The Indelicates – In Conversation (2020 re-edit)

Before PIFL was a rarely-updated blog, it was an even more infrequently-released fanzine. One of a few I tried to make happen in my teens and 20s.

Warm on the heels of boredom (two issues and out) and Northern Quarter (one and done) were the two sole issues of Play it Fucking Loud.

After (all-too) eagerly sticking a copy of Issue #1 into the hands of Julia Indelicate as she tidied up her gear after a show somewhere, I badgered her and joint frontperson Simon into letting me interview them for Issue #2.

The Indelicates

The interview was a thrill, but the article was embarrassingly pompous, overwrought and overwritten.

I’m not just saying that. It used the words “scribes”, “weblog”, and “dèbut” with an accent, for god’s sake. Weblog. Christ.

So I’ve given it a nip and tuck to make it a bit more readable, taken out (some of) the rambling and fawning, and gone back to the transcript to neaten up the quotes.

The Indelicates - The Last Significant Statement To Be Made in Rock 'N' Roll

Soon after Play it Fucking Loud #2 was printed up in 2008, I gleefully sold out with an entry-level part time job as a Celebrity Big Brother Reporter at Digital Spy.

It evolved into an eight-year stint as a journalist and eventually news editor before I moved on/out, but not before I took advantage of my fortunate situation to interview Simon and Julia a few more times.

They were always lovely to talk to, and more importantly were always making great art and saying interesting things about it.

The Indelicates have kept on writing, playing and recording. Listen to their stuff on Spotify and then go and buy it from their Corporate Records website.

“Once in a corridor in Memphis / Was a singer took a breath / Wrote the birth of the teenager / Now we come to write his death”

‘The Last Significant Statement To Be Made In Rock ‘N’ Roll’

PIFL has been here before. Ever since we bought our first tapes from Our Price we’ve been bombarded by journalists and musicians telling us that pop is dead.

At the same time, we’ve also seen endless magazine covers yelling the exact opposite, usually while hailing some fourth-generation rock ‘n’ roll facsimiles as our new favourite band.

Fronted by Simon and Julia, what’s striking about The Indelicates is that while their lyrics echo the first view, their songs are actually good enough to make you believe.

After a few sharp singles, their acerbic, explosive debut album American Demo was released in April.

“I’m alright about the album now,” says Simon. “I was really unhappy about it the week before it came out.

“I just felt really exposed. Like I’d walked out on stage at the school play without knowing any lines. Now it’s actually come out I’ve stopped worrying about it.”

Listening to the album, you can understand why its release might make him feel vulnerable. American Demo offers up a pretty singular take on love, life, drugs, politics and rock ‘n’ roll itself.

“I’m the most right-wing person I know, by a clear margin,” Simon says. It’s not the sort of thing you usually hear a musician say, especially one in their mid-20s.

We’ve just asked him about an unhinged review of the album that, among other things, denounced the band as rabid left-wingers and no-good feminists.

The review also suggested that Julia would be better off having a solo career, leaving Simon to write for Mojo.

“It really upset me,” Simon says of that final barb. “It really did bug me to the point where I had to talk about it in interviews and on stage.”

Julia isn’t too keen on the idea either.

“It’s really offensive to me because I’m not stupid,” she says. “I’m not just ‘a female singer’.

“When someone says that what they mean is, ‘You’ve got a great voice and I didn’t listen to a word of what you were saying’. I mean, fuck off! Seriously, what gives you the right to say that to me?

“It’s always men of a certain age – it’s always ‘industry professionals’. They’re maybe late 30s or whatever, they’re just trying to pull is what it is.

“They’re trying to be your friend and you’re thinking, ‘I’m not going to be your friend if you’re not going to be polite!’.”

Still seething, Simon half-quips: “At least The Spectator! If they said I should write for The Spectator I would have been, ‘Fine, alright’.”

The Indelicates - We Hate The Kids

Was he really bothered by the ranting of some nobody on a blog you’ve never heard of?

“The reason it got to me is that I don’t think I’ve got any right to be doing anything in music,” he says.

“I’m middle class, for a start… I can’t really sing, to be honest. I can hold a tune, but I don’t really have a range or anything like that.

“It was like, ‘What are you doing, Twat? You should be a lawyer or something. That’s what you’re supposed to be doing’.

