Kenward Cooper – Rock’n’Roll Will Only Break Your Heart

Some of you might know Ken from his podcast Glambone but he started rock’n’roll activism at a very young age and later became a musician. Ken has just released “Rock’n’Roll Will Only Break Your Heart”, a great book in which he gives us a lot of details about his various adventures, his personal life and his passion for rock’n’roll.

When did you get the idea of writing your book and how much time did it take?

Ever since being a teenager, the idea of writing an autobiography is something I imagined I would do one day. I just thought I’d be in a different position telling my story, but sometimes the perfect picture of how you think your life would be isn’t always how it adds up. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, that’s when I started reflecting and writing the book. It was a two-year process.

You started being involved at a very young age being the editor of a Sunset Strip publication. Can you tell us more about it?

Yes. In my teens I started a music magazine from my bedroom. A fanzine, basically. After the first couple of issues, record companies began calling to buy advertisements in the publication, full page ads to promote their new releases. Once that started to happen, we were able to upgrade the design and printing quality. So with doing that, it became a prominent paper on the Los Angeles streets and eventually distributed in other music cities around the globe.

How were the musicians’ reactions when seeing that you were so young? Any anecdotes to share with us?

Mostly surprised, but they thought it was cool. I remember before the family uprooted to Los Angeles, I had an interview with the band Dirty Looks that Atlantic Records set up for me to meet them at a night club in Las Vegas they were playing at. Keep in mind, Vegas has a strict age limit of being 21 years or older. Well, the club owner saw me with my tape recorder interviewing the drummer outside the venue, and he says to me, as long as your dad is here with you, you can come inside and watch the show from the sound board, just don’t go anywhere near the bar ! So, there I was at 14 years old getting into my first night club to watch a rock n roll band. It was great !

Then you started playing in bands. Can you tell us about them?

Yeah, two years later I had my first band with my high school buddy Ashley Hamilton. We’re great friends to this day. We basically ditched school one day to go to Guitar Center on Sunset Blvd. That’s the first time we played guitar for each other, and said right there let’s form a band. Funny enough, one of the record companies that gave us recording time to make demos was Atlantic Records. It was a thrill to have been in their office interviewing bands, and then soon thereafter playing our demo in the CEO’s office. Stylistically we were all over the place, a bit of pop, hard rock, ballads, and hip-hop. You hear some bands say that the record companies didn’t know what to do with them, well, that was us, we were trying to find ourselves and which direction to go in. After that, I pursued it on my own, and later on a project with my ex-wife which was called This Episode.

At times, it seems like the book is a story written for a TV series, there are so many ingredients for it, like your different travels (London, Paris, New York…), your bad luck as a musician and heartbreak stories….

Thanks, yeah, it’s quite a visual read and certainly could be adapted for the screen.

The book comes out with a 16 song CD companion in which we can hear a big Britpop influence. Was it your favourite 90s style after the 80s glam metal wave?

Definitely. In America, the 90s obviously was about the Seattle sound. It wasn’t my thing. For me, all the great new music was happening in the UK.

Suede, Pulp, My Life Story, Elastica, David Devant & His Spirit Wife, Oasis. It was fantastic.

Can you tell us about the recording of these songs and the people involved?

It’s a compilation from over the years, various sessions and projects. The majority of it was recorded and produced by Rick Parker. One of the more recent songs is a co-write I did with Michael Lockwood. A lot of guest musicians are on it who’ve played with artists like Beck, Madonna and others.

I first got to know you because of your Glambone podcast. Can you tell us a bit about it, how you started it, etc.?

The first Glambone podcast debuted in late 2008. All I knew about podcasts back then was that it was like an underground way of having a radio show. There weren’t many at that time like there is today. I was living in Nashville then, and in between playing the writer-rounds which songwriters do, I had extra time on my hands. All the tapes of bands from my Rockstar Magazine days were in boxes, and instead of keeping it boxed up, I thought a podcast would be a great way to share this stuff with people.

You’ve never thought about starting an online magazine?

Well, I simultaneously had the Glambone blog up as well. But no, who needs an online magazine from me when you got Veglam ?!

Without spoiling the book too much, did you get your rights back for your song that was “stolen”?

I always had the rights to my song. Even though mine was infringed upon, I could still use it as I pleased. But in terms of royalties from the stolen version, no, I only received compensation from a settlement for it.

Music business has changed a lot. Do you think that things are easier for self-produced artists/bands nowadays?

Yes and no. It’s expensive to solely do on your own. If you’re talking about touring costs, promotion, manufacturing vinyl and merch, this is all out-of-pocket expenses if you don’t have support from another company helping you out and lifting some of the financial burden. In terms of recording and releasing music online, sure, anyone can do that.

Do you still own any demos from the Sunset Strip days? Which bands should have made it but haven’t according to you?

