IN THE WHITE ROOM WITH DAN & ALEX FROM THE CUBICAL - BY MEL
The Cubical are a Liverpool based five piece, with a stunning debut album just out on release. Whisked into Sunset Studios in Hollywood by Producer Dave Sardy, the album recorded using reel to reel with an old 60’s mixing desk, vintage guitars and amps to recreate the live sound that is unique to The Cubical. The Cubical are Dan Wilson (lead vocals, guitar), Alex Gavaghan (guitar, piano, vocals), Johnny Green (guitar, harmonica), Percy (drums, vocals), Craig Bell (bass). They’ve been commend by several notable publications, such as Mojo Magazine as one of the ‘coolest bands of the year’ and The Guardian "Wilson makes Waits sound like Tiny Tim".Discovered at The Zanizibar in Liverpool, they’ve supported a variety of acts from The Coral, The Zutons, and The Magic Band. They toured Australia, and even headlined Alan McGee’s Death Disco.
We were invited to listen to the album and write a review by Rob from Dead Young Records. I was immensely impressed, I knew then I wanted to see this band live, and here we are at Liverpool’s Static Gallery reviewing and interviewing them.
I didn’t know much about them but I was about to find out. The setting was a room with the walls painted a radiant white, it had a small table and chairs in the middle of the room and a bright light overhead, it had all the hallmarks of a great interrogation room. We set the scene for our Mudkiss interview, with my Dictaphone at the ready and cameras ready to roll, courtesy of Tomm James.
The guys entered the white room and seemed slightly taken aback. Dan - "This is really kinda Nazi, and there's someone taking notes in the back as well!!" then Alex shouted out "I wanna know who she is, who does she work for? I position myself at the table and commence the Mudkiss grilling.
Photo: L-R Dan, Alex and Mel by Tomm
Mel - Right, would you like to introduce yourself?
Alex - I'm Alex Dan - What do you play Alex Alex - Ermm I play guitar, and sometimes piano and sometimes organ and I do the backing singing as well. Dan - I'm Dan, I'm the singer, I play rhythm guitar as well Mel - And I'm Mel I'm the Editor of Mudkiss Dan – Pleased to meet ya Mel Alex - Hiya Mel
Mel - Just a few words from each of you a bit about your background
Alex - Personally? Mel - Yea Alex - Well my background is principally in guitars, and it's all I can remember Mel really, guitars. I'm from St Helens not far from you; we're all from St Helens. Mel - Really (laughs) I'm from St Helens, well Newton -le -Willows Alex- I was brought up in Carr Mill, and my background is fishing on Carr Mill Damn. Dan - Laughs out loud Alex - Then I graduated to a genuine University, went there and did English Literature, but I've been friends with Dan for a long time. We've always been in bands.
Mel - How old are you?
Alex - I'm 28 Dan - I'm the same 28, yes I'm Dan also from St Helens, and I’ve also been to University studying Politics and Philosophy.
Photo: L-R Dan, Alex and Mel by Tomm
Mel - Why the name The Cubical? Where did the bands name come from?
Dan - It actually came from Alex. Alex - We needn't thing of a silly reason cos the actual genuine real reason is funny enough really. Years and years ago I used to work in a lab a place called Alfred H Knight, on Prescot Road in St Helens and I used to kind of skive a lot and sit in this toilet, which sounds awful but it was a really nice toilet. It had big cubicles and it was very long and I used to sit in their going to sleep and things. One day I was having a poo, on the toilet (Mel laughs) and I saw a sign and it just said 'NO SMOKING IN THE CUBICLE', and it kind of caught my eye and I thought hmm that'd be a nice name for a band if you changed the spelling, and then I kind of suggested it, and obviously we did, how wrong can you be. Dan - We don't like it but we're lumbered with it Alex - Yea we don't like it and it's definitely my fault, like a lot of things are my fault I act on impulse a lot. Dan - It kinda sounds like a German electro, gay dance scene, type of music. What can ya do? Mel - Not to worry (laughs) Alex - And we're lumbered with it, I don't like my own name. Dan - We've done too much work to go back Alex - We considered changing it to Craig Bell And The Inhalers but. (Laughs) for a while but it just wasn't gonna work.
