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Yeah Yeah Noh - Interview Part 1

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 23 / 2 / 2013

Yeah Yeah Noh - Interview Part 1


80's Leicestershire-based indie experimental/psychedelic act Yeah Yeah Noh reformed after an absence of twenty-five years. In the first part of a two part interview, Anthony Strutt speaks to them at a gig in Leicester about the group

Yeah Yeah Noh formed in Oadby near Leicester in the early 1980s. They were part of the DIY indie scene that were influenced by post punk in the pre C-86 era, and released five singles and also two albums, ‘When I am a Big Girl’(1985) and Cutting The Heavenly Lawn of Greatness...Last Rites for the God Of Love’(1986), before splitting up in 1986. They reformed last year and played a few select shows, including a rather rammed intimate show in Leicester, where Pennyblackmusic caught up with the band. The current band is Derek Hammond (vocals), John Grayson (guitar), Tom Slater (guitar) Dermot O'Sullivan (bass), Eva Landsberg (keyboards) and Antony Cook (drums). PB: Why did you name yourselves Yeah Yeah Noh? DH: It comes from the Beatles and “She loves you/Yeah, yeah, yeah...” DO: Derek has a problem remembering lyrics. DH: And frankly there was no chance of anyone loving us back in '83. So, I thought that clever inversion would thrill our small group of fans. PB: You formed in Oadby. Is it or was it a rock and roll town? DH: I just happened to be from Oadby and John, our guitarist, was at Leicester Polytechnic, He was in digs in Oadby, and we were both bar maids at The White Horse there, but John was sacked after a few weeks because we spent the whole time talking about music and ignoring customers. The guy who ran the pub was an old RAF fighter pilot, and he was very strict. It was something of a feisty pub, and he ruled it with an iron fist. We just used to drink and talk about music, so he had to sack one of us, and I was much more of a crawler than John, so it had to be him, but we kept in touch. That would have been about 1981. PB: Had you left school by then? DH: No, I was still at school then, but John was at polytechnic. PB: What were your influences other than obviously the Beatles? DH: John isn't a Beatles fan. At the time, I liked them, but that was a long time ago now and we left that behind. They are a good band though. PB: By 1980/1981, post punk had kicked in.... DH: That was what we were into, John used to go to gigs all around the country. He was a bit more advanced than me, and he had already seen loads of bands. I had by then seen less but that's what we talked about a lot. His number one band at the time by a mile was the Fall. I wasn't so sure about the Fall. I liked Adam and the Ants, so I used to go around his house, and he would smoke dope, and I would watch and play music. He liked Funkadelic and Teardrop Explodes. Those were John's influences, all the contemporary post punk stuff. He had everything and I taped it PB: After listening to the records, did you decide to form a band? DH: No, John always had a guitar, and he had an ambition to learn to play it, but he used to put on bands on at the poly, He was on the committee, and this is true – it was written in the Leicester Poly handbook to book the Fall every year. Then some of John's mates at polytechnic said, “Let's form a band.” There were about seven or eight of them who were going to be in this band, and he said to me, “You can be in it too.” And so I became one of the singers. The people in the band hadn’t actually all met each other until we went on stage and played our first gig, but I wrote some lyrics for two songs. One was called ‘If You Ever Go Down to Kidderminster’, and I can't remember the other one. There were two bass players. One guy could only play ‘The James Bond Theme’, and so they played a few songs, and I went on, and did the Kidderminster song, and it went into ‘The James Bond Theme’, and there was a woman whom came on afterwards that sung ‘A Final Day’ by Young Marble Giants because they could all play that. PB: And that was the start of it all? DH: It was. Then John became friends with the Deep Freeze Mice, so we borrowed them as our backing band. Alan (Jenkins-Ed) played bass and John played guitar - Well, he had a guitar strapped to his chest - and they played a lot of three chord songs. They were pure rip offs, but they became our first things, I don't like to spoil anyone’s feelings, but ‘Cottage Industry’ is ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ played double speed and ‘Bias Binding’ is ‘C'mon Everybody’ by Eddie Cochran, And that is how we started. We did one gig in 1983, and then things changed for us, John got a grant through the poly to put out a