WHat do you get when you mix Gaye Bykers on Acid and Apollo 440? Well… this, apparently! Noko (founder of the latter, as well as Am I Dead Yet?) answers our questions…
I grew up in Liverpool, but London has been my home for more years now than it hasn’t.
How did you meet?
We met through our mutual friend Karl Leiker, who was the bass player in my band Luxuria in the late ’80s. Ironically Karl was involved in the very beginnings of this project too. He was over from the US and the 3 of us jammed on what was to be the first song, “Loneliness”, of the Am I Dead Yet? album.
How long have you been playing as a band?
We first worked together in 1992 when Mary asked me to produce his first post-Gaye Bykers album Metaphasia. There were a few moodier, noir atmosphere tracks on that album that we’d particularly enjoyed and we promised ourselves that one day, we’d make a whole album like that. It took us until 2017 to get round to it!
Before you get sick of being asked… where does the band name come from?
The band name comes from a 2015 painting of the same name by Deborah Griffin. It was on the wall while we were working on the record, so it kinda chose itself. The Dylan line “He who’s not busy being born is busy dying” kinda informs the idea that we’re all on a mortal trajectory and unless we’re proactive about doing something useful with our time, we’re effectively sleepwalking our way to a pointless end. That’s very much in the spirit of this album and it’s content.
What are your influences?
A pretty varied bunch. We didn’t have a record player at home when I was really young, so my first experiences of music played loud were the deeply formative sound of John Barry soundtracks to James Bond films in the cinema. The first pop music I got into as a kid… I was completely transfixed by other-worldly charisma of Marc Bolan and the wondrous swagger that was T-Rex. I then spent a glorious mis-spent middle youth in the depths of classic metal and prog-rock (from King Crimson, through Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Rush, Yes, to weirdness like Goblin and Van Der Graaf Generator).
I think the most exciting and experimental period of British music were the John Peel curated golden years of the immediate post-punk period, with bands like Magazine, Gang Of Four, Cabaret Voltaire, Joy Division, PIL etc. All of this comes to bear on the sound of Am I Dead Yet?
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
It’s not for me to describe our music, that’s your job!
Byker and I have arrived at this point in our career paths via 2 quite different parallel paths that have, from time-to-time converged. I think we do this thing we do right now in a way that hasn’t quite been done before. I think the dystopian lyrical content in the context of our otherwise warm quasi nostalgic soundscape is something new.
What’s your live show like? How many shows have you played?
At this point, we haven’t played that many live shows. We started out, through reasons of economics and self-contained simplicity, doing live shows with a laptop and just the pair of us, which was fine, but this year we’ve escalated our live sound a serious notch with the addition of a live rhythm section of some old friends: Cliff Hewitt from Apollo 440 on electronic drums and Derek ’Hoodlum Priest’ on bass guitar. Exciting times for us.
What kit do you use / guitars do you play / etc.?
With guitars, it’s always a toss-up between coolness and functionality. Jack White has a good attitude on this one: he plays ace-looking weird cheap-shit guitars that he has to struggle with to get an ultimately more satisfying end result out of. My cool: pink Fernandes Hello Kitty limited edition Nomad guitar (with built-in amp and speaker!) that you can see in the “Futuristic Paranoia” video; my functional: late ’90s Parker Fly guitars that have the most beautiful bell-like tones.
What, if anything, are you plugging/promoting at the moment?
Our debut album Am I Dead Yet?
What are your plans for 2018?
Great… Back To The Future. I get to live 2018 again… I’ll start making new plans and hopefully change the course of time! [Ever get that “We sent an old edition of our questions” feeling? – Mosh]
If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you? A chance to plug someone you’ve toured with, or a mate’s band we’ve not heard of before!
We had two great support acts on our last two gigs : Scant Regard is an amazing one-man-band, Link Wray, who opened for us in London, and Longtooth & Wasterman in Leicester – except Wasterman was ill and couldn’t make it. Get well soon.
Apollo 440 did some gigs with David Bowie in the ’90s… He was pretty good!