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Hooking up with prime mover & shaker, Darren Laurence from the Electronic/ Psych/ Punk outfit Legpuppy, was one of the most, off the cuff, hilarious interview experiences I have had to date. We met for the interview in a surreal and highly contrasting setting, Glasgow’s, Patisserie Valerie, surrounded by pensioners and afternoon high-tea as Darren sat in puffy camouflage raver jacket exchanging some of the most freakishly outlandish stories in which inspired him in the creation of some of his most early Legpuppy music.
Within this interview Darren casts light on what Legpuppy means to him, what direction he is going in creatively, the subliminal aspects to Legpuppy’s songs, the inspiration behind the songs for both past and current material, he talks about his collaborative single release ‘Secret Friend’, as well mentioning recent European show experiences, as well as talking about forthcoming summer shows and much more……
Thankfully, no pensioners were harmed in the making of this interview.
Miff – Legpuppy, Legpuppy. Who Is Legpuppy?
Darren – (Laughs) Who is LegpUPpy? Err. I am LegPuppy! You are Legpuppy! We are Legpuppy.
Actually, it’s my alter-ego, working for the corporate environment, spreadsheet, powerpoint and all that. You have to have an escape! Don’t Ya? and Legpuppy is my escape. And before you ask, where does the name come from?
I was at a party in Wales about fifteen years ago, everyone’s in a room talking about band names… (Darren proceeds in an attempt at a hilarious posh accent to explain the surreal story) Oh ya, we’re ‘The Teacups’…Oh yay, we’re in ‘The Tinder-sticks’, and what about you guys? And I answered, we’re in a band called ‘Leg’, and then my mate Olivia jumped in and said, ‘Puppy’, and it stuck.
Miff – (Rolling about laughing)
Darren – (Laughs) – STOUK? Is there such a word?… Stouk… STUCK… I meant STUCK!
Miff – STUCK in the perpetual loop of the hula hoop!
Darren –HAhA! Indeed! Olivia used to play acoustic songs, but we didn’t do anything for fifteen years. We just didn’t get around to it (Laughs)… And then one day we just did!… I bought a drum machine. I was learning guitar as well, but I was too impatient, it’s not instant. Five years at least! Fuck that! I got rid of it (Laughs) I want to make music NOW! …So, I focused on the drum machine and started making beats, learning little synth parts, sampling shit, and proceeded in doing a couple of gigs and released a couple of singles, with the response being that people seemed to like it!
Miff – How long ago was that?
Darren – 2016. We are still quite new. I was DJing before that.
Miff- What kind of music were you spinning?
Darren – I love Drum & Bass. Liquid Drum & Bass, with female vocals and beauteously liquid basslines, but unfortunately there is not allot of venues where I was located which played that. I had a residency in Wimbledon and whenever I played any D&B the owner of the venue would come running down shouting at me to turn it off. He thought there was going to be a riot or something like that, I had to tell him to relax!
Miff – Wow! Bazaar! Why?
Darren – I think it was because of the media. Jungle, for example, could come across as aggressive. Personally, I am not a fan of Jungle, it sounds like dustbin lids, but for me, D&B is much more soulful. I don’t really know why the manager of the club was so nervous about D&B, so, the reality was I had to stick to playing top 40 dance shit, and you had to kind of die gradually inside, pretending that you’re really into it, as you are the DJ, the conductor, so there is no point in moaning, so I had to pretend to like spinning dance tracks by Rihanna and Usher. It killed me musically for about a year. I no longer knew what was good, I felt like I didn’t know what music was any more. And so, then I decided I had to get back into it.
Miff– In effect, to get back to your creative authentic self….
Darren -Yeah, Yeah, and so what I do whenever I am struggling musically, I go back to the start, so the start for me is, Joy Division, New Order, The Breeders, Pixies, although I think, The Breeders, piss on Pixies. I love, The Pixies, but when Kim left and formed, The Breeders, and when the album ‘Last Splash’ came out, I thought that was the album Pixies could never make; because Pixies became less experimental and much more pop orientated, which took away the edge for me. So, basically, I got my creative spark back and started making beats. I had heaps of poetry in which I had written over the years so that helped lyrically, and the first track Legpuppy ever released was called ‘Puppy Play’
Let me tell you about Puppy Play…. The girl I am crashing with up here in Glasgow is called Marissa who was my old flatmate in London, and so one evening we were sitting watching a TV documentary about human pups. It was about grown men who attended meet-ups and they dress as fetish puppies (Laughs) they dress in face masks with a dog handler who poses as the dominatrix, and these pups crawl around on all fours sniffing each other’s bums, all having a great time! (Laughs)
And so, I turned around to Marissa and said, “This is fucking brilliant! This is absolutely incredible!”, not because I am into it. I just loved the fact that they could be free and do what they wanted to do. They felt wanted and stuff, empowered by being part of a group who was getting off on the same bazaar thing. It was on Channel Four, going out to millions of people, talking about puppy play (Laughs)… So, I went away and wrote a track called, Puppy Play.
