On the Road with Cancer Bats

Liam Cormier is slumped upon a backstage wall wearing a guilty grin, his eyes miles wide. “Last night was gnarly, man. Those kids were going crazy. We’re playing when all of a sudden I see this girl hanging from the low ceiling – and she fucking just brings it down with her. Bits of the ceiling start coming down, people are crowd surfing holding cinder blocks and tiles and shit, and I’m just like, fuuuuuck!” You hear of bands bringing the house down. Canadian bruisers Cancer Bats do it literally. “What’s funny is there were these posters on the walls for a renovation fundraiser thing for the place. It’s like, uhh, we’re going to need one hell of a fundraiser now – there’s no fucking ceiling anymore, dude!”

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If the frontman seems a little nonchalant about the carnage at their show in Plymouth 24 hours earlier, well, you can hardly blame him. The thing about life in spent constantly on the road is before too long you’ve been there, done that, seen it all. Gun fights in Texan car parks. Robberies on Cologne corners. Latvian gangsters cruising fast food stands for pills and prostitutes. He and his bandmates have been chased by stray dogs and shoeless six-year-olds on dusty Romanian trails, shot at crossing country borders, held at gun point on terrorism charges by Californian policemen and felt helpless as loved ones have laid dying on the opposite side of the world. “We’ve endured some pretty insane shit,” he nods slowly. “We have a blast on the road, the best time, but it can get tough too. Super tough.”

But Cancer Bats march merrily on, lugging themselves from stage to stage, country to country, continent to continent. Since March 2012, the Canadian outfit have travelled 153,463 miles in support of latest album ‘Dead Set on Living’, delivering their sledgehammer-heavy brand of hardcore in 28 different countries across 221 shows to an estimated 130,500 people. That’s a distance two thirds of the way to the moon ridden in a decommissioned Royal Mail van (‘Steve’, they call it). Even crazier still, it’s actually been a pretty chilled 12 months by their usual standards. Since roaring out of Toronto seven years ago with thundering debut ‘Birthing the Giant’ the band have racked up an average 250 nights on tour a year. Yes, Cancer Bats move more often than interpol fugitives and make noise like an herd of escaped arsonists in a firework factory. Just one question – are they chasing the rock ‘n’ roll dream or running from something more sinister?

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Interview - James Murphy, LCD Soundsystem

James Murphy throws a miniature invisible basketball, and feigns a bratty fit of frustration when it bundles off the board and out of touch. “See? I’ll never be a basketball player. I just don’t have the presence of mind for it,” he says, shaking his head, a mischievous grin lurking out from beyond his beard. Murphy is many things to many people: frontman to now defunct electro icons LCD Soundsystem, label boss to the influential DFA Records, producer, DJ, coffee entrepreneur, watch manufacturer, comedian, budding novelist and now with the release of Shut Up and Play The Hits, a two hour document of his band’s final show at Madison Square Garden, a film star. I’ve asked him, with so many strings already to his bow, is there anything he can’t do?

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“The thing about basketball is that I can’t shoot or dribble. Two pretty critical skills in that sport. Oh and I’m not a great dancer, either,” he continues. “I’m not purposefully or consciously prolific or anything. I just like creating things.” His latest creation, the brilliant, twisting Shut Up is a mere hour away from its British premiere at the Hackney Picturehouse. It’s here we meet, while the crowds begin to drift in. There’s every bit the colour and vibrancy you’d expect of a film premiere, the air heavy with chatter and the crunch of flashbulbs as celebrities ghost by on the red carpet, but it feels a little like a wake, like the fans filing into the cinema auditorium are here to pay their last respects to an act whose kind don’t come around too often.

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Interview - J Mascis, Dinosaur Jr.

J Mascis darts me a stare as I flutter through the doors of the West London hotel we’re to meet in. He’s playing with a bottle of Perrier water and as I grin back, I notice a rumbling of nerves in the pit of my stomach – not because he’s the man responsible for fuzz rock pioneers Dinosaur Jr. (though I do fanboyishly confide I know the guitar solo in Start Choppin’ better than I know some of my closest friends and family as our conversation begins) but because his interviews are notoriously… well, difficult.

