Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum)
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|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:56 pm|| |
by Christine Sams
Sun Herald, January 12th 2003
The Vines lead singer Craig Nicholls may be mad, but he's not that bad, writes Christine Sams.
AFTER ordering four cheeseburgers, nine nuggets, four large fries and four large Cokes for The Vines, I had a silly urge to tell the girl behind the counter I was buying brunch for one of the world's biggest rock bands.
But there was a distraction from the back of the kitchen, where two guys in striped uniforms were laughing and singing out to each other.
The feisty duo could easily have been Craig Nicholls and Patrick Matthews, who worked side-by-side at a McDonald's in Sydney's inner west, before deciding to conquer the world of rock'n'roll.
But Nicholls and Matthews were too busy around the corner in a downstairs studio in inner-city Sydney, laying down tracks for their second album, with bandmates Hamish Rosser and Ryan Griffiths.
There was sweet irony in The Vines requesting Maccas for brunch after all, they hardly need to wrap burgers these days, given their massive international record deals and huge fan bases in Britain and the US. Such is the band's high-profile existence, Nicholls hesitated during a photo shoot with the food, and said, ``I'm not sure whether we should pose with this stuff, it's not like they're paying us ... maybe we shouldwrap the food with newspaper instead.''
Marketing issues aside, music fans and critics are still trying to work out whether The Vines are Australia's greatest rock band or merely an over-hyped group of mates from Sydney's suburbs.
If some rock critics are to bebelieved, the only thing beingfried these days is Nicholls's brain.
There have been mentions of lunacy, hints of a nervous breakdown, and even claims Nicholls is rock's next most likely candidate for suicide. (The singer slammed the description last year, saying it was unfair to families who had suffered real-life tragedies).
But for someone who is supposedly barking mad, Nicholls did a good job of being reserved and polite during brunch with Sunday Metro.
Sure, he threw some soft drink around during the photo shoot, and chuckled softly when Rosser stuffed fries in his ears and nose but it was nothing more than humorous banter between four guys in their 20s.
With his translucent skin and long-cut fringe, Nicholls is a long way removed from the bronzed Aussie males usually favoured by US audiences. But the 25-year-old has a strangely magnetic personality. Although he generally avoids eye contact and speaks in broken sentences (sometimes raving, without making a lot of sense), he knows how to capture his audience.
In the middle of a rambling, eye-rolling speech about music and rock stardom, Nicholls will suddenly say something short, sharp and intelligent that he emphasises with a direct stare from under his fringe.
The effect is exhilarating, and leaves everyone in the room waiting for more.
After the extraordinary success of their debut album Highly Evolved, which smashed its way into the charts in Britain and the US, The Vines attracted enormous praise overseas and intense criticism at home for being inexperienced and over-hyped.
There's a hint of tall-poppy syndrome in all the jibes, but for many local rock critics The Vines have yet to prove themselves onstage.
The band is now gearing up for its first performance at the Big Day Out on January 25, and a satellite show at the Enmore Theatre four days later.
Although keen to impress local fans, Nicholls says the band is not concerned about being criticised in Australia, because the members remain intensely proud of their music.
``You can't control what happens,'' he said. ``We got recognition for the music and that's what we hoped for. We're really serious about it. With the whole fame thing, you're always trying to get someone's approval, and make them like you. It's a very shallow thing.
``The music ... the music itself is meditational, it's like a spiritual thing, it shouldn't inspire any negativity.''
When asked whether the band has been over-hyped, Nicholls said he hoped fans would make up their own minds.
``You just want people to judge it for how they see it, how they hear it, without reading a bulletin beforehand.''
It's hard to know whether he and Matthews, the founders of the band, sat around in their garages, plotting world domination but Nicholls expresses real surprise at the idea of being blindly ambitious.
``I knew if we were ever going to do anything, it would be with our first album,'' he said.
``We didn't even think we'd even be playing at the pub before we first started. It took a long time before we even did that.''
These days, the band specialises in trashing drum kits on US TV, and giving eccentric performances during awards shows something Nicholls obviously relishes.
Despite his inherent shyness during conversation, the lead singer thinks nothing of twisting and contorting his body during performances, often throwing himself across stage in a frenzy.
His on-stage behaviour has prompted concerns about his mental state, with hints of serious drug use.
But although Nicholls' sometimes appears to be crazy, he's not stupid. If anything, he's been an eager pupil of Rock Star 101, idolising troubled (and controversial) artists including Kurt Cobain.
He's certainly not a copycat, but he was an eager student. Unlike many of the local musicians still bitching about the treatment given to The Vines, Nicholls has been busy fulfilling his own rock'n'roll dream.
Not only has his band sold millions of albums, it has appeared on the cover of US Rolling Stone magazine (and many other leading magazines), and been listened to from Boston to Birmingham.
But in true Aussie tradition, The Vines haven't exactly flaunted their success.
``I'm wearing the same T-shirt I've had for a few years,'' Nicholls said. ``I've got one pair of dirty shoes that smell. I could probably afford to buy some more, but I'm too lazy.''
For now, the band members are too busy concentrating on their second album to worry about designer clothes and A-listparties.
``Our only goal was to make a good album originally, and we did it,'' Nicholls said. ``We feel really grateful that we're in a position to make another one.
``Hopefully this one will be more impressive and surprising. For the second album, we will have songs which are advanced lyrically, and arrangement wise.
``It will be more futuristic, but still very song-orientated.''
He shrugged off any suggestions of pressure from the record company, considering the second album will be a major test of the band's credibility.
``We're really sure about our music, about what we want and what we don't want,'' he said.
Nicholls hopes The Vines will eventually expand into electronic music but, for now, they're happy to keep cooking up their unique blend of rock'n'roll.The Vines will perform at the Big Day Out on January 26 and at the Enmore Theatre in Newtown, on January 29. Both events are soldout.
Let's do brunch
What can we say? McDonald's fast food outlets are everywhere, they're always open, and they're cheap. Sightings of trashed rock'n'rollers are not guaranteed, but there's sure to be a few characters lurking around the front counter.
`I'm not sure whether we should pose with this stuff, it's not like they're paying us ... maybe we should wrap the food with newspaper instead'
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|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:56 pm|| |
Party? We don't want to party...
Friday September 27, 2002
In no time at all, Craig Nicholls has become the most talked-about rock star since Liam Gallagher. And his band the Vines are showing British groups how it's done. Nigel Williamson meets the boys from Down Under
Two stories recently ran on the front page of the arts section of the Los Angeles Times on consecutive days. One asks why British rock bands can't sell records in the US any more. The second carries the headline: "Vines catch rock's new wave."
Both appear at a time when there are just two British acts listed in the top 100 of the Billboard album chart. As if to reinforce the bankruptcy of contemporary British rock music, the third highest-placed album representing what we so recently and risibly called "cool Britannia" is by the Beatles. While Simon Frith, chair of the Mercury music prize judging panel, last week congratulated the UK music industry on giving us "the next generation of guitar bands" who have helped to create "the most joyful Mercury shortlist for years", the sad truth is that the most lucrative market in the world remains utterly indifferent to the charms of Electric Soft Parade, the Coral and Doves.
By contrast, the Vines - ineligible for the Mercury because they hail from Australia - are riding high. The band from down under have risen effortlessly to the top: their debut album, Highly Evolved, entered the American charts at number 11. So the only non-American band right now capable of rivalling the energy and adventure of the Strokes, White Stripes and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club comes not from London, Manchester or Liverpool, but from Sydney.
Over dinner on the patio of a Sunset Boulevard restaurant on the night the Vines made the front page, affable bassist Patrick Matthews and manager Andy Kelly talk about the group's astonishing rise to fame. For it is not only America that has fallen for the Vines. On the album's release in Britain in July, it entered the charts at number three and was greeted with a frenzy of critical enthusiasm that exceeded even that afforded the Strokes' debut last year.
The Guardian review carried the headline: "Believe the hype." Yet even Kelly concedes the reaction to his youthful charges has been a little over the top. "NME said it was the best debut album of all time, which is plain ridiculous. And then, on the next page, there was a piece called, 'Anatomy of a rock god.' What's that all about?" In fact, it was a profile of Craig Nicholls, the Vines' highly strung 24-year-old lead singer. He doesn't join us for dinner, because he famously only eats McDonald's. Yet his presence looms over the evening. All the talk is of how earlier in the day while rehearsing for the band's next video, Outtathaway, Nicholls smashed his guitar and kicked over Hamish Rosser's drum-kit. Then he trashed the dressing room because a security guard had knocked on the door, demanding to know if he was smoking pot.
"Craig's not like other people. He has created this self-contained world in which the only thing that matters is his music. He doesn't give a fuck about anything else," Matthews warns. "But don't worry. You'll really like him. He's a great guy underneath. And he's the only reason any of us are here. It's his vision."
In no time, Nicholls has become the most talked-about rock star since Liam Gallagher. Possibly since Kurt Cobain. And most of the talk centres around his alleged mental instability and self-destructive tendencies. "See them soon," said the NME. "It could be the only chance you get." The implication was obvious. It's better to burn out than to fade away, and Nicholls is already being lined-up as rock's next screwed-up poster-boy martyr, destined to come to a Cobain-style end, and feed our need for a new sacrificial victim.
When we finally meet up with Nicholls on the video shoot, such speculation seems wide of the mark. An online message-board devoted to the band is full of wild and unsubstantiated stories about everything from heroin addiction to self-mutilation. Yet the singer appears blissfully unaware that he has become the object of such lurid gossip. He doesn't read his own press-cuttings and he apparently doesn't know how to use the internet. He lives in a sealed-off world, protected by the cosseting of his colleagues and his refusal to engage with anything other than his music.
The scene on the set is surreal. Inside a studio large enough to house a couple of jumbo jets, a reconstruction of a tiny, sweaty club has been built. On its stage are the Vines, performing to an audience of paid extras doing their best to look like a genuine rock'n'roll crowd. In effect, $200,000 is being spent on making a video that tries to recreate the atmosphere of a live gig. Quite why they couldn't film the real thing at a fraction of the cost is unclear. But such are the ways of major US labels. The Vines have been declared a "priority act", which means no expense spared. There is even a wardrobe department, despite the fact that the band wear their own street clothes and flatly refuse to allow the highly paid stylist to have them laundered.
Nicholls spins around like a hyper- active voodoo doll, guitar jerking, eyes rolling. His voice rasps, his legs kick uncontrollably and there is a palpable sense of danger about his stage presence. Even in this sterile environment and on the sixth run-through in front of a fake crowd, he is so magnetic that you hardly notice the rest of the band.
Afterwards, in his dressing room - the same one he trashed yesterday - Nicholls is in unusually reasonable mood. The bong pipe, which accompanies him everywhere, stands untouched on the table. "I suppose the guy was only doing his job," he concedes, when asked about the previous day's tantrum. He looks out of it and his eyes are focused on some invisible spot on the opposite wall. But once he starts talking about music, he becomes lucid and animated. "It's happened so swiftly we haven't really had a chance to stop and think. But I believe it's all a positive experience. It's good fun but we're really serious about our music."
He talks in staccato bursts, answers seldom relating to the questions. "Music is the most interesting thing I've found on this planet so far. There's no limit to it. But you have to be in your own head-space to do it. I don't think about too much of anything outside being in the band and recording songs." He gets up to restart the new Suede album, which is playing on his portable stereo. He has no interest in small talk or even in going over the details of the Vines' brief history. And he has given up talking to the US press because they always ask the same questions, the answers to which are all available in the record company handout: how he and Matthews met at high school in Sydney when they were 15 and decided they would rather play music than sit in class. How they worked in McDonald's. How Nicholls went to a graphic design college but dropped out after a year while Matthews did three years at medical school. "All that stuff's boring," he says.
But ask about his musical influences and he is off again. "Nirvana was the first. That really excited us. Then we got into Pavement. The Kinks. The Beatles. Blur. Supergrass..." His list goes on. "There were really good bands around at the time we were discovering music. We never thought we would be in a group. But then we started playing guitars and jamming and we made tapes and these songs came out. We did a lot of home recordings. It was underground and really exciting. The songs on the album were written over three years. We wanted to make an album that was very broad."
Matthews had said that from the moment Nicholls left school he had done nothing but sit in his room and listen to music. For seven years. "Yeah, you could say that," he says. "I thought it was a great thing. It was like spiritual and healing and freaking out, all at the same time." When he emerged from his room, he began circulating demos of his songs. Soon a bidding war for the Vines was in full swing. It ended with them flying to LA and signing a six-album deal with Capitol, although in Britain they are on Heavenly Recordings. They have been living in Los Angeles since July last year, and earlier this year spent four months recording Highly Evolved at Sunset Sound at a cost of $800 a day. That was when they lost their original drummer, Dave Oliffe, who cracked under the pressure and went home.
Yet Nicholls was the one everyone had marked out as the one rushing towards a possibly fatal burn-out. "I'm confused by that," he says, "because I'm really happy making music. Some people may think I'm a little weird but I have good intentions." He rejects the notion that he is headed the same tragic way as Cobain. "I don't want to disappoint anybody by not committing suicide in a few years. But I think it was really sad what happened to Kurt. That's not my plan at all."
I show him the "Anatomy of a rock god" article, which includes such telling insights as "he has the most exciting hair of 2002". He looks bemused. "I don't get it. Is that me?" He clearly hasn't seen the piece and hands it to Matthews. "Rock gods party and hang out with supermodels and drink. I'm just obsessed with music and bands and analysing guitar tracks and drum sounds. All I want to do is be really productive as an artist and put out as much interesting stuff as I can while I'm still young. I really care about music. Not about partying and hanging out."
He finds it hard to analyse the success of the Vines in the US, where so many British acts have failed. "It's baffling when you think of all the great British bands. We've got British and American influences in our music so maybe that helped. Or maybe it's sheer luck. Or good timing. I really don't know." In an attempt to get him to talk about something other than music, I try a few tricks. Five words to describe himself? "Lazy. Hyperactive. Happy. Sad. Clear-headed. Confused. I know that isn't five but they come in pairs." His perfect day? "In a studio somewhere. I think it's sacred being in a band. But you have to turn off sometimes." At last, a hint of a suggestion that he has a life outside music. We move in. So how does he turn off? "I listen to more music," he answers sweetly.
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|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:57 pm|| |
by Ken Micallef
Guitar One, 2004
Craig Nicholls’ nationally televised tantrums made him not only one of rock’s most unpredictable stars but also a walking advertisement for Ritalin. Now, having found some peace of mind, the Vines’ volatile vocalist looks to bury the bratty rep with the highly evolved Winning Days.
Blonde super-babes, Outback muscle-heads, and Fosters-chugging croc-wrestlers – these classic Australian clichés prompt visions of an island nation populated by sunburned alcoholics and Elle McPherson look-alikes, a place where substantial rock must be as rare as a movie actress without breast implants. But this blob-shaped country has had its share of power-music blokes, from ‘70s wack-jobs the Birthday Party and Radio Birdmen to rock gods AC/DC to frothy weaklings like Powderfinger. But rarely has any country seen the combination of pure talent and slacker temperament embodied by Sydney’s the Vines.
The Vines – guitarist/singer Craig Nicholls, bassist/vocalist Patrick Matthews, drummer Hamish Rosser, and guitarist Ryan Griffiths – met while flipping burgers at an after school job, and within a few short years had sold 1.5 million records and criss-crossed the globe. But the ensuing fame, cash, and insanity caused the eccentric Nicholls to go potty in a series of stunts: he locked himself in bathrooms – often for hours – before shows; kung-fu kicked his bassist on live tv; smashed microwave ovens in middle America; regularly overloaded on junk food and weed; and generally acted like a brain-damaged fool.
“Yeah, they made all that stuff up,” scoffs Nicholls, currently in L.A. “Those stories might be based on one moment, but people have this perception that I’m a little brat who likes to cause trouble wherever I am. But I’m serious about what I do, and I appreciate being able to.”
If you want to discuss The Vines’ 2002 debut, Highly Evolved, or their latest effort, Winning Days, with songwriter and vocal savant Nicholls, you’d better be prepared to rock with his roll. He’s likely to float off on a tangent, come back, then slip away again before you can decipher his gibberish. Still, he has good company in the babbling-idiot bridgade: Syd Barrett, Brian Wilson, and Harry Nillsson, for starters – all brilliant songwriters who couldn’t be bothered to communicate on the level of mere mortals.
“When you work with him in the studio, he’s nothing like his reputation,” says Rob Schnapf, who produced both Highly Evolved and Winning Days. “What Craig really wants to do is record and make music; that makes him very happy. When he tours, or talks to people he doesn’t know, he becomes difficult. But he has a great melodic mind. He has this harmonic thing that just flows naturally out of his mouth.”
A fall-down, foaming-at-the-mouth devotee of layered vocal harmonies a la the Beach Boys and the Mamas & the Papas, Nicholls forsakes laptop rigs for the full-on glory of the professional recording studio; for Winning Days, it was Bearsville Studios, in upstate New York. With that studio only a short walk from the band’s farmhouse, Nicholls was able to concentrate on the music swimming in his head. On one track, “Autumn Shade II,” he sings, “Look through me, ‘cause I’m transparent” – the line a clue to his songwriting approach.
“Songwriting is mystical,” Nicholls explains. “It’s a chance to communicate all my weird ideas and to try to explain my dumb behavior. But the songs are more serious that what I actually say. I’m communicating best when I’m singing ideas, and at times I’m so off in that musical world that I feel like I am not even here.”
Songwriting puts you in that zoned-out state?
“That state puts me into songwriting,” Nicholls corrects. “If you listen to and play a lot of music, that seems to be the universal thing. And to express that state, you need the sounds and the meanings.”
As with other inspired but cracked musicians – from Beethoven (deaf at 32) to Chopin (who once imagined himself dead and floating in a lake) – Nicholls sees the music. Before he plays a lick or writes down chords, his music appears in colors and squiggly lines, the debris of the cranium of some mad savant; all normal modes of communication shut down while the muse fills his brain with sounds.
“I get these patterns in my head, especially when we’re recording,” Nicholls explains. “That’s when it’s most intense. I start seeing lines – there’s always some visual element. My brain does it automatically, and maybe it gives me ideas or helps me figure out the songs. For “Autumn Shade,” it was peaceful nature and daylight. For “Amnesia,” it was like flying through deep space.”
“Amnesia” and “Autumn Shade II,” two of Winning Days’ most compelling songs, represent the leap in songwriting skill that has occurred since the Vines’ 2002 debut. Though one can still hear the influence of Pavement, Supergrass, Swervedriver and Blur, Nicholls has found his won voice. Whereas Highly Evolved, with songs like “Outtathaway!” and “Get Free” blasted Nirvana-esque intimations over song structures similar to those of the Hives or the Strokes, Winning Days is in another league, as if finds Nicholls carving out his own peculiar and provocative sonic world.
Winning Days is an album in every sense of the old-school word. It blasts off hard and harried with the Kinks-ian guitar scrunge of “Ride” and the deranged, pick-dragging pummel of “Animal Machine.” After that grab-you-by-the-throat introduction, the record goes upcountry. Switching to a stash of ‘60s guitars, Nicholls and company push harmonies to the fore and explore riveting arrangements that recall the Beatles’ Revolver as well as XTC’s ignored classic, Black Sea (with a nod to Nirvana’s Nevermind). “TV Pro” creeps up with its sleepy, sleazy guitars, and then tumbles over the edge into a dreamscape of cottony vocals and eerily buzz-sawing guitars. Nicholls’ incantations veer from crazy child to invisible ghost, as guitars blacken the blue sky like smoke bombs. The effect is spooky yet engaging, like finding a tombstone with your name on it.
“Autumn Shade II” lets it all down, flowing to the center of melancholy and madness, where Nicholls’ songwriting magic sends shivers down the spine. With 22 vocal overdubs, the song’s melody works the entire scale, top to bottom. Guitars turn into seagulls, vocal harmonies merge with acoustic pianos – it’s a beautiful song in a world where beauty is increasingly hard to come by.
“It just sounds great,” says Nicholls. “Sometimes with rock music or heavy metal, you become desensitized. It then lacks impact – because you’ve become used to it – and doesn’t seem very heavy or emotional. I think there’s room for beauty. Plus, I like ballads. There are a lot of possibilities, and that’s the direction we’re going to head in.”
“Winning Days,” an acoustic ballad, is a perfect reflection of the Vines’ three month stay at Bearsville, a time spent goofing in the sun and recording in bare feet. In the style of the La’s “There She Goes” or The Beatles “Things We Said Today,” “Winning Days” has its roots in Liverpudlian melancholy – even if a ripping guitar solo briefly disrupts the breeze. A few more jangly numbers unfurl until “Amnesia” smacks your skull like a good blotter of acid; it evokes dream visions of Pink Floyd performing in your living room. With harmonies stacked to the sky and guitars soaring over Mellotron and Moog synthesizers, the song elevates your senses like a drifting hot air balloon on a windy summer day. The eardrum-shredding “Fuck the World” closes the set with a middle finger, but the album’s beauty marks will leave you enamored of the Vines’ songwriting power.
“We knew we had a bunch of different kinds of songs, but we didn’t really know how they’d all fit,” Nicholls says. “We hoped that, like with the first album, they’d fit, but you don’t know until you are done. This album is different; it takes you on a trip.”
What makes the trip so memorable, beyond Nicholls’ ethereal vocal layer cake and the band’s attention to detail, are guitar solos, which enter the songs as if pointing to some mystery code. Whereas many of his contemporaries refuse, possibly out of a false sense of hipness, to play solos, Nicholls executes torrid leads that scorch and howl.
“A solo is a simple thing that really works,” Nicholls explains. “We try to put them in context; we don’t stick a 10-minute solo in the song just ‘cause I can play it. I actually have melodies in my head that I play on the guitar which are completely different from a song’s melody. It is about variation, and each variation should complement the next.”
Just as they did on Highly Evolved, Nicholls and now Griffiths often changed guitars within songs, for ultimate impact.
“We’ll record a part for the beginning or add a feedback track towards the end – it’s icing on the cake,” says Nicholls. “The details make the finished product. If you can pay attention, simple things sound the best, but you can combine them in many ways. We didn’t have many rules.”
For the Winning Days’ sessions, Nicholls – who relies mostly on a Fender Strat and a Marshall half-stack for live shows – entered the playground of Rob Schnapf’s “guitarsenal,” where using the producer’s famed set of tools, the guitarist realized the music of his mind.
“Craig’s solos work because they’re based on melodies, not on noodling,” Schnapf explains. “He’s not just scale-chasing; his solos are based around a line. That’s why the guitars and the vocals can cross over one another, merge, or form lines of melodic counterpoint.”
“Craig’s solos had a starting place,” Schnapf continues, “and then it came down to how we would bend and twist them from there.”
Far-out guitar moments on Winning Days are too many to count, from the country-punk solos on “Ride” and “Animal Machine” to the bleeding-fingers-on-ice screech of “Fuck the World.” Still, there are band favorites.
“Amnesia” was the most bizarre, in its extended outro section,” says Matthews. “It’s like a guitar solo, but it isn’t really a guitar solo – just these bizarre noises that Craig learned how to get from the guitar amp by playing it live a lot. To get it recorded took a lot of fiddling around with feedback and shaking of the guitar’s neck. It’s just notes bowing and leaping. The start of that song has the most in-depth guitar and vocals on the album, and some of the most precise moments.”
Unconscious for Rock ‘n’ Roll
Whether Nicholls can compose himself long enough to make it through the inevitable Winning Days tour is anybody’s guess, but Matthews, once the songwriter’s confessed keeper, has faith.
Says Matthews, “That was a long time ago; I haven’t had to look after Craig for a long time. He’s quite sane and calm at the moment. But he’s like the rest of us: Sometimes we fight and yell, and occasionally we have secret, whispered conferences. There’s not much direction in this band in terms of cerebral cortex. It’s unconscious; it’s rock ‘n’ roll.”
Nicholls is already onto the Vines’ next record, thinking about deeper harmonies and greater experimentation. He may sing, “The winning days are gone,” but he certainly knows better. “We’re going to spend a long time on the next one,” he muses. “I always wanted to do harmonies, the whole ‘row, row, row your boat’ idea. I would like to make even more layered recordings. I’m looking forward to doing some deep experimentation but with a lot of preparation. I’ll have the songs ready, and then I’d like to do 10-part harmonies.”
Craig, are you seeing colors yet?
“I imagine the sound we’ll make in the future as very clean and airy and spacey, and kind of lazy and hyperactive. It will be elastic and jump around from here to there.”
Nicholls’ Go-to Gear for Winning Days
’64 Fender Jazzmaster
’64 Fender Telecaster
’53 Gibson Les Paul
’63 Gibson SG Junior
’63 Guild S200
’63 Epiphone Riviera 12-string
’63 Gibson ES 330
’74 Guild Starfire IV
TTR Design Custom
’63 Epiphone Texan
’57 Gibson J50
Marshall Super Lead (formerly owned by the Stooges)
Sound City 50W head
’49 Fender Pro
Dr. Z KT-45 head
Mojave Ampworks Coyote
Watkins Dominator head
Colorsound Supa Tone Bender
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|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:58 pm|| |
by Rachel Newman
Australian Rolling Stone, May 2004
Stretched across the couch in the dressing room, Chris Cester, drummer for Jet, is lying on top of his girlfriend, Alexi, lips locked. Jet’s bass player, Mark Wilson, lead singer, Nic Cester, and lead guitarist Cameron Muncey stand around cracking themselves up with the same old running joke (pretending to be Chewbacca form ‘Star Wars’). They’re well into demolishing their slab of beer. And the Vines’ slab. Chris disappears with Alexi and the three remaining Jets huddle around the one lighter, sparking up more cigarettes.
Chris Cheney, lead singer and guitarist of the Living End, is outside pacing. He’s hurling his voice through some vigorous vocal exercises, deep in thought. The Vines are nowhere to be seen. They haven’t left their tour bus all day and they’ve even recently stopped sound-checking, presumably to avoid further scrutiny.
