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Ten City Nation - Interview

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 20 / 10 / 2009

Ten City Nation - Interview


Formed out of the remnants the original line-up of Peel favourites Miss Black America, Ten City Nation are a grunge-influenced London-based band. Anthony Strutt speaks to its members about their two albums to date, and getting back together after several years spent away from each other

Ten City Nation are a grunge-influenced band who are based in London. All three of its members, Seymour Patrick (guitar, vocals), Mike Smith (bass, vocals) and Neil Baldwin (drums), were in the original line-up of hardcore group and Peel favourites Miss Black America and appeared on that group’s 2002 debut album, ‘God Bless Miss Black America’. When that line-up broke up amidst some acrimony at the end of that year, Smith and Baldwin went on to form My Hi-Fi Sister, while Patrick carried on with Miss Black America. They released a second album, ‘Terminal’, in 2005, before finally breaking up in 2006. Patrick has also since released a solo album, ‘Import/Export’, in 2007 under the moniker of Open Mouth. Patrick, Smith and Baldwin formed Ten City Nation also in 2007. Ten City Nation has now put out two albums, a self-titled free download only album last year, and this year’s ‘At the Still Point’, which has been released as both a CD and a download. Pennyblackmusic spoke to Seymour Patrick and Neil Baldwin at a gig at the Fox and Firkin pub in their native Lewisham in London, PB: Just one Miss Black America question. Why the name Miss Black America? I assume at the time, that the chances of there being a Miss Black America were as strong as there being a black president. SP: My friend lent me a copy of a solo album by Alec Empire when he was still in Atari Teenage Riot. The album was called ‘Miss Black America’, and he fucked up at the end of a tour and the photo on the sleeve of had this picture of him with looking into the camera and with stitches all up his arm. When I looked at that sleeve, I thought that was the coolest name for a band ever and it had to be the name of my band. It seemed to fit and it had political overtones. It served the lyrics that I was writing at the time. PB: Why did Miss Black America fold when it did? SP: The original line up fell apart because I was being drunk and mental all the time. I was really unhealthy. That was back in 2002. I carried the band on after that because I thought we had unfinished business, but I couldn't be bothered with it to be honest. It was pissing me off. NB: We did work really hard at it all. We used to do gigs like no one else that I have seen since, signed or unsigned. We used to do about 250 gigs which is great, especially as we were skint. SP: It just took over my life, and I had lots of personal problems throughout the whole time I was in Miss Black America. In the end I just had to draw a line under it, plus I felt I had said everything I had to say. I was really happy with what we had done, but I was just like “Fuck it!” and called it a day, and that was it. PB: Did you take a break before forming a new band? SS: I wasn't going to be in a band again. Mike and Neil carried on in a band called My Hi Fi Sister, and I was a fan of that band all along. It was at that time that Mike became a front man. I started doing a solo thing, It was alright for a bit, but I wasn't enjoying it. Then one night I came in here to this venue and I saw these two bands, Popular Workshop and William, and they were both absolutely blinding, and I felt that I needed to be doing that. They were making the music that I needed to be making at that time. It was good timing really. Since Mike and Neil had left Miss Black America, they had had many of the same problems that I had had in the latter stages of Miss Black America. Being in a band and actually putting in the work for it is a completely different matter and we had all had a lot of trouble with people wanting to be in a band, and not working, people not pulling their weight, just being fucking lazy. It was like seven years on, and we were looking like the last three men standing, We thought that we might as well be in a band together and in the mean time we had all become good friends again. It has been much more healthy this time. NB: We put down a few ground rules to begin with. SP: And the first was that it wasn't going to be anyone’s ego trip other than mine (Everyone laughs). PB: Why did you choose that name? Is the UK a ten city nation then or is any nation a ten city nation? SP: We should look into it. PB: Is there ten cities you play the most? SP: We have started to make up lots of interesting lies about what it actually means, but I regret to inform you that it means nothing. We said it to a few people to test it out, and they said it sounds like a band name that has been around for years, and that was good. It was like, “That is the one.” I will have to make up more stories about it. PB: In Miss Black America you,Seymour, did most of the vocals. This time it is mostly Mike. Why is that? SP: Mike has done more on the new album, but on the first it was 50/50. This time Mike had a lot to say for himself. NB: Mike just grew vocally in My Hi-Fi Sister. He had to sing really as no one else was going to. When Seymour joined, he wanted a new project where he wasn't the singer. He just wanted to play guitar. SP: I didn’t want to be the focus. It is not really healthy being the focal point NB: We also had all the Miss Black America baggage with us. You can have a different drummer and bass player but if you have the same vocalist you are going to sound the same. It is the singer that everyone focuses on. SP: The reason Mike does most of the vocals on the new album is because his vocals suit those songs really well. We went into this ego free. Whatever works is all that matters, whatever suits the song. Also because I did the two Miss Black America albums and the first Open Mouth album and the first Ten City Nation album, I felt a bit spent to be honest. NB. It is nice to have a different role. SP: Baring your soul all the time gets a bit knackering. It gets a bit tiring and weird. PB: The first album came out as a free download, but also had a