!Forward, Russia! : Forward, Fission

The Social, Nottingham on Tuesday 14 February 2006

photos of this show
“This is the first date of the tour but already it’s going shit,” elicits mastermind Whiskas with a smile, “our van broke AGAIN - it did on the last tour at the exact same moment, just as it was starting.” As Britain’s freshest fission rockers at the helm of unstable innovation, ¡Forward, Russia! are being followed by the sporadic bout of cataclysms that any good experiment, be it science, rock or otherwise, should experience.

“Basically, we fucked up the release date for the singles, so the single was out in January that was supposed to be out on the last tour, and then we’re supposed to be releasing a new single now and we’ve fucked it all up so now we just try not to tour on releases now and just make up reasons to… like for free will.”

“I’ll go with free will”, chips in the effervescent Bentley, the bassist that fills in one quarter of the ¡Forward, Russia! union of good humoured musical obstreperousness. Thankfully the Leeds outfit don’t take themselves too seriously, as any self-importance would stiffen their awesome punk/electro/disco/funk/metal collusion that has no pompous purpose other than to make you feel good.

“Yea, we have a Dance To The Radio [Whiskas’ label that’s become closely associated with the band] compilation out, but we’re also giving free will and free love,” he concludes, implying the focus on music over moolah. Then lead singer Tom, a cheeky scamp who wouldn’t look out of place with a slingshot and school cap in a Just William novel, re-directs the focus onto ¡Forward, Russia!’s other great talent – having a laugh.

“Yea, we want people to think about the human condition,” he says, deadpan, “basically we just jumped on the emo bandwagon.” They’re not emo, it’s the lazy comparisons with Panic! At The Disco (similarities ending at the exclamation) that they’re addressing. ¡Forward, Russia! don’t suffer fools.

They’ve just finished recording their debut album, due for release at the start of the Summer, and are thrilled that they’ve got this far. Then comes the dull request that they’ve been asked a million times, that I face them with again for the benefit of you, the eager reader. Whiskas, could you tell me a bit about your record label, Dance To The Radio, and how that integrates with the band?

The only response of the whole interview that’s delivered on auto-pilot comes, “Well, when I first started the label it wasn’t really an idea for it to be the same thing as the band, but then I was going to release a single by a band called This Et Al and I was persuaded to release it as a split single, so we did that and it seemed to work really well. After that, ¡Forward, Russia! and Dance To The Radio seemed to become a bastion of similar things and everyone assumed it was the beautiful thing we put together. When ¡Forward, Russia! took off, Dance To The Radio fell aside a bit, but we managed to work it out so we could do it all at the same time. Now they’re pretty synonymous but I think everyone’s happy with that, so it’s working pretty well!”

Phew! With that piece of admin out the way, it’s back to the banter. I reckon they’ve got a really good band name…they all seem impressed. “Do you think?!” bubbles the loveable drummer Katie, the darling antidote to the other three’s masculine tomfoolery, “Thank you for saying!”

Whiskas fills in, “Well, we were saying in the van that we should change it back to Welcome, Megatron because we’re uneasy with all the communist reference points…”

“...but we’re fine with Transformers!!” interrupts Tom.

“Haha! That’s exactly what I’m saying! We could just keep the exclamation marks but call ourselves !Welcome Megatron! instead - it’d work so much better!

So you’re not feeling ¡Forward, Russia! as a name then?

“Nooooo! It’s a GREAT name, it just occurred to us earlier that !Welcome Megatron! would cause us less hassle, we’d get less Russians spamming our message board, offering us dick enhancements for £1.99”

“Yea... ‘We want your dick to become a Megatron!’”

“We want to galvanize your dick!”

“Optimus Prime? You can be!”

The banter continues with much consuming laughter, before the motherly Katie tells them off, “Ok, stop now boys...”, before they all apologise in union. The good behaviour doesn’t last long, and when I challenge Tom over the similarities in his falsetto singing with those of Justin Hawkins things get silly and talk turns to how they’d fight in combat. “TRANSFORMERS!”, decrees Katie, emphasising the band’s one true love after music, whilst Tom formulates a more considered approach:

“I think I’d swap his senile pills or something… mess around with his pension cheques or something like that.”

“What about Steven Hawkins?” challenges Whiskas.

Bentley points to the Dictaphone, warning Tom to watch what he says, as if the lame political correctness of British media has censored him for his light-hearted outbursts before. “errr I respect Steven, he’s a good lad. I’d just play him at snooker.”

In an attempt to draw links in the tenuous fission niche, I question them on the now defunct Test Icicles, a band who also played with the formula as much as possible (so much so that they implode just as they hit it big).

“They’re just weird… I don’t really know what they’re doing,” offers an indifferent Whiskas, “mind you it could be quite calculating at the same time, but then maybe I know some insider knowledge of the situation!”

Bentley spills the beans before Whiskas continues, “Rupert Murdoch’s paying them to chat to each other on My Space!!”

“Haha Rupert Murdoch and Test Icicles. Yea, he sits back stage at the gigs then when they walk off he pats them on the back and goes “Nice one, Boys!”…but then again, just like them, we don’t really know exactly what we’re trying to do. We’re just trying to do things different and see what happens. Keep progressing, writing new music.”

Bentley confirms the similarities I was getting at: “We play because we all love it, and that’s pretty much it.”

So, at the other end of the spectrum, what don’t they love? “I just don’t like how it’s getting all post-Britpop again where bands are getting hyped just because they’ve got some kind of relationship to a bigger band.”

“People are just looking for connections.”

“All of the music industry works on a ‘You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ basis, and that’s what I fucking hate about it.”

The band seem genuinely opposed and frustrated with the media shtick, so to end things on a positive note we talk about elephants and vodka. It was minus 40oC in Russia recently and the elephants were being fed giant shots of vodka in big buckets to keep them warm. What happens when ¡Forward, Russia! spend a night drinking big shots of vodka and do you like elephants?

Whiskas: Why are there elephants in Russia??
Katie: Of course there are elephants in Russia!
Whiskas: They’re Indian and African!

They’re in zoos!

Bentley: If we drank a bucket of vodka... we’d be dead.
Tom: I’d either get really upset or I’d get really up myself and get annoyed at everyone.
Whiskas: I’d just become really enthusiastic, start talking bollocks then fall asleep.

Katie: Elephants are great though!
Bentley: I FUCKING HATE ELEPHANTS! Whiskas: How do you know this about Elephants in Russia?

It was in the paper!

Katie: We saw penguins in Barcelona, they were tearing apart fish, there was blood everywhere.
Whiskas: They were emo fish.
Katie: We saw some massive sharks.
Whiskas: They were emo too...
Katie: I don’t know why I’m telling you about my holiday.

Conversation diverts further and before long the interview has submerged itself in trivial conversation. It’s fine, the band are a pleasure to talk to and a genuine relief from the endless impotently profound statements of intent that so many other not quite as good bands try and justify themselves with. ¡Forward, Russia! need no justification. You’ll love them, you’ll hate them, but you won’t forget them.

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article by: Alex Hoban

published: 05/03/2006 14:47