“Man, I feel so bad when I hear Chris outside warming up before each show,” says Nic. “I’m always somewhere nearby with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other not giving a shit.”
“But you’re lucky, Nic,” Muncey smiles reassuringly. “You don’t have to warm up. Nic is always the last one up, the one who’s drunk the most the night before and who always sounds so great onstage the next night. It’s amazing, I don’t know how he does it.”
If Chris Cheney wasn’t the singer for the Living End, he’d be in there with Jet boys, partying it up. “But at the end of the tour,” says Cheney, “we want to go home saying we had a really good tour, not that we had a good time. You can get pissed and stoned every night of the week when we get home, but on tour, it’s like we are here to work, we are her to fucking kick arse.”
It’s 6pm in Boston and the all-ages show starts early tonight at the Avalon Ballroom. Melbourne band, Neon, who have just joined the tour, open up with a 20-minute set. By the time the Living End hit the stage, the room is packed. Vines bass player, Patrick Matthews, and guitarist, Ryan Griffiths, have made their way backstage, salvaging themselves a couple of beers, while one by one, Jet – with the exception of Chris, who is busy at the back of the tour bus with his girlfriend – watch from the side of the stage.
As Cheney and co deliver a blistering finale of ‘Second Solution,’ Nic heads back to the dressing room, shaking his head, muttering: “They’re so good. They make it so hard for us to follow them.” He grabs another beer and meanders over to a sweat-soaked Cheney for a debrief.
Wilson echoes the same sentiments. “The Living End put on such a good show every night, despite how they feel, they always put on a fucking great show,” he says. “They always play great, and they’re just fucking brilliant musicians. I loved them when I was young, but I never had the respect for them until now. I’ve seen them play every night with us on tour. And especially in a place where we’re taking off, and I mean they’re very popular here…but the fucking passion that they have and just the way they play every night is how a band should play before a band like us and the Vines.”
“It’s what we try to do to the Vines. We try to blow the Vines off stage and The Living End’s job it to try and blow us and the Vines off stage. That’s your job. That is our fucking job – to try and fuck the band up,” he smiles. “That’s always been our ethos when we’re touring. When we were touring with the Rolling Stones, we talked about it. Our job is to try and blow them off stage every night. You can’t! You can’t do it! But you can in your own head. You can pretend you did.”
In the American context, this little scene in Boston tonight says a lot about this collective of bands – who they are, where they’re at, and where they’re all going. Despite being overawed by the Living End, and headlined by the Vines – who, mind you, are playing the best shows of their lives – this tour belongs to Jet. But as fate would have it, this Australian juggernaut through North America and Canada couldn’t happen at a more pivotal time for them all. Each impelled with momentum and a friendly rivalry.
Jet, clearly a band on the brink of cracking the American market (they’re only weeks away from selling a million albums there), are wholly living in the moment. The Living End, who were so close to seeing their live efforts rewarded in America before Cheney’s near-fatal road accident more than two years ago, are digging their heels in; serious and determined to re-gather some of that lost momentum. And the Vines are more inexplicable than ever. Having found themselves at the other extreme end of the press’ pen – this time the pointy, poisonous end – Craig Nicholls’ evasive, wacked-out, hibernating ways aren’t as romantic as they once were. Now, the music really is doing the talking.
It’s snowing in New York City. Standing on a not-so-secret landing where guests and crew of ‘Late Night with Conan O’Brien’ sneak out to add to the thousands of stomped out cigarette butts, the show’s producer seems pleased with herself that, once the Living End perform on that show tonight, all the bands from the Aussie Invasion tour will have appeared on the popular late-night program.
“Jet were much nicer than I thought they’d be,” she smiles. “But the Vines,” she says, twisting the corners of her still smiling mouth, “was weird.” Apparently, Nicholls “was having a day where he couldn’t touch the ground.” So, she says, the crew had to assemble a line of chairs near enough to the stage so he could hop from one to the other. “When we got him close enough to the stage, we just wheeled him up to it.”
Scott Owen, double bass man for the Living End, laughs mildly, but none of his band’s crew look surprised.
It’s only been 30 minutes since Craig Nicholls hit the stage floor for the last time, swooning to the final notes of what can only be described as genuinely great art rock performance. Backstage, Nicholls is sitting nimbly beside his Jet tour buddy, Mark Wilson, copping the odd slap on the back from the gentle giant. The mood is warm; bands friendly but polarized by their differences. As the doors swing open, letting in a steady stream of strangers, the atmosphere changes almost instantly. Nicholls shifts in his sent uneasily, eyes bugging boldly. Wilson beams openly, almost naively at the door as Boston media trickle past Nicholls and onto Wilson, then Muncey and Nic (Chris is again locked away with Alexi). A group of girls saunter in next, all non-descript. Naturally, they’re here to befriend anyone who stepped onstage tonight.
Nicholls lasts five minutes before he high-tails it out of there, incessantly scrunching his hair up with nervous energy. I’m told by one of his managers, Andy Kelly, that Nicholls doesn’t deal well with strangers. It’s a shame. Tonight, Nicholls in good spirits, might have been the only opportunity over the two days I spend with the bands to see the enigmatic frontman in a social environment with his peers. But with the room now full of nobodies, all wanting a piece of the bands, he heads back to the tour bus to play around on his 4-track recorder until the bus makes a start for Philadelphia at 2am.
Meanwhile, the loudest, crassest blonde of all – a Mississippi girl named Rachael – declares to a small group that includes Matthews and Wilson that she’s friends with the Kings of Leon and tries to remind Wilson that they’ve met before. They had a ‘really long, really great’ conversation one time. Wilson ain’t no dummy but he’s guilty of being a little too kind, humoring her for most of the night. But as the half-dozed bottles of vodka dwindle away, Rachael becomes more forward and vocal. Wilson gets fed up.
After politely trying to avoid Rachael’s propositions, Wilson finally picks up a broom from the corner of the room and uses it to secure some personal space. It’s no more Mr. Nice Guy. “I don’t want to fuck you, OK!” he screams at her, pushing the straw of the broom into her advances. “I don’t want to fuck you either,” she retorts vaguely, “but why wouldn’t you want to fuck me? What’s wrong with me?”
Wilson doesn’t see the irony in literally beating off the ladies with a stick, but the Jet road crew certainly do. They agree to get rid of the over-zealous Rachael only if she shows them her ‘tits.’ She now has Wilson wedged between the wall and a couch, he’s still holding the broom to her stomach to stop her moving any closer and he’s clearly agitated. “I don’t get it,” he squints at her. “Why? Why the fuck are you like this? What, just because I’m in a band? Can’t you see how pathetic you are?” Rachael considers showing the road crew her bare chest, but thinks better of it and is then escorted out the door.
A bizarre scene, but it fits perfectly with the mounting celebration of Jet in the US. Surely this happens all the time these days? “No way,” Wilson says sternly. “Groupies are around, I suppose, but it’s never been like this before.” Wilson has had enough. Fearful there’ll be no more beer left on the bus, he raids the stock fridges at the venue and packs up a box of drinks. The bus is tight with bodies and completely dry. Wilson shares his box of goodies around, and Muncey turns up the volume on an already blaring Faces record.
Nic has a group of friends on board, one of whom is a long lost cousin that’s presented herself at the Boston show unannounced. The Living End have returned from their post-show dinner, but Owen is the only one well enough – the trio have been suffering from the flu – to weather a thick cloud of cigarette smoke.
The Vines are all tucked away quietly on their own bus, but the only ones resting on the Jet ride are Chris and Alexi. The extras are cleared, Wilson hits the sack and Owen returns to his own wheels, as the busses move on. Next stop: Philadelphia’s Electric Factory.
This afternoon, while the rest of the bands are sound-checking, the Vines head out for an acoustic radio performance, in front of a room full of competition winners at a Philadelphia alternative rock station, WPLY. It’s a rare daylight excursion off the bus for Nicholls.
Along with Griffiths and Matthews, the awkward frontman scuffles up the guts of the hall to the stage like a naughty schoolboy. They’re barely finished sitting down when the first notes of ‘Winning Days’ float out across the cavernous room. They’re only halfway through their second song, ‘Ride,’ when Nicholls starts manipulating his voice to suit his mood. In an acoustic setting like this, with a small audience, Nicholls is confronting. The audience squirm in their seats as the singer yelps; a few heads even turn.
Two songs later (‘Autumn Shade’ and ‘Autumn Shade 2’), a piggy snort, a ‘thank you very much’ (said in a Muppet voice) and the Vines are on their way to the dressing room at the back of the hall.
Nicholls is bouncing around the small room like a crab. He’s taken the pop screen off the front of one of the spare microphones and is using it to ‘look for gold.’ The producer of the radio station has come into the room to thank the band and let them know that the recording went well. Nicholls responds by asking him if there’s any gold in the room. He jumps across seats and squats close to the ground. Griffiths stands, moving out of Nicholls’ way and Matthews just slouches on a couch with that perennial look of nervous discomfort on his face.
I ask Craig what else he’s been up to today. “Just hanging and chilling. Mainly hanging, then we got bored of that and just chilled.”
Yesterday, Nicholls was uncomfortable with the Rolling Stone photographer, feeling that he took too many shots. But today, he’s happy to pull some faces. “I don’t mind the pictures,” he stammers, “I just don’t like the writing-down.” And with that, a Vines tour manager jumps to his defense and tells me, Miami Vice-style, to put the pen down.
Everyone who surrounds the Vines – their management, road crew, tour manager – is particularly sensitive to Nicholls and his frame of mind. Their tour manager apologizes a little later for pouncing on me and my pen, explaining that “its hasn’t been a good day today.” It’s a phrase that’s heard quite often in the Vines camp. It’s also the most regular excuse used to explain the lack of access to Nicholls. “He just wants to write music,” says Andy Kelly. “He never wanted to have to talk about it. He’s got nothing to say about it.”
Journalists across hemispheres have reported – often with frustration – of not being able to figure Nicholls out. Is he really as mad as he makes out? Is it all a clever spin to make the band seem more interesting? A few days in this environment, there’s little or no doubt that the frontman is for real. He’s barely able to cope with socializing and, when he does, it’s usually when he knows there’ll only be familiar faces around. No one is allowed on the Vines bus, which is fine, because the only action on board is via video games and 4-track recording. Nicholls has too much noise going on in his head to conform to the usual way of life. More importantly, he could care less for it. He’s much rather live for and by his music.
Perhaps that is what Courtney Love sees in Nicholls. Her obsession with the Vines – despite being dogged by bad reviews in the US – is only getting more intense. She tracked down (rumor has it she is constantly hiring private detectives) the location of the ‘Ride’ video shoot, showed up and demanded to spend time with Nicholls. When Love was turned away, she simply showed up at the Aussie Invasion’s Irving Plaza show in New York.
It happened to be the second New York show which fell on the same day that Love went a little madder than usual: Wednesday, March 17. That afternoon, she pre-recorded her already-infamous appearance on the ‘Late Show with David Letterman’ – where she jumped on his desk and ripped off her shirt. Then, somewhere between performing her own show that night and being arrested throwing a mic stand at someone in the audience, she caught the Vines live onstage.
According to Kelly, she demanded to be allowed onstage and perform with the band. She wouldn’t take no for an answer either. She stood right by the mixing desk and insisted that an announcement be made informing the crowd that she would be playing with the Vines. Of course, it never happened and Love moved on to create more chaos.
Whatever chaos it might seem that the Vines create themselves, the other bands on the tour are relaxed and accepting of Nicholls. “I think it’s just that they [the Americans] don’t get Craig,” offers Jet’s Chris. “They see him as just uncooperative, and obviously weird. They love it in the UK, but over here it’s like he doesn’t do them any favors and they just shut the door on him. It’s like ‘If you don’t want to make time for us, then fuck you.’”
At the side of every stage in every city you’ll find various Living End, Jet, Vines members watching each other’s set. Back in Philadelphia, Nicholls watches Jet. Wilson – having had a good night sleep – has been drinking since the late afternoon. Before he stepped onstage, after watching the Living End, he confessed to Owen that he didn’t know how he was going to perform tonight. “I’m wasted,” he drawls. “I don’t know how you guys play sober,” Owen quips, laughing.
Wilson gets through most of the set without a hitch until he goes to walk off stage and trips, smacking his knee, falling flat on his face. That the whole audience saw him fall wasn’t a concern. What Wilson cared about was that Nicholls saw it.
The respect the three bands have for another is endearing. All totally different people, all on different paths, their attitude in the middle of America is very Australian. Fans Cathy and Amanda (both in their mid-twenties) are waiting out the back of the venue to see Jet, are into Australian bands right now because of their authenticity.
“They’re definitely more real,” Amanda agrees. “American bands, the majority are cookie-cutter; it’s not like that with Australian bands, they are what they are.”
Chris and Alexi stroll off; “Chris Martin and Gwenyth Paltrow have left the building,” jokes Chris. Nicholls and Matthews sit down for a cigarette with Nic and Muncey. Wilson wheels around pretending to be a nana (with his busted knee) in a wheelchair he found out back. Owen watches on laughing, beer in hand. Cheney and drummer Andy Strachan finish their meat and three veg and join the fracas in the hallway.
They’re preparing to shove off to Montreal tonight. Another gig, another night of drinking, of sleeping in small bunk-beds, and yet another day without showers. Yep, this is pretty real.
*The Living End share their bus with Neon, while Jet and the Vines travel on their own busses
*Each bus has a stereo, DVD and PlayStation facilities. The bands can watch DVDs from their bunks, which all contain individual screens.
*There are no showers or washing machine facilities on the busses, so the bands bathe themselves and their sweaty gear at venues. If they’re doing more than one show in a city, they will stay overnight in a hotel room. (I know for a fact that the Vines rented a hotel room in each city to take showers before shows – me)
*The busses travel by night while the bands are either sleeping or partying.
*At the end of the tour, they clocked up 8,640 miles and played to 42,300 people.
*There are 19 crew members who toured with the bands.
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Join date : 2011-10-24
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Location : Australia
|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 12:59 pm|| |
The Morning After
Australian Rolling Stone, March 2004
After spinning out of control, the Vines steady the ship rather than sink and drown.
By Dan Lander
“The kid in the mall works at Hotdog on a Stick
His hat is a funny shape; his heart is a brick
Taking your order he will turn away
He doesn’t have a thing to say”
“Grace Kelly’s Blues” – The Eels
As the sun goes down on the back room of an inner city Sydney pub, that one verse from Mark Oliver Everett keeps playing over and over in my head, and the person sitting across the table from me – Craig Nicholls, leader and visionary of the Vines – is the reason behind it all. Afternoon meanders into dusk and I empty a schooner or two, all the time thinking that Nicholls is, more or less, that kid – painfully shy, hiding beneath a mop of hair, doing his best to look anywhere but your eyes, and when you do finally catch his gaze, he meets you with a glance like a schoolboy caught with his hands in his pants. Honest impression: There’s a lot more of the burger-flipping adolescent than the international man of excess.
About a week later, sometime in the New York afternoon, a jet-lagged Patrick Matthews – bass player for the Vines – is woken by my phone call, an hour before he expected it. After struggling through a few pleasantries and a quick chat about the recording of the band’s new album, Winning Days, the conversation inevitably turns to Nicholls. Only, this time around, there’s something slightly different in what Matthews has to say about his band-mate.
“I did a lot of interviews last year,” he begins, then after a long pause adds, “But now that Craig’s doing more of that sort of thing, it’s a lot different for me. Like if you’d been doing this interview last year, I would have been a lot more helpful, but now I feel like I can back off and not have to build up a story or anything. But that also means I don’t have a story or anything. Because it’s all crap anyway. Like I don’t care or know what other bands say, but a lot of the time it feels like we’re making up a story for a journalist, and I had a story for last time around, but now it’s Craig’s turn. It’s good that he’s taking up the slack. Although I don’t know how long it will last. Once we start playing a lot of shows it could be a lot different.”
Thrown away in a casual, sleepy tone, Matthews’ comment brings so much of the Vines saga into perspective – especially given that a week earlier, it was pretty clear that Nicholls didn’t have a story this time around either.
It seems that after all the craziness, the vagueness, wild photos, the ubiquitous bong, onstage fighting, spontaneous destruction of self and surroundings, pre-stage fright, rumours of break-ups, hangers-on, million-selling albums, criticism, adulation, backlash, and breakthroughs, there’s one simple truth that remains about the Vines: The music is much more exciting than the band.
With the benefits of hindsight and level-headed conversations with both Nicholls and Matthews, it is pretty easy to piece together the making of the Vines myth. Start with the celebrated Nicholls’ vagueness for instance. Over the course of our conversation, the only time Nicholls’ mind ‘wanders’ – prompting comments like, “I can’t remember what we were talking about” – is when he doesn’t want to answer a question. It’s a slightly more subtle version of Sir Joh Bjelke-Peterson’s old trick of dodging the issue by talking up a storm of bullshit. During our phone conversation, Matthews confirms the suspicion that, as much as anything, Nicholls’ celebrated ‘space cadet’ persona is simply a form of self-preservation.
“That’s generally not a good sign if he’s doing that,” states Matthews. “It’s a sign that he’s not happy or whatever. He doesn’t really do it much with me in general.”
While Matthews has often defended his frontman in the past, this time around you get the feeling that he might actually be giving us the straight of it, especially when he spits: “I don’t think it’s my job to point out whether or not Craig’s talking crap or anything anymore. Like, in interviews he just gets bored.”
None of this suggests that Nicholls is your straight-up Jorge Regula though. Even Matthews will admit that “he’s not completely rational or sane.” But with the pressures of sudden stardom now somewhat diminished, it looks like Craig Nicholls and his bandmates are facing the world with a slightly less-sensational look upon their faces.
Nicholls’ reflection on the year that led up to the recording of Winning Days - a year which held everything from platinum albums to very serious break-up possibilities – is subdued, uttered in a weary voice that suggests in lots of ways he’s glad it’s passed.
“I guess it was kind of surreal when it was happening,” the singer says. “It sort of became this life of its own. And we wanted to record more straight away, but we just started playing more – that’s just the way it turned out. It’s great to get those opportunities to go to England and America. You know, we were really serious about that. And we gained a lot out of it. But it didn’t change us a whole lot. It still hasn’t made us feel like we’re famous or anything like that. We don’t think like that. We’re just ordinary guys.”
While the mountains of press from all over the world would suggest that the Vines – and Nicholls in particular – are anything but ordinary guys, talking to the singer and Matthews today, there couldn’t be a more apt description. Even a gentle prod about the stories of wild times that surrounded the Vines post-Highly Evolved only provokes a philosophical, reasonably sensible response.
“You’ve just gotta hope that you can hold onto some sort of control,” reasons Nicholls. “And that the people you’re with are good people. And the people that hang around don’t really matter. If we need time on our own we can achieve that, you know. But yeah, it’s weird, because as much as it can all be a little overwhelming at times, you also want to have a really good time. And, sure, that’s not all that the music’s for or about, but while we’re this age, it’s something to enjoy.”
“We started recording,” Nicholls meanders, “I think it was the end of last year. I’ve got problems with remembering the months, though.”
OK, so not everything has changed, and maybe there are times when Nicholls is a bit vague by way of nature rather than pure disinterest. But when you talk to him about the music these days, he’s happy to talk facts, not fantasy. Not the sort of fantasy he imagined in 2003 where he wanted to do a really hi-fi album, conjuring up images of Nirvana meets the Beatles meets Toto. Winning Days is definitely not the new adventure in hi-fi that Nicholls had alluded to, and for his part, he’s prepared to admit that it was never going to be.
“Yeah, sorry about that,” he says with a self-conscious laugh. “I don’t think I ever really meant that. I was just probably getting carried away after the first album, saying things just for the sake of it. But I was and still am very obsessed with the recording side of things, and that’s sort of what I meant. I want things to sound good.”
To that end, the Vines moved to the remote Bearsville studio in the woods outside of upstate New York in May last year to start work with producer Rob Schnapf (who also twiddled the knobs on the band’s debut) on Winning Days. Coming as it did on the back of a grinding tour that had climaxed in Nicholls’ and Matthews’ now famous tiff on stage at a Boston show in December 2002, the move straight to the studio could have been a disaster. Instead, it turned out to be exactly what the band needed.
“The first week, or really just one day or two, it was pretty tense and it was like, ‘Oh,’” says Matthews. “But as soon as we started recording it was, like, really positive and Hamish [Rosser, guitarist] and I were getting stuff on the record and we were really happy about that, and we got it all finished in time which Craig and I were really happy about. Like, we finished a week before time ran out at the studio, and then we went home and didn’t have to do a load of stuff for two months.”
The album itself is solid rock & roll coloured by different moods – the perfect bookend to the collection of stories that was started by Highly Evolved. They are sister albums, even to the point that Nicholls chose to include a second version of “Autumn Shade” and call it simply, “Autumn Shade II.” It is the first time the band have recorded as a four-piece – with Rosser and drummer Ryan Griffiths now well established (except in the mind of this interviewer who mixed Ryan and Hammy up! – Jen) – and not too much has changed. Like Nicholls, Matthews is definitely glad it went that way and not down the more absurd path that both he and Craig had intimated it might.
“[The hi-fi thing] wasn’t something I ever really wanted to do,” the bass player confesses. “I guess that there are some bands that have done that but I’m not really sure that I’ve heard too many bands do stuff like that. Like there’s Muse, they’ve sort of pulled it off. But at the same time, I think this record is still fairly hi-fi, but with nearly every song, there’s something that’s dirty. Whether it’s the bass or guitar, there’s one thing that’s edgy. And even though the vocals are recorded pretty nicely, I think there’s just something about making everything shiny that’s a bit unnecessary.”
Nicholls confirms that the band had a very firm mindset about the sound they wanted when they went into the studio and this, together with the wisdom of Schnapf, helped them stick to the less-is-more mentality that made their first album such a sensation.
“I wanted it to be – in my head – something grand, with big ideas and that vision sort of thing,” begins Nicholls. “But at the same time, that doesn’t mean that something can’t be special if it’s just simple. Because I think that the songs are the main idea. I think I might have been thinking that we were like a hip-hop group or something, so we could do these full-on things, but we’re not. We’re a rock band. We sing our songs and play guitar and have drum beats and we like it like that.”
“It all comes down to the songs and mostly when we were recording we thought that there’s no use in putting extra keyboard tracks on it or another guitar part in it. But the thing that we think as a band – as clichéd as it might sound, and as much as we don’t want to do something over and over again – is that sometimes simple things are the best.”
Even if the music might not have changed too much for the Vines, there is no getting around the fact that it’s a very different world the band find themselves in as they set in for the new rounds of media attention and scrutiny. Even simple things have changed for the band, like Nicholls leaving the bong behind.
“I gave up man,” he says with enough innocence to suggest he’s telling at least half the truth. “It wasn’t really hard. I was just kind of through with it. I was surprised, actually because people have said to me before that it’s hard, but I haven’t been having trouble at all. It’s weird – like I can’t even really notice stopping. You did it and then you stop, and I don’t know, it just happens. Maybe that’s the way it’s meant to be.”
Nicholls isn’t the only Vine looking out for his health either. Matthews – resigned to the fact that it’s a little harder for him to give up the drink than it was for Craig to kick the weed – has found a novel way of compensating for his thirst.
“I’ve been jogging,” he states. “A lot. It’s my thing because I’ve admitted to myself, like when you’re an alcoholic and you have to admit it to yourself, that’s the first step. So I admit that I’m an alcoholic and I need to exercise to balance that out. You have to take pleasure in the masochism of it (jogging with a hangover). You really feel the sweat coming out in great, big square cubes. I’m really going to attempt to maintain it.”
Given what the band will be facing over the next few months, the y may very well need healthy minds and bodies. With the release of Winning Days, the Vines must now face the problem of being both a big name band and being Australians signed to an American label, and in many senses being imported back to their own country. This fact led to a healthy dose of Aussie skepticism the first time around, and now the situation is only more obvious.
Although album sales have been good in this country, the Australian critics – both professional and armchair – haven’t always been kind to the Vines. Despite rave album reviews, their first major tour of Australia was met with a storm of negative press, as a combination of inexperience and being introduced to your home crowd as international superstars took its toll.
“We went to Melbourne and played this one show at the Hi-Fi Bar,” remembers Matthews. “And they seemed to be cool with us while we were playing but then we got really bad reviews. Then we played this show at the Laundry or somewhere for Triple R (Melbourne public radio station) and it was like the most frosty audience I’ve ever seen in my life. It was ridiculous. Talk about scrutinizing. Like, why did they even bother? But Melbourne was the worst.”
“We played in Sydney and got a few more bad reviews, and people writing into Drum Media (street press) – one week people would be bagging us and the next week someone would write back saying, ‘No, they’re alright.’ It’s just a bit of a joke sometimes.”
Nicholls offers a similarly resigned, shrug-of-the-shoulders sort of perspective on the situation.
“It’s cool, you know. It doesn’t matter what people’s opinions are; well, it didn’t matter to me, because that’s the reason you play in a band – so you don’t have to listen to anyone or do what they say. That’s why this is our band, not theirs. All I can say is that we did work hard and it’s a crazy world, especially with music – if people think you’re lucky they get negative. But we did work hard, and we were just kind of behind-the-scenes when we were still in Sydney. We worked in my bedroom and in the rehearsal room rather than on stages.”
Fortunately for the Vines, the tide of opinion seems to be changing. Their Homebake appearance last December might not have pulled the biggest crowd at the festival, but it did have a few people eating humble pie, with most agreeing that the band had improved by a long shot. Even so, speaking to Matthews, there are obviously still a few artistic differences within the group – no doubt the same differences that caused so much tension late 2002.
“I thought it sounded alright,” says the bass player. “The singing was a bit pitched in the screaming zone for my liking. Screaming’s all right, but not for a whole set. But my singing was terrible as well, so you know. I think the band sounded pretty good though.”
