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Bikini Atoll - Interview

  by Olga Sladeckova

published: 12 / 6 / 2003

Bikini Atoll - Interview


One of the many acts on the London scene, Bikini Atoll have gone through the same problems as every other band finding a record deal. Olga Sladeckova talks to a band in the making, and at a very pivotal moment in their career

3rd July, 2003 This interview was written, as are many others, to promote one of many bands that play very high quality music. but which are perhaps liable to get lost amongst the sea of other groups that are also around . One of the main points of the article is to point out the situation in which hundreds of bands find themselves, racing against each other for the same record deals, with never enough recording contracts to go around to cover all the promising bands. By the time this interview was finished and written up the situation had been changed for Bikini Atoll,the band in question. I won't tell how it changed as that you can find out for yourself by reading the interview. It captures the band at a pivotal moment in their career. 20th June, 2003 It always amazes me how many bands are out there playing and competing for music fans' hearts. Think how many music venues there are all around the world all together promoting thousands of different bands every week. It's actually quite depressing if you consider that in your lifetime you will only hear a very small amount of them. There is no guarantee as well that you will ever come across those that you might rate the very best of all. All bands are certainly very aware of that and their main aim is, therefore. to find a good record label so that their music can spread and reach anyone who may like it. Still, there is never going to be enough record labels to satisfy even half those bands. In that case it's up to us to 'discover' those bands for ourselves. One of bands that I have recently 'discovered' for myself are the London based Bikini Atoll. I only found out about them through a friend and following his reference that "they are great" I set off to one of their gigs. By the end of the set I knew that he was absolutely right. The band, consisting of Joe Gideon (guitar, vocals), Viva (keyboard, guitar, backing vocals), Bastian Juel (guitar, backing vocals) and Che (drums), have just self-released their debut album 'Maratoria' and will be following that with a single 'Desolation Highway' in August. In the last 4 years, since the band formed, they have managed to attract many London fans. Their music has been described as a mix of Nick Cave Cave, Mogwai and Joy Division. The band's music is certainly full of striking tunes. They have a dark sound, but also a soft and more gentle side. All in all, those are the reasons that on the evening of the 12th June I find myself walking to the Bedford, a pub in Balham in London, not only see the band headline at the venue, but also to interview them and find out more about this so far London kept secret. 12th June, 2003 PB: How did you meet each other? Viva: Well, Gideon and I are brother and sister. Gideon: Yeah, and then I met Che at the premises where we rehearse. He could hear us play through the door and he really liked it. When we were looking for a drummer Che leapt at the chance. It was only later that we found out that he thought we were another band. I met Bastian through the singing twins; Fly and Kite. Right now they're living in L.A. playing in a band called 'She Said Yeah'. Both Bastian and Che have brought a tremendous sense of eating to the band. PB: How did you come to the name 'Bikini Atoll'? Gideon: You know Bikini Atoll is an island in the North Pacific that had an atom-bomb dropped on it, "for the good of Mankind" in 1946, by the U.S. It is also where the word bikini comes from. I thought it was a really good paradox like the destruction and creation. It's from a comparison between seeing a woman in a two-piece swimming costume and seeing those bombs going off! It's also where Godzilla comes from apparently and that’s the sort of sound we are after – that of a giant, iguana monster. (All laugh) PB: How does it work in the band with regard to writing new music and lyrics? Gideon: Well, I sort of write the songs and then we all get together and work on the rest. My mother has got a place out of the town. It's a really good place and the sound is very good there as well. We go there and just sort of jam and create songs out of that and then I go and write lyrics for them. Recently the songs have been taking on a different shape. I used to do more abstract stuff lyrically. The song ‘Then Amplify’ on the new album 'Maratoria' it’s just like a kind of cut-and-paste thing where I had a whole bunch of lyrics and was just sort of messing about and made them fit and then the theme came from that. Recently I have been focusing more on a story you can kind of understand better. But