Darren– (HhAa!) The track went like this; “Hold me, feed me, walk me, love me; Puppy-play, puppy, play.”… I did loads of samples, really badly mixed, didn’t even master it because I didn’t know how to do it as I was so new it, released it, and people started liking it! Playing it, re-tweeting it, and I thought holy F**K….. That’s amazing!… (Laughs)
Miff – Ah, That’s very funny! I think intentionally, because you had no expectation and you were just inspired in an intrigued way the track rode along on that ethos.
Darren – Yeah, I was just super inspired by that programme. Ahaha! This is how naive I was. I even tried to make that ‘Puppy Play’ track their anthem, I thought, oh yeah, If I approach the puppy crew with my track, they could adopt the track as their anthem (Laughs) I would gladly go do a show dressed as a pup. (Laughs) It would be so much fun!
They probably wouldn’t take me, like who’s this person trying to get into our world, probably really cliquey. It’s niche and probably a secret society club, (With only exclusive access to Channel Four film crew and the rest of the nation.) (Laughs) Anyway, everyone just thought I was taking the piss with that track. But I genuinely found it incredible.
Miff – (Hahaha!) Oh , that’s very Aphex Twin!
Darren – Yeah! Just have bloody fun. I am all for having as much fun as possible!
So, Yeah, yeah. What was the original question?
Miff– There was no original question… We got lost in puppy play…
Darren – Oh right. Haha! So, basically, it’s about me and my escapism.
Miff – So, you’re on stage alter-ego is like a kind of therapy for you?
Darren, Oh yes, of course it is! In my day job I am a power-point designer, so I’ve now got to a point (No pun intended) where it’s just a job where I have to work for allot of corporate idiots and you have to hear really horrible phrases, which is why I wrote the track, Meds & Beer (Corporate Life)
You know, such phrases as, blue sky thinking, thinking outside the box, spreadsheet powerpoint, spreadsheet powerpoint. It’s just nonsense. However, it gets me paid, so, Legpuppy really is an escape from that world. There has to be more to life than just go to work and go home, so when I am writing stuff and when I am on stage that corporate world is like a past life. It’s my creative release sphere, and you saw us play last night Miff, and hopefully you felt it. I create this world and for half an hour you escape into the zone.
Miff – Yeah totally, the show I experienced last night came across as a complete sonic and visual sensory experience. Very bass and beat driven, which hits straight to the gut, and the visual aspect throws another fantastic atmospheric layer on top of the active swirl of samples, vocal repetition and overall music. Very hypnotic.
Darren – Hypnotic! That is exactly the response I love; I sincerely want to entrance people. I think over time, one works out what functions and what doesn’t. Every band seems to have a set structure of playing the song and then saying, thank you, and moving onto the next track; We used to do that as a band, always talked in-between, but recently I did a little solo tour over in Germany and for the first time I ended up creating more of a continuous style in the presentation of my tracks, so I decided to keep that format for all my shows, my guitarist Simon then adds to that.
Miff – Yeah, it works very well because you are taking people on an uninterrupted journey in that way, and that continuous musical format helps thread a cohesive narrative. Also, the socio-political topics that you cover within your music, for example, about Trump or technology moving faster than our psychological capability to harness it, doesn’t feel like preaching or being rammed down your throat.
Darren – Yeah, exactly, it’s very subtle. I was chatting about this last night to a few people. I think social media is brilliant because it’s possible to network interesting people in which you never could have reached before, opening opportunities on all kinds of interesting levels if used in the right context it can be an incredibly powerful tool.
However, on the flipside to that, we find ourselves locked within microcosms and there is a tribal, bandwagon approach. Somehow, we no longer are allowed to have an open opinion without the fear of being ganged-up on and subjected to hate. As well as there being over saturation of absolutely everything! and of course manipulation of information. I write about social media, tracks such as ‘Self Stick, Narcissistic Prick’ has ended up becoming one of Legpuppy’s anthems.