With the Vines embarking on a tour of the U.S. with Jet and the Living End – a tour which is more than a little remarkable for what it says about the stature of Australian music overseas – the band find themselves in an interesting position. The hype’s gone with the bong and the bullshit. It’s now a case of letting the music talk for itself. They’ve been through the ringer on so many issues, and despite so many people thinking it could end otherwise, the Vines have survived to make a solid second album. And while it might be fair to say that in terms of spectacle and outrage the band are not half as interesting as they used to be, you’d also have to say that the music is. For Nicholls – for the first time at least – that’s enough.
“We’re just really glad that we’re still doing this, still together,” he says. “There were times when we thought that it might not last, that we would break up, but then again it’s really important to us, so maybe we were just being dramatic during those times. You know, those were probably the times when, for some reason I was thinking I could go and do a solo album with the London Symphony Orchestra. I won’t do that.”
Instead, the Vines are taking small steps towards becoming a band that’s going to outlive its own hype. Where it would have been easy for them to get carried off by the ideas of extravagance and excess that so many journalists and critics surrounded them in, the Vines – much like the Strokes to whom they’re so often compared – chose instead to just do the same thing they’ve always done. And they, unlike the Strokes, even managed to avoid Hollywood girlfriends.
Even so, don’t press Craig too hard to the future. He’s still capable of pulling out a bunch of bullshit just to hide the fact that, really, he hasn’t got too much to say on the subject…
“I’m starting to think about concept albums, and that sort of thing. That’s always in the back of my head. Something that’s different than a standard sort of rock album.”
“I don’t know what. I think it’s gonna be something. It’s gonna be a concept album, but I’ve just gotta work out what the concept’s gonna be. It’s very early days. But you can’t deny it’s a good idea. It could make us or break us. But that’s the risk you’ve gotta take. You have to keep reinventing yourself.”
Posts : 622
Join date : 2011-10-24
Age : 25
Location : Australia
|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:02 pm|| |
by Alan DiPerna
Agoraphobic, possibly schizophrenic, prone to violent outbursts…the Vines’ Craig Nicholls has all the makings of a rock icon. With an exciting second album under his belt and in a rare moment of lucidity, Nicholls talks guitar. By Alan Di Perna
Vines leader Craig Nicholls acknowledges, “Yeah, we have a split personality.” After one of his characteristically long pauses, the enigmatic frontman adds, “but hopefully it can all melt into one thing.”
Nicholls’ statement applies as much to The Vines’ music as to his own precarious psychological make-up. Musically, the Vines juxtapose the raw aggression of 90s grunge with the sunny bliss of 60s guitar pop. It’s a contrast they exploited to brilliant effect on their debut, Highly Evolved, and which they’ve honed to new heights of edgy perfection on their new album, Winning Days. The Vines main guitarist, not to mention lead singer and songwriter, Nicholls makes six strings slash like broken glass on the album’s first single, Ride. His guitar roars bestial anger on the explosive album closer, Fuck the World. But he can also use the instrument to call down shimmery warbles from psychedelic heaven, inducing pure pop euphoria on spellbinders like Rainfall, Sun Child and the disc’s title track.
“We’ve tried to make the album simple, but powerful,” says the guitarist. “We didn’t want it to be too chaotic. But there are still some tracks where there are a few overdubs.”
As for the mercurial Mr. Nicholls himself, well, they say you’re never alone with a schizophrenic. Craig has a reputation for being difficult. There are tales of tantrums, trashed dressing rooms, drinks splashed in publicists’ faces, bandmates boffed on the head…When he’s not throwing a fit, some accounts allege, Craig lapses into a catatonic stupor, medicated by marijuana. But Nicholls also has a sweet side – boyish but thoughtful and lucid, although he’s not a man to waste words. We’re lucky to meet the nice Craig.
It probably helps to love rock and roll as much as he does – specifically, what many people these days refer to as ‘the real rock and roll.’ Nicholls and The Vines belong squarely in the tradition that starts with the Beatles, Stones, Who and Kinks and wends its way through the years, arriving, the last time anyone checked, at present day garage and rock and roll resurgence bands. Asked to name his favourite current groups, Nicholls answers: “Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Supergrass, White Stripes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.”
Nicholls was pretty much born into this tradition. Back in the 60s, his dad led Australian garage rockers The Vynes, from whom Craig drew the name of his own group. Growing up near Sydney, Australia, young Craig delved head first into the parental record collection. But for all that, he’s no 60s rock purist, in fact, his tastes are pretty basic.
“The Beach Boys, Beatles, Kinks and Jimi Hendrix are the only four groups from then I can name,” he alleges. “Everything else I listen to is new. Mostly, though, I sit and listen to Kinks. They’re such great songwriters, so underrated, and they did so much great stuff later on. I’m obsessed with the Kinks. But also Stone Temple Pilots.”
Growing up in Australia, Nicholls didn’t experience the great divide that split American and British rock during the early 90s. As a result, Britpop stalwarts like Blur, Verve, and Suede mean as much to him as Seattle grunge icons like Nirvana and STP. “Australia is very much influenced by America and England,” he says, “which is good. We get to hear everything coming out.”
All of which gives Nicholls a unique perspective as a songwriter. He’s built his world around two of rock’s most significant decades. Because it takes in a broad swath of time, Nicholls’ musical vision has breadth of scope. But he’s avoided geeky obscurantism, he writes populist stuff – easy to love.
There’s a kind of purity in Nicholls’ musical outlook. Maybe it’s because he’s such an insular person. Music is his whole universe. He doesn’t go out of the house much. And being a man of simple tastes, Nicholls doesn’t need to venture outside the domestic cocoon to indulge in all the things he’s said to enjoy most – junk food, pot, video games and rock.
So imagine what it is like for the reclusive Nicholls to be discovered in 2001, and whisked to Hollywood to cut Highly Evolved. Formerly accustomed to recording at home on a four-track portable studio, Nicholls now found himself amid state-of-the-art luxury at the Sunset Sound Factory. And when he went out the studio door, he was smack in the middle of one of the world’s most bizarrely artificial cities. So there was trouble. Tempers flared as sessions for Highly Evolved seemed to drag on interminably. Original drummer David Olliffe left, to be replaced by Hamish Rosser. The album was finally completed. It was well received on its release and would go on to sell 1.5 million copies.
But the aggravation was just beginning. Nicholls didn’t really like touring and showed very little patience with music biz rituals like meet-and-greets, TV appearances, and press interviews. The problem was mainly this: While his debut album had just been completed, he already had a whole slew of new songs in his head and wanted to go back into the studio. He seemed non-plussed that he couldn’t. When we spoke to him in ’02, he told us he was afraid he’d never get to commit all his ideas to disc.
“I don’t want to lose my voice or hearing before I get a chance to follow through on all the ideas I have with this band. I have to start taking medication so I can stop worrying about it.”
The touring finally ground to a halt during the summer of last year. The Vines traveled directly from London, site of the tour’s final date, to the legendary Bearsville Studios in upstate New York. It was felt Bearsville’s woodsy environs would have a calming effect on Craig – the opposite of Hollywood. The rural resort gave the band an opportunity to decompress from touring while getting down to studio work – always the priority for Craig.
The Winning Days sessions reunited the band with producer Rob Schnapf who had also helmed the recording of Highly Evolved. Part of Schnapf’s production role with The Vines has been to act as ‘older guy guitar guru.’ “Rob owns a lot of cool guitars, which he brought into the studio,” says Craig. “I think we had about 20 of them. A Tele was sort of my main guitar, but there was also a Strat, three different Guilds and a Gibson Les Paul. For amps, we had a Marshall and a Twin Reverb, but Rob also had a whole lot of really old-school amps, which were kind of small and weird sounding, but worked well on a few songs.”
Compared with the drama and strife that attended sessions for Highly Evolved, things went relatively smoothly in Bearsville. “There was definitely some tension there,” says Craig. “If there wasn’t, it wouldn’t be very exciting. I think we were a little more experienced this time around, and so much more confident. I think that comes through in the overall sound of the album.”
Indeed, Winning Days is a sure-footed, beautifully realized piece of work. While it contains some great singles, it’s also an album in the classic sense: a musical journey that takes the listener through variegated styles and moods. “It’s a weird trip,” says Craig, “which is good. I think it’s unexpected. It takes you by surprise.”
The band starts out in full-throttle grunge mode with the aforementioned Ride. The momentum continues with Animal Machine, but here Nicholls offsets Nirvana-esque verses with a reverb-drenched, lysergic guitar solo. And just to keep everyone guessing, Craig throws in some ‘doo-wop’ choruses.
“It’s like from the 50s,” he laughs. “I love songs with weird vocal sounds, those old school, doo wop kind of words. On its own I think it would sound too sweet, but with the heavy guitars, it sounds kinda strange.”
Nicholls songwriting and arranging is all about contrasts. TV Pro derives its energy from jump-cut tempo changes. Floaty, psychedelic verses give way to driving, buzzsaw choruses. Craig notes the song is “meant to sound like a dream,” causing one to speculate whether his dreams are as bi-polar as his waking state seems to be.
The album hits its darkest moment five songs in, with the ominous, heavy minor key Evil Town. Punning on the name of Kurt Cobain’s favorite Japanese girl group, Craig describes an anguish that “feels like Shonen Knife.” “That just means it hurts,” he says. “Very sharp and painful.”
Having struck emotional rock bottom, the album then undergoes an abrupt mood swing. Winning Days is the sixth song on the album. Craig points out this would be the start of the second side of an old vinyl album, typically the place where 60s artists would shift gears in some significant way. The tune is unabashedly euphoric. Winning Days evokes the rosy way the world looks through the eyes of childhood innocence.
“When I was singing it in the studio,” says Craig, “I was so excited, and it just hit me: the album is going to be called Winning Days, I just thought that felt so positive. Even though the song says, ‘The winning days are gone,’ is doesn’t matter, because the melody is happy.”
Guitar pop splendour reigns supreme on the next four songs, and having lulled the listener, the album then ends with a big, rude band. As its title might suggest, Fuck the World is the nastiest piece of work – all distorted bass, Gigantor riffs and throat-shredding rage.
“The song’s just about the state the world’s in,” he says. “But maybe, on the other side, you also have the state of mind I was in at the time I wrote it. It just seemed like an obvious thing to say. I’m being kinda sarcastic when I say, ‘Fuck the world,’ but then maybe there’s a side of me that means it.”
Some garage rock purists dismiss the Vines. But this very fact gives them potential to reach a larger, more varied rock audience. Metal and emo kids can certainly relate to the belligerent angst of Fuck the World. “Hopefully we can turn people who like the harder music on to other things,” says Craig. “Like, ‘Hey, acoustic guitars can sound alright too.’”
The video for Ride underscores this point. It opens with The Vines playing in an empty gymnasium. But when the chorus hits, the room is suddenly filled with rock bands. Almost every musical subculture is represented: punks, Goths, geeks, riot grrls, jazzmen, funkateers, and country pickers, all riding with Craig and the boys. With its gymnasium setting and youthful mob scene, the clip is also highly reminiscent of Nirvana’s famous Smells Like Teen Spirit video.
It seems a deliberate riff on the whole ‘Craig is the new Kurt’ theme – something that’s been around since the earliest days of the Vines. Like Cobain, Nicholls currently seems a mass of raging psychological instability. Craig’s taste in drugs, however, appears far less dangerous. And while many early observers labeled Nicholls the new rock and roll icon most likely to self destruct, the Vines leader is alive, kicking and itching to get back into the studio.
“I think it may be a concept album,” he announces. “The Kinks did so much good stuff like that. That whole idea is really interesting to me. It seems like another step further. Something challenging, I guess.”
Learn to Play The Vines ‘Get Free’
The Vines first came to prominence when they began an 18-month gigfest supporting their debut album, Highly Evolved. They performed this song on the 2002 MTV music awards to an alleged audience of one billion people worldwide (nice work if you can get it).
Guitar, vocal and songwriting duties are handled by Craig Nicholls, and his role in the band is crucial. His style of playing is a mix of flat-out energy and controlled muted riffing. Even when it’s dynamically low, you still get the feeling that it’s going to explode at any second. In a similar way to Kurt Cobain, his guitar playing really powers a song along. Even though he’s not afraid of laying into the guitar, it’s worth pointing out that he’s still very accurate, both rhythmically and fretting wise.
Get Free actually speeds up over the course of the first four bars. When the drums come in it kicks up a gear. The opening riff uses a slow bend up from D to Eb. Don’t let it drift too quickly; you have to let the note sound ‘sour’ until the end of the bar when you finally get there and release the tension with the pull-off lick. The verse is, basically, the same but with tight palm muting to give it a substantial dynamic change.
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|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:02 pm|| |
The Wild Ones
by Alexis Petridis
The Guardian, Friday March 5, 2004
They have a reputation for being raw and unpredictable. But is there any more to the Vines?
In a hotel room just off Trafalgar Square in London, Craig Nicholls is becoming visibly agitated.
Beneath a voluminous parka and a faded T-shirt featuring the Minutemen - the 1980s Marxist punk trio who once wrote a song called The Roar of the Masses Could Be Farts - the 26-year-old leader of the Vines is a mass of nervous tics. His left leg bounces up and down. He seems unsure whether to conduct the interview sitting on his bed, lying flat, or kneeling on the floor next to it as if he's praying. He seems equally unsure what to do with the Kentucky Fried Chicken that the Vines's manager recently bought at his behest - Nicholls famously exists on a diet of junk food. He picks it up. He puts it down. He stares at it through the tendrils of his fringe, as if expecting it to move of its own accord. He picks it up again.
All the time, he chatters nervously. "I have a reputation for being the maddest and craziest guy, but I'm the most quiet. It's the other three guys that raise hell. They're the crazy ones." He looks imploringly at bassist Patrick Matthews who is slumped in a designer chair across the room. "Tell him!" he insists. "Tell him! Tell him!" Matthews looks back at him with an unconcerned air.
Even at the best of times, Nicholls is hardly a model of laid-back insouciance. At worst, he is famous for throwing tantrums that Naomi Campbell would consider slightly de trop. The last time the Guardian interviewed him, he destroyed a dressing room because a security guard had the audacity to knock on the door and ask if he was smoking pot (he was). He once smashed up a television studio where the Vines were rehearsing because he was hungry.
There's a pause. "Yeah," Matthews drawls laconically, "we're the crazy ones."
The Vines' craziness or otherwise is a familiar topic. Not even their vast success in the US, where their 2002 debut album Highly Evolved shifted 1.5m copies, has done anything to dissuade the public from their popularly held belief that Craig Nicholls is barking mad. Indeed, mental health issues appear to have underpinned their story ever since they emerged from Sydney at the end of 2001, proffering a combination of Nirvana-inspired noisy alt-rock, woozy, vaguely psychedelic acoustic songs, angsty lyrics and unpredictable live performances that frequently ended in a mass of smashed equipment.
At a time when rock music was in a post-Britpop slump, the Vines seemed thrillingly raw and unpredictable. Nicholls and Matthews, 28, had met in their teens while working in McDonald's. Nicholls claims that during the recording of their debut album, he was so naive that he didn't realise bands had to go on tour.
The Vines began attracting hysterical critical plaudits: never knowingly underwhelmed, the NME claimed that Highly Evolved was "the greatest debut album ever made". But immediately trouble began to brew. It emerged that their drummer, a diagnosed manic depressive called Dave Olliffe, had suffered a nervous breakdown during the recording of the album in LA and had been replaced by Hamish Rosser.
Olliffe then took to the band's website, denouncing Highly Evolved's producer Rob Schnapf as "the biggest cunt there is" and claiming that he was about to rejoin the band. Olliffe later retracted his comments, but the incident set the tone for the next two years. Every critical or commercial victory was somehow undermined. The band appeared to be in a perpetual state of disarray.
When Highly Evolved entered the American chart at number 11 - a situation certainly not hindered by their US label's decision to sell the CD at a discount - Nicholls celebrated by calling their US label boss "that cunt" and having him thrown off the band's tour bus. The critical hosannas were somewhat tempered by the news that Nicholls had smashed one journalist's Dictaphone in a fit of pique and excused himself from another interview by locking himself in a toilet for two hours. Invited to perform on Jay Leno's Tonight Show, Nicholls threw a tantrum in rehearsal, smashing up equipment and throwing a light at Rosser.
The band were ejected from the studio, their appearance on the programme cancelled. "What do I get mad about?" says Nicholls. "Like, if I'm wearing jeans and Patrick is wearing jeans, it's like fuck you! I'm wearing jeans today! And we have fights with Hamish because he wears T-shirts with four-letter words on them and we don't think that's appropriate. Also," he says, warming to his theme, "he's taken a lot of acid and he's always talking about it. Hamish is the weirdest, but it's not his fault. He's done something to his brain and he can't get back." He laughs uproariously.
"Great drummer, though." What effect have the tantrums and fighting had on their relationship with their record company? "Some of their people are a bit tense around us now," admits Matthews, sheepishly. "I think they're pretty tense to start off with, maybe." "We almost give them a heart attack," chuckles Nicholls.
You can see the record company's point. By the end of 2002, when the band's US tour was pulled after Nicholls and bassist Matthews began trading punches onstage in Boston, stories of Nicholls's erratic behaviour had completely overshadowed the Vines's music. Critical opinion on the band seemed to shift. Reviews of live shows featuring Nicholls howling tunelessly into the microphone, falling off stage and smashing his guitar ceased being awestruck descriptions of a tortured genius at work and began openly wondering what the point was. "Witless, dismal, joyless, depressing," complained one Guardian critic of a performance last year at the Astoria.
According to Matthews, he wasn't the only one: "Do you remember that guy in Amsterdam? " he asks Nicholls. "He said the first half of our concert was the worst thing he had ever seen in his life." Nicholls laughs, before becoming slightly huffy and sarcastic: "It's like, I'm sorry, I wasn't aware that I was supposed to be getting onstage and impressing anybody," he sniffs.
It's a deeply peculiar thing to say - if you're the lead singer in a rock band, getting onstage and impressing people rather seems to be the point - but then, there is no getting around the fact that Nicholls is a deeply peculiar man. The songs he has written for their new album, Winning Days, have met with mixed reviews, despite sticking to the same formula that grasping for the smelling salts when Highly Evolved was released.
Perhaps mindful of the vagaries of the press, he seems to be making an effort today. My Dictaphone remains in one piece and Nicholls stays put throughout, which given his past form, virtually counts as a charm offensive. In addition, he has allegedly given up his prodigious marijuana habit, which some felt was the cause of his erratic behaviour.
However, even drug-free and on his best behaviour, there would be little chance of mistaking him for normal. He cannot decide whether to brazen out the stories about his behaviour - as he points out, his favourite band, the Kinks, used to fight onstage "and that's kind of what attracted me to being in a band, that there were no rules, that you could do things how you saw them" - or to try and convince you that tales of his instability and violence are greatly exaggerated. "People get surprised when they meet me," he sighs. "They expect me to throw something at them. Some journalists twist your words a little." There is always the chance that they simply misheard him.
Perhaps as further evidence of the alienation that led him to write a song called Fuck the World, Nicholls appears to have invented his own accent. It originates somewhere in the Antipodes, but certain vowels seem to have slipped their moorings and ended up in the middle of the wrong words.
Discussing the songs on the new album, he claims that "hoff of thim arralld" (which means that half of them are old). He is also big on something called loff, which turns out to be the opposite of hate.
Once you have navigated the dialectal minefield, there are other matters to contend with. Nicholls' conversation has a tendency to go wildly off-piste, slaloming between topics without warning, before abruptly ending with a firm, satisfied "yeah". On any occasion where his answers stray dangerously close to making sense, he rectifies the situation by throwing in a multitude of pauses, affirmations and apparently random statements. He occasionally winds up sounding rather hurt and defensive about subjects he has brought up himself.
Ask him about whether he thinks some of the Vines's problems stemmed from the punishing tour schedule that comes with trying to break America, and you get this in response: "In America, there was a lot of people saying that they thought we were going to self destruct, so, yeah, like, we definitely didn't want that. We wanted to be productive as a band. That was our goal: making albums, writing songs, listening to CDs and not, like, whatever, the 80s rock or whatever. We're not those kind of people. We're not trying to make any kind of judgements on anyone. We've got no messages. We just want to make good albums. Yeah."
While you're pondering what 1980s rock has to do with the band's punishing tour schedule, or indeed where the topic of the Vines having a message fits in, you also start to wonder how much of this is for real, and how much of it is a defence mechanism, a rather long-winded method of telling you to mind your own business.
Throughout it all, Matthews never attempts to clarify or correct anything his bandmate says. Although he is apparently flummoxed by the simplest of inquiries, Nicholls occasionally reveals a sharp humour and self-awareness: "I always say to the other guys, if you want to throw a TV out of a hotel room window, then do it just before you leave the hotel, because there might be something you want to watch."
In addition, he frequently appears to be sidestepping awkward questions by the simple expedient of behaving as if you have asked something completely different. He replies to an inquiry about how American audiences - who are famously unstinting in their desire for professionalism onstage - have received some of The Vines more outré performances with a lengthy anecdote about how much he likes 1990s alt-rock band Pavement.
He claims that Rob Schnapf, has been attempting to school him in interview technique, although it is unclear precisely what Schnapf has told him, which tends to suggest his schooling has failed: "He's given me advice about interviews. I'd be sitting there, saying 'Oh! I can't explain it, I can't explain it! I've opened this can of worms and now there's all worms hanging out and it looks really ugly!' And he's just saying, yeah, you know? He's played in bands before. We can relate to him on that level. He has great depth to him."
He suddenly sounds angry. "You see the thing is, actually, I'm not a fucking lunatic. People say to me, you know, maybe I could cancel our next tour and check myself into an insane asylum. I'm not necessarily proud of it, but I'm not ashamed of it either, because we make songs. As a band that's how it works, you put yourself out there, sharing yourself and your music with people. You hope they might connect with it. They might come up to you and say "hey man, I like your album"! And then maybe other ones go "yeah."
He gives up on that train of thought, and unexpectedly returns to a much earlier one, about which he seems to have changed his mind. "I'm not trying to say that I'm really quiet and all the other guys are loud," he concludes.
"We're all as messed up as each other. Yeah." His leg still bouncing up and down, he goes back to staring out his chickenburger.
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|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:03 pm|| |
The Road Warriors
by Tony Power
Blender, June/July 2004
Blender joins the super-rock twin bill of the season — Jet and the Vines — for an all-access extravaganza of drinking, fighting and failed attempts to “minimize the destruction”
“Where’s my badge?” shouts Jet drummer Chris Cester.
“Which badge?” queries guitarist Cameron Muncey.
“The badge,” Chris replies, beaming, “that says CLICK YOUR HEELS THREE TIMES AND GO FUCK YOURSELF.”
Chris Cester — an unholy union of Keith Richards and Sesame Street’s Grover — has found the perfect souvenir of his trip to Kansas, and he’s been in Dorothy’s home state only an hour.
For Jet, the past six months have been paved with such good fortune. Last year, the band toured the Midwest in “the gherkin,” a tiny, malodorous green bus. This year, with radio gung-ho for snaggle-toothed “post-Strokes” rock & roll, the Melbourne, Australia, four-piece can afford a huge, malodorous bus.
Heading a cross-continental wagon train of fellow Australians — punkabilly veterans the Living End, greenhorn indie kids Neon and co-headliners the Vines — Jet can feel like they’ve really arrived. Lifted by the rave-up single “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?”, their debut album, Get Born, has quickly gone gold. As Chris Cester puts it with a shit-eating grin, “My band is huge, my girlfriend’s hot and next year I’m gonna be a millionaire!”
But America is not treating the Aussie Invasion bands to an equally warm welcome. Chaotic nü-grungers the Vines are presumed to be the solid-gold stars of this tour in the wake of their blistering 2002 debut album (Highly Evolved), massive TV exposure and a stirring new record, Winning Days, to promote. Playing last every night, though, the Vines are attracting the worst concert reviews Blender has ever seen, with special bile reserved for zany-cherub singer-guitarist Craig Nicholls. So far, newspapers including the New York Times, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Chicago Tribune have decried his “prima donna antics” and “physically painful shrieking,” while Nicholls has aimed some brickbats of his own, ending the Chicago show shouting “fucking morons!” and “disgruntled cows!” at the baffled crowd.
Rather than confounding expectations, the Vines’ Lawrence, Kansas, set confirms them. After a drunken, brutish, passionate show by Jet — like watching AC/DC throw anvils off the back of a truck — the Vines have their work cut out for them, but Nicholls isn’t helping. Whether bored or, hey, just being, you know, “jazz,” he turns the vocal parts of all the band’s slow numbers into a challenging battery of off-key howls, grunts and yodels. He ignores the lyrics in favor of hopping on one foot, writhing on the floor and trashing instruments — all in a detached manner. It’s unbelievably irritating, and it’s hard not to conclude that Nicholls, in some incomprehensible way, is laughing at you. Many of Lawrence’s gig-goers appear to agree, swapping looks of consternation before finally filtering out.
Blender would like to discuss this with Nicholls, but since a disastrous recent interview with U.K. metal magazine Kerrang!, he has decided he hates journalists. We discover how strict his ban is the next morning in Omaha, Nebraska, when we approach Vines rhythm guitarist Ryan Griffiths and tour manager Mark McCann after breakfast at Louis M’s Burger Lust.
“You can’t join us,” McCann says bluntly, nodding in the direction of an approaching Nicholls. Nicholls smirks merrily — yet silently — at your correspondent.
* * * * *
At 2:15 P.M., very much against medical advice, Blender is crammed into a car with a deliriously hung-over Nic Cester, Jet’s primary singer, guitarist and songwriter (and Chris’s older brother). We’re speeding to an interview and acoustic session at 89.7 The River, Omaha’s local community radio station. The Vines, needless to say, are not.
“Where the fuck am I?” Nic groans.
“I know that it’s the lamest cliché, but I’ve no idea.”
Last night’s post-show frolics ended surreally, as Jet and the Vines trashed their shared dressing room while whistling “Greensleeves” in unison. Chairs were piled on top of one another. A lamp was smashed and the slats of a wooden bench splintered as Chris Cester beat them with an ancient ghetto blaster. In the only moment of Nicholls-Jet interaction that Blender was able to witness in two days, a delighted Nicholls intervened to topple boyish Jet guitarist Cameron Muncey from the top of the chair tower. Things looked pretty bad, but then the bill came in — a measly $32 per band.
