The name may be unfamiliar, but it’s quite possible you’ve seen the faces before. Certainly FANGS, who you may (or may not) see on tour with Sons and Daughters, have been around the block, so to speak. Two parts electropunks Motormark, one part, um, prog punks Lapsus Linguae, their lineup is not all it seems, as they’ll explain shortly.
I’m chatting to them before a show at Edinburgh’s Voodoo Rooms – basically the old Cafe Royale, but extensively (and doubtlessly expensively) remodeled, it even has changing rooms through the jet back curtain stage left.
The traditional way to kick off an interview is by asking the band about their influences, so…
66.66 recurring percent of Fangs hail from Kirkcaldy. Which once has a record shop, Sleeves. When Marko Nein moved away, it closed down; the two may be related. “The guy there called Marcus, would get in a lot of Japanese and German 7”s – and forced me to buy them!
“We were lamenting the death of the record shop but he ripped me off – for hundreds of pounds – ’Mum, there’s a really cool 7” Japanese gabba thing, any chance of borrowing a tenner?’”
The tastes of Jane aka The Queen were perhaps less underground but no less influential. “When we were starting out we listened to a lot of Adam & the Ants, Dirk Wears White Socks was on heavy rotation, but at that time it was new music to me. That came out long before any of us were buying records.”
Marko agrees. “Good album, not that Adam & the Ants were a template, but still… a big fucking drum band. Though Dirk’ was more dark electro, a bit aggressive.”
He pauses. “We met Marco Pironi,” Jane interjects, “he gave us a load of demos and unreleased stuff to listen to … Marko was unable to talk due to excitement!”
Anyone who’s seen any of those “I love the 80s” talking heads-type shows may remember a massive bald bloke reflecting on life with Adam Ant. That’s Marco. “He’s a big and very happy guy,” Mark agrees, “and he’ll still plug his guitar in and after he takes a couple of moments to fiddle, you have the unique sound that was on those records whether it was Rema Rema, Siouxsie or later Adam’s band.”
“Then they went and got produced by Phil Collins and the band went bad and Adam went mad,” adds third member, Findlay Falls. Fangs’ drummer, oddly enough, though if we’re playing ‘spot the musician’ then his previous tenure in Lapsus Linguae will throw some, given that he was pianist, bassist, singer – anything, indeed, apart from percussion.
“Trying to define your sound on your instrument is applicable to what we’re doing now, that’d the way I’ve been approaching the drums, trying to make my own kit and my own drum sound, so not only do you know what our songs sound like but you know what my kit sounds like – kind of having a signature on it.” (Later , he will appear on the Voodoo’s stage barefoot, which may be significant in his drum sound. One for the second interview.)
“Signature – that’s the word I’d use for any sound in this band,” agrees Mark.
Ian is – well, until now – a non-drummer…
“I’ve never ever drummed,” he confirms, “I kind of like to keep it that way, just never adopt the playing rock fills, never get into the received language of drumming – instead treat it as something you’re not in control of.” So it’s the old adage – usually applied to driving lessons from your dad – about picking up bad habits?
If you don’t get any lessons, no-one’s showing you how to… I don’t even have the terminology.” (Paradiddles, I suggest?) “You’re coming in cold and that’s what’s been happening with this, we’re a little unfamiliar with our roles
“Mark wasn’t a bass player,” he adds.
Marko: “Originally when we thought ‘Fangs’ none of us had any defined roles, it was really a case of ‘this is the band, these are the 3 people;’ Ian could have easily stepped into the role of bassist but that would have been too easy.”
So will this learning process for everyone be more fun too? There’s some hesitation – is ‘fun’ the wrong word?
“It’s definitely going to be more interesting,” Findlay agrees. “You can bring in a confidence as a writer or musician but not necessarily bringing a confidence to the way you can express that – so I need to make the best of the drum kit – now I’m maybe 15 gigs into being a drummer. But that’s great because there’s a mixture of arrogance and pure terror in that position!”
