In our next band spotlight, aside from showing our complete foolishness (not knowing that one of VD’s songs was a pretty well known cover….fail), we chat to Nigel Firth of the immense Vienna Ditto about their music and arts.
S] What inspires you guys outside of music?
N] “I’m one of those types you see walking around muttering to themselves, going through old arguments in my head. I’m rubbish in an argument as I get all upset and my voice goes squeaky, but afterwards I come up with amazing retorts that I could have used, and these turn into songs. As well as arguments, our influences include: big pictures – we’re particularly digging John Martin at the moment; he did all those huge crazy pictures of stuff from the Bible, like the Great Day of His Wrath. But I’d rather live inside a Jean Miro picture given the choice. I’ve been obsessively watching Bitter Lake – Adam Curtis’ oil doc and history of Afghanistan- over the past few weeks. As well as being fascinating and horrifying it’s absolutely beautiful; made from outtakes of BBC news footage juxtaposed with people like Burial and Messiaen to hypnotic effect.”
S] What are your big plans for this year?
N] “Ooh, well we released our debut album in June so we’re going to play our tiny backsides off flogging that… We’ve managed to blag a couple of dates in Europe for it, which is pretty exciting as we’ve only played abroad once before. And we’re going to try release another single in early November. We’ve also got some tunes in a movie called ‘Sacred Heart’ which is out soon.”
S] How do you feel about the success of ‘Circle’ right now?
N] “Highly chuffed and slightly exhausted! Not too mention more skint than we might have hoped. It’s taken us six years to do it and we’ve been through some rough times… When we first started we thought- briefly- that we were going to be unlikely popstars; these days we feel like busy self-employed people.”
S] You’ve got some good support from great people – guys like Bobby Bloomfield from Does It Offend You, Yeah? – what’ve you learned from some of the people that you’ve met on this journey?
N] “Ah well we’re big fans of Bobby’s working methods! He’s incredibly energetic and works quickly so as to keep it fun; He’ll do a tune in the time it takes us to get the hi-hat sound. He also keeps stuff simple which is another thing we’re terrible at… We supported John Otway early on, and he really showed us how far you could take it live, and how a bit of bloodshed was no bad thing. Also there’s this crazy Finnish looping lady called Liisa (with two eyes) who was very inspiring. All her equipment stopped working one time and so she just jumped out front and did a little dance. Fab.”
S] Talk us through the inspirations and ideas behind ‘I Know His Blood’ and ‘A Happy Car Is A Stolen Car’?
N] “Ah, here I must confess that ‘I Know His Blood’ is a cover, the original being by Country Gospel master Blind Willie Johnson – whom I recently found out is on that golden record they put on the Voyager probes. I hope this might redeem us to some degree with any alien civilisation. Having said that, our version is fairly different from the original…we’d been listening to a lot of early industrial music like Throbbing Gristle and Plath as well as the fiery sermons of Rev CL Franklin, Aretha’s Dad. It was a fairly apocalyptic vibe at that time…Bit Old Testament. Funnily enough, we got offered a Christian Extreme Sports tour of America because of that, which we politely declined.
There’s a sign near the studio that says ‘A Happy Car Is A Clean Car’ to advertise a carwash. This set me to thinking what might make cars truly happy, and happy stolen cars put me in mind of… a friend’s complicated love life. Writing about people you know is always tricky though, for obvious reasons – I had to make the verses very cryptic so as to not give anything away. The music is a kind of Cuban Rumba played on school percussion instruments we somehow appropriated, along with some recorders. At this point I was putting literally everything through a wobbly old tape echo, so the overall effect is of a school Latin band as recorded by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.”
S] Any plans to visit up North soon?
N] “We’re certainly hoping to! We’ve got something to be confirmed in Wakefield on 7th Nov… Actually we’ve nothing else up North! Please someone give us one!”