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Magoo - Interview

  by Olga Sladeckova

published: 12 / 3 / 2003

Magoo - Interview


Soon to play a Pennyblackmusic Bands Night , Magoo are back with a new single and are in the process of recording a new album. Olga Sladeckova talks to founder members Owen Turner and Andrew Rayner about the band's 12 year history

It is widely known that once you dip your fingers into making music and fall for its spell that you can never stop doing it. Your taste may change, a band may split up, you may meet new people but you will always feel that unbecalmed need to create. The Norwich based Magoo are a good example of proving the addictive effect that making music has. First formed 12 years ago, Magoo’s sophisticated but also raw and effervescent tunes have inspired many fans. NME, Melody Maker, Steve Lamacq and John Peel have also shown great interest in the band, using phrases and words such as "A national treasure" or "Brilliant". Pennyblackmusic caught up with them to find out more about their long history. Guitarist and vocalists Owen Turner and Andrew Rayner formed the band in 1991. "Yeah, it was only the 2 of us at the beginning." confirms Owen talking to Pennyblackmusic in a loud pub. The pub is situated across the road from the Dublin Castle in London where the band will be headlining in a few hours time. "When we started out we couldn't really play. We just sort of formed the band. The line-up since the beginning changed many times and according to the last count we have had, I think, about 15 members!" "Yeah" agrees Andrew sitting on my right. "Some people," he says, looking across a wooden coffee table we sit at at the band's percussionist and guitarist Steve Gilchrist " like Steve,leave and then come back into the band. It's a beautiful thing!" "Jenny (Jennifer Heagren, the band) has been with us for about 3 years." Owen continues. "That's the longest we have ever had a line-up actually!" He laughs. "Tonight will be the first time we have played as a 6 piece. We could do with 9 actually!" At the moment the band also features, as well as Owen, Andrew, Jennifer and Steve, Stacy Gow (drums), and Adam Blackbourn (keyboards). Gill Sandel (keys and vocals) also sometimes helps out by playing at live shows. The name of the band, Magoo, is taken from the popular cartoon from the early 60’s Mr Magoo. "We did the usual sitting around the table with everyone coming up with possible names" recollects Andres. "It just sounded good we thought." "On our one visit to NY " reflects Owen "which was in 1998, Magoo, the rapper, was number one out there. So we were worried that his fans were going to come along. But they didn't?!" he concludes sourly and laughs. Over the 12 years that the band has been around their music has always been changing and developing. While their early singles tested out all kinds of varieties of sounds, Magoo nowadays take a more complicated and sophisticated approach. combining it with elements of spontaneity. "Our music has changed a lot" agrees Andrew. "We used to do a lot of 4 track recording. We also built up our own studio called the Sickroom where a lot of our music was recorded. We also used to do a lot of cover version by bands like the Inspiral Carpets, REM, Ride or the Stone Roses.” Magoo's first releases were 'Robot Carnival', 'the Mudshark EP', both 7” and the band also contributed a song to a compilation 'Now That's What I Call Noisebox' all released on Noisebox records. Just after that the band attracted attention from John Peel who invited them to record one of his acclaimed sessions. The band also started getting offers to contribute songs to various NME, Uncut and The Big Issue compilations . "We always get told to do things." laughs Owen. "When we get asked we always say 'yes'." The recording studio, Sickroom, plays an important part in Magoo's history. It was built up about six years ago by the band. "Yeah" says Owen. "We bought a large shed to rehearse in because we were getting to loud for the house." "When we first got the studio, it was in a bit of state." Andrew says, telling me about how was the studio built up. "We took it apart and put it all up except for the door which had the sign 'The Sickroom' on it so we kept it." The studio has expanded over the years and is now being used as studio / rehearsal room, not only for Magoo , but also for other bands. The most recent of these have included Kaito, The Broken Family Band and Bearsuit. "It's very booked up at the moment" adds Owen. As Magoo have been through many line-up changes in the past, I wondered if that reflected on the way in which the band writes lyrics and music. "Everyone can come up with ideas" insists Andrew who is the main songwriter. "I'm always open to ideas but mine are the best ones!" he adds joking After Magoo released their latest album 'Realist Week' on the Gloabal Warming label, there was nearly 2 years quiet. "We have only put out a single on Italian label Homesleep and contributed a song to their compilation" says Owen "We have released a single with Star Harbour, part of the shifty Disco empire, and have contributed to a number of compilations including the Homesleep record. The song that Owen mentions is ‘Perfume - V’ which appears on a double CD compilation 'Everything Is Ending Here - A Tribute To Pavement'. The compilation also includes bands such as Spearmint, Saloon or Oranger." On the 17th March Magoo, however, released their latest record, a self-financed double A side single 'Can't Get Off The Ground Today / Expansion Ride'. If you have heard the single you may have noticed that at the very beginning of the first song there is someone talking. "It's from a film with Jack Nicholson called ‘The Witches of Eastwick’." Reveals Andrew. "We slowed it down a bit so he doesn't notice. Does he read your magazine?" He laughs when I reply "Yeah, he sends us e-mails all the time". "Sorry Jack!" adds Owen apologetically. 'Expansion Ride' is lightly electronic but makes a great use of guitar feed back as well. Andrew's voice is disguised so you can hardly understand the lyrics. "Yeah," Admits Andrew. "Jennifer only just found out the other day that there is a 'f' word in it." "Is there?" Says Owen with a great surprise. "We released the single ourselves but you won't be able to buy it in ordinary record shop like our other releases." adds Owen. "You can buy it from the Rough Trade shop, but not HMV or Virgin. They won't stock it." Magoo have also been writing songs for their forthcoming album 'The All Electric Amusement Arcade'. "It's not finished yet." reveals Owen. "It would be good to get it out in September or October. There will be about 12 songs on it. We haven't decided exactly yet." The album will include both the songs from the single, but Magoo admit that there may be another single still before the album comes out. Steve came up with the name for the album. "One of my school teachers was on a TV program that is called 'Kids TV' in the morning during the holidays.” he says, shouting across the noise of the bar from his side of the coffee table, when asked about it. “They were talking about this girl who reopened this pier and turned it to this music place with clubs on it and it was called electric arcade." "Maybe we won't call it that..." Andrew comments and laughs. In their long career, what has the best time for them? " I don't know." ponders Owen when I ask him. "It's been different for all of us. Playing Glastonbury in 1998 for me was great. They have never asked us back, but we had a massive crowd. There were probably about 70 people from Norwich. All down the front. It was brilliant." "I don 't really remember anything, but all of it was great" laughs Andrew. At the moment Magoo are concentrating on playing live and already have a few gigs lined up. "We want to do lots of gigs." enthuses Owen. "To be honest, while we are going to be playing the Dublin Castle tonight, I would rather be playing bigger places. We want to step up a bit again. We would also love to play abroad. So, if anyone fancies us and wants us to come and play we will." That night, after we spoke, Magoo left the audience at the Dublin Castle literally breathless. Their music, full of energy and creativity, proves that, even though it is 12 years since they formed, there is a lot inside them that is still original and imaginative. Magoo will appear at the Penny Black Music Night at the Spitz on the 26th April 2003 along with Jim Reid (former the Jesus & Mary Chain and now in Freeheat), The Capes and Rothko. The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Matthew Williams

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Magoo - Interview

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