Feeling Supersonic

Oasis: Supersonic (2016) Directed by Mat Whitecross

The much buzzed about documentary about the rise of Oasis & the Gallagher brothers from the capable, deeply plugged in and utterly present Mat Whitecross (Spike Island) (now on Netflix) is worth all the applause you might think it was getting from just nostalgic fanboys. It is a special challenge for a filmmaker to separate a well-known story and iconic music from its myth/legend/gossip or whatever the once-mighty, feral British press would have you believe was the story. Whitecross may be the only one who could have done it with such grace and clear-eyed appreciation, not to mention co-operation.

One thing that always made Liam and Noel so interesting, and something that is a bit of an endearing, refreshing, and in today’s PR cloaked & dull world, highly unusual trait, is their candor. There seems to be no subject, no story, or no disaster that they are embarrassed about or will deny- this after years of reported estrangement and a bad break up- and both have their unique and truly funny senses of humour intact about it all. There’s a generosity about the shared history that is surprising given the current state of “Oasis” and the Gallagher brothers endless public feud and fallout, in spite of all the bratty headlines of the time (catnip the the voyeuristic and untalented hacks) and puffed up arrogance they wore like parkas. It turns out that they have a true appreciation for it all, and even, dare we say, with the passing decades (or with myth-making over), a new humility?

Oasis: Supersonic, like the fictional, but true, look at the legendary/mythical high point of the Stone Roses reign, Spike Island, rockets all of us who were there, 90s kids and young twenties, without warning, into an immediacy and joy of an exciting time in culture that REALLY WAS SPECIAL and was OURS, not without a bit of whiplash. If whiplash could happen to your heart. The biggest surprise is not that Liam and Noel, quite separately, produced and enabled this film to happen with all its essential music clearances and footage; or that they both can love the success and milestones of their band that (yet) might have ripped apart their family forever without bitterness and with tongue-in-cheek, seemingly still grounded, still Manc, still real human beings; or that they could still produce something as good as this, together, whilst estranged and through a director with diplomacy skills that could probably heal nations; but that it turns out that Oasis love us regular people right back. That we are a part of this thing.

With decades gone by (the most we’ve ever felt the shock of passing time we try to ignore, never more alive than in the 90s, maybe the last great days of music & real wider cultural happenings ever to be) and the charts of today a polluted factory runoff pond that will kill you even if you are in earshot and refuse to buy into the lies being sold as “music” by “artists”; with time away from Oasis; the music comes roaring back, fresh as new. Would you ever believe Liam was a one-take wonder? Will you ever feel, first hand, via perfect, raw footage culled from those with access and presence of mind to capture and to keep it, what it felt like to have the world at your feet, to control not a room, but a dozen football stadiums worth of people, better than through this documentary?

Ewan McGregor, whose performance as Renton in 1996’s Trainspotting, symbolizes the high water mark of the decade and our culture better than anyone, gives his succinct, emotional and quite accurate review of Oasis: Supersonic. (via Ewan McGregor/ Twitter @mcgregor_ewan)

Far from the ease in which great music seemed to flow around the globe in the mid-90s, and further still from the detached cool that our rock stars must manifest, wear as armour, fake-til-they-make-it, or actually have had since they were anonymous and regular survivors of the monster called family and of modern life, Supersonic is just that. It is a meteor of memory, music, culture, and clear-eyed youthful promise. It enables us to remember what we were. What we can still dream of. What was possible, and only possible, without (away from) the technological dark age of right now, with all these screens and genius apps we use mostly to avoid real life and to remain arrested in our own development.

Supersonic is both a great documentary about Oasis’s unique successes and place in music history, as well as a love letter to a time and a place and even to all of us. And, in a time when Millennials are more nostalgic about our past than we are, this film is needed to fuel them, the next generation of 20 somethings with messages they sorely need to be blasted loud and clear.

You can be self-made. You can come from nothing. In fact you should. Greatness and grit really only ever does. Go and make something. Fuck shit up. Invent yourself. 

Jacqueline Howell

Let’s Ride. Right On. Right On.

As we change our name (I know, I know) we must do a little send off for the old name. Because.

We named our site/mag back in 2012 (only really starting in 2015) after the spirit of Happy Mondays: outlaws, free thinkers, strange geniuses, originals, quiet influencers (Stone Roses, Oasis and more).

Such as this doozy, which went on to influence your favourite films. There’s tons of Trainspotting in here. And this was a video for an Indie band, at a time when money was found for creative work like this based on merit and only made possible by a decided lack of interest in looking at the bottom line, and if anything, hiding the bills from any accountant who might darken the door frame. Good times. “DON’T YOU HATE,  HATE WHAT YOU ARE”. Now dance.

But look. We still feel like posers, as we used to say, at times. As much as you might like to think you know about music, a story, a time, a place, if you were there…or not there, and read the daily and weekly missives like letters from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro as others adventures brightened the half-lit daily grind of twenty-something Toronto-tethered Sims, there’s always more.

There’s facets, there’s insider tales, there’s the journalistic sheen that warped and obscured so much and reduced whole lives to drug stories and score /rap sheets. There’s the stories of this band, Flowered Up, whose brothers Liam and Joe Maher, didn’t make it. They are gone. But this moment of music and visual storytelling, and a band that refused to make a radio edit, are important side stories in the massive encyclopedia not yet written about the “Manchester” sound, its pulse, its music, most importantly, its people, its artists, its characters. Its neighbours down the road in Liverpool. And futher afield in the north or the south, often, outside the centre. And we are reminded or even informed about the inner workings of this in the unexpected gift of an interview with a musician who tells of his discovery of the song. The channels are compressed, the gates are down, you can talk to anyone if you are rude enough, or polite enough. Or have something to say, yourself. If you have, or can make, a map. As it ever was.

Happy Mondays were a ten year long overnight success story. Obscure to some/many in our part of the world, daily diet to others. Whenever I’ve found a Happy Mondays fan I know I’ve found my kind. There’s a sensibility. I’ve listened to them for 25 years and still do. They still help me laugh & cope with life, think & deal with absurdities of the world and aid in creativity as much as high-brow literature or the drugs I’m too scared to try.

Also in the cocktail of STEP ON Magazine, there was a good dose of Banksy, who’s work we’d followed for years before his American fame, when he was still tagging in Bristol & around UK. His POV is still important, no matter his mass popularity and the decals on Etsy which are less offensive then the stuff stolen off bridges or  THE LEFT BANK in galleries for millions, despite all who’d like to reduce him to anything like the rest of the art world and the public worlds he made works on. He changed the cityscape, he changed the conversation, he changed the country, he changed the world, he changed the art game, foul and corrupted as it is. He changed our hearts, and he sent us a beating message from Bristol that said. “I’m here. I’m angry. The world is dying. But I can laugh about it. In fact, I’m pretty interesting. I have a few cool friends who help me. Remember Punk Rock?” and also said “I see you” to his enemies and to his allies, like us. We don’t know Bansky (we don’t think…) but we love him. He was equal parts angry, subversive, witty, and heart. The heart sometimes had to be painted on to make people remember that it’s the first thing we draw, the symbols on the walls of the caves of our fleeting youths. Now they say “I heart you.” They say XX to strangers. But they don’t mean it. Banksy is forever interesting, even worthy of your one and only tattoo that can’t and won’t be painted over.

