Medictation - Warm Places
Leading into this review / interview, the punk rock world is still coming to terms with the recent news about both Dickie Hammond and Tut, both part of the Sunderland and world wide punk rock music scene.
Just recently I wrote a piece about Richard Eric Hammond (Dickie), following his departure from this world. This will be published at a later date.
The following piece was actually written before this tragic event, and it is only now that I can publish it. Dickie had worked on a new project, which is just being announced on this day, which would have seen him turn 50 years of age. December the 15th 2015.
The release would have happened earlier, however it was agreed to push it back, due to the unforeseen circumstances and with the approval of the other band members and his Mother and Son Jo, it will become a reality.
It is something that had to be done and Dickie himself would have been so passionate about it. Having it announced on his 50th birthday is a mark of respect to him. “We are both Sagittarians, he had a big thing about this, so he would have loved it”. Graeme tells me.
Anyone with a passionate interest in punk rock knows about the pedigree of bands that have emerged out of Sunderland over the years; producing the likes of Leatherface, HDQ, and Former Cell Mates. During 2008, the world was in the midst of a global financial crisis, ‘the Chicago school, treating us like fools’, causing economic shock waves throughout the worlds economies, making politicians the world over to seek some form of Medication. In parallel, the last incarnation of Leatherface were at their peak, touring the world, and in particular the USA and Canada with Yesterdays Ring, a rag tag of Montreal mongrel punks headed by the charismatic lead singer, Hugo Mudie, who also was the lead singer of another well-known punk-rock band, The Sainte Catherines. The Stormy Petrel world tour was in full sail, and was looking as invincible as the Titanic.
Years later, ‘the boat’, as they are colloquially known, faced a crisis of their own. Dickie Hammond quit the band whilst they were on tour in Spain, and with Frankie Stubbs having a broken collarbone, led to the band having no guitarist. Bassist Graeme, and drummer Skruff faced no option but to fly home, leaving Frankie and Dickie to try and go it alone for the rest of the tour. Inevitably, the band failed to recover from such an implosion, and back at their peak best, Leatherface was no more.
This left a huge void in Sunderland, and left only the Former Cell Mates to fly the flag, headed up by David Lee Burdon, who also played in Leatherface during a period when Dickie Hammond was not in the band. A little bit of light, and a little bit of hope emerged in 2013, when Dave Golledge reunited with Dickie Hammond to reform HDQ, whom existed prior to Leatherface. They joined forces with Skruff and Mick Jones, who played as a touring stand in guitarist for Leatherface when Frankie Stubbs had a broken collarbone. They released a 7” and a critically acclaimed 12” on Boss Tuneage Records, entitled ‘Lost in Translation’, which although sought a different sound and direction to their previous output, was instantly recognisable to fans of all the bands mentioned hitherto. The Sunderland flag was now raised to half-mast.
And that is what took me back to Sunderland after 10 years of absence. I was there to see HDQ making a rare hometown appearance, as well as to spend some time drinking wine with Graeme Philliskirk of Leatherface and Bull Taco / Rugrat to find out what on earth had the others been up to during this time. Graeme took me along to his new studio at the legendary ‘Bunker’, the heartbeat and focal point for Sunderland punk rock over the years. On the way through the corridors, he explained the diagnostics of how the classic album ‘Minx’ by Leatherface was recorded, and upon entering the upstairs area, I was able to peruse framed flyers of classic Sunderland shows, as well as front covers of all the fanzines that were produced there.
As we sit down to talk over a bottle of wine, he tells me that Frankie Stubbs has been having a sabbatical from music, and concentrating on work and his personal life. He is doing well, and taking a more sensible approach to life, compared to others in these circles. “Frankie and I meet regularly, to chat about life, politics”, Graeme tells me. Even Frankie himself recently wrote on his facebook page “Been listening to some unfinished Hammond guitar part song shit tonight. The musicians of Sunderland will finish these tunes off. I promise!” There may be more to come.
|Graeme in Studio 13 at The Bunker, Sunderland|
Those who have born witness to Dickie Hammond’s solo appearance at Rebellion Festival and his performance at the Sunderland gig will know that his personal struggles are coming into the public eye. Many people close to him are becoming increasingly frustrated that their advice is falling on deaf ears, yet his lifestyle is so ingrained in his psyche that it is difficult to convince him to have it any other way. Graeme himself has taken some time to focus on his home life, yet the itchy feet have kicked in again, and this caused him to re-establish contact with Hugo Mudie, whose band, The Saint Catherines, had also fallen by the wayside.
During the successful Leaftherface / Yesterdays Ring USA/Canada tour, which saw a mutual appreciation of each others music and DIY ethic, the pair hit it off so well that on one inebriated night, they promised to work together again in the future. It wasn’t until 2012 that they reconvened, and in that time Graeme had been back in touch with Dickie, and on the flipside, Hugo had been back in touch with Fred Jacques and Julien Blais who had also played in the Saint Catherines, and thus the line up for the project was complete.