Mel - How did you get together as a band?
Dan - Well we started off as the typical way as most young boys start off with, you just think "oh god I just wanna be in a band". He (Alex) was the only one who could play an instrument; he was the only one who could play a guitar at that point, cos his real background is that his Mum used to play a bit of folk. So he could play a bit of guitar, so we all wanted to be in a band and me, Alex and Mark out of the current five, joined the two other guys. One of them who was just playing with The Murmurs Of Tension then.
We started off as a punk band, we all learnt instruments like six months later we had our first gig, and we were called The Burning Tramps. We played The Citadel; we supported Poison Electric head and all that in St Helens, as cheeky seventeen year olds. Alex - We wrote a lot of songs.
Mel - So you’ve all been in bands before.
Dan - We've only been in bands, with each other really. Although we've played with other people at times and stuff. We did that for a while then out grew that, then did another thing that we outgrew, then finally we find ourselves doing this, this has been the one were it kind of stuck. It's the music we wanna play.
Mel - How long have you been together?
Alex - It's about, I mean the seeds of it were like when we were fourteen or something. So fourteen years ago (laughs). The last kind of thing was, we got our guitarist Johnny Green, Dan went down to Leeds for a bit, then went to University and we just kind of rehearsed for a bit with a new guitarist, then Dan came back and then we found our bassist Craig via a mutual friend, and we kind of got better and better, there was some kind of thing we thought maybe we could make it work. That kind of old fashioned thing of trying to get a record deal, so we went all out for it and it worked. We did!
Photo: Alex by Mel
Mel - Are you hoping to make a career out of it?
Alex- Hopefully yeah! Dan - That's the idea, but it's so difficult nowadays the way music is and also the particular music we play doesn't pander to get rich quick. So, we just find ourselves having a strange niche markets and your magazine is the perfect example. We were playing York the other day and someone came out and said "You’re big in York", and I was like "Oh are we". We didn't know but yea apparently we are big in York.
Mel - Do you work at the moment?
Alex – We’re in and out of jobs, things we need to survive really, doing things that we genuinely, generally despise, you can only sign on for so long! Dan - I work as a support worker for people with learning difficulties!
Mel - Where do you see your niche in the music scene, what type of music, how do you describe yourselves?
Alex - You don't label yourselves do ya. We never make a conscious effort to be involved in any kind of scene or whatever, we just do what we like and that's what we've always done. Dan - Anyone who will have us, cos you can only make the kind of music your interested in really, especially as it's such a sacrifice, your working so hard, so you can only do what you enjoy doing. Dan - We might make a Christmas song one day? Alex – Yea, We'd love to do that kind of thing, I personally, not speaking on behalf of the other four, would love to do a football song (big laughs). No, cos it's a tongue in cheek kind of thing, we've already written a very funny football song, a long time ago. We might release it for next England campaign?
Mel - How hard has it been to get to the point where you find yourself now, with a newly released album, which is excellent by the way?
Dan – Well thank you! It's been very hard to get here really, just because of delays. We actually recorded the bulk of this album a while back in America and then we were going to release it but then the label we were with Record Collectionthey kind of fell out with Warners who was their international backer. So, for one reason or another we found ourselves just put on hold, started again, got a label in England, then we added some new songs and stuff , so it's been a bit of a slog but it's great to be actually here finally releasing the puppy. Alex - We just wanna do the next one which is more important, since we recorded the first session in Hollywood we have written so many songs and we're ready to do the next one and then next one maybe. Dan -We could do the next one tomorrow. Alex – So, we just wanna get onto that, this album has hung around our necks a little bit and we need to get it out, and we love the songs. Dan – Yea, we do!
Mel – I was going to ask you about your Livepudlian spirit, but now I find your from St Helens, and not actually Liverpool!
Alex - Everyone does yea Den - Well, we’ve been based here really. Mel – Your not scousers though are ya? Dan - No, and to be honest although the Liverpool music scene has been good to us we have been ya know 'the woollybacks', who you give a wide birth to sometimes, that's the problem with coming from St Helens.
Ed note:"Woollyback" is a term used in Liverpool, to describe people who come from outside Liverpool, especially those from Lancashire, which is sometimes used pejoratively towards those perceived as outsiders by Scousers, natives of Liverpool.)
