The UKs Naked Lunch have a past, and an interesting one at that. More importantly they have a future too. Naked Lunch was formed in 1979. Their first release was a track on the famous ‘Some Bizzare’ album along side early tracks from Depeche Mode, The The, Blancmange and Soft Cell. Fast forward to the present day, Naked Lunch have reformed, releasing a new single “Alone”, in August 201 3. The original line-up remains almost intact and includes Tony Mayo (vocals), Paul Davies (guitar), Mark Irwin (drums and percussion) and Cliff Chapmen (synths). They have recently been joined by Jet Noir, who is no stranger to the Rivetheads on vocals and synths. John E Smoke caught up with the band to mull over the passage of time and new beginnings.
JES – First of all, welcome to Rivetheads/Midlands Metalheads, how does 2014 find you all?
Tony Mayo: Thank you for; your welcome it is very much appreciated and 2014 is going to be an interesting year for us. We have just completed the mixing and mastering of our first ever album and that gives a warm feeling of accomplishment. We are now quiet excited about playing live again later this year and we are busy planning and working on that.
Tony: From the mid 80’s there was no Naked Lunch playing live, I was doing studio work in the 90’s as Naked Lunch but unfortunately this material was not released. I had always regretted that we had not continued and it was odd seeing references to us in other bands biographies but no real information out there for people to know who we are and what we did. Then luckily Paul and I linked up and chatted about writing new material and reforming. When we were asked to open BAS II that gave us the impetus to get on with it and now here we are.
JES – The roots of Naked Lunch can be traced back over three decades. I’m also in a band that can be traced back over two decades. I think it is safe to say that a lot has changed since you first recorded music and played live. Both the music industry and the underground scene have changed almost beyond recognition. What do you think are the most fundamental changes you have witnessed, and do you think anything has stayed the same?
Cliff Chapman: Unfortunately there are some things that seem to have changed very little over the years, “same b/s, different faces” and all that. But there are lots of positives, obviously the opportunities for people to get their music out into the ether are much greater, like you say it’s beyond recognition really. I think the rise of the independent Internet radio stations has been a fantastic development for the alternative scene. Mainstream radio still has a valuable place in exposing artists to a wider audience, but seems to be reluctant to take the first step these days. If only there was another real John Peel type out there, I think it would be very difficult for someone to get the chance to do that these days.
Tony Mayo: Recording music has become easier and that means that you can do stuff at home on Cubase and that makes song writing so much easier. The downside is lots of people do stuff in their bedrooms and then have to try to make the transition into playing live. People need to remember playing live has a different feel and it is strange now days seeing all of the cameras taking videos. Instead of a sea of faces you see a sea of devices.
JES – Naked Lunch 2014 sees new blood in the form of Jet Noir, and a sound that is an energetic blend of alternative and electronic music. How does it feel to be making new music, getting airplay, playing gigs and being firmly back on the radar?
Tony: Writing new material was and is extremely important to us , as we were at the forefront of electronic / alternative music and quiet well known in the early 80’s pre internet and we want our music to be relevant for the now and not just the then! We are truly stunned by the reception that we are getting, the support from the independent radio and alternative community is amazing. It is also brilliant that Jet has joined us and brought her artistic skill and drive to the band, she is a very welcome and active part of the band.
JES – From 1979 to 2014, talk about any of the threads that can be traced from your first incarnation to present day, in terms of motivation, lyrical content, performance and sound.
Cliff: We always had energy and an edge to our sound that’s definitely stayed with us and progressed with the new material.
Tony Mayo: Paul and I still have the same drive and desire to push boundaries and that is one of the reasons we get on so well with Jet and the three of us are already discussing new material. As an anarchist the lyrics are always about something and sometimes can be about very deep and touch on “taboo” topics. Two of the tracks, Alone and Emotional Turmoil are about mental health issues, covering isolation, disconnection and frustration of life.
JES – What is next for Naked Lunch release wise? Can we expect a physical release on CD, vinyl or even cassette?
Tony Mayo: Yes there is our album Beyond Planets coming out on the 21st February 2014 on Sub Culture records via Digital sites and a physical CD. We are thinking of the possibility of vinyl for this album but later in the spring Dark Entry Records are releasing some of our old material on vinyl.
