Louder Than Words: A direct (and timely) account
An eclectic hour-by-hour guide to the two weekend days (10-11 Nov) of Louder Than Words Festival 2018 at Manchester’s Principal Hotel (along with an entertainingly acidic review of Everett True’s solo performance). This is with thanks to new writer Connor Winyard, a Music Journalism student at BIMM London visiting Manchester for the festival, reblogged from LDN music magazine – read the original articles here. For more from Connor, you can also catch him on Instagram @pearljunk and he also has his own website: www.decademag.com
Saturday 10 November
10:30am – I arrive in Manchester, the city that saved music (although that title is often attributed to Seattle). This is the home of Joy Division, The Stone Roses, The Charlatans, Oasis, The Smiths, The Chameleons and New Order, to name the obvious. I am stoked to say the least.
11:00am – My fellow student Abi and I have a social media debriefing with our handy, Internet-savvy guide, Alex. He gives us a tour of The Principal, the impressively ornate hotel the convention is taking place in, which seems far bigger than it actually is. Luckily for us, (mostly) everything is happening on just two floors.
11:15am – Abi and I begin laying out LDN mags neatly (no more than three at a time) on various tables dotted around the complex. The minimal tactic works, as we quickly notice copies left opened having been browsed. Abi takes the reins of the magazine’s Twitter, posting enticing updates to whet the appetites of would-be journalists, music fans and industry insiders alike.
11:30am – I watch Mr. Everett True preach about his book Ed Sheeran Is Shit. Refer to my flattering review below for further information.
12:15pm – John Robb (music writer, icon, Membranes frontman) talks with opinionated photographer Kevin Cummins about Morrissey. The session begins with a 10-minute video on the controversial frontman, with spoken poetry accompanying delightful photographs of him on a slideshow. The narrator fades out and is replaced with ambient music, which fits in an almost ironic way to the borderline sarcastic images of Steven Morrissey’s shit-eating grin. Cummins talks about bands finding their photographical selves. He’s snapped them all, especially Joy Division – he’s the mastermind behind the iconic snapshot of the group on a snowy Manchester bridge. The session comes to an end in the form of an amusing anecdote about The Fall frontman Mark E. Smith, following a question by an audience member. The story is of a time when Cummins walks into a pub to find Smith talking to a local hardman, who has asked Smith if he’s in a band, to which the singer responds, “I might be.” The conversation appears to go south, with the unknown man asking “Would I have heard of you?”, followed by “What’s your band called?”. Smith replies, “The fucking Beatles.” Fair enough, mate.
1:15pm – Abi and I break for lunch. We eat at McDonalds – something that Mr. True does too, occasionally. I notice dozens of metal fans – evidenced by the multitude of Death, Ingested, Slayer and Lamb Of God T-shirts – and I wonder why they’re all here. Are Slayer playing in Manchester tonight or something? I saw them last Saturday in Wembley, so it wouldn’t be too far-fetch’d to assume they came up here too. EDIT: Slayer played last night. Strange.
2:15pm – The highlight of the weekend, at least according to panellists/combatants Daryl Easlea and Simon Philo. Easlea (Prog) and Philo (Glam) fight for their respective genres in three-minute short burst rounds via justificated rambling which is based on, but not limited to, the following aspects: personalities, legacy, artwork, live performance. Philo is irked that Easlea keeps referring to a gatefold LP which unveils a pop-up badger to sway the audience. Glam ends up winning by a single vote, but Easlea’s homemade, ‘gold’, ‘prog’ cape is still a sight to behold nonetheless.
3:30pm – Mr. True once again speaks snippets of literature to anyone who will listen in the book room, only this time it’s from his biographic The Electrical Storm. I read it all yesterday, so I am delighted to hear the same stories causing a few gasps and laughs from the audience when I already know what’s coming. I feel like I’m in on it that way. True tells about a show in Camden’s Underworld in 1991 that saw dozens of punters donning “Fuck Everett True” T-shirts, as well as being stuck in Seattle during that fateful period in 1994. He even tells of the time his wife turned into Courtney Love – not to mention the sense of a pure personification of evil that came with it.