Now in another state entirely, Nic Cester and an equally game Muncey undertake the sort of promo that will help them sell records in America. This means being polite to extremely loud afternoon DJ “Spicoli” (real name Jason) and trying desperately not to cuss on the air.
“Are you gonna crank one out for us?” Spicoli yells on our arrival, unknowingly using Australian slang meaning “to masturbate.”
“Am I gonna crank one out?” Nick says, reeling. “What the hell kind of show is this?”
Stuffed into a broadcast booth with a bunch of sedated guests, Spicoli is keen to mine the cultural differences between Australia and America. Nic plays diplomat: “Well, you guys talk a lot louder. Other than that, America’s the same as everywhere — you get a lot of nice people, and you get some arseholes.”
A nimble program director manages to hit the bleep button in time.
“Shit!” Nic exclaims, still on the air. “I said arseholes!”
Back at the Jet bus, parked outside tonight’s venue, Omaha’s Sokol Ballroom, Chris Cester is pondering what it is in their past that drives his band forward so inexorably. The younger and more flamboyant brother (he’s still only 21) sports an enormous pair of burgundy sunglasses with faux-gold inlays, behind which he appears to be wearing eyeliner.
Chris’s first memory of Nic is of climbing into his playpen and “fucking his shit up.” Observers of their dynamic might wonder if this is still Chris’s role in life. To illustrate, here’s a verbatim exchange from the post-show drinking session in Lawrence:
Nic: We tend not to do interviews together.
Chris: We tend not to talk.
N: That’s bullshit.
C: It’s fuckin’ true. You just never admit it.
Blender: You don’t talk?
N: [Snotty] According to Chris we don’t.
C: It’s true.
N: OK, seriously! [Slams down beer bottle] Let’s fucking have this out right now!
C: Are you serious?
N: I’ll fucking kick your arse. Is this what it’s fucking come to?
C: Come on, then, let’s go!
N: What is your fucking problem?
C: Fuck off — I’m just going to laugh at you. [Campy] Let’s have an arm-wrestle!
N: What is it with you, pulling this shit in front of the interviewer?
C: Ahhh! [Kindly, while squeezing Blender’s knee] It’s good to be back.
Sixteen hours later, now sober, Chris will admit that he wanted to be the singer in Jet, but he concedes that it’s Nic who “sings like a motherfucker” and is prepared to do the hard jobs, such as firing the band’s old bassist (“He liked Primus and looked like William Shatner”) and, as he did today, getting up early in order to do a radio interview.
“Even so,” Chris adds, “it’s a strange thing to end up in a band with your brother. The last person you want to spend the rest of your life with, in any normal situation, is your brother, right?
“It’s hard to be four grown adults in each other’s faces all day,” he concludes. “Then you throw a lot of drinks in the mix, and fuckin’ a, it’s hard work. I always said that if I ever got to this stage I would never whine about how hard it is, because there’s always one little kid out there who wants what you’ve got more than anything in the world. But fuck that little kid, because he’s gonna get there and realize the same fucking thing!”
What is the lamest rock myth?
“The one about the godlike rock star who people don’t understand. Like the myth around Craig Nicholls. Fucking crock of shit. No one’s just ‘out there.’ They’re out there because they want you to think that they’re out there or because they take lots of drugs. You talk to the guy, and it’s really obvious what’s going on inside that fucking band.”
* * * * *
So what is going on inside the Vines? Is it just that Craig Nicholls smokes a lot of weed — as much, some sources allege, as a quarter-ounce a day? Or does he really think he’s better than the rest of us? In either case, what is he trying to achieve with all that horrible shrieking? Two hours before the Aussie Invasion’s Omaha show, Blender manages to pounce on shy Vines bassist Patrick Matthews. We try the last question first.
“He wills himself into a state where he really doesn’t know what’s going on,” Matthews contends in a genuine effort to help Blender understand the Vines’ live experience. “Like a fugue state. It’s not like he means to sing badly, but he’s out of control.”
In the summer, the Vines will begin a three-month stadium tour opening for Incubus. Despite the enthusiasm of their management company, neither Matthews nor amiable Vines drummer Hamish Rosser believes that this is a good idea. Matthews concedes that mainstream rock audiences will find the Vines difficult (“We look like pooftahs,” he says), and that’s before you factor in the shrieking. Can the Vines survive it?
“I always threaten — well, not threaten, but I always say I could go home,” Matthews says, taking an unexpected tack. “It really wouldn’t bother me. I’d like to make another record, but…it’s not like I’ll have to sign on the dole or go back and work in a factory.”
Because you’ve got enough money?
“Because I’ve got enough money. Plus, I’d like to go back to school and be a doctor. I’ve always wanted to do that.”
Matthews looks downcast, a condition he blames on “all this drinking.” He wears a blue sweatshirt on which Nicholls had scribbled now-fading ballpoint-pen slogans. One says TRASHBAG. Another is NEW YORK CITY SUCKS — a commemoration of the last time the Vines made a ruinous appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman.
Does the Vines’ singer like anyone?
“Nah. He’s a good friend, but you can never guarantee that he’s not going to do something…bad to you. On tour, we’ve learned to minimize the destruction. At the moment, it’s all about leaving him alone.”
You mentioned earlier that he likes to say “I am an artist.” What does he mean by that?
“It’s just his excuse, I guess, for why he’s a separate case. Why the usual rules don’t apply. He doesn’t need to be polite. He must have pot, because he’s an artist. When we made the first record, he couldn’t do his own washing, because he’s an artist. Anything he doesn’t want to do.”
Matthews insists that, reviews notwithstanding, the current tour is the most fun the band has had in a while. They’ve certainly had worse.
Onstage in Boston last year, Nicholls hit Matthews with a microphone during one of his gear-trashing sprees, and the mild-mannered bassist flipped out, chasing Nicholls down the street outside until he was restrained by the Vines’ manager. “I would definitely have caught him,” Matthews says. “Craig’s not very fit, and I was very upset.”
Ask Matthews about the band’s future, and here’s what he says:
“Craig is the one person in the band who wants it to go on forever. The rest of us can definitely see an end to it.”
* * * * *
Two hours later, Jet and the Vines play the two loudest shows the Sokol Ballroom security staff has heard in 10 years. Jet begin with Nic Cester’s best Rod Stewart soul scream and proceed to transcend the music of their classic-rock touchstones — the Who, the Stones, Faces, the Beatles — in a furious boogie that peaks with “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?”
More of a surprise to Blender, particularly given Matthews’s earlier fatalism, is the Vines’ set: It really is much, much better. Nicholls’s weirder improvisations are taken in good humor by a tolerant Nebraska crowd, and the sheer (albeit incoherent) grunge power of the closing “Get Free” and “Fuck the World” justly wipe the slate clean.
As Nicholls undertakes his usual destruction of the drum kit and Rosser sprints offstage cradling his precious new snare, you could almost call it crowd-pleasing.
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Join date : 2011-10-24
Age : 25
Location : Australia
|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:04 pm|| |
by Alicia Broderson
Redbackrock, September 2002
They’ve played just one official headline show in their home country, but Sydney band The Vines are currently one of the biggest bands on the planet. Across the world, their album Highly Evolved is being heralded as the debut of the year.
But if you believe the band, they have no idea how all this happened. It sure beats working nine to five at McDonalds, though...
Here we have the first of our two part feature on the boys who still call Australia home, but prefer to fart around the old dart..
"Is it a job?" we asked bassist Patrick Matthews when we met up with The Vines in May. "NO!" he declared boldly, for the record. "It’s a mission!" So what’s your mission statement, then? "Um… I don’t know!"
For The Vines to say they’ve, at the very least, been "surprised" about the events over the last year of their lives would have to be one of the great understatements in recent rock’n’roll history.
In February they were a relatively unknown group doing support slots to a handful of people and a final first-ever headline gig in Sydney before heading overseas - in truth, a fantastically shambolic group of twenty-somethings laying their first fledgling shows as a four-piece. Last week, they performed at the MTV Music Video Awards in New York, and are currently leading an internet poll over The Hives as to which live band blew the place apart on the night.
Backtrack to a Manhattan afternoon in May, and we’re sitting in New York’s infamous (in truth dank and grotty with decades worth of cigarettes and stale beer ground into the floorboards) Mercury Lounge, unofficial birthplace of The Strokes, with one-quarter of The Vines. The group who, as the NME predicted in January, may well be the "most exciting band on the planet in 2002."
We’ve been warned beforehand that interviewing the two original members of the band together – lead singer Craig Nicholls and bassist Patrick Matthews - means the latter probably won’t get a word in edgeways. So we decide to start with Patrick, currently worse for wear after a late night out boozing in SoHo which culminated in him vainly attempting to explain The Vines to their English tour manager.
"It made me more drunk, ‘cos I was going ‘Look, you don’t understand!’" he laughs, re-enacting the whole sorry saga by blindly banging his fist on the bench between us. "‘You don’t understand! See, the first thing is The Beatles, you’ve got to understand about The Beatles!’ And I was hitting the table, and telling him how good The Beatles were…" Craig will later tell us it’s not so much the music of the Fab Four - but their general ethos of being ambitious - that The Vines like to adhere to.
So what’s happened here? Just how did we come to be sitting in a club in downtown New York with The Vines on the eve of yet another sold-out show, when just four months ago they played their first ever headline gig as a four-piece (with new drummer Hamish Rosser and second guitarist Ryan Griffiths) in a mid-sized pub in Sydney? Don’t ask Patrick. He doesn’t know.
It’s a "fluke", he guesses, buoyed by the ever-excited UK music press and the fact that they recorded their upcoming debut album Highly Evolved in Los Angeles last year (where original drummer David Olliffe left the band) after their demos were sent to Beck producer Rob Schnapf, on the strength of which they were signed to America’s Capitol Records by president Andy Slater before anyone in Australia had heard of them.
"You Am I never broke in England," he offers as another avenue of explanation. "And everyone’s been telling us it’s because, like, they came over to England with a big Australian fan base and that wrecked it, because their shows there were just full of Australians."
He’s not saying it to be disparaging, just pointing out the problems the English press see with any band that ventures into a British capitol full of Antipodeans. If anything, The Vines continuous struggle with homesickness has them desperate to get back here (conscious of the track Homesick on their album, we’ve smuggled a packet of Caramelo Koalas through customs - Patrick is grateful but "what we really need is vegemite…"). So unintentionally, they’ve somehow managed to do the whole thing backwards, and those at home have been forced to live vicariously through the overseas music press (who quickly picked the band up on the strength of UK-only single release Factory last November), watching from afar as The Vines juggernaut spins beyond their control.
But the band are crossing their fingers for a permanent return home by the end of the year, and want to record their second album in Sydney mid next year.
Back in NYC as the support band starts their sound-check, we move to The Vines tour bus, just above street level where the occasional group of honest-to-goodness real life New York homies walk past and whoop it up at our bemused faces trying to avoid eye contact from the windows.
On the wall above Patrick is a poster of Iron Maiden that current or former occupants have redecorated so all members are forevermore standing - faces etched in permanent snarls - bedecked in daggy texta y-fronts. Later, we’ll sit and watch Morrissey and Clash videos, and Hamish will emerge sleepy-eyed from one of the bunks to confirm excitedly that he’s heard The Strokes are coming tonight (bassist Nikolai Fraiture does, for the record, materialise at the end of the gig).
It’s strange surrounds for a band who would still be playing toilet venues in Sydney had they not signed to Capitol late last year - and for the past four months The Vines have been having a very strange time indeed.
Sitting here, it’s hard to remember that at the moment the world has gone crazy over 90 seconds of music – the frantic single Highly Evolved being their only official worldwide release up until this point. But a few nights ago they sold out a gig in Toronto anyway, while 200 people waited outside hoping to score a ticket.
The week before they played the Coachella Festival (their first) in Los Angeles with Oasis and The Strokes. And during March and April Vinesmania doubled their original amount of ‘introductory’ shows in Britain to eight, selling out every single one. In the four months after our interview, they’ll go on to do two more tours of Britain and America, book in their first series of headline shows in Australia (the first two Sydney and Melbourne gigs selling out within 24 hours of going on sale), reach the Top 15 globally with their debut album, nab their second cover for NME in two months, grace the front cover of American Rolling Stone (the first Australian band to do so since Men At Work in 1983), play the Glastonbury and Reading Festivals and destroy the entire stage of The Late Show With David Letterman.
To say the situation is stark-raving bonkers is an understatement. To say Craig is still trying to get his head around it is another thing entirely.
"I feel…" he stumbles, having wandered onto the bus clutching a large plastic cup of Coke and trying to sum up life since they left the comfortable obscurity of the Australian suburbs. "Nervous, excited, scared, overjoyed, tired, energetic… and… happy and suicidal." Saying you hope it’s not the latter only brings nervous laughter from both of them.
"We’ve been surprised," Craig continues, unconvincingly enough for us to think he always knew they’d come to something. "I mean, we were really happy with what we were doing and we still think we can go even further. What everyone else was saying [before then] never really mattered to us, we liked playing in a band and writing music… it wasn’t about being famous, we wanted artistic satisfaction first."
And maybe just a bit of fame and fortune? They already appear to have the trappings on a plate, whether they like it or not. Take for example, the whopping big tour-bus; two separate lounges, sound and TV system and sleeping quarters in between… "Oh yeah," laughs Craig rolling his eyes. "Make sure you put that in. They’ll probably kick our arses when they hear that shit!" or London’s Evening Standard papers declaring The Vines have ‘snotty sex appeal’ "Snot’s not sexy!" he guffaws. "Well, we always wanted to be sex symbols, so we feel pretty good about it. We always thought that we were quite sexy…no, we’re going to have to cut this shit right now!" (for the record, we did ask and no – Craig doesn’t use anything on his hair. The Scarecrow-effect just is. "I don’t pay attention to how I look," he frowns. "I just make art.")
"Someone asked me before… ‘Someone said you’re the saviours of rock music, what do you think of that?’" Craig cringes. "And it’s like; people, if they want, they can buy the album and make up their own mind. Because it could be the greatest thing in the world to someone, it could be the biggest piece of crap to someone else. So… it’s all… objective."
"Subjective," corrects Patrick.
"Subjective, thank you," he concludes, mind wandering. "It’s all obsessive. Compulsive."
Inside The Mercury Lounge three hours later, there’s an almost unbearable air of anticipation as that very same subjectiveness is put to the test. The Vines arrive unannounced and launch into the edgy seizures of Outtathaway! but the crowd don’t move - Craig’s microphone has mysteriously been turned off at the mixing desk. Mid-way through the track the voice suddenly comes careering through the speakers, forcing the front row to take a step back and the people around us to emit an audible gasp of "ahh!", instantaneously getting it. It’s a virtual rock’n’roll tsunami, hurtling above the heads of uber cool New Yorkers.
Onstage, the threat of Craig violently self-combusting is never far away. The epileptic facial expressions, demonic screams and flailing limbs are in a constant battle for possession; the gig ending with him balancing on the kick drum and playing his guitar above and behind his head before scissor-kicking off awkwardly and booting the guitar across the floor.
The whole thing is exhausting, cementing Craig’s earlier claim that "it takes you over, mentally and physically". Patrick will later tell us that Craig often seems like he’s in a trance, while the others members of the band tune in and out. "I think singing really transports him to another place," he says. "But I remember [You Am I bassist] Andy Kent said once that when he was playing he was thinking about whether he was going to catch a bus home or get a taxi. I’m like that." (no joke - me)
‘Do you own the songs or do the songs own you?’, we’d asked that afternoon. "Both, or I can’t tell anymore," Craig had answered, screwing up his face. "Yeah. Yeah, I mean, they’re our songs, and the songs are us… this is what we do as people, we play in a band and we’re consciously trying to make head music. And sometimes, the faces I pull, [it’s] just because that’s what it’s like to get a certain note – I want to apologise if it’s pretty ugly sometimes…" he’d trailed off, laughing self consciously. "It’s mental."
After the gig Craig is nowhere to be seen, having apparently bid a hasty exit back to the bus. He’s neither one for drinking or the traditional after-gig trawling of nightspots with the other band members, managers, girlfriends, road crew and extra hangers on; "I usually come back to the bus and listen to a CD and watch tv," he tells us. "We’re over here to let people know about the album, it’s just a ‘thing’ we’re doing. It’s just part of the game that we have to play before we can get back in the studio."
Rewind to a few hours earlier, and that’s exactly the point he’s pushing. He’ll tell us over and over that "it’s all about head music" and that touring part is "fun" but the band "would prefer just to make albums." Every question, be it about which Beatle they like the best (Patrick empathises with Paul "a lot", Craig goes for John, and says "I think we have a similar relationship to Lennon and McCartney - we hate each others guts", but currently vetoes the idea of marrying a Japanese conceptual artist and moving to New York), life in LA where they currently reside, or whether they’re getting complementary food from McDonalds – where Craig and Patrick famously met while working a decade ago - for all the free endorsement ("It doesn’t matter," shrugs Craig. "We don’t want to encourage the use of McDonalds.") is steered carefully back to what Craig likes to talk about best.
Ask him any question and he often doesn’t answer specifically but indirectly, using songs, riffs and lyrics as stepping-stones. Make no mistake – for The Vines everything, simply, is about The Music.
Take, for example, the fact that the next album is already written. Their New York set-list reads exactly the same as the one they played at their last gig in Sydney, but they have been playing new songs live recently including Fuck The World and years-old Drown The Baptists (which appeared on the Factory single). They had 40 songs available when it came to recording Highly Evolved.
"We have all the songs ready to go," Craig smiles wistfully. "We’re really ambitious to make the second album a lot better."
‘Better than this one?’ we wonder out loud, thinking of the blissful harmonies on Autumn Shade and violent riffs of 1969 and being quite surprised he doesn’t seem to acknowledge the perfection in any of it.
"Yeah, yeah, that’s the way it goes, you know," he berates us, like a father laying down the facts of life. "The goal, for us, when we were kicking around in Australia, and I wasn’t [doing anything] except writing songs and watching TV… we wanted to make an album, and we’ve done that now. So we’re playing, it’s fun, but we don’t want to be playing these songs every night for years on end."
How those songs sound is not as simple as ‘Nirvana Reincarnate’ as every music hack worth their weight in clichés is appraising. Unless you’ve been living off the remote coast of Greenland for the past few months (thought goodness knows, they’ve probably heard of The Vines even there), you’ll already know Highly Evolved encapsulates elements of grunge, but that’s added to by the massive burning pyre of pyschedelia, blissful stoned harmonies, garage, punk, retro and raw rock’n’roll burning in the background.
It is, as Sydney street-press Drum Media put it, the kind of music that could well see "The Doors bumped as the futures bucket-bong soundtrack."
"Well, you know… I never took any drugs," Craig begins cautiously, when asked about the perfect space-rock of Mary Jane and the fact Patrick told nme.com earlier in the year that In The Jungle may have "a bit of acid in the lyrics." Immediately, his band mate splutters "HA!" and Craig is forced to backtrack (and given the wide-spread coverage afforded his obsessive pot smoking since, it seems almost a miracle he doesn’t smoke – anything – during our entire conversation).
"Yeah. Well, I feel that, you know… like, the laws have got to change!" he starts again, laughing. "I cannot tell a lie, I’ve listened to music stoned before and it hasn’t killed me, it’s been enjoyable."
"But music’s nothing if you have to be on drugs," concludes Patrick. "Like techno, it sounds fucking great if you’re having fun at a rave or whatever. It’s nothing if you can’t listen to it straight, really."
The Vines...part two
...So back to the schizophrenic ‘sounds like’ list. Patrick thinks this conglomerate is to do with the "isolation" growing up in Sydney has afforded them, whereas bands from London or New York usually have music at their fingertips.
The Vines never played many gigs because Sydney’s unfortunate wave of ‘Pokie fever’ in the mid 1990’s was closing everything down, just as the band were attempting to start something up.
So instead they recorded at home and played friends parties, coming to the attention of their three-man management team, Winterman and Goldstein, when they were interviewed on a Sydney community radio station.
One of the directorate, as luck would have it, was listening in his car and happened to hear the band play a track called In The Jungle. He was interested enough to try and find out who they were – after all, the fact that he thought they sounded like Aussie punk band The Lime Spiders was apparently more exciting to him than anything.
This last fact is almost understandable if you’re familiar with The Vines’ original bleedingly raw demos, which were handed out at You Am I support gigs last May – but these in turn have caused ‘traditional’ fans dismay at the switch from that to the polished product Highly Evolved has become. Craig is unapologetic.
"Things change, you know?" he reasons, nonplussed. "There were some songs that were ‘the demo’s really good, we’ve got to get that’, so we did that lot of songs and those songs turned out completely different – you’ve got to realise that. I mean this is all we had at the time; we just had a four track recorder and we wanted it to sound really crystal clear and everything to be ‘up’ there.
We don’t have anything against highly produced music as long as it’s good music and it’s been written by the people who are playing it."
So in the end, all this just might be a fluke (managers having the radio on, demos on the right tables at the right times and guitars being back in fashion just when they release their debut album), but you don’t get on the front cover of NME twice or have Manic Street Preachers front man James Dean Bradfield describe you as "absolutely fucking amazing" by doing nothing.
They know it and they’re thankful for it – Craig says with all honesty...
"There are bands in the world that I wish had more attention, whether it’s here or England or back in Australia. But it’s a good… it’s definitely not ‘Why are people saying this’ and ‘Why are they paying attention to us’.
It wasn’t about being a big band and making lots of money and being famous, it was about being a good band, good albums and everything else after that - we can’t control it."
Some have even ventured to say he is set to become one of the most important songwriters of his generation, a Lennon, Dylan or Cobain. Songwriters who tended to systematically ride the highs and lows of rock’n’roll’s fickle fringes, mentally and physically. So keeping in mind the lyrics to Highly Evolved – "I’m feeling happy/ So highly evolved/ My mind’s a riddle/ That will never be solved" and John Lennon’s quote "I’m either a genius or I’m mad", where does Craig stand?
"I am most definitely both… yes," he confirms, laughing wildly. "Well no, I’m probably more mad. I’m just a madman. I’d like to be a genius someday, though."
Patrick laughs. He’s been partial to the workings of Craig Nicholls’ mind for nearly ten years now, and doesn’t look entirely convinced this is going to happen any time soon.
"I’ll put it in my diary," he smirks, shaking his head.
Posts : 622
Join date : 2011-10-24
Age : 25
Location : Australia
|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:04 pm|| |
Rockfeedback, Spring 2002
Brief description: just before they debut in the charts, they speak to us
location of interview: Oxford, UK
The Vines are the latest media-luvvies: four young, hard-rockin’ Aussies with a set of tunes and live-set to rival anything produced within the last few years. Or, as some are saying, to rival anything since Nirvana.
Yes, they’ve been tipped to be 2002’s phenomenon, their large-scale appeal originating from material that’s brave enough to touch the harmonies and melodies of the finest Brit-groups, the cranked-up amps of the US’ best exports, and an energy and passion that is distinctly, well, Vines.
Music-fans have shown their admiration in the early stages of their development, too, what with the group’s debut, limited-edition 7” single, the roughly-recorded demo of ‘Factory’ – released last year on Rex Records – selling out instantly, and demand to attend their first ever UK shows being extraordinary. Also, as the band lounge around and prepare themselves for tonight’s final UK gig ‘til the summer – a packed-out affair in Oxford’s Zodiac – little do they know that, tomorrow, The Vines shall crash right into the UK’s top-40, with their inaugural single-proper, ‘Highly Evolved’.
Such achievements so early on can’t merely be down to luck; so, what about the talent behind the enterprise? From meeting each of the quartet, it doesn’t take a genius to recognise their cool intelligence, which extends beyond such antics as throwing electrical-devices out of hotel-windows. More likely, you’d find The Vines unwinding together, exchanging conversation and listening to their favourite artists. In fact, when we barge into their dressing-room before show-time, they are doing just this, with Pulp’s classic LP ‘A Different Class’ spinning on their CD-player. Sadly, though bassist Patrick Matthews, drummer David Olliffe and acoustic-guitarist Hamish are either on their way out to investigate the local eateries in the nearby town, or merely hovering around the venue preparing themselves for tonight, occasionally dipping into the conversation and offering a few words. However, here throughout is frontman and guitarist, Craig Nicholls.
Now, it’s fair to say that you know when you’re in the presence of a special person, because they seem just too different to anyone else you’re knowledgeable of. This is the case with Nicholls. As he sits and answers questions, he stares around the room peering for inspiration, as if his responses are plucked from the high ceiling above, his eyes darting about so rapidly whilst you can only wonder what he’s truly thinking. His speaking-voice is unusual, too; aside from his otherwise conventional Australian accent, there’s a halting in his sentences and elongating of certain words that adds effect to what he’s saying. The overall impression is that you’re meeting someone with a well-reasoned discernment on what he should speak of, and, in the least patronising sense possible, possessive of a naivety that is remarkably refreshing.
Possibly less refreshing, however, for Nicholls is the arrival of another interview today, yet we try to avoid repetition. But, what do they most commonly get asked about from probing reporters during press-duties?
‘Usually, it’s how we got started, what our influences are,’ sighs Craig. ‘They don’t really need to ask me anything... If they want to listen to the songs, that’s cool, and if they wanna come and see us play, that’s great, too...’
What he’s just said is essentially the bottom-line essence of The Vines. The band are not about debauchery or cliché, but instead, perhaps quite strangely for current times, just writing material and playing to appreciative audiences. So, incidentally, what are the key variations between making a record and playing on concert-stages?
‘They are two different things,’ he returns, pinning down the dissimilarities. ‘It’s just fun playing loud, but then there’s the studio-thing where you concentrate on more – and we love doing that because there are more possibilities...
