diskant is an independent music community based in Glasgow, Scotland and we have a whole team of people from all over the UK and beyond writing about independent music and culture, from interviews with new and established bands and labels to record and fanzine reviews and articles on art, festivals and politics. There's over ten years of content here so dig in!

 Subscribe in a reader

Recent Interviews

diskant Staff Sites

More Sites We Like


Reynolds by Marceline Smith

The keener readers amongst you will have noticed the subtly endless admiration for the new Reynolds album, ‘Love Songs’, about to be released by Errol Records. It’s been a while since the band’s previous releases and stories have been flying around about tricky situations in getting the record together. Simon Minter caught up with guitar madman and diskant contributer Chris Summerlin to find out what’s been going down at Club Reynolds lately.

So what’s going on with Reynolds lately? Why have things been a bit quiet over the past year or so? Why the big gap between albums?

The simple answer to that is: not a great deal! It’s been our least busy year since we formed 5 years ago I think. These last few weeks have got going again a bit, we finally mastered the album and we did a live Peel session on Dec 11th (my birthday!) which was amazing. It was completely live on air from Maida Vale with Stanton, Billy Mahonie, Hirameka Hi-Fi and Cove doing 10 minute sets. The guys from Stanton sorted it out to celebrate the 2 Minutemen compilation single that came out earlier this year on their Jonson Family label. That was a 2 seven inch pack with 16 bands all doing songs under 2 minutes long. If you hear our new stuff you’ll know we have an editing problem in Reynolds so it was tough work to get something under 2 minutes. In the end we settled for a cover of I Just Wanna Get Along by The Breeders. We learned it in an afternoon, played it live to tape and then immediately forgot how to play it. I think it sounds good though. I had to get up at 5.30am for the session, go from my house in Nottingham to Northampton to meet Phill, go to London to meet Kev, go to a practise room and rehearse with our violin player Jo till 2 then get to Maida Vale for soundcheck. We played live at 11.15pm and I got back in bed at 4.30am, 23 hours after I started. That probably explains why we don’t do much anymore! We just live too far away and we don’t have enough time. That session would have been about 50 times harder work if it wasn’t for Elvis Beetham-Wallace by the way who did the driving and then had to get up at 7am the morning after, go to work then drive to Bath for a gig with his band Aqua Vista. I think people like Elvis are the real heroes in music! That guy holds down an incredibly taxing and stressful job (he is an arts project worker with young offenders) and still plays in 2 bands that practise and gig at least twice a week. He also does a monthly club night, plays drums in countless other projects and is married! And then he gets a day off and has to drive Reynolds to London! This is why it annoys me when people reviewing or talking about bands assume everyone plays on a level playing field. I know if we were given unlimited studio time and didn’t have to work every morning at 8am in jobs we hate then we’d turn out good stuff consistently and quickly. We’ve always been “into” it but paying our rent and our bills and eating comes first which means moving to London for Kevin and selling his car or working shitty hours for me comes as priority. Also, as we get into different types of music I think we’ve all found Reynolds doesn’t satisfy all our creative “urges” so to speak so our limited free time is further split into me and Kev doing other bands and Phill working as a recording engineer. Seriously, organising a practise is like parting the sea sometimes.

What exactly happened to ‘Love Songs’?