Miff – So in a way, Legpuppy is constantly shifting in mindset with the times, and I am guessing that will influence how you use your machines regarding the expression of your music?
Darren – So, I would say, the last album focused on the topic of politics and social media.
Miff – What was the name of your last album?
Darren – It’s called, Non-disclosure Agreement.
Do you remember the story of the guy who run British Home Stores into the ground? He was taken to court for sexually abusing various employees. Philip Green was his politician, however, long story short, Lord Hain ended up ousting Philp Green in parliament, so I sampled that and made a track out of it titled NDA. However, in true Legpuppy style we wanted to get the message out, but really fu**ing twist it. So, in that track, not many people know this, I wanted to create a homage to Lil Louis with the track ‘French Kiss’
So, Bev, who is our singer, she just had a baby, that’s why she’s not on tour with us at the moment. I asked her to go into the recording room and record an orgasm, I said to her, If you have one, fine, if not, then just fake it ( Laughs) So she did! and during her orgasm she said very slowly N.D.A, meaning, non-disclosure agreement. I gave it to my producer and what he did with it came across as incredibly powerful, so, it steamed from that track that we should call the entire album, Non- Disclosure Agreement.
There is another track on that album called ‘Puctas Murint’, which is an anagram for, Trump is a C**t, no one knows that! But I like reaching people on a subliminal level. The track is a homage to Waterfall, by the Stone Roses. Basically, it is our Legpuppy track, ‘Nominate’, backwards. So, you can voice without being a preacher and we are always thinking of creative ways to project that.
Miff – Wow! Far out! Absolutely brilliant. I love the abstractions you guys create. What’s the name of your new album? Do you have a new album?
Darren – Yes, the new album is currently mixed, mastered and ready for release, but I haven’t announced a release date yet.
Miff– OoPS!… Are we getting an exclusive here!
Darren – Yeah! Let’s make it an exclusive. HaAaa!
The new album is probably going to be out in the summer and its titled ‘There’s No Rock Stars’. We are not focusing on social media this time because we feel we have covered that topic. These new tracks focus on betting, gambling addiction, mental health issues in general. I personally hate gambling. I just hate the way that betting shops just compete in some of the poorest parts of the community.
I am a big football fan and watch, Sky Sports and feel incredibly frustrated at the deluge of gambling adverts which they always have that phrase at the end, ‘When The Fun Stops. Stop’. That phrase doesn’t even make sense! How can someone stop before they even acknowledge that it is too late? I feel gambling addiction is still deeply misunderstood, and I think it’s the worse type of addiction. Sex addiction is a bad one too, not to mention drug addiction, but with those addictions you can treat them more effectively then the untried territory of gambling addiction. It’s horrible. So, basically, there is a track in the new album about that. There is also a track in there, which I actually wrote a long time ago, about a story in ‘Chat Magazine’. So, this story is about a girl who was a run of the mill girl. Liked going to bingo with her parents. Just lived a normal kind of life.
Miff – Going to bingo with your parents doesn’t sound normal to me.
Darren – HaAa!
Oh, you know what I mean! Her kind of normal. What the hell is normal!? Anyway, she really wanted a boyfriend, so she goes on the dating site, Ok Cupid and meets this bloke, starts dating him, and he turns out to be super controlling, so eventually through twists and turns they started getting into these really kinky sex games.
Miff- Haha!… Well that was a BIG leap, from bingo to sex games.
Darren – Yeah, Hahaha! Exactly, but she always wanted an escape, so she gets revenge. This is ultimately a story about revenge. So, this girl eventually becomes fed up with the abuse she has had from him verbally and physically with all those weird sex games, that; You know when they take candle wax and pour it on the skin?
Miff – Yeah, I am aware of that.
Darren – Well, she does that, lights a match, pours petrol over him and burns him to death.
Miff – HAaAaA!!
Holy s**t! that’s too funny man. Does she burn him alive, or does she burn him to death? That is the question! Oh man, I have a dark sense of humour. I thought revenge was a dish best served cold.
Darren – Hahahaha! It’s very dark. (Laughing) But, Bev our singer, sings her part in such an innocent, venerable way. I think it’s the best song we have ever written. I f***ing love it, I think it’s amazing. Hahaha! So, it’s quite dark, yeah….
