If you are possessed of a strong stomach and an iron constitution, then try to watch terrestrial TV on a Saturday evening and struggle with the seemingly endless parade of vapid ‘variety’ acts peddling their tawdry and talentless miniscule talent, seemingly happy to risk the audiences rabid opprobrium for their 15 milliseconds of fame. Sorry Mr Warhol, you were far too generous in your estimation!
Imagine ‘Swordfishtrombones’-era Tom Waits conjoined to the Dropkick Murphys anarchic schtick and you’re only scratching the surface. The unifying USP is Hooligan’s voice. It is both rambunctious and rich: full of character, there’s living and pain in there alright and I half expect to hear his crunching cadences coming from the mouth of a jumped- up mutineer in the next ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ film!
Whether it’s because he has felt of late that that his previous musical seams had been mined-out, or he just wanted to change sonic and textural lanes for a while, he has just unleashed a fine new six track EP called: ‘Stripped Bare Naked’. I thought rather than me waffle on effusively, it would be infinitely more interesting for the man himself to talk us through the tracks? Seem fair?…….
‘Sack Full of Puppies’
It’s a brave move to start an album/EP with an ‘acapella’ track, so this is the ‘stripped down sound’ concept taken to the ‘nth’ degree! Also, I believe that you don’t play any of the ‘usual’ suspects where instruments are concerned (ie bass, guitar or keyboards) so assuming you don’t have a hotline to Quincy Jones, how do you come up with vocal melodies and remember them until you have a chance to record them?
To me it’s simple, I’ve always written songs to just a simple beat, even 30 years ago when I was doing punk stuff. I think off it this way, if a song doesn’t need music, then it’s a good song.
Also: I think my OCD is bad when it comes to songwriting, before I usually put pen to paper, the songs been going round my head for days or even weeks. So by the time it comes to working on it, it’s usually a finished product in my head. Also nowadays it’s so simple, if you have an idea on how something should be sung, you can record it immediately on your phone. The problem with that is when I get an idea, I automatically record the idea. Only last week I’d recorded the line: “DONT SUCK ON A SHITTY COCK AND WALK ROUND LIKE YOUR BREATH DONT STINK”, before realising, the gluten-free section in Tesco’s is not the ideal place to say things like that.
Also, the song itself is about deep depression and that old black dog pops up from time to time. I find when you experience this, no matter who is with you, you still feel alone, another reason why I used no musicians or musical instruments on the recording
There’s a great start to this with a percussive shuffling sound, what exactly is this and were there any issues recording whatever-it-is in the studio? This track also put me in mind of a bawdy Cornish tavern sing-a-long!
The sound at the start is me moving my chains over barrels, cardboard boxes and a wash board; to a tempo. The effect reminded me of soldiers marching and I loved it. The original idea for this song was with African rhythms but it just morphed into this naturally. I look at it this way, if it grows naturally into something, let it grow, surely then it will be a better song. yep the Cornish tavern singalong is pretty close to the mark, as I based a lot of my original Jesus Hooligan ideas around big scary Irish men who used to hit tables and sing songs in some of the Irish clubs my Mum and Dad would take me when I was little.
I’d read on your Facebook timeline that you’d had some medical issues with regards to your voice. Is the line: ‘’Illness, I’ve had enough’’ a direct reference to this? Is this also manifested in the anguish & anger I can hear in your voice here?
Yep in the last 3 years I’ve had 6 lots of laser treatment on my throat, 2 major arm operations, an operation on my balls, gangrene of the jaw, scarlet fever, a tropical foot infection and a full-on breakdown where I hardly left my home for 3 months. So yep, there is a bit of emotion attached to that line. The next line is “BIG C CAN GO AND GET FUCKED, THEY CUT AND BURNT AND OTHERS OUTLUCKED”, that’s in reference to my Dad and my wife, Karen’s Dad who both died of cancer around the same time, because it turns out I had a bit of cancer, but they burnt and cut it out, but my two Dad’s out-lucked.
It’s original how this is built on a bed of percussive breaths and that it almost has a bluesy ‘field recording’ vibe as captured by John Hammond in rural America ‘back in the day’. The line: ‘’ain’t no woman gonna eat my soul’’ could have come straight from a Louisiana Chain gang song.