No big secret, we just took a long while finishing it (see above). It hasn’t taken that long to be fair. We recorded the first song for it in early 2001 (“Stopper”, which is also on the split 7″ with The Oedipus) and we finished recording the actual songs in less than a year. We had the intention of recording it the same way as Field Recordings (our first album) and it being pretty much live with the odd extra guitar here and there. So after a few months of weekend recording every so often we felt like we were done or thereabouts. Around that time we were playing with a lot of heavy, technical bands which is inevitable bearing in mind we are similiar in some respects. But rather than feeling affinity with those bands we just began to feel like we weren’t really part of that thing or that those bands weren’t saying what we were trying to say. It forced us to think about the reason why we carried on without a singer when Matt left and also why we make the type of music we make. It’s cringeworthy when bands talk about their concepts and ideas but we found we had to literall y sit down and talk about what it was we were going for with Reynolds. None of us can read music so when we write things we struggle to communicate what we mean to each other so we end up describing parts we’ve come up with in some sort of story form – i.e. “the change should sound like this part is someone running fast and then it goes into another part where the person is being chased”. It often involves one of us running around or miming the sound of the part (man this sounds fucking ridiculous!). Trust me, we’re laughing when it’s happening but that’s how we do it when we practise (and also how it stays reasonably good fun these days). Even without really discussing what each song was about we all agreed on subject matter and so we concluded that we were trying to make instrumental music that had a narrative or communicative quality. So with that in mind we decided that the stuff we’d recorded needed to be different to the standard thing in the genre of music we make which is the bare bones Steve Albini workmanlike production. Not there’s anything wrong with that but for an instrumental band we felt we needed to do more. And we also felt we wanted to set ourselves in opposition to some of the bands we’d been playing with recently who seemed to be into rocking hard and being technically stunning but with not much else – to our ears anyway. To cut a long story slightly shorter we got bladdered and sat there thinking “how are we going to do this? do we have the bottle to do this?” and then we just thought “fuck it” and erased sections of the original songs and cut other songs into pieces so we were forced to run with the idea which was pretty scary. I’d been reading tons about the way jazz albums were recorded and also about the way the last two Talk Talk albums were done. My old housemate Neil got me into Talk Talk and so I was into the idea they had of inviting other musicians in to add stuff to what they’d recorded and then they would edit and play with the results. We all liked the idea of putting some trust into other people but almost forcing them to do it off the cuff without preperation. This also goes with the idea ofgoing against this really anal math-rock thing. It felt good to get other musicians in and see what they did – mistakes and all. Luckily Tianna Kennedy from I Am Spartacus was over in the UK from her home in Brooklyn to do some music and was staying at my house so we ganged her into doing some cello parts. We also got Steve Sostak from Sweep and Check Engine to blow some improvised sax stuff and recorded that on a Minidisc and then dropped it into the song. Finally we got Jo Woodnutt from the band Seachange to do some violin. We kept with the first take rule to keep it sounding fresh. I met Jo at a Dirty Three show so I knew she was into that kind of stuff but the things she played are just awesome. We just extended the improvisation thing to the rest of us too and added bits of drums and bass in to the original songs and all the guitar parts that were added were fairly off the cuff (with loads of mistakes too!). We also parted company with Gringo Records half way through making the record and that tripped us up for a while because we didn’t have a label. In fact it was finished before we got a label to put it out. We decided on the title ‘Love Songs’ fairly early on because we wanted something that didn’t fit with the math rock thing again. We wanted something the opposite to a band like American Heritage who gave their songs numbers as titles. I think most famous vocal performers have recorded Love Songs albums so it’s our way of saying the songs might be instrumental but they’re about something. We planned the track order before we recorded the songs so we knew they would run into each other. Kevin did some rough edits on his PC so we knew the overlaps on the songs worked then we went to a pro studio in London called The Mews to master and sequence the finished thing. The guy who runs the Mews is David Clarke who has worked with the Pet Shop Boys and Martine McCutcheon (!) so it was cool to do it all so lo tech in different locations when we had time and then find ourselves mastering it somewhere at the other end of the scale. We got it pretty much for free so it seemed like it would be fun and it was. And thats the last 2 years pretty much. In the middle of recording the album we did the Breeders cover for the 2 Minutemen too. It was a welcome break!

Around August last year you told me that you were, as a band, sick of playing live. Is this still the case?

