Not Your Usual Questions and Answers with The Academy of Sun

And now we bring you All The Questions Fit to Print with Nick Hudson, the man behind the prolific, Brighton-based The Academy of Sun, wherein we talk about inspiring new wave aunties, being proudly stateless, homemade stock, (terrifying) emotional support spiders, and our favourite topic, music that is anything but ordinary.

DISARM: What are you listening to right now?

The Academy of Sun: A live Naked City concert from 1992, John Zorn’s cut-up jazz-core fusion band with Yamatsuka Eye from Boredoms on vocals. And Mr. Bungle demos. I just saw them in NYC so I’m a little obsessed right now. (Again).

What was the first LP/tape/CD you remember owning?

Mr Bungle’s Disco Volante when I was 14. My parents were horrified. My monomania prescribed it played on loop for an entire year. Now they’re both huge Mike Patton fans, either through Stockholm Syndrome or Epiphany. As for cassette, it was far less cool. It was Love Is All Around by Wet Wet Wet, which was at number one for FOUR HUNDRED YEARS. And is appalling.

Photo credit: Rob Orchard

Vinyl or CD/Digital?

Both! Vinyl as a fetishizable tangible artifact and a wider canvas for the artwork and digital for the high-res clarity, albeit via Bandcamp – not Spotify – in the interest and advocacy of artist fairness.

What are your favourite bands?

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, Kayo Dot, Spleen, Cleric, Mr. Bungle, The Walker Brothers, Oingo Boingo, REM, These New Puritans, Coil, Talk Talk, Crime And The City Solution, Nine Inch Nails, Swans, The B52’s, Massive Attack, Goblin, K.U.K.L., Cocteau Twins, Kino, Crass, Love, Tomahawk.

Why do you live where you do?

..It’s the last bastion of progressive and socially liberal attitudes and policies in the UK (not counting Manchester, Bristol etc), and despite Steve Coogan’s assertion that “Brighton is where young people go to retire”, I’m able to live and work here with my idiosyncrasies intact and largely unchallenged and unhindered, i.e. I’m currently working from home, answering these (excellent) questions whilst blasting out Naked City and cooking a fresh batch of homemade stock with which to augment my meals this coming week.

Brighton also has a grungy, seedy aspect that can be quite beguiling from a writer’s point of view. Plus it’s conveniently close to London and various airports, as regards escaping when Brexit anxiety gets too much. We’re all getting gradually priced out of it, sadly, as it becomes one gargantuan artisanal coffee shop full of commuting Londoners. But I intend to secure a bureaucratic footing on the European mainland before the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31st anyway, otherwise touring Europe is gonna become an absolute hellmare. Plus, I consider myself proudly stateless and defiantly un-nationalistic. (with a passionate love for Europe and its culture.) Oh and the food is shit in the UK and is only going to get worse.

Photo Credit: Rob Orchard

What is your favourite journey?

As a compulsive and insatiable traveler I have to list a handful:

– Crossing the bridge to The Isle Of Skye from the Highlander castle.

– Flying over Greenland en route to The States.

– the four-hour journey from Longyearbyen on the archipelago of Svalbard (as close to the north pole as a civilian can access) to the Russian enclave of Barentsburg via the Esmark glacier.

What’s your idea of a perfect Sunday?

Brunch with my chosen family in Williamsburg, NYC before catching the ferry across the East River to Manhattan to catch a gig or a movie, all subtly amplified with a cocktail that’s probably green and may or may not have wasabi in it.

What essentials do you take on a plane or tour bus?

Headphones, a book, coconut water, phone charger, emotional support camel spider.

What is your dream vacation if money was no object?

Trans-Siberian Railway with multiple extended stops across Siberia, with a few weeks stationed around both Lake Baikal and Kamchatka.

What do you do with 4 hours to yourself in a new city?

Find some good street food and a dimly-lit dive bar full of Lynchian off-cuts.

What inspired you to take up music?

My auntie gave my a keyboard when I was four. She was in a new wave/post-punk band called Room 101 whose single “Tokyo Nights” was much beloved of John Peel and Billy Bragg. She used to wear a thrift-shop wedding dress and smeared goth make-up onstage (long before Courtney) and I thought that was the coolest thing ever. (Still do, to be honest). I took to the keyboard pretty well, graduated to piano at six, and the vista opened wide-up from there. She died in 1989, far too young, and I’ve recorded my own version of “Tokyo Nights”, in tribute, for a solo record I’ll put out later this year.

Photo credit: Liene Lisovska

What was your most memorable day job?

Cheffing. And I’m shocked I remember ANY of it given how hedonistic it was. Someone lent me Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and we used it as a life manual for a few years. Oops.

What advice should you have taken but didn’t?

Don’t adopt Anthony Bourdain as a life coach.