‘When we play live, though, we’re certainly not trying to reproduce the album or studio-tracks in exactly the same way... But we wanna make albums, really – that’s what it all means to us. Playing live is not secondary, but it is a totally separate part of what we’re doing.’
And, when people hear The Vines, in an ideal world and either on record or in a live-setting, what is it that you hope people pick up from your music?
He spends little time trying to ponder potential reactions. ‘I’d just hope that they think it’s good music! Also, maybe that it’s intelligent, but simplistic at the same time, and mostly that it’s with real instruments and imagination, with the songs having diversity...’
From a writer’s perspective, this is where covering such an act gets a bit difficult. When you describe artists in reviews, the most immediate and effective way of getting across to the reader just what they sound like is via comparing their music to other musos of relevance. Musicians that The Vines are said to sound like? Well, there has been that Seattle grunge-band which emerged during the early-90s, not to mention The Beatles and many other key British combos. However, if Craig were in a journalist’s position reviewing his own band, what would he report on?
‘I’d maybe describe what the songs are about, the feeling of it,’ he utters interestingly. ‘Also, I’d just think about what the band and the music is...’ He then pauses momentarily, before explaining his views on the scenario. ‘The truth is that it’s hard to put it into exact words, and that’s why I’m attracted to music...’
What do you think the fundamental differences are between yourselves and other guitar-acts?
‘I can’t really say because there’s a lot of great bands around at the moment,’ Nicholls replies, diplomatically. ‘It’s possibly to us more about having internal success with the music rather than anything else... I was at home recording with a four-track not long ago, and that was enough for me... We just kept writing songs, and kept recording so we just had all these demos of all these songs which have evolved naturally...’
Aside from the songs and their backgrounds, there’s of course Craig’s fascination and application of the vocal-howl, in the form of rock ‘n’ roll screaming. Yes, much like a primal Robert Plant, when Nicholls yells, he steams up glasses, crumbles buildings and whips crowds of all sizes into a riotous frenzy...
He grins on hearing the subject. ‘It’s featured in the heavier songs, and they’re there because it is rock music. I don’t consciously think about it, but it does represent a kind of freedom... Luckily, it’s not too much of a main part of what we do; this is why the heavier songs will still be kind of melodic and about something... It won’t all be abstract and personal all the time – maybe, but not totally all the time...’
Something that extensive press-attention attracts are misconceptions and misunderstandings on where the band are coming from, spiritually and musically. What are the most common mistakes that observers of The Vines seem to be making?
‘Well, I’m not really sure about it,’ Craig answers truthfully. ‘I just don’t want people to think that we’re trying to compare ourselves with any other bands... Also, it’s not important what we look like, and it’s not important what we say outside of the lyrics and songs...’
What about their being from Australia – is this a vital factor of their song-writing process?
‘I think it may have something to do with the way our music sounds,’ he replies, seeming proud of his heritage. ‘I think that it’s a cool place; it was peaceful where I grew up. I loved music and listening to different stuff, and the band just developed from that sort of idea...’
From the way he reacts to each question and the wavering levels of confidence he generally displays in providing responses, Craig seems slightly uncomfortable acting as the recipient of questions within interviews. It’s a shame, because what he comments on can occasionally touch on a side of thinking and logic that’s not necessarily as commonly used by others.
‘Yeah, they (interviews) are just not as much my light as making music,’ agrees Craig, slightly more relaxed once this fact is shared. ‘With the band, there is more thought behind it, and we have so many influences that have helped us, aside from The Beatles and Nirvana, like Supergrass, too...’
If you weren’t in such an environment, though, what else would you be doing in life?
‘I dunno,’ he provides, baffled by the possibilities. ‘Maybe painting, or drawing...’ Then, suddenly, his eyes light up. ‘Or skateboarding!’ (god bless him - me)
The idea of merging skateboarding with playing music live onstage excites a passing David Olliffe.
‘I like that,’ he exclaims enthusiastically, his imagination allowing his mouth to continue, ‘It would be cool to have quarter-pipes on either side of the stage!’
Yes, quite. But, on to possibly the most important topic of discussion – just what is the mission of The Vines..?
Craig thinks to himself for a second and reveals the hidden truth. ‘It’s about just not worrying what other people say, and about creating a world within the music... It’s all art to me: the songs represent different paintings, different stories – fictional or not, it makes no difference...’
We leave at this point, allowing the singer and band to have a break in order to compose themselves for the evening’s show.
By the time they arrive in front of hundreds of eager fans later on, all that’s been written about them is instantly found to be true. Live, the wonderment of their anthems, ‘Highly Evolved’ (also the title of their upcoming LP) and second single, ‘Get Free’, the beguiling beauty and effervescent charm of ‘Mary Jane’ and ‘1969’... The crowd-applause to such numbers is understandably rapturous. Their impact signified a band greatly yearned for, and hugely needed.
... Expect the same when they play a show near you... And expect to hear one of the finest works of art of the year when their LP graces your ears; after all, rock-music is seldom provided so exquisitely – or from such intriguing characters.
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|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:04 pm|| |
Rock and a Hard Place
by Kathy McCabe
Daily Telegraph, November 27, 2004
THE future of rock group The Vines appeared in jeopardy six months ago when a homecoming gig led to frontman Craig Nicholls being charged with assault and malicious damage.
What none of the band's fans or critics knew, as his increasingly erratic behaviour escalated to its zenith at Sydney's Annandale Hotel on May 27, was that Nicholls suffers from Asperger's Syndrome.
The international promotional and touring campaign for the band's much-anticipated second album, Winning Days, came to an immediate halt after Nicholls kicked a photographer's camera during the first song. He also abused bass player Patrick Matthews, who left the stage and the venue by the third song.
A report on the songwriter's medical condition by a leading authority on Asperger's Syndrome, Professor Tony Attwood, led to the charges being dismissed last week.
Nicholls' relief mirrored that experienced by those close to him when he finally was diagnosed with the developmental disorder, which is linked to autism, in August.
All felt it was now time to reveal why one of the most successful Australian rock artists on the international scene in 20 years hasn't been able to cope with success and its demands. Craig's older brother Matt says he doesn't care what anyone thinks about him.
"When I told him we were going to tell people about the diagnosis he said, 'I don't give a f---. They call me mental now so it doesn't matter what people call me'."
As for Nicholls, he's now happy at home, able to focus on his beloved music and doing demos of new songs with his band members – Matthews, drummer Hamish Rosser and guitarist Ryan Griffiths – for The Vines' third album.
Nicholls' unpredictability has left thousands of fans who have been to The Vines' gigs exhilarated, astonished to watch a classic rock 'n' roll maverick in full flight. And there were gigs when Nicholls would scream utter gibberish instead of singing lyrics, destroy his own and other band members' equipment, hurl abuse and seem totally uninterested in rendering songs from their multimillion- selling debut album, Highly Evolved.
In those moments, some felt disappointment. Critics dismissed Nicholls as an arrogant and indulgent rock star. His family and bandmates and the Winterman and Goldstein management team – Andy Cassell, Andy Kelly and Pete Lusty – knew that getting professional help for the troubled songwriter was imperative after the Annandale incident.
Says Lusty: "From the day we met Craig, we realised he was unique. We were always trying to work out how to deal with it, how to make his situation as comfortable as we could."
His difficulty with touring became immediately evident when the up-and-coming rock four-piece secured a support slot on a You Am I national tour. The singer suffered a "panic attack" the night before the tour and told the band and managers he couldn't go through with it.
"His parents had worked very hard with Craig, trying to help him and find out what his issues were and get treatment," Lusty says. "We did the same thing when we started with him and sought professional help for him straightaway. We would take turns driving him to psychiatrists and psychologists. But Craig was unco-operative sometimes. No one would pick up on it. They would say he had a sore back or was afraid of flying or nervous about the tour. We kept saying there was something more to it."
Some put his conduct down to his use of marijuana. But Cassell says, with the benefit of hindsight, there was a pattern to Nicholls' behaviour. In the studio, he would be in his element, realising his only and oft-repeated ambition to "record amazing studio albums".
The demands of a professional music career increased as the band exploded, first in the UK, then the US and Australia.
This was the first Australian band to make the cover of US Rolling Stone in 20 years. But the more success the band achieved, the more stress Nicholls and his bandmates came under.
Kelly says: "In the middle of all of that was when it was most obvious Craig was unique. A lot of people in that situation would take advantage of becoming famous but he didn't."
When the band finished touring for Highly Evolved, Nicholls settled down again. He was happy and excited during the recording of Winning Days, surrounded by his beloved nature in upstate New York. Yet when they hit the road again for a major US tour and talkfest, he steadily became more abusive.
He also was socially withdrawn, obviously uncomfortable in the crowded backstage after gigs and would retreat to the tour bus to be alone with his guitar and four-track recording equipment.
Says Cassell: "When they got to the UK and Europe, it started getting hard again, really hard, and by the time the Annandale show happened, we realised he couldn't handle the stress any more."
The triggers for his outbursts over the past four years often were bizarre. Kelly recalls Nicholls' explanation for trashing a studio set while rehearsing for their performance on The Jay Leno Show in December 2002.
"He told me afterwards he had been hungry. He said, 'You know I have to eat before we do things like that'. He was saying, 'I am not happy with this situation', but he wasn't able to verbalise why that was," he says.
Nicholls craves routine and privacy. He drinks only Coca-Cola and eats McDonald's or similar fast food. He constantly inquires as to the whereabouts of his skateboard while on tour.
But most of all, he is obsessive about his music. Growing up, it was skateboarding and martial arts.
His brother Matt says Nicholls has excelled at the creative and sporting endeavours he enjoys.
Matt says: "The freaky thing is he has always been good at what he's done. When he was skateboarding, there were plenty of companies wanting to sponsor him. He's totally focused on music and making what he calls important records and getting better and better at it. That's all that matters to him. When you strip away all the bulls--t of the past few years, some nightmare performances or arguments, there are two unreal albums. That's what stands up."
With The Vines pulled off the road in May, his managers devoted themselves to uncovering what was wrong.
Kelly recalls Nicholls' guitar technician, Tony Bateman, mentioning the possibility of Asperger's Syndrome – a type of autism spectrum disorder – in relation to the musician's behaviour.
They researched the brain disorder, read Mark Haddon's novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, about a 15-year-old boy with Asperger's Syndrome, and reflected on other aspects of his behaviour – lack of eye contact, unwillingness to be touched and the strange accent many journalists accused him of putting on.
They also recall the child-like letter he wrote to them when he supplied the first Vines demos and how he had already drawn the artwork that would feature on the CD cover of Highly Evolved. In June, Cassell contacted Professor Tony Attwood, who agreed to meet Nicholls, his family and the managers.
After several tests and meetings, Attwood confirmed that Nicholls was suffering from the disorder.
Says Matt: "It's a relief knowing what it is, what to expect. It's been pretty difficult for the family. There have been hard times and we still worry about him. Things aren't ever going to be perfect."
The Vines' managers, on advice from Attwood, say the band will never undertake an extensive tour again. The occasional show is possible and Nicholls wants to perform but taking an Asperger's sufferer out of their routine or comfortable environment puts extraordinary stress on them. The band's labels, Capitol in the US and EMI in Australia, have professed 100 per cent support for the band and will release a third album Nicholls and his bandmates are writing.
"We totally believe in The Vines and I am really excited about what Craig is writing and what it's going to be like," says EMI managing director John O'Donnell.
WHAT IS ASPERGER'S SYNDROME?
PEOPLE with Asperger's Syndrome (AS) have their brains wired differently, according to Professor Tony Attwood, who diagnosed Craig Nicholls in August.
He says AS sufferers have difficulties with social interaction and are highly stressed by changes to their environment.
"They are not intellectually impaired but they are very, very shy and confused in the social world. They can be acutely sensitive to certain noises, tastes and texture," he says.
Experts have speculated that Mozart, Bartok, Einstein and Newton had characteristics of Asperger's Syndrome.
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|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:05 pm|| |
The Fruit Never Falls Far From The Vines
by Jeff Lane
Australian Guitar, March 2004
The Vines are overseas, on the promotional trail for their new album Winning Days, due out March 23rd, and on the brink of their tour with fellow Aussie rockers Jet. After the huge success of their first album Highly Evolved, which was a platinum record all over the world and saw the band on the cover of too many magazines to mention, they are about to enter difficult second album territory. With their trademark brash self-confidence, it is not something you could get the band to admit to – though frontman Craig Nicholls told Rolling Stone that the band considered simply re-recording Highly Evolved.
“I don’t even know if I said that, but if I did say it, I was probably exaggerating. I wouldn’t want to change it, it is what it is. I’m proud of the first album, and like, I’m proud of this album as well. We enjoyed making both albums and also, we were really trying to really do something well, something powerful.”
Nicholls is talking to us via a mobile phone from a tour bus somewhere in the northern hemisphere, and the line is, to say the least, atrocious. Every now and then, through the garbled mess, something intelligible comes through, and this time we can blame satellites and telecommunications rather than Nicholls’ well-publicized recreational habits.
The band once again chose to work with producer Rob Schnapf, who is best known for his work with alternative acts such as Beck, Elliot Smith, and Guided by Voices. I ask Nicholls how they originally decided on Schnapf, who is perhaps not an obvious choice to record a band who has been integral to the whole ‘new rock’ movement, a genre which ironically has its sights set firmly on the past, and a band that Pitchfork.com famously referred to as ‘dad rock’ in a review of Highly Evolved.
“We wanted to record an album together. He heard some of our demos, and then we got to meet him. We did our first album with him and then we did our second album with him. Mellow Gold, that was a big album for me, I was listening to that when it came out, it’s great. Other things as well. Guided by Voices, I liked that as well.”
The new album Winning Days was recorded in upstate New York at Bearsville Studios, which is one of the few top studios left anywhere in the world that is entirely analogue. It is also one of the most famous, having played host to artists such as Muddy Waters, the Rolling Stones, R.E.M., Todd Rundgren, Phish, Alice Cooper, the Dave Matthews Band and 10,000 Maniacs.
“It was good, it was good that we got to go there because it was a real cool place. It was summer time, and we heard a lot about, like, Bob Dylan recording there. It was definitely interesting for us.”
That Bob Dylan recorded at Bearsville is a common misconception it seems. You would assume that a studio with such an impressive history wouldn’t need a mythology built around it, but there is only one Bob Dylan, and since Bearsville Studios were established by Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman, many assume he recorded there at some stage.
Since Grossman died in 1986, Bearsville Studios have been run by his widow Sally, who is the woman on the cover of Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home. Big Pink, the house where Dylan and The Band recorded the Basement Tapes, is only a mile or so away in Woodstock, so although he tended to stick to Columbia studios and never recorded at Bearsville, the Dylan links are numerous. But enough about Bob, let’s get back to the Vines…
“Well, it wasn’t intentional, but is just so happens that the music we listen to, some of it’s punk rock and some of it is the Beach Boys, or we like the Chemical Brothers as well, but we don’t consciously go into the studio saying, ‘this track’s going to sound like the Beach Boys’ or whatever. It’s just that comparisons are always drawn with music and bands and bands from the past and that – which is ok I think. We are trying to do our own thing, which includes a lot of vocal harmonies, even for the more heavy material. We were toying with arrangements and each one is an individual piece of work.”
Nicholls is addressing the suggestion that the new album has a more pronounced Beach Boys influence than Highly Evolved, which certainly hinted at it on tracks such as ‘Autumn Shade.’ This time around, the band’s confidence in the studio and the move towards a more psychedelic sound have lumped them squarely in the Beach Boys’ soundalike camp, circa 1970 or so.
While the Beach Boys comparison is an accusation that is routinely leveled against bands that utilize excessive vocal overdubs (‘yeah, that’s right, there are actually about twenty vocal tracks on ‘Winning Days’), there is more to it than merely lush vocal arrangements, with the band constructing weird soundscapes that sound straight out the post-Smile period, as the Boys struggled to capture Brian’s effortless aural strangeness while the head Wilson languished in bed upstairs. But enough about the Beach Boys, let’s get back to the Vines…
“Uh, well, we kinda just like, go with the flow of each song. The way I was for the first album was I wanted my vocals to sound different on every song. I don’t know, I guess it’s hard to describe, but I wanted the kind of vocal sounds that has, I don’t know, kind of really light sounds, like the Beach Boys, who could do like the harmonies, and stuff like the Verve, they use a lot of vocals – we were influenced by them.”
With Craig laying down all the harmonies in the studio, adjustments obviously have to be made when it comes time to take material out live.
“Well, we just cross our fingers. Patrick sings on stage with me, so we can at least do two part harmonies. Most of them are three part harmonies on the album, like on every track. I wasn’t expecting ‘Winning Days’ to have twenty vocal tracks on it, it just so happens that we like double tracking the lead vocal, that’s what I always like doing, then we have a harmony for it usually in our songs, so then we double track that. Then there are the backing vocals. That’s the cool thing about it, there are no boundaries – well, we do have only twenty four tracks or whatever.”
Double tracking is obviously a huge part of the Vines’ studio technique. Not only in terms of rich vocals, but also with guitar overdubs. Both Highly Evolved and Winning Days have a thickened texture that is at the heart of their appeal, and this reliance of doubled tracks also allows the band to exploit dynamic shifts more effectively.
“Yeah, we always double track guitars and vocals. There are a few parts on the album where maybe it’s single vocal here and there, but that’s usually just like, for an intro, and then it can really open up from there.”
With two guitarists, the Vines face the same problem that every dual guitar rock band has ever had, which is how to delineate parts. While it is a simple exercise to exploit the power of such a line-up in the heavy bits, it can be difficult to justify a second guitar when you are going for a quieter section, which is such a huge part of the Vines routine.
“Well, we usually just come up with our own parts, we don’t really talk about it, we just kinda play and it just falls into place.”
The band have always been fascinated by the recording process and developed a fair idea of their recorded sound long before the sessions for Highly Evolved, when they would take a four track into the rehearsal room. Recording is also an integral part of Nicholls’ songwriting process, as he demos almost everything and begins working out parts for most tracks long before they hit the recording studio.
“I guess it’s different for every song. Usually recording it is the best, I rarely write things down. I can usually remember it. We did it before we went to America to do our first album, we would just do it in the rehearsal room, like with a four track. We just liked the recording side as much, well just speaking for myself, I guess I can only do that right now, but as much as actually playing in a band. Everything about it seems interesting I guess.”
This fascination with recording has served them well, and they are obviously the sort of band to pay attention to the process. While many bands seem to approach the studio as a kind of endurance test, the Vines seem to genuinely enjoy the experience, which is important considering that they spent several months working on the new album.
“Yeah, well this time we felt more confident, and we were more thorough with everything, starting from scratch. Starting from the bottom floor, like with the drums, we were real particular with all that. Like what kind of kick drum we wanted, you know, what size and that, and that went all the way through, to the overdubs and the keyboard parts, and all the different sounds. I found it a lot easier this time around I guess, just ‘cause we’d done it once before.”
The Vines have had a wildly varied response to their live shows, with the notoriously fickle British press, who were the very ones who elevated the band to superstar status before the first record was even released, famously unimpressed by last year’s shows, while the American response was considerably warmer. While Nicholls was there for all of them, he is no more sure whether the British shows were substandard of whether the American shows rocked or indeed whether he was there at all.
“I don’t know which one, I don’t really rate any of them, it’s just kinda my…something I do as part of my weird behavior, and like, yeah, it’s hard to say, like, ummm. I mean, everyone would, you know, like have their own opinions, it’s cool, yeah. I would say, to me, it’s like the same thing all the time, it’s the way I am. I can’t decipher one from another. I guess I kind of zone out, or go off with the pixies.”
With the conversation turning toward the problem of the Vines’ reception at home, where they have bore the brunt of the classically Australian tall poppy syndrome fully head on and antipathy to the new release is palpable, Nicholls is similarly difficult to engage.
“Ummm, I’m not really sure, it’s hard to tell, because I’m really bad, with, ummm, places and stuff, where I am like…but, you know, it’s, ummm, if it’s…if that does exist, you know, if there’s, like, truth to that, ummm, I guess the answer is, you know, it doesn’t bother me.”
While Craig has been positively erudite on the subject of recording earlier in our discussion, we have reached the pointy end of the conversation and these are doubtlessly topics about which he is less inclined to open up. So it is a little surprising when he turns the conversation to the topic of how and why the band made it – though he quickly becomes mired in his thoughts and trails off again.
“It’s hard to tell, we just do what we do, and like, ummm,..you know, we’ve worked hard, but also there’s a combination of luck, like…there’s a lot of good bands, you know, that may not get a chance…there’s no kinda like, one person deciding who is and who isn’t, or even a group of people, because it’s a very random type of thing, and music affects people in different ways…so, ummm, I don’t know, yeah…”
Maybe the drugs are finally kicking in. In a last ditch attempt to engage him, I ask him about Jet, who are supporting the band on their North American tour. Nicholls does perk up for a moment, indeed he seems engaged for the final time in our conversation.
“I really like them a lot, yeah. We know them and they’re really nice guys. I’m all excited about getting to play with them, yeah, it’s going to be great.”
Prerequisite Gear Box
I Play Guitar – That’s G-U-I-T-A-R
While Nicholls is verbose on the topic of recording, he is no gearhead and clams up a little when it comes to talking about his guitars. The image of him writhing around with one particular sort of guitar has quickly become iconic, though it is a little surprising to find that he has no real idea how it was he came to favor that particular model.
“Yeah, well, a Fender Stratocaster, I like those. It’s just what was around, they were the most common. That was the first kind that I got and I kept getting them. I got a secondhand one first, and then, ummm, yeah…I just kinda…I just think that…I think, yeah, just because it was there…I could’ve easily, I mean…I guess, I never really thought about it much…”
On the new album, opening track ‘Ride’ takes advantage of the inherent sound of the Stratocaster in such a fashion as I couldn’t imagine it being played on any other guitar.
“Yeah, they’ve got a very simple kind of sound, you get a good clean sound out of a Strat, and bit of a twang as well.”
Craig has a little better idea of what he likes when it comes to amplification, or at least he has more varied tastes.
“”Usually, it’s like a Marshall. I like those Twin Fender amps, where they’ve got like the Reverb on them, and like, ummm…yeah, a Marshall, I guess that’s the one I use. I’ve got a Sunn amp, that’s S-U-N-N, yeah, they’re great. I really like that one as well…but I’ve only told you what I have when I’m on stage. I play acoustic guitars when I’m sitting around.”
So it is an acoustic guitar that Nicholls likes to use when he is writing songs?
“Yeah, I guess so, like…that and my imagination I think…like, yeah, that’s what it seems, it seems a lot of things stem from there.”
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|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:07 pm|| |
All the Rage
by Dan Aquilante
The Post, March 2004
user posted image
AS famous and important as the Vines are in the new-rock movement, this Australian garage band is almost as celebrated for the offstage hotel-room smashing tantrums of its frontman, Craig Nicholls.
Nicholls is a "good mate," Vines drummer Hamish Rosser told The Post while waiting to make a flight from New York to L.A.
"Journalists are always looking for an exciting story to write, so they fish for the craziness. It may not seem exciting, but most of the time we just play a gig and have a few beers afterwards. That's it."
Still, what seems sane depends on which side of the asylum door you're on.
Rosser isn't the band's original drummer. He signed on after the Vines' 2002 record "Highly Evolved" was released and has kept rhythm for them since.
"My first impression of Craig was, 'How can that big voice come out of this little fellow?' Sure enough it did." As for Nicholls' reputation as a wild man, Rosser says, "He didn't come into the room screaming like a banshee and breaking things up, if that's what you mean."
Rosser is the first to say that Nicholls isn't an angel, recalling the first time he saw the band's singer freak out.
"When I saw him go bonkers the first time, it was kind of frightening. I thought that he was either going to hurt himself or hurt someone else or even jump out a window. Now it's like 'So what?' I see some furniture get smashed. It's never as bad as the magazines make it out to be. It always seems to shock people the first time they see a chair flying, but we in the band hardly notice anymore. It's like, 'He threw a chair?' No big deal."
Rosser is a likable 25-year-old often described as a "surfer dude." His thick Aussie accent makes everything he says sound as if he were completely unflappable and fearless.
"This past Christmas I was in Australia staying 10 minutes from the ocean and every morning I'd wake up, have a coffee and go for a surf. It was wonderful. When the shark alarm went off and everybody hurried out of the water, I had the waves all to myself."
"Almost no one gets eaten by sharks," he added. "You're more likely to get hit by a bus on the way to the beach. But I suppose if I were bitten by one and lived, I'd have a bigger fear."
Rosser, who has a university degree in chemical engineering, used to get guff from his parents for his rock 'n' roll lifestyle. "They'd always ask me when I was going to get a real job," he says.
Now that the Vines are doing well with a successful debut album, a new album due out March 23 and a tour that lands at Irving Plaza on Tuesday and Wednesday, his family need not fear for his success. "My mother's our biggest fan these days. She's even keeping a scrapbook."
Post: You're kidding about the chemical engineering degree, right?
Rosser: No, that's what I studied and it was just about the dullest degree you can get.
Post: Are there a practical uses for what you learned in rock 'n' roll?
Rosser: I can make a pretty wicked bong, and I've brewed beer. I guess the natural extension was I had the expertise to make drugs, but I could never get over the thought that if I did make a batch of something, who would try it first? Not me, not my friends. The other thing is, I don't have a spare 25 years to spend in jail.
Post: You were recently busted for marijuana possession. What was that about?
Rosser: I got busted in Australia when I was heading to the Big Day Out - that's a rock festival. I was late getting there and caught a 5:30 train for a show that started at 11 in the morning. The train I was on was almost empty and when I arrived there were all these cops and drug-sniffing dogs standing around at the station. One of the dogs sniffed me.
Post: What happened?
Rosser: I had two joints in my pocket and they wrote me a [ticket].
Post: Australia is home, but the Vines spend a lot of time in New York.
Rosser: It's my favorite part of the States. You know, it really should be its own separate country if you ask me. I love downtown and the Lower East Side.
Post: What are the pressures of being in a band as successful as the Vines?