We always feel pressure indirectly to try to rock when we play live and I’m starting to think that might not be the strength of the band. The new stuff is a lot looser and isn’t suited to playing live as much. The songs are more subtle and have more parts than the 3 of us can play so we end up approximating the songs and missing out a lot of the qualities. Plus, we like a drink and we always end up coming across wrong when we play because we’re drunk. That happened a lot when we played in Holland, it felt like we couldn’t adjust our playing to the situation and so we just came across all wrong. Our songs are also in tons of different tunings so to play a set of good songs would mean about 4 guitars for me and 2 basses for phill which is just a hassle. Plus, we always like to use our own amps so thats more gear. I also never really think we end up playing with bands that we feel affinity with and that’s unrewarding and means the crowd never really like us. Its like we’re too rock to play with looser bands (who tend to be quiet) and not rock enough or out there enough to play with heavier bands. I’m pleased we do our own thing but gigging is hard. I guess I’m saying it’s stopped being fun. We thought about getting more people in to expand the line up for live shows but so much of what we do is made up on the spot it would take someone a lot of practising to see how we work and to be able to fit in with that frame of mind and as I explained, we don’t have that much time to do that because of the distance thing. We intend to tour when the record comes out and maybe have a couple of extra people but we haven’t really talked about that too much. Maybe we should…

Where do you take your musical cues from – both now and in the past?

In the past we were definitely influenced by stuff like the mid era Dischord bands (Ulysses, Hoover, Fugazi) and their British contemporaries like Bob Tilton and Tribute but that was mainly because I liked those bands an d I was coming up with whole songs with the help of Matt. When the band got more democratic the influences became harder to pick out I think (or I hope). I can say some stuff that we definitely talked about when we recorded the new album but as to whether it was an influence I guess you can be the judge. I know we were thinking about Led Zeppelin a lot with some of the string things on the first song on the album (Shitloads of Fuck All) and also The For Carnation with the way the guitars sound. I think the For Carnation thing may have been subliminal though as I borrowed a guitar for the album that my friend Neil bought from David Pajo and he used with the For Carnation so maybe I just had that on my mind. I know Phill was thinking about King Crimson a lot with the production and the way the album has these quiet lulls. I’m not as big a fan as him but I can see the similarity. One song (Like Texas But Wet) came about through listening to the guitarist Sonny Sharrock and watching this Channel 4 program about John Coltrane and seeing his drummer Elvin Jones’ head smoking when he was ripping out a drum solo. me and Kevin just played that song and tried to combine the two. It was pretty joyful. I later found out Sharrock and Jones recorded together before Sharrocks death so I’d be well into hearing what it sounded like. Better than us no doubt! The quieter stuff comes a lot from the Dirty 3 and the way they strip away their music so that the actual chord changes or whatever are hardly there. I’m really into Mick Turner the guitarist and Kevin likes the drummer Jim White so it’s inevitable – especially with Jo on violin. There are really specific things on the album that we were inspired to do by listening to other things but they’re hard to spot, even if I told you – like the Minutemen or Nirvana or Fleetwood Mac. Maybe the best way of putting it is that the other people in the band are the biggest influence, I think we try and play stuff that we know we’ll all be into. I know Phill’s favourite bassists are Chris Squire (Yes), John Paul Jones (Led Zep) and he likes Queen, Paul Simon, Fugazi, PJ Harvey, King Crimson and Paul McCartney. His favourite album of 2002 was Queens Of The Stone Age. Kev is a fan of Lars Ulrich. He listens to mostly electronica. I like John Fahey, Fleetwood Mac, Sonic Youth, Captain Beefheart, Palace Brothers and Black Sabbath off the top of my head. My favourite record of last year was Nina Nastasia.

What are your views on the importance of artwork on a record? I know you used to design record sleeves for other bands – do you still do that stuff?