4:15pm – Jeannette Lee and Geoff Travis tell all about growing up, Malcolm McLaren & Vivienne Westwood’s infamous shop, Sex, as well as the founding of Rough Trade Records. Travis talks about listening to pirate radio stations quietly in his bed to avoid his parents hearing him, stating that the whooshing sound of the radio trying to find a signal not only stuck with him but also is what inspired Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine to incorporate a similar effect on the danceable ‘Soon’, the final track on the band’s magnum opus, Loveless. Lee reveals the dance clubs she used to frequent in her heyday, and how women used to get into venues even after hesitation from bouncers. She tells the audience how herself and Travis have worked together for over 30 years – that’s nine more than I’ve been alive for.
5:15pm – “Out of my brain on the five fifteen.” While I’m not catching a train (nor trying to seriously utilise The Who’s lyrics in a coincidentally-timed entry), I do feel out of my brain, to an extent. I’ve been up since 6:00 am and I know I won’t be leaving here til midnight. I grab a Red Bull – one of the big ones – from a Sainsbury’s round the corner. I get ID’d at the self-checkout. Since when was concentrated caffeine and sugar such a danger to youths that a fucking robot has to ID anyone buying it?
5:45pm – Chris Salewicz shares excerpts of his book Jimmy Page: The Definitive Biography, with those loitering in the book room. The writer is brief, but it’s all white Rolls-Royces and rock’n’roll from here on out. He also reveals that he was present when Robert Plant first uttered those magic words during a rehearsal, “There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven”.
6:10pm – I jump on the Louder Than Words social media accounts. To be honest, I have no idea what I’m doing. I use my initiative though and type a few tweets, as well as an Instagram post and story. Can’t say that I’m a social network guru just yet, though.
6:15pm – David Stubbs tells Martin James all about his book Mars by 1980. His book sheds light on the history of electronic music. Stubbs covers Daft Punk, authenticity, cheesiness, Kraftwerk, and the post-Space age. I ask him at the end where he stands on synthpop’s influence on industrial. I mention that Ministry started in 1983 with their largely enjoyable (yet now loathed by frontman Al Jourgensen) debut, With Sympathy, a jolly and bouncy pop album with fake English accents to boot, yet ended up as an industrial metal band in 1990. I also namecheck Depeche Mode and how they were already utilising ‘industrial’ sounds on their brilliant 1984 album Some Great Reward. I finish by finally getting to the point; “The common link between bands like Nine Inch Nails, Fear Factory, Ministry and the like is Gary Numan. Do you agree, or would you suggest somebody else was the main, influencing factor?”
Fortunately, he agrees.
7:30pm – I continue writing notes for this report. I secretly pray nobody else begins reading their book out loud in the book room – not because it isn’t interesting to hear stories, mind you – but because I keep trying to write and instead get distracted by anecdotes on Keith Richards or John Bonham or whoever.
8:15pm – I sit down in the largest room, the Director’s Suite (not very punk rock, is it?) to watch a film: Punk & The Pistols. I like the Sex Pistols, but I don’t like that I’m learning about Malcolm McLaren’s interest in nude photographs of 10-year-old boys smoking cigarettes, leading him to having the aforementioned subject printed on hundreds of T-shirts, and how this all somehow led to the band’s name. To quote Steve Jones’ insult to TV personality Bill Grundy: What a dirty fucking rotter. The film is intriguing and largely informative, but I think I’ve heard ‘Anarchy In The UK’ enough times now to last a lifetime.
10:00pm – I retreat to the bar to meet Abi and True. I go to video the liveliness of the venue for my girlfriend, but accidentally camera flash the guy waiting behind me right in the eyes instead. Shit. He takes it well though, and asks me not to sell his photographs to The Daily Mail, or The Sun. Point duly noted.
Everett True: Ed Sheeran Is Shit Spoken Excerpt Review
Who let this man in? The famed music critic/journalist/performer/whatever takes the ‘stage’ (if you can even call a room with 15 people smiling at him politely a stage), spewing poetic abuse by using the names of Ed Sheeran and Bono in vain.
True trudges through excerpts of his book, Ed Sheeran Is Shit, covering the exploitation (and hypocrisy of living in) of capitalism and corporate bullshit, just like every musician and writer has since the middle of the 20th century.
Like a bewildered anti-capitalist preacher, True goes into considerable detail about ASDA, Starbucks (and never drinking coffee there) and shit being everywhere, or something. Honestly, I feel like I’m being indoctrinated into an Ed Sheeran hate club more than anything.