We wanted to say something with our unknown, out of nowhere, unsupported and unasked for project, coded but clear to those who got it. To those who got it, it was essential fuel to us. Friendships were made. The name & our work under it had some voodoo that led us to amazing and wonderful places far beyond our home city we wouldn’t have dreamed of, and that we dreamed of in secret, and that were not in the works even four years ago and seemed impossible- like being sidestage for Happy Mondays in 2015, and in the pit shooting them in a brilliant new UK festival which seemed to come out of our dreams, as they returned to the stage on their 25th anniversary; writing on the Mondays in an unexpected musical resurgence of a great time in our world across a number of genres and that is both British and lives in other places too, even in Toronto.

Great music is eternal and does not have album cycles, and it’s still happening right now in your city or will visit you if you are lucky and if you are, answer the call. Hint: the best music is usually terribly affordable and in intimate venues, then and now. Connection, through mystical 90s hoodoo, to people who get it and others creating and celebrating too, was the biggest discovery of all we had in looking to our roots as music fans and once-carefree kids who stood and looked up at these Manc geniuses and wanted to be one of them. How do you do that? You start a band. You make something. You zig when they zag. You disobey road signs as long as you’ve only got yourself and your co-pilot to worry about and the road ahead is clear, fuck what’s behind you in the rear view, that’s history, mate.

Wear your references on your sleeve, just like your band T-shirts (you still have them, right? You still wear them? Not just those good boy outfits that makes grown men at the dinner table look no different than their toddler, benign and neutered for the elders? For the babies? The team jerseys are very important so you can find your people, out there!) Today, even online, especially online, we still find each other through our flags, these colour codes and references that are inside and confusing, unless you know them, when you know them they are a gilted invitation. Answer it, don’t be rude. All who answer it get something more. Connection. The goal, the purpose and the endless, unquantifiable, priceless, often underpaid, abused, stolen, aim and unkillable achievement of music, art, writing, photography. Connection, a word that hasn’t been hopelessly ruined by marketing, they can’t fake it.  It’s ours.

We started out doing this from a position of frustration, of homelessness in a way, like many bands do. Creatively unfulfilled, directionless too long, unappreciated.

The same feelings extended to the state of media, the music business, the state of music today (popular/dominant/corporate music you are fed in public and very small children are fed like McDonalds to make you buy expensive merch, tickets and unmemorable experiences they will surely outgrow before you’ve paid for it) and the state of music & film material to read. In a glut of (then) blogs (now taken over by social media platforms, where writing and context are seconded, and community building is challenging) there was only hope in the indie world. So we said, let’s just make something that we feel is of quality, honest, authentic, with love and ignore what we don’t love. No snark, no gossip, no attacks, just have a different conversation and celebrate what we love and we think is worthy, locally, beyond locally, then and now.  The one bit of advice from a corner not to be trusted, was filled with a Bronte like dark portent of what such a thing would do to psyches and relationships. How little that person knew us, our psyches, our relationship. Only a few do- and those that do-accept and understand. And we’ve found you.

The frustration waned away, the idea of focus became an exercise in focus itself. TV is gone, America is all but ignored, especially now, aside from some worthy artists and friends. We don’t need ’em. We don’t eat that. You would be amazed how quickly you can make the pop machine of today and the celebrity world disappear from your consciousness, and how much happier you can be when you fill it with music, conversation, and something real, like we used to in the 80s and 90s. Nostalgia is only good for the moment when you realize, “it was better then.” You don’t have to miss it, it’s not your neighbour’s pool, long razed over, or your shiny new bike. It’s still achievable. It’s rock bars that host open nights, and are free. Sit at the bar. It’s pubs that have vinyl nights. Spin your own, or listen to whatever. Sit at the bar. It’s indie bands with the bravery of Braveheart slugging out days as busboys to create great new music at night, for free, the only way, the pure way, and sending it out on a file on a website to the world, to be found and taken in like medicine to a waiting world who understands. Distribution belongs to us. With money unfortunately besides the point right now, freedom and art can really live and breathe and travel unchecked by borders and uncreative people who rage as they hold onto a fantasy of the big labels, the big media outlets, the big laugh they had on the artists they lived off of, artists who live, and remember, and need them not one jot.

And so it does. And we are so happy to have seen it happen and know people doing it. We’re breathless. We aren’t the same people we were before the rabbit hole of Step On Magazine, which, for us unlike drugs, has no dangerous side effects, rather makes us become ourselves.

As the strangeness of fate would have it, we’re now premiering a great feature interview with Happy Mondays’ Rowetta (who’s doing new music all over the scene) in our first issue under the new name, as we leave behind the old skin which was named for her song, which cannot help but have a special significance to us. We’re endlessly grateful, not just for the time and generosity of people like Rowetta and others we’ve had the chance to speak to recently, but to the connections from emerging bands, quiet friends & supporters who have formed communities with us and let us in to theirs, and the artists returning and still going who we’ve had the chance to see play live in the last two years as we’ve been writing and photographing all of this and finding there is much more news than nostalgia in this cocktail, there’s a groundswell, and good music is always welcome, like a party guest who sings for his supper or someone who plays with your kids for an hour, and we’ve no regrets even if outside of the context of Happy Mondays the name does not make much sense and gets jumbled (thank you to the friends who decided it had something to do with Shoegaze and foot pedals, it would have been nice if we’d thought of that) and the name has benign common words in a world that ruins everything by making us live in webpages and indexes first as if that were anything at all but a means of distribution, not the source, as confused as the machine does get about its prominence.

And if the name STEP ON,  in context, looked at times like a fan page, and we looked like fanboys, that’s alright, for at its heart, it was that too.

As you were.

Disarm Editors

Peter Hook & the Light: Substance On Tour

The city we live in, and the wider world of music lovers who know and remember the 70s and 80s, has finally turned a corner.

Peter Hook & The Light at The Phoenix, 2011.

After a committed, years-long effort to widely tour first, his Joy Division masterpieces and then, the early works of New Order, Peter Hook, an undeniable bass god, innovator, musical (and Manchester) ambassador has achieved something brand new in the cities that need routine shaking up these days: He’s made us remember, in our bones, what it felt like, back then. He’s made a clamour, just like he and his band mates did all those years ago, he’s ripped apart the complacency and staleness that befalls even the biggest music cities in between very special visits from those very special living legends across all genres that matter, and he’s done this by doing the impossible: by reinvigorating and reinterpreting music so iconic and so deep it is tattooed upon two generations’ very marrow. Songs that feel as innate as a pulse, that beat the same way. Grooves that he alone invented, using an underappreciated instrument in all new ways, that took the masses from the Joy Division depths of the darkest places of the soul, to the transcendent crystalline New Order anthems that would define and dictate what it meant to dance in the 1980s. And not just in Manchester or England or Europe, but across the world.Peter Hook should not have to prove anything to any one of us. He’s changed the world a couple of times already. But the world of music needs him now. New Order tours in the 80s and 90s in North America were spotty, intermittent things, but well-remembered, and attendance at those in the big and lucky Canadian and American cities is one of those badges of honour still carrying currency when you feel out a new friend or business associate to this very day.  The importance of Joy Division, and of New Order, can simply not be overstated. No matter how many pints are attacked and left for dead in an evening of discussing one of our bands as deeply as our own family members, and with more invested sometimes.

