15 September 2011

Scots Way-Hay #67 - The John Knox Sex Club

John Knox Sex Club
photo by Claire Thomson

After taking a wee bit of hiatus for a couple of months to recharge my batteries, it's time to get back into the swing of things with my Scots Way-Hay posts. To start the ball rolling again we have the Glasgow quintet, The John Knox Sex Club. Having just released their second album 'Raise Ravens', I thought it was about time that I posed some questions to this normally quite mysterious band. So here's Rory from the band to tell us a bit more about the band, they're influences and the joys of playing 2p slot machines...

Would you care to introduce yourself to the Peenko readers?

Rory from the John Knox Sex Club, the others (Sean, Liam, Emer, Chris, & Iain) have lives and are doing something on this Friday eve.

It’s that question that all bands seem to hate answering, but how would you describe the music you make?

I wouldn't know how to accurately to be honest. Some folk have said Lift to Experience which, I will humbly take, I've heard And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Mogwai-eqsue music and few others. I get why people have made those comparisons but again I wouldn't know how to describe it, aren't you lucky I answered this email!

In my eyes we have a strong element of folk arrangements added with much noise and dynamics, which I suppose give it that post-rock sound. The closet comparison I would say is in between Lift To Experience and Birthday Party....maybe, next question. Two questions in and you've stumped me!

How did you come together as a band?

The original incarnation consisted of myself, Sean, Liam, Chris, and our friend Bob on bass. We all lived in a small mining, fishing village near Stirling called Glen Curney. There is nothing to do there apart from mine and fish, or go to the Hollywood which, is a arcade place that had games from generations gone past (my favourite was still the slot machine that you put 2p's into it where, they would be pushed forward by a metal step going back and forth and sometimes you would win loads of 2p's....aye grim). Anyway, we have known each other for many years, although there is a wee age gap between us (Sean 22, Chris 25, Liam 26 and myself 28) we ended up hanging out cause there is like 30 family or something there.

We drafted in Iain and Emer to the band last year who have added so much to us, we have changed dramatically since they have join and we're infinitely better for it.

How did you start out making music?

I don't if you mean me or the band?!

None of us were playing gigs much and we had all been working in the ABC, listening to the MC5 live record a lot, Sean and I thought it would be fun to start a band that didn't record or do press or Myspace, but just play live. We decided to the GCYT on the go again and start a fucking rock'n'roll band!

I presume that is the answer you're looking for, but I started guitar when I was 14. Sean used to sing in a choir, Chris was raised by a folk band, Iain used to (possibly still does) make hip hop beats and Liam used to be in a metal band. Emers a different story, not only being a protege violinist who ended up in Vienna playing in a orchestra for a summer, she is an incredible artist.

What process goes into the way you write songs?

Usually someone will have a riff or some chords and will either play about in the flat with them then take it to practice or someone will just play something in practice and we'll see where it goes, usually somewhere pretty obscene before we arrange the whole thing. The traditional songs (John The Rev & Katie Cruel) we have rearranged, Sean brought in the idea to do so. We've also done a cover of the Jute Mill Song, which I would like to record again.

No so long ago I got some recording stuff so have been able to 'put some stuff down' in the flat and make some demos. We have few numbers that sound pretty good already.

What artists would you say have had the biggest influence on the band?

Christ, there are too many. Everyone has a mass of different influences, but I'd say that there are a few records that we go back to; 'Astral Weeks' by Van Morrison, there's a few Tom Waits records, '3' and 'Tilt' by Scott Walker, all of the Silver Mt Zion records, 'Texas Jerusalem Crossroads' by Lift To Experience, 'Spiderland' by Slint, 'Radioactivity' by Kraftwerk, 'We Insist' by Max Power recently, 'In On The Kill Taker' by Fugazi. There are loads they're the ones that come to mind at the moment though, I'm trying to answer for everyone so I'll stop. I think different bands we have became friends with have influenced us in a way, maybe not musically, but spiritually. Mad props tae TBW, WI, SATW, OVTW, FR, Le Marder.

Personally, I am big Sonic Youth fan, the period from Confusion is Sex to Dirty are amazing records. Various bands from that came out in the Krautrock era, Tago Mago by Can is one of my favourite records, the best album for drums. Been listening to a lot of Crass 'Feeding of the 5000' recently, the guitars sounds horrendous but lovely, the track Women & Securicor are particularly special. Really into hip hop actually, most of the Def Jux stuff; Aesop Rock, Mr Lif, Cannibal Ox especially. Nas's 'Illmatic' has been pretty instrumental in my daily routine for many years, na'mean. (I'm watching the Notorious B.I.G biopic as I write this)

Do you feel that where you come from has had much of an impact on the music that you create?

In The Ditch is direct reference to the village actually. There is a massive ditch on the road out of Glen Curney which people keep driving into, don't know if it's still there. In fact, I'm pretty sure that a punk band wrote a song about it as well. There is a definite sense of community in our music, particularly live, that's pretty evident, but in Sean's lyrics too. They have a unique familiarity to them, not as in plagiarism, more of a relation to colloquial life.

Your live shows are now something of legend, do you enjoy playing live or are you happier being in the studio?

It's two different things to me. In the studio you get to try loads of things, adding layers of guitars, violins and harmonies, so it's a different experience. Playing live is more fun definitely, and people can tell we really enjoy it. We probably could be a pretty static and moody on stage but we are fairly animated, and again the interaction between Sean and the crowd is pretty good to watch. It's incomparable, on one hand you get to mess about and embellish areas, on the other hand, you get to pull off some face meltin'!

Carrying on a similar theme, what has been your most memorable gig to date, (be it good or bad)?

Bad gig would definitely a gig where everyone ended up pretty drunk at Sleazy's, it was all over the place and I was jazzin' up bits for some reason. We've had loads of amazing shows, it would be hard to pick out certain ones. A Wee Tasty was a great gig, Barras for obvious reasons, got to play in front of a massive graffiti Jesus with stigmata at the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh for Rough Cut Nation exhibition. Loads of fun gigs.

Your first album came in a pretty special handmade packaging, do you have something similar lined up for your new album?

Yeah Liam and Emer have made some amazing art work and packaging. It takes a while to make but its worth it in the end, it looks brilliant. I would like to add that the main utensils for making the albums were a tiny spoon, a chopping board, a bit of wood with some skirting board attached and a cheap home printer. We have some hand printed T-shirts as well that Emer has put together, again look brilliant.

Aside from world domination, what are your plans for the rest of the year and beyond?

Don't have any, don't plan to have any, obviously we'd love to go on tour and hit Europe but it's not really in our hands, all we can do is send out emails. People have said we should be pushing to get a record deal, but we're pretty happy at the moment. Probably do another album next year and do more shows down south, would love to get back to Sowerby Bridge.

The John Knox Sex Club -Katie Cruel

Raise Ravens the second album from The John Knox Sex Club is available to buy now as a limited edition CD or as download via their Bandcamp page. You can catch the band live at Oran Mor in Glasgow on the 21st of September, followed be an appearance at Henry's Cellar Bar in Edinburgh on the 1st of October.


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