9:30am – I wake up and quickly publish the previous day’s report to our very own ldnmagazine.com. The four-cheese pizza I had at 2:00am this morning may have been necessary, but it’s certainly taking its toll.
10:30am – I meet Abi in the lobby and guzzle down orange juice and a latte before getting into an Uber.
11:00am – We are en route to the Principal Hotel in the centre of Manchester. I miss the minute-silence completely because Abi and I are enjoying a conversation about bloody Seattle and K-pop on the way there. I am incredibly annoyed, having been looking forward to paying my respects to the millions of combatants – it being the 100 year anniversary since the guns stopped firing and all. I think about war literally every day, however, so I don’t feel so bad after a while. I take a few minutes alone outside to think about it again anyway.
11:30am – We wait around in the briefing/break room and decide which sessions to sit in on today. There are a few clashes, which is irritating, but Abi and I opt to attend different talks so we can cover plenty of content.
12:15pm – I head to the Director’s Suite to hear Andy McCluskey talk about all things OMD, whereas Abi attends Dave Haslam’s talk on his book, Sonic Youth Slept On My Floor. McCluskey jokily calls Peter Hook of Joy Division a “lying bastard” for saying that he and his bandmate Paul got him into coke. He expresses tongue-in-cheek jealousy that his son is a musician (specifically, a bass player) not because of his father, but because of the “much cooler” Hooky.
The OMD frontman talks about holding their first single, ‘Electricity’, for the first time, as well as building their own studio and the sheer terror in walking out into LA Rose Bowl in front of tens of thousands of people when they supported Depeche Mode. He even admits to literally kissing the walls of Kraftwerk’s legendary studio, Kling Klang. Great stuff.
1:30pm – I head across the road with Abi to get lunch. It’s Pret this time because I can’t justify eating McDonalds twice in a row. A ginormous queue of alternative-looking people stretches from O2 The Ritz to the end of the street and then round the block. A quick search online reveals that no one is booked to play the venue til tomorrow. We should’ve asked someone who they were waiting for.
2:15pm – It’s the Director’s Suite once again to hear John Robb pry into the mind of Ian Rankin. The author and music fanatic gradually reveals his 10 favourite records, or at least the ones he picked for today. They are:
Hawkwind – In Search Of Space
Alex Harvey Band (I don’t catch the specific record)
John Martyn – Solid Air
Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures (John Robb plays ‘New Dawn Fades’, the greatest bloody song ever written, in my not-so humble opinion)
The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed
Brian Eno – Music For Airports
Van Morrison – Hard Nose The Highway
The Cure – Disintegration
Cocteau Twins (again, I fail to hear which album in particular. Or maybe it just wasn’t mentioned in the first place.)
Mogwai – Ten Rapid
Rankin delves into punk and what came before/after it, trying to obtain news on Ian Curtis’ suicide in 1980 when he rushed back to Edinburgh and how Eno’s Music For Airports is one of his go-to records to put on when writing. He says a great line towards the end of the session: “If you strip away all the noise of The [Jesus And] Mary Chain, you get The Beach Boys.” He’s right.
3:30pm – I head back to the book room just in time to hear Everett True slam more musicians from his book, Ed Sheeran Is Shit. Who else is shit this time? Chris Martin and Billy Corgan. Admittedly, it’s hilarious, and is probably his best delivery all weekend.
4:15pm – Abi and I head to Clock Tower 4 for the final session of the festival: True and Martin James talking about The Prodigy. James has recently gone through self-publishing hell in writing a book about the aforementioned act, telling of how he nearly got sued by a disgruntled photographer. In the end, he ends up contributing pictures to James’ book anyway.
True and James talk about whether The Prodigy could be considered a punk band (James seems to think they are, and the best example of one at that), as well as his delight with their new album. James is friends with Liam Howlett and joyfully tells us of his unofficial position as album tester, meaning he’s the one who gets invited to the studio to listen to a new Prodigy record before anyone else.
5:30pm – True, Abi and I head to Manchester Piccadilly and board the train back to London Euston. We end up on the quiet carriage, and talk (quietly, I might add) about which bits of writing need doing first. A busybody passenger exercising his right to bullshit privilege politely asks us to be silent. Jobsworth. He’s clearly had nowhere near the amount of fun we’ve had over the past two days.