With or without the cred or the opportunity to have seen New Order when New Order was intact (& included founding member Peter Hook) the music he worked to create in those formative years holds an uncommon place in millions of hearts that loves it still, like a first, best crush that never let you down. Like if Molly Ringwald’s Samantha of Sixteen Candles and her Porsche driving Adonis of substance, everyone’s boyfriend Jake Ryan, stayed young and in that first bloom-freeze frame forever, candles burning brightly, never got old or fat or yelled at one another, and definitely never ended in bitter divorce, the rusted Porsche now being bitterly fought over, their bratty and ungrateful kids never even knowing how beautiful their parents were, once, that impossible red hair now gone ashen.

New Order music still shimmers and raises the roof of any room the discs are spun in, and it always will. Joy Division still hits us in those sad places, comforting and empathetic when we are at a low. The specialness, the untouchableness of these records is well known. But what’s newer, and what really adds profound meaning to all this casual beauty of all of our younger days is that as the original players and fans all age, we are confronted with the truths of mortality everyday. In music, whether because we’re pining for that heroic singer we never got to see who will be forever mourned who died long ago, or the legends who died in 2016. Our 80s dance, post-punk, and new wave (aw, hell, the best of it has no genre at all, internet cataloging be damned) has a different lifeforce than the holier than though, mono, diner sountracked 60s. It came of age, we came of age, in the cold war. In various kinds of cold wars. The end of the century. Fear and loathing. Recessions and repressions and disconnectedness as normal. And music was then our only church, our only teacher, our only dad. This truth cuts across a bunch of genres but has a feeling. It was made by, and speaks to, creative people who aren’t about databases, lists and soundbites but know the plain truth that there is a genre called, only, Clash Music. There is a genre called, only, Joy Division Music. There is a genre called, only, Cure Music. And there is a genre called, only, New Order Music. And for many of us that last genre ended,  in its original form, in 2007.

Peter Hook & The Light in Minehead, 2015

What came out of New Order’s dissolution was there for anyone fit, willing and able, to pick up the pieces and move on. Never mind the books, the press banging out the same old note, loving a feud as they do, loving to see, to fan the flames of, and to feast over any bones they can get of any ugly public breakdown, as if this majesty could be reduced to a red top headline. You need only be in one of the rooms (or watercraft) when Peter Hook has been playing with his new outfit, ably accompanied now by his son, Jack Bates, trading off highs and lows, changing the narrative and evolving, unafraid, committed, the frontman he always really was, in tour after tour now developing into an appealing singer far closer to Ian Curtis than Sumner ever was, to forget all you knew or read or wondered or grieved or griped about that band or this band or the band before; to know that this is a rare artist whose heart is bigger than his talent even; underneath that utter cool, that he breathes and lives to this music as we do, more, you know, you must know, and that the claim upon all this art and these beats is asserted because it’s right and good and erasure of the past is sometimes all you can fucking do to live again. It’s the news of the day. It has happened without much fanfare at first, with the easy sneers the now irrelevant press taught us drowned out, and been built, again, from the ground up inside a room in Manchester, and brick by brick in a new foundation of sound and feeling. You’ll know if you were there, if you’ll be there. That is, if you can get a ticket.

Peter Hook & the Light play Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall Tuesday November 29th (Sold Out).

We’ll be writing on and photographing the show when not cheering and crying as we’ve done on two continents since 2012 so check back with us for more on this story.

Words by Jacqueline Howell, all photographs by Dave MacIntyre

We wrote about Shiiine On Weekender’s first year and the historic, still talked about Peter Hook & the Light show that brought the house (tent) down, here.

Here’s a snippet of that review, just about a year ago now:  “Hooky’s God-like status intact, we are the lucky ones at a very special gig. Here we get no less than an assault of Joy Division and New Order’s finest, and their finest can touch you in places in the heart you thought for sure had died along with your innocence…it’s genius: unencumbered by the grind of breaking in new music and at last answerable only to himself, the fans get an intense and pitch perfect wave of nothing but gold. This alone would have been worth the trip (overseas from Canada to UK), and the ridiculously reasonable ticket price.”

Spike Island & The Stone Roses: For All of Us Outside the Gates

By Jacqueline Howell

What a time to be alive for Stone Roses /Manchester/ 80s “Indie” music fans. While good music has always struggled to find the sunlight through the harsh cracks of over produced pop, at last we are finding great books, films and music that celebrate this time. Twenty or so years on from Madchester, those who were there and all the kids around the UK (and the globe) who so wanted to be there have sat down to create biographies, journalism, and even the rare cohesive music festival in its honour. Spike Island marks a sea change for the patient and the bruised 80s and 90s teens who’ve never stopped loving the music and the memory. It’s also a worthy point of entry into this world for younger fans, and how often can you say that?

In the current digital landscape with its imperfect and gap-filled historical archiving of the recent past, it’s becoming urgently important to set down some truths and make some trusty maps. And so we have Spike Island, landing right in that elusive place, the one we’ve waited for.

The Stone Roses’ shimmering, impossibly beautiful and evocative 1989 self-titled debut sounded like it dropped out of heaven fully formed (but like most overnight successes, was really the result of almost a decade of mostly anonymous grind). Any reflective, current-day articles (such as Wikipedia’s) about the phenomenon that was The Stone Roses in 1989 and into the early 90s, of that one record’s impact, miss so much, miss almost everything. Time may have slipped through this beautiful band’s fingers in the end, but what went out from that vinyl disc traveled on its own steam through the UK, Europe, and the world beyond’s places that had indie/alternative radio and great record stores and all those with a finely-tuned ear. All the iconic artwork by virtuoso guitarist John Squire, the lemon graphic, is as imprinted, forever upon Stone Roses fans’ consciousness as any any Warhol, achieving Warhol’s recognition in months, instead of decades. It’s a symbol as clear as a flag. It lives on. (After this piece was begun, the lemon was displayed around Manchester, U.K. to much (real, not manufactured) fanfare, signaling the Stone Roses first new single in over twenty years as they’ve been coming back to welcoming arms in the last couple of years.)

Spike Island (2012) directed by Mat Whitecross, with a screenplay by Chris Coghill (in a hilarious small role as “Uncle Hairy”) is a film clearly made by people with love and care for the subject matter. This coming of age story is set among a group of friends who start their own band with varying degrees of commitment and talent, one of so many inspired by The Stone Roses amid that year that The Roses’ debut record became as significant among passionate music fans of the time as The Beatles or Bowie or The Ramones debuts were in their own time. Instantly endearing and funny, the film is well acted throughout including the now very famous Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) as the film’s ideal girl, its “Sally”.