Yep, I was always a big fan of the John Hammond recordings, especially the Leadbelly stuff. One of my first Jesus Hooligan Recordings was ‘Where Did You Sleep Last Night’, I recorded this hitting a large piece of polystyrene on a concrete floor with a club hammer for the tempo sound.
I love the idea of being able to do songs without worrying about using a sound from a so called real instrument, when you can use what’s in your environment. I never liked to be classed as a ‘genre’, but now if I’m asked, I just say it’s organic music.
This ballad-like minor key melancholy is a nice stylistic switch. The harp motif reminds me a little of the Manic Street Preachers’: ‘Small Black Flowers’ and the plaintive melody and vocal are very moving. How did this track evolve?
‘Rope Ladder’ is a song I wrote and recorded years ago, it was just me being a ranting madman, which I was at the time when I wrote it. I always enjoy singing it and it is a real live favourite. The original track is basically lots of layers of chains and a barrel being bashed with a mallet. This is why I like to call my stuff organic, it can be done with just a chain or with a full blown ten piece band.
‘Fight Wars Not Wars’
An inspired choice for a cover! I think children’s voices should be used sparingly in music, as they can be a bit grating but this works tremendously well. What informed your decision to cover this song in particular, and how do you think (late 70’s/early 80’s) anarcho-punk band Crass will react?
I was and still am a big admire of Crass, and listen to them regularly. They seemed to take punk to another level and I really respect them for that. To me ‘Fight War Not Wars’ is basically a Jesus Hooligan song, it’s a beat with a simple powerful message running through it. I asked Penny Rimbaud’s blessing before I recorded it and he gave it, I hope they are happy with the end result.
The idea of the children was that, children are the start of everything, then the adults come in and feck everything up, leaving it for the next generation of children to sort out.
A wonderful cri de cœur that contains the frankly terrifying but hilarious line: ‘’I’ll stick you in a stew and defecate you!’’. Who is the subject of you ire here if indeed it’s anyone in particular, and because you have a (great) gravelly and gnarly vocal style, do you think the Hooligan humour is sometimes lost on people?
Yep, it’s a passionate cry about people (idiots) I’ve had to deal with in the past and feck me, there’s been loads. Even though I wrote this six years ago, I still seem to have to deal with idiots like this, even down to so called music promoters who think you should do what they say and if you don’t they become abusive towards me and even my children. The strange thing is, they don’t want to meet me and discuss the problems they have with me, I think that is the modern world, people can send abuse from behind a screen and then scurry away.
The line “STICK YOU IN STEW, THEN DEFICATE YA” has nothing to do with eating people, it’s about the end result of eating something, basically it becomes shit and that’s all these people are to me, pieces of shit.
The harp again provides a warm and enveloping feeling to what sounds like a slightly bawdy but nevertheless romantic love song. Is the object of your affections here the same lady that rather winsomely adorns the cover artwork?
Sweat is about my wife Karen and the hardship we had to go through just for us to get married. I’ve known her since we were both eight, she lived on a farm behind our farm. I was burning Asbestos that my dad needed getting rid off and she seen a fire and came over, we were real feral kids. We grew up together but we never had a girlfriend/ boyfriend relationship.
I think the thing was we were like best of mates from our first meet and it never seemed to happen. A lifetime later, I was a beaten man and she came along and healed me. The strange thing was, the people who had beaten me didn’t want us together and caused nothing but trouble, it’s nice though, karma seems to be sorting them out. It’s an extremely emotional song for me and I have been asked why I make the shouting noises in it, to me it’s just me celebrating the fact that I’m still here, but only because of Wifey..
Jesus Hooligan aka Stephen Brunton, thanks for your time!
‘Stripped Bare Naked’ is fit to bursting with music that is full of, to part-paraphrase Hooligan’s previous album: Pure Passion.
These are not machine tooled and auto-tuned-to-sterility songs to match your ‘lifestyle’, like so much matching luggage, these are songs full of fire, rage and that seldom seen, and sorely missed emotion: ‘soul’.
And if you think it’s a slightly shaky premise equating Jesus Hooligan with soul, then remember this: somewhere out there in a better world, soul, like love, comes in many shapes and sizes: and ‘the key’ to this kingdom, of which this CD is one, is to know how and where to find it… Amen.
© 2017 Rahman the Writer
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Pic of Hooligan collapsed with Karen: by Neil McCartey
** ‘Fight Wars’/Hooligan logo/artwork by Scott Ford: https://www.facebook.com/scott.ford.1650?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf