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Joe Gideon and the Shark - Interview

  by Sarah Rowland

published: 19 / 2 / 2009

Joe Gideon and the Shark - Interview


Sarah Johnson speaks to Joe Gideon from London-based duo and former Pennyblackmusic Bands Night band Joe Gideon and the Shark about his group's long awaited debut album, 'Harum Scarum'

There’s a strange kind of energy released whenever Joe Gideon and the Shark take the stage. Their shows are almost theatrical despite them having no props and little planning. “It just happens that way. We don’t sit down and say I’ll stand like this, you flick your head like that”, says Joe Gideon one Thursday evening. The first time you see the band play live it’s Viva (aka the Shark and Gideon’s younger sister) who manages to render the crowd speechless. As she crashes out pounding rhythms on her drum kit she somehow manages to pick up a guitar, play that, and a keyboard - set up directly by the drum kit, tap out a few tunes on a glockenspiel and sing. Simultaneously. It needs to be seen to be believed (check out the video for 'DOL'). Once your brain has managed to get around this seemingly impossible scenario, the music hits you. Gideon’s voice has literary quality about it. He weaves stories conveying a gentle sense of humour that almost goes against the grain of the dark, pounding music. The band is about to embark on its first headlining UK tour. The tour kicks off in Brighton on 18 March and will then sweep up the country to Edinburgh. “I’m really looking forward to the tour,” says Gideon. “And Edinburgh will be really great. The support band are very good.” They are being supported by Paul Vickers and the Leg at Cabaret Voltaire. A lot is happening for the band in March. Their debut album, 'Harum Scarum', whcih follows on from two limited edition EPs, 'Beast Foot' and 'Two Ears Good, Four Ears Better' sold exclusively through the Rough Trade shop, is released through Bronzerat Records. “It took a year to make the album, but we were playing live and writing songs constantly before that,” says Gideon. “I guess it does give you a chance to see which songs go down the best with the crowd and you end up playing your strongest songs the most. It helped develop the songs and the way we play them.” The album manages to capture a lot of the energy the band has live, which is an achievement few bands manage to pull off. ‘Hide and Seek’ is an example of Gideon’s narrative song writing style. He recalls being a child and going along to the birthday party of a boy no-one liked much. The story ends as the boy is trapped in a cupboard during a game of hide and seek. Gideon seems to take a lot of inspiration from his childhood and has a unique way of approaching lyrics. “We were surrounded by music growing up,” says Gideon. “Our dad managed bands so there were always musicians wandering around and he’d take us to a lot of gigs.” The Gideon siblings' dad managed Toyah Wilcox in the 80s. Gideon remembers it as being “pretty mad having her wandering around with her crazy get up and orange hair.” The Talking Heads were also a feature in Gideon’s childhood. “My dad was a big fan of them so it was always playing in the house. I also listened to the Velvet Underground a lot once I was a teenager, as most teenagers seem to do,” he says. Both Gideon and sister Viva started playing piano around the age of six. While Viva went on to become an accomplished player, Gideon lost interest. “I kind of accidentally learnt myself guitar when I was a teenager,” he says. “Basically I was in between schools and very bored, so what’s a boy to do with all those hours other than smoke a bit of weed and pick up a guitar?" “To keep myself entertained I started strumming out tunes on a guitar. I was never any good at playing other people's songs. That’s how some people learn but I couldn’t do that so I just made up my own tunes as I went along.” It’s hard to believe, but Gideon’s first song writing influence was Brit pop. “I was writing clap your hands happy pop songs,” he remembers. “That’s what was popular at the time and I wanted to be in a band that played popular songs I guess. I’ve burned all the tapes now. They were pretty terrible.” It is refreshing to hear that Gideon is unapologetic about finding his sound and song writing style and is able to admit it took a bit of time. He also has no qualms about his ambitions. He wants to reach a lot of people with his music and wants to do that by playing the music he likes to write. “I think you get to the point when you’re creating music when you just think why am I writing this and who am I writing it for? If you want to play music and write songs seriously then you just end up playing and writing things you genuinely like and something that’s for yourself. You just can’t write something you’re not that into for very long. It just doesn’t work.” Gideon started writing songs and music with Viva once they were both in their twenties. Viva had been heavily into dancing and gymnastics but kept injuring her knee. Gideon says: “It got to the point where she just couldn’t pursue that any more. At that time I was feeling like I really wanted to be in a band. Viva is a really good piano player so I just asked her if she felt like playing some music.” The first band they created together was called Basement. That developed into Bikini Atoll and it was under the Bikini Atoll name they released two albums, 'Moratoria' (2004) and 'Liar's Exit' (2005) on Bella Union, the second recorded by producer Steve Albini. Although it attracted attention from the music press, Bikini Atoll ran its course. The pair then started playing as Joe Gideon and the Shark. “What’s my ultimate musical ambition ?” muses Gideon. “Well of course I want to sell records by the bucket load and play all the huge venues. That’s what all musicians want I think." “It would be great to feel yourself having an impact or even influencing other people though.” The band has already reached some pretty impressive heights supporting Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds last year, and Michael Gira and Seasick Steve in January. They also played a live set on BBC 6music in January on Marc Riley’s show. “We could have never even imagined supporting the bands we have. Playing with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds was incredible. They are a huge influence on what I’m writing now so it was incredible to share a stage with them. Seasick Steve is creating some genuinely amazing music. It was great to support him as well.” Supporting Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds came about because one of the band watched Joe Gideon and The Shark live. “He just came up to us at the end and said he really liked it. He said they were still looking to fill some support slots and would we be interested. We said yes, and so he said he’d go back and talk to the rest of the band." “He told us it is always a unanimous decision so we weren’t holding out much hope that they’d all like our EP. But about a month later we got a quiet email inviting us to support them. It was brilliant."

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Joe Gideon and the Shark - Interview

Joe Gideon and the Shark - Interview

Joe Gideon and the Shark - Interview

Joe Gideon and the Shark - Interview

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Interview (2013)
Joe Gideon and the Shark - Interview
Ben Howarth chats to Joe Gideon, the front man with London-based alternative rock duo Joe Gideon and the Shark, about his band's long-awaited second album, 'Freakish', and their increased confident edge
Interview (2007)

live reviews

Borderline, London, 26/3/2009
At a homecoming gig at the Borderline in London at the end of a British tour to promote their debut album 'Harum Scarum', Sarah Johnson watches sibling duo Joe Gideon and the Shark completely amaze their audience with their unique brand of alternative rock


Harum Scarum (2009)
Consistently inventive and atmospheric debut album from London-based duo Joe Gideon and the Shark, which captures all the energy and power of their live shows

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