Rosser: The schedule is brutal. We'll play more than 200 cities in a year, and that's grueling. I know already that I'm hardly going to get home this year. I used to have a little place in Sydney, but I gave it up because I knew I wasn't going to see it. I stored the little stuff I own at my parents' house. It isn't much, just my drums, some clothes and my '66 Volkswagen bus.
Post: Why are your drums at home?
Rosser: Craig tends to knock my kit around a bit at the end of the shows. These days I try to use rental kits. My drums at home are really nice - that kit is my baby and I won't use it on Vines gigs.
Post: You're very understanding of Craig. Have the rest of us misinterpreted him?
Rosser: He's a really good guy.
Post: Let me ask you this. If you had three sisters instead of three brothers, would you allow one to date Craig?
Rosser: Yeah. Most guys who found themselves in his position would be shagging their balls off. Not Craig. He treats women well. If I had sisters, he could date them . . . but he can't date my brothers.
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|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:07 pm|| |
by Kurt Orzeck
Mean Street, March 2004
Uhh, yeah, that’s Craig Nicholls from The Vines. Not the most intelligible of rock stars, all right, yeah. You see, Nicholls prefers to use sounds, but not necessarily words, which makes a “conversation” with him less an exchange of solid ideas than a loose swapping of vague reassurances.
“Yeah, all right, yeah, uhh,” he says.
It feels only natural to coo back: “Cool, yeah, OK, right on, yeah.”
A lot of interviewers haven’t looked too favorably upon Nicholls’, uhh, unique mode of conversation. “I wanted to hit Craig Nicholls,” began an article in Spin. “[He] has all the makings of a rock star,” went a Rolling Stone article, “good looks, great songs, serious mental problems.”
In less polite articles, Nicholls has essentially been billed a bratty, snotty stoner who doesn’t take his music seriously and has no respect for his fans. And has control issues. And fires band members on a whim. And batters small animals.
“I’m extremely serious about what I do,” Nicholls told me two years ago, responding to the assorted allegations. “I’m very focused — I focus all my energy into the band, if not with songwriting then with recording and playing what we’re doing now. We don’t fuck around. I don’t want to get into drugs. I don’t drink. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with doing that; for me, I think I’m using art and music as a drug.”
In his defense, a lot of the animosity directed at Nicholls has been excessive. With Fred Durst having run for cover and Billy Corgan out of sight, the age of the artist ego appears to have finally dissipated. But that leaves the press hounds hungry. So ravenous that they start to prowl, licking their chops and waiting to tear down anyone who comes across as even slightly pampered, anyone who gets even a small nibble of success.
But let’s face it: Craig Nicholls is no Fred Durst. He doesn’t tell girls at shows to show him their tits. He doesn’t have a clothing line. It’s actually kind of hard to hate someone like Nicholls, someone who’s spaced out most of the time. Besides, it’s not like he’s unwilling to talk — no, this isn’t J Mascis.
And so what if Nicholls is a bit aloof — aren’t rock stars supposed to be that way? After all, it’s nothing personal.
“I’m really stuck up and pretentious,” Nicholls mockingly confides in a dry, silky swagger during a conversation held last month. “And I don’t go out.”
He fancies art galleries over soirees. Painting instead of talking. Listening to The Stone Roses on headphones instead of going to check out your shitty band. He screams his opinion through 30-foot Marshall stacks instead of engaging in a lively debate ‘round the roundtable.
This spring finds The Vines touring with three other sizzling Australian bands — The Living End, Jet and Neon — three groups that just about everyone in the Land Down Under knows. Except for Nicholls, of course.
“It’s not like we’re old buddies or whatever,” he is quick to point out. “I met the singer of The Living End and we met Jet a few months ago.”
For a city with a music scene as contained and confined as Sydney’s, the fact that Nicholls hardly knows his peers is staggering. But then again, it isn’t, when one takes his personal philosophy into account. “I think socializing is evil. It’s a weird way of looking at things,” and then, in his trademark trail-off, “but…”
Nicholls may not have all the answers, but one thing is certain: the publicity and marketing machine behind The Vines’ second album, Winning Days, is stronger than a steel train hurtling at breakneck speed across a set of red-hot railroad tracks. In a day and age in which record labels are grappling for solutions — even the made-up kind — the young Vines already appear to be a durable, winning roster talent.
With The Vines, the equations are simple. New album equals guaranteed radio single (then “Get Free”, now “Ride”). New album equals touring, which equals additional revenue. New album equals new interviews, which equals new gossip, which equals new notoriety.
And the Vines sell. Better than The Strokes and better than the Stripes. Bucking the notion that all the hype behind its 2002 debut, Highly Evolved, was little more than a wave of inflated British sensationalism, the record went platinum-and-a-half in the U.S. and earned the band several mainstream TV appearances — Letterman, MTV Awards, the whole bit.
Highly Evolved was like a chunk of chocolate — it appealed to just about everyone and inflicted a sort of guilt-ridden lust that threw into submission anything in its path. The auspicious Aussie debut mined the familiar loud/soft, verse-chord-verse territory, but with the excitement and awe of musicians discovering the beauty of the formula for the first time.
Like The Strokes’ Room on Fire — or, let’s face it, most follow-up releases — Winning Days isn’t the coup de grace everyone was hoping it would be. It’s a set of 11 well-crafted, well-honed rock songs: hooky, lively, a bit more sonically and lyrically substantive than its predecessor. But it is not Nevermind. It is not Damaged. It is not the sophomore effort that will throw drowning, struggling rock music a life preserver. It is simply the second Vines record — solid rock songs, a bit more advanced than the first batch.
“There is more confidence,” bassist Patrick Matthews says of the recordings, and the band in general. Lending credence to the belief that the first album title is actually more appropriate for the follow-up and vice-versa, Matthews says that on Winning Days, “We’re more refined and less primal. I mean, we are still primal, but we wanted to be more adept, more skillful. Craig is a better singer — I think he learned a lot from the first record.”
The backdrop to Winning Days is the stuff bands dream of. The band again teamed with one of the hottest producers on the block, Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliot Smith), but this time opted for a more unconventional location in Woodstock, NY, as opposed to the compulsory L.A. studios.
“It reminded me of Sydney a little,” Nicholls muses. “Lots of trees, bears and deer and turkeys. It was summertime  and there was a stream next to the barn we were recording in and it was really peaceful, yeah.”
“It had almost a spooky vibe to it,” he adds. “It was like The Blair Witch Project … I really enjoyed being there.”
Matthews also enjoyed the retreat, which gave him much-needed relief from the swooning masses back home.
“When I went back to Sydney, everyone suddenly knew me,” he says. “Everyone was my friend. I was part of a scene I never even knew existed before. It was all about thrusting my so-called fame in everyone’s face. I got sick of that, spending too much time in taxis and becoming unhealthy. So I dedicated my time to jogging and calisthenics, instead.”
A foreign band recording in the boondocks of upstate New York is a strange concept in and of itself, but a wholly appropriate one when one considers The Vines. They are, after all, a band that thrives on contradiction. Hard begets soft. Lulls of silence are followed by quick, roaring bursts of feedback frenzy. Nicholls — some sort of a passive-aggressive/obsessive-compulsive hybrid — cries scornful moans, then balances them out with cool, slick enticements.
Winning Days’ fourth and fifth songs, in particular, speak to the album’s greater, overarching dichotomies of love and hate, peace and violence, calm and aggression. “Autumn Shade II,” the first acoustic track on the record, is a quiet tune, sweetened with Nicholls’ soft harmonies. “Sleeping in the autumn shade / You are white and I am grey / Sleeping in the autumn shade, oh yeah / Oooohhh wooohhh.”
Its immediate successor, “Evil Town,” is an alternately booming and stripped-down, progressive-minded track heavy on the drums and electric guitar. The slurs are so thick and the moans so deep, words can hardly be deciphered. It’s a crashing number, a nasty afterbite to the relative smooth of “Autumn Shade II.”
Naturally, an acoustic song follows after that, in the form of the title track; it’s that type of call-and-response interplay that propels the album from one song to the next and keeps the listener on his toes. Let the Nirvana knock-off jokes roll.
With this in mind, is it fair to say that Winning Days was predetermined? Nicholls wouldn’t like you to think so — he notes that his approach to the album was purely casual. “I was kind of lazy with it,” he says. “I wrote a few songs at a time … half-finished one, then went to the next one, then came back to the first one a few weeks later … some of them I wrote in, like, five minutes.”
Five minutes per song … 11 songs … OK, so that’s about an hour of work. So does that mean Winning Days was recorded in a day, then? Or a week, tops? Try three months on for size, folks. And that was just the time spent in the studio — keep in mind that Nicholls had written all the songs before the band even arrived in Woodstock. And yet it wound up taking them the better part of the summer to craft the album.
“Writing up there would have been impossible,” Nicholls admits.
“It would have taken us over a year if he had!” Matthews chimes in.
Scroll back to August 2002, when “Get Free” was booming on radio stations from here to Tallahassee, and Nicholls said in an interview: “I want to do the next one really quick … I want to get it out next year, because I can already hear it in my head. I want to be as productive as we can be.”
So what happened?
“I was very eager to get the album done,” Nicholls explains. But, “I was also prepared to be p atient as far as weighing out the overdubs and all their worth, their necessity. I just don’t write well under pressure.”
Dodgy? To put it mildly. Honest? Probably so. Again, supporting the idea that it’s the band’s second album, not the first, that deserves to be called “evolved,” the game plan shifted during the making of Winning Days. What Nicholls aspired to be an electronic-based record turned out, in the end, to be an album with electronic elements.
“We put some Moog on,” says Matthews. “But that was mainly to create some weird sounds. We didn’t go over-the-top with it — there’s not anything that’s bass and rhythm, which is what I’d call electronica.”
Nicholls hasn’t abandoned all hopes of delving into electronic music, though. Calling to mind a second, equally lofty goal, he says: “I definitely want to try doing electronica, but I don’t know if it’s going to work, because I also want to make a country-rock concept album. If we could do both, maybe that would be something.”
David Jenison contributed to this story.
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|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:08 pm|| |
Andy Kelly - Label-Boss & Manager, Ivy League / Winterman & Goldstein
www.music.com.au, Autumn 2002
Left to Right: Andy Kelly & Andy Cassell (Winterman & Goldstein - International Artist Manager of the Year 2004) accept their award from members of Jet
And you have to take his words seriously – for Kelly is now a man with familiarity to the global-field… Yes, mainly due to his involvement with that band that rhymes with Heinz. Though how did the connection first come about?
‘I have to give full credit to Andy (Cassall) ,’ he opens. ‘We both heard their track ‘In The Jungle’, a demo-version of it, on a little, community radio-station, and they did an interview as well. I was in the office when I heard it, and Andy was in the car at night one time; I remember thinking, ‘That’s pretty good,’ and it kind of reminded me of a couple of mid-80s Australian bands. The next day, Andy came into work and said, ‘Did you hear that band, The Vines?’ I was like, ‘I did, you know,’ and he was just like, ‘It was really good!’ He then said, ‘I’m gonna find out who they are,’ and then went to find out about them… It was an interesting one, because we’d never heard the name before, they never usually seemed to play – and that is really unusual in Sydney or Australia; bands always play live – that’s just what they do.
‘He rang the station, but no-one seemed to know who they were and he finally got a contact for the guy who did the interview, and it turns out this person was a friend of Ryan’s (now a guitarist of the band). Andy finally got Craig’s (lead-singer) number and called him, but he never answered. Then Andy got his address and wrote him a letter, just saying, ‘We really liked the song, have you got any more, etc.’ I can’t remember if Craig rang back or just sent a letter himself, but we ended up with a demo that was just awesome, and found out that they hardly ever played live.
‘Then, all of a sudden, they lined up a rare show to support a band in Sydney in a venue called the Lansdowne. It was a Tuesday night and there were about twenty people there. Prior to that, I remember them sending us a photo of them that was really odd – Patrick was wearing shorts and they just looked… Funny. It didn’t do them justice. So, we walked in and I was like, ‘Oh God, what do you think this is gonna be like?’ But, fifteen seconds later, as soon as they were on, it was like a movie – I just looked at Andy and said, ‘Holy f**k, this is amazing…’ It was just really shambolic and incredible. I looked at Craig and thought, ‘Who is this guy - why have I never seen them before?’ I felt like I was watching the Sex Pistols, as if I’d just walked in on something special. And we had.
‘After that, we just chatted with them and we met them again, and asked if they had any other recordings; they said no, but then returned several days later, knocked on the office-door with a cassette and said, ‘Oh, we’ve done a couple more songs,’ so we took that, but didn’t play it ‘til they left, because you should never play people’s own songs in front of them… The first song on it was ‘Get Free’, and there were about another three songs, I think, also including ‘Sun Child’. Everyone was silent whilst we played it, and each person was thinking, ‘Does everyone think this is as good as I believe it is?’ And, then, we put it on again, and we were just amazed again… The recording was so great, too… Really raw, and everything was distorted, and the songs just shone out.
‘It just went from there; we thought the band could be successful anywhere in the world – not just Australia, but everywhere. They kept recording demos and were so creative – all of these songs just kept getting produced. They were unlike any other band we’d worked with.’
It’s the success-story everyone dreams of, but – rewardingly – Andy’s not the man that will consequentially don a pair of Ray-Ban’s and walk the earth as if it was laid out solely for him; he’s the first to admit the aforementioned troubles of cracking into the industry and that, even within times of difficulty, the threesome’s joint love of music was the persevering factor that spurred them on… It proves that ethics even in a syndrome as consistently cold as record-commerce can lead to a gleaming path.
‘I like the idea of a label having identity,’ raises Andy on his aspirations for Ivy League. ‘That’s why I think Heavenly are great in the UK: it’s a brand, it’s kind of eclectic, but there’s something about all the artists on all of it that have an integrity… When we started it, it was just a way of putting out music that we thought was good – it’s so simple, but whatever criteria can you run a label on? We never wanted to sign or put something out on the basis that we think it could sell, because major-labels can do that – and good luck to them.
‘We’re getting a new distributor and a label-deal, but it’s kind of unfair to put bands out while we’re so busy with The Vines. Having said that, 78 Saab have just finished their second album, and Youth Group have started theirs. We’ve also signed another new band called Neon, who are a three-piece and have a classic rock sound – like Cheap Trick, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, and are just really melodic and have a glam-thing going on, like T-Rex; they also did some shows recently with The Vines… Aside from that, we’re pretty lucky, as we’re also co-managing Jet with their original manager in Australia.
‘At the moment, it is just a really good time, where you think, ‘Wow – stuff that I like is really popular? That’s odd… And other people like The White Stripes and The Strokes, too?!’ It’s just a special time, but you shouldn’t get bogged down in this idea of what nu-rock is; me, Pete and Andy fortunately like a whole load of different styles… I really want, for instance, to put out some acoustic music, some really mellow stuff, but you can’t just go out looking for something like that – you just hope to hear some singer of band or something of the sort. Otherwise, what we generally deal with is traditional – we really like melody, whether it’s in rock or folk, and I think all of our bands have that.’
Hazard a guess for us where movements are heading next…
‘Well, I just want us to always work with bands that we love, and to make it possible for our bands to make a living from music and to develop creatively,’ he defines rigidly. ‘We want them to be able to be as freely creative as they can, and to sell records.
‘This Vines experience has been really good; from a musical point-of-view, we’ve all learnt so much from the band because they’re really unusual people in the sense that they are really true artists, just interested in making music… They’d be the same people, even if they were still at home making those songs on a four-track. So, for their musical-vision to be recognised around the world to a degree, that has been a good learning-curve, a chance to think, ‘You know, we should be able to help other bands have careers in Australia and around the world as well,’ or at least be in the position to get people to hear the music.
‘So, yeah,’ finalises Andy, ‘we want to be an international concern, and that doesn’t mean ignoring Australia – quite the opposite; we want people to enjoy what comes from the country and it to be recognised everywhere – not just because it’s Australian… But because it’s good.’
They’re most definitely going the right way about that. A likely force to be reckoned with in the imminent and long-term future, it seems that this is the beginning of a long and deeply engaging affair between Ivy League, Winterman & Goldstein and an unsuspecting victim we can emblazon ‘the music-industry’... Prepare for your record-collections to be blown away.
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|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:08 pm|| |
The Spaceman Cometh
by Andy Lee
Chart Magazine, May 2004
Enigmatic frontman Craig Nicholls explains how trees help him create...
I smell Craig Nicholls before I meet him.
The diminutive frontman of Sydney, Australia's The Vines is sitting in his hotel room, enveloped by a haze of marijuana smoke as he blankly contemplates the bleak Toronto weather outside his window. Sitting there in his dazed state, he seems rather harmless, a far cry from his maniac, foaming-at-the-mouth stage persona.
Two years ago, The Vines explode onto the music scene with their debut, Highly Evolved. That record was part of a rock 'n' roll renaissance personified by bands like The Strokes, The White Stripes and The Hives.
"It helped us," says Nicholls of the timing. "We could have easily put the same album out five years ago or in five years time from now. We really believed in what we were doing and we knew there was something special to it when we went into the studio. It's good when people are paying attention to real bands that are doing their own music."
Those who know The Vines one from their singles will be surprised to learn how varied their songwriting actually is. Songs like "Homesick" and "Autumn Shade" evoke 60's British rock rather than the '90 grunge of the more straightforward "Get Free" and "Outtathaway!" If you ask him, Nicholls says the subdued, abstract sounds of "Amnesia" and "TV Pro" from their new album Winning Days, best represents the true nature of The Vines.
"They seem very extreme, very spacey, futuristic 'cause that's always what I had in my head," he says. "The sound that we were constantly going for was spacey. We wanted to sound like space travellers. It's still rock 'n' roll, but it can grow and go in any direction and thats the kind of area I think it's gonna go." He pauses, before adding, "Space."
Nicholls says his favourite track off th new record is "Autumn Shade II." According to him, "it's so restrained and clean and simple and it has a really cool vibe to it, very serious sounding."
Despite the similar titles, however, the connection between the two songs is more nebulous that one might expect.
"There's a similar vibe in the lyrics, what I'm singing about," he explains. "Kinda lazy, like daydreaming, like looking out the window, playing acoustic guitar. That's where it came from. As lame as it is, I'm trying to make some kind of attempt to communicate, just to make a musical, poetic statement."
For the creation of Winning Days, The Vines opted for a rural studio setting instead of the hectic bustle of Hollywood, where Highly Evolved was recorded.
"In Hollywood, everything's mad, "says Nicholls. "We had tress around when we were doing the album this time and we felt more confident because we'd already made an album and we kinda know how the whole thing works."
With the aid of produce Rob Schnapf, The Vines meticulously explored a wide variety of sounds and atmospheres.
"We were just really thorough with it right from the beginning when we did the drums," he says. "We did pre-production and we also did pre-pre-production. It was really a serious thing but it was really cool at the same time."
Given the band's obsessive attention to detail, it's hardly surprising that Nicholls considers The Vines to be a studio band at their core.
"If it's not 100 per cent that way now, then that's what it's gonna come to, " he says. "Because really thinking about albums, concept albums, the music could be really all extreme and really fast and really agressive or it could be all laid-back, like a total country-rock album." He pauses to mull over what he has just said, before qualifying, "These are all just wild ideas I'm having in my head."
Suddenly, I sense that the THC concentration in Nicholls' bloodstream may be taking its toll on our interview, so I decide to switch gears and probe him about the name of the new record.
"It was the first line in the song ['Winning Days']: 'The winning days are gone,'" he explains. "What I was thinking in my head was I was all grown-up and I was sad and I was like, 'I wish I was a stupid little baby so I could sleep all day."
"It's sentimental but being dramatic in the sense of creating art. Because you could do a portrait of someone and do it exactly as they look, or you could dement it a little or accentuate things. That's why I'm doing with the song."
The winning days may be over for Nicholls, but the glory days are still yet to come for The Vines.
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|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:08 pm|| |
Winning Days' Track-by-Track with Craig and Patrick
taken from a Capitol publicity pamphlet
From the title alone, it’s obvious that The Vines’ second album takes a warmer approach than their grittier debut. The positivity of Winning Days as an album is reflected in the lyrics, the sounds and the songs. The drums sound like they did in the Bearsville room, the electric guitars come straight through old valve amps onto the tape, and Craig and Ryan’s acoustics are pushed to the front throughout the record. While the band retain their ability to produce incredibly primal rock n’ roll in songs such as the two openers “Ride” and “Animal Machine”, this album sees The Vines moving into even more complex and textured melodic territory than before. Upbeat folk songs like “Rainfall” and “Sunchild” mix with the beautiful acoustic balladry of “Autumn Shade 2” and “Amnesia”, while the off-kilter psychedelia of “TV Pro” prove that Craig Nicholls’ songwriting talents are burning even stronger here. The songs themselves, and Craig’s vocals – the melodies and layered harmonies – are testament to a one-in-a-million musical vision.
Winning Days is an album recorded by a band that exists purely to make great albums together. This collection shows a band not only living up to the promise they displayed on their first album, but moving way beyond it into a territory occupied by the genuine songwriting heavyweights, bands who run their own race … artists of genuine substance.
TRACK BY TRACK with CRAIG AND PATRICK
“Ride is very short and it’s the first song on the album. It’s a good way to start things off, I think. The opening guitar part starts off really scratchy to sort of throw you off the scent, lull you in to a false sense of security. There’s a kind of beat- music verse and then the chorus comes in and it starts getting a bit more… well, loud. That’s where we decide it’s time to set off the fireworks that Patrick has been carrying in his bag since high school. It’s about time you did something with those, Patrick.”
“What can I say?”
2. Animal Machine
“Well, it’s the second song, and it’s also quite short and it’s also dark. The chorus harmonies sound like they’ve got a bit of Suede in there – that’s the band I’m talking about, not the material that you can have your jacket made of if you feel like it. It sounds very staccato to me in the chorus. You know, very short and sharp.”
“What was it our friend Robin said about this one? ‘Nirvana meets Suede – clearly a good thing’.”
“This song is meant to sound like it’s a dream. That’s the idea behind the production and the sounds with the effects on the guitar in the verse and the way the vocal sounds. Although the music has that spacey, dreamlike sound, the words are more to do with things that exist in the real world, but I wouldn’t want to get too specific about them. It’s better for people to listen to them however they want. It’s also one of our newer songs, so hopefully it could be a pointer towards the future for us and how we might sound.”
“Features the coining of the word ‘telectual’ and a great multi-tracked chorus where Craig sounds like a schoolyard full of angry goats.”
4. Autumn Shade 2
“This is the first acoustic song on the album and it’s very quiet, very peaceful. It’s calm. It’s not really intentionally linked to Autumn Shade on the first album, but of course in the title, well, you have to think it’s linked somehow. It’s more about the feel of the song than the words, though. It really couldn’t have been called anything else. It’s pretty abstract.”
“Short. Soft. The harmonies are amazing. No, I didn’t sing them. Craig did. I don’t need to be doing that type of thing in the studio when he’s in there. He seems to have a pretty good handle on singing five different harmonies over himself, something I think is well demonstrated on this track.”
“Thank you, thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Next.”
5. Evil Town
“Evil Town is about kind of certain types of people and certain types of places, but no-one or nowhere in particular. It really isn’t. But if you think about a town that is, well, evil, just apply the song to whatever place that is for you. I think it’s got this futuristic vibe to it but it’s still just using basic drums and guitar.”
“Very chromatic equals Evil in a musical sense.”
6. Winning Days
“Winning Days is Number 6 – it’s the start of the second side if you were thinking about it as an old record – and it’s about what you think about at different times, how you feel different. It wasn’t really a song when I first wrote it, more just a poem really. That was a really long time ago. It’s also one of our best songs, I think. Although the words can sound a bit kind of down, the melody is happier.”
“When Craig originally played me the song and I had a cassette copy, I wrote down the title as ‘Wedding Days’. I thought Stone Roses at the time. The up-beat end section has incredible Beach Boys-style harmonies, very complex but rhythmically compatible with each other.”
7. She’s Got Something to Say To Me
“That’s a really short song. I think the main thing to remember about it is that it has got a sound to it that sounds like surfing feels. Well, it’s surf music is a better way of putting it. Surf music like Dick Dale or the Beach Boys or even the Easybeats. There’s all kinds of different surf music – this is sort of a combination of all that.”
“An unwieldy title perhaps, but we’re really happy with it. It’s got a surf guitar solo in a song with an obvious sixties vibe.
“That one is more kind of ‘classic’ I think. It’s got that kind of sound that’s hard to tie to a particular time. I hope it does, anyway – it does to me. It’s very simple and I don’t know what that means… it’s an innocent sound in an innocent song, I think.”
“All Craig's songs are heartfelt but I think this one came out of somewhere even more cardiac. I think that’s the innocence in it that you’re talking about. It’s unaffected. Very snappy drumming by Hamish, by the way.”
“This one’s like poetry. It’s a really slow song and it’s a real head trip. We played this one a lot when were touring last year, and we kept building it up in soundchecks. We kept working on it together. I think that working on this song was really when we all started to play together really well. We did one demo of this before the album and by the time we went into the studio it sounded really good. It’s got a cool organic vibe to it in the way we play it, but then the vocal harmonies are a bit more space age.”
“Moog in chorus makes me ask ‘Spaceman, can you stay a while?’ Great
words, great drum pattern, one of my favourites.”
“This one’s very slow. It’s a ballad really. It’s a country song and a rock song.
It’s about being positive and I think the music helps it come across that way. It’s got good harmonies in the chorus. The outro kept getting longer and longer but it all really worked well. The outro really came together in the end… at the end. The outro is the end. Do you follow me?”
“My absolute favourite. The singing on this is very expressive. It means a lot but it never slides into a country n' western parody, which it could have done. Then there is the guitar solo, which is heavy on whammy bar and expressive as fuck.”
11. Fuck the World
“This one is an environmental song but that’s not really obvious when you hear it at first. It’s the sound of the past to the present to the future. Hopefully, everything is about the future.”