“It wasn’t so much that he said it but that I agreed. I was in a really bad mood anyway because the album was coming out and I didn’t want it to because I was scared, but I’m over it now.”

We’re only talking to Simon and Julia today, but The Indelicates are more than a duo. It’s just that outside the music the other members of the band don’t get much of a look in.

The Indelicates up on the roof

On stage in Manchester a few hours after this interview, drummer Ed van Beinum, bassist Kate Newberry and guitarist Al Clayton come into their own. As a group they take the songs up a level, giving them a harder-edged, glammier sound.

Al especially bounces around the venue like a dosed-up Gummi Bear, offering the crowd more than just the frontpeople as a focus.

Do the other members feel deprived of a voice, as well as a place on the front cover of their own album?

“No, because they hate talking to people, so that’s the price,” Simon laughs.

“They don’t mind,” Julia says. “I think they like being the rhythm section. They all joined up because of that, so they don’t want to be in the ‘public eye’ as such, though they do on stage.”

Simon adds: “They’re our words, so it’s up to us to take responsibility for what we said.”

‘Cos if we can’t have a better world / Then at least can we be right?”
– ‘The British Left In Wartime’

Back to the politics. Simon might describe himself as the most right wing person he knows, but he hardly talks like Nick Griffin and The Indelicates aren’t exactly Skrewdriver.

In fact, the band recently donated a track to REPEAT fanzine’s Fuck the BNP right off compilation. So what does he mean by that, then?

Well, along with ‘Our Daughters Will Never Be Free’ – Julia’s swipe at post-feminism – the album has a couple more out-and-out political moments.

‘Better to Know’ is unashamedly pro-liberal, pro-awareness, while ‘America’ hacks at the reflexive anti-Americanism of much of the British left.

We wonder if songs like that make the band feel set apart from other musicians.

“Yeah,” says Simon, “But I’d probably be embarrassed to do it if I didn’t feel a bit out on a limb.

“‘America’ especially is something that I care about. You do get this constant stupidity from the left, which is really disappointing and irritating. It really does bug me.

“It’d be very easy to write songs about how I don’t like George Bush, because of course, no-one likes George Bush.

“Just as it’s very easy to shock the Daily Mail, but it’s kind of pointless. That’s what they’re for – the Daily Mail – to be shocked.

“Anything that runs against the grain of what the people you’re talking to believe seems a lot more worthwhile.

“If you’re having a go at the people directly in front of you, at least you’re not just talking to the choir.”

Simon Indelicate

At PIFL, we’re not demanding that our favourite bands echo our politics. It’s just refreshing to hear a band making a point of thinking for themselves before shooting off their mouths.

At the very least, we want artists to recognise the contradictions that flare up if they start preaching to their fanbase.

Too many hotly-tipped guitar bands in Britain right now seem focused on just three things: their careers, teenage girls, and drugs.

“The popstars who write operas / And make fatuous remarks / The theory quoting upstarts / Who snort fairtrade coke in parks”
– ‘America’

“Coke is the least ethically produced crop in the world,” Simon says. “People’s feet can get burned off when they have to tread it in acid, otherwise they get shot. People won’t go to McDonald’s but they’ll buy coke.”

He adds: “The bands of this generation are a lot less radical than those of their parents’ generation.

“And that in itself suggests a reversal of something which was once interesting and made changes in society as a voice for youth.

“It stopped being that when Kurt Cobain shot himself, and became just a method of selling pieces of plastic to teenagers.”

Simon thinks the idea of rock ‘n’ roll as rebellion has run its course. There’s no longer any evidence of it.

Julia takes up the thread.

“I think indie music’s dead too,” she says. “As in independent, an independent scene.

“With the alternative scene in America the difference is phenomenal. The alternative scene in America consists of a vast number of different things but they’re really supportive.

“There are all sorts of labels that are basically small businesses that will come and support that, whereas in England ours died.

“Ours died and possibly became pop music, which is fine. That’s what happens. But people forget there was a reason it was indie music. That it was independent – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

After a short stint on Sad Gnome Records, the band signed to independent label Weekender. Was it always the strategy to stay free on an indie? Not quite.

Simon admits he always wanted to release the album “on a massive label” and Julia agrees.

“In terms of sound it’s not not commercial, though maybe it is in terms of lyrics,” she says.