Some stuff, although, each time I move around it gets less and less. I’ve gotten rid of so much. The bands that should’ve made it, Tomorrow’s Child, Rattlesnake Shake, Pharoah from the east coast. Honestly, many of the bands that had records out should’ve made it, Lions & Ghosts, Candy, The Zeros, Dear Mr. President, Vain.

You’ve spent a lot of time in France. Any French bands or artists you like?

Serge Gainsbourg, Raphael, Les Rita Mitsouko, Carla Bruni. Everytime I go back I discover something great there.

You lived in Nashville. It seems like many rockers from California are moving there. Do you think that it’s only a money issue?

Not just from California anymore, musicians from everywhere have been moving there. I don’t think it’s only a money concern, because prices and cost of living in Nashville has certainly gone up since the time I lived there. Not as high as L.A, but it’s climbing. I think for industry it continues to be a place where creativity is alive and well, and that’s a big part of the appeal. I’ll tell you though, if they’re not moving to Nashville, many of the L.A. people are moving to Las Vegas.

Which place would you choose if you could live anywhere you’ve been?

It’s a toss up between Paris and New York. Unless I fall in love with a Swedish girl, then I’m moving to Stockholm !

Looking back at all these musical adventures. Would you change anything if you could?

If I had a voice in my head back at the beginning of 2002 telling me to stay in Vegas just a little while longer, I think I would like to have listened to it, being that the city spawned a few successful bands after I left. But the voices took me somewhere else instead. Luck of the draw.

Glambone

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https://www.kenwardcooper.com/

Micko & The Mellotronics – “… Everything forgotten hangs in dark dreams of the past, ever threatening to return!”

If you like glam rock then you must have watched Velvet Goldmine (Todd Haynes, 1998) quite a few times and you probably thought that the mysterious and glittery Jack Fairy was the perfect incarnation of the style. Micko Westmoreland was the perfect person for this role but he is also a musician who has just released a new album called « ½ Dove – ½ Pigeon » with his band MICKO & THE MELLOTRONICS, a fine mix of British pop, glam and art punk wrapped in wry humour and retro aesthetic. Micko tells us about the album, the band as well as his acting experience…

Let’s start with Velvet Goldmine and your role as Jack Fairy. How did you get chosen for it?

My brother & his late partner Richard Glatzer were already good friend’s with director Todd Haynes. So I got an invite to meet with him in Soho in central London, one wet Thursday afternoon & we sat for a couple of hours & chatted. I was fresh out of film school & we hit upon Kenneth Anger; the devil incarnate & his fabulous collection of avant garde short movies. We got on very well so it felt that something positive was going to happen. It did, I tried out with Susie Figgis (casting director) for the role which fell to the brilliant David Hoyle as group stylist. Word filtered through I could audition for the mysterious Jack Fairy, so I did a performance on VHS video of lip synching to ‘All the young Dudes’, by Bowie, two versions were sent in. My brother told me I had got the part, so the work began in ernest. I had very little to no acting experience, so decided to read as much as I could about the era, bought/borrowed a ton of biographies and inadvertently started ‘method acting’ the part. I moved to staying out late and suspending all other aspects of modern life i.e. only music played from the glam era, and lots of other stuffs I picked up from the books. Not eating in front of others, certainly not in public or using the bathroom whilst in company. Subtle things that gave my new personal a slightly other worldly, alien quality.

Jack Fairy is a mysterious glam rock cult figure in the film. What were the references you had in mind for this character?

I felt the role was much more about emanating a presence. People have often asked who ‘Jack’, is based on, Eno/Bolan/Little Richard/Dietrich. Let’s leave the jury out hey.. Jack’s magic is his mysterious quality, he escapes with little to no egg on his face, a kind of patron saint of Glam Rock.

Bowie, Bolan, Eno, Jobriath and many others had something otherwordly in them. Do you think that mystery and magic are important things in glam rock?

Absolutely, the more elusive the more desirable. Todd worked hard on the relationship between fan & star in Velvet Goldmine, gets the hormones racing. Art school Glam was a movement which set about fictionalising itself, partly why Velvet Goldmine works, it’s not a bio pic. Bowie created Ziggy, so in a parallel universe there’s all the variants in-between, Maxwell Demon was after all the name of Eno’s art school band.

Were you allowed to keep « Oscar Wilde’s brooch » after playing in the movie?

Unfortunately not, a deal was done over the costumes so I wasn’t able to walk off the set with a few bits and pieces ala, ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth‘. I did however get the leather coat worn over the opening credits made, it was originally designed for Britt Ekland. I have it moth balled in the cupboard, my alter ego hermetically sealed. As the opening credit decree ‘Histories like ancient ruins, are the fictions of empires, while everything forgotten hangs in dark dreams of the past, ever threatening to return!’.

