DEN: How did you get involved with Band of Holy Joy? How long is that? And where's the name from?
JOHNY: I was knocking about with an extremely eccentric neuro-chemist called George and the film maker Brett Turnbull in the New X Gate area of
DEN: What else have you been involved in musically before?
JOHNY: North Shields Punk band that lasted the duration of 1977 they were called Speed.
INGA: My interest, as well as confidence in doing music was cut short around the age of 7 when I was thrown out of music school for gloriously roaring some banal Latvian kids' song out of tune. That and the rather humiliating experience of music teaching under the soviet education system pushed me steadily towards painting and drawing. I remember winning some art competition in
My interest in doing music was reignited with Radio Joy, our online station. We started off with a computer, broadband and destiny media player, and everything sounded as if it was coming from the pits of a well. In those days I would put together some sounds in GarageBand but it took ages and each show had to be prerecorded whereas now with Ableton (courtesy of Jonny Mugwump) everything is much easier.
ANDY: I started to play the guitar when I was 12 - I had one of those epiphanous moments - "I need to play guitar" - pestered my parents & got a Spanish guitar for Christmas. A door opened. Never stopped. Never lost the interest, the desire or the excitement of playing.
DEN: The line-up of the group & the song-structures are fairly traditional ... can you tell us more about how you adapt your soundscapes to the group's songs?
INGA: This is something we haven’t done yet apart from 'This Heart of Man' on Resonance 104.4FM and 'Shake The Dust Of Your Feet' on Radio Joy. On both occasions my soundscapes provided additional textures, which were not too overbearing and added another dimension to the songs weaving around Chris’ beautiful violin. This is very much what I try to achieve with my visuals. They are a personal, emotional and intuitive response to BOHJ lyrics and sounds blending imagination with reality and creating another world, which can be dreamlike and surreal at times but is also rooted in and stems from everyday experience.
DEN: There were some great visuals & projections at Shunt last year (culminating in great 60s style psychedelic light-show) - are these part of the live show too?
INGA: Yes, visuals are part of the live show now. It all began rather randomly from helping out with the flyer and poster design, occasionally a bit of website until sometime in 2007 when BOHJ were about to play a North inspired acoustic set at the Papageno I offered to supply some visuals, mainly my black and white photos from the Moors. Doug Rouxel helped on the night and provided some invaluable projection tips, as did Jaime Rory-Lucie later on who simply is all things video. Next I knew we were putting on a song play at the Shunt Theatre with visuals from Andrew Kotting, Danny Pockets and myself. I think you are referring to the ‘light show’ of yet another song play by Johny – 'Troubled Sleep'. It is roughly based on the story of Sid and Nancy, although it could be anyone living out that glitzy dizzying lifestyle of a moth spinning around a great big candlelight. One of my favorite writers Akutagawa has this beautiful quote: ‘The moth were born from the deep darkness in a sudden brilliant flash, but no sooner did they touch the flame than they fluttered to their death as if they had never existed’. I shot a lot of Troubled Sleep footage in
DEN: Any desire to take what you do into something like film-making?
INGA: I would like to see myself more as an artist who is working with photography and video, and occasionally sound.
DEN: Other creative activities?
JOHNY: Radio Joy man… love pushing out the sound and the noise and the word every Sunday night.
ANDY: The Ukulele Orchestra ... this takes me back to my creative roots ... 70's
The Ukulele Orchestra of
Dave [Ball] was an art school mate at
DEN: You've done some solo recording & gigs, I think?
ANDY: I do write my own material & play solo gigs, & this is where the link to Johny Brown & the Band of Holy Joy forms. I had been aware of Johny for several years - we had at one time a common stamping ground in South East London. I recorded two solo albums between '97 & 2000, "How Swings the Moon for You...?" & "IODINE TIME", pretty dark personal stuff. A mutual contact suggested I send Johny copies for his "Mining for Gold" show on resonancefm. Johny invite3d me in to do a show - we stayed in contact & did some subsequent 'Mining for Gold' shows. Some time later, Johny - seemingly out of the blue - offered me a gig as 'guest' guitarist with Holy Joy. That was 2007. I stayed on board, becoming a full-time member of the band. Johny & I have been writing new Holy Joy material together since that time.
DEN: Favourite Holy Joy moments?
JOHNY: I love Band of Holy Joy as it is now. I love the guitar and the violin mixed with Inga’s visuals. We’ve quietly worked at forging a new sound and it’s just starting to happen. Some of the shows we did at Shunt really dug deep. We are working on a new recording and it has a real Northern vision about it. Far north. It’s a million miles away from the sound we started with years ago and I love it. It just means something different.
Age is a fucker isn’t it… but it’s a great thing too.
We did a gig for a mate called Connas recently, a lad I grew up with. A top DJ - he was one of the Prodigy’s tour DJ’s and was an old Rezzerection DJ. he lived life to the full. He’d died of a heart attack and the gig was a benefit come memorial for the family. The feeling that night was just immense. It’s weird when the songs become something else to what they were written about. You start out as quite reckless and carefree, young and feeling immortal, you don’t really give a fuck do you? A lot of it is about how much damage you can do to yourself and those around you without caring. Blasé. Then all of a sudden you’re finding yourself on a hospital bed and mates around you are dropping down. You can’t help but look at yourself and your words and the music you make in a different light. Aye, the gig that night meant something else.
The North man, I just love the place. Played
Six pints of Strongbow with Bill (Lewington - Holy Joy drummer) and all them kinds of stories come out.
DEN: Personal tastes? - tell us a few favourite albums and/or books/films
JOHNY: 'The Monocled Mutineer', Paul McGann as Percy Toplis, bought that on DVD in Spitalfields Record Collectors Market two Fridays ago: Class!
Subway Sect are just the best…That '
James S Finn… A
I don’t like any of that neu-folk stuff that’s out, honestly, it’s just more William Morris wallpaper still. You want a bit heart, a bit spit still, a touch of vision like and some tangible memory and experience to get your head around. That’s what I want anyway. Joanna Winsome... A new guitarist called Russell Joslin is great, mind
Reading Jean Genet’s "Thief’s Journal" right now. Stole about five great lines out of it already. A magazine coming out of
I tell you when you get to this age, books, records, films, you tube, all the cultural ephemera, sitting in café’s in Riga and places doing fuck all, women, bottles of wine… time wasting, day dreaming, if you’re not married off or dead already it just gets better and better… and more precious for sure. I’m just glad I’ve still got the Joy.
INGA: Apart from the BOHJ music I’m also inspired by the Restoration Workshop of Unprecedented Feelings – they were a collective of Latvian artists, labelled as pioneers of avant-garde and the Yellow Postmen (Dzeltenie Pastnieki). I also like all that gypsy punk stuff like The No Smoking Orchestra, Gogol Bordello and The Penny Black Remedy. In terms of films, it is the obvious choices such as Kusturica, Von Trier (loved The Idiots), Kurosawa, Bergman (both films and books), Cassavetes, Bertolucci, Tarr, Kaurismaki,… And of course photographers like Gregory Crewdson, Scott Irvine, Miroslaw Tichy, Joel-Peter Witkin, and Hans Bellmer to name a few. One of my all times favourite books is Bulgakov’s ‘The Master and Margarita’.
So there we are ... truly there are no boundaries or limitations to where the Band of Holy Joy go from here. The new album 'Paramour' is available in the shops now, or from www.bandofholyjoy.co.uk
"Paramour" album available on itunes now for £6-32
Interview by Den
Colour photos by Karen Robinson
b/w photo by Inga Tillere