“I think we all feed off that” adds Jane. “They’re unfamiliar roles, for me to just sing without keyboards – i.e. with no ‘prop’ – it’s completely different. “If you had a cock it’d be like you’re standing there with it… we could get you one of those,” chip in Mark and Findlay helpfully
“Anyway…” continues Jane with mock irritation, “ we’re recording a couple of songs, and we’re quite excited about that and going to tour with Sons and Daughters, then we go to Italy to play at a film premiere.”
The movie is Scott Crary’s ‘Kill Your Idols, which covers the New York No Wave scene – Crary is “hot on the band” according to Mark.
After all, the Motormark part of the band were big in Europe, signed to Alex Empire’s Digital Hardcore label in Berlin – contrasting with Lapsus Linguae whose Fierce Panda releases perhaps typified their more British audience..
“There’s a lot of… not to sound above our station, but we’re being quite careful about the work we’re doing at the moment – it’d be easy to just play everything offered, but there’s a lot of aspects of the band that we want to work on and we enjoy working on… it’d be easy to go play a lot of European shows and get fucked up in any European city in a weekend, but we’re having a lot of fun with this band, stretching ourselves and finding out how far we can take it.”
So, for now that Rome show will be a one-off.
“Playing in Glasgow’s a very different gig to playing in Rome,” Marko states, “so no way any band can say ‘a gig’s a gig’ – you might as well be a plumber, every stage is different – sexy kids, ugly kids – not saying where the sexy or ugly kids are,” he adds with a laugh. “Everywhere’s different…”
“We’re received in quite a different way in other countries than here,” Jane agrees. “Music’s much more of a rat race in the UK, there’s much more opportunity for a different kind of fun, different decadence on the continent.”
I ask if they’d prefer to try out new material on new punters rather than with their home crowd.
“It’s nice to be doing that in such unfamiliar circumstances, it’s better to be able to develop it and do our thing to people we’ve never met -people who don’t speak our language,” Mark agrees. “Which isn’t to do down the local following or anything but it’s definitely a different slant, it means you’re not getting tunnel vision.” This unfamiliarity seems to be a common factor in their creative side. Which is kind of how the band formed in the first place?
“I dunno, a lot of things happened at once; we were unhappy with some things that were happening in our band, we met Findlay backstage at a show… though I wouldn’t say we just hit it off.”
“I was wrecked enough to make an impression” Findlay offers.
“And a lot of the problems with the situation we were in were maybe solved by Ian, and that was it. So there’s no going back on that one!” Marko sits back contentedly.
So, it appears that a clean break, a fresh start, was the logical step – no chance, then, of Fangs being a mere ‘side project’ of Motormark?
“We looked at it and thought we either do our thing or don’t. There’s an awful lot of side project mentality going on,” Mark notes.
“And, we’re trying to cultivate a sense of unfamiliarity,” Findlay continues, “so yeah, absolutely no reason to bring in anything that’s intentionally been part of either of our previous outfits, – it’d be counterproductive I think to bridge the gap between said previous bands.”
“We just want to make a really good record as we all feel ready to do it and excited about it,” says Mark. “We’ve done some recording and we’re probably going to do a 7” because records are what we’re about.” Suddenly we’re back onto vinyl singles again…
“You dig them out and smother yourself in them and rub them on your body,” Mark (over)enthuses. “It’s a cornerstone of the independent scene,” he continues, “so until we’ve got our record made we’ve done what we all wanted to do when we all met that night backstage at Cabaret Voltaire. So a record is probably the next thing.
Limbo’s DJs, perhaps appropriately, put on Buggles’ ‘Video Killed the Radio Star, which wafts through to the dressing room.
“That’s making me want to…” Jane giggles, sadly what it makes her want to do is inaudible.
“We need to address this song with some iTunes connotations,” Mark muses, a b-side in mind. But first, the live set, as the promoter calls by and the band have to wind up the interview.
“We like playing… different countries, gigs, and club nights where it’s more like you’re playing a party rather than you’re trying to impress some esoteric or drunken crowd – that’s pretty exciting,” Mark smiles. And finishes with what may be their mission statement.
“We can turn up at your disco or front room, we’re FANGS!”