“It doesn’t bother me being on an indie, because you have a lot more control over what happens.

“But if a big label ever wanted to sign us up we’d definitely say yes. And we’d say yes having thought it through. We’re not dumb, so we think about it.

“I don’t really have a problem with many people being able to buy your music. The more people that hear about it the better really.”

“When they pin me to the wall, I’ll say / I’m with America / With godless America”
– ‘America’

The band went to the States earlier this year to play South by Southwest. Despite all hype, what they found when they got there was a pretty tedious industry get-together.

“No different from the Tory party conference,” Simon says. “Just lots of men in suits walking around with badges on, talking about fringe meetings and how excited they are about everything.”

The surroundings were something else, though.

“I really liked being in America,” Julia says. “The space in Texas is just phenomenal.

“I was born in Saudi Arabia and I used to live in compounds because my dad worked for an airline.

“The compounds used to be some way into the desert and I’m really used to vast amounts of space.

“It’s so nice to look to the horizon and it’s just immense… it’s such a wonderful feeling to be able to do that. If you live in a city all the time, you don’t get that.

“It’s really, really freeing and it also makes you feel like you could survive it, if you’re a positive person.

“You feel, ‘I could do this, I could walk through this desert, and I could work it out, I’d be able to stand alone’.

“I think there’s a lot of that about America, despite it having loads and loads of problems. There’s something about that, about you feeling able to do something.

“The dark days ahead / And the blood on the bed / And the cover of the NME / They gave us a cheque / And took us by our necks /
And swore undying loyalty”

– ‘New Art For The People’

Back to Blighty. Does being on the front cover of Britain’s oldest surviving pop weekly mean anything anymore? Simon says yes, Julia no.

“To be fair, I never read the NME and I was never into indie music,” Julia says. “I was into dance music and classical music.”

Simon replies: “But I didn’t grow up somewhere cool! Where I grew up, the NME was like a lifeline and I find it really difficult to slag it off because it meant loads to me as a kid.”

The Indelicates - The Graduate

Julia says: “I just don’t like the NME because I don’t like music writing. I find the NME to be particularly bad, but I don’t find Plan B that different.

“They’ll be like, ‘Sounds a bit like this band, and this band and this band’. It’s not that I have a problem with it as such, it’s just that it doesn’t make any sense to me.

“That’s what I mean about it not meaning anything. Maybe it means something to some people, but I think it means more in terms of business than anything else.

“The Wombats are on the cover, therefore they’re going get big for the next six months. And then they’re going to get shot down in flames and part of me feels a bit sorry for them because a lot of them are just kids.”

There are still some acts out there who impress The Indelicates. Former Sad Gnome labelmate Lily Rae, Jim Bob from Carter USM, Red Zebra, and The Flesh Happening all get a mention.

“They’re amazing,” Simon says of The Flesh Happening. “It feels like watching Bowie, but with this more aggressively queer, really disgusting edge, a really proper edge, something that really is quite shocking.”

Despite all the undisguised musical nods and reference points, The Indelicates themselves don’t really sound like anyone else in British pop right now.

A very big part of that is their lyrics. They know it, too, if their deliciously snarky ‘Too Schooled For Cool’ T-shirt on the merch stand is anything to go by.

“I’m bitter and twisted / Unaddressed and unlisted / And all of our plans came to nothing, it seems”
– ‘Point Me To The West’

“I try not to lie with everything we do and I think we succeed in that,” Simon says of what the band are trying to achieve.

“I mean, I don’t necessarily think I’m a particularly good singer, and I’m an alright guitarist – I’ve been practising long enough.

“I don’t think there’s anything we say that isn’t something we’ve thought through properly. It’s intended honestly.

“I think if we could be financially stable while not lying to people, that’d be good enough really.”

The Indelicates - American Demo

The cover of American Demo features Simon and Julia behind a freshly-painted white line, bucket and brush in hand. It’s a bold cover, and it makes bold statement.

“Being out on a limb – the cover of the album is mainly designed with that in mind – because I take responsibility for everything I said,” Simon says.

“It’s why the week before releasing the album I felt terrible, just terrified and unpleasantly naked.

“But, I wanted to be on the cover, and to have Julia on the cover as well, going ‘Yeah, it was us’.”