Alex - And we've been away from St Helens for so long now, me and Dan moved here in 2001 just prior to the September 11th attacks, no connection. Yea, so we've been here so long, but you go back to your family in St Helens and your from Liverpool, you go everywhere else in the world they think you’re from Liverpool, if your in Liverpool your from St Helens. It's a bit of a strange one, your kind of outsiders everywhere you go but it’s alright we don’t mind it. We’re not saying we are Scousers. Dan - We all live here and based here as a band. Alex - I'm sure there are some scouse bands that look at the reviews and such, all about this Liverpudlian five piece, scouse retrophiles The Cubical or whatever and think it's ridiculous. People just jump to the conclusion that we are scousers as we are based here and to anyone who doesn't dwell in Liverpool or St.Helens, we probably sound like we are too, er la
Photo: Dan in action by Mel
Mel - Who are your Heros/Saints/Heroines? The first two people who spring to mind?
Dan - St Helens?(Laughs)Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan (at this point Vanessa yelps loudly in appreciation) Alex - I'd add Tom Waits and Johnny Cash to that. Dan - I think Bob Dylan is best at song writing but Leonard Cohen as a lyricist Alex - I'm going through another real NickCave phase at the moment.
Mel – What has been your great achievement or honour to date, it could be a personal or band moment. Alex - For me, there are two things, recording the album in L.A, which was incredible, and supporting The Magic Band.. Mel - You supported Captain Beefhearts backing band? Alex - Yea we supported them. Dan - A big high point for me was playing South By Southwest in Austin Texas it was just a great experience of the Festival and the whole kind of ethos behind it. Just the whole town, like overtaken by live music, barbeques, and Bourbon. It was just a great week of fun. Alex - And also getting free guitars from the Fender factory in Australia that was a good one. Dan - Yea that was good! Alex - That was probably the happiest I have ever felt actually. Dan - Yea that was great, Alex - For 15 minutes I understood what happiness actually felt like Dan - It was great Australia, we were just parked on our arses in like a Pontins out of season, just stood there. All these people were surfing, the sportiest types, we finally got to the city it was like wow and then we had to leave. Alex - They all get up at like 5 in the morning to do their jobs, and they finish at 2 and go to bed at 9 (laughs) it was a bit of a ghost town where we were staying, so we turned to drink and made our own fun.! Dan - We did yea
Mel - How would you describe the band?
Dan - It's your job init? (Laughs) Mel - Sort of in a short sentence, something snappy? Dan – Oh, I haven't got the brains tonight I'm afraid Alex - It's such an awkward question to answer, but we can try Mel – Ok, if nobody knew about the band…and you said I’m in a band called The Cubical… Alex - I usuallyjust do the lazy thing and say we sound a bit like The Doors Dan - Or we say we’re in a Psychedelic blues band Alex - Yea, which isn’t really true either, and I’ve been kind ofannoyed at some of the reviews Dan - How about this, the kind of music you'd hear in that really bad film called 'The Roadhouse' in the background? Alex - The kind of band Kevin Costner would be well into!
Photo: Alex, Dan, Percy, Dan, Craig & Johnny by Mel
Mel - Who writes the lyrics, what inspires you?
Dan- I do, I suppose everything really, you just write about what you feel Mel -Your job must inspire you working in the mental health field? Dan – Yea, it does, there's gonna be a song, there's this guy you see. I mean I shouldn't say this as it's really errr (Mel - Confidential?) it is yea, but he just stays up all night with binoculars; he likes helicopters and stuff like that. All he buys is cigs, beer, and porno mags. I'm gonna write a song about him, just about the exact routine and what he does. I mean I find that quite interesting in his house but all kinds, the same things which inspire anyone to do anything, relationships, and the wider politics.
Mel - Who writes the music?
Dan - We all do! Alex -There's three main ways: We write together, all five of us, Dan and I write together then show the rest of them and Dan writes a lot of songs himself and we kind of do the arrangements. We all have a large input.
Mel - You recorded the album @ Sunset Studios in Hollywood in 4 days. What was than like, I know you said it was amazing! (Any particular funny story from the 4 days?)