Were you already playing in bands at the time of the movie?

No, I was making Electronic music under the name The Bowling Green, I got signed to Trent Reznor’s nothing records along with a number of Warp records artists. The 90s was the era of the bedroom musician, I was one of those. The technology was improving so fast at that time, the possibilities seemed endless. I changed gear in the 2000s & got more interested in lyrics & returning to writing on guitar.

What have you released before The MELLOTRONICS?

A ton of stuff, http://www.landlinerecords.com is a good spot to find stuff. The band really came out as a result of the 2015 album ‘Yours etc. abc’, which sounded like a band but was in actual fact mainly just me. It made sense from that to build a group from that sound.

How did you get Jon Klein (SPECIMEN/SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES) to play with you?

We were playing on the same bill, Mellotronics were support. I lent Jon my amp for the show & gave him a record. I got a message from him the next day as I remember, asking how I’d put it together, he liked it. We eventually got together for a drink in Camden Town & it went from there.

I’d just finishing writing Noisy Neighbours & I sent it over to him & he gave it a the Klein dynamic work out treatment, I was amazed at the results.

Can you tell us about the recording of the album? Did you have all the songs ready and arranged before recording?

I provide words, chords & melody, they sometimes get truncated or extended as the track gets worked into full focus.

Jon Klein our guitarist (Specimen/Ex-Banshees) plays a huge part in the sound, he’s an amazing player & a great producer. We worked independently & together on the project. Nick MacKay (drums) & Vicky Carroll (bass) are a great rhythm section. Vicky is 100% dependable & is our newest recruit. Nick was in it from the start. Such a great passion for playing & a brilliant live performer..

Did you have any albums, bands, art or literature references in mind when making the album?

There’s a few obvious ones, a Barrettesque paisley envelope modulating Psychedelic Shirt, The Rutles’ own Neil Innes came to play on You Killed My Father which was inspired by him & there’s a few other miscellaneous musical references for afternoon trainspotting. All good clean fun.

There’s something very British in the Lyrics and the songwriting. I was watching Inside Number 9 a few days ago and thought that your music would have been perfect as a soundtrack for it. Do you have any plans to have your songs in TV shows or movies?

Music for TV & Film comes along sporadically & randomly. It’s more that someone has you in mind than the other way around.

Will you have the album line-up as a live band too?

Absolutely, as notated above.

How would you compare being an actor with being on stage with a rock band?

When I’m on stage I have a hell of a lot to do, I’m more concentrated on delivering the best I can. So here’s no great theatrics on stage, it’s more about poking out the details from the wall fo sound.

Do you think that being an actor helps for music videos?

Yes, I would say so. It’s a fine line between confidence which people love & over making the point which turns people off.

You always have to avoid too much sauce. Treat your audience as highly intelligent, they can see things you don’t.

It’s hard to plan anything these days, but do you have any future plans for The MELLOTRONICS or your acting career?

I don’t really have an acting career any more, that’s parked in the Jack Fairy museum where it should be. The band is as active as we can be at present in covid times. We have two videos to shoot in the new year & of course a second album, writing is underway.

I feel very lucky. I work with talented people & I’ve been no steps removed from the greats! I believe that everyone has the potential to be creative deep down, without wishing to sound preachy, don’t let the perceived judgement of others or for that matter your own, get you down & stop you. Good or bad it’ll all work out for the better that way..

Photo credits: Ashley Jones & Paul London

http://landlinerecords.com/
https://smarturl.it/1-2Dove1-2Pigeon

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Jonny Cola & The A-Grades “Straight To Video/Marlborough Road” (Promo DVD)

VideoJonnyCola

This is a promo DVD for the double A-side “Straight To Video/Marlborough Road” vinyl that will be released on April 3rd via Scratchy Records (the songs will also be available in digital format.) Singer Jonny is back in shape after a kidney transplant, and that’s a good thing to see as JONNY COLA & The A-GRADES is one of the most interesting bands in England nowadays!
The glam pop quintet offers us two videos, one for each song. No big surprise if I tell you that the video starts with some tea, right? “Straight To Video” displays the SUEDE/PULP influences of JONNY COLA & The A-GRADES in the best ways possible: glamourous vocals, poppy choruses and intense guitar melodies. The band is evolving in their own universe here as the video moves from a theatrical burlesque bar atmosphere to glitzy stage rock’n’roll action that looks like it was directly taken from Velvet Goldmine!
“Marlborough Road”, a more punky song gets us to the rainy London streets at night through a cab ride before the band ends up in a small underground club, playing in front of a glammed-up audience. The video will be released on YouTube on March 20th, so keep it in mind and be patient!/Laurent C.

The band will also play live on March 22nd at Some Weird Sin club night @ London Buffalo Bar with Fallen Leaves & DJ Heidi Heelz

www.theagrades.net