The blog title is surely enough to flag up my long term affection for That Petrol Emotion but it’s really only been the last few years that there’s been any new music coming from the musicians who made up the last line-up of that semnial band.
The Atlantic now separates singer Steve Mack from the other four members and, whilst Steve has had a regular gig with STAG in the States over the last decade or so, Raymond Gorman, Ciaran McLaughlin, Damian O’Neill, and Brendan Kelly re-grouped as the Everlasting Yeah. (Note to self, I need to do something about STAG some time)
Sadly, since releasing their brilliant, debut LP ‘Anima Rising’ in 2014 [MPT review], the band have been dogged by awful bad fortune with two of the band suffering serious health issues. The band’s opportunity to get out and promote ‘Anima Rising’ was lost whilst far more important matters were dealt with.
Fortunately these health issues seem to have been put behind them for now and the band was finally working on the long awaited follow-up to ‘Anima Rising’ when the pandemic struck, once more putting their plans on hold. Cursed doesn’t really start to cover the band’s last few years.
Guitarist/vocalist Raymond has been a big supporter of this blog in recent years and I’m proud that my photos of the band members at their only performance in Glasgow still grace the landing page of the TEY website, although I hope that there’s reason to replace them before too long). But Raymond has given his time up for interviews on a number of occasions, most obviously around the release of the album but also even when the band has been cold storage. So I was delighted to receive a contribution to this series from him direct from the nation’s embattled capital. (MPT)
First things first, how are you and how are you doing?
I’m actually doing pretty well. I feel blessed. I know at least four people who have died and two of them were perfectly healthy. Before the virus struck I was working flat out on a 60k book translation for three months and I was just knackered and done in at the end of it, I was also already pretty isolated then so this is not that different. Thank God that the weather has mostly been amazing and we’ve been able to go for a walk most days at least and enjoy nature a bit so that makes things easier. I’m diabetic so at risk and my wife has been doing all the groceries. In fact, she has been incredible in general. I have absolutely nothing to complain about.
Any time I’ve had to go out in public all the same I’m appalled at how many people are not taking this thing seriously. Once this is over I have resolved not to return to the kind of insane life I was living beforehand. Everyone should really be taking stock of how out of whack our lives are/were. At the end of the day are we all just wage slaves? Is that why we’re here on earth? We need to stand up to these disaster capitalists who don’t value our work or our lives. Things have to change.
How has the lockdown affected you personally?
I’m a self-employed translator so I’m still getting about a quarter of the work I would normally. That’s quite enough actually (though not financially). I’m heading towards sixty next year so I should be winding down a bit – I’m definitely ready for it and of course once I’m not been so busy I actually then feel like picking up the guitar and being creative again, so that’s been the best thing. To be honest I feel like a human being once more and not on some kind of treadmill lost in the daily grind.
Before the virus, looking back now, I didn’t realize how miserable I was. I really wasn’t in a very good place so for now I’m just trying to live in the moment and to enjoy that. No projecting about the future or reading too much about the virus or worrying as that will solve nothing ultimately. The essential ingredients for our well-being have been gruesomely warped by our capitalist industrial society and I’m determined to try and avoid getting sucked down into a hole ever again.
As a musician, has it directly affected you and in what ways?
It interrupted the recording we were doing with the Everlasting Yeah for our long overdue second album. We’ve had nothing but bad luck since the first one “Anima Rising”. Both Brendan and Ciaran have been dealing with some pretty serious health issues in that time but thankfully they are both doing much, much better now. We’d nailed three songs over three days at the end of January and were hoping to do the other four soon after. So of course now everything is all on hold again.
I haven’t earned a wage from music since the early nineties so I’m not dependent on it however I’d still give anything to be able to get back out on the road and playing live again. It’s hard for me sometimes to watch a really great gig or concert as I want to be up there on stage so much. Last night I watched the stream of Iggy Pop at the Royal Albert Hall and I was nearly in tears firstly cos it’s SO good but also cos I would give my left arm to be part of a band or concert that damn good again.
On the up side I’ve been doing some instrumental electronic music myself on the computer that I’m very happy with plus I’ve performed a few solo songs at home and put them up on YouTube / Facebook for people to enjoy and had a good reaction. I put a guitar doodle up one night and next day found that Jason Brown from the Extricated had recorded himself jamming along to it! So cool!
There have been a lot of artists and performers finding ways to connect with their audience. How have you, if you have, engaged with people and how did you find the experience?
Just the above and posting stuff on Facebook. It’s hard to do music together online in real time with anyone. I really want to get the podcast going again actually but I’m worried there’s a real glut of them at the moment and I’m wondering if people aren’t totally fed up with them as there are now so many. Every arse and his dog has one! I’ve done some zooms and skype calls with friends and family but not that many. I haven’t felt like calling many people which is weird but I do miss seeing my friends. I miss playing music most with the boys from the Everlasting Yeah and we also have a real laugh just being together chatting and shooting the breeze.
