eGigs manages to catch a smartly dresses Jez from the Levellers before they hit the Manchester Academy 1 stage to promote new DVD Chaos Theory.....
You played here before on May 1st when Labour came into power...
Yes, we went over to the Student Union and got absolutely slaughtered, and we had a gig in London at Brixton Academy the next day. Our manager was fucking horrified, he came onto the bus at ten in the morning and were still up celebrating, and hes like oh, Brixton Academy, its a really big show, oh! Get to bed now!
How is this tour going?
Very well thank you, with a bit of a shoddy first night. In Bristol, just cos we were slack; we hadnt rehearsed, although we had been in Europe on tour for a month, and wed put in about four or five new songs and hadnt rehearsed them properly, so the first two were a bit shakey, but the actual gig was fine. We thought with a month on tour in Europe we would be alright!
In Europe are the crowds different to the UK crowds?
No, not really; depends where you go, you know, but in the major cities like Prague, Berlin, Hamburg theyre all the same; jump up and down, you know, get pissed.
Are you finding that your crowds are older or younger now?
No, they are younger crowds, we still have a few of the old crowd that come, you know depending on circumstances, the original crowd dosent come; they all had kids, or got into other bands or whatever, but weve been going almost twenty years now, so a lot of our original fans kids come and see us! No there are a lot of younger people up front, with some of the older lot around the back.
This tour is for the new DVD, Chaos Theory, which is very good. Have you been planning it for a while?
Eh, no, not really. We didnt really even think about it until about a couple of months before we filmed it, and basically we were gonna film it in the summer; we had a big old theatre booked for the summertime to do it, and then we went out on a spring tour, and the more we thought about it the more we thought shit, were playing really well at the moment, and we wanted to play in a nice kind of venue; it was like the Royal Albert Hall, this venue we had booked, but it would have cost us loads more and we would have had to rehearse loads more, because it was a gig in the middle of no other gigs, you know, so we would have had to bring all production in, and rehearse, and we f*cking hate rehearsing, we dont do it basically; we rehearse new songs, and if we rehearse old songs we do them in sound check, or we dont bother and do them on stage and hope for the best, but gradually as we did the tour we kind of thought we should try and film this DVD some time on this tour.
We basically got the DVD team in in about two weeks; they had two weeks warning, because we were still juggling between using three different companies, because we have to pay for it all, its on our own label, so we had to bump all the money.
In the end we filmed it a Reading Hexagon cos that was basically the last of the venues where you could get all the gear into; its just like the right shape to get all the gear into, the others are like too big or too small to cover properly, and thats why it was filmed at Reading, which is always a good gig but its not the prettiest thing to look at, same as here isnt either, but its always a blinding gig in here. Our angle was to just film the bands; I edited and cut it myself.
Theres a nice little Jez Cam bit on it...
Yeah, yeah, I didnt edit that, I left it to the other editor to do, I said I cant do that, I wont look at it objectively, but I did the rest of it and Jon, our fiddle player mixed all the sound; no overdubs or anything, thats exactly what happened on the night, as well as a few [cue funny noise] bum notes and mistakes in there and different song structures that maybe shouldnt have been like that.
The support band tonight, 3 Daft Monkeys; are they a fairly new band?
No they have been going a long time down near Exeter where our festival, Beautiful Days, is, and basically we played with them a quite a few times over the years just doing on/off shows with them, and on our message board our fans have been asking for them, so we asked them if they could do a whole tour with us, because its actually quite expensive to travel around the country and theyre only a little outfit who fund themselves like we did in the early days, so its quite a big commitment for them to try and scrape together the necessary fucking cash to do it, and they can just about do it with the cash we pay them and what they make on the merch. Theyre good, theyre like a more traditional folk band then we are; just three of them, theres Athene on the fiddle, Tim on the whistle and Jamie on bass. The punters love em and they warm the crowd up really well for us, and then they come on and play the last song with us, so we have two fiddle players and two whistle players at the same time; its proper full on thrash folk music by the end.
The folk scene seems to be picking up at the moment, I mean the popular Seth Lakeman, you have had him support you previously.
He played with us on our last song this time last year here, but this time its Athene and Tim.
Any hints on the next big band out of your Metway Studios? Youve had British Sea Power, Electric Soft Parade...
I dont know actually, Im a bit out of touch with the Brighton coast scene at the moment because we have been away for so long in Europe and all that, Ive seen a few really good bands in there but I cant remember their names to be honest, funny thing is yesterday we saw the Brakes, who are one half of Electric Soft Parade and one of the members out of British Sea Power; we were playing in the ABC and they were playing at King Tuts down the road, and the night before that we saw Clearlake cos we were playing in the Octagon in Sheffield and they were playing in the smaller club venue but they are only like five minutes apart, so weve seen both of those bands in the last two days. Theres always good music coming through Brighton; theres a big pop music or rock music college and they use the studio quite a lot; you sometimes get ten guitarists playing an AC/DC solo fucking all day!
Did it take a while to get Metway Studios off the ground?
Yeah it did, but we never intended it to be a studio, we bought the building, and its a massive building, we bought it for a hundred grand, you know in a property slump, like 1994, and this building is like an old factory, with two buildings, a courtyard and its four storeys high; its fucking enormous. Basically we went in there and thought this is too big for us really, all we wanted to do was have our management there and rehearsal room because we didnt want to rehearse in London, and we wanted to have it all in the same building, for communication reasons and to keep the band together and focused. We got in there and got the rehearsal room all sound proofed and everything and started writing songs for the Zeitgeist album. It was at that time and then we were having such a good time rehearsing in there that we said f*ck it we dont want to go to a studio, and record companies always give you an advance to record an album, so they gave us a hundred and something thousand quid to record an album which we would usually give to a studio for three or nine months or whatever.
We originally thought that we would get a mobile truck studio in and just mic everything up in our rehearsal room and do it like that, but in the end the record company advance was big enough so that we could actually buy a little studio and stick it next to the rehearsal room, and it gradually grew from that. Now we were still the only people using it, and then when we came to our next album they gave us another big advance and we updated it all and so it was good enough for other people to use as well, then we advertised it and people showed up pretty quick as not many studios have natural light, and ours has big windows with loads of natural light, and also now the building has six studios in it that belong to different bands and producers, so theres always music going on there and then theres art studios, and a craft workshop making jewellery and a computer animation company covering the whole of the top floor, our office is on the middle floor and we have a bar downstairs. Were in the process of getting planning permission to knock down one of the buildings and completely move everything about but were waiting for planning permission; its a f*cking nightmare, and in the local paper it says Levellers Anarchists Turn Retail Property Landlords, which is actually bollocks cos were just changing the layout of the building, because we need more offices as more people want to go there.
It still takes eighty percent of our money, everyone thinks were fucking loaded but were all skint because all our money goes into the Metway; to fix a hole in the roof costs thirty thousand quid, and to keep the studio updated with the latest Protools and keeping the engineers up to date with all the new equipment, youd be surprised where all this money disappears to!
And you still do the free Metway sessions too?
Yeah we still do the free Metway sessions every weekend for the local bands, in the week weve had Nick Cave in and The Cure in the last two months so that was good for us cos we all like Nick Cave and I went to the same school as Robert Smith from The Cure; we both from Crawley which is a shithole new town just outside London.
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