Mudkiss is now an archived site, there will be no more updates. Mudkiss operated from 2008 till 2013.

Back in 2004, a Manchester based band named Amplifier released their debut eponymous album to rave reviews, the potential for blasting into the high echelons of progressive rock seemingly secure. As quickly as they arrived, their wings appeared clipped, the three piece outwardly disappearing, even though second album “Insider” materialised in 2006. Jump forward to January 2011, a third album of absolutely epic proportions “The Octopus,“ emerges as if from nowhere, Amplifier having decided to take the D.I.Y route, and be in complete control of their own destiny.  Enraptured by their intense, intelligent music and intrigued by the “missing” years, Mudkiss met with Sel Balamir, the bands vocalist / guitarist in the dressing room of The Fleece in Bristol, prior to the last gig of their latest U.K tour.         

ANDY: I was quite surprised to see your last gig of the current tour ended tonight in Bristol and not with the Manchester gig last night, is that purely logistics?

SEL: Yeah, I know,  we were all saying that, it doesn’t make any sense (Laughing)……..It’s alright though because we had a day off on Saturday, it was just the way it worked out…… just because of the bookings, the club bookings I guess.  To be honest we were all so tired yesterday we didn’t have a massive party anyway, so it’s ok and we get an extra day out down in Bristol.   

ANDY: How’s the response in general been to the U.K gigs over the last week or so?

SEL: Yeah, it’s been good…….it’s a hard time at the moment, bands are touring all the time, countries bankrupt, everybody’s skint……it’s kind of had a trickle down affect to us kind of bottom feeders here, (Laughing)…….bottom of the food chain.

ANDY: Yeah, everybody you speak to in the music industry backs that up, it is a vocation not a career.

SEL:  Oh, absolutely…. absolutely. 

ANDY: Your latest album “The Octopus” is self released, is it just more control you’ve been able to give yourselves by making the record without a label.

SEL: There’s more money…..miles more.

ANDY: Because you’re cutting out the middle man…..middle men?

SEL: Yeah, absolutely and you know cutting out the middle man that takes the lions share. All the deals that we’ve ever had we literally just got the crumbs…..really, really did.  But I guess that’s just an evil that you kind of have to put up with for a certain period to get the first thousand people….the first thousand people are the most difficult to get……we were lucky enough that we trawled our arses round for long enough that when it came to the point, that we just wanted to do our own thing…… we knew that we’d sell a thousand records.

ANDY: You’d already got that fan base in place?

SEL: Yeah absolutely, absolutely……..It turned out we sold a lot more than that…… so you know all the little bits and pieces that everyone was taking away before all adds up to fairly significant chunks………I mean I’m talking from a purely one dimensional aspect of making enough money to make a viable kind of living…..and I’m only talking about it purely because you were just asking about that, as opposed to it being our main motivation (Laughing)…… I mean it is more, but it’s still not a retiring kind of wage you know….but it’s good, when you do stuff for yourself…….. you earn the money so it has more value. We pay ourselves a kind of subsistence wage, but to me we earn every single penny of that ourselves by hustling and by just being cool with our fans, and developing a relationship with em where they care about us. So every pound that we earn is worth ten pounds to me in fulfilment, absolutely, so it is good in that sense……. but it’s a lot more stressful (Laughing.)

ANDY: I’m sure, so you’re doing your own promotion and everything?

SEL: We do everything………every aspect of what we do is controlled by us. From conceiving the record, recording it, the execution of it, the manufacturing of it, the design of it, you know even when people get it, it’s one of us that’s put it in the envelope and sent it to them…….and stamped the return to sender “Octopus” logo on the back……for us that’s like booosshhh, mission accomplished, really……..and that’s very satisfying, sending out five thousand of those is very rewarding but massively time consuming. (Laughing.)

ANDY: The first time I saw you was a number of years ago now, supporting The Datsuns.

SEL: Oh God, that is a long time ago……. At the Hop & Grape.

ANDY: Was that the old name for Manchester Academy 3.

SEL: Yeah, The Hop & Grape ………That week we played with The Datsuns and we played with Nebula, literally a few days later………..was it Nebula we played with? (asking one of the road crew)  no, who were the band that were obsessed with cars……..Fu Manchu, that was it.

ANDY: That must have been back in 2003, before the debut album was released?

SEL: Yeah, it must have been back in that time.

ANDY : What I could never understand was the debut album had great reviews and then you seemed to just disappear, I wasn’t even aware you’d released a second album “Insider” until recently after “The Octopus” suddenly appeared from nowhere.

Sel : It wasn’t sudden, it was four years. (Laughing.)

