The 405 Presents - 4 Or 5 Magicians Interview
First off, can you tell us a little something about yourselves? Your background? How did you meet? Etc. Hello there! My name is Dan, I was born and grew up in South London, but moved to Brighton in 2003. In the summer of 2005 I was persuaded by my friend Jon to write some songs. I wrote five, and played them to Jon who played bass, and we decided to form a band. We booked a show on October 11th 2005, getting our friends Matt and Ben to play guitar and drums. Between that s... (continued)
First off, can you tell us a little something about yourselves? Your background? How did you meet? Etc. Hello there! My name is Dan, I was born and grew up in South London, but moved to Brighton in 2003. In the summer of 2005 I was persuaded by my friend Jon to write some songs. I wrote five, and played them to Jon who played bass, and we decided to form a band. We booked a show on October 11th 2005, getting our friends Matt and Ben to play guitar and drums. Between that show and the present day, the band has operated in a transient state. We have played over 150 shows to date featuring (I think) 16 different members. The current live lineup features me on vocals and guitar, Sam on bass, Graham on guitar and keyboard, and Alex on drums. Graham is an old friend of mine from school. He's been in the band on and off since January 2008. Sam is a friend of Mike (who is my old housemate and played keyboard on our album). He's been in the band since October 2007. Alex answered an internet advert after our last drummer Ilja emigrated to Australia. He's been in the band since January 2009. I write all the words and music, and call the shots, so 4 or 5 Magicians is not a conventional 'band', but it is also far from a solo project - on our album I sang and played guitar on all of the songs, and drums on most of them, but in addition to this Sam played all the bass, and a bit of guitar, Mike played all the keyboards, Ilja played drums on a couple of tracks, and another Sam played lead guitar on most of them. I suppose it is similar to Queens Of The Stone Age - a big rock circus of talent with one central figure. Band name. Where did the inspiration come from and what is the meaning behind it? Simple really, it is written inside the sleeve of The Magical Mystery Tour by The Beatles, something like "Away in the sky, beyond the clouds, live 4 or 5 magicians". My old school friend Chris (who now works at Merok Records) suggested the idea of using the name when we were in a band together when we were kids, but we never did. I always thought it was a funny name, and it was far preferable to puntastic names me and Jon were throwing about like 'The Fork Hunts', or 'Wacky Racist', so it got the nod. As for the meaning ... you'd have to ask Paul or Ringo. Who influences you as a band, be it another musician/artist or anything else, something more metaphysical even? I am primarily a lyricist and songwriter rather than a musician (I can't really play anything properly!), and while I think I have a certain level of natural talent, I have studied the best alternative songwriters for years, and taken a lot from them. I'll discuss my favourite lyricists below, but my biggest influences are those that twinned clever or meaningful lyrics with simple, effective songwriting. Kurt Cobain, Robert Pollard (Guided By Voices), and until the turn of the century Art Alexakis (Everclear) are probably the three best examples of this. I could sit here all day eulogising about their songwriting ability, so I won't, but they are all REALLY GOOD. From a drumming perspective, my favourite drummers are Jason Finn (The Presidents Of The USA), Jimmy Chamberlin (Smashing Pumpkins), Kurt Dahle (The New Pornographers), Danny Goffey (Supergrass), and Dave Grohl (Nirvana) - all hugely inventive drummers in their own way. From a guitarists perspective, I can't really look beyond Kurt Cobain again just for the way he attacked the guitar. Also, while I'm never going to be able to play like him, J Mascis, and specifically the Dinosaur Jr record 'You're Living All Over Me' is a big influence on how I play guitar. Saying all this my favourite two bands of all time are REM and Fugazi, but they wrote as an equal unit so they aren't so much of a direct influence! When we have the time and resources, I also would love to bring in a more adventurous cinematic sound like The Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev had in the 90's. I like loads of bands though and take influence in part from them all. Just have a look at our myspace page for a (by no means complete) list of influences! www.myspace.com/4or5magicians . In a wider sense, my lyrics are mainly influenced by human folly, be it my own, or anyone and everyone else's. So people. And their mistakes. What is the greatest gig to date that you have played? We haven't really played any "great" gigs yet, though I'm obviously hopeful we will in