Listen to The Parts That Need Replacing by The Academy of Sun

What should everyone shut up about?

That it’s wrong to punch fascists.

Who’s your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would the menu be?

Elisabeth Bathory. Probably ox heart. Liver. Longpig at a stretch. I’d aim to stop short at adding myself to the menu. I gather she’s notoriously hard to sate… we actually wrote a song about her on The Quiet Earth, which is to be released as a single on March 13th.

Who is your favourite hero of fiction?

Hunter S. Thompson’s Samoan attorney. William Burroughs’ Dr. Benway. Kafka’s Gregor Samsa.

What was the best live gig or music festival you attended (as a fan or as an artist)?

Kate Bush, Before The Dawn, 2014.

What are your “must” read magazines, news, websites, blogs?

The Byline Times, The Siberian Times, The Quietus, Sight and Sound, Carole Cadwalladr’s Twitter feed.

Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art.

The accumulated output of German artist Anselm Kiefer. Especially his compound in Barjac, southern France. David Bowie’s career. Tarkovsky’s Nostalghia.

Watch The Academy of Sun’s The House, live at Brighton Dome, supporting Mogwai

What does the next six months look like for you?

Hectic and exciting! The Academy Of Sun are putting out a single on March 13th, with the album – The Quiet Earth – to follow on April 24th, which we’re devilishly excited about. We’ll be doing a tonne of shows in support of that, with further singles to follow. I have my first exhibition of visual work in a joint show with my excellent painter friend Mark Walter, with the private view scheduled for April 16th in Brighton.

I have a short UK solo tour in early April alongside my friend and collaborator Toby Driver from Kayo Dot. I’m doing a three week tour of the west-coast of the USA also with Toby in June, where I’ll be playing in his solo band, and also in Asva, the band I’m in which is based out of Seattle, and which has a double album out early next year. I’ll also be performing with Kianna Blue from The Academy Of Sun on this tour, doing material from both The Quiet Earth and my solo output. This month I’m completing a film score for a feature by director Bradley Tuck before I begin another short score for a sci-fi film. I’m tracking the strings for the solo record later this week with genius violinist Lizzy Carey, so that record should be done fairly soon. I made a collaborative improv record with Toby Driver while in NYC last week, engineered by  Marc Urselli (Lou Reed, John Zorn), which we’ll release soon.

I’ve written a short film script that I’ll be filming in May, cast and crew are established for that. At some point within all of this I plan to take a short sojourn in a cute little green shack I found on AirBnB which is a few metres outside of the Chernobyl exclusion zone. I like a solo break from time to time, so I’ll take a few days there to sit and write.

Which musician-based rule do you agree with: “Always meet your heroes” or “Never meet your heroes”?

I tend to disagree with most rules. Caravaggio was a murderer but I’ll still salivate in thrall to his exquisite chiaroscuro. As they say. I met Diamanda Galas in Paris once and she was the most gracious, charismatic and buoyant – and lovely human being. Thank you for asking such awesome questions!

Thank you for your thoughtful and entertaining answers, Nick! We can’t wait for the new album and please keep us in the loop about news of your other diverse projects when/as…

After this interview, we’re announcing the DISARM Interview Hall of Fame (in honour of our fifth year) and The Academy of Sun is the first inductee. Your portrait now lines an impressive (imaginary) hall inside our (brilliantly dreamed up) shrine to music and lively storytelling. Tell us where to send your award: Brighton or Williamsburg (or Barentsburg…?).

The Academy of Sun’s new album, The Parts That Need Replacing, is out March 13th, 2020.

Shiiine On Weekender’s 2016 Line Up: Indie Music & Beyond

With a full slate of music festivals and events designed to maximize the fleeting prime weeks of summer, true music lovers should not miss out a chance to keep the party going well into fall thanks to the organisers of Shiiine On Weekender, back for its second year 11-14 November at Butlin’s Minehead Arena in picturesque Somerset, U.K. (near Bristol). With Early Bird Tickets still on offer, this is a prime time to get a group together and plan a memorable weekend away.

We make no secret of our excitement for this newer weekender that is sure to make you remember family caravaning trips ” with a twist-  now alive with great music around the clock, a crowd of like-minded people and a laid-back and drama-free environment with minimal fuss.

Step On Magazine was thrilled to attend and cover Shiiine year one (which was also our mag’s first year) after getting word from a savvy friend in Canada who shares our deep love for Happy Mondays, 2015’s first major headliner, then touring and celebrating the 25th anniversary (!!!) of their masterpiece, Pills n’ Thrills and Bellyaches.

The line up looked too good to be true. It was very different from many bigger festivals that try to be too many things to too many people, then missing the mark with bloated line ups that make less and less sense. Worse, big festivals (particularly in North America) fail to honour so many solid 80s and 90s U.K. artists that are the backbone of this very notion of togetherness and festival ethos, who are still active and still well worth the ticket price. There are legendary names that deserve the call and that would raise the level of North American festivals exponentially.

