As most of you may know, despite my broad musical mind-catalogue, my root are blues and rock & roll, in all of their forms. Therefore, when one of the most awaited releases of 2013 happens to be the instrumental-garage-surf debut of the Swansea-based Hangmen, I have to lay my hands on it. Talking with the lead guitarist Alastair Jenkins, the first thing I realise is that we share a not-so-secret love for a certain band, as he confesses that the album of his youth is L.A. Woman by The Doors: “I love it and have copies of it on pretty much every format I can find!” When among the people you’d love to hang out with there are “Jim Morrison, Elvis, Hendrix, Dylan Thomas, Dennis Wilson and Joe Meek”, what possibly can go wrong?
Digging a bit more into this passion, I soon get that this general 50s-60s aura is not just a wink, but a proper guiding light for the band: “I’m borderline obsessed with the era (the 60s), I fill my house with stuff from it. The 50’s plays a huge part in it for us all too, along with taking a newer more garage edge with it! We love Elvis: if it wasn’t for him, I don’t think music would be what it is right now. Films like The Trip and Psych out I really dig and some of the early rock ‘n roll movies like don’t knock the rock, I also love a lot of the 50’s and 60’s sci-fi B-movies too. Guilty pleasures!”
The debut Singapore Slingers goes from the Leonard Cohen-y dusty blues, with dynamic bass-lines and a general Mississippi nostalgia (Black Mamba Blues) to a perfect Tarantino-esque Western anthem (Maria). The surf-y touch, with upbeat drum patterns and burning keyboard solos (Singapore Slingers) make the atmosphere even more explosive, making quite clear which artists have been source of inspiration: “… initially it started with the surf thing, so Dick Dale, Beach Boys, Link Wray, and then moved onto more 60’s style groups like The Doors, The Animals, The Sonics and then some 60’s garage revival bands such as the Fuzztones, Chesterfield Kings, the list could go on! Oh yeah and most Tarantino Soundtracks too!”
Despite lacking vocals, the sound is full and rich, a bit Kinks-esque (The Graveyard Shakedown), sometimes led by rockabilly riffs (The Headhunter), sometimes taking part in Beach Boys’s legacy, leaving the spotlight to the keyboards (Zombie Surf Party, my absolute favourite): “I think instrumental music can be really interesting, I think you as the listener can make up your own mind as to what the song is about, there’s no pre-conceptions(apart from a song title). Sometimes with lyrics it can take the mystery away to what a song is about (not that it’s a bad thing but to me mystery is fun). That kinda drew us to doing it, and I just really like being able to express yourself through your instrument – it is a just a nice vibe too, for the record. I love bands with singing in too, and I play in a few other bands which are vocal groups. It’s just something we thought we’d try and all really enjoy it!”
The album has its own storyline, which ends with the more Elvis-y ballad The End, proving that sometimes words are not needed, and the music itself can make you clap and dance around (try Zombie Surf Party out loud, it’ll prove you that I’d never lie to you, dear reader).
The Singapore Slingers
Similar Artist: Dan Sartain, The Animals, Beach Boys
I am really interested in knowing how did a bunch of guys with a passion for surf and rock and roll meet up in Swansea and decide to play music together.
Well, it all started a few years back, I’d played in a bunch of bands with Iwan the drummer for many years, playing different styles of music, I’d always loved instrumental music/surf and rock n roll music from a young age, My dad always played me Beach boys, Dick dale, Eddie Cochran, Shadows, The Doors etc. when I was growing up, and just thought it’d be a cool, different thing and most importantly a fun thing to do, so we got together with the other boys Rob and Tom who were close friends from Swansea and started Hangmen and here we are!
Let’s be a bit nosy now: where does the name Hangmen come from?
The name Hangmen is just something we came up with one evening, It incorporated the surf terminology (Hanging Ten..and we’re men..Clever hey 😉 ) Along with a darker image and sound of the Hangman (one of the last hangmen in the Uk was operating in Swansea in 1958 I believe).
Where does the idea come from to name your songs after Tiki drinks : “Singapore Slingers” “Shrunken Skull Stomp”, “Zombie Surf Party”)? (Ed. Boat drinks are also known as umbrella drinks but are more commonly referred to as tiki drinks or exotic cocktails.)