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|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:09 pm|| |
The Vines: Under the influence
by Alexia Loundras
The Indepedent, 19 March 2004
The Vines made their mark with a heady brew of fiery music and wild antics. Their singer, Craig Nicholls, tells Alexia Loundras about the 'rush' of the new album
Straddling his chair like a grunge Christine Keeler, Craig Nicholls is tugging on his dishevelled mop and thinking hard. "You can't really predict anything," he says finally. On the eve of the release of The Vines' second album, Winning Days, the band's impish front man is musing on the supernova success of their debut, Highly Evolved. Released in 2002, hot on the heels of their ferocious 2001 debut EP, Factory, the record was greeted with almost embarrassing levels of critical adulation, as publications from the NME to Rolling Stone fell fawningly under its scorching charms. The first single, "Get Free", was a short, sharp shot of pneumatic garage rock that blew the cobwebs off a listless British music scene; the follow-up hit, "Outtathaway", cemented the band's reputation for blistering, rocket-fuelled melodies. The album catapulted the Australian four-piece from the serving-counters of Sydney's McDonald's on to major-network television shows, shifting more than 1.5 million copies and heralding a year-long sold-out world tour.
After seven years of grafting as an unknown band, the success came quickly and unexpectedly. And just as Nicholls couldn't have predicted their sudden rise, so no one could have predicted his reaction to it. As Highly Evolved made music-press cover-stars of Nicholls and his bandmates - Patrick Matthews, Ryan Griffiths and Hamish Rosser - he became the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde of rock stars.
To put it mildly, Nicholls is a man prone to childish tantrums. He has been known to wreck dressing-rooms and trash TV-studio equipment on a whim. He locks himself away in hotel rooms, refusing to come out. He even smashed a journalist's Dictaphone in a fit of rage at the tone of the questioning to which he was being subjected. With Nicholls, there are never any plans; only hopeful contingencies. He has a formidable record for cancelling meetings with the press. Our interview, initially scheduled to take place in Oslo, on the Norwegian leg of the band's European mini-tour, was called off at the eleventh hour because he was "getting sick" of speaking to journalists.
Live, that volatility translates into sets that are either electrifying or abysmal, depending on Nicholls's mood. At the Glastonbury and Reading festivals in 2002, he mesmerised tens of thousands with his thrilling, impetuous performance, his voice lurching instantaneously from husky howl to cut-glass falsetto. But when he's bad, he's awful. A Boston gig later that year ended in a stage-front punch-up between Nicholls and his bassist, Matthews; and Nicholls's juvenile posturing and tuneless caterwauls at the band's British dates a year ago (at the tail-end of The Vines' world tour) made for one of the most shameful, soul-destroyingly pathetic performances that I have ever witnessed. But Nicholls refuses to take either credit for the fine performances or blame for the terrible ones: "I can't tell the difference between the good shows and the bad shows," he insists. "I just get up there - we just play. Nothing really goes through my head."
It's not easy to get inside the mind of someone as irrational and undeniably different as Nicholls, but his explanation does seem genuine. The problem is, it seems, that he just doesn't think like the rest of us do. On a good day, that means that Nicholls exudes the endearing innocence of a child. But, when faced with situations with which he is unable to deal, he becomes frustrated and his petulant streak comes bursting to the fore. "I can be really nice or I can be really, really evil," he admits with a wry little laugh.
Today - just as he was the first time we met, two years ago - Nicholls is all sweetness and light. Happily cocooned in his cosy hotel-room habitat, he enthusiastically commits himself to being questioned, while strumming merrily on a psychedelic-coloured toy guitar. It seems that when he's comfortable and secure, Nicholls is polite and attentive. But when he's not, he's prone to lashing out. Only last month, just a few weeks into the new album's promotional campaign, he flipped again, unleashing a torrent of abuse on a journalist from Kerrang! magazine that culminated with Nicholls storming out of the interview. So why the outburst?
"I could sense bad vibes," says Nicholls, trying to explain in his strangulated Aussie tones. While acknowledging that he was "misbehaving", he remains unapologetic: "I don't really feel that what I'm doing is acting up or anything like that," he says. "I mean, I just kind of... I can sense things like energy and negativity, and that's when I go off."
As such meandering sentences prove, Nicholls's main problems stem from communicating - or his inability to do so. At times, talking to him is like trying to extract sense from the March Hare. He hides behind playful sarcasm and speaks in long streams of consciousness that flounder and double back on themselves as Nicholls grapples with his opinions. At one point during our hour-long interview, he stops mid-sentence and announces, "It's funny: what I just said is the opposite of what I'm about to say." At another point, he says: "I just feel like I have trouble getting the words to fit the meaning."
It's not surprising, then, that spending time with journalists is not his favourite thing. "Doing interviews, I do feel a bit of pressure," says Nicholls, with a self-conscious laugh. Playing music in front of thousands of people is one thing; trying to explain that music is quite another. "I wasn't expecting to have to do interviews - that wasn't even in my head," he says. "I'd never really talked about what I think with anyone before, so all of this has been kind of strange for me."
He pauses for a long time, deep in thought. "There's no way that what I think in my head can be put into words so someone else can read it and then get a real clear view of me," he says - annoyed as much with himself as with those who, he feels, twist his words. Nicholls has often been portrayed as a man on the edge - several pieces in the music press have talked almost longingly of his "madness" being likely to lead to suicide at some point in the future. But the fact is, he's not willing to be pushed into the role of the next Kurt Cobain. "I wouldn't want to kill myself," he insists, both hurt and irritated by the oft-repeated suggestion. "I'm really serious about making music."
He wrings his arms in front of himself, seething with irritation: "Interviews shouldn't be about me having to come up with answers to defend myself from what some people may have said, which isn't even true. Maybe I am retarded. Maybe I should live in the real world, yeah?" Nicholls's voice is soft, but his sarcasm is barbed with frustration. He takes a swig from his bottle of Coke and lights a cigarette. "Interviews should be about music. That's why I'm in a band - to make music."
And that music is more than capable of speaking for itself. While not exactly heralding a new direction, the raging blasts of furious rock on Winning Days are much rawer and more visceral than those on Highly Evolved. And, this being a band of extremes, the moments of soft, psychedelic bliss shine with sweeter melodies than ever. From the wired adrenalin rush of "TV Pro" to the melancholy of "Rainfall" and the sumptuousness of the album's stand-out title track, underpinned by Nicholls's powerful and emotive voice, The Vines' musical spectrum is fully explored.
Nicholls compares the songs to an art exhibition ("They're like different paintings on the wall," he says), and certainly, it's a record of many shades and moods, with Nicholls the enigmatic and passionate painter. Nicholls sees his job not as a musician but as an artist and, perhaps not surprisingly, finds inspiration in the work of another notoriously difficult customer - Salvador Dali. "I look at his paintings and to me they seem pretty clear," Nicholls says of his hero. "He was painting all these images that were strange to a lot of people's minds - but not to his." Nicholls feel much the same about his music. Just because he struggles to explain it fully, that doesn't mean it doesn't make sense to him. "I'm really proud of the album we've made," he says, his face lighting up at the thought of it. "Music is magic. It's my favourite drug: it really has an effect on me mentally and physically. It's such a rush."
Perhaps partly because the album does not differ vastly from the template of the first, and partly because of Nicholls's on- and off-stage antics, the new record has not been greeted with quite the critical love-in of the first. Yet it is another fine album, proving that for all Nicholls's problems, The Vines have what it takes to grow beyond the success of Highly Evolved. Although clearly a little barbed by the criticism that the new album has received, Nicholls remains defiant. "People have the option of whether to buy the album or come to our show. That's what the band's about. We're not some pop group who get told what to say and how to act," he says, revelling in a moment of lucidity. "I don't really feel like I owe anything to anyone, and I don't feel anyone owes anything to me."
As a person, Nicholls is reckless, impulsive and intriguingly bizarre, but at times he is also stupidly stubborn and foolishly rude. Yet it would be an enormous shame if his talent as a musician were snuffed out or overwhelmed by the quirks of his personality. At the very least, in a world of faceless career musicians, Nicholls is certainly never bland; nor are The Vines. A wide, lazy grin fills his face. "Yeah. If you want consistency, go to a jukebox."
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|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:09 pm|| |
Garage Rock Savant: Is the Vines Craig Nicholls Crazy Like a Fox, or Just Plain Crazy?
by Michael Molenda
Guitar Player, April 2004
The Vines could be the saviors of guitar rock, or they could be over by
the time you read this. Either way, it will probably remain a mystery
whether frontman Craig Nicholls was/is the latest in a long line of rock
and roll lunatics, or was/is playing a role to generate publicity and
build his own myth. But whatever Nicholls nuggets materialize in the
tabloid news, guitarists should thank the Vines for being a
high-profile, platinum-selling band that adores the sound of guitars,
and for releasing Winning Days [Capitol]--an album of great songs,
aggro-yet-musical guitar tones, and passionate vocals. It's only when
attempting to document the Vines' creative process that Nicholls'
"persona" gets in the way. He is extremely sweet, unpretentious, and
well mannered, but he also tends to answer questions in his chosen
native tongue--which is Australian Screwball.
So what do you do when a band's guitarist is loathe to reveal any
musical clues? You query the bass player. (Vines co-guitarist Ryan
Griffiths never speaks to the press.) In this interview, we'll visit
with Nicholls in his zone, and then move to a sidebar detailing the more
grounded insights of bassist Patrick Matthews. Between the two
perceptual angles, you should get a good peek into the architecture of
one of the new generation's premier guitar-pop bands.
Are you still using your Strat?
No. I now have a custom-made guitar. It's smaller and lighter than the
Strat, and I think it sounds better. I'm not sure who made it, but he's
a very nice person and I'm very grateful to him.
What about amps and effects?
I have a Sunn and a Marshall, but I mostly use the Marshall. For
effects, I have a tremolo pedal, and I really like this one called a
Any preference for strings?
I definitely think strings are a good idea, because I couldn't make much
sound without them [laughs]. I put about six of them on, and I tune to
anything in the air--it doesn't have to be tied down.
After all the critical acclaim for your last record, Highly Evolved, did
you start the sessions for Winning Days with any specific goals?
We just wanted to get it finished and make sure we remembered to put all
the parts on it. I hope we made a good album, and that people like it,
but we can't really change what we are.
Do you care about crafting tones at all, or do you just follow your
Well, we're lucky to have people who help us with the technical side in
the studio. But I did have a vision for each song. We kept things pretty
simple, because we realized that simple things sound good on the guitar,
but we also wanted to exaggerate everything for maximum impact.
Discovering the weird little sounds that make an impact is what drives
us. I'd say things like, "This needs to be more spacey," or "It's not
dirty enough." We just try to let things happen and not freak out and
Can you be more specific about gout definition of "impact?'
It has to do with the extremes you can take a song to. The fact is,
there are no rules, and we're not afraid to try anything. You have your
imagination, and that can mean anything goes. It's a good feeling when
you see a song really come to life in the studio. I'm trying to describe
this the best I can, but I'm always tying my head in knots.
Guitar-wise, what is the thing you're most proud of on Winning Days?
It's the one-note guitar solo on "Amnesia." It sounds like a freight
train, but it's just one little high note.
You don't seem to like admitting this, but I've heard you're the boss in
the studio--as far as parts and sounds go.
We all do our part, but I guess my part is writing most of the words and
the melodies. The other guys write stuff, as well, but I'm obsessed by
it. They'll give me input, and we'll change our minds, or we'll have a
big argument and say we're going to break up [laughs].
You're obviously a very pure creator, but you're also signed to a major
label and are expected to sell albums. How does that commercial pressure
affect your approach to music making?
Are major labels evil? I haven't figured that out yet. We just have to
be happy with what we're doing, and I don't think there's anything wrong
with being on the charts. Also, we signed our deal as we were mixing our
first album, so when Capitol stepped in, it was clear they wouldn't be
able to change us. [Laughs.] I'm getting a bit pretentious! It's hard to
talk about this stuff, because you never know how people are going to
react to your work.
PHOTO (COLOR): Head-in-the-clouds guitarist Craig Nicholls (left) and
feet-on-the-ground bassist Patrick Matthews.
WHAT THE BASS PLAYER KNOWS...
Craig Nicholls loves to conceal the mysteries of creation, so thank
goodness bassist Patrick Matthews is a tad more open. Here are a few
tiny revelations about what goes on inside a Vines session.
"Craig always focuses on that little sort of half-moment when he's
changing chords and his fingers are off the strings," says Matthews. "He
often uses that brief open sound as a musical device. 'Winning Days,'
for example, is ail about the space when the guitar goes from Fro C.
Craig doesn't think technically about chords, notes, and scales, but he
listens to what the guitar is saying at all times.
"He likes the bass and guitar to start on the same chord, so it's pretty
hard to get away with playing some funny bass notes. I try to fit in
between Craig's offensively trebly tone and Ryan's [co-guitarist
Griffiths] low burrow-y sound. I like a low rumble without much actual
tone, but, basically, I just want to be heard! For us, making a record
can be so unbelievably dumb!"
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|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:11 pm|| |
The Boy Who Fell to Earth: The Year The Vines All Went Mad
by Paul Moody
NME, 28th Feb 2004
For The Vines, the madness only reached its peak when Craig Nicholls turned into a monkey. Everything up until then was just, well, high jinks: the one-man obliteration of the band’s equipment live on the Late Show With David Letterman; the random kung fu attacks on members of his own band; the time Craig greeted the head of his American record company with his fingers raised in a cross screaming, “Get that c--- off my bus!”
Never mind the 19-month diet of drink, drugs and girls which saw drummer Hamish Rosser so sated by groupies that he told NME he was “off sex for life”.
No, the madness only really got out of control after Craig turned into a monkey.
“It was at the Christmas shows with Beck and The Flaming Lips, explains a tanned Hamish, looking back from his vantage point from a bar in downtown Sydney. “We went onstage for the encores all dressed in animal suits. I just remember Craig was dressed as a monkey. We threw confetti all over the stage, sang along to ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’, then partied until seven in the morning. Craig seemed fine. At ten the next day we had to be at The Tonight Show. It was a major deal. I was tuning the drums when I heard this massive smash and I saw Craig’s guitar flying straight towards me. It hit this glass panel and shattered into a thousand pieces. Then he threw a light at me and stormed out of the studio. Everything was total chaos. The PR girl was in tears, the producer of the show went absolutely crazy. They literally threw us out of the building.”
Later that day, The Vines’ manager tracked Craig down to ask him what had prompted such a huge ‘spaz-out’. The answer was simple. He was hungry.
If you’re in a band called The Vines, things are bound to get tangled up every once in a while. But few groups have got in such a heroic muddle as these unnervingly photogenic minstrels from Oz. Their rise has been astonishing. Propelled by the Top Three success of their debut album ‘Highly Evolved’ in the UK in 2002, the otherworldly foursome embarked on a cash-hoovering mission into the heart of rock n’ roll darkness to give even Frodo Baggins nightmares.
The facts only tell half the story: a million and a half album sales in the US alone (the album entered the Billboard chart at 11); the first Australian band to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone for 20 years (the last one was, er, Men at Work in 1983); a performance in front of a global audience of one billion at the MTV Video Music Awards. But there is another, darker side to The Vines’ success.
“They all went crazy in their own way,” confesses one insider. “They’re clever guys and it affects people differently. Patrick went drink crazy, Ryan went drug crazy, Hamish went pump crazy. Craig just is crazy.”
In January 2003, the band’s appearance at the Big Day Out in Australia was marked by the news that Patrick and Ryan’s home in Sydney (dubbed “The Fun House”) had burned to the ground. The pair simply shrugged. “I couldn’t take it seriously,” Patrick confirms later. Ryan – who lost all his material possessions in the blaze – was just relieved that his pet snakes Sonny and Lucy had survived. Later the same day Craig destroyed NME’s tape-recorder when asked if he thought the band were on the verge of splitting up.
When the band appeared on Later… With Jools Holland in May last year Craig’s performance was so spectacularly unhinged – he smashed the drums, a mic stand and his guitar during their first song – a watching Lou Reed declared: “It made me feel good to see that. The spirit lives!”
The Vines legend-making didn’t end there. Last time NME was scheduled to hook up with them at the tail end of a chaotic ‘victory lap’ tour of the UK, they failed to show up at all. Reeling from an aftershow party at the Astoria involving MDMA powder, a small reservoir of booze and, in Craig’s case, some prescriptions sleeping pills, the band weren’t even aware they’d missed anything. The writing wasn’t so much on the wall as flashing in huge neon letters. After a crazed 18 months which had seen them go from Sydney unknowns to one of the hottest bands on the planet, The Vines were falling apart in public.
Even today, reverberations from the last tour rumble on. Manager Andy Kelly is only half-joking when he announces his one ambition left in life is to “never get on a plane with The Vines again”, while the unpredictable nature of their non-drinking, fast-food loving frontman still overshadows their every move.
The mercurial talent of Craig Nicholls, it seems, brings with it all manner of complications. On the itinerary for NME’s trip to Sydney are the words ‘Monday: Interview (permitting)’, which in the wake of Craig’s previous NME record (one four-hour stint in a toilet; one smashed tape recorder; one no-show) is some going. Time then for NME to discover the current state of Nicholls’ mind, examine the latest developments in Vines-world and find out if the rumours that second album ‘Winning Days’ is even better than their debut are really true. And where better, than at an Oz-fest?
Thursday at the Annandale Hotel, Sydney, 9pm
Sydney’s Annandale Hotel is the sort of spit’n’sawdust dive-bar which will one day be twinned with Camden’s Barfly. This being Australia, a booming Chinese restaurant runs in the back yard and Sundays are given over to ‘striptease’. Tonight, however, the Annandale is host to a secret warm-up show by Foregone Conclusion. As massive fans of The Office, The Vines have taken the name of David Brent’s ill-fated band in, you detect, a sly dig at the Sydney rock cognoscenti. Despite healthy sales of 150,000 at home (in a climate dominated by Delta Goodrem), the Aussie press – resentful of The Vines’ international profile – refuse to take the band as seriously as their dues-paying heroes Silverchair and The Superjesus.
Accordingly, none of the local media have been invited. Not, you suspect, that this matters to Craig Nicholls. First sighted eagerly watching support band Youth Group from side of stage, Nicholls looks, if anything, even younger than he did when NME first clapped eyes on him two years ago. He nods hello and disappears to the dressing room citing an urgent appointment with the latest Suede CD. Which leaves Patrick to push his memory back through the fug of the last few months and fill us in on The Vines’ current mental state.
How does he look back on the year just passed?
“Well, by the last night of the tour in Ireland things were getting difficult,” he concedes. “Craig was just being mental. It was one of the worst shows we ever played. Mayhem. I spun my bass over my head which I should never do. It was just another stupid thing in a long line of them.”
Does he think they’ve changed in the wake of it?
“Real changes are hard to see. Everyone got older, but it’s half out luck Craig looks, if anything, younger than he did. The thing with Craig is there’s so much potential. He can sing brilliantly, but he’s up and down. Some nights he can sing beautifully, and others you just don’t know what you’re gonna get.”
NME gets talking to the band’s guitar tech, Tony. A veteran to the whims of guitar virtuosos (he once roadied for Brian May), Tony’s been known to patch different guitars together mid-gig during Craig’s smashing frenzies. Having already trashed 150 guitars in as many gigs, he’s been kept busy. Most prized of all Craig’s current guitars, it transpires, is a newly acquired model from the States with customised pick-ups.
“I give him the right guitar at the right time,” he says sagely. “I don’t like seeming them totalled but I know why he does it.”
The gig is a cracker. With Ryan Griffiths newly upgrades to full-time rhythm guitarist and Craig centre-stage. The Vines at last look like the classic rock band they’ve always been on record. If the old songs have acquired hard hitting extra muscles then the new songs are more complex beasts, drawn from some deeper reserves within the Nicholls psyche. A dreamlike ‘Amnesia’ (“I cannot remember/My own sanity”) is a sublime cousin to ‘Mary Jane’ while a murderous ‘Animal Machine’ achieves the until-now impossible synthesis of Suede and Nirvana. Guitars go un-totalled. Afterwards, all are agreed it is one of the best gigs The Vines have ever played. Later, three-quarters of the band apply maximum concentration to the art of getting drunk. In the small hours Ryan discloses that the band have turned over a new leaf and have been rehearsing three times a week solidly for the last two months. The chaotic gigs of the past, he implies, may at last be behind them.
Saturday at the Homebake Festival, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, 5pm
Patrick Matthews gave up medical school to become a Vine two years ago. Even today he still retains the air of a young doctor puzzling over the diagnosis of a troublesome patient (Nicholls, perhaps). However, backstage at Homebake – the Oz equivalent of Reading – he is gripped by a more easily defined medical condition: nerves.
“I’m only going to have two drinks before the show,” he says through gritted teeth. “But afterwards…”
Hamish is less affected by stage-fright. A Bondi Beach-dwelling surfer who as a youth would think nothing of scaling Sydney Harbour Bridge for a midnight toke, he seems immune to almost anything. With 30,000 fans out-front and the entire Australian press corps gathered in the backstage bar, however, even Hamish is a little twitchy. As if to compound the portentous mood, bats circle overhead and storm clouds gathering over the site as the afternoon creeps by. Something is about to give.
The gig is total chaos. Hidden in the depths of the dressing room since arrival, Craig strides onstage and goes completely berserk. Dressed in ripped jeans a Jane’s Addiction T-shirt and a scruffy black cardigan he does everything but self-detonate.
During opener ‘Highly Evolved’ he screams incoherently, knocks the mic to the floor and writhes around in a tangle of cables. As Tony winces, Craig trashes his brand new customised guitar during second song, ‘Ride’, balances on top of a monitor and causes the gawping faces of the largely female front row to shriek in a mix of horror and delight. The ‘mental’ Craig of old is clearly back with a vengeance.
“You want this, are you happy?” he screams prior to a murderous ‘Fuck The World’, before totalling Hamish’s drum kit to roars of approval. It’s a stunning reminder of The Vines’ ability to defy convention at every turn.
Backstage, with Hurricane Craig having passed, the rest of the band lapse into their own form of mania. Patrick disappears in search of some “Serious liquor”. When he returns half an hour later he is blind drunk and clutching a three-quarters empty bottle of tequila. He only calms down after a wrestling match with Ryan ends with the softly-spoken rhythm guitarist delivering a series of well-aimed rabbit punches to the kidneys. In the middle of it all Craig sits happily in the corner, demurely listening to Muse on his walkman. It’s too bizarre for words. Hamish’s evening will end at the aftershow where, insensible through booze, he will fall flat on his back at the feet of the sultry female singer of Oz-rock legends The Superjesus. As dawn breaks, it’s clear that The Vines’ reputation among their peers is intact.
Sunday in Room 305, Kirktown Hotel, Sydney
Let is be noted: The Vines have not been idle in the seven months they have been away. Having flown to Bearsville Studios, Woodstock, New York State, last May, they spent the next three months recording their second album with ‘Highly Evolved’ producer Rob Schnapf. Having received a copy of the album the day after Homebake it is NME’s solemn duty to report that the results are truly startling. Forget any notions of a ‘Room on Fire’ holding pattern of, as Patrick clamed to NME, a “part metal album”, it’s the perfect reflection of their schizophrenic live shows. Recorded in stark, stripped down tones and – unlike their session men-heavy debut – played entirely by the four of them, ‘Winning Days’ is by turns heavier and more mellow than their debut, and in ‘Autumn Shade II’, the title track and a revamped ‘Sunchild’ is also home to some of the most sublime songs you’ll hear this year. First single ‘Ride’, meanwhile, sounds like ‘Get Free’ recorded in a wind tunnel while live favourite ‘Fuck The World’ sounds like the ceiling caving in on Seattle. Puberty-addled teens and ‘classic’ rock-loving 30-somethings will worship here in droves.
“From the moment I saw Craig I thought he was a cross between Sid Vicious and post-Beatles Lennon and the songs, more than ever, reflect that,” confesses Andy Kelly in a nearby coffee house. “The extremes are so total. I’ve never met anyone else like him, have you?”
Monday at Luna Park, Sydney
The next day, in front of Luna Park amusement park, The Vines are assembled for an NME photoshoot. To the relief of all concerned, the demons which afflicted Craig at Homebake appear to have evaporated. Not that this brings him any nearer to normal behaviour. Munching on a veggie pizza and performing an elaborate Morrissey-dies-Tait Chi dance, he appears ever more adrift from reality. Especially when, staring up at the skies on one foot he coos, “Aaaaah, the sun, it’s so great, so great,” to the bewilderment of passing tourists. Judging by his unphased bandmates, however, this is as normal as Craig Nicholls gets.
Chat moves gently on to the last few nights’ gigs. How does he feel about the last two shows?
“They were cool. I think I enjoyed the festival better. It was in Sydney, there were thousands of people there.”
Does something else take him over onstage?
“I dunno. I’m in control, but I’m not in control, if that makes sense. Sometimes there’s great moments, confusing moments and awkward moments. I think people don’t realise that it’s my sense of humour.
Looking back, did 18 months on the road send him slightly insane?
“You mean the Jay Leno thing? I dunno. I’ve got a bad memory. You got to all those places and things get so crazy, it’s hard to remember. (Pause) But I feel good at the prospect of going back out there again. I’m fine. There’s no question of us splitting up or not touring.”
Is his happier mood to do with the fact he’s had seven months off at home?
“Yeah. It all seems easier now. I don’t feel the same way about the whole process as I did when we still on tour. It was real crazy for us then. Looking back it was a great experience but it was a little confusing. But I always had in mind the fact that we had to record this album. When I recorded the vocal for ‘Amnesia’ it was the best thing. It was like a shot of ecstasy. I was so relieved that I’d finally captured it.”
There is something both naïve and utterly focused about Nicholls. At turns hopelessly detached from reality and yet keen to address the issues which touch him, he seems to have little control over his moodswings. Is a lyric like “I speak like I’m fucking mad” from ‘Autumn Shade II’ a conscious attempt to communicate how he feels about the position he’s in?