We’re all quite particular but at the same time we understand it’s not that important.Certainly nowhere near as important as the record itself.You’re never going to make a shit record better with a good sleeve and by the same stretch I like plenty of records with terrible sleeves and vice versa. My pet hate is the punk fanzines that review the sleeve as much as the record and those bullshit emo albums with tracing paper and stamps all through it. As pleasant as June Of 44 sleeves are I don’t think they do anything to describe the sound or the intent of the band – unless the intent is to be workmanlike. Same goes for Jason Farrells stuff. He is an amazing technician in design programs but often it seems like his bands are characterised more by the record sleeve than the record within it. Most Bluetip or Retisonic reviews you read say more about the sleeve than the sounds. As a graphic designer I try and keep my design work and influence on the sleeve to a minimum for our own stuff – in the same way Phill tries to keep his affect on the recording process as transparent as he can do. There are tons of record sleeves I love though. I think the illustrative John Fahey sleeves for albums like America and Voice Of The Turtle are beautiful. Same goes for a lot of the early Fireproof Press stuff out of Chicago for things like Shellac and Tortoise. That printed brown paper thing has been done to death since by a load of shit designers and shit bands but the first few still look great. I like the sleeves for the recent Pedro The Lion stuff though the music doesn’t excite me as much. The record sleeve of my dreams was done recently. If I had a choice of any record sleeve for our new record I would always have said I’d like a black and white drawing of a love heart by Raymond Pettibon. I’m a huge Pettibon fan and a lot of the artwork I’ve done has used scribbled love hearts. Sadly, the Foo Fighters beat me to it! Bastards! Pettibon’s SST stuff is so cool though. I like all the early Bob Dylan stuff too – the theme of him on the sleeve but in a different style each time reflecting the music inside. Check Blonde On Blonde and Nashville Skyline. Those two records are definitely the same as their sleeve styles. I used to be a big fan of Vaughan Oliver who does work for 4AD but I think his company v23s style has got too fussy. Some other sleeves I like are the Patton JR record on Prohibited which is sort of Dadaist and I’m a huge fan of the simplicity of all the Blue Note sleeves, especially “In and Out” by Joe Henderson. They suit the music totally. I still do record sleeve work for people. I do less than I used to, again purely because of time. I used to do it self employed but then I got a “proper” job. But e-mail me for a good price…

I’ve been instructed to ask you about your “pathetic Shellac worship”. Tell me about that. Same equipment and stuff, I hear?

I think there are a lot of bands who deserve the Shellac comparison more than we do. Level that one at Kill Yourself or Cove or Feverdream (three fine bands btw). I think I am the only person in the band with more than one Shellac album and it’s only certain songs that I can say I really love. Phill likes them as a recording engineer and we’ve all been to see them play and loved it. In fact I think they’re one of the best live bands around. But the no frills, almost cold approach they have has become very fashionable and I don’t see us as part of that. The emotions in Shellac’s music seem to be revenge or bitterness. Its only the really warm songs like Billiard Player Song that hook me in on record. Our music seems to be about different things. As for the equipment – well, I use a Fender Jaguar too but that doesn’t mean I worship Placebo! Me and Phill have always been into weird guitars and equipment, we like stuff like that. I’ve been through loads of guitars and really wanted to try a Travis Bean (the same metal necked guitar Shellac use) but couldn’t ever afford one. Mr Travis Bean has a really amazing story. He was a drummer and a motorcycle enthusiast, thought all guitars sounded shit and decided he was going to build a metal one using his motorbike knowledge. Even though he’d never built one before by some kind of combination of genius and slight accident he built this fucking incredible guitar. He was laughed out of the industry after making around 3000 of them and wasn’t heard for years. He tried to launch them again a couple of years back but has since sunk without trace. I got some advice from a guitar shop who suggested I ring a writer called Paul Day who collects guitars and writes for all the big magazines. I just called him up and asked him if he had a Travis. I said I wanted the most common model (because it would be cheap i.e. under a thousand pounds). He said no but we chatted for a long while about guitars (boring I know but sorry) and eventually he came out with “I don’t have the Standard model but I have another of which there were only 350 built”. I was like “you lucky shit” because they’re worth about two grand. He just said “well, you can have it for £XXX (cheap) because I know you won’t sell it” and sure enough I sent the cash and it arrived a week later. And no I won’t sell it! Then I got a call from one of the old ads I placed by some guy with another one for sale and I went up to Darlington and went through this bizarre day and ended up with that one for even cheaper. Then to top it off some guy saw us play and approached Phill with a bass version for sale which he bought. He’s since had another but sold it to the band Fourth Quartet. Basically we love those guitars, they’re made of Reynolds aluminium for god’s sake! I love the story surrounding them and the way they sound but as for worshipping Shellac? No way, we just worship the man Travis! Having said that, anecdote: Todd from Shellac slept on my floor once and the guy is a prince.