The film centers around the daily life in 1990 of five tight knit Manchester friends giddily nicknamed Tits, Dodge, Zippy, Little Gaz, and Penfold: for the lads school is but their playground, music is their life and parents are adversaries or tragedies to be negotiated, at times like explosives experts. Girls are elusive and still full of promise and not a little magic and myth. Spike Island, the upcoming Stone Roses all-dayer, is all anyone in their micro-world can talk about. There is also a no count, locally famous brother called “Ibiza Ste” and you should need no more endorsement to see this film.

Spike Island, and The Roses, also marked a moment when one city went global, when the musical greatness long simmering in fits and starts in Manchester, so close yet so far from the burnished legend of The Beatles’ Liverpool, went out again, in a brand new way that transcended boundaries, connections, class structures, and borders; with a middle finger, to boot. For one of those glorious moments most kids only dream of, their city far north of the centre of things, London, was the center of the world. We could get academic and count “Ibiza Ste” and “Uncle Hairy” as symbols of delightful rogues, products of a great city struggling amid decay and against its limitations under Thatcherism, but let’s keep our feet on the ground. What Would (our plain-talking idol) Mani Say?

Spike Island, the concert of the film’s title, is a pivotal event in the real history of both The Stone Roses and their fans, and stands as a symbol for all those who weren’t there whether geographically or temporally the same way that lemon slice does. The film integrates that wider cultural memory or longing that has grown to include distant and later fans who have discovered the band after their breakup, who also share collective nostalgia for what some imagine is “OUR Woodstock”.

The reality of that time, place, and event is very different. Stories vary as widely as opinions of what precise price different people are willing to pay today to leave their homes and see musical giants perform for them a short distance away. The truth belongs to nobody, and the nostalgia is very real, and very shimmery. The film handles this relationship between memory, myth, and truth brilliantly and with a Mancunian candor. The imperfectness of that day, of that era, and of that band, the close calls and near-misses (as well as the reach) are integral to this band and hallmarks of its generation that have brought heroes and fans closer together in recent years as a widespread community who just gets it. Further, without the toxic old media in the way, the bands today reveal themselves as true to their 90s ethos – themselves supportive fans of one another, trench mates and lads after all, not warring factions as the weeklies would have once had us believe.

It should be noted for close watchers (and listeners) of this film with elephantine memories full of love that even the clearly obvious replica t-shirts are a joy to see, and, importantly, the haircuts are correct, the girls look as real and naturally fresh as we all once were, and ALL the necessary music clearances were all given with apparent gusto to deliriously grand effect that make detractors of the film sound like nothing more than ultra-modern haters who cannot feel. Like the John Hughes films of the actual 80’s, this film fits like a record in a sleeve of memories – the highest compliment possible for a period and a music film, and essential to an 80s film.

Spike Island is simply a perfectly built time machine. Time just moved much slower in our relationship to music. Music came over to some of us on boats. It immersed deep into our lives over years and was passed from hand to hand, shared in darkened rooms among friends half drunk on the joy and secrecy of it as much as the lager shared amicably. The music played on, tirelessly, as if it, like those rambling and perfectly directionless days of youth would never end.

Stone Roses fans. It was like that.

Spike Island gets that bittersweet truth of the era, that little slice of sun in the afternoon before all succumbs to shadow, perfectly. It’s moving and funny, a revelation: it’s like watching our own home movies that don’t exist of those days that were just lived and not recorded, an inverse of the norms of today where selfies and status updates scream about all the fun we’re having. And this film achieves its aims: it’s about the purest and widest love there is. Or is that loves? The unrequited loves and friendships of youth, and also, the permanence and unshakable devotion possible with music.

There are universal themes in films about teenagers of any era. But every era’s teenagers expresses that same urgency, excitement, promise, frustration, and all out open-heartedness in their own ways. In those pre-digital late 80s, you found or lost your friends, you hitched a ride or you walked, you shared a contraband drink or pill if offered, or you went dry all day without the emergency snack filled backpacks and heavy water bottles of today that kids carry like turtle shells (while prepared for most eventualities, they carry significant baggage and are taught little of spontaneity).

There was something so pure and lovely about those summers, of kids really living in the moment, trusting life would carry them along on its wave, when you were alright as long as you had a friend to walk home with in the dark. All this is scored by the music of The Stone Roses (and some key others of the time) the very music you would wish for in any movie about this time and place, and for your memories of your own well-trod home streets and dramatic school crushes.

The film takes its leads and its events to Spike Island while keeping in mind the impossible to replicate personal truth of memory, imagination and nostalgia; the various stories and value of the real Spike Island; the value of the narratives of those inside the gates and those forever locked outside it whether upwind or down wind of the noise, or very far away indeed. There’s a lot to say here about friendship, artistic dreams, loss and memory, and is mostly said with subtlety even as lines are drawn and some things are lost forever in the changing winds of youth.

Viewed as it should be, as a film about loving the band more than a literal narrative of the band, this is one little Indie film about one too brief period of music, with all the fleeting energy and optimism of hope that will run right over your heart like “Sally Cinnamon” once did to an anonymous writer of a letter found in a pocket/ of a jacket/on a train in town.

Jacqueline Howell once fought over a Spike Island poster with someone who’d also never been there but who cherished it equally, and she hopes it still has pride of place on a wall somewhere. 

Spike Island is available on DVD/Blu-ray, and was recently found on Netflix.

An Interview with Richard McNevin-Duff of Space Monkeys

When you think of legendary Manchester label Factory Records, the obvious list of bands that come to mind are Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays, James, and OMD.  But there is another band that signed to the label, in fact they were the last Factory signing, that missed out on some much deserved recognition for the music they created on 1997’s superb Daddy Of Them All.

We saw Space Monkeys for the first time ever at 2015’s inaugural Shiiine On Weekender in Minehead, UK and were wildly entertained by both the infectious British alternative rock, infused with elements of acid house and baggy, and the engaging stage show.  These 90s lads brought it!  The good news is the band have announced they will return this November for the 2016 edition of the Shiiine On Weekender.

We ran Space Monkeys front-man Richard McNevin-Duff through our ever popular list of questions, and he came through with some absolute pearls of wisdom…and some pretty funny bits too.

Step On Magazine: What are you listening to right now?

Richard: Currently I’m listening to Kaiden Nolan, a 16-year-old singer songwriter from North Manchester. He’s the future.

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

Complete Madness and Snap by the Jam. Classic English bands of the late 70’s used to have a greatest hits album after about 3 years. Nowadays bands take 3 years to make one album. 

What is your favourite band? 

The only band I’ve bought everything they ever released on the day it came out is The Stone Roses. Your favourite band is always more than just a band, it’s an emotion. I’m patiently waiting to buy more.

Why do you live where you do?

Sheer bad luck.

What is your favourite journey?

Up the sleepy hill to Bedfordshire.

What’s your idea of a perfect Sunday?

Blood On The Tracks for breakfast followed by sunshine and friends in a beer garden.

What is an “essential” to take on a plane or tour bus?

A captain.

What is your dream vacation if money was no object? 

Life’s a trip and then you get off.

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

Look out of the hotel window and write a song about escaping.

What inspired you to take up music?

I grew up in a Working Men’s Club in Manchester as a kid and fell in love with the jukebox. I started a band when I was 14 with my mates from school and I’ve kept that gang mentality ever since. There must be nothing worse than having to fill your band with musicians cos you don’t have cool enough friends.