“I guess so. Being in the band is a way for me to say things which I can’t explain through words. It’s really difficult for me to do that. I’ve always wanted to say more. Like ‘Winning Days’ is about the death of Aaliyah. I was really upset when that happened.”
A lot of people might hear a song like ‘Fuck the World’ and think his outlook is getting even more bleak and lead to those old enquiries about suicide.
“Yeah I can see why people might think like that,” he sighs. “People could take that song as sounding negative and that’s not what it’s about. What I’m trying to say is that’s the last thing I feel. I’m being sarcastic. It’s that feeling you have as a teenager which I still have, where you don’t want to deal with anything. That old cliché. And at the end I say ‘Fuck the world, don’t’ so that’s the twist.”
Indeed. While every great rock star from Bowie to Bono have adopted alter-egos to cope with fame’s landslide, Nicholls appears to have two quite distinct personalities co-existing. These two strands (dysfunctional rocker; blissed-out stoner) are echoed in his conversation. On subjects he’s comfortable with (Muse, The Kinks, Basement Jaxx) the peculiar accent drops and you find yourself in the company of an enthusiastic Aussie music fan. At others, his well-meaning psychobabble proves close to impenetrable. Bowie sang in ‘Fame’ that it puts you where things are hollow. Has success made him more lonely?
“No. I’ve always felt hollow (laughs). I think I’m bi-polar, but no-one has ever said that to me so I can’t be. It’s hard for me to describe what is real and what isn’t. I can’t tell the difference, y’know? I don’t use the internet, I just sit at home on my own thinking about music and painting. That’s what I do. If I wasn’t in the band I’d just sit there daydreaming, and that’s not good. I’m probably a compulsive liar.”
When he disappears in the direction of the funfair, it’s hard to imagine that Craig – now limping and with a brown shirt tied around his leg – is the same young man whose songs are of a quality none of his peers can currently touch. Even less so, when having slid down an ancient ride on an old doormat, he yodels dementedly like a farmyard cockerel. When he puts his head through a Victorian fairground attraction depicting him as the baby of a dysfunctional Vines family with Hamish as mum, you imagine even Freud would give up on the psychoanalysis. “Eat your greens!” bellows Hamish.
Later that evening Patrick confesses that his personal highlight while recording ‘Winning Days’ was the time Craig drove into Woodstock in the dead of night with him and Ryan hanging off the roof-rack, drunk as lords. The only problem was, Craig had never been behind the wheel before in his life.
Wasn’t that dangerous?
“Oh, Craig’s mad alright,” he laughs, medical prognosis complete. “But he’s not insane.”
Right. Now if he was dressed up as a monkey…
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|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:12 pm|| |
The Most Stoned singer in Rock & Roll has some advice: Don’t Drink (or think) too much.
by Austin Scaggs.
Rolling Stone Australia, February 2003
*many thanks to Tristan who typed this baby up happy.gif
World Tour? A Gold Record? Adoring Groupies? All the drugs a kid could want? Sounds like a dream come true. But after skyrocketing to global success with their 2002 debut, Highly Evolved, all the Vines want to do is go home to Sydney and make their next album. “It has to be 100 times better than the first one,” says perma-baked frontman Craig Nicholls. “Just because I’m really bored.” Though introverted and prone to drifting midsentence, Nicholls tries to make sense of 2002 from a tour stop in London.
-------------------- & ----------------------
Was it a good year?
I think so. It’s all blurred into one big thing. I don’t know what month it is, but we’ve really been enjoying playing.
How many times this year have you woken up with a hangover?
I think that’s, like, every secound night.
And how much weed have you smoked?
Woah! I couldn’t really measure it. I think that means I’ve had a good amount.
You must get some serious munchies. Do you remember your favourite meal?
When we were in Paris, we got some really good seafood. Swordfish and crab and oysters. We ate so much we almost made ourselves sick.
Nice. What was the most extravagant thing you bought?
I got a ring with a skull on it out of a machine at a gas station. It’s plastic, but it looks like metal. It was about 10 cents.
Do the Vines have a favourite 2002 record?
The new Supergrass record [Life on Other Planets]. They’ve mastered the craft, whatever it is. It’s really melodic rock & roll, and the vocals are really perfect, I think.
How about a live show?
The White Stripes at a festival in Scotland. I love Meg and Jack. They’re amazing.
What will the next album sound like?
We want to move with the technology that’s available. I guess it’s more futuristic. A lot of times I think we should go completely hi-fi with a lot of production, but also do some stuff that’s stripped down – go to a little studio and do some acoustic songs. There will definitley be some electronica and a song with synthesized strings. And weird things like homemade percussion- like cookies in a big tin, or cofee and some rice.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned this year?
Not too think too much. Also, not to drink too much.
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|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:12 pm|| |
Band Biography 2006
Capitol Press Release
It's an album that no one ever expected to hear. And it comes accompanied by a truly remarkable backstory -- hidden inside a blast of pure rock and roll. The release of Vision Valley not only marks the return of Australian sensations The Vines from the brink of collapse, it actually solidifies their standing as one of the world's most exciting bands.
"It's more raw, less produced than our first two albums," says Vines singer/guitarist/songwriter Craig Nicholls of Vision Valley. "It still sounds alright, just a little more real."
The Vines (their name taken from a '60s band called the Vynes, which featured Nicholl's father on guitar) were one of the leading lights of the Great Rock and Roll Renaissance of 2002, but they were the hardest of that wave to pigeonhole. Though they seemed like an overnight success story to the outside world, the truth was that the songs were the result of more than five years that Nicholls had spent writing and recording material with no idea whether it would even see light of day. Drawing from British-invasion garage-pop, high-octane punk, and swirling psychedelia, The Vines had created their own thing, with an energy and a diversity that instantly stood out from the bands to whom they were compared.
Their 2002 debut Highly Evolved, powered by the blistering single "Get Free," shot them to worldwide stardom, including the covers of magazines from NME to Rolling Stone (the first Australian band to reach that slot in twenty years) and a legendary appearance on "Late Night with David Letterman." The 2004 follow-up Winning Days demonstrated the full musical range of the quartet from Sydney, from folk to punk, retro to futuristic.
But then, as fast as they rose, everything seemed to collapse. In the tour that followed the release of Winning Days, Nicholls' behavior - which had earned him a reputation as a wild child from day one - began to spiral out of control.
Things came to a head in May 2004 when he was charged with assault after an onstage incident at Sydney's Annandale Hotel. In the aftermath of that episode, which also resulted in original bass player Patrick Matthews leaving the band, Vines guitar tech Tony Bateman mentioned a medical condition known as Asperger's Syndrome - a neurobiological disorder which is a mild form of autism.
People with AS are generally considered exceptionally intelligent (and often obsessively focus their attention to music or art), but have difficulty reading social situations and coping with change.
Nicholls was subsequently examined and diagnosed with Asperger's, but the universal assumption was that this was almost certainly the end of the Vines. Nicholls, with the help of his family, needed to concentrate on how to manage his daily lifestyle, and had to spend time away from his music. Remarkably, though, drummer Hamish Rosser and guitarist Ryan Griffiths held out hope, and stuck by Nicholls through this most difficult period. By the spring of 2005, he had worked up some new songs, and it was time for The Vines to rise from the ashes.
"Most people thought the band had broken up," says drummer Rosser, "so the expectation was zero as far as I'm aware." And with that freedom came a chance to completely start over. The trio went into a Sydney studio with veteran Australian producer Wayne Connolly (best known for his work with local heroes - and Vines favorites - You Am I), and instantly knew that they were firing on all cylinders. In fact, the two opening tracks on Vision Valley - the powerhouse rockers "Anysound" and "Nothin's Comin'" - came from these very first sessions. "They were intended as demos," says Nicholls, "but they were so good we couldn't lose them."
Sessions went on over the next ten months at a variety of locations, and the band's full palette was revealed. "A lot of the songs are coming from a pretty dark place," says Rosser, while Nicholls counters that "it's kinda dark, but with some color in it as well." The first single, "Don't Listen to the Radio," is an anthemic slab of garage-pop, while Nicholls describes the title track as "laid-back and very peaceful." The 75-second-long "Gross Out," meanwhile, "assaults you," says Rosser, "it leaps out of the speakers at 100 miles per hour."
Perhaps most notable is the closing track, a six-minute epic titled "Spaceship" that gives full rein to the band's proclivity for psychedelia. "It starts mellow acoustic," says Nicholls, "and winds up space-rock." Producer Connolly takes pride in the song's "wild, insane sound," saying that it features a "psychedelic fuzz mandolin - there's hundreds of things like that layered in." Guitarist/keyboardist Griffiths says that Connolly's presence at the sessions was "almost therapeutic - he could calm things down, but he also has a good punk ethic."
Even before the album's release, the music press began to take notice of the Vines' new music. "They're back!," trumpted NME in a review of "Don't Listen to the Radio," adding that Nicholls is "back to full songwriting fitness."
With the completion of Vision Valley comes the next challenge in the Vines' rollercoaster career. Obviously, Nicholls is unable to tour or do much in the way of promotion since the consistency of routine is the most critical part of managing his Asperger's Syndrome. But the truth is that this is an album that doesn't need a lot of fancy marketing to convey its power. This is music that speaks for itself.
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|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:13 pm|| |
Stop Making Sense
by Craig McLean
March 5, 2006
The Observer Magazine
Two years ago, the band hailed as Australia's Strokes went into meltdown. Even industrial quantities of dope couldn't explain frontman Craig Nicholls's erratic and violent behaviour. Then a diagnosis of Asperger's put the singer on the road to a triumphant new album. By Craig McLean
The end, when it came, was horrible. And it had started so well. It is spring 2004. The Vines, one of the most wildly acclaimed bands of recent years, are touring in support of their second album, Winning Days. Their first, 2002's Highly Evolved, has sold 1.5m copies. Part 'Australian Strokes', part 'Antipodean Nirvana', they have quickly become one of the hottest bands in the world. Massive in America, huge in the UK.
Winning Days. Their first, 2002's Highly Evolved, has sold 1.5m copies. Part 'Australian Strokes', part 'Antipodean Nirvana', they have quickly become one of the hottest bands in the world. Massive in America, huge in the UK.
Singer and songwriter Craig Nicholls is a proper star, out-there and bonkers. He's a prodigious and ostentatious marijuana smoker who survives on a burger-only diet. He's occasionally been rude and uncommunicative in interviews and pulled funny faces in photographs. But so what? Nicholls's wild-eyed guitar-smashing antics have afforded him iconic status among a new generation of young music fans. Rock'n'roll!
In Manchester in 2002 the Vines were the first live band seen by a kid called Alex Turner. Watching Nicholls careen round the stage like a man possessed - or just really, really stoned - the future Arctic Monkeys frontman was impressed. 'I thought, "That's what being a singer is all about,"' Turner tells me. 'When we play, I'll do what Craig Nicholls does, be all spaced out.'
But within the Vines camp it was becoming increasingly apparent that there was a dark side to being all spaced out.
Now, after beginning 2004 with a gruelling US tour with fellow Australian rockers Jet, the Vines are in Japan. Their manager isn't there but later sees footage of one of the shows. 'It's almost unwatchable,' Andy Kelly grimaces.
In the video, Nicholls is screaming at the crowd, abusing them. No mean feat - or a particularly mean feat - in a country where rock audiences are bewilderingly polite. An exasperated Patrick Matthews, the Vines's bass player and most longstanding member alongside Nicholls, walks off stage, just as he did in Boston after the singer attacked him mid-gig. Burly drummer Hamish Rosser tries to convince Matthews to come back on. Reluctantly, Matthews retrieves his instrument and he, Rosser and guitarist Ryan Griffiths prepare to start another song. Then Nicholls walks off. The gig collapses in utter chaos.
'You had to laugh,' says Kelly, shaking his head. 'Craig's kind of a genius like that. But yeah, it was pretty hard. People bend over backwards for you in Japan, but he gave his hosts a hard time.'
The Vines's touring party lurches on to the Australian leg of their world tour. The second gig is at a 450-capacity pub called the Annandale Hotel in Sydney, the city in which school kid and sometime McDonald's employee Nicholls had formed the band in 1994. The show is sponsored by national radio station Triple M and is full of competition winners and music biz types.
'Why the fuck are you laughing?' Nicholls says to the audience. 'You're all a bunch of sheep. Can you go "baa"?' He kicks out at a photographer, smashing her camera. Matthews has had enough. He leaves the stage, puts on his hoodie, then catches a cab home.
Patrick Matthews will never play with the Vines again. Triple M ban Vines songs from their station forever. The band cancel all touring commitments. The photographer goes to the police and Nicholls faces assault charges.
It is May 2004. The Vines's second album has been out for little over two months. Even their supportive UK record label is fed up with the opportunities wasted. The American label, which had already seen their erstwhile golden-boys trash the set of The David Letterman Show and be kicked off Jay Leno's show for the same, were also less than chuffed. It's all over already for this once-great band, their promise and thrill squandered by the brattish unprofessionalism, appalling manners, violent temperament and all round jerk-off attitude of Craig Nicholls. There's no excuse for behaviour like that.
"I rolled back on to the lawn and pressed my forehead to the ground again and made the noise that Father calls groaning. I make this noise when there is too much information coming into my head from the outside world. It is like when you are upset and you hold the radio against your ear and you tune it halfway between two stations so that all you get is white noise and then you turn the volume right up so that this is all you can hear and then you know you are safe because you cannot hear anything else. The policeman took hold of my arm and lifted me on to my feet. I didn't like him touching me like this. And this is when I hit him."
· From The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
Sydney, February 2006. In his office in the Vines's management's building, Andy Kelly says that no, Craig Nicholls doesn't like being touched. 'He shakes hands now though, which is great. But I'd never go and put my arm round him like I would with Ryan and Hamish.'
Shortly after the Annandale Hotel debacle, Craig Nicholls was diagnosed as having Asperger's Syndrome, the mild form of autism that the narrator had in Mark Haddon's Whitbread-winning novel.
Those with Asperger's - which is usually but not always diagnosed in childhood - find two-way conversation difficult. Keeping eye-contact is a challenge. They like routine; familiar surroundings and smells and tastes. Otherwise they can suffer from sensory overload, which can lead to bizarre motor, speech and language idiosyncrasies.
The syndrome, while at the 'high-functioning' end of the autism spectrum, explains why Nicholls - tasked with performing daily in rapidly changing, unfamiliar, uncontrolled and sensory-challenging environments - freaked out so much, so often and so alarmingly. And why he subsisted on a diet of Big Macs, bongs and cola. It was a small rock of routine in a sea of change.
'He really was in pain, and it was awful to watch,' Kelly says slowly. 'I used to sometimes think, on tour, "Are we gonna be the end of Craig? We love him and yet..."' Kelly pauses. We're killing him? 'Yeah. "Why are we making him go on tour when it clearly makes him so unhappy?" Although he would, every third show, turn in an absolutely incredible performance.'
Asperger's also goes some way to rationalising the complete communication breakdown that could occur between Nicholls and journalists. During his very first UK interview, with NME at an American rock festival, he tried to smash the writer's tape recorder. Then locked himself in the bathroom. For 90 minutes.
Nicholls's erratic behaviour, then, ticks all the Asperger's boxes. He's not another messed-up rock star who's an accident waiting to happen. He's neuro-divergent. In other words, 'rock star' is the worst career Nicholls could have chosen.
'That's what the professor told me,' Nicholls smiles, presumably referring to his therapist.
The Vines are gathered round a circular table. The reason for their first interview in more than two years is that, against the odds - in the shadow of their creative lynchpin's mental instability - they have made a third album. Even more surprisingly, it's brilliant. Vision Valley is 31 minutes and 27 seconds of punchy power-pop. It sounds like the work of a New Wave Beatles. Their scorching first single 'Gross Out', all 77 seconds of it, is already setting fire to radios.
Hamish Rosser, 30, has the build, attire and chipper, gregarious attitude of a surf dude. Ryan Griffiths, 27, is friendly but quiet and dressed like a scruffy British indie kid. And Craig Nicholls, 28, is, well, Craig Nicholls is definitely odd. As Andy Kelly says of the youngster who began inundating him with CDs full of 'amazing songs' more than five years ago, no one who met Nicholls back then would idly wonder, 'Oh, is there something slightly different about Craig? Absolutely obviously there was.'
But the strangely boyish-man was an artist, and a herbally enhanced one at that, with a genius talent for short, sharp rock songs. He was meant to be different.
Nicholls is polite but skittish. He chain-smokes cigarettes, five in our 90-minute conversation (by some margin, apparently, the longest interview he's ever endured). His lank curtains of hair are in need of a good wash. He is overdressed for this baking Australian summer day. He doesn't take his coat off. Heavy lidded and talking as if his mouth's been numbed by the dentist, he looks and sounds doped up to the eyeballs.
It was Craig Nicholls's guitar technician, English roadcrew veteran Tony Bateman, who first suggested that rather than just being a wanker, there might be something clinically wrong with the Vines's singer. Bateman had toured with the Cure, Sisters of Mercy and Black Sabbath. He'd seen his share of rock'n'roll craziness. But as, night after night, he patched together Fender after Fender that Nicholls had smashed, he got to thinking. He downloaded some info on Asperger's from the internet and showed it to Kelly.
Nicholls's condition was revealed in Balmain Local Court in Sydney on 19 November 2004, where he faced assault charges arising from the Annandale gig. The judge dropped the charges on the condition that Nicholls sought immediate treatment. He was in therapy for six months, took Valium (but is off it now) improved his diet, and - to the amazement of all - stopped smoking marijuana. Did the diagnosis come as a relief?
'Yeah, it made a lot of sense to me,' says Nicholls in his peculiar, drawled, quasi-Australian accent. He talks haltingly. 'Just in my life and the experiences that I'd had, growing up and stuff. It was kind of a relief. It was more like an explanation.'
Given his extreme behaviour, why wasn't it diagnosed earlier? 'I wondered the same thing,' Nicholls says wryly. The looming court appearance brought things to a head, recalls Kelly. The Vines couldn't do any more gigs, and not just for reasons of their frontman's own health - 'there was a liability issue. It was just getting too dangerous. He was really terrified about the court case, terrified he was going to go to jail. He didn't want to go through that ever again. It was the start of him trying to make changes. After that he actually stopped smoking pot. Which was unimaginable - unimaginable.'
What did smoking pot do for Nicholls?
'Ahm. It just fit with my personality. I never drank alcohol. [Smoking] was just the thing I did. It made me calm. But it started not making me calm at all. It made me edgy, so that wasn't good.'
Whether cannabis use caused Nicholls's mental and emotional problems, or exacerbated existing ones, is unclear. But Robin Turner, the Vines's A&R man and long-term confidant at their UK label Heavenly, always thought his habit was a hindrance, not a help. He witnessed the toilet incident with NME in America. 'It just wasn't rational behaviour,' he recalls. 'But because Craig was smoking such massive amounts of spliff, I wondered whether his behaviour was down to a schizophrenia caused by cannabis.'
Growing up in the Sydney suburbs with his brother and two sisters, Nicholls was an introverted and borderline obsessive teenager - he escaped into art, songwriting and skateboarding. He was remote, and occasionally troublesome; his waywardness once compelled his parents to call the police (he can't remember why). Did they never take him to the doctor or suggest help? 'I remember when I was maybe 15, I spoke to a couple of psychologists. But I don't think they diagnosed me with anything. So. Maybe it grew. Maybe it became more intense when I started in the band. But I'm not really sure.'
If you have Asperger's you can be good with numbers or words, or have focused, narrow interests. Nicholls feels 'comfortable writing songs. It's a good outlet for me. Seeing as though I'm not that social, it's a way to communicate.'
'You've definitely got a way with words,' says Rosser. 'I notice Craig has an incredible retention of lyrics and song, or even lines from comedy shows. He can see it once and have the jokes down. We're like, "Wow, how'd you remember that?"'
Reading social situations comes less easily. 'Mind blindness' prevents easy understanding of body language, facial expressions and sarcasm.
'I think it's a mild case that I have,' says Nicholls. 'But that's not one of my strong points.'
'You've got the sarcasm down,' interjects Griffiths, to laughs all around. 'He was great at counting cards when we were playing Black Jack!' says Rosser. 'You could never beat him.'
I give Nicholls a copy of Haddon's book. He mumbles an embarrassed thank you. He seems never to have heard of it. But Rosser has read it and tells him it's a great story. 'The kid's different to you, his Asperger's is probably a worse scenario.' Certainly, Nicholls's life doesn't seem to be governed by rules about how many red cars he sees in a row. 'But [Haddon's character] is really good with numbers, a mathematical genius,' Rosser tells Nicholls, who's handling the book gingerly, like an unexploded bomb.
'I tell you,' says Andy Kelly later, 'a year ago you wouldn't have even got to the point of giving him that book. Or him even saying thanks.'
Craig Nicholls has been off the dope for nine months now. You can hear his clear-headedness in the muscular, focused pop of Vision Valley. He's been a joy to work with, says Kelly. He can't remember details of many of his more outrageous 'stunts' - he's a complete blank on the Jay Leno Show fiasco - but when told of them is fairly contrite. He acknowledges his inner turmoil, in the opening line of the album's first song, 'Anysound': 'I am a Vine, all twisted and frayed.'
There's no pressure. Winning Days sold 600,000 copies which, as failures go, is still impressive. But the circumstances surrounding the album and tour were so disastrous and painful that there are no expectations as to how the new album will do. The fact that the band survived - that, let's be frank, Nicholls survived - to make a new album, is victory enough.
The routine of recording has suited him, and he's thrown himself into the pernickety sonic details involved in mastering the new album. Our interview only happened because Nicholls had two weeks' notice. That's how things need to be.
'The worst thing in a way, even though he has to have rest periods, is if he's got too much time on his hands,' says Andy Kelly, who clearly has as much a paternal love for Nicholls as a professional one. 'Then he overthinks things and really beats himself up about stuff. But it's a sign of how good he is now that if he rings me at midnight to talk about a song, that's fine, I don't mind taking the call 'cos I know he'll be logical about it and reasonable. We can have a two-way conversation and he'll listen. Whereas before, you used to have to walk on eggshells.'
All of which begs the million-dollar question: will - can - the Vines tour again?
Kelly winces and sighs. 'The thing we said to them a few months ago is, if they're gonna play live again, they pretty much have to be the best live band in the world. I don't mean that flippantly. If they performed disastrously, it'd be horrible - for them, for everyone around them.
'But if they were to tour again I worry that it's just gonna go back to how it was. More and more pressure, changes every day, expectations - if they're in Toronto, why can't they do this TV show? So yeah, it's a matter of managing that. It's down to us and his family and the band to keep a lid on everything so he doesn't just go the way he went before.'
What do the band think? Will they be back in the UK this spring?
'Ooh, wouldn't like to promise it,' says an eager but once-bitten Hamish Rosser.
'But we will,' says Craig Nicholls. And behind the sleepy-eyes and the greasy fringe there's something like determination.
· The Vines's new album, Vision Valley, is released on 3 April. The single, 'Gross Out', is out on 21 March
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|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:14 pm|| |
Vines Promise a Killer Album
The Vines were slated to begin recording their third album in Sydney on Monday.
Singer and guitarist Craig Nicholls has written more than 10 songs and hopes to pump that number up to 20 before settling on a final list.
“I’ve heard a good deal of them and it’s going to be a killer album,” Vines drummer Hamish Rosser told me.
“I’ve always had faith in (Nicholls’) songwriting. It’s the one thing he does better than most people.
I patched a call to Nicholls’ father, Terry, who said his son was in an ‘upbeat’ and ‘creative’ frame of mind.
“He’s not telling us a lot (about the songs), as he likes to keep things close to his chest, but I’ve heard a few and they sound promising.”
Rosser is currently playing with spoof hair-metal band Bigphallica and is considering other offers.
Mick Hart rang me this week wanting to contact Rosser about playing some gigs in Hart’s band, Monkey Boy.
Nicholls’ suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, a condition that causes some sufferers to feel uncomfortable in public situations, and it is unlikely that the Vines will tour again.
“I’m committed to The Vines, and it is my first priority, but (with Nicholls’ condition) there’s not much of a touring future for us,” Rosser says.
“A doctor has said being on the road is one of the worst environments for a person like Craig.”
Meanwhile, The Vines’ bassist Patrick Matthews has been playing with a local band, Youth Group.
One source told me that Matthews is no longer a member of The Vines.
Rosser said: “I want (Patrick) to continue playing in The Vines, but I don’t know what his decision will be.”
One of my spies saw Nicholls hanging out with a woman in a park in Oatley recently. Another tells me the talented, self-described pothead quit the wacky weed about two months ago.
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|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:18 pm|| |
By Kathy McCabe
March 08, 2006
user posted image
THE Vines frontman Craig Nicholls has revealed his excitement at the band's return to music more than a year after he was diagnosed with a career-threatening disorder.
Nicholls suffered a breakdown in May 2004 during a Sydney concert for Triple M listeners after enduring months of rigorous touring and promotion for the band's second album, Winning Days.
His erratic behaviour led to an assault charge when he kicked a photographer's camera during the Annandale Hotel show.
Nicholls was later diagnosed with asperger's syndrome, a mild form of autism, and the charges were dropped in November 2004.
Sufferers of the syndrome require routine in their lives and the touring demands on Nicholls pushed him beyond his limits.
The singer said he now manages the condition "by having someone to talk to" and is ready to undertake limited promotional and performance commitments to support the release of their third album, Vision Valley, on April 1.
He said he threw himself into songwriting after the assault charge was resolved.
"There was a cloud for a while but it had lifted by the time we started writing and recording the demos," he said.
"It felt like we were just doing it for fun, just like when we first started out.
"It's good to have a new album. I knew we hadn't broken up. I knew we were going to do a new album but at the time after the second album, we weren't sure when it was going to be," he said.
Drummer Hamish Rosser and guitarist Ryan Griffiths said yesterday they were equally proud of the new album and were looking forward to unveiling it to their fans.
|Subject: Re: Vines magazine and newspaper articles (from the old forum) Today at 1:01 pm|| |