Black Delta Movement – Matty Burr interview

26th March 2018 // Black Delta Movement // Live Music // Music

It’s another Monday morning in Pave. I’m late which is a source of great shame for me. We did the quiz in The People’s Republic last night and I extol the virtues of Flaming Pig whiskey, which is a possible reason why I’m (actually only seven minutes) late. We came second by the way.

We order a latte and a pint of Diet Coke respectively and get stuck into it after bemoaning a couple of pet peeves. HU5 is a great place to live and be part of the creative hub of the city, but you can’t walk for more than ten minutes without bumping into someone and the inevitable suggestion that you go do some more damage to your liver. Matty’s moved back home for the time being, negating the liver assault and readying himself for the release of their debut album, Preservation, which drops on 30th March, , and their official launch at Früit on 29th, next Friday night. It’s a guaranteed sell-out, but of course, the anxiety that precedes such a monumental occasion, I only know too well.

Another pet peeve is cars that bib you every few seconds down Prinny, Newland and Spring Bank. I have new glasses, but no, I don’t know who the fuck it is because I’m not fucking Clark Kent and I can’t see inside a darkened vehicle. It’s part and parcel of life in the area, and you’re duty-bound to offer a half-arsed wave at a faceless person. Matty doesn’t miss this, he is too preoccupied with the album coming out anyway, and probably wouldn’t let such a minor problem cause him as much consternation as it does to a walking coiled spring such as myself.

The album is called Preservation because a lot of these songs have been around since the band began eight years ago, and it was a way of putting them to bed and closing the first chapter. I’ve listened to it and I was extremely impressed. One thing that struck me, in a good way, was the conciseness of the songs. In a live setting, they’re known for their long groove-based jams, which were superb in a club where people are grooving, but the album sees them shorn down to mostly around the three-minute Mark, except for closer Butterfly, which clocks in at around eight minutes, which is fine, as album closers traditionally should be epic. It’s a cohesive set which hangs together beautifully, encapsulating the sound they’ve been cultivating throughout their eight-year tenure.

Some of the songs, such as No End were written a couple of years ago, played only once and forgotten about so there’s a sense that revisiting some of these songs that had been started are like new songs, written especially for the album, helping it retain a freshness that perhaps you wouldn’t expect from what is ostensibly, a set with some songs dating back to the band’s inception. It does feel fresh. Even knowing that some of the songs have been staples of their live sets for a while, there isn’t a sense of just bashing out the old songs to get an album out. Most of the songs sound new in any case, as they’ve been reworked and edited sometimes beyond recognition, which is an impressive feat. The album hangs together cohesively and flows well, the sequencing obviously having been given a lot of thought. It’s pretty heavy, as you’d expect in places, but no song outstays it’s welcome, something which Matty observes May be off-putting to potential new fans.

'Some of the songs were started and just forgotten, and it was like recording new songs for the album. We’re essentially a jam band; we’d start off a song, forget about it and return to it like you’d probably do with a piece of writing. It’s in the bank or on the hard drive. We did a lot of half songs and got into a bit of a slump, and we did loads of EPs, meaning there was little drive to write loads of new songs. An EP is 3 songs; we had other songs to record but put them off to do it as and when, no drive to pin them down. So, a lot of the album is us getting these songs down and preserving them. It’s something we felt needed doing. And we gave them a bit of an edit, so there wasn’t anything overly long.’

Matt thinks some of the songs went on too long, which we previously mentioned, in a live setting is ideal, but on an album, it needs to be punchier.

‘Unless you’ve got fans who are really into you, long songs can seem a bit dull, or alienate the unitiated. The album’s 33 minutes long, which is a good length for an album. It’s immediate-sounding, I actually wanted more than ten songs, but it’s called Preservation as it’s saving our older stuff. We really needed to do an album ‘cos if you just bang out Eps, you end up looking like a band that doesn’t really do much. An album, bookmarks it, doesn’t it? The shelf life of EPs is about 3 months, whereas an album more or less forever.’

The fact that the album exists at all is nothing short of miraculous. Although it was recorded last September, three members left at Christmas, and if they hadn’t done the album, the band would have probably just died. The fact that they got the album down, allowed them to draw a line under that particular chapter, and allow them to move forward. Members were all involved in other projects, so the new members recruitment had to be swift.

