Alabama 3

ALABAMA 3////LARRY LOVE////SEPTEMBER 2007

In a music business world full of carbon copies and corporate sucking clones, it’s such a pleasure to give it up for the likes of Alabama 3. In hip hop terminology (which coincidentally is another genre that has been incorpoated into latest release ‘M.O.R’) they’re a band who have really kept things real with both their take on society and the handling of their affairs. Anyways, apart from this, if persuasion is still needed, who else do you know that’s ever managed to successfully infuse acid house techno with country and western to such blistering effect? Probably best known for their track ‘Woke up This Morning’ and its use as the theme tune for the Sopranos. As well as this, their music has also appeared on ‘The Simpsons’ and decorated celebrity fans include none less than Irvine Welsh & Stephen King. With little more introduction needed, ladies & gentlemen, I take great pleasure in introducing to you a highly decorated & politically motivated Larry Love…

You’ve recently been quoted as ‘the best live band in Britain’ by the Guardian, I wondered what you guys have on stage that blows the rest away?
Most bands end up splitting up eventually due to musical differences, but when we started, we made it very much our intention within the band to celebrate our musical differences. I think because of this there is a healthy friction between us, so on stage I think this transfers. There’s that classic friction with the likes of Velvet Underground or Nirvana or the Stones. I think that friction for us is between the technology side and our downward blues thing. Also, our audience tends to be pretty mixed as well. We get old Rock n’ Roll fans there with the ravers next to them. I think we are good at bring a melting pot to the gigs we do – which adds to the atmosphere. I’ve seen gigs where there’s like eighteen Hell’s Angels standing next to a little old fella who’s into blues with ten ravers standing next to him. I think we bring different tribes together which all adds up to a good vibe. It’s as much an audience thing as it is ourselves. I was brought up within the Mormon Church and I used to go to Chapel regularly; I always try to approach our gigs in a church approach really; you’ve got to testify, if we sing about damnation then hopefully everyone goes home with some salvation in their souls.

Can I ask what you personally take away from an Alabama 3 performance?
(Laughs) A very sweaty shirt. I dunno, I suppose sweet bliss really. You can’t argue with the response you get from our crowds; the pleasure and the privilege of actually being able to play for people, and the fact that they’ve paid money for it. It’s as simple as that really. I feel that if people are paying good money to come and see us, we should really try and give them what they want. We record a lot of our gigs and I’ve always thought that when I’m senile and I’ve got Alzheimer’s, all I will listen back to is the clapping at the end…so I’ll be sitting there thinking “remember that gig we did in Norwich…or wherever.” Fuck the music I just want to hear the clapping…

Your shows have a reputation as being pretty crazy. After years of doing the do, is there a particular favourite which stands out in your memory?
God, we’ve done so many. I suppose one of the best on a spiritual level was a show we done in Brixton prison. I know that’s a clichéd captive audience but that brought a lump to the throat. We also did a thing for Mad Pride, which was an event for the mentally ill; it was total chaos but that was pretty beautiful. When we played Norwich the last time as well – that was pretty good…

I saw a quote from you, which went along the lines that you felt on paper, the definition of Alabama 3 sounded shite! For the unconverted I wondered how you would describe your sound?
An unholy rolling revival, a kinda tent show. A circus of freaks and their families. All comers are welcome though…

Although you guys came to light at the height of the Brit Pop era, you once described it as ‘post imperialist wank’. What did you mean by that and do you still stand by it, now it’s all dead and buried?
Well yeah, I mean, we’ve never had a top ten hit, which I’m glad about, but we’ve probably shot ourselves in the foot and mouth…sorry I’ve just seen something about another foot and mouth outbreak. Like Dillon says, to live outside the law, you must be honest. I suppose I’ve never really been comfortable with pop stars shaking hands with politicians, there’s something a bit sickly about it – like with all that Live 8 stuff. I mean, nothings really changed. You’ve got to be very careful as a musician thinking that if you are in the establishment you can really change anything. You are in fact a part of their dialectic…

OK, so your new album M.O.R. has just come out; how would you rate it in comparison to previous Alabama 3 albums?
I’m sure a lot of musicians probably say this a lot, but I think it’s probably the most cohesive album that we’ve done. We recorded very quickly; we went in with just scraps of songs and did the whole thing in about two months really. We were writing in the heart of Brixton. Even though we went for smoother harmonics and stuff, we were meeting a lot of lunatics on the street and decided to get a few of them in to do little raps and stuff. We were very conscious of trying to get a real street kinda ghetto vibe, but at the same time we wanted a smoother production on it. On a lot of albums, people are sometimes guilty of trying to throw too much into the mix. With this one, we thought we’d try and do a country track and then an electro track and keep it all separate whilst trying to maintain some kind of linear narrative throughout the whole album. I think we got that, there’s a good cohesion there, without every song sounding the same. I think each song is strong enough to stand up by itself…

