RGM INTRODUCING – WE INTERVIEW MANCHESTER DUO HARRY STAFFORD AND MARCO BUTCHER
Hiya folks thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.
Hi Carl, great to meet you. I’m Harry Stafford, the founder member and singer guitarist of 80s swamp goth punk rockers inca babies, and I’m releasing an EP called Juniper Sunday, which is a track from my latest Solo Album ‘Bone Architecture’.
What made you decide to start the band?
It was more a case of trying out all the ideas I had which weren’t inca babies songs.
I formed inca babies in 1983 and have been recording albums and touring for a long time but I felt the need for experimenting on something else.
In 2017 I released my first solo Album ‘Guitar Shaped hammers’ and followed that up a couple of years later with ‘Gothic Urban Blues’ and so the most recent release is ‘Bone Architecture’ of which ‘Juniper Sunday’ is a single from it and is released on April 15th.
Initially, I had a load of ideas that were not loud guitar music and so I decided to reinvent myself into a barroom blues player. I wanted to create a kind of Punk Mose Allison, Dr John approach with elements of Nick Cave and Tom Waits.
To learn the piano properly – fast and loose, mellow and soulful – I have been going to open mic spots for the last 6 years, which is a predominately guitar orientated arena – thus with my piano I found I irritated the guitarists and audience alike, hence the title, ‘I am a pianist surrounded by ‘guitar shaped hammers!!’’ But when you’re in that arena of ‘shit or get of the pot’ you learn fast, and it has been a baptism of fire and discovery.
Introduce us all to the members and your musical history?
I have four main collaborators in my solo stuff and we are now called ‘Guitar shaped hammers – the band.’ In the studio we build up the sound and the songs in an organic way. Myself, Rob and Vincent put Piano, drums and slide guitar down respectively. Jazz legend Kevin G Davy introduced Horns and Marco Butcher from Brazil introduced punk Blues guitar.
The live sound is and will be somewhat improvised as these musicians seldom play the same thing twice, much that I would like them to. Kevin Davy is a trumpeter in the Miles Davis mode he soars and jags with the mood of the moment, but at the same time he is unafraid of the deafening silence at the edge of the sound. Vincent is a lap steal blues guitarist and will happily reinvent each song. Marco Butcher plays from the heart and while the furrow he ploughs is true it sometimes arcs off into a different field. Rob and I are the rhythm section, and we keep it all in place. But without these extraordinary musicians who absolutely know what they are doing it would be a poorer sound for it.
In essence I shall play the songs as I believe they should sound, but my backing band may well have some surprises for me.
What’s the best piece of advice you have received?
Prepare everything you are going to do, going onstage with no plan leads to utter unprofessional impenetrable bollocks and while you may have thought you got away with it, it was in fact a river of shit from which no gold was extracted.
Likewise, when you go into the studio have all the songs ready, have your shit down cold and you will then have plenty of time to fuck with the DNA of each song later.
Most bands understand this but every now and again you see an act/band/singer stumble into a world of madness and you can’t help but feel a little sad for them.
Did you buy anything you don’t need in the pandemic? If so what?
Yes, I bought a synthesiser, which is great but is a law unto itself, I made these great noises and then struggled to reproduce them ever again, despite making notes of all the settings. But then that is the nature of synths they live in a universe of chaos theory and now I have learnt to embrace this, we get on much better.
Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories?
No, there are lies, and there are fantasies and there is propaganda and there are things hidden from us, but the conspiracy theories are made up by people pushing a self-serving and self-fulfilling agenda that is both counter productive and ultimately useless.
What support is out there for new artists in Huddersfield ?
I am not sure about Huddersfield, but Manchester had a great many venues that is attracting new bands. The number of promoters in the city had increased so there are definitely more opportunities, but be wary of pay per play, that is unfair and a rip off.
What was the most fun you have had on stage?
Most gigs are fun and are enhanced by their exotic location, we are luckily enough to go abroad on a great many occasions over the last ten years and when you find yourself in a big, strange city the wonder and excitement rubs off and you can’t help but have fun.
What was the worst experience on stage?
I was once electrocuted by a mic stand going live on me in Linz, Austria, but I survived. I was young in those days and kept going but suffered from some weird Post traumatic nightmares a few months later.
Tell us something about each member that you think people would be surprised about?
Vincent our blues slide guitarist, regularly, at the age of 67 goes on ultra-marathons, the other day he ran from Manchester to Birmingham which took about 40 hours, yes, I know insane, but it keeps him fit.