Rome and Butterfly were written by me and Dom at our first rehearsal. But that seems like ancient history. Now, with added flexibility, and new members, it frees the band to move in different directions. We’ve always wanted to do different things; I like the idea of each record being different. We now have three new members;, but the major development is that now we have a keys player. I’ve always wanted a keys player, and it totally adds a new dimension to the band. We’d always talked about it but never happened, then Dom talked to the guy on a night out and next rehearsal he just turned up with an Ableton pad. Simple as that. We always liked the idea of having two drummers, but it seriously pissed sound engineers off (laughs), but now with the addition of the keys, there’s a whole different frequency now.’

It's incredible, given the timing, December and January being such an intensely emotional time, due to tragic circumstances and a period of abundant activity, that they managed to get a new band together at all in such a short period of time. It’s remarkable it happened so quickly. Everyone just seemed to say, ‘yeah, I’ll do it’ without much convincing; one of the most beautiful things about Hull is its support network. And they just asked good mates who immediately got on board. January was a hectic month, probably the ‘wettest’ dry January on record, so it was all the more remarkable. Whether it was serendipity or coincidence, or even if you don’t believe in those concepts, it happened. Dom was crucial to the process. If it hadn’t been for his support, Matt feels the band would have expired. He and Dom started the band, and Matt can’t stress enough how important his bandmate is; to carry on together feels right, they’re more like brothers than just mates or bandmates. The glue that held the band together through the testing period.

'We’ve already been on road together. We’ve done Glasgow, Manchester, and the Made in Hull cruise on the ferry. I was nervous about getting back onstage again, obviously, I wanted to, but was worried how it’d go. We were tight in rehearsals, but not as tight as I’d have liked. It was weird ‘cos you turn around and you’re thinking ‘where’s my old bassist?’ So, it was strange. I’m a bit of a perfectionist so I kick at every little thing, I’m probably a nightmare to work with (laughs), a benevolent dictator; probably quite hard to be in a band with at times, but if you wanna put out a quality product, you’ve gotta be a bit of an arsehole at times. You’ve got to have a bit of a ruthless streak and be a bit of a bastard if you want to succeed. I’m not interested in being famous, I just want to be a professional musician. Getting hammered before going onstage doesn’t work. Afterwards is fine, celebrate doing a good job. You’ve got to take it seriously, as people are spending hard-earned cash to see you, you can’t be sloppy.’

We discuss the present state of the British music scene. An article recently appeared declaring Gibson guitars facing bankruptcy and guitar music being dead, as kids are buying decks. It’s all hyperbole of course, it’s reasonably healthy but perhaps dying off a bit as far as the mainstream is concerned. Hip-hop sales are taking over, for the first time ever. There does indeed seem to be a dearth of new guitar bands breaking through; the ones that are, are mixing it with dance beats– Blossoms, Peace and the like. There don’t seem to be any dangerous bands anymore, everyone preferring to play safe and water down sound. The only bands really making a living are established bands. I note it must be hard starting out as a rock band now.

‘For me, when Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, walk out onstage, there’s a sense of menace. The only British bands where you feel anything could go off are Cabbage, who seem to be threatening the mainstream, and Fat White Family, who just don’t give a fuck. What happened to Cabbage with the wrongful sexual allegations was awful. It felt like a conspiracy against rock music.’

‘Maybe that’s why rock’n’roll is hiding away ‘cos people are terrified of Twitter. Everyone got a say. Trial by social media. That’s why I stay onstage, ‘cos if you bang into someone, you’ve got a potential assault charge, if you knock someone’s drink over: ‘he threw a drink over me!’ The internet is the death knell of proper rock’n’roll. Oasis were the last pre-internet band that could be dangerous. Arctic Monkeys used it to advantage, but now it’s just a tool, effectively only good printing posters. It’s important, but a necessary evil. You’ve got to have a social media presence or you won’t get anywhere. You’ve got to be on it to let people know what you’re doing.’

Brits have traditionally led way in indie-rock, it’s a shame that it’s in this state. In fact, we’re spoilt really, there are actually too many bands. The Sesh is a case in point, you get to see loads of emerging bands, but it’s free. If you charged, people wouldn’t pay. We got it so much under our noses, we don’t value it. Hull’s unique, having the Humber Street Sesh; no other city can do what that does, it’s insane. We’ve actually got so much talent, but it’s self-contained. Healthy hull scene, amazing bands, but inward-looking mostly. More and more bands are starting to play out of town, which is encouraging.