ANDY: Yeah, exactly and I speak to so many people who are aware of your debut but aren’t aware you are still making music.  What did happen during that period, was it just a lack of promotion?

SEL: That was purely……actually the first label that we were on were great, really great……..but they got bought out by Sony…………..the label got bought by Sony and they fired everyone……and that was the week that our record came out so it just died, nobody worked it………it just died………..we had all the great press, we had everything going for us and it was just like………….I remember (laughing nervously) we were basically going down to like one of those Metal Hammer awards or something like that and we were really excited to go down and go and kind of do a bit hobnobbing…… cos we were young and impressionable back then………….and that’s when they thought it would be a really great idea to tell us (Laughing)……. “So yeah, everything’s going really well but we’ve all been sacked.”  So I think that was the start of a…….character building period. (Laughing.)  We’ve been through like four deals with this band….varying from Indies to you know, big corporate giants.  We’re like a jellyfish in the sea…. (Laughing) just battered around from one wave to another wave…….we just decided it’s just too stressful not knowing what’s going to happen……..and I’ve got to be honest, the record industry’s over…..really, it’s over…….at our end, it’s not worth it. I have a bit of an insight in how much effort and work goes into putting records out, so while I don’t like record companies, I do have a respect for exactly how much hard work it is……..but it gives you an insight into what a voracious kind of machine it is, relying on putting new records out constantly. It means once something has bloomed, that’s it……they won’t spend any more money or investment…….they’ve got to pay the staff in the offices you know so it’s purely about moving onto the next thing, moving onto the next thing, moving onto the next thing……..and we don’t work like that……at all.  We like to kind of do things at our own pace, which is not the pace that the music industry works at, at all……and that’s kind of one of our strongest but also our weakest attributes……when you kind of realise it’s two bad bedfellows, then it’s best to move out really………but we’re lucky, we live in the age where there are options and there are a lot of bands like us I’m sure, that are discovering these new options and making up the new industry I guess.

ANDY: There’s certainly much more D.I.Y these days.

SEL: Yeah, I mean it’s very punk…….it’s very punk which I find quite exciting……we just didn’t fit the old one at all…..but the problem for us was we were kind of caught in the old way, cos of our age and when we grew up……..It’s funny I was watching “Purple Rain” the other day ……you watch “Purple Rain” and the whole thing is about the myth of making it and being signed and like this kind of fantasy bubble and all that……..and that’s very much the kind of bubble we grew up in………I guess kids today are freed of all that kind of nonsense………..but I guess they’re trapped by their own bubbles you know.  It’s funny, last night I was talking to people that I only really know them by e-mailing them, they’re our fans, so a lot of them I kind of have a semi regular correspondence with them…….so they’re kind of like friends, (Laughing) but I have no idea who they are……and I’m just thinking this is a really quite modern phenomenon, that kind of friendship you have with people, it’s a kind of non-friendship…….but it is a tangible relationship……..and I think that’s quite cool. Obviously it hasn’t kind of backfired and none of us have got any stalkers or anything like that……but I think that’s because of the fact that we don’t make ourselves very mysterious, and we’re just accessible, all the time….like I’m on the bus and somebody e-mails me I just answer them, cos I’m not doing anything else…….so yeah, there we go that’s kind of how we work now as opposed to the olden times. (Laughing.)

ANDY: You mentioned watching “Purple Rain,” and your music sounds very sci fi and cinematic at times, are you as much influenced by film as music?

SEL: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah……Absolutely…..I wouldn’t say anything is particularly…….like we’ve got a formula of what it is……….

MATT: (Drummer Matt Brobin has entered the room and briefly joins in.) Soundscaping, some of it…… can imagine the film.

SEL: That does happen often…… it does happen often….. you can kind of imagine the pictures that are going to go with it and that’s great, now we’re in control of doing our own videos we can fulfil those. The bands just a prism that our lives are refracted through…….you know we were talking about Fu Manchu before, they’ve got a very kind of specific menu what the songs are going to be about……I think beyond the fact we have a kind of sound and as our personalities come out in what we’re doing…….my personality being particularly reflected in the words……but that’s the limit of what the parameters are……..we don’t go “Oh no, we can’t write about that……no, we can’t write about that.”

ANDY: So you’ll basically write about any subject?

SEL: Yeah…….that is relevant to me you know.

ANDY: Have you never been approached for a soundtrack? I’d have thought that would be right up your street?

SEL: No…….no…….yeah, would be…..would be (Wistfully)  I’d quite like to do music specifically for something as opposed to them saying, oh can we use this for that……you never know, that’s another reason why you make yourself available and everyone knows your e-mail address.