local bands’ record called 'Let's Cut a Rug', which sells for about £50 on eBay now. We had one track on that. John Peel got a hold of it and started playing it every night, so then we had to put a band together. We played a park down Hinckley Road. It was outside and really good. That was like our fourth ever gig ever, and we then played at The Fridge in Brixton. As it was being played every night by Peel, I got a few mates in as our first drummer Graham Summers was already in Deep Freeze Mice, and he said, “I'm already in one shit band, and I don't want to be in another shit band”. We knew Sue (Dorey-Ed), so we said she could be the drummer, and she said, “No way” at first, but three days later she played our first gig with us. It was a totally DIY band, but to fast forward it slightly we could just about play and we always had lots of ideas, and that's why we became interesting because within six months of ‘Bias Binding’ we were playing backwards drums and doing psychedelic stuff, but using the same tools. We got bored of doing the easy stuff. We wanted to do the concept stuff. Never mind running! Before we could walk, we were trying to float in space. PB: So you were making ‘Sgt Pepper’ before ‘Please Please Me’? DH: Absolutely. If you listen to stuff of that time, there are a lot of ideas in there. I prefer bands with ideas than people that can play wiggly guitar solos. One nice review we got years after the event was on Julian Cope's Head Heritage site, and I think the guy nailed it. He said we were doing psychedelic music, but without the reference to the Beatles or Procol Harum. The Meat Puppets were a band that started out making fast homemade DIY hardcore punk, and six months later they slowed down and did psychedelic stuff. There is a sort of a parallel there. The difference is Nirvana never covered one of ours songs. That was flattering that someone listened to our songs that way. It was totally DIY in a good way, It was like this is A, this is an E, now go form a band. And then Tom joined which made a huge difference, because it gave us the chance to add more sounds. Tom could play in a way that John couldn't. TS: My audition was playing more than three chords. John didn't become a great guitarist, but he had lots of great ideas and he became deeply influential. PB: You signed to In-Tape Records? DH: It was Marc Riley from BBC 6Music’s label which he formed when he was in the Fall with a guy called John. We sent him a tape thinking that we had absolutely no hope of getting signed, but he got back to us and picked up on a lot of our ideas. To bring it up to date, we just did a 6 Music session in Manchester/Salford, so it was nice to go back years later. We have raised the bar since we got back together, and he was totally blown away. You can catch it on BBC iPlayer. PB: You released a lot around about 1984? DH: We were only together a couple of years in total. We went through a curve of development. We got bored of doing stuff very quickly, and we moved on quickly to doing more poppy, more arty material. But if we did that now, it would take maybe six or seven years to make those sort of leaps. PB: Originally there were two studio albums, weren’t there? DH: No, it was one studio album. ‘When I am a Big Girl’ was in fact a mini-album that collected up the first singles.. All our best stuff was done on a ‘Peel Session’. We did three of them, and they are on now an LP. At the time, he liked it and put the last one out on Strange Fruit the year after we split because we never did what he expected us to do. That is the story of the band really. By the time we had put something out, we were already ahead of ourselves. The stuff we played live was different again, and that's what we are like now, After the band split in the 80s we all did more recording with different people. PB: Are there currently three original members in the band? DH: Four. John, Tom and myself. Dermot also played with us originally briefly. The other new members, Antony and Eve, are really good musicians, and even the other two have learnt to play over the last 20 years, so we have more strings to our bow. PB: Thank you. In the second part of this interview which will be published next month, we will speak to John Grayson about Yeah Yeah Noh.

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Yeah Yeah Noh - Interview Part 1

Yeah Yeah Noh - Interview Part 1

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Interview Part 2 (2013)
Yeah Yeah Noh - Interview Part 2
In the second part of our interview with 80's Leicestershire-based indie experimental/psychedelic act Yeah Yeah Noh, Anthony Strutt speaks to guitarist John Grayson about their recent reformation

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