Dan - It was really F****** great yea, (Dan swears but asks me not to put it in as it sounds crass, and apologises). I always hate it when I read that in interviews. If I have to be honest, when we got in there, he is a big guy this Sardy, very charismatic guy, I was like wow, he just showed us around the room and stuff and I was actually kind of thinking “fuck me are we gonna get found out here”, that was me, what I though I’ll be honest. Mel - You just don't get people from St Helens recording an album in Hollywood (laughs) Dan - Yea, that’s what I mean, then I came back to that place were "shit I'm from St Helens, this is a fucking wind up". I felt there was no way we were good enough, but he loved us he was really a massive fan and we were like kids in a sweet shop. He had vintage amps, all these guitars, we were just playing everything, oh yea it was amazing. Alex - The thing that was great for me was he was a really, really nice guy, he was a New Yorker living in L.A. We met a few New Yorkers who were kind of ya know "they tell you the fucking truth there". (Alex signals wank to Mel) (Laughs). Immediately we came in and just started taking the piss out of us, and it was great cos we were just a bunch of Northern idiots or whatever. We just took the piss back, he immediately thought that was great he just found us hysterical and we had a really good time taking the piss out of each other. Dan - We called him the state of Israel (laughs).
Dan - Dave Sardy, he’s a New York Jewish guy Alex- I remember the first time we came in, he was going through all the songs that we had to do and there were two songs that were kind of similar and Dave was saying the ones he wanted to do. We said “don't you think they are a little similar”, Dave said "Oh I hadn't noticed". Dan got up and said "ahh even the big boys make mistakes" (laughs). That was in the first ten minutes or something and he was kinda shocked but he loved it, he was pissing himself cos we actually had the balls to take the piss out of him. I was calling him Uncle Dave."Uncle Dave I wanna cig". We had a great time it was just really good. Dan - He was really complimentary as well, I remember Alex was playing one time and he said to me as we were watching through the screen, Dave goes " he's a really good musician but don't tell him though"(laughs) Alex - To be honest his man management was excellent, you kind of learn what a producer is really, which for people who aren't in the know it's not someone who just records you it's like a film director almost, there’s an engineer doing all the recording, it’s someone who says you do this and that, they oversee.
Mel - Who's Dave known for producing?
Alex - Oasis, Primal Scream, Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Rolling Stones, he's worked with everyone. It's why he was so good. Dan - Jet, Marilyn Manson, he did that big one of his. Dan - He had an incredible ear as well, didn't he, I mean he could be in the other room and he’d go “that B strings out". Alex – But, he kind of man managed everyone, he’s worked with so many temperamental musicians he knew about how to say the right thing to the right person to get back in the zone to play or whatever. He was like a Football Manager almost, a real man to man management. It was impressive.
Mel – So you’re new Album is released today and I’ve been privileged to have had a preview of your album.
Dan - It is indeed, on download Alex - The CD is out in the shops on 28th September, independents and HMV Mel - It’s £6.99 on Amazon Alex - A bargain Dan - On download, cheap, yea too cheap
Mel -So let's take a couple of tracks off the new album 'Come Sing These Crippled Tunes'. Talk us through these favourite tracks of mine.
Mel -‘Like Me I’m A Peacock’? Dan - Yea, well that I read somewhere today; it was like a male attention seeker. It's actually a parody on that, that’s the idea. It’s basically about the shameless need for attention that is the music industry basically. Metafiction! Alex - From a kind of song writing point of view it was one of those instinctive kind of songs, it literally just happened, in that the drums started playing, the bassist joined in and I did the rift, the guitarist did the other little rift and Dan just went “You never even like me”. The song was written as it was played, it was one of those real collaborative songs. Mel - It stands out as a real single! Dan - I think so yea. Mel – The track ‘Poison Pen’? Dan – Yea, that was kind of a rift of Als, that is kind of about depression I suppose and like just the fight with it (laughs) Alex - An interesting aside the song was actually a Waltz, you wouldn't think it but it's a waltz. Dan - So try waltzing to that one. Alex - Yea have a little Waltz.