few physical copies. SP: We made them by hand. Mike made them. He wood carved them. He made a stamp and stamped the CDs. The new album is a free download as well. PB: And you give out free promo CDs as well. Do you make money from touring then? NB: We don't make any money at all. PB: Do you cover your travelling costs? SP: It is not pay to play (Laughs), but the fact is at some point with any band you lose money. PB: So you play more for the love of playing live? SP: Definitely. If not we wouldn't fucking bother (Laughs). NB: We have to play. You sit in a pub in Manchester with no one there and you have dragged yourself there. It’s like, “Why am I doing this?” and so then you quit the band and then you miss it and you become unbearable to live with. It sounds cheesy, but it is something that has stayed with us. We have to do it. We would be miserable without it, and I would rather be happy although cold in a van. PB: And doing what you love. SP: We have got it in a good balance. It is six months gigging and six months writing and recording. NB: it is a good split because I like both. SP: It festers inside of you if you don't record. NB: It is almost like a curse. We are stuck with it. We started at such an early age. We are used to it. PB: You can't give it up. NB: If I came into it now, at my age, I could take it or leave it. We have known each other though since we were 15. We were touring in a band when we were 17. If there is no music, you get bored easily. SP: There was times in the past when I wanted to chuck it all in because things in Miss Black America things had got so bad, but hat's because the priorities were all wrong. In Miss Black America the whole point was to be successful. Any young band worth their salt would say they want to be the biggest band in the world. Then you are carrying the dream through of success and you end up banging your head on a brick wall. You don't record because you are waiting for that big deal, or you are waiting for the right time to put it out. NB: I have seen too many bands destroyed by that. Give it another month and let’s not record now, or let's record it now and release it next year, Bands fall by the way side. No one can tell us, however, what to do. I have known people in bands. They have recorded a few songs and then they have been dropped. That's not a creative thing to do as they have been so focused on twelve songs. If we had to focus on twelve songs we would go insane. That is freedom isn't it? SP: That was the other wrong with Miss Black America. We weren't writing and it killed the band. We just couldn't write. It festered inside Mike because Mike is always coming up with ideas. He can't stop writing.You have to be careful. We are not in it to be megastars anymore, although we want to play bigger gigs and, yeah, we would love to do more festivals. PB: I assume that you all have day jobs. You tour a lot, so how do you manage to have day jobs as well? SP: We mostly do weekends. That's the other thing we decided recently. We only do really good week day gigs or just weekends. NB: We should have worked it out sooner. People go out more on Fridays or Saturdays for a drink. That is when people want to party. You can turn up even if you are a new band, and set up in a pub, and it will be full, even if you are there or not, so it was crazy. SP: That had been working out well. Much of the interest we attracted before was because John Peel noticed us. If we had been a lot less green, we would of got a kick ass manager and they would have got us a better record deal, but it still would have been unworkable anyway because I was a nightmare. PB: Why were you a nightmare? Was it drink or drugs? SP: I was just totally mental. NB: Try sitting in a van with your best friend or your wife solidly. You will hate each other by the end of it. You can blame drink or drugs if you want to, but it is less cool than that. It is just people wind each other up. It is like someone blinks and it is like, “I hate the way he blinks” or “He is eating really loud.” It's a bit like that film, ‘Almost Famous’. PB: What are your influences? To me you sound like Nirvana. Would you say you play the music that influenced you the first time around? SP: If anyone says that they were not influenced by Nirvana first time around, then they are lying. They were inescapable and still are. Sam Marsh, who records us, toured with Nirvana. Sam was the powerhouse behind Jacob's Mouse, Kurt loved them as did Peel, but they made uncommercial records. He adds magic to us now. Your first exposure to music does stay with you. The weird thing though is that with Miss Black America it wasn't necessarily the music we would listen to that we were making, while this time around it is. PB: What are your memories of John Peel? You did a Peel session. Was that from Peel Arches? SP: No, we didn't go there. He lived near us. The weird thing was he brought all his family to see us and Andy from Therapy? was there too. And it was like, “What the fuck are you doing here?” and Andy was like, “My wife went to school down the road.” PB: Is that how you ended up touring with Therapy? SP: In the early days I sent Andy a fan letter with a copy of our demo, and he sent a fan letter back, saying it was the best set of songs he had heard in years. PB: You are going to be recording tonight for a DVD. Is that going to appear with the next album? SP: I want it to be with the next album. If we don't suck and it comes out ok, then we will do a CD/DVD thing. It will hopefully make people buy it. PB: This is your last gig of the year. What are your future plans? SP: Write. Mike has penned most of it. NB: We need to flesh it out a bit, but we love doing that. We will go into the rehearsal room and record in February or March time. PB: Thank you.

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Ten City Nation - Interview

Ten City Nation - Interview

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Dublin Castle, London, 26/5/2009
Ten City Nation - Dublin Castle, London, 26/5/2009
Anthony Strutt at the Dublin Castle in London enjoys a shorp, but fast set of grunge punk from Ten City Nation, the new band of several ex-members of Peel favourites Miss Black America

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