Games Brrraaains & A Head-Banging life are pleased to being you an interview with Noko of Am I Dead Yet? A musical project from Pop Will Eat Itself & Gaye Bykers On Acid frontman Mary Byker and Apollo440 founder-member, Magazine guitarist & long-time collaborator, Noko.
1. How did you get started as a band?
Mary and I have known each other for years and have shared a lot of stages together, most notably with Apollo 440, with whom we had a fair bit of chart-success around the world which led to a fair bit of touring in the later half of the ’90s.
We first worked together in 1992, when I produced his first post Gaye Bykers On Acid album “Metaphasia” by what became the band Hyperhead, along with our mutual friend Karl Leiker, who’d played bass in my band Luxuria in the late ’80s.
There were a couple of slower, more atmospheric songs on that album that we particularly enjoyed the direction of and kinda promised ourselves we’d one day make a whole album in that vein. We’d have that conversation every couple of years, but never got round to it until Karl visited London from the US at the same time as Mary (who was still living in Brazil at the time) and we ended up jamming at my place on a title Mary had……I chucked some lovely chords to it and……..next thing you know, we had the first song of the Am I Dead Yet? album. We haven’t looked back.
2. How would you describe your sound?
As a rule, I wouldn’t….but just this once…..”widescreen, noir-tinged pop music using the lush sounds of yesterday to put a new spin on the stories of today – tales of dystopic frustration and dissatisfaction with the way we’ve been betrayed by the empty promises of a technology that was supposed to bring us together, that’s actually pushing us further apart. Mary’s lived-in, but still optimistic, baritone croon over my vintage Gretsch White Falcon drenched in canyons of spring reverb and the Cold-War dissonance of a C19th Hungarian cimbalom”.
3. What bands/artists would you say have influenced your style of music?
Noko – John Barry’s film music of the 1960s, Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline, Marc Bolan & T-Trex, Sparks, Queen, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Yes, King Crimson, Van Halen, Magazine, Gang Of Four, PIL, Birthday Party, Cabaret Voltaire, Patti Smith, Siouxsie and The Banshees, Goblin, Nick Drake, the minimal techno of the Warp label, Fabio & Grooverider’s groundbreaking Rage night at heaven in London, Miles Davis, the Great American Minimalism of Riley, Reich & Glass, and the amazing concert I saw a couple of days ago here in London with Dead Can Dance’s Lisa Gerrard guesting with a full Bulgarian choir….I’m very easily led.
4. Has the rise of YouTube & music streaming helped or hindered you as a band?
Different times and different technologies solve old problems and usually create a bunch of new ones. There is this trade off between the libertarian ideals of freedom of access and people having their ‘voce’ and the sheer mass of voices all clambering for attention with an ever dumbing-down of what you might call quality control.
5. What do you enjoy doing when you’re not making music?
I’ve got an amazing weather-beaten C19th gothic oak door from an old church sitting around that I’ve got to get round to putting in – there’s every chance that my studio above might collapse when we do though! That might have ramifications on the next album….unplugged, maybe?
6. What are your future plans musically? Tours?
Mary and I are very pleased to have got album number one out in the public domain, our aesthetic defined and intact, without any interference from ‘the industry’ and have thus created the springboard from which we’ll jump to scale new heights with the next one (which we’ve already started).
Our live show has escalated spectacularly with the addition of our amazing new rhythm-section, featuring Cliff ‘Sly Diva’ Hewitt on drums and electronics and Derek’Hoodlum Priest’ Thompson on bass. Exciting times for us.
The premium pledge package in our album crowd-funding was that we’d come and play an intimate version of the Am I Dead Yet? sound in a room of our choice : living room, bathroom etc….A couple of people took us up on our offer, so we’re looking forward to doing that in both the UK and Germany soon. That’s gonna be an experience!
We’re both involved in other musical projects, one of which is that we’ll both be playing together live with Apollo 440 in the coming months, which will be a change of gear.