Sounds From The Other City

February 17, 2012

A chat with… Stephen from Monster Island

Of all the bands that have plodded around Manchester’s live scene in the past couple of years, none of them have had the same sense of wit and worthlessness that Monster Island seem to embody. Stephen from the band is going to be performing as… well, himself, doing some readings for Paradox, and then sticking around later to play some songs with the rest of his band. We’ve had a chat with him about some things and it’s really interesting, like.

Alright Stephen, how are you?

Good Enough.

You’re performing twice at the festival this year, but let’s start with your bread and butter: Monster Island. For those who’ve not had the pleasure of seeing you live, what can they expect?

They can expect some uncomfortable funk, some heavy chords, some vicious drum playing and some viscous hip swaying. This will likely be layered with snaky bass, beer battered guitar and some yokely northern vocals.

You’re all from the wastelands of industrial¬†Lancashire, which means you’ll be at home in Salford. To what extent do you think all that decay has affected what you do as a band?

To a large extent.

Perhaps not decay persay, and I don’t agree with anyone who sees beauty in decay eg. a derelict warehouse or a dead pigeon. The American Beauty/Six Feet Under mindset. Shite is Shite.

Instead maybe just the awkward, bland, stressful, convoluted infrastructure and atmosphere of most northern towns and cities.

NCPs, stinky bins, “street furniture”, new build flats with little or no ground floor retail provision, bad cladding, knackered vistas. Specific examples would include the Arndale Food Court which, were I a sturdy giant, I would boot towards the Pennines. Salford Quays and its endless fences and dead brick walls. They don’t have to put up with this bullshit in Paris.

The words from Monster Island tracks have always felt more like free verse poetry than lyrics to me – does your work as a poet differ much from your work with the band?

Some of the songs are a bit all over the place but the ones I hope will work as spoken word have a bit of a story or theme. They’ll always be a bit disperse though as they usually start life as a series of one liners typed into a phone in Next or scrawled into a work pad mid conference call which seek each other out over a period of months.

People always ask about what music has inspired bands, but what poets/writers most excite you? – and, of course, why.

Anyone with colour, humour, a bit of menace and a good sense of rhythm.

Ballard, Philip K Dick, Joyce, Faulkner, Kafka, Beckett, Pinter. With lyricists Mark Smith in his prime was untouchable, and inspiring in that he just writes about whatever the fuck he wants. Loveable oddballs like Marnie Stern, Isaac Brock and Frank Black. Also more flowery stuff like Leonard Cohen, Bill Callahan, David Berman. It’s all about the assonance man.

I don’t read a lot of poetry. I built up a GCSE aversion to it. Science-y concepts like iambic pentameter sucking the fun out of it for everyone.

Right, last two things – give us a link to a song you like at the minute:

Recently I’ve been listening to a few of the bands I liked back when I was a young man, like this:¬†

Or, on the SFTOC theme,

…and recommend us a poem we should seek out

I’m going to cheat here and recommend the words to a song, “San Francisco BC” by the Silver Jews. He makes it look easy.

Stephen will be reading at Paradox, then doing a set with Monster Island for Fat Out till You Pass Out.