‘We wouldn’t be where we are if we hadn’t toured. We do something right; I don’t know what it is. We finished the album in September, I’ve not listened to it since (laughs).'

I mention this is relatively normal with most creative arts, writers don’t read their books, actors don’t watch their films, they’re completed projects and they’re onto the next thing. They’re documents of a time, but that’s not how you feel now, that time is over, so it’s almost irrelevant. Artists want progression, they need to move on.

Any mention of The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe has Matt as animated as a child who’s been drip-fed pure sugar.

‘Jonestown are a huge influence. Totally in awe of them. Anton is so creative. We met him in Berlin, and he was such a wonderful guy, contrary to his reputation. In Berlin, he’s a picture of domestic bliss, living with his wife and kid. He’s totally cleaned up, but he’s still unhinged creatively, he’s completely into music, it just runs through him. He’s such a massive inspiration on us.’

Other influences are, BRMC, Oasis, Weller, The Jam, Ocean Colour Scene, Mando Diao, Queens of Stone Age, Nick Cave. BRMC are a massive influence visually, I thought, “I can do that, write songs like that and perform in that way.” Black Angels too. I moved into darker influences. I make no secret of the fact that I was bullied at school, and being in a band is a kind of ‘fuck you!’ revenge. Some of them come to the gigs now and sing their songs back to them. It’s both vindication and satisfaction. I was bullied by these people, but onstage, I feel 60 feet tall. People treated me like shit so I rebelled against that. Never rebelled against parents, because they’re so incredibly supportive, so my rebellion was aimed at the bullies and it feels good. I don’t tell my dad, Colin, enough how much I appreciate him, but he knows. I wouldn’t be in music without him. If it wasn’t for music I don’t think I’d have got through the bullying thing. Music got me through those demons. It was and is incredibly empowering. I wanted to have a band where the sound was bigger than they were, and now I’ve shown them, so I do it for myself now.’

So, what’s next for Black Delta Movement, Matt?

‘Well, the album’s done, and although we’re a new entity now, the lads all played on it; we did it live. We had to do the album ‘cos we hadn’t released anything for over a year, and it felt right. It was actually frightening being the last chance to record these songs; with EPs you can rework songs. We had to do the album to put the previous eight years to bed, hence Preservation. Now we can move on. The album has songs on it that people know, well-preserved, so that’s done now, and I want to release another album by the end of the year, we want to get new material out now the old stuff is out there.’

I’m not interested in listening to it cos we’ve played those songs for years. Now, we move forward, and with the keys and other additions, a new direction is on the cards. We hope to create a more expansive sound; I like the idea of different sounds for different albums. We originally wanted the next album to be like The Stooges, but now with the added dimension the keys bring, we can move beyond straight-up rock music, and keep on experimenting with different styles. If a shark doesn’t move forward it dies. It’s easy to get complacent and find your own sound, but it’s boring and predictable, it’s much more appealing to try out new stuff. I’m open to working with different producers. I’d love to work with Brendan Lynch, with a producer as an extra member who’ll say ‘lose that, it’s shit’ that’s what you need in order to learn.’

Matt concludes by stressing he’d love to do more collaborations. Barrie Cadogan, Anton Newcombe, are names that crop up, as well as getting involved in mates’ bands. He’s finding love of music again, after losing direction a bit, or feeling as if he was stuck in rut, but with his renewed passion, he’s eager to crack on. Things have changed, there’s a definite feeling of an upwards trajectory, a new band, fresh perspectives, his own label, Clubbed Thumb, with which he’s keen to help other local artists. He’s stepped up and feels positive now, and cites working with friends and playing to as big audiences as possible as his goals for the immediate future.

‘Friends got me through everything, so it’s opportunity for payback and to include them in the operation in any way possible.’

And with that admirable sentiment and statement of intent, we neck our drinks, head out for a fag and immediately get beeped by a passing car. It’s a black Audi. Neither of us has a fucking clue who it was.

Buy tickets for The Black Delta Movement ‘Preservation’ Album Launch at Fruit Thu 29th March HERE

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