Yes. Absolutely. As corrupt as the government who run it. In the UK of course the main radio stations are run by the BBC, 6 national sations as well as the BBC local ones as well. Now the motto to Educate, Entertain and Inform is very laudable (even if two of the words basically mean the same thing) but it no longer does it. It will probably greatly surprise you to hear that I’ve had many run ins with various BBC DJs and producers over the year.
My major gripe with the BBC is, again, how bland it is, how samey the music they play is, especially through the day. It’s not been worth a damn since John Peel died and they’ve never bothered to replace him because they hated him while he was alive. They hated the fact that he was a genuine music lover and enraptured by the art. He’d play unsigned bands, he’d play records at the wrong speed, he’d play a hit record next to several things which were wilfully obscure because he could. They hated it. When he died they offered the excuse of starting BBC 6 Music in his image playing cutting edge new music. If you’ve ever listened to it there’s no way it’s cutting edge and most of it isn’t even new. I had an off the record (of course, he remains unnamed because he doesn’t need the hassle) with a well established BBC DJ who told me that BBC6 was a missed opportunity in thrall to the big 6 and the pluggers. If you’re a new band without money behind you then you’re stuffed basically.
They say they have an Introducing show and technically they do but it’s on in the early hours of the morning (the same slot they banished old John too before he died, they could canonise him Saint Peel because being dead he couldn’t inconvenience them with the truth). The new bands they introduce are the same generic indie guitar shite played by middle class white guys aged between 18 to 26 who play Fender Jaguar guitars, wear checked shirts, have neatly trimmed beards and say nothing in their lyrics. We were once told by another BBC DJ how much he liked our music and he’d love to play it if he could only get it past the listening committee. This was in the UK several years ago and not the
Eastern Bloc 40 years ago by the way. The lo-fi-ness was a problem, the subject matter another and he told me the one of our songs they would play was our song Ronco Revival Sound.
They loved that one and I don’t blame them it is very good. It’s about me and Ant celebrating the joy of listening to the radio in the 70s and DJs love songs about the radio as it makes them feel special. Not in the special needs way, but that’d be more accurate in many cases. He and his comrades would be allowed to play the song if we removed the reference to Gary Glitter in the first line, the line being “Take me back to more innocent times when Gary Glitter was played on the radio”. This was of course in the middle of the whole Jimmy Savile and the BBC employing paedos scandal, so they were a bit touchy about it being mentioned. We of course refused as it’s a lame reason not to play a song and we refuse to even in a small way aid and abet the covering up of years of institutionalised sexual abuse. So instead I sent them a song called Nobody’s Listening, the first line being “Motherfucking cunt bastard shittiest of the shits”. Again, topical. The DJ made it clear we have no chance of being played on his or any other BBC show if we can help it although of course he is slightly over-estimating his power as A) we have been played a few times on BBC 6 since and B) as he is a BBC DJ he has no power. He just has to sit back and watch as a once proud company rolls over and lets the Tories fuck them.
Speaking of you coming from the UK… I was wondering what each member’s favorite food is over there? What is the meal that you could eat every day?
I’ll eat anything as long as I haven’t cooked it.
Ant probably likes something modish and vegan because he’s the cosmopolitan one and Dan likes garlic bread.
I feel like you have been channeling at certain times The Velvet Underground and also expressed the love for the music of a certain Garry Glitter. How do you guys prepare yourself when making / writing / playing / performing these kinds of songs?
We’re obviously huge Velvet Underground fans as all bands should be but lots of influences: Scott Walker, Orange Juice, The Beatles, Cleaners From Venus, The Go Betweens, The Fall, Television Personalities, Syd Barrett, Legendary Pink Dots, The Seeds, Stevie Wonder, The Beach Boys, Love, Buddy Holly, Tim Hardin, Julian Cope, Billy Childish….The list could go on forever because it just keeps growing with time and then there’re individual enthusiasms like Ant being into Ennio Morricone and The Eagles and Dan being obsessed with Coil and stuff from that whole scene.