What was your most memorable day job?

This is my day job but the hours are ridiculous, there’s no days off and I’m still waiting to get paid.

What advice should you have taken but didn’t?

Keep a clean nose and always carry a lightbulb – Bob Dylan

What should everyone shut up about?

Body fascism. The only weight people need to lose is the one on their shoulders.

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

John Lennon. 6 bottles of Merlot and two acoustic guitars.

Who is your favourite hero of fiction? 

Jesus Christ or Hong Kong Phooey. Too close to choose just one, both equally gifted. 

What was the best live gig or music festival you attended?

Reading Festival 1992. Nirvana’s last UK gig. Rumours were spreading that Kurt had OD’d. They came on stage an hour late and wheeled him on in a wheelchair for a joke. Proper rock and roll band.

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

Salvador Dali. Blonde On Blonde. LSD.

What does the next 6 months look like for you?

Wet with a chance of rainbows.

Always meet your heroes or never meet your heroes?

Don’t have heroes. We are all VIP’s.

Thanks Richard!

Watch “Let It Shine” featuring footage from the Space Monkeys 2015 comeback tour.

The Subways and PINS at Mod Club, Toronto / North American Tour

“What will we do. What will we do. What will we do – when our dreams come true?” is the rallying cry from Manchester’s PINS, whose voices, in unison, infuse each repeated line of the phrase with multiple meanings. It’s gutsy. It’s fresh. It’s a delicious throwback to a time we all want, no, need to get back to when music was always raw, alive, sly with a twist of menace, pretty and dangerous. It’s the real deal. And we are getting it on the back half of a major spring tour as they’ve worked their way from Cardiff to Austin to here.

It is, unfortunately, always worth noting when Toronto rock club show crowds allow themselves to impart emotion, enjoyment, be seen moving, or express much sound beyond the furtive “WHOOO”s that come out of the dark from people like us, answered in kind by other anonymous owls in the darkness. This is just our way in Toronto the dry. One wonders what visiting bands think. Bands out of England, from places historically known for bottling their disapproval, a nation of experts and hecklers, a land of regional identities and generations of music lovers and real night owls, ones who can hold their pints, characters bred for toughness.

In the belt-tightened economy of the live music scene today, outside of the grey concrete nothingness of mega stadiums, a place like Toronto is ever-more privileged and lucky to be included in so many “American” tours of visiting U.K. bands that one could almost weep. We are routinely presented with no less than the cream of the still thriving Indie world of the U.K. and Europe, and we are visited by the best and the brightest bands of recent years and those of tomorrow-the ones who still deserve much more love after years of grinding.

On nights like tonight, it all comes together. Jaded industry types are forced to the margins while real music fans come alive. There is no pit, no obvious security, and the boundaries of stage and and crowd are respected by mutual agreement, except when a singer sits and stands among us, at first surrounded by sheepish men who cannot meet her gaze, then by females who move in and fill in a circle around her and rock out in a way long missed in these parts.

And so faces are turned upward like old footage of the devout in far away Pentecostal churches, and we come alive for a few hours on this Tuesday night, given permission and power by the marvelous energy of five strong, talented women known as PINS. This is their first time in Toronto. The music is noisy but clean, powerful and confident. The look of the band is intense, and as wonderfully uniform as all the great bands are/were once. They are young but like the best, most galvanizing young bands ever did and still do, they’ve done their homework: visually and musically. Wow. It’s all there: Jesus and Mary Chain. My Bloody Valentine. Hole. Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Early Cure. The Ramones, even. PINS feels like vinyl sounded on headphones. They’re exciting. A real find. And PINS comes as we always knew it would, again, in Doc Martens. Clad all in black tonight, in all its best variations, in pitch perfect styles referencing the best days- when live music was mostly still captured in black and white. And what other colours do you need?

The Subways are the headliner tonight, and they bring a well honed body of work that is four albums strong (most recently, 2015’s self-titled release, along with a regular output of EPs and special issues). The Subways hail from Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, U.K. and their name is a bit of a curiosity for Anglophiles in Canada and the States as we know that the”subways” of our bigger cities is akin to London’s “tube”. But the subway of the band’s name is an underground walkway to cross a road (thank you, Wikipedia) an obvious choice of youth hangout which has a pretty universal, parent-defying appeal by any name anywhere as long as there has been skateboards and graffiti and Smirnoff in underage back pockets.

The Subways are a tight three-piece unit who’ve been around just long enough to be able to claim one of music’s highest honours- John Peel was the first radio DJ to play their single on National radio. This energetic band sounds much bigger than their number and brings the feeling of a great gang. In the Mod Club tonight, locals and visitors from U.S. border cities are treated to something ultra-rare and special in our culture that one imagines and fantasizes is the province of British pub life nightly at gigs big and small – some truly great stage banter that makes us feel like instant and forever friends. After the exciting cold shower of PINS (who dedicate their second-to-last song to The Subways), the headliners immediately make the stage their own with their unique rhythms and energy. The Subways emerged out of that great global mid-aughts movement that brought us The Strokes, The Killers, and Franz Ferdinand when corporate pop and dance music was seriously threatened for the first time in a while. And tonight’s good news continues, The Subways are still flagbearers. They still sound so immediate, youthful and fresh, and are still needed for the revolution we are fighting for in music which will not be machine made but just like this: stripped down with a great rock vocal that is timeless, one reminiscent of the great energy and irrepressible defiance of Liam Gallagher.

In between songs, and a stage dive where Singer Billy Lunn is caught and returned to the stage with love and care, Lunn regales us with pub-like fireside tales that we don’t write down because you had to be there. The band is gracious, warm, and approachable. The set is full and fulsome. The band banters with each other and gives each member their time in the spotlight, including a great drum solo-ish song (complete with spotlight lighting) for Josh Morgan. It’s the first North American trip for the band in eight years, and there is a definite, honest, and well-earned mutual appreciation society vibe. This band has traversed the open stages of Glastonbury, T in the Park, and more across Europe (2005’s “Rock & Roll Queen” was a massive chart hit in UK and North America and is an instant classic that gets a rousing response tonight, but is among other older and newer songs equally strong). You can hear this great potential in their sound even inside the walls of the mid-size Mod Club, and a definite wish is formed to see them again somewhere in the world among one of these festival crowds. Thousands of miles away from those storied fields of the great festivals, the crowd in Toronto is made to feel just as big, just as important. Rock n’ Roll with heart and grit will win. The revolution rolls on.

The Subways North American Spring Tour 2016 rolls on through May 3rd, with support from PINS (all dates). Get out there, West Coast!

The Subways. Facebook. Special Record Store Day release out on Pledge Music

The Subways are Billy Lunn, Charlotte Cooper & Josh Morgan.

PINS. Facebook.  Wild Nights LP on Bella Union

PINS are Faith Vern (vocals/guitar), Anna Donigan (bass), Lois Macdonald (guitar), Sophie Galpin (drums) & Kyoko Swann (synths/guitar).

Jacqueline Howell

Gotta Be a Loose Fit: Happy Mondays



“I wrote for luck. They sent me you.”