Tell me all about Wolves of Greece, your other band.

I’ve been in the wolves since the middle of 2000. I got asked if I wanted to play in them and ended up moving to Nottingham to do so, though the band is far from full time. I think it started as a bit of an idea by Neil (Johnson, guitar) and Simon (Feirn, vocals) back when they were in the band Bob Tilton. It seems to me anyway that as Bob Tilton got less rowdy sounding that they wanted to do an alter ego of the band that was just super loud and noisy and another that was very very quiet (I Am Spartacus). At least that’s what they said. The 3 main members have always been Neil and Simon together with Steve Charlesworth on drums. Steve used to play in Heresy, 666 Dead and the X Rays amongst others. He’s also the fastest, most amazing drummer I’ve ever played with and his girlfriend Annie absolutely rules. I could be wrong but I think originally it was Chay Lawrence on bass (who used to play guitar in Bob Tilton) and then when he moved to the USA Phillip John Welding took over. Phil used to be in Schema. The other guitarist through this was Steven Stanley (who was also in Spartacus and now plays under the name Our Lady, Star Of The Sea). I think Greg from the X Rays might have played guitar for a bit too but these were all just practise line ups. When Steven left I’d just met Neil properly for the first time at All Tomorrows Parties where we were just watching bands and drinking wine. He was getting k icked out of his flat in Nottingham so I starting thinking about moving there as I’d finished university and wanted to move somewhere. I had this bizarre Saturday where I was staying down with Matt from Gringo in Colchester and everywhere I went there was a phone message for me from Neil to call him. Even my Mum called and said a guy called Neil had phoned. I called him and he asked me to join on guitar and I thought about it for about half a second and said yes. I’m not going to lie, Bob Tilton were one of my favourite bands and I always had an inkling it might be cool to play with Neil and Simon before I even knew them properly. So I started practising with them every week, driving from East Anglia to Nottingham then I got a house with Neil and Matt and Tom from Gringo in November 2000 and the first Wolves gig was at the end of that month. At the time we started doing the band no one else was doing super fast, chaotic stuff so it was really exciting to know we were on our own and the chances were people would hate it. Seems like a lot of people are doing that now but I think our influences and what we’re going for is different in a way. The wolves is supposed to be absurd not some kind of self concious art statement. I feel the same about that band as I do about Reynolds in that gigging is hard because we feel affinity with so few bands. The only time I’ve played with Wolves and felt in place was with Melt Banana and they sound nothing like us. The band has split and fallen out a lot and it’s never easy work but we just did a live gig on John Peel for One Live In Nottingham that was amazing fun and we played with Fugazi in front of 1000 people so things are changing for us, not in terms of “success” or something but more that we’re playing to new people and that’s the main point of the wolves I think. We recorded an album earlier this year with Tony Doggen from Spiritualized and our soundman Mark Spivey and we have to decide who’s putting it out. We have a covers gig to do at the weekend for our friends and we’ve been practising Clear Spot by Captain Beefheart and New Rose by The Damned. Tony Doggen will hopefully be blasting out the harmonica solo on the Beefheart tune. Hope someone bootlegs it.

Reynolds by Marceline Smith

What do you think are the best ways for an independent band to gain exposure to a crowd that cares?

