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Interview

Taurus Trakker interview 

The Angel

added: 24 May 2012
interviewed by: Claudia A

Taurus Trakker interview - The Angel - Printable version
Taurus Trakker (the name is connected to Dylan) is comprised of West Londoners Martin Muscatt (vocals/guitar) and Allison Phillips (drums/b-vox). Prior to their gig at the 12 Bar, Music-News pixie Claudia A. met the dynamic punk-rock-blues duo over a drink to discuss their new album ‘Building Ten’, to find out what it’s like to be Clash legend Mick Jones younger cousin, and hear about future plans for world domination.

Music-News:
Martin, the title track of your new album ‘Building Ten’ is about working in building ten, but the title could just as well refer to the ten new songs on the album…

Martin Muscatt:
Yes, there’s definitely a double meaning to the title. There are ten songs on the album and all of a sudden I went “Oh! We got this song called ‘Building Ten’ and yes it’s like we were building ten tracks. Though one fan thought the title refers to building a huge spliff made of ten papers!”

M-News:
I’ve heard that you carry a notepad around to scribble down ideas and observations for your songs. Ray Davies of The Kinks used to do that – some of his observations made it into Kinks songs about their local North London, yours a lot about your local West London.

MM:
Yes, I very much admire Ray Davies for having done that. When we were working with Tony Clarke, who’s the guy who recorded with the Beatles, he gave us a lot of encouragement. One of the things he said was that my songs reminded him of Ray Davies’. So that was very inspirational for me that he said that!

M-News:
Do you think drawing from those kind of observations makes for better song-writing material?

MM:
Definitely. The whole approach to writing a song about your environment… I think that writing about things that you see in everyday life is better than writing about things that are so far away you don’t know anything about.

M-News:
There’s only one song on the album that is written in collaboration with Allison, you penned the rest. How come?

MM:
I am the main wordsmith on the ‘Building Ten’ album, true, although Allison and I sort of sculpted things together. But for the next album, which we’re already working on, Allison and I will be writing more songs together.

M-News:
While punk and garage rock dominate the musical style of the tracks, elements of blues and even funk ring through. At what point during the composing process does it become clear which direction a song takes?

Allison Phillips / MM:
I think it was quite organic, and we had some awesome guitarists. For example, ‘Gamblin Blues’ - that started with the beat, and then on the recording the slide guitar came in and that was when the bluesy feel of the song developed.
Also, it has something to do with age as well – because someone our age will be familiar with some really great music. Whereas musicians from a younger generation, their first exposure to rock music might be Nirvana, which is great too, don’t get me wrong. But what I’m saying is that Allison and I, we go right back into the blues and also the punk area, so we are more familiar with this particular history and culture and it comes out in our songs. But we still have a very young punk energy to it!

M-News:
The track ‘West London Rock N Roll’ seems to lament the demise of good old roots rock as we know it. Surely, that goes for the whole of London and beyond?

MM:
I agree, but when I wrote those lyrics I was thinking more of the history of West London you know. I was specifically thinking of The Clash and I was specifically thinking of The Who, and also the history of the reggae there, you know. There’s still a lot of the old dreads hanging around in the Grove, so there’s a lot of different musical cultures in that part. But you know, I like a lot of the modern hip-hop stuff too, especially the more progressive hip-hop. So I was thinking of that particular musical culture in West London when I write the song, there’s also a little reference to the Clash in there.

M-News:
You sing about an excursion into Chinatown to get a tattoo done on the song ‘Temporary’ – is that a personal experience and if so, did your Mum cry?

MM:
Yes, it is a personal experience actually. Did my Mum cry? She would if she knew, haha!

M-News:
Martin, the Mick Jones connection… is obviously a good thing but has it ever stood in the way with regards to how the public perceives you, or TT’s shows?

MM:
Well it’s kind of a double-edged sword. Sometimes we get people who want us to do something and then suddenly, they come out with the punchline and they go, “Of course, Mick will be playing, won’t he?” but it isn’t really like that because he just jumps up when he wants. We don’t have any specific arrangement with him, we just sometimes play together when he’s around. You know, if Mick Jones wouldn’t be my cousin then I’d still would feel inspired or would like to play with him because I still would feel as passionate about his music. At the same time I can’t lie by pretending it doesn’t help being connected to a name that everyone respects, because of course it helps getting noticed from all the thousands of acts around.

M-News:
Allison, from the long list of female rock n roll drummers, which of the following – if at all – have inspired you the most: Mo Tucker (Velvet Underground), Sandy West (The Runaways), Palmolive (The Slits), Terry Castellano (The Donnas) or Gina Shock (The Go Go’s).

AP:
Wow… gosh… that’s interesting. Actually, it would be the drummer of Fanny, a band that Suzie Quatro’s sister Patti had joined. To be honest, I’m not that particularly interested in female drummers. Terri Lyne Carrington is a jazz drummer from New York that I quite like, but she’s jazz. Out of all the ones that you mentioned I suppose it’s Mo Tucker but actually I learned to play drums with Charlie Watts in mind. But for Mo Tucker I have great respect, and the way she played drums in Velvet Underground.

M-News:
So was Charlie Watts the reason why you wanted to become a drummer?

AP:
Actually no, it was because of The Fall. I was obsessed by that band and used to follow them around the country, they had two drummers and I was obsessed with them, too. But also both my grandfather and my father played drums, so it runs in my family I guess.

M-News:
How did the recent Poly Styrene charity gig go? Of course, you have an X-Ray Spex connection…

MM:
That was good, yes. I was actually quite honoured to be doing it. I was playing guitar for Poly/X-Ray Spex in the 90’s. And David Wright, who’ll be playing with us on stage later on, he was with them as well. For the charity gig we just booked up a few people that we talked to and stuff.

M-News:
So what’s your plan for world domination?

MM:
Haha! Our plan for world domination is… New Jersey! We’ve been asked to maybe play in New Jersey in Christmas time, they’re putting on a thing called ‘Strummer Memorial’ and we got a little history of putting on little Joe Strummer memorials here in London. So we were asked by the New Jersey organizers to be representatives if you like. So well, we have a few things in the pipeline but I can’t get too much into the details as yet.

M-News:
Cool, that’s a wrap. Thanks for your time and I look forward to see you guys over in the 12 Bar.

(Please read my Taurus Trakker gig review in the ‘Live reviews’ section)

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