Happy Mondays erupted out of a Manchester that was somehow entirely different than Morrissey and Marr’s town, twisting The Smiths’ wry wit by the ear.

They bore nothing at all in common with other greats from their city who came before them: Joy Division, New Order, James;  except that they were also singular and also great.

Even twenty odd years on since Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches, it’s astounding and ever thrilling to hear the cocktail of sex, drugs, debauchery, profanity, humour, satire and weirdness that falls out of Shaun Ryder’s stream of consciousness lyrics which are actually often quite pointed and full of cultural criticism, beautifully uncensored and unfiltered, unfettered. They shimmer with true freedom as so many great, at times opium fueled poets of ages past would have loved to be.  These words and intonations were carried on a sketchy breeze of cool, unfussy rebellion, of the sound of Baggy itself, of a shrugging toughness that could never be faked. Whispered in the ear,  mumbled, or barked lyrics travelled round the world and made kids everywhere want to be part of one local scene that existed too briefly in one Northern English city, and the larger unknown culture that formed it, as we nodded if not knowingly, than wishfully, that we could get even a tenth of the inside references. A lifetime mission to penetrate this dialect was born in suburban hearts everywhere.

For to learn the slang of the gang was as worthwhile a pursuit as any we could think of from miles and miles away. Shaun Ryder, the unpredictable bard, made “twistin’ my melon” sound needlessly dirty, naturally, while “four, four in a bed. Three giving head. One getting wet ” came out sounding, oddly, rather romantic and sweet.  The bite of anger in “Wrote for Luck” was mitigated by the naturally funny and freeing lift of Ryder’s offbeat moments, like a long yell in the middle of the song that seemed to say as much about what it felt like to be young in 1990, in northern towns, far from the centre, in faded empires, under grey skies as it seemed to maybe just say, “eh, fuck you”. And today, the same howl and stomping cool of this anthem offers commuter relief in its forever unpackaged originality. Try it on a loop, it’ll change everything on the coach.

They were Bummed. They were Happy. They said Yes Please while picking your pocket, because singing about the travails of a Mondays’ “Holiday” involving “one small sneak” is just too damned funny to be any kind of crime, no matter what the contraband. They were unabashedly street. And they were smart. They reminded us that “Stinkin’ Thinkin’ gets you nowhere (but comes from somewhere).”

“Kiss me for screwing everything in sight. Kiss me for never getting it right. Kiss me goodnight. Kiss me for old time’s sake. Kiss me for making a big mistake.” How could anyone resist?

Have the Mondays ever received their due? In spite of the question that lingers like smoke for this band and so many others who burned so bright in the early 90’s, The Mondays are bigger than petty concerns or a waste of time jostling for cred, as ever. Instead, as if summoned by the endless dreams and devotion of global fans, The Mondays are on a major anniversary lap this past year, a high point of which is undoubtedly headlining the unusually cohesive line up for November’s Shiiine On Weekender.  This festival boasts a roster of the top albums of 1990-91 (and beyond) from across Indie, Dance, Ambient, and Manchester bands and offers a full weekend of music, films, DJ sets and pool parties, including one hosted by Bez himself. Pinch me.

And here we are, 15 years into this goddawful new millennium, when the jetpacks we were promised are still backordered, seeing The Clone Roses. Yes, please. We’ll take two: seeing the great Peter Fij (Adorable, Polak) for the first time ever. Oh and that’s just my personal favourites there’s The Wonder Stuff, Inspiral Carpets, Northside, Peter Hook and the Light, Stereo MCs, The Farm, The Orb, The Real People, Thousand Yard Stare…It’s a month away, and already historic for the happiness its triggered in anticipation.

Shaun Ryder and Rowetta in 1990But back to The Mondays. We’ve waited years for this band’s compositions and Shaun Ryder’s lyrics to receive the acclaim they deserve. True to form, cool resists such things and the body of work has instead gone on to be something better: an inside joke and a secret handshake understood by a select number of global insiders, a knowing head bob, and an appreciation that defies definition. “Show you what the cat’s been doing, and how he gets around” is no less funny if it’s a reference to good ol’ “Grandbag” shortly before his anticipated death, or an image of a family standing around watching and discussing the antics of the family pet (the true meaning of the line holds a decadent amount of air time at Step On Mag HQ of late; we suspect it’s the former, but we are endlessly entertained by the notion of the latter.)

In the intervening years when we all, unfortunately had to grow up (and before the welcome resurgence of our top 90’s bands now that our lot has the keys and can fill the roster like good Indie kids) The Mondays stayed on rotation through the LP, CD, and iPod years. We may never have dabbled in anything stronger than the evil, legal alcohol, but Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches has, through some strange northern magic, served as effective holistic medicine for what ails on that morning after commute. Somehow that Chill Out Room of a brilliant record (and it works best if played end to end) covers the hungover listener in a blanket of comfort that keeps subway rage to a minimum, and its smooth rhythms are a tried and true balm for the self-inflicted wounds of the drinker – a remedy we’ve prescribed to anyone who’ll listen for two decades. This band is not shambolic, you see. Rather, they were and are ingeniously tight and comfortable together, honed over many years before their breakthrough;  as well as their outside projects, their real lives and their individual survival. Back in 1990, their musical looseness, captured rather perfectly on their records along with Ryder’s off-the-cuff ramblings, gave us all something that sounds ridiculously fresh and spontaneous. And free. And offers a different kind of happiness: the darker, weird and authentic kind that we know is all.  And Shaun Ryder’s singing is still one of the most original, fearless and cool in all of music history. His rhymes and left turns contain multitudes that hold up ridiculously well alongside the greats of the English canon:

“We all learned to box at the Midget Club
Where we punched with love and did someone good
It’s good to see ya, to see you nice
If you do me once, well, we’ll do it twice
We’re twice as likely we’re twice as right
You say it’s wrong but we know it’s right

Ride on, right on”

Northern Soul is alive and well and will be celebrated in fine form down south at the seaside for one big weekend beginning one month from today. It might be time to pack up the skin tights and put on the Loose Fits again (Hallelujah!). The original and definitive Happy Mondays line up, with, of course, the inimitable and essential Queen Rowetta, will headline.  And will always shiiine on.

All lyrics c. The Happy Mondays (Ryder, Paul Anthony/ Whelan, Gary Kenneth/Day, Mark Phillip/Davis, Paul Richard/Ryder, Shaun William) Warner/Chappell Music Inc., Universial Music Publishing Group.

Happy Mondays 

Shiiine On Weekender

By Jacqueline Howell

Nothing Can Save Us

“There’s no such thing as old or new,” sang a resigned Nigel Benjamin on “Career”, Mott’s 1976 hymn to blank horizons, “Cuz everything’s been said and done before.” It was a sorry indictment of the music scene from one of the country’s most inventive bands, now at the end of the road. An impasse had been reached; there was no way forward, no tomorrow. To carry on in the same old way was meaningless and empty; all that was left was to grow old and fade. Little did Benjamin know that a new generation was already on the rise, fueled by the energy, anger and fearlessness of youth. If history, tradition, received wisdom and musicality were barriers to progress, then they would be smashed apart and the broken shards trampled on with contempt. Odd fragments would be stuck together in a random order to create something different. The past would be rebuilt into a future with no rules, no inhibitions and no apologies. The most inventive and bravest era in musical history had begun.