Special Needs interview for the unpublished State of Play magazine [2019 re-edit]

Back in 2005, I was given my first proper writing commission. I was to interview an up-and-coming band called Special Needs for a new magazine called State of Play.

I thought the article would not only propel one of my favourite groups into the charts, but also launch my career as a music journalist.

© Digital Sneakers

I wanted to be a mix of Jon Savage, Lester Bangs and Nik Cohn, and I all-too-often wrote like a low-rent, self-conscious knock-off of all three.

As it happened, State of Play‘s publisher ran off with everyone’s money on the eve of its launch, leaving a trail of unpaid debts and no magazine.

I didn’t become music journalism’s Next Big Thing (or any sort of thing), and Special Needs split up soon after without having put out the album they’d just recorded.

But there was an epilogue. Funfairs & Heartbreak got a posthumous release a year after the split, and even after the dust had settled it was a really, really good album.

Special Needs- Blue Skies (Live at Camden Proud in 2011)

Don’t take my word for it. You can buy it on Amazon for less than a fiver, or listen to on Spotify for nothing.

The band had a short-lived reunion in 2011-2012 before calling it a day for good, signing off with a couple of freebie farewell songs ‘It’s Over’/‘Back in the Day’.

And here’s that article for the forever-unpublished State of Play, re-edited for 2019. A bit less breathlessness, a lot more paragraph breaks.

There are changes taking place at Needs HQ. By the time you read this, Special Needs will be known more snappily (and less offensively) as The Needs. More importantly, the band will be back on the road and on the verge of releasing their first album.

Special Needs have been bubbling under the surface for some time now. They’ve picked up positive reviews for their first few singles and ever-increasing attention from fans and media alike. But for a while, things seemed to falter.

“In a sense, our honesty has been our biggest downfall,” says lead singer Zachery Stephenson. He’s wrong of course.

The emotional honesty bound into Special Needs’ music and attitude is in fact their greatest virtue, despite the career-threatening stubbornness and volatility that often comes with it.

Zac, guitarists Andrew Pearson and Daniel Shack, bass player Phil James and drummer Neil Allan are hunched around a table in a pub on Kilburn High Road in north west London. “The same pub we used to go to two years ago when we were playing in London every week,” says Andrew.

He’s concerned that the band haven’t spread their music as far and wide as they would like. All that is about to change.

© Re-Action Recordings Ltd

Later this year, industry wrangling permitting, The Needs will release their recently-recorded debut album. Given the many preconceptions about the band, it promises to surprise a lot of people.

Whether or not you’ve heard Special Needs, it’s likely that you’ve seen their name bandied about, either in the music press or the broadsheets.

Special Needs have often been lumped into a collective of other garage rockers in London, all making similar post-Strokes music aimed at the lowest common denominator. It’s fair to say the band resent that.”

It’s as if they think we’re idiots, like we sit around sniffing Pritt Stick, but we pay council tax,” Andrew says. “We’re not buffoons.”

Daniel adds that the image of the band has always been “London, ramshackle, sloppy rock ‘n’ roll, and it’s never what we were”. The album, however it sells, will banish those comments for good.

Special Needs made the record with producer Ian Grimble on the back of some high profile engineering credits.

“There were a couple of people, trendy east London rocky-type garage producers that we spoke to about doing it, but we wanted that big, full sound,” Zac says.

Special Needs – Francesca

“With the stuff that Ian has done in the past, McAlmont & Butler, the Manics’ Everything Must Go, he was able to get that.”

The album has a very lush sound. It’s full-on, but delicate too. Andrew calls the songs “aggressive lullabies”.

“Me and Daniel always used to talk about [Phil] Spector and Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, who were really powerful but soft at the same time,” he adds. “You can ram your fist into something, and it’s kinda like the energy of that, but it happens in slow motion. I think when you do that it becomes something special.”

The hope is clearly to make an album that endures. One that isn’t just a burst of noise and aggression.

“You can have a great song and you can do it with energy, but energy only lasts five minutes,” says Andrew. “The album’s got a real tenderness to it, a real softness, and that lasts for years.”

Special Needs have put out three singles to date. Their first, ‘Sylvia’ (backed with ‘Tarts’), is a record they all-but disown. “If anyone tries to claim it was a single release we’ll sue them,” Andrew says, trying his best to look stern but not really succeeding. “It was a demo that got put out.”