Miff – And that’s a normal, everyday story in a coffee-table magazine. Hahaha!
Darren – You weren’t expecting that were ya? Hahaha! Yeah! It’s a real story in Chat Mag, and so we wrote a song about it. Once you hear the track you will get it straight away. It’s not meant to be funny. The way we recorded the vocal parts between me, and Bev brings a unique atmosphere and the brilliant way in which Bev sings her part is incredibly venerable. It’s such a great track with a great riff on it, I guarantee you will be moved by it once you hear it.
So that’s one of the tracks. Then there is another track on the new album titled ‘Secret Friend’ where we collaborate with the incredible Josefin Öhrn. She is a Swedish, electro-pop artist. She has a band called, The Liberation who combines psychedelic rock and pop with colourful elements from countless other genres to create a distinctive sound. Her music is experimental and hypnotic and is just waiting to win you over. If you are not familiar with her works I recommend you check out her albums, Horse Dance, Mirage and Sacred Dreams. This collaboration is such a big deal for us, and we are extremely excited about this single release set for the 14th February.
Miff – Who is producing your album?
Darren – We work with a guy called Exire, he produced most of our last NDA album. He came out of Guildford music college and I knew his tutor. We worked together initially through on few remixes and his demonstrated his exceptional talents, so we kept working together. Exire has currently worked on seven tracks on this new forthcoming album and a guy called Paris Alexander has helped produced two tracks which includes the collaborative track with Josefin.
I will explain the creative process. So, I get an idea, I go straight home, I work out how I’m going to create the track, by sample, loop or beats, whatever, sort a riff and the track is usually down in two days. I sent it to him, I say here’s the rough track and he puts his magic touches to it and sends it back. We have a solid rapport and work fast and efficiently with one another. The creation of this current album has come along really smooth and got it laid down in about three months! As where in the past I’ve spent nearly two years working on tracks. Plus, we also have three tracks for the next Legpuppy album sorted!
Miff- That’s so exciting when the creative juices flow. To embrace it while it lasts. I am of the mindset that creative blockages are of benefit too, in their own right.
Darren – Yeah, we used to perform live a track called ‘Tesco’ and that track really used to work live but when we went to create a studio recording, it sounded s**t. So, we ended up deleting it and now it’s gone. If you got an idea, lay it down while its fresh, cause if you procrastinate that idea is going to go. Think about how your music will translate from recorded to live, even from culture to culture when touring.
Miff – Recently, Legpuppy had some shows go down in Germany, how did your music translate over there?
Darren – We have completed two tours of Germany, first German tour it was me and our guitarist Simon, then I went back and did a solo tour and played three cities, Brunswick, Hamburg and Berlin. For one of those shows it was more like a DJ set, I think you have to be adaptable. I know to many other bands who make excuses, If you get offered a gig in Berlin, F***ing take it! Even if it means half the band can’t go, take it! Make it work, which is what I did.
Miff- Yeah, true and you have many strings to your bow, even regarding your artwork, so there are many avenues of opportunity you could impress upon.
Darren – Exactly, From having a band where there was five of us, I can now go to Germany or Porto, with the Portuguese mafia, that’s another story! (Laughs) I can travel light with just a drum machine, two pairs pants and three T-shirts. And can’t forget about the clown mask! hAhHa!
Miff- What about musicians travelling to Europe now after we have left the European union?
Darren – Musicians will probably be affected once laws get put into place. That is why I am rushing to book and secure the next German tour as soon as possible, as everything is still quite unclear. I can now, currently still use my passport in passport control but I’ve no clue if we will need visas to enter? So, I’m definitely trying to make the most of this year before the situation becomes more complicated.
Miff- Do you think that Legpuppy’s music is commercially viable?
Darren – We have been asked by a couple of small labels and I always say to them, what can you do for me because I can push myself independently with as much creative freedom as I wish and can network promotional means off my own back. Can you put me on with the Sleaford mods, then yeah, I’m interested, but then again, I can network that myself, I mean I’ve met them twice, who knows if we will eventually share a stage together.
Miff – OOo, you are going to have to tell us about the time you met Sleaford Mods, did they come to see your show?
Darren – I wouldn’t say they came to see our show, but Andy was there at one of our gigs in Nottingham. He was there, dancing away, responding positively to our music and we had a chat and really liked it. Who knows if its possible? I think some of our tracks would work commercially.