Mel - Waltzing Matilda lol 'Great White Light' Dan – Oh, that is a better story. I went to Sachsenhausen, Berlin, a few years ago which is one of the first concentration camps. That song is about Holocaust tourism if you will; obviously the holocaust was abhorrent and awful. Although I talk about the tourism angle the Great White Lie is about those twisted disgusting Holocaust deny-ers / apologist’s too, there was something also perverse about the tourism, about the way you were kind of put through your paces, there was guides speaking a thousand different languages so I found it an interesting concept really. Alex - How many singles have you heard about the Holocaust tourism, come on! Dan - I was gonna get a job in the tourist industry you see (laughs)
Mel – ‘In the Night’ Dan - That is about internet sex trade, and about that kind of sitting on line and getting their kicks. I don't know if you’ve ever read a book, quite controversial called 'Platform' byMichel Houellebecq,it was a bit inspired by that I suppose. It was written about 50 odd year old men who get 25 year old Thai brides because they can cook and clean for them, so it’s kind of about that idea I suppose.
Mel - You've got some brilliant reviews and comments so far i.e. I love this one "If The Cubical aren't absolutely massive in 2009 I will eat every hat in the grimiest milliners in Middlesbrough". So how good are you feeling right now?
Alex - (laughs) Alright Dan - I'm feeling particularly, yea as usual nervous on the edge of nausea Alex - I'm feeling, to be honest with ya feeling better today but have been feeling quite depressed lately. (Laughs all round) Dan - It's like a Doctors surgery now it’s the light Alex - What do you recommend? No, it's good to see nice things, we’ve had some good things written about us, had some bad things written about us too, but more good things. Your review particularly (Dan - it was excellent) it was one of the best we've had cos it was so in depth and they really got it. Dan – A lot of people haven’t. The others have kind of gone "Oh it's a bit sixties" Alex - People are picking up on the lyrics and the darker slower less immediate side of things. Dan - Some were like "Oh they just wanna go back to the sixties" Alex – It’s a bit boring like, you don't mind criticism but at least kind of do it like well Dan - The Guardian was great, that obviously made us feel great for a while.
Mel – What is the idea behind the album artwork, and I noticed you have his work out on display on the stage?
Dan - He is actually here tonight the artist John O’Neil, he’s a friend of ours, we just kind of loved his artwork and a while ago we were gonna use this other piece; we kind of liked the idea of having his art so we suggested what we wanted, he came back with something we quite like it and then when we did the great white lie. I don’t know if you;ve seen that, that’s up there as well. I just went and explained to him what the song was about, I’d actually written a treatment for a video at the time, he went away and painted it and I was like wow! He came up with a whole different kind of thing like masks, swimming pools, photographers and all this, basically we really liked it. So that was it, it felt in keeping withsome of the themes. Alex - The album was like we just went around and looked at his portfolio basically, that one stuck out immediately. He's a great artist. Mel - He reminds me of the artist who did 'The Scream' painting Dan – Oh, Edward Munch, yea it is a little.
Mel - Anything you'd like to say to our readers?
Dan - Keep reading, great magazine Alex - Lovely magazine, lovely, lovely women Dan - Great people who run it Alex - Could I implore your readers to legally buy our album to keep us in guitar strings?
Interview goes off on a tangent talking about naked women on Mudkiss imagery, Mudkiss partys ect
Dan - So is this magazine just set in the North?
Mel explains how Lorraine does the South and Rachel works from Barcelona and we have other team members from down South.
Mel – Just one silly question that I tend to ask for fun,who would you like to Mudykiss?
Dan - To muddy kiss?? Alex - Would that mean one of you lot (hahahaha) Mel - Somebody did actually say that Alex – Well, if I said anyone but my girlfriend she would knee cap me Den - I'd say my ex girlfriend - bit of dark humour…..errm muddy kiss Henry Kissinger Alex - no, no Den - The Bear Kissifer, No sorry, is it mallets mallet. I saw a film the other week, the guy Timothy Treadwell, Werner Herzog, Eva Mendez the actress with the big bum. Mel - Ok that's it then (laughs)
Thanks to the guys from The Cubical for such an entertaining interview, we’ll be seeing a lot more of them I am certain. Meanwhile it's on with the show, out we go to watch them in action.