Regarding the track ‘Lockdown’, which considers some of the problems within our Penal system and your work with the Miscarriage of Justice Organisation, I’m assuming you’ve got some strong views on this subject. Can you tell us about the work you do with this and ‘The Organisation’?
The name Alabama 3 is a kind of nod to the Birmingham Six or the Guildford Four – it’s not a football result. I’m really into my blues and country, and if you know much about Ledbelly, or Hank Williams, Johnny Cash or even someone like Ian Brown, there’s a history within Rock ‘N’ Roll of prisons and musicians. I met Paddy (Hill) and Ian in 1999 when they were just starting The Organisation and we had a really good chat in terms of what they were doing. They knew we were interested in left wing politics. We kinda said to them that we would try and help them get funky. I said they could teach me about politics and we’d teach them about pop, and it’s been really enjoyable working with them, not just for the good work we do with them. If you do decide to do any kind of charity work its important to make it funky and take away the boredom element. Paddy and Gerry Conlan are now good friends of mine. They are Blues men; real survivors, they are voices, I could listen to them for hours… they have a tremendous dignity about them. I think the cause they are working for is very commendable. For Gerry and Ian it’s a lot more dangerous because they have to make decisions based on their insider knowledge of the person incarcerated – as to whether they are bullshitting or not. They’ve always been 99% right in terms of what has been a miscarriage of justice. We are very proud to be associated with them and growing together. Paddy and John McManus have often ended up being the conscience of the band. I’m aware of the fact that we as a band are quite hedonistic with our Rock n’ Roll behaviour – so I want that curtailed by something redeemable and righteous – so they have been really good for us on that level. Nick Reynolds, who plays harmonica for us sometimes, has just been to Texas. The family of a bloke who has just been executed wanted Nick to do a cast of his head after he’d been killed by the lethal injection. It keeps us alive and aware that we are not just living in Rock n’ Roll narcissism…

Which other political issues or policy sit close to your heart then?
We live in Brixton – a real multicultural community. I mean we were around when that nail bomber set off his bombs in Brixton and Old Compton Street. They initially thought it was Combat 18 before they knew who done it. Even at that point we were involved in a benefit gig. We do a lot of anti-racist stuff, we are doing a benefit for a womens refuge in Galway (Ireland) in a few weeks. We’ve also been approached recently by various youth workers coz of all this gun crime amongst young people…

I read a comment you made ‘that although as a band you’ve very much kept things real and kept to your roots, but that attitude hasn’t really helped your financial situation’, so I wondered if that magical pay cheque ever dropped through your letter box, what would you actually do with the money? and if you don’t mind me asking, how hard do you find it to survive?
Well…I’d have to get myself that jet on the front cover of our new album (laughs). Really I’d probably pay off a lot of bills…I dunno…I mean our head has been kept above the water because of the Sopranos, we do a lot of live shows and our record label has allowed us to be quite autonomous regarding merchandising at our shows and stuff, so we’d survive any way, but I think if any big money suddenly came in it wouldn’t change us that much. I probably wouldn’t even be able to pay my mobile phone bill (laughs)

A friend told me you guys are responsible for one of the maddest and, what many have said, the best club nights in Britain?
It’s called ‘Outlaw’ and it’s once a month – it’s really a three night party. It starts in Stretham, then on to Brixton and then it finishes up in Lewisham. We get around six bands each night who are unsigned and we’ll have them supporting us, and we’ll do an acoustic or DJ set, then in another room we’ll have a Soundsystem crew playing Drum n’ Bass or some dub stuff or techno. I don’t know if its like a vampire thing with us leaching off other bands, but we get a lot of energy from these younger guys. It keeps us on the street. As a songwriter I don’t want to be living in Hampstead hanging out with Gwyneth Paltrow doing Yoga for our lyrical concerns. It keeps us hip to what’s going on, its not just a charitable thing on our part…

You mentioned Sopranos earlier (arguably one of the most popular and respected T.V. series of all time)…with ‘Woke up this Morning’ and its use as the theme tune, has this had a big impact has had on your life?
It’s been really good for us. I think we’ve maintained a degree of integrity because we’ve never exploited it and we’ve honoured our commitment to them using it. It’s kept us cool basically, we haven’t had any top ten hits or anything, I think if you were associated to any T.V. show that’s been syndicated around the world, you can’t get a better one than that. fuck Friends for a fucking leg up…

Have you been over to New Jersey meet the cast or writers?
We’ll we played in the Bowery in New York and David Chase (the producer) turned up which was really cool and James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano) introduced us on stage which was really fucking good…ironically enough the song was actually written for a women called Sarah Thornton who sort of  changed the law in domestic violence in this country. Its about a women being empowered and kinda having enough of her situation ad now it’s a gangster anthem…

Finally, you’ve played in Norwich before, so what memories have you taken away from our City?
The last time we played in Norwich it was really memorable because we ended up in an after party in some big squat. Also the Waterfront is a really nice venue, low ceilings, cool as fuck man, the security are always very nice to us and the women are wonderful…

 

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