Punk fractured the music industry and pried its deathly grip from the throat of creativity. Though the corporations were quick to reassert their hold on commercial pop, independent labels now provided a fertile breeding ground for those with scant regard for fame and success but a burning desire to express themselves in new and vital ways. The post-punk scene was a broken limb, loosely connected to the whole but hanging free, impossible to control and swaying in unpredictable directions. It could be painful, it could be shambolic, it could be bleak, but it could also be stunningly beautiful. In 1983, Cocteau Twins, at the height of their creative powers, released an album and EP of quite uplifting grandeur. The common track on the pair was “Sugar Hiccup”, a kaleidoscopic waltz that showered the listener in patterns of dazzling light as it spun them around the room. One guitar laid down a shimmering backdrop of the gentlest distortion, while another chimed gorgeously in front. A drum machine hurried the dance along, while Liz Fraser’s voice crushed you into a helpless, simpering wreck. There wasn’t the faintest clue as to what she was singing about; this music was about the textures of sound, the voice an instrument that gave the song both resonance and depth.

On playing NOTHING’s Guilty of Everything some thirty years later, it was a shock to hear “Sugar Hiccup” pouring out of the speakers. Yet this was that song drained of colour, devoid of light, injected with iron and titled “Endlessly”. Opening to a deliberately familiar, low-key guitar introduction, the background guitar scrapes rather than soothes, while the chiming guitar is now a siren, bursting in on the second line of each verse and soaring in pitch and waywardness until it reaches dangerous heights. This creates a void that is quickly filled, giving the song a reeling immensity. Its epic scope turns your focus to the vocals, as passionless and smooth as they are dark, “Stains on the sheets, childhood blood that would soak through our jeans”. It paints a terrifying picture with a longing for an endless release that never comes, “Heavy. The world’s so heavy. Carry…” Desperate and unremitting. There are no machines here, but purposeful and grounded drumming that keeps you rooted in reality. This is no skip through a magical wonderland, but a dance of the doomed. And where Cocteau Twins end their song with a little flourish that seems to say, “Beat that”, Nothing’s song ends with its own personal beating, a measured assault of the drums.

NOTHING build upon the past rather than stand in awe of it, brilliantly fusing their hardcore roots with other underground sounds of the last thirty years. It takes skill and imagination to mess with the best and still emerge with such potent results, but they manage it with a detached assurance, dragging grace from darkness and creating monochrome vistas that entice but reject all attempts at empathy. And it’s glorious.

In an interview with Noisey, Dominic “Nicky” Palermo, described the essential cocktail of music he ingested as a kid that shaped his musical influences:

“I grew up in a single parent home and my brother and my sister were out of the house. We kind of lived in a shitty neighbourhood, so I was shook and I think my mom was also shook. I would just sleep in her room all the time, and she would always listen to college radio and Cocteau Twins records, Siouxsie, all that stuff. And that used to scare the hell out of me because they had some creepy songs. Even the Cure, like Pornography, would terrify me. But I wound up knowing the songs and learning them. But it’s really weird music for a seven-year-old to like. My brother, though, was feeding me punk rock and hardcore, so I got a little bit of everything.”

A musician who, at seven years old, was “shook” and listened late at night to the early, great, darkest Cure, Pornography no less, and Cocteau Twins with a cool mom, then Punk and Hardcore, with his brother, is exactly what the world needs right now. Urgently.

All these ingredients of the perfect cocktail are there. A Molotov cocktail.

NOTHING’s Guilty of Everything combines lush vocal melody with a massive wall of instrumentation that reminds us how post-rock sensibilities provide a beautiful mix of grit and calm. Straight from the single “Dig,” you recognize the 90’s alt-rock Smashing Pumpkins/Deftones vibe with a blend of layered clean and distorted guitars in a driving pulse that places you under the lights of a crowded show. Tracks like “Somersault” bring a laid back groove with soaring guitar melodies to crashing drums that breathe gracefully. Each track compliments the last in providing this blend of pumping rock and big emotion. There is a certain appeal to this approach that definitely translates to the stage, and NOTHING provides this sound for listeners who enjoy the light melancholic vibe within crunchy, fuzzy guitars and pounding rhythms. 

Stripped back and genuine in sound, NOTHING provides a solid debut LP of headbangers and introspective moments of chilled out ambience that takes you away from the cluster of overly produced and generic rock music that frequents most popular media. The album consistently barrages the listener with dynamic louds and softs in a soundscape that strengthens the overall experience of an album and performance. 2.

Listen to all nine tracks of Guilty of Everything, a truly great debut LP/CD, like the rare and not always appreciated great debut records that came before it. Listen to it again: it’s greater than so many debut LPs that came before it. Released in March 2014, the band has been touring steadily in support of the album and generating solid buzz everywhere they land.

“Although they are often pegged as a post-shoegaze band, NOTHING’s live performance abandons the genre’s namesake, favouring a vigorous, animated stage presence over the passive stance contemporaries are known for. This is in part due to the band’s noisy, gritty live sound coming across as more powerful than their recordings. The layers of reverb that add a delicate feel to their recorded vocals are foregone in a live setting, and more dissonant elements amongst the instrumentals are introduced.” Exclaim review of Lee’s Palace show, Toronto March 21, 2015.

At Lee’s Palace, NOTHING’s music erupts; it doesn’t wait to be asked, and yet it’s the antidote to what ails society. Because there is always a new strain, a pop musical pandemic spreading like the one we are exposed to right now. Once in a great while, once in a generation, music may upend the balance and let authenticity, rage, grief, and pure, uncut art blast through to the masses. This time is here and now. There is nowhere to go from here. Pop music’s stars with their dead eyes are more than ever, cynical, manufactured, monsters. There’s no fun in pop left: it’s fascism, it’s death. It’s child abuse. Kids need to hear those minor keys and feel the vibrations from the floor of the rock club and be present. Luckily for us, in plain view of the suits, a generation of kids with moms who listened to college radio to get through the longest nights have picked up the guitars and have the sly, innate talent to B & E this rigged musical game.

Only once every few years, something comes along that vibrates the body at a primal level with the feeling of imminent danger one minute, and the flicker of impossible to believe happiness, of empathy, the next minute. Impossibly, this music understands you, speaks to you, slaps you in the face; turns things cinematic for a little while in your little apartment, in your little head, in your little life. For us, love’s gotta be like that: something that has those perfect layered harmonies, that revels in its human fragility, a voice or an instrument that has risen because of need and will, not because they heard they should be up on stage all their life. Maybe because they heard no encouragement all their lives. Maybe they heard nothing, except how to somehow survive, just like they did as kids. Like too many of us kids. Music like this comes from outsiders, from the self-made, from nihilists who are really brokenhearted romantics.

