“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. I had the pleasure of interviewing today’s esteemed guest, Johnny Temple for the original Velvet Sheep zine back in the early 90s, at Jon Loder’s Southern Studios as part of his band Girls Vs Boys and he was charm personified. In jumping off stage during the spooky chimes of “Psychic Know-How” at the Highbury Garage only to arrive back and hit it and not quit it in pure symbiosis with his twin bass-head Eli Janney, he’s also left me with one of my most memorable ever gig moments. More recently Johnny has been big in publishing with the “reverse-gentrification of the literary world” through his imprint Akashic Books, who have made some handsome (but not exclusively) music tomes including the coffee table smashing “Book” by The Jesus Lizard. But you couldn’t have easily written this next chapter in his rock & roll biography. Normally I would run to the hills, run for my life away from anything such as a super-group, but new band Fake Names is the exception. It’s certainly super if like me you were/are a big DC hardcore head & Dischord aficionado (even though admittedly the travails of my home town of Gravesend, UK was far from the minds of Minor Threat when they wrote the arrestingly anthemic “Out of Step”).
The first ever “song for ewe” we had here when we instituted the feature with the digitally rebirthed Velvet Sheep was Jeff Nelson of Minor Threat/Dischord and we’ve been lucky enough to have members of bands like Teen Idles, Youth Brigade, Untouchables and Brendan Canty of Rites of Spring/Fugazi choose songs on the site, so when I heard about Fake Names – the band containing our man Johnny (also of course formally of Soulside) joining forces on bass with the duelling guitars of the most righteous Brian Baker of Minor Threat, Dag Nasty and Bad Religion and Michael Hampton of State of Alert and Embrace I was beside myself with excitement.
And with Dennis Lyxzén from Swedish post hardcore luminaries Refused on the mic, it wouldn’t be fake news to say that the self-titled Fake Names album (out this Friday on Epitaph) is a thrilling rush of an album that hit me with the harmony in my head of the Buzzcocks with the incendiary emotion of “End on End” and the box-freshness of Rival Schools “United By Fate”. Plus having Johnny come back to Velvet Sheep zine all these years later with such undiminished fury feels feels elliptically satisfying, and given that his erstwhile colleague Eli Janney chose a Bowie number a couple of years ago I was intrigued to hear his song choice. He didn’t disappoint, and also with an insistence to match the urgency of “Fake Names” I didn’t have to wait long to find out (a turn around of a mere 12 hours), so without further ado, it’s a hearty welcome back to these pages for the reassuringly stoically named, and multi-faceted punk polymath, Johnny Temple!
First please do check out the impact of this sonic missile, “Brick” by Fake Names.
Fake Names first became a thing when Brian Baker and Michael Hampton met up at Hampton’s Brooklyn pad to play music together, to see what transpired. They’d been friends since first grade, and although they’d been in bands on the same fervent and fecund DC scene, they’d never written anything together. After a salvo of songs came easily, it seemed like a no-brainer to put together a band. Temple was an equally easy decision to recruit on bass. They’d known him from elementary school too, and he shared their passion for what in press blurbs Temple has evocatively described as “loud, angry, visceral music” (which sounds like an easy epithet for my record collection). Although Refused frontman Dennis Lyxzén wasn’t in their regular orbit, his band had shared the bill with the reformed Girls Against Boys and Bad Religion at Riot Fest in 2016, the guys dug his style and he’d been a long-term Minor Threat fan/Dischord record collector, so he was in. “Fake Names” was co-produced by Hampton and Geoff Sanoff and recorded at Renegade Studios (a New York City facility owned by Little Steven Van Zandt), and the resultant 28 minute blast is the sound of energised musicians at the peak of their powers and having the time of their lives, playing pure and exuberant punk and power pop that busts out, zips by and drags you in, and is over too soon. It’s more-ish for sure.
Given that the band self-imposed the parameter of recording the new tunes clean, and sans-FX so they could be replicated live, it does leave the door invitingly ajar for the prospect of live gigs, if and when those can return in whatever the post lockdown new normal turns out to be. Having no superfuzz to mask grungy ills, the clarity of sound is crisp, precise, and the guitar proficiency fore-fronted and omnipresent: it’s a mark of confidence, the self-assurance of a ready-made band of legends dead set on ensuring their new collective band’s legacy. In a turbulent world where experts have been eschewed, it’s edifying to be in the presence of four people who know what they’re doing only too well.
Here’s item no. 2 in evidence: the soaring melodrama of “First Everlasting”
One song on “Fake Names” (and incidentally my favourite) where you can very much hear the stamp of influence from Johnny Temple is the GVSB drenched klaxon-like clarion call of “Heavy Feather”, but what song has been driving him lately? There aren’t many that have been chosen on this site twice, but here’s one to join The Fall, Electric Eels, Nic Jones and Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra on a select and eclectic list…With his “song for ewe” – heeeere’s Johnny!
“Listen to the Sirens” by Tubeway Army
Gary Numan had an incredible outburst from 1978 to 1980, releasing four brilliant albums: Tubeway Army and Replica under the band name Tubeway Army; and Telekon and The Pleasure Principle under his own name. While “Cars” broke Numan out to a much larger audience, and is a good song, it doesn’t sit among the top ten of that three-year span.
By 1980 synthesizers were moving to the front of the mix in Gary Numan’s music, but back in 1978 when Tubeway Army was recorded, the guitars and bass were louder and dirtier. I’ll never get tired of hearing the guitars kick in sixty seconds into “Listen to the Sirens.” I don’t know if Kurt Cobain was a Tubeway Army fan, but lyrically, this song and the album as a whole seem to be violently alienated uncles to Bleach and Nevermind.”
MANY THANKS TO JOHNNY TEMPLE AND TO ZAC LEEKS AT DIVISION PR
“Fake Names” by Fake Names is out this Friday, 8 May on Epitaph Records.
You can find it here:
and here are all the other Fake Names resources you might need:
Gary Numan from Tubeway Army chose a “song for ewe” for Velvet Sheep here…
Here’s Eli Janney from Girls Vs Boys “song for ewe” choice…
And “Listen to the Sirens” by Tubeway Army has been chosen as a “song for ewe” once before, by Dylan Hundley of Lulu Lewis (and star of the film “Metropolitan”)…joining a select list of songs that have been chosen twice on VS that also features:
The Fall “Frightened”
Electric Eels “Agitated”
Nic Jones “The Humpback Whale”
& Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra “Summer Wine”