There’s an extra effort missing with some other festivals at present, a thoughtfulness required, that goes beyond just the viewpoint of the accountant and comes, instead, from the heart. From the music loving soul who can also write the cheques. And here in Hacienda black and yellow was something altogether new, from people who’d been around the festival scene as fans and clearly felt the need for something else, and then, found a way to create it.

U.K. music fans know their music and are spoiled for choice in the busy summer months. The most mobile even jump trains or flights to great, big European festivals. A new player on the scene needed to offer something different, something a little bit bespoke, that didn’t need masses but the right mix to create an excellent party. And so they did. Shiiine On is an all-in experience that manages to be relaxing and exciting at once, at a pace you can set yourself: the more intimate setting (where festival-goers stay on site but do not have to camp out and lug gear) means they can sleep in until they hear the first strains of the early afternoon sets beginning, or get up for daily pool parties (yes, if you weren’t there you missed Bez’s legendary pool party in year one) see cinema screenings featuring 80s and 90s classics that continue the vibe of Indie, Dance, Britpop, and other iconic images, stories and sounds of the day, and become night owls again at epic club nights that keep the party going until very very late (including the bar).

Club nights for 2016 include Keep it Social, Cool Britannia, Burn Down the Disco and Madchester. To top all of this off, in the place of where might be head-scratching place holders at other fests, come the best in relevant cover bands to round things out to the full (2015’s Clone Roses set was a major highlight, regularly noted as the surprise of the weekend, or the major regret of those who did not get in before the club reached capacity). Clone Roses return for 2016 along with Oasis UK, joined by the TRIFECTA that thrills the 80s kid heart: The Smyths, The Cure Heads, and True Order (the last following last year’s barnburner of a set by Peter Hook himself (with his band, The Light, accompanied by legendary Manchester singer and ambassador Rowetta Satchell).

All this and we haven’t even covered the full artist line up. Here it is:

As visitors from abroad we were well-versed in the music but new to the notion of Butlin’s and to the way things work there. So by way of a brief trip guide for those unfamiliar, Butlin’s site is very informative but essentially the weekend works as an all-in package (festival pass to all performances and other offerings + accommodations) best suited for groups (though single rooms are available) and comes with or without a meal plan (and with optional cooking facilities). We suggest you skip all but your morning tea & biscuit before setting out for there is a local Spar onsite (open 24/7) the home of nightly post-last orders funny moments and quick, life sustaining eats, as well as many affordable restaurants on site and the all-important pasty shop which is almost 24/7 (we miss u). For U.K. visitors within 3-4 hours drive, taking the car is probably most convenient but can also be easily organized by train and coach (see official sources for more information/recommendations).

Minehead proper is just a 5 minute walk along the coast with many great pubs and friendly shops as an offsite option for socializing & mealtimes during the day. Butlin’s, to an outsider who had just recently been to Las Vegas for the first time, is something akin to that otherworldly adult playground but much much more walkable, social, friendly, and happily, without one single cheesy magician full of desperate repressed anger (that Vegas staple who charges as much as a third of this weekend for the dubious privilege). In his place, we have, instead, a delightful array of claw games, a big tent which covers the large, roomy, main stage area as well as a number of appealing different clubs for smaller stages and DJ nights, and indoor/outdoor places to hang and celebrate the scene that deserves a full 72 hours to remind us all how right we were in our youthful exuberance; how right we still are to love it and to preach the gospel of this music. The fine tradition of the memorable road trip awaits you and the kids would love to have a weekend with granny, we promise.

Fans, organizers, a few Canadians and visitors from abroad, and essential, iconic bands all came together to create something rare and great last year. Corporate Pop music and the years of digital noise and declining music press were blasted away the old-fashioned way. Our Canadianness permits us to be earnest for a moment: it was a real marvel. And worth every penny and every jet-lagged mile, in fact, way beyond those things. Like all music festivals and all travel ought to be. For 72 hours, a real village was built that made plain and easy for all the vibe promised so easily elsewhere that falls short when their chosen site, focus, line-up and scale is just to large and scattershot to please anybody.

Don’t take it from us. A testament to this claim is the many players from last year returning in some form or another who’ve made it something of a priority (or….is that… a new tradition?) and the festival-goers who immediately rebooked for 2016 before leaving the site. Bez’s pool party has gone down as legend, but there are still pool parties ahead, as well as music from returning artists The Wonder Stuff, a significant percentage of returning Happy Mondays in the form of Black Grape,  Love & the Family Tree (Gaz Whelan & Rowetta) and a Happy Mondays DJ set on Friday. Also returning to great acclaim is The House of Love (Terry Bickers played with his duo, Fij & Bickers last year) The Farm, James Atkin (EMF) and Thousand Yard Stare (who we’ll be featuring in an upcoming interview). The unusually civil and positive social media exchanges around this weekender by past and prospective attendees are worth noting as well. See you there. (More coverage and band profiles to follow.)