It spills from somewhere tough and genuinely rough, whether the poorest parts of so many American towns, The Ramones’ gritty world view of the Five Boroughs; the decaying English city so far north of the center that London cab drivers stop and ask you why you’d ever want to go there, a place the rags call “STAB CITY” (yet you go there, alone, to see your chosen history, the home of all the musical Gods of Manchester). Great music comes screaming out of rainy, starkly beautiful drug-addled hubs that have hidden depths of so many scarred, beautiful souls. It comes, too, from normal looking families that are secret battlegrounds for a hundred different private family reasons.

When things are dark, we each have our own private darkness. Yet, the dark nothingness is today’s shared cultural touchstone: we’ve all been sad for a really long time. It’s dark out here in the anti-social media world. Every click, every feed, contains semi-random snapshots that hold potential to delight, astound, cause a belly laugh, anger, disgust, repulse. Baby animals; kids saying the darndest things; Mommy taking a picture for Facebook instead of reacting humanely to a child’s embarrassment, shame or pain; disgraceful news media showing ISIS pictures before we can agree to look; people who are shamefully wealthy and famous for nothing at all any good. These things all scroll by as if they are all one neutral thing, while we wonder why we can’t sleep.

Music fans are either old enough to remember that new music was an event and trips to the record store a sacred ritual,  or were were born just in time to miss all that; when the last great true organic moment happened in music. For a while, the game board was smashed and 90’s Alternative music ruled, only to have it die too young, leaving a gaping shotgun hole and shoved off screen before the body was even cold, opening the door to worse pop music than ever before. But music, even then, was not yet devalued, compressed and shoved in our ear holes, alone from a tiny machine, a tool to survive the daily grind. In the last great Alternative wave of the 90’s, the idea that all the record stores, most of the dive bars, rock clubs and the shared public cigarettes in all the cities would disappear because of file compression technology was pure dystopian Science Fiction. Its become our dull reality. Internet and social media channels are what we largely have outside of the concert hall and the rock club. Likes and shares are really nothing, but they’re what we have- they’ve replaced the real tour posters that used to flourish in a city before we were told to see them as wasted dead trees and knew them as necessary, vital, and the only news that mattered to us in the street.

Real rock critics in the old days could love wildly as well as pan mercilessly, but wielded their power with a deep, uncorruptable knowledge of why they were doing either thing. The media is dead. Everyone’s a rock critic now. So be one. Buy into the Alternative bands you love. Spread the word. Ignore the pop vacuum, even the easy joke. Screw ironic detachment. Break something. Start a riot. Remember what it was the first time you heard The Jesus & Mary Chain, The Cure, Nirvana, or Slowdive. NOTHING in 2015 is transcendent, a light flickering in its own darkness. It’s a long awaited answer to Jane’s Addiction when Summertime Fucking Rolled; it’s an illegal fire, an uncontrolled burn to fight our endless winter chill.

NOTHING’s music, with its roots in hardcore, authentic musical knowledge and natural talent, makes for a tight and exciting live show that infuses the rock club with stadium-sized energy. It knows just when to quit, leaving you wanting another hit. It hooks the listener who knows what it means to be Guilty of Everything. This music acknowledges it all, brings it out into the light, and transcends all of that ugly. It comes from dark places and hits us where we live. It takes the bleakness of now and makes it tolerable, even beautiful.

Just listen.

By Step On magazine co-founders and editors with:

1. Adam Hammond: head of Isolation in Sussex, once a small record label and now an independent music website; also a gig promoter.

and 2. Alex Gougeon: a Toronto-based freelance Writer, Musician and Videographer who loves everything Film and Music.

NOTHING is on a U.S. tour from May to June 2015; they also will play Montreal’s OSHEAGA Music Fest. Get more info at the band’s official Facebook page.

The Haçienda: How Not to Run a Club – Revisited

Peter Hook at the Danforth Music Hall, Toronto in 2014.  Photo: Dave MacIntyre
Peter Hook at the Danforth Music Hall, Toronto in 2014. Photo: Dave MacIntyre

Peter Hook, the legendary bass player and co-founder of Joy Division and New Order turned 59 today so what better time to look back on one of Step On Magazine’s favourite publications written by Hooky himself.

The Haçienda: How Not to Run a Club is a hilarious, often harrowing tale about one of the most important night clubs of the 80s and 90s.  Pretty much from the day its doors opened until its final closure in 1997, the Manchester super club hemorrhaged money at a staggering rate.  Hooky recounts that the management and owners (Factory Records, New Order and Tony Wilson) calculated at one point that every “punter” that walked through the door, actually cost the venue £10.00.  The hotspot was plagued with violence, drugs, gangs, door staff on the take and the only people making any money were the DJs and the criminals.  But what a glorious storied venue nonetheless.

Step On's signed copy of the book.
Step On’s signed copy of the book.

The Smiths played there as did Madonna in her first UK appearance.  So did James, The Fall, Echo and The Bunnymen, Inspiral Carpets, The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays and quite obviously, New Order.  The Haçienda was also the place to be during the Acid House and Madchester heyday and stories abound in the book about the madness that unfolded almost nightly.

It’s a great read written in the voice of a friend telling you a crazy no-holds-barred story while you sit in the pub surrounded by pint glasses. In fact we recommend you pick up a copy, cozy up to the bar in your favourite local establishment and dig in.

Peter Hook at the Danforth Music Hall, Toronto in 2014.  Photo: Dave MacIntyre
Peter Hook at the Danforth Music Hall, Toronto in 2014. Photo: Dave MacIntyre

The Haçienda: How Not to Run a Club

Peter Hook at the Danforth Music Hall, Toronto in 2014.  Photo: Dave MacIntyre
Peter Hook at the Danforth Music Hall, Toronto in 2014. Photo: Dave MacIntyre

Peter Hook, the legendary bass player and co-founder of Joy Division and New Order turned 59 today so what better time to look back on one of Step On Magazine’s favourite publications written by Hooky himself.

The Haçienda: How Not to Run a Club is a hilarious, often harrowing tale about one of the most important night clubs of the 80s and 90s.  Pretty much from the day its doors opened until its final closure in 1997, the Manchester super club hemorrhaged money at a staggering rate.  Hooky recounts that the management and owners (Factory Records, New Order and Tony Wilson) calculated at one point that every “punter” that walked through the door, actually cost the venue £10.00.  The hotspot was plagued with violence, drugs, gangs, door staff on the take and the only people making any money were the DJs and the criminals.  But what a glorious storied venue nonetheless.

Step On's signed copy of the book.
Disarm Editor Dave MacIntyre’s signed copy of the book.

The Smiths played there as did Madonna in her first UK appearance.  So did James, The Fall, Echo and The Bunnymen, Inspiral Carpets, The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays and quite obviously, New Order.  The Haçienda was also the place to be during the Acid House and Madchester heyday and stories abound in the book about the madness that unfolded almost nightly.

It’s a great read written in the voice of a friend telling you a crazy no-holds-barred story while you sit in the pub surrounded by pint glasses. In fact we recommend you pick up a copy, cozy up to the bar in your favourite local establishment and dig in.

Peter Hook at the Danforth Music Hall, Toronto in 2014.  Photo: Dave MacIntyre
Peter Hook at the Danforth Music Hall, Toronto in 2014. Photo: Dave MacIntyre
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