Miff – Do you have a goal for Legpuppy?
Darren – I’m going to quote a quote from one of the best music documentaries ever made.
Miff – I’d like to remind you that ever hasn’t even happened!
Darren – Haha! Not yet. But, see if you know this quote – “Have a good time, all the time.”
Miff – Oh Yeah! That’s Spinal Tap!
Darren – I’ve used that sample for a future track actually. Creativity is meant to be fun! I mean, for f**k sake, I set this up as a joke! Here is a man who was initially inspired by Puppy Play. How serious can one get?
Miff – I read a quote by BBC Introducing about you guys which said, “A twisted ‘NIN’-ed up on steroids”. What would happened if you just landed yourself into some kind of mainstream commercial loop? Would you embrace it?
Darren- Oh, wow! Yeah, that would be amazing. We already have had a few tracks played on Six Music Introducing, which is great. I made friends with the promoters who has put on shows for ‘Fresh On The Net’, and that’s like a portal to Introducing, what happens is, you upload your tracks and the curators listen to it, and the top five chosen gets played on, Six Music Introducing. And so, I’ve made friends with the curators there and built up a good rapport, and through that we have a show in April, some ‘Fresh On The Net’ BBC thing.
I think Legpuppy is definitely on people’s radar and that’s amazing! However, I’m not doing it for that. If commercial success comes, what a bonus.
My goal is; That every time we played a gig, we would play to fifty people. That would do me fine. 50 fans who actually connect and dig us, that’s perfect. It would be interesting playing to a thousand people, but if you have at least 50 of your fans, wearing your band T-shirt and clown mask, then they are the essential vitality to your show.
Miff – Yeah, totally, I get that. I think Legpuppy would be well suited as a festival outfit, so I can predict in the future you guys playing those kinds of shows.
Darren –Yeah, I think we would be well suited to a dance tent environment. We do actually have three festivals lined up for the summer, so really looking forward to that. One is going to be a solo DJ set and the other two is alternative festivals. Alice’s Wicked Tea Party. I wonder if John Robb’s band, The Membranes are playing that?
Miff – Not sure? I know Louderthanwar has covered that particular festival in summers gone by.
Darren – The festival is brilliant! They get really wired, obscure bands on the bill. Have you ever heard of the band, The Pink Diamond Revue?
Miff – Yes, I’ve written about them before for my own music blog Revel.
Darren – Yeah, we play with them lots, they have a similar vibe in regard to theatrics. So, they are playing, Alice’s festival. The festival takes place in Dorset. Two years ago, we played Alice’s Wicked Tea Party we stayed in a big beautiful bungalow, it was such a beautiful location. I think the people who rented it out had only just started to set up B&B because we rented the place for only 200 quid between eight of us and the bungalow would have held ten people easily.
It was amazing, but the owners have now bumped up the price to a grand, because they realized they could make a lot of money. I think as a band, it’s the being together that’s important, you are on a stage together for half an hour, music unites you in that way but it’s the weekend away that makes the experience, collecting memories and enjoying each other’s company.
Miff – And would Legpuppy not think about setting up your own label, further down the line.
Darren – I have thought that actually, but I wouldn’t want to call it a label, id have to have something that is different. I am interested in a lot of other bands, I curate playlists, I’ve booked bands.
Miff– Like a movement of sorts?
Darren – Yeah, I can’t quite figure what it is but you’re right, like some kind of movement. I know a lot of bands, that if I did have a label, I would take on, Pink Diamond Revue would be the first and then incorporate some kind of design thing into the fold. I don’t know, I think there is a lot of people out there trying to create things like this, but there is also allot of sharks out there, who just want your money. At the end of the day, setting something like that up takes up immense time and the meaning folds into something other than having fun through collective music experiences.
Miff – What is your idea of experimental?
Darren – It is whatever you think it is. I don’t even think our music is experimental, you can find music out there that is way off the grid. In Berlin their idea of experimental is Avant Garde, I saw a band once in Berlin where one of the girls within the group was making up her own language and she was delivering it in quite an operatic and very trippy way. I was incredibly impressed that she was making a language up on the spot. So, I would view that as experimental. I think someone, somewhere will always like that you do.
Miff- So lovely to have your time and attention today with this interview! It was fun! Thank you.
Darren- Thanks Miff! It was fun and a great pleasure.