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Workhouse - Interview with Mark Baker

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 10 / 4 / 2002

Workhouse - Interview with Mark Baker


One of the most under-rated of all British post rock bands, the Workhouse have now released 4 singles on 3 different labels. With their debut album, a retrospective, about to come out in America, guitarist Mark Baker talks about the band's 10 year history

The Workhouse, whose members are based both in Oxford and London, first formed in the early nineties. Largely instrumental in tone, it has drawn comparisions with the Cocteau Twins, Ride and Joy Division, and has played support dates to Rothko, Magoo, Snow Patrol, Linoleum and Seafood. After various line-up changes, the Workhouse released its first single, 'Fred/Mr Sheen' on Livid Meerkat, an offshoot of the Fierce Panda label in September of 1999. It followed this a year later with a three track EP 'Stoichov'on Bearos Records in September 2000, and then a month later released another single 'Peacon' as the debut release of the limited edition Manchester-based label, Emma's House. The group's latest single 'Paper Plane' came out, again on Emma's House, in August of 2001. 'Peacon' will also appear on a Rocket Girl label compilation, which is due out in May. An album, which collates together all the band's singles to date, will also come out in America soon. With the Workhouse's profile steadily rising. Pennyblackmusic spoke to lead guitarist Mark Baker about the group's long history, and also the forthcoming compilation and album releases. PB : To date you have only released material on vinyl. Any reason for this ? MB : Apart from the track 'Peacon' on the Rocket Girl compilation, yes, all our releases have been on vinyl. No label has proposed a CD release for us and, because the offers of releases for most bands are few and far between, we are glad of any format to get our music out there. PB : Have you always played in the same line-up ? MB : We have a new bass player, Chris, who joined last Autumn. He brings more creativity to the band and also has a decent quiff. We have the big fella (Andy Dakeyne) and myself on guitar duties and Peter Lazell on drums. PB : A lot of your material is instrumental. Do you think this gives the music more room to breathe ? MB : Yes, of course ! We are into sounds as much as songs and some of our melodies are much better on the guitar than sung. Although we are not adverse to singing or to getting someone in to sing, the thought of auditioning lots of megalomaniac front persons scares us. Songs based around vocals tend to be formulaic, so having no voice allows the verse/chorus yelling thing to be broken. PB : Your music reminds me of bands like Slowdive, the Kitchens of Distinction and the Chameleons. Any influences ? MB : Yeah, the Chameleons were a common liking in the early days and were a prerequisite of band member adverts. It was a "if you don't like the Chameleons, you're not in" sort of thing. The Kitchens were brill too. The sounds and their great songs almost make them the perfect band. Live, they were awesome. We like Slowdive too, but not as much as the other two. We like all sorts of stuff, but bands like Ride, Bob Mould, Joy Division and My Bloody Valentine inspired us to get off our arses and to do something about it. PB : How did the band get together ? MB : The good old NME classified pages, but of late we have just asked friends to help out. I put an add in the paper in 1992 for a whole band really and that prompted Peter to get involved. We spent years doing bedroom stuff before the big fella joined us through the NME. PB : Your usual sets are only four songs long. Any plans to extend this ? MB : Yeah, I think that we usually play five or six songs these days. It's all about the impact you achieve by playing a short varied set. There's nothing worse than seeing an instrumental band going on and on. It gets a bit much and self congratulatory. As we get older, our memory goes, so we can only remember how five or six songs are played. PB : Why did you call the group the Workhouse ? MB : When we first formed a lot of music was doom laden and the name fitted perfectly. We were playing then songs like 'Work is Death', which we no longer do. The name has stuck since then, although we hope the music is more uplifting thse days. People don't expect s to play the kind of music we do based on the name, so it is good to undercut people's expectations. Anyway, it's good to remind people that the workhouse was the most depraved exploitation of working people ever and we must never get back to that. PB : A US compilation CD is due out soon. When will Britain see a full new album ? MB : When we have some cash available to do it. It is a bit of an uphill struggle sometimes as most labels do not say record this and we will release it. It's usually down to the band to record up front and to hope that someone will release it. PB : What are your future plans ? We release another single in the spring. This is a split with Fotomoto on Johnathon Whiskey records and is called 'Nancy'. We have the singles compilation coming out in the States also this spring. We are also looking to relase something in the UK as well along the same lines with the singles on it, and also a few remixes. It looks like we are going to be doing it on the 'Vacuous Pop' label. After that,we'll gig and then record some new stuff and then who knows. PB : Thank you 'Nancy' is currently available, before its official release, on a compilation CD free with the second issue of the fanzine 'Subculture', along with a new track by the reformed Wonky Alice, which features Mark Burgess's former sidekick Yves Altana.

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Workhouse - Interview with Mark Baker

Workhouse - Interview with Mark Baker

Workhouse - Interview with Mark Baker

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The Sky Still Looks the Same (2014)
Beautifully packaged and presented ten inch vinyl EP and first release in three years from Oxford/London-based band the Workhouse, who combine indie rock and shoegazing components
The Coldroom Sessions (2012)
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The End Of The Pier (2003)

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