“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today’s guests are a noise rock duo par excellence, killer cult favs, much played by John Peel, patronised by fellow VS acolytes Blast First (Paul Smith once helped clean up a bit of my sick with Bruce Gilbert of Wire) – theirs is the music of drag racing, go-go dancing, Armco mounting, Sonic Youth shirt wearing, piston pumping punk, all delivered with the joyful subtlety of a Big Stick. John Gill and Yanna Trance are the titular Big Stick, and after releasing does what it says on the tin retrospective “Much Of The Best Of Big Stick”, which features natch their opus “Drag Racing”, our favourite sonic contrarians felt suitably inspired to rip out a brand new album, appositely titled “LP” (out on their own Drag Racing Underground Records with Forte Music Distribution)
When I hopefully asked my Forte contact if Big Stick might be up for a “song for ewe” I was asked if I might be up for John Gill making a video for one of the new “LP” songs to feature on these pages! I nearly choked on my cornflakes before gasping “Yes! Yes! And thrice Yes!”
So it’s with a real thrill I introduce to VS, the singularly in-your-face brilliance and warm generosity of Big Stick….!
The new Big Stick “LP” is an absolute asthmatic romp, dangerously seductive and bursting at the seams with curmudgeonly cameos. The lion’s share of the self produced recording was done at their own studio, using a vintage Otari MX-70 16-track analog tape machine. Gill plays guitar and keyboard while Trance performs percussion, bass, and keyboards. Both of the duo write and compose. But some of the guests from their extensive black book bring a whole another level of gritty beligerence to the party. Not least Fred Schneider of the B52s whose nasal gnarl was born to be fused to the bonnet of a Big Stick rod, if stand-out track “Hot Sauce” is anything to go by. Groovie Mann from industrial pioneers My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult sings a murderous duo with Yanna on “Venomous Voodoo Princess” – like James Chance playing with Ministry. There’s a fantastic instructional death disco dance tune called “Do The Potato Chip” which is like The Dirtbombs playing house with Laurie Anderson!
The album also features Tom Timko on bari sax (he’s played with Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder, among others) plus Jerry A of Poison Idea who sings on “Darling Raven” while drummer Johnny Kelly of Type O Negative also brings his unique noise on “Hoochie Express”. Plus there’s “first lady of sass brass” Paula Henderson on bari sax, “the man of sensual trombone” Dave Smoota Smith, Satoru Ohashi and Alicia Rau on tempestuous trumpets, Jim Sorensen of El Muchacho on percussion, John Thompson on bass guitar – and Shawn Banks and Mark Lopez taking the racing line on the bongos. It all leads to a maelstrom of malevolence, with an undertow of sexual inquisition – but most of all it’s a brash brand new big belt and braces party album that recalls the very best of Big Stick.
But enough of my syncophantic blah blah, here’s what John has to say of the exclusive new video he’s very kindly conjured for us….
“Our track “CALAMARI CO CO BUTTER” is a rather tumultuous and abrasive ditty. We believe it was worthy of including on our “MUCH OF THE BEST OF BIG STICK” album that’s out now. Even though it’s a new song, we felt it could stand strong among our so-called ‘classics’ to be thrown into our ‘much of the best’ collection of stimulating Big Stick music selections. And since it is new, it’s on our brand spanking all-new album titled “LP” that’s scheduled to ‘drop’ as they say in the biz right about now or any day soon.
This short bombastic rant of a track is intended to illustrate the psychologically smothering pitfalls that occasionally result from the irritating influences of an overbearing family. We believe there’s most likely a substantial handful of the general population who can relate in some fashion to that theme.
The video features the artwork and animation of Big Stick’s own John Gill. Both members of the Big Stick duo, John Gill and Yanna Trance, besides being musicians are also artists in the more conventional sense of the word. Gill draws and paints. Trance sculpts and paints. And much like millions of other bands though the ages, they met in art school. Gill and Trance perform all the instrumentation and vocals on CALAMARI CO CO BUTTER.”
John Peel once named the first Big Stick record “Drag Racing EP” one of 142 singles in his Record Box that he’d picked to leave safe in case of a fire.
With the repeated deadpan, wild eyed lyric “In the summer I wear my tube top, and Eddie takes me to the dragstrip” it was an instant classic that stands the test of time…Yanna liked drag cars then…
and she still loves “Burning Rubber” now…if the first track from “LP” is anything to go by…
But what music does Yanna Trance & John Gill enjoy listening to? Without further ado, here’s Big Stick’s properly ace “song for ewe”
“The reason for the appreciation of the early 70s era Electric Eels is much due to their simplistically crass though seemingly somewhat clever approach to their craft, though one can argue whether or not a whole lot of thought and strategy went into their overall sound, or if it just came together that way due to bare bones budgeting and less than stellar circumstances.
Whatever the case may be, it’s a dastardly delicious dish served up with oodles of distorted aurally induced excitement. The angst of this particular “AGITATED” track that we’ve selected rings as being completely 100% believable and genuinely heartfelt. The lyrics are great, the snotty vocal delivery is delightful and the entire package is potent with collectively captivating cockeyed charm.
Plus the band hailed from Cleveland, Ohio– we have an endearing and special place in our hearts for Cleveland, because several years ago when we were doing a national tour, we played the Odeon Concert Hall, and it was one of our favorite gigs during that extensive tour. Yes, the Cleveland crowd went wild and were an enthusiastic bunch who won our hearts. The Electric Eels formed in 1972 and never employed a full time bass player, and that’s evident with their sort of torrid trebly guitar sound, but it’s a trebly guitar sound that works wonders and doesn’t quit.”
THANKS SO MUCH TO JOHN & YANNA, AND TO LUCY CLARKE-BOLTON AT FORTE MUSIC DISTRIBUTION
“LP” (first new BIG STICK record in 15 years) is out on 5 July 2019 on Drag Racing Underground / Forte Music Distribution…check out the link below for more deets
“MUCH OF THE BEST OF BIG STICK” is already out as a limited vinyl 12″ now…
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