We don’t really prepare ourselves as you can’t know which way a song is going to go. I normally write the lyrics to the song and have a melody before I even pick up a guitar. Then I fight with the chords on the guitar to make them fit. I play it to Dan and then it can go in any direction, usually depending on what instruments Dan is in the mood to play as he plays many. I record the vocals and guitar, then Dan does his stuff which is often confusing to witness and then Ant comes in and adds some strange harmonies or out of time percussion or harmonica which is often in a different key to everything else and even itself. If Dan has wrote the song he normally plays everything, we add stuff and then he either mixes it down or manipulates the sound of it so much he may as well have played it but he doesn’t do this often.
What is the ideal dream place for The Bordellos to play and perform?
We don’t really do them. We played two this year. The first was for Jeff Grainger’s 50th birthday. He’s a Dandelion Radio DJ who has played us loads over the years, and he’s a lovely bloke who cares a lot about music. The second was a charity gig to raise money for a homeless charity. Unless we like the person who asks us or its for a good cause, we don’t do them.
I’d hate to play one of those huge festivals full of middle class people called Samuel. They mouth the words to songs they don’t know when the cameras are on them, wave inflatable blow up fruit and wave flags about. When I was young if you were waving a flag about at a gig like it was the last night of the proms someone would deck you and that’s how it should be. I can’t think of anything worse. They probably spray themselves with mud they bought off Amazon called the Glastonbury Experience.
Now that we are sitting in the darkness of this grotto… How is your relationship with Phil Reynolds? Do you celebrate Christmas together?
Our relationship with Phil Reynolds is very good. He is a lovely chap. He runs Small Bear Records with his equally lovely wife Marie. They’re a couple who both love music with as much passion as The Bordellos and are brave enough to release our How To Lose Friends and Influence No One LP which won’t do them many favours as it does poke fun at people in the music industry who have about as much sense of humour as they do rhythm (i.e. none). To release an LP with a track on called Did The Bastards At The BBC Kill John Peel is not the way to curry favour with these people so they should be applauded.
As for celebrating Christmas together we will be celebrating of course but with our own families. It’s not that we don’t want to meet up with him, far from it, but you see Phil Reynolds is the indie Santa Claus and is too tired after delivering all gifts to all the indie kids who have been good this year: they get copies of Vukovar CDs and a download code for Small Bear Christmas compilations. The bad indie kids get their arses tanned by Marie while being made to listen to the Bordellos Disco Pants on repeat while looking at pictures of Ant in provocative swimwear.
Of course it is a little bit early to say ‘Merry Christmas’ but as I’m here with you all in the grotto I feel it’s a great opportunity to do so: Merry Christmas! What can we all expect from The Bordellos in the near future?
Nonsense! The advertising people will be saying it to us soon so Merry Christmas. In the near future we’ll be promoting our How To Lose Friends and Influence No One LP, just released on Small Bear Records which I’ve mentioned several times in the hope someone buys it. Then early next year we’ll be releasing a very limited CD on the Tiny Welsh label Prin Recordiau which has released two of my favourite LPs this year by Tremolo Ghost and Pulco. Both immaculately packaged labours of love, but no shit inside these packages just some beautiful music. We may also release a best of The Bordellos LP next year so our young fans can enjoy all our hits and at least one more free download EP.
To any new people out there that wants to start a band, do you have any advice that could help them, without mentioning ‘Don’t do it’ in your answer?
Just do it. Don’t worry about learning to play, just get an instrument and do it, play it your own way if you want. Writing songs is easy, much easier than covering other people’s. Make music that you like yourself and express yourself. Don’t follow trends unless they strike a chord with you personally but then that’s not following. Don’t be another Fender Jag / checked shirt / neat beard twat. Write songs about things that you care about, and don’t be a dickhead or swagger about thinking you’re cool. Chat to the sound guy. Stick about for some of the other bands even if they’re shit because they came a long way too. Don’t use hashtags all the time it makes you look like a cunt. Eat your greens and always be thankful, especially for everything you never had.
Thank you The Bordellos for this wonderful interview, I’ll be crawling out of this rabbit hole again so you can make more music if you wish. It was an honor to have met you all in person, and I’m sure the readers at home will agree… Do you have any shout outs, or last words you would like to say?
Well please feel free to check out our Bandcamp releases, they’re all free, and if you like them buy all our LPs from Small Bear so we can release another. Thank you.