The project came to fruition in October 2014, when Graeme and Dickie made the journey across the Atlantic, to join forces with the others at the remotely situated Wild Studios, two hours drive from Montreal in Quebec, Canada. The pre-production had already taken place at the Bunker, Studio 13, by Graeme, with a little help from Paul Reed. Both Graeme and Dickie worked and demoed most of the tracks, to produce a 10-song album and a bonus track. And it was on this visit to the Bunker myself that Ont Road Fanzine, on a staple diet of red wine, was able to have an exclusive listen to the album, titled ‘Warm Places’. Those that know Sunderland well will be aware of the pockets of Warm Places that exist amongst the harsh realities of working class existence.
The Review of ‘Medictation – Warm Places’
The record kicks off with ‘Memories of Youth’, which Graeme assures me is about an old friend who was stabbed to death in ‘Plains Farm’, an estate he grew up on. After the build up, and the riff for the first verse kicking in, the melodies are instantly recognisable as Hammond-esque, and the vocals familiarly raspy. It’s a beautiful number that eases the listener in by the 3-minute mark.
‘Secret of the Marlins’ is up next, and the alienation / self-introspection is felt with the chorus lines of ‘Don’t talk to no-one’. This is one of the songs written by the Canadians, and has a punk style Talking Heads feel to it, interjected with some familiar Leatherface mini-riffs. By track three, it becomes apparent that no songs are going to sound the same, something in which Leatherface were synonymous for. ‘Gods and Glory’ is a slower number, and the mellow sounds are reflective of a bunch of punk rockers who have seen it all and still content with their existence.
Track four is ‘Fishing’, and with the opening reel, it sounds like they are fishing indeed. There is a more straight up punk rock sound to this one, I can agree with Vinnie Fiorello (Drummer of Less Than Jake & Proprietor of Paper & Plastic who is releasing the record), when he said some of the tracks remind him of “Stiff Little Fingers”. A major influence on Dickie and Graeme!
At the end of Side A, it starts to mellow out further. This is probably due to the Canadian influence; as the guys have recently gone on to be successful Punk folk artists, with their side project ‘Miracles’. ‘The Last Rainfall’ is mooted as the potential single, and one feels at ease when the word ‘Son’, which is a common term of affection in Sunderland, is used in the first line. There’s a slight bluesy element to this song, which I like to call ‘Sunday Punk’, punk rock mixed in with Bruce Springsteen, even U2 ‘Boy’ era. You can definitely start to notice the folk influence of ‘Miracles’ and the sounds of Dickie Hammond’s old band ‘Dr. Bison’.
Side B starts of with a classic whirlwind punk-rock song ‘Saptor Raptor’, opening with the lines ‘Do you wanna change the world with me tonight?’ I can already see images in my head of a crowd full of punks at Fest, joining in on an epic group sing-along to the chorus. This song has Gainesville written all over it. It’s fantastic.
‘Sweet and Sour’ is up next, which persistently teases more from the music, and is quite left-field for the album, almost verging on the edge of an indie track. The standout lyric is “I’m not gonna ask for help anymore…I’m not going to hurt you anymore”. Then ‘My Friends Will Call’, kicks in, throughout the album you can hear threads of Leatherface, in fact it would be ridiculous if you couldn’t hear the influences and some more singalong lyrics abound with ‘It’s gonna be fine, it’s gonna be sweet…we’re gonna be free’.
Track Nine reminds me somewhat of ‘Broken’; it’s a slow chugger of a song, with some lovely guitar solos piercing through. It’s almost reminiscent of Bob Mould’s ‘Sugar’ era in places. And then comes the curtain raiser ‘Stalingrad’, with Hammond stepping up onto vocals, and having a ‘Jonny Cash’ moment. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I hear this. It’s clearly something that has come deep from the heart, and very personal about his life. There’s a line in the first bridge that says ‘now my world is empty, and my glass is always full’, the chorus comes in with ‘A catalogue of mistakes’ and the second verse finishes with ‘pour me another drink’. It’s hard to tell if he’s being deadly serious, or extremely light-hearted. Whatever the case, it’s a bold and striking end to a diverse and powerful punk-rock album.
Graeme told me how Dickie didn’t want to sing the track but he kicked Dickie out of bed one morning and asked him to sing it. “At least give Hugo a chance of hearing you sing it”. The rest of the band then told Dickie his vocal had to stay and thankfully Dickie agreed.
The finishing touches to the album were put together by Ryan Battistuz, who did the recording and engineering, and Ryan Morey (who works with Arcade Fire) doing the final mastering.
Hugo Mudie (The Sainte Catherines, Miracles, Yesterdays Ring) - Vocals
Dickie Hammond (HDQ, Leatherface) - Guitar
Fred Jaques (The Sainte Catherines, Miracles, Yesterdays Ring) - Guitar
Graeme Philliskirk (Leatherafce, Bultaco/Rugrat) - Bass
Julien Blais (The Sainte Catherines, Miracles, The Stills, XLarg) – Drums
Their debut album ‘Warm Places’ will be available in early 2016, on Paper & Plastic Records, in the formats of CD, MP3, and vinyl. A big thanks goes out to Dickie’s Mum, Val, Son Jo and Evan. Mark Vincent Bussey for all his work and Vinnie Fiorello for making this happen.
Order here: http://paperplastickeu.limitedrun.com/products/567025-medictation-warm-places-12
Order here: http://paperplastickeu.limitedrun.com/products/567025-medictation-warm-places-12