In short, there aren’t any! The NME has long been controlled by the pockets of press agents. You have to have a “proper” press agent to get a review. Long gone are the days where journos even got on a train to check out bands. Now people are paid to bring new bands to them by way of press packs and sweet gifts. The advent of the internet means anyone can produce a zine with little effort and the subsequent decrease in average quality has turned people away from zines. I think they were the best thing about being in a band when we started but they seem to have died out. Gigging is the obvious thing but I know so many fanzine and webzine writers and journos who don’t bother watching support bands so you’re in this vicious circle of not being able to get people to see you because you can’t get headline shows and you can’t get headline shows because no one has seen you play. Again, you’re going to need a press agent! But fuck it you know, I’m never going to make money from music and all this talk of exposure and attention smacks of wanting to “achieve” and be successful. I’m happy just playing to be honest. As for Careless Talk Costs Lives, I think it is a step in the right direction but with that there is still too much of the snidey kind of nihilistic London attitude to the writing. The True Report is just a waste of two pages. It’s the journalistic equivalent of a fucking text message – one line reviews delivered in the style of a back of the hand sheltered comment said to an industry pal at the bar of a gig. “Chuckle. Must try harder. Haw haw”. He’s capable of better stuff than that. But then again it always has good stuff in it and at least it’s covering good bands. It’s more than I’ve done… Basically the popularisation of the internet means anyone can get their music anywhere they want or say what they like to an audience. It’s brought the quality down and so people don’t go to gigs anymore or support music. I’d hate to be 16 and in a band because it’s hard enough for me as it is. Fuck it, I’d love to be 16 actually, I’ve got beer tits and I’m going bald at 25. What the hell am I on about?

Does the Reynolds world begin and end with music, or do you all have lots of other varied and interesting outside interests?

I’d say music with this band is a very small part of our lives though music in general seems to take up most of our time. Phill works as a studio manager at a print company and runs Place Position which is a semi-mobile 16 track studio. He’s pretty much busy with the studio in all his spare time and records bands most weekends. He lives with his girlfriend Kate who is an arts projects manager for schools. He’s a bit handy with DIY too. Kevin works for a leading music retailer in Covent Garden. He’s moving to Japan this year (which probably spells the end for our band) to teach English. He makes solo music of an electronic variety at his home in London. He plays drums for the band Jet Johnson who are just recording an LP for Seriously Groovy. He also drums for Gavin Baker (of JJ and Billy Mahonie) when he plays shows under the name Meets Guitar. Kev lived in San Fransisco for a while before he joined the band so I’d say he is a traveller at heart. He never seems to be in one place for very long. I just moved house and live with my girlfriend Claire who is a costume designer back home in Australia but works as a waitress here. I do design stuff for cheap as mentioned and I work in a bollocks job that annoys me so much I never want to get out of bed. I write a bit, just columns and articles. I also buy and sell guitars so if there’s anything you’re after drop me a line. I’ve just started playing solo under the name Last Of The Real Hard Men. I did a show under that name with kev and my friend Jude but the problems with organising 3 bands mean it’s more fun for me to do it on my own. I recorded some songs with Phill and I want to re record them with a full band and put them out. When Kevin goes to Japan I’m moving to Australia for a while with Claire I think (which probably spells the end for our band). Don’t know what I’m going to do out there. We’ll see…

Plans for 2003?

Australia. Solo record if I can sort it. Our album coming out and hopefully people understanding why we did it and enjoying it. The Wolves of Greece record coming out at long last and recording again with them. Bruce Springsteen live at Crystal Palace on May bank holiday. The Magic Band playing in London. Me quitting my job to go to Australia. Second, third and fourth Part Chimp albums coming out in successive months and bringing harmony to the world a la Wylde Stallyns from Bill and Ted. I dunno what else. I’ll be 26 which is kind of bleak…

…get over it, I say. I’m going to be 30 later this year. Anyway thanks to Chris for putting the effort in with answering my dumb questions. Read more about ‘Love Songs’ and search around diskant for more fawning adoration of an honestly wonderful album.

Reynolds website
Errol Records
Place Position