GRAHAM LEWIS of WIRE – Song For Ewe

“SONG FOR EWE”
with GRAHAM LEWIS of
WIRE

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“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day.

Today it’s a founder of a band who I first heard via the many covers of “12XU” by the hardcore bands I was enamoured with in the early 90s (Untouchables, Teen Idles, Minor Threat et al), but who were more “Pink Flag” than Black Flag. Without this band there would arguably have been no Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, definitely no Elastica. I used to play their video “Eardrum Buzz” when I helped produce MTV Alternative Nation and later was Channel Manager of MTV2. But Velvet Sheep fanzine’s connection with the brilliant and peerless band Wire goes back further than that, and this man was none the wiser what an influence he and his band mates had already had on me before he agreed to choose his “song for ewe”. It’s the ever green Graham Lewis!

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There’s a certain neatness that appeals very much to me that Graham Lewis follows on from our most recent “song for ewe” chosen by Nathan Strejcek of Dischord Records bands The Teen Idles & Youth Brigade, since he chose the top notch “Mannequin” from Wire’s legendary “Pink Flag” album. See below.

NATHAN STREJCEK of THE TEEN IDLES & YOUTH BRIGADE – Song For Ewe

My first proper Wire adventures away from the records themselves was when I travelled up to Manchester’s Roadhouse venue for an edition of Paul Smith (Blast First)’s “Dadaist handbag” club nights Disobey. It was basically a jolly boys outing to Hit The North in a charabang to see Rephlex artiste Cylob and Otomo Yoshishide & Yamatsuka Eye (Boredoms). Bruce Gilbert of Wire was a regular Disobey DJ. I’d met him before, and he always stuck me as very school masterly. Which made me mortified when I found out on the coach back to London he was the one that cleared up some of my sick with a kitchen towel  (with the help of Russell Haswell) when I spewed forth bile & K lager. Paul Smith wasn’t afraid to revel in it though and when he agreed to pay me £50 to advertise Blast First in the next edition of the original xeroxed Velvet Sheep he submitted artwork consisting of a polaroid of the sick on the coach and my splayed arm (or so it appeared) with the witty catchline he’d penned in black marker  “Blast First – Music For People With Strong Stomachs – Eh Nick?”.

One of my subsequent Disobey events was to go and watch Bruce G drive around Highbury Corner roundabout playing his latest solo album from giant stacks rumbling from the open boot of a hatchback car. This wheeze was meant to continue until he got arrested (which I can’t attest to). It wasn’t an edifying spectacle but it was an earth-shattering sound that rumbled the tectonic plates as far as the Holloway Road and sure made for interesting copy if not being entertainment in its truest form.

Not long after this I first bumped into Toby Amies of MTV Alternative Nation at a Disobey gig where Earth played and left their guitars feeding back for punters to play. Anthony H Wilson also read from his book, and naturally Bruce Gilbert aka The Beekeeper DJ-ed. I gave Toby a fanzine and a week later I saw him in Oxford Street getting a pizza. He mentioned he’d played a Boredoms video and then showed my zine on-air on MTV which we’d newly got in our student digs but I’d missed. I promised to keep in touch.

A year later almost to the day and I fervently went to see a reformed Wire play a secret-ish gig under the arches of the Hungerford Bridge near Charing Cross. This was the first time I’d seen Bruce line up alongside fellow post punk heroes Colin Newman and Graham Lewis. I remember them playing an epic version of “The Drill” and was pleasantly surprised to see Toby Amies again. I could barely hear him above the thrum of the Wire of course, but I asked if I could get some work experience at MTV since I was coming up to summer hols in my last year at uni. He gave me a business card (remember them!) and told me that I’d have to hassle him.

I left ever more creative voice mails to the elusive fella including one that said “hope you don’t think I’m bullying you, but if I was I’d be Gripper Stebson to a Shellac soundtrack”. Safe to say it did the trick, he called me back and I went in as an intern to help “Alternative Nation” producer and guru Katelijne de Backer with the show and later a Punk Rock Special. The rest as they say was history. I stayed at MTV for ten years, and was chuffed to play a video of “The Drill” by Wire – the band who’d inadvertently got me my job at MTV!

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I was chuffed that Wire came back again properly, and not only that they’ve hit an extremely rich vein of form. I personally have loved “Red Barked Tree”, “Change Becomes Us” and last year’s top drawer “Wire”. They are more relevant and vital sounding than ever. Which is one of many reasons why they’ve just been added to the All Tomorrow’s Parties 2.0 event happening on April 22-24 Pontins, Prestatwyn curated (on returning) by Drive by Jehu.

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Wire have all the barbs, and angles in the right places. Often obtuse never obscure. But as you know “song for ewe” asks VS’ musical heroes to choose something obscure, so without further ado, and with a somewhat timely choice since I currently can’t get enough of the cold war thriller “Deutschland 83″…

IT’S OVER TO GRAHAM:

Brian Eno and Snatch – R.A.F.

“I recently re-aquired this excellent B side of the 1977, 45 in mint condition from Hard Wax in Brooklyn (with “Kings Lead Hat” on the A). R.A.F. contains the message from the German police phone line where those with information on the activities of Red Army Faction could inform with anonymously…a groovy, atmospheric track, documenting a time when a divided Germany teetered on the edge of civil war? Dark loopy funk scoping an unpredictable future! “

“Is this OK? Enough… HOX my project with Swede, Andreas Karperyd are due to release our second album ‘Duke of York’ on Editions Mego. Taster track ‘Javelin’ can be heard on SoundCloud. Cheers Graham”

THANKS SO MUCH TO GRAHAM. YOU RULE. 

Author: Nick Hutchings

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