the future! We have played a load of really cool shows with some awesome bands though, I guess supporting The Thermals was a highlight, they are another example of thoughtful lyrics added to exemplary song construction. And lovely people! The drummer was very complimentary about our set - nice to be appreciated by top bands! Any bad gig experiences you care to share? I try and find positives in every show we do. Sure, we've played to virtually empty rooms before, played for arsehole promoters, played with truly awful bands, etc. etc. but I just love playing. I guess the most demoralizing show we ever played was at The Great Escape in Brighton last year. A combination of a completely inept soundman, an over-zealous try-hard venue rep, and an array of freak technical issues resulted in one of our worst performances ever. This being in front of a room of eager industry folk. They weren't there at the end! Tell us the most random incident that has occurred to the band, or funniest? It has become a bit of a running theme that on the odd occasion where we end up playing to less than ten people, that I have a chat with everyone in the room individually. This is usually quite funny as the crowd simply don't expect you to do it, and it results in some good banter. At a gig in Bristol recently, we were on last, and while the promoter seemed like a nice chap, it had been really badly organized so there was hardly anyone there as it was (and those that were seemed pretty disinterested). On top of this, it had overrun, and by the last song of our set everyone had cleared off, apart from the soundman and one kind of out of place looking middle aged guy who had wandered in. So inevitably I asked him "what's your name, where you from, what do you do?". Usually we get "Tristan, Surrey, Student" / "Paul, [town we're playing in], Recruitment Consultant" that kind of thing. Turns out this guy was called Steve, he was from Paddington in London, and was a professional swindler, specializing in "doing over bookies". He was on weekend release from prison and had just wandered in to the venue. We had a little chat about minimum security prison life, and latterly early Replacements (he was a punk fan), before he got a private performance of our hit song 'Forever On The Edge', to which he did a funny dance with Sam and Graham like Status Quo. Probably the nicest career criminal I have ever met. What are your all time favourite lyrics and why? I am a big fan of lyrics - I simply can't understand the school of thought that lyrics are less important than the music - I actually think they are more important (provided the music isn't really bad!). My favourite lyricist of all time is probably Jake Thackray. From a language point of view, he is unsurpassed. Absolutely brilliant. 'On Again! On Again!' and 'The Lodger' are probably the two funniest songs ever written, but he could also do fantastic sincere songs like 'The Blacksmith and The Toffee-Maker' and 'The Remembrance'. Tom Waits is also a favourite lyricist of mine, mainly his late 70s stuff - songs like 'Burma Shave' and 'Kentucky Avenue' are like classic films in a five minute song. There's also something about Paul Westerberg from The Replacements that I love, just a complete honesty and bluntness in his lyrics. Just listen to the way he spits out 'Answering Machine' or the trembling slur in 'Here Comes A Regular', it's REAL. If a film were to be made about you guys, what would be the title, the narrative and what actors would play you? Haha that would be a pretty shit film. We haven't actually done anything yet! It would probably be called "Dude, Where's My Career?" though. And star Michael J. Fox as all four of us. If he isn't too shaky already. What are your hopes for the next two to five years as a band? I want to tour the world. It's tough times at the moment for the music industry what with the "global financial crisis" or whatever but right now it doesn't seem too much of a pipe dream - it seems like it may actually happen. I'm not counting my chickens just yet, but we're beginning to pick up fans in real big hitters in the press, radio and industry, and one prominent music writer in particular is getting actively involved, and I'm expecting some exciting developments on the record label front through him soon. Anyway we have our debut album recorded and ready to go, and if the flirtation with bigger labels goes tits up, we have agreed a release with a top DIY indie label so whatever happens, our debut album will be out this summer, and I guess we'll take it from there! Any departing quotes you would like to share, be they profound or profane? I'd like to take this opportunity to ask your writer David Talbot who reviewed our show with The Thermals to give us a fair listen and still see if he thinks we're a "fairly dull and watered down version of Art Brut/Los Campesinos" and comment below. Thanks David!
4 Or 5 MagiciansInterviewRotaNotting Hill