© Re-Action Recordings Ltd

It’s a bit rough around the edges, sure, but it certainly isn’t a bad record. Follow-ups ‘Francesca’ and this summer’s ‘Blue Skies’ give a much better indication of where Special Needs are as a band right now.

It’s a (budget) Wall of Sound with melodies that drag you in with their sweetness, disguising the sadness behind it all. “We’re just struggling to survive, trying to make the best of it. That’s the way everybody is, and if we sound like The Monkees when we do it, then that’s the intention,” says Andrew.

There are smart flourishes all over the album, from the music hall piano on ‘Martin’s In A Fix’ (played by James Blunt’s touring pianist Paul Beard), to the layered a cappella breakdown on ‘The Girl From The Laundrette’.

And then there’s ‘A Town Called Angelica’, a song that marries its bleak lyrics with a downbeat melody that doesn’t shy away from the darkness.

“It’s about a place in the north called Annesley,” Andrew explains. “My dad used to work there in the same factory for 20 years. The whole mining community disappeared and was replaced by a Kodak factory, making film for very cheap cameras.

“That was the place which held the fabric of the community together, and it’s been closed down. I talked to my dad about six months ago when the song was written, and he was a manager there, only him and three people left, just clearing out the lockers. That’s what that song is about – the passing bell for the death of a community.”

© Re-Action Recordings Ltd

The pit in Annesley was one of the oldest in the country, making the subsequent collapse of its once-modern replacement feel all the more crushing.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. If these songs were nothing more than misery wrapped in melody there really wouldn’t be a point.

The recurring theme here is one of escape. Of realising that the world isn’t perfect and wondrous all the time. That sometimes it feels like everything will disintegrate, but you can always try to get away.

What the band aren’t saying is that escape is as easy as a trip to the funfair, even though the British seaside pops up repeatedly in their lyrics.

“It’s very apparent that people seem to think that we think the seaside is some sort of Mecca, some sort of opportunity,” Andrew says.

“‘Tarts’ was never intended to be some sort of song where, ‘We’re 17, life is terrible in the city, let’s go and live in Skegness’.

“The whole point of that song is that life is pretty hard, but living there isn’t going to make it any better. The whole point of it is the death of the English seaside – a flippant kiss down the arcade, and it just meant nothing, it was raining and there was nothing around.”

Daniel adds, “The seaside used to be something, but now it’s just a glorified fucking arcade machine on the seafront. Maybe it wasn’t better, but it was a place where people went to congregate, and now it’s the cheapest, tackiest place in the world.”

© Digital Sneakers

Andrew agrees, “You get there, and it lasts three minutes before you get bored. Someone has a ‘Kiss Me Quick’ hat, and you flip it off and there’s nothing behind it – if you’re lucky there’s a bald patch.”

So escape, if it’s possible, is not to be found beside the seaside. So where does that leave us to run? Well, there’s music. Andrew singles out Suede as the group who inspired him to pick up a guitar and form a band.

“Just to walk around the village I grew up in with a ridiculous dyed black quiff. You get into that mentality where you think all you have to do is walk down the road and you’re something,” he says, and he wants Special Needs to inspire people in a similar way.

“If things go to plan there’ll be a generation of young people who’ll be able to walk out of houses and comb their hair properly, and think something is possible.

“Maybe if it’s just 20 or 30 people in Kilburn who say that there was a great band that used to practice down here and we used to walk past there every day, then maybe there’s a hope.”

Special Needs’ lyrics are shot through with that dream of escape. Of being the Billy Liar who actually caught the train. “Hold on, hold on”, “I can do anything”, “We’re not broken yet, we’re not letting go”, “Run away, run away, we’ll run away”.

“‘Blue Skies’ wasn’t blue in a Sid James, luminous skies way,” Andrew says. “It was blue like Billie Holiday. That’s what the song meant, ‘I’m really, really fuckin’ blue’. The whole song was just an escape from misery.

“And funfairs and heartbreak [the band’s old clubnight and lyric from ‘Get Around’] wasn’t an optimistic thing – it was like a snapshot between being sick in the toilets and kicking your heels running outside the pub.”