ANDY : After taking four years between “Insider” and “The Octopus,” I see you already have a new album, “Mystoria” scheduled for release next year, can you tell me a bit about that?

Sel : Yeah….yeah…… we’re not going to talk too much about that at the moment…….but it’s happening.

ANDY : You’ve given away a free download track to anyone who’s attended the recent shows?

SEL: Yeah……yeah.

ANDY : But apart from that you aren’t giving away any other details?

SEL:  No, we don’t need to really…… we don’t need to….. the one thing I’ve learned is don’t to give too much away (Laughing)……. When it’s taken you four years to make a record, bringing out a record the next year you don’t really need to say too much about it because people are just going to be….wow…… yeah, you know… need to tease people a bit.

ANDY: I don’t blame you for that……. you’ve got some European gigs planned for next year though?

SEL: Yeah, we’ve got some shows with Anethema, I don’t know if you know this band…….they’re pretty good, kind of quite progressive…….but they’re like us in that they’re progressive but their song structures aren’t formulaic and they’re quite melodic……they’re another band that have been going for like donkey’s years and worked and worked and worked under the radar…….put out their own stuff you know…….and I think they’re a really good band for us to play with……..they’re quite funny, they’re two different families make up the band……. and they’re all from Merseyside…….basically they remind of an episode of that programme “Bread” from the 80’s (Laughing.)

ANDY : Should be an interesting tour. (Laughing.)  What do you think it is about rock and metal bands that gives them the longevity you don’t tend to see in other genres like “Indie” for example?

SEL: I think that’s quite simple, because the kind people that like music, generally like the fact that it isn’t formulaic and it has surprises in it…….I think people who are like that……they tend to stick with stuff, because it actually gives an input into their character and life as opposed to just being kind of like a disposable……….commodity…….. like so many things in the world these days…….and I think rock fans and metal fans are just very, very loyal, they’re like football fans……I quite often get the similar kind of feeling from them…….especially the Italians……..the Italians are mental……….they are, they really are, you can always tell when there’s an Italian person in the audience because they’re almost writhing in ecstasy, it means that much to them…….especially if it’s the “Birdie Song” (Laughing)

ANDY: I’m sure you’re right, you do find a lot of rock fans stick with their favourite bands.

SEL: Yeah, They really do, they really do……I think there’s a kind of tribalism as well rock fans and especially metal fans…….they can kind of identify each other much more obviously.

ANDY: Speaking as a fan, I think it becomes part of thinking you’re a member of an exclusive club, because metal and rock don’t tend to get much in the way of mainstream success and we probably think know more than other people because we understand this music. Or that might just be me personally (Laughing)

SEL: Well you know, that’s not true is it……it’s all so subjective. And as Homer Simpson said (Adopting Homer’s voice”) “Music is the lowest of the art forms” (Laughing)

ANDY : (Also Laughing) Of course it’s not, but rock fans can become a bit music snobbish that we’re not following the charts or sat watching the X Factor every weekend.

SEL: But you know….. I have this chat about the value of those kind of things quite often with people from magazines and fanzines……and they’re not really comparable at all cos ones entertainment and ones kind of artistic…….so I think the two should not be compared at all……….they’re not even comparable really with things that are artistic worth their merit……….I think’s it’s doing them a disservice (Laughing) ……….whether or not people have less inclination to  find value in things that have artistic worth is another idea…….but to be honest, I’m glad that not everyone likes us…….. I really am, because we’re not for everyone and I know that 99% of the people that come and see us and buy our records……if I met them at a party in the kitchen at 2.00am, I could almost certainly have a really good talk with em and they’d be sound……absolutely.

ANDY: That’s an interesting point and I suppose it is a modern day phenomenon as no one would have ever compared Opportunity Knocks to Led Zeppelin (Laughing.)

SEL: (Also laughing) No you wouldn’t……..that’s a really good analogy…….nobody ever got beat up about that……..wasn’t Cilla Black in Opportunity Knocks…….no, who was it?

ANDY:  Showing my age here…….Hughie Green……..and on that note, I think that’s everything .

SEL: I hope that’s given you enough?

ANDY:  Yep, plenty thank you.

I leave Sel and the band to ready themselves for their West Country audience, thinking Manchester has kept Amplifier a secret from most people, far too long. One of the best bands the city has produced this century, intricate and powerful, eloquent and fantastical, their music worthy a much wider audience. Hopefully with self-released opus “The Octopus,” an impetus has built in 2011, which “Mystoria” next year will only enhance further.  For certain, Mudkiss will follow this continuing sonic saga with extreme interest.

Interview by Andy Barnes
Live Photos by Andy Barnes
Promo shot by Sam Ryley

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