Well, being in love with that era i stumbled across the Tiki scene almost by accident, but it just had such a huge impact on me, I even built a home Tiki bar in my back garden, We all love cocktails and the imagery which comes with it and just found it fit with the vibe of the songs. It just stuck really!
I swear it will be our little secret: in “The Headhunter” I got a subtle wink at Pulp Fiction theme (Misirlou by Dick Dale and His Deltones). Was it just me?
You are completely right on that! That song blew our minds when we heard it, so it’s our subtle wink to the master with our spin on it!
For the release of The Singapore Slingers you worked with Todd Campbell and recorded the album in 3 days. How did you manage to do it?
Todd is a old friend of ours and has recorded our bands in the past (his dad plays in Motörhead too!) Todd is the best dude and such an absolute pleasure to work with, He’s great at what he does and is super accommodating. Obviously if money had allowed we would have spent maybe an extra day there, but on the other hand, I really like working to a small deadline, If you spend months in a studio in my opinion you have so much time, you run the risk of over thinking and putting a million different parts on a song which leaves it unrecognisable when being played live! 10 songs in 3 days is quite a lot to do, So basically we just made sure we were well rehearsed and drank A LOT of coffee and energy drinks, which seemed to help Rob and I!
How is an average recording session for you guys? Is it more jamming or is there a specific creative process?
With recording it’s a bit of both for us, Some parts were finalised in the studio, specifically the organ parts. But the majority of everything was created in the rehearsal room and finalised before getting to the studio, so we could just blast through the majority of stuff, Saying that, some of my favourite parts of the record were made up on the spot in the studio!
How did you get in contact with YouDig?Records? Are you also going to be in their mid-2013 compilation?
YouDig? Records are a south Wales indie label who have recently been born. They deal with Surf/instrumental and garage rock n roll, more out of necessity than anything I think, as there aren’t a great deal of indie labels in the UK specialising in that, Hangmen are on the compilation which is being released in 2013, along with bands from the USA, Mexico, UK and Europe and Australia! It’s just nice to see the word being spread about these bands which otherwise it may be difficult to come across! You can check out youdig? Records here.. https://www.facebook.com/YouDigRecords?
How was it being part of the soundtrack for Jono Atkinson’ documentary (Over Ply Wood, about the Welsh skate scene)? Have you had the chance to see the final product yet?
Jono is a top guy, we were on the soundtrack to one of his early films which was awesome, This new film he has coming out looks amazing, we’ve not seen the final product yet, but from the trailer it looks a real interesting watch!
How was is playing on the South Sea DIY stage at south sea fest? Any other bands you
were looking forward to see there?
Southsea was a blast! Our friends band Two wounded birds (RIP) played there, they were great, we saw Great Cynics another friends band who were wonderful and caught a few other new bands one group called F.U.R.S who were pretty good too, then the rest of it was a bit of a blur due to the free beer, but it’s an amazing atmosphere and so many cool bands play there, the whole of the town turns into music venues and everyone is hanging out and partying, it’s definitely recommended!
How was the Pulp Fiction party in Bristol instead? I mean, the atmosphere wasprobably explosive!
The Pulp Fiction party was far out, We had such a good night, They looked after us so well, We had so much free pizza and beers and a room to stay for the night, which makes such a big difference, the show itself was wild, There was a screening of Pulp Fiction outside in the garden whilst a BBQ was going on, then bowling and cocktails inside, when we played everyone was up for dancing and just having a great time! It was a great atmosphere and hope it happens again!
You play quite a specific genre, which has for sure a lot of keen aficionados. How isyour average audience? Is it made of hardcore old-school listeners or quite variated?
Our average audience is pretty varied, from people who like punk rock, 60’s stuff, Surf, Garage, blues etc! Sometimes people don’t really get the no singing thing, which has come up once or twice, but hopefully after a few listens they may get it, if not, who cares!
Don’t miss out your chance to grab a copy of Singapore Slingers, and take your chance to see them live, as the band seems to have a quite busy schedule for this year “…2013 holds as many gigs as we can possibly do. Hopefully we will be releasing a split 7inch with a band from the US and possibly another EP and hopefully a trip to Europe for some shows…ultimately have as much fun as possible!” Adding to a bullet-proof formula a touch of originality, Hangmen move away from the pop side of independent music, popping (pun!) with a vibrant brand new shade, the one that only some evergreen rock ‘n’ roll can have.