© Christine Rush

The band have walked that same tightrope between happiness and despair, and there have been turbulent times when everything nearly fell apart.

Last December, Special Needs had just signed their first album deal and seemed on the cusp of something important when they chaotically imploded on stage. It all happened at a gig to celebrate some of their fans’ birthdays.

“The band’s the one thing that keeps us together, and sometimes that doesn’t even look like it can,” says Phil.

There were fists flying, recriminations yelled and, later, apologies hollered across the venue while the crowd watched disbelieving and open-mouthed.

So what happened? In Andrew’s words, Zachery, more than a little worse for wear, “turned up as Batman and tried to maim me onstage”.

It’s ridiculous, and Zac admits, “We can look back at it now and laugh… but at the time it was terrible, it was breaking all of our hearts.”

Zac concedes that he’s undergone some drastic self-improvement since that night, and the lyrics of their song ‘Convince Me’ were written in the aftermath.

There came a point where it became clear to the band that, as Zac says, “We realised that it’s the only thing in our lives.”

© Re-Action Recordings Ltd

Last year, Razorlight’s Johnny Borrell took some time out from fluffing his own ego to claim that Andrew Pearson was the one person who should be in the NME’s 2004 Cool List.

When this is brought up, Andrew quips, “It’s often said – by himself – that he’s a genius, and that was confirmation of his talent, his insights, and his visions of the future.

It’s Daniel who notes that it was the rest of Borrell’s comments that were maybe more perceptive. The singer called Special Needs “one of those bands where it feels like they’re breaking up every time you see them”.

Zac and Daniel argue that a certain vulnerability and unpredictability is maybe a necessary requirement for a band to stay honest and exciting, but all are happy that Special Needs have taken a step back from that edge they seemed so close to falling from last December.

Andrew says, “The thing I’m most proud of is that we’re still together, and we still play together, we still enjoy it. We’re still trying to get somewhere else, still trying to write better and better songs.”

Since their near break-up the band have enjoyed mixed fortunes. ‘Blue Skies’ sold well but just missed the Top 40, and while the album sessions and accompanying tour have been a success, behind-the-scenes label difficulties have delayed its release.

Despite these setbacks there’s a quiet confidence about this band – not arrogance and brainless swagger, but an assured self-belief.

As Zac says, “the songs are great songs,” and on their release, snobbery and cynicism about The Needs will evaporate.

Andrew adds with such sincerity that you can’t help but believe him, “I doubt there’s anyone in London that could come and sit in this pub and write a better song than we could.”


WWE’s Paul Heyman charts the death, rebirth and evolution of the pro-wrestling manager

Paul Heyman has a busy time of it at WrestleMania 34.

As well as walking his client Brock Lesnar to the ring, he’s also inducting Goldberg into the WWE Hall of Fame 2018, and hosting his own one-man show An Evening With Paul Heyman in New Orleans.

WWE advocate Paul Heyman

Digital Spy recently spoke to him about all that (as well grilling him on Hulk Hogan, CM Punk, The Undertaker and more), and while we were on the phone, we also asked Paul’s thoughts on the death (and rebirth) of the pro-wrestling manager.

Read the full article at Digital Spy


WWE Paul Heyman interview: The Advocate talks Goldberg, Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker and CM Punk

WrestleMania 34 is just around the corner, and as Paul Heyman tells Digital Spy, “the entire week is a rollercoaster with the blindfolds on”.

His duties start with the one-man An Evening With Paul Heyman show with Inside The Ropes at the Joy Theater in New Orleans on April 5.

Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar

The following day, he inducts Goldberg into the WWE Hall of Fame Class of 2018 at the Smoothie King Center down the road.

Read the full article at Digital Spy


X-Files’ Chris Carter interview: ‘The X-Files has more life in it – with or without Gillian Anderson’

After stumbling back on to our screens with season 10, The X-Files has hit the ground running with season 11.

The US is four episodes in to what may well be the last ever run of Chris Carter’s paranormal series, with lead actress Gillian Anderson swearing that this is it for her. The UK gets the season premiere tonight (February 5)

X-Files season 11

So Digital Spy got on the phone with Chris to ask him all about re-opening The X-Files, writing FBI conspiracies in the age of Donald Trump, and what Gillian’s departure means for the future of the show. Here’s what he had to say.

Read the full article on Digital Spy