JES – What is your view on the resurgence of formats from times past, in terms of vinyl and more recently cassette. Personally I never stopped being a vinyl junkie. There are small labels with healthy followings that release exclusively on these formats. Perhaps it is time to start releasing wax cylinders once more…
Cliff: I think it’s great, especially vinyl, there’s something special about the whole package the artwork, the physical media, and sound that transcends the music itself. It has a presence and meaning that lives on with you, becomes part of your life.
Tony: I like vinyl and still have a deck and a load of original vinyl records. I am not overly keen on cassettes and always preferred vinyl.
JES – Time to test your memory, what was the first piece of music you ever bought, and also the most recent? Say a little about these releases if you don’t mind.
Cliff: The first album I got was Slayed by Slade, swapped it for my first pair of DM’s which I’d grown out of almost as soon as I’d got them! That was quickly followed by Schools Out by Alice Cooper and Space Ritual by Hawkwind, still got ‘em all. Great albums but Space Ritual was the one. To be exposed to something like that at such a young age changed everything, part of my roots. My most recent ones were the John Foxx and the Maths album Evidence and the Exponentialism EP by Tara Bush and Gazelle Twin. I love the way John Foxx has moved on. His partnership with Benge in The Maths over the last few years has really pushed the boundaries, no fear or compromise. Actually I also just bought Motorhead’s On Parole the other day, when I found out that it was by the original line up with Larry Wallis from the Pink Fairies and Lucus Fox. I saw that line up play on the first ever Motorhead tour while I was at school, amazing gig, though I couldn’t hear properly for three days after…
Tony:, Tyrannosaurus Rex , Ride a White Swan was the first single I ever bought and the Velvet Underground/ Andy Warhol, Banana Album was my first album.. I still love these records and they started my journey into alternative music and as for recently I bought a Kraftwerk live double CD and it made me smile. I must admit that I have tended to listen to music on Spotify and Youtube for the last year
JES – From my research I gather that your early live performances involved fiddly analogue sequencers and a live drummer that didn’t use any china except for hi hats. Would you like to tell us about your current set up in the studio and live? What are your key pieces of hardware and software these days?
Cliff: We mainly record using Cubase and a mix of vintage analogue synths, softsynths such as the Arturia and Korg collections and VA’s, whatever works best for the part. My favourite pieces of hardware are my ARP Odyssey, Minimoog, Roland System 100 and other old analogues, all very different and classics in their own right. Live at the moment I use my Roland JX-8P, Korg MS20 and Akai Miniak.
Tony: Using analogue sequencers live was a nightmare and the old monophonic no memory synths could be problematic with frantic twiddling of settings between songs… Standing at the front with the mike and wondering what was going to happen was quiet interesting and sometimes I was given a surprise haha. We still do not have any cymbal other than high hats and Mark is going to be using an electronic drum kit this year plus Paul has a vintage Gibson and a Peavey amp. Software we are into Cubase and we will be using that live this year plus we might use the R16 with sound cards for the sequencers’.
JES – From your website I note that you are also behind ‘Evolve or Die’, which you describe as a multimedia company…to promote collaborative working. Would you like to tell us some more, how it came about and what you hope to achieve?
Tony: When we reformed we said we wanted to try to encourage creativity and for people of different artistic backgrounds to work together. That is how it used to be and it feels as if that sense of artistic community is more fragmented and not as inclusive and symbiotic any more.
Therefore, set up Evolve Or Die to try to bring people together under a collective umbrella, however, it needs all of the collective members to work hard together and we needed to record our album which has taken up a lot of our time, so we had little choice but to suspend EOD activity for a while. Our album is also under the EOD banner in conjunction with Sub Culture. We hope to link up with people and to have EOD supporting artists again sometime in the future.
JES – I would like to thank you for taking the time to thank you for having a natter with us here at Rivetheads/Midlands Metalheads. Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?
Tony: Thank you for giving us the opportunity to be introduced to them and I would like to thank them all for giving us some of the time out of their lives to read this. Without the people who listen and go to gigs there would be no music and that is something we never forget. So give our album a listen, buy it if you like it and try to come to our gigs, we would love to see you there.