Kevin G Davy is a jazz legend who also plays with the extraordinary soul funk band Cymande, he also runs jazz workshops in London which are becoming the must go jams for London’s Jazz’s finest.
Marco Butcher was born in Sao Paolo, Brazil and has played guitar for so many amazing people including Hugo Race, Texacala Jones from Tex and the Horseheads, Julia Cafritz from Pussy Galore,Don Fleming from Gumball, and many others.
Rob is the Drummer with Manchester punk greats Goldblade and post punk legends The Membranes, he has toured the world – twice – and has many yarns to tell of life on the road.
I formed inca babies in the 80s and am the only founding member left. We have released eight studio albums a greatest Hits and a live album. We have played all around the world, From the USA to India, Italy Czech Republic, Poland to Preston, Moscow to Manchester.
If you had to describe your band to an alien, how would you describe them?
Imagine a place where dread and despair meet and yet instead of the certain doom you expect, you are filled with a euphoric sense of calm and satisfaction that will allow you to throw yourself into the surrounding joy therein, From here you can contemplate the world and all it’s inner love and beauty, now go and get a round in!!
Which one of the band is the most unpredictable and why?
We once had a member who would drum himself into oblivion. He pounded those drums so hard he would collapse. One time he got incredibly bad blisters which went septic and he had to be hospitalised before they amputated his fingers. We were on tour at the time and He had to sit out the rest of the trip. Coofy Syd from The Membranes took over and saved the day. True Story!
Which one of the band is the biggest nightmare? (Just a bit of fun)
I am . . . motherfucker!!
You have one phone call and you have been locked up for a crime you didn’t commit? Which member would you call first?
None, we have solicitors for that, but I guess, Rob would be a safe pair of hands.
Tell us about a time when you had a proper scare while you were all together?
We once played a gig in India, and we were due to go on at 9pm but there was a fashion show going on and they wouldn’t finish. So, our bass player at the time threatened to kill them all if they didn’t leave the stage. He was clearly very persuasive as they packed up quite quickly. They must have taken him a little too seriously. The promoter later praised his “passion and commitment”.
What’s your favourite song to play live and why?
We have a song called Dagger which is a 7-and-a-half-minute jazz blues boogie explosion, and it totally rocks. Kevin absolutely nails it, and Vincent has this extraordinary rhythm section with Rob, and I of course keep going with the story. It’s about a ‘Mother courage’ type revolutionary heroine who is martyred on the scaffold, but her legacy remains!
I hear you have a new single brewing, what can you tell us about it?
Yes, From the 2021 Album Bone Architecture comes the haunting and melancholic ode to lost love that is Juniper Sunday.which was considered one of the highlights from last years’ Album.
Talk me through the thought process of the single/album?
‘Juniper Sunday’, is my favourite track from the Album, ‘Bone Architecture’. It’s one of the jazzier cuts from the album. Along with some cool vibraphones there is the astonishing trumpet of Kevin G Davy who brings further layers of the blues to the story.
It’s the tale of a girl I once knew from the 80s. It’s ultimately a sad song as Juniper is long gone now, and I only knew a few moments of her life which were glorious and so worth celebrating. She was the one who you were glad got away, but you might always love the most.
Maybe it’s a Ruby Tuesday song or Jennifer Eccles, or an Eleanor Rigby song in context, but often these are the saddest songs of all.
What was the recording process like?
We did it by swapping files across the Atlantic using WeTransfer. Marco sent me ‘Song Idea #23’ and I put some Vocals on it and decided to call it Juniper Sunday. I also added more vibraphones to it. We then sent it to Kevin who put the beautiful horns on it. It went back and forth a bit more being tweaked until Marco mastered it and it was ready for pressing. The new version on the single is a re-mix of the Album track. It was a slow but careful process of great artistic endeavour and soul. It was recorded during lockdown so was the only way to roll.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the single/album?
Be patient and look forward to the outcomes. It was a new way of writing for me as normally I write all the music as well but with Marco’s ideas which were fresh and incredibly exciting for me all I had to do was think lyrically and vocally, I was amazed at what we could achieve.
Would you change anything now its finished?
What are your plans for the year ahead?
Can you imagine, we would like to go on Tour, in America and the UK, how exciting would that be.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
I think that covers it carl thanks for listening, reading and all the best to you from Marco and I. (Harry Stafford)
Thanks for doing us today folks, all the best and keep in touch.