Jacqueline Howell & Dave MacIntyre.

Shiiine On Weekender’s website

Link to Early Bird Tickets and Butlin’s Information

Shiiine On Weekender’s Facebook page

Minehead Tourism- general area information

Headliners: Echo and the Bunnymen; The Wonder Stuff;  The House of Love; Shed Seven;  The Bluetones; Echobelly; Cast; Black Grape; The Farm; Paul Hartnoll (Orbital); (and more)

Read more of our Shiiine On Weekender coverage / view our photo galleries

Shiiine On: No Days Off – Day 1 Thursday: Arrival, Photos & Gig Report

Shiiine On WeekenderShiiine On Weekender – Butlin’s Arena, Minehead, Somerset UK. November 6-9th, 2015.

Festivals can be a dicey and exhausting proposition. A gamble. You can give up precious vacation days, sleep and significant funds to end up muddy and rained out, surrounded by wilted flower crowns and bands who are too sincere or not sincere enough.  Your heart aches as YOUR heroes have been housed at the Siberia Stage while mediocre artists with baffling connections and nothing to say hog the main stage, revealing the dire state of modern music and its shadowy industries. Fans who’ve waited for hours at the barrier end up getting their well-earned view blotted out by distracting photographers. There always seem to be too many media types, spreading their entitled and jaded vibes over the highest and driest ground, openly indifferent and tweeting their ingratitude.

And then there was Shiiine.

For months we looked at that black on yellow poster. We discussed it often, eyes glowing, with the other biggest Happy Mondays fan in town, a man who’s kept the music and the love alive for many thousands of punters in these parts as a DJ, Chef & True Blue British-Canadian as much as anybody can claim to have done in the cities in the U.K. and U.S. and Canada that remember AND more importantly, keep it alive. What was for sure just another pipe dream to attend this insanely good weekend became a solid plan through memoir-worthy hustle and twists of fate and fortune that have become so regular that we can’t tell anyone, for it might break the spell.

Minehead is impossibly quaint and enjoyable, even in November. People play crazy golf and arcade amusements through a light drizzle, and pubs are packed with solid Footie fans representing on a Saturday midday and memorable lunches that go til 4:00. Just up the way is Butlin’s, which affords travellers a year round resort experience under a massive tent that defies any weather concerns like several fingers extended (maybe 3?) they’ve got this down to an art form, and it proves to be the perfect site for this festival.

The three day event was extended into Thursday, so overstuffed was it with goodness. This night (like Sunday 2:00 a.m.) would be only for the hardcore and it was there, at what would become the venue’s cozy “local”- Jumpin’ Jaks- or as someone called it “a really great house party” that we met them all. Lifelong friends or just for the moment? It matters not- it was very special indeed. We made fast friends with the quite reasonable hands down winner and unfortunate recipient of the only shoving match we saw all weekend, because you always back the one in the Johnny Fucking Marr T-Shirt. Always.

We were greeted warmly as “The Canadians” by the organizers/wizards behind this weekender, James and Steve, during one of the only moments they had to breathe, and then settled in for a long and lager drenched night of great live music and DJ sets leading to the kind of singalongs Canadians can only dream of. Keep it Social DJs gave us all a chance to be Jarvis Cocker yelling “Do You Remember the First Time?!” and let us revisit so many 80’s and 90’s musical highs that would define the weekend in between gigs and set the tone perfectly. Sulk did the first of two sets of the weekend and were just great, bringing necessary swagger and fire to their set. The Sunshine Underground is not to be missed, look for them if you can see them. And The Twang was much anticipated by many and closed out the live portion of the night. In all cases these bands played sets that were both long and lively, and the posted rule of no drinks on the packed dance floor was routinely ignored. In case that wasn’t enough of a starter, Mike Joyce (ex of The Smiths) brought us all home with a two hour DJ set in between friendly chatter and photos with fans. We were carried to bed on a wave of euphoria that would last all weekend. And that was before we tasted our first local pasty.

Daily Festival reports with full gig reviews and live photo galleries of over 20 bands to follow in the next couple of days.

Including: Happy Mondays, The Wonder Stuff, Inspiral Carpets, Peter Hook and The Light, Stereo MC’s, 808 State, The Wedding Present, The Farm, Lo Fidelity Allstars plus many more.

With very special thanks to Shiiine On Weekender, North Country Boys, and Butlin’s Live Music Weekends.

Words by Jacqueline Howell Photos by Dave MacIntyre.

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