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Black Site - Interview

  by Dominic B. Simpson

published: 21 / 5 / 2015

Black Site - Interview


The Black Site are a new raw blues/avant-garde rock duo which features ex-members of Madam and Sophia. Dominic Simpson talks to them about their forthcoming appearance at our next Pennyblackmusic Bands' Night

In American military terminology, a Black Site is a location outside normal US territory and legal jurisdiction where secret prisons operated by the CIA hold prisoners incommunicado. Normal rules do not apply to these places, due to their anomalous, amorphous-like legal status. The normal rules of rock don't apply to a new duo called the Black Site too, whose music on paper should sound like a straightforward mix of the Yeah Yeahs Yeahs, Royal Trux, early PJ Harvey, and the Kills, yet who can frequently stray into strange, dissonant and obsessive territory, taking in spoken-word passages along the way. There's something about those guitar riffs and brooding poetry that's compelling; the way the chord changes go into strange, unexpected, unconventional places in tracks like 'Sister Gold'. Formed by Emma Falk Dennis, aka Bam Bam, a Californian native adrift in London, and Nick Bergin, aka C.M., a Yorkshire native, the two met at a gig in East London. Both were broke and were hoping that the other would buy each other a drink. C.M., meanwhile, was impressed by Bam Bam's bitching white leather shoes. Thus began a partnership that's led to some serious reverb-driven blues guitar that will drill its way into your skull, replete with Bam Bam's commanding, cigarette-damaged voice, the kind that signals one too many whiskies and gin, the stuff of late-night danger and half-intoned dark secrets. Bam Bam grew up in a surf town in southern California, where, according to her, “I used to write for ‘Crawdaddy! Magazine’, and act in local theatre. I continued doing both of those things when I first moved here until the magazine folded and I couldn't afford RADA [a dance and acting school in central London]. After that, I started working in bars and was pretty soon performing my poetry on their stages – well, beer-stained corners of the room may be a more apt description! I knocked around with a couple of bands, then met C.M. at a rehearsal studio and the rest is very hazy history.” C.M., meanwhile, has had one hell of a pedigree playing with a number of Pennyblackmusic live favourites in the past, including Madam, Altai Rockets, and Sophia. When asked how the Black Site differ from these acts, he replies: “The biggest difference, because it's just the two of us, is that I have more to do in the Black Site. The guitar has a lot of carrying to do...which means far less wine consumption before stage. Bam Bam used to be in a twenty-piece polka gypsy tribe before this. She played tambourine.” In comparison with those previous acts, the Black Site's sound is defiantly raw and lo-fi, something that Bam Bam insists is “completely spontaneous. The first time we played together, we got absolutely hammered in a rehearsal room, turned the guitars up, and I opened my notebook and started signing. By the end of the night, C.M.'s hands were bleeding and we had our first three songs.” The two's musical bonding was cemented further by Bam Bam's reciting of 'Birthday Letters', a collection of Ted Hughes poems she'd found: “That man had so much love for Sylvia Plath (his poetess wife and author of 'The Bell Jar']”, Bam Bam enthuses. “Every one I read had me smiling through tears. The very first one in the book is wonderful. 'Fulbright Scholars' – the bit about the peach at the end. 'By twenty-five I was dumbfounded afresh by my ignorance of the simplest things'. I love that.” All this activity has culminated in a self-titled debut album, produced by a mysterious being only known until now as 'H' from deepest, darkest Switzerland. A confident debut with its abrasive blues-rock, the duo are nonetheless prepared to showcase a quieter edge on 'On Your Way', with simple acoustic guitar motifs over singing. But it's the extraordinary album closer 'Silver Haired Child', an evocative spoken-word piece of poetry, which shows how dynamic and unpredictable the duo are: with drifting guitar in support, Bam Bam narrates a beguiling tale of 'searing, soaring beauty. “'H' is Mr Julian Hottinger,” Bam Bam reveals. “Our first ever supporter and amazing producer. He put the vinyl out on his label 4:25 AM Records. He's currently back in his native Switzerland working on world domination.” As for what the duo plan to do next, a music video is in the works. “It's an ambitious one,” says Bam Bam. “We're doing it with a wonderful film-maker friend of ours called Lucy Allan, and all I can say about it at the moment is, it is requiring quite a bit of rehearsals! We're also planning on recording a new batch of tracks in July.” In the meantime, there's always their performance at the Macbeth in June for Pennyblackmusic. Get there early to see some serious fireworks onstage.

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Black Site - Interview

Black Site - Interview

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