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Altai Rockets - Interview

  by Dominic B. Simpson

published: 6 / 9 / 2010

Altai Rockets - Interview


Altai Rockets is the new band of Madam and Sophia bassist, Nick Bergin. Dominic Simpson speaks to him about his band's brooding indie guitar sound and their forthcoming appearance at the Pennyblackmusic Bands' Night at the Half Moon in Herne Hill, South London, which will be only their second gig

Deep in the forests and steppes of Russia, in a province called the Altai Republic, lies the world’s biggest space junkyard – a legacy of its geographical position along the flight paths of both the remote Baikour Cosmodrome space launch centre in nearby Kazakhstan, and Plesetsk in northern Russia. Like something out of the Tarkovsky film 'Stalker', the area has become foreboding and mysterious, where locals have suffered from related respiratory problems and rocket emissions have led to increases in all kinds of diseases. It’s also where London four-piece Altai Rockets have talen their name from since storming out of nowhere to produce a captivating set of bewitching indie-rock. Like Interpol and the National at their bleakest best, Altai Rockets combine introspection and intensity perfectly, with a compelling set of songs that should see them catapulted soon beyond their currently unsigned status. Singer/guitarist Nick Bergin, who also moonlights as the bassist in Pennyblackmusic favourites Madam, commands a brooding set of songs, with Swervedriver’s Adam Franklin occasionally making a guest appearance on guitar. With an appearance at October’s Pennyblackmusic night at the Half Moon Herne Hill confirmed, we thought we’d find out what makes the band tick. PB: I Hope I’m not delving too deep here, but is there any other inference in the band name apart from the aforementioned? Or did you just like the moniker? NB: The idea originated from what I think was the first song we wrote for the band, which had the lyric “you're better a fallen rocket than never a burst of light”. I really liked the name 'Fallen Rockets' to begin with but then being partially aware of the space junk falling on Altai Republic, I thought it tied it together perfectly for a band name; also, like you say it paints a stark ‘Stalker'-esque picture and on a more universal level has a sense of abandonment. PB: How does your ‘job’ in Altai Rockets differ from that in Madam apart from the obvious, i.e. guitar/vocals rather than bass? NB: Well, for a start I can't drink as much wine on stage with Altai Rockets...for me the role is the same: it's all about the end result and what you achieve as a group sonically. Whether I'm writing the material or playing somebody else’s songs it's about taking yourself and the audience to another place. PB: When did the band start and what were the origins behind you getting together? NB: I had a few ideas that, even when played on acoustic guitar, I thought had a real thread to the sound. I had been trying to form a band for quite some time, but had real trouble getting the right people involved as my last band wasn't without tribulation when it came to the line up - the usual stuff, you know. It wasn't until 2007 - when we were touring Europe with Sophia - that sparked the confidence, as the people I was playing with were truly inspiring as musicians and as people. Therefore after many tequilas, me and a couple of the guys who now currently play in Altai Rockets talked about the prospect of doing some rehearsals. So with no hesitation, and with my usual sense of urgency, two years later we went in the studio and did some recording. PB: Speaking of Sophia (another Pennyblackmusic favourite), on your MySpace blog you mention that you formed the guitar section of that collective, as well as another band called Bolts of Melody. Can you tell us something about this? NB: I was lucky enough to be asked by Robin Proper-Sheppard [Sophia mainman], who had just produced an album for my previous band Stingrayfirecracker to play guitar for a string of European festivals back in 2004. Since then I've played various shows (not the legendary Barbican co-headlining show with The Dirty 3, unfortunately [which this writer had the privilege to witness-DS) and toured the album 'Technology Won’t Save Us'. This line-up featured Swervedriver frontman and long term Sophia guitarist Adam Franklin, who also fronts his own psychedelic-rock band Bolts Of Melody in which I play guitars in the UK incarnation. The new album 'I Can Sleep For a Thousand Years ' is out now - highly recommended. PB: Can you tell us some more about the involvement of Swervedriver’s Adam Franklin? NB: Having been a huge Swervedriver fan and friends with Adam for a number of years, I asked him to play some guitars on a couple of songs in the studio. He also produced a version of the song 'How the Mighty Have Fallen', which is the current set closer. PB: Are there any plans to release anything, as well as other live gigs? Speaking of the latter, how did your recent show at the Dublin Castle gig go? NB: The Dublin Castle show was great - thanks to everyone who came down, it was our first gig and really exciting. Also, I really like that place and it stays open late! We are planning to do some recording later in the year and some more shows, all with a sense of urgency, of course… PB: What can we expect from your second gig which will be at the Pennyblackmusic night on October 29th NB: Joy, euphoria, vintage amplifiers on the verge! PB: Thank you.

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