that’s not on this record. The stuff on the new record is more abstract. PB: Is it true that 'Marathoria' was recorded in Germany? Viva: Oh, no. It was mastered in Germany and we recorded it in London in various studios around London. Che: We recorded drums and bass in the Konk studio which is owned by Ray Davies who used to be in Kinks. He has got a really lovely studio with grand piano and a big Hammond organ and some really good stuff. Most of the album was recorded and mixed in Flood's studio in Kensal Rise in London by Rob Kirwan. PB: How did you come up with the title 'Maratoria' for the album? Gideon: To me 'maratoria' means deciding not to make a decision. I’m not sure if that relates to our circumstances but I guess a little bit of that may be regarding to the music industry. To how record labels always say "this sounds really great great but we are not going to make a decision on it just yet.” And a year rolls by and you actually realize you are going to have to release the record yourself (all laugh) as we have done and so you put all your money into it, hoping that then maybe they might get it and pick up on it.(Laughs). PB: I think your music is really good and definitely worth some sort of record deal. It must be very expensive for you to finance it all that . Gideon: Yeah, we have recorded the single and album and discovered how expensive it is to do that. It would be really good for all the art work and all that to get some kind of record label to help us out. I guess we can do it ourselves but it would be nice to have more promotion and press. Che: And also when we put something out to have someone to sort out a tour to promote the record that way because it’s very expensive to tour as well. Viva: Basically we have put all the money into the 2 releases but we have got distribution from 3MV who really like our music so that's good anyway. PB: I really like the song 'Desolation Highway', which you will also be releasing as a single (out in August). Could you tell me a little bit more about it? Gideon: The key lyrics to 'Desolation Highway' are: "A valediction from a terminal heart, Your misfortune was my work of art." It's a song about a man on his deathbed heading straight for Hell. Che: We managed to get the song on the end of this film that came out called ‘My Little Eye’ and we got really good response from that. We have got a lot e-mails from people who have been trying to track down the song and so that kind of promoted the idea of putting it out as a single. PB: How did that come about? Gideon: The producer of the record was doing the sound track with Alan Moulder for the film and they submitted a few songs for that and they liked ours and put it in, which is really nice.It’s great It’s kind of a horror film PB: Have you seen it? Gideon: Yeah, it’s not the greatest film perhaps... Laughs) Viva: It's a low budget horror film but it’s good for what it is. Gideon: I think Time Out reviewed it as “Even scarier than Big Brother’ (All laugh.) What a great review! Che: It’sthe best kind of promotion really. PB: You have played a lot of gigs in London but would you be interested in playing around the UK as well? Che: Yeah we are definitely interested in doing that. We don’t know that many people outside of London though and then if we go it’s important to make sure it’s worth a while. There is no point in going over to play in Liverpool when there will be only 20 people. A lot of that depends on promoters at venues. Bastian: Yeah a lot of promoters will just book you but then they expect the bands to do all promotion which is difficult if we don't live in the same town. Gideon: We need a hit! (laughs) PB: What are your plans for the near future? Gideon: My plans in the near future are to pray for great reviews for our record. Then we want to do a tour. Maybe in Ireland. We are also getting our next record together. PB: Thank you very much for talking and good luck. Bikini Atoll: Thank you! 1st July, 2003 Hi Olga, Great things have been going on. We suddenly find ourselves with a record deal! The label is called Bella Union. They're going to be releasing our record in September/October. All the best, Gideon Bikini Atoll will appear at the 3rd Penny Black Music Night at the Spitz on the 2nd August. It will also feature Lupine Howl, The Lazarus Effect and Ashby.

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Bikini Atoll - Interview

Bikini Atoll - Interview

Bikini Atoll - Interview

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London-based band Bikini Atoll have been gaining increasing acclaim during the last year. Back for a third interview with us, front man Joe Gideon talks to Olga Sladeckova recording their second album 'Liar's Exit' in Chicago with Steve Albini
Interview (2004)

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Balham Bedford, London, 12/6/2003
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