What tips do you have or what things do you find useful in keeping yourself going during these strange times?
Well, I’ve been practicing Sahaja Yoga mediation since 1992 and that has been responsible for really turning my life around ever since. I’d had a nervous breakdown just after the release of That Petrol Emotion’s ‘End of Millennium Psychosis Blues’ LP and it took me about four years to slowly recover from it properly. I was never really treated at the time or given any therapy or meds to deal with my condition. Nowadays there’s all kinds of help and support for that but luckily I eventually found this meditation practise. It’s easy, spontaneous and free to do – there’s no money to pay. I usually help take a free beginner’s class every Wednesday here in London but that’s not been possible of late. You can discover it for yourself all the same, it’s all online. I’d be completely lost without it. It requires a degree of dedication but it really helps keep me centred, calm and the negative thinking at bay, especially when things keep threatening to overwhelm and I totally understand anyone who is feeling overwhelmed right now.
It’s a very strange time indeed but we need to be well and strong during it. I can’t recommend Sahaja Yoga strongly enough for this reason. Also we still need to sing, dance and resist! And we still need art, joy, faith and love! Who do you want to be when we emerge on the other side of this thing??
Have you taken on any new challenges or routines during lockdown?
Not really, just trying not to get too lazy or lethargic, I’m very good at doing nothing, believe me! I’ve had some chores to do around the house that I’ve been putting off so I’m finally getting down to those. I’ve got all this stuff in the garage that we don’t have space for and I’d like to get rid of it but of course being a natural hoarder it’s proving difficult. I do feel like just chucking everything some days instead of trying to sort through what is there. They’re called possessions after all and they do possess you!
What music, books, films, art or television shows have sustained you through lockdown?
I saw that Jason namechecked “Detectorists”. I’d like to second that, in fact my friend Ciaran had been raving about it for some time but I’d just never gotten around to watching it til quite recently even though he’d bought me the DVD of the first series! It really is the perfect watch for this time. It’s slow, gentle, calming and beautiful to watch plus it’s hilarious at times and beautifully written and acted with some characters you grow to love. It’s the most satisfying thing I’ve seen in ages and it lifted my heart.
I also really enjoyed the recent Sci-Fi show “Devs”, (also on the iPlayer) which is wonderful and has a great soundtrack. Shout-out for Picard too which I liked.
I wish I could get back into reading, I have a pile of books that I haven’t touched and I know if I don’t read them now they will never ever get read! The last great one I read was Simon Goddard’s Ziggyology – A Brief History of Ziggy Stardust, which is one of the best music based books I’ve ever read. You’d have to be a Bowie fan I think but it’s so inspired, vibrant, clever, ludicrous and brilliant.
What are your hopes for a post-lockdown world?
This should make us all realise what is really important. We forget that the earth is a self-regulating organism and that she won’t let us destroy her so easily. Maybe this virus is her way of reminding us of that fact.
We have a murderous, useless, bunch of arseholes in charge of us who don’t give a shit about you or me and we have to start fighting back and taking charge of our own communities and become self-sufficient and not so wasteful. Tories hate the idea of society but that’s our strength and there’s safety in numbers. I read that there are already such groups in Scotland. Stay positive.
There is nothing to be achieved by throwing in the towel. Things seem dark but I remember other times in my life when the chips were down and things can change very quickly again. Don’t give up hope. Ask for help if you need it, stay in touch and be excellent to each other!
Anything else that you would like to add or say?
The NHS staff and essential services workers need more than our clapping and cheering. They should be properly rewarded for putting their lives at risk for us all. God bless them all and best to you Mike. Stay safe!
Raymond has started a series of occasional podcasts called ‘The King Alphonso Radio Hour’ and the first episode featured Franz Teichler of the Young Gods. You can catch it here.
Here’s a new song from the band you might have missed – a rehearsal recording of ‘Myself (When I Am Real)’ from back in 2016:
The Everlasting Yeah in Glasgow on 27th November 2014:
Previously on Life Under Lockdown:
#1 – Lonelady
#2 – Jan Burnett (Spare Snare)
#3 – Ghari Mure (Echo Machine)
#4 – Lomond Campbell
#5 – Adam Ross (Randolph’s Leap)
#6 – Jason Brown (Brix and the Extricated/Parent)
#7 – Jeremy Thoms (The Cathode Ray / Stereogram Recordings)
#8 – Cammy McFarlane (Mitchell Museum)
#9 – Dickson Telfer (Vulture Party / Out of the Swim)
#10 – Lloyd James Fay (ex Thula Borah)
#11 – Elizabeth Nelson (The Paranoid Style)
#12 – Scott McKinlay (STOOR)
#13 – Seriously, do you think the world needs any more bad luck?
#14 – Jill O’Sullivan (Jill Lorean)