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Case in point? What initially drew him to the loud abrasive guitars sounds that have become his trademark, wondered Spin reporter Erik Davis in 1989. “It’s basically because I don’t like to play,” he replied. “The guitar’s such a wimpy instrument and it’s the only way to make it halfway bearable.” “So you don’t like to play guitar?” countered Davis. “No.” “Why do it then?” “I dunno,” Mascis deadpanned. The prickly silences that dominated this encounter with the guitarist and indeed Davis’s follow-up interview a few years later (“Interviews are stupid. Most of the time they want to talk about the album. I have nothing to say about it. It’s an album, just listen to it”) have been a fixture of his every interview since – as much a Mascis trademark as the screaming guitars and shredded solos that have propped up each of Dinosaur Jr.’s ten studio albums to date.

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Radio Dredd - behind DROKK, Geoff Barrow’s pulsating Mega-City wonder

The world of Judge Dredd, the fictional cop whose palpably violent 2000 AD series has been entertaining comic fans one blood-drenched panel at a time since 1977, is famously bleak - a murky metropolis scorched by nuclear war, its streets patrolled by lawmen more unforgiving than the morning after a six day tequila bender. But for a man whose lifelong obsession with this world has brought him to the point of writing an album from the perspective of inside the character’s iconic helmet, Geoff Barrow, best known as the beatmaker behind Portishead, is surprisingly cheery.

"I’ve always been a Dredd head, me," he rumbles, a large grin detectable down the telephone line from his Bristol home. "My Gran used to work in a newsagent. She’d buy me Topper, which was like a budget Beano, until one day I asked for something a bit more adult. I don’t think she realised how violent 2000 AD was." Diagnosed at an early age with Dyslexia, the series’ strong visuals, minimal text and bold ideas struck a dark, penetrating chord that has resonated in him since. "The characters, the concepts, the images, Dredd is ingrained in me."

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Baltimore’s dream pop re-up: how Beach House, Lower Dens and Animal Collective are rewiring David Simon’s Wire legacy

Ashen streets, grim estates, slums choked with drug dealers and destitutes… thanks to HBO’s The Wire, this is the Baltimore, USA that exists in the imaginations of many. However, since Jimmy McNulty’s screen exit in 2008, Maryland’s biggest city has heralded a different kind of cultural export, one that’s somewhat incongruous to the legacy left by David Simon’s show: atmospheric indie, tagged “dream pop” by some, made famous by the likes of Animal CollectiveLower Dens and Beach House.

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Interview - Volker Bertellman, Hauschka

On last year’s Salons Des Amateurs, German prepared piano experimentalist Volker Bertelmann – better known as Hauschka – took modern classical music by the scruff of the neck, dragging it out of fusty macchiato-sipping territory and onto the dancefloor. A searing snapshot of his current fascination with club culture, Salons' scattershot energy, agitated rhythms, Day-Glo melodies and gutter-punching melancholy – imagine John Cage, Thomas Brinkmann and Battles’ Ian Williams jostling over the DJ booth in a murky Berlin sweatbox at 3am and you’re pretty much there – cemented his position as one of the most confounding and compelling classical talents operating today.

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Inside the mind of Jai Paul, the British electronic scene’s most elusive producer

There’s elusive, and then there’s London producer Jai Paul. The throbbing bass notes of his 2007 demo BTSU have been shaking the foundations of clubs for almost five years now, earning the attention of Drake and Beyonce, who have both mined the track for sample on recent tracks. However, the Londoner has so far declined to capitalise on the slow-burning success of that track, failing to release another note of music since - that is, until now.

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Japandroids - Celebration Rock

Since the release of their debut two years ago, Japandroids have begun creeping into mainstream view, even though on the spectrum of noisy garage-rock duos they lay closer to lo-fi experimenters No Age and fellow Canadians Death From Above 1979 than the chart-dwelling White Stripes. Their second album, Celebration Rock, delivers more of the same: good time guitar-pop anthems about girls and nights on the tiles, delivered at breakneck velocity and near-deafening volume.

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North Atlantic Oscillation - Fog Electric

North Atlantic Oscillation’s 2010 debut Grappling Hooks elicited comparison to everyone from Pink Floyd to Granddaddy to Squarepusher – a list of acts dissimilar enough to suggest the Edinburgh duo are actually true originals. New album Fog Electric picks up where their first outing left off, carving glacier-sized soundscapes out of gentle keyboard sounds, emotive falsetto vocals and crackling electronics.

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Lower Dens - Nootropics

You wouldn’t have guessed Lower Dens’ second album was written from the claustrophobic confines of a tour van. This expansive follow-up to 2010 debut Twin Hand Movement manages a tsunami-sized wash of sounds, recalling the tenebrous dream pop of Galaxie 500 and fellow Baltimore exports Beach House, despite being composed on keyboards in the back of their bus while on the road.

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