The Rise Of The Mighty Sparrahawk! - C.T. Herron - NHC Exclusive

26th September 2016

What a weekend! Friday night saw NHC hosting Chuck Mosley (Faith No More/Bad Brains) at Nice & Sleazy's supported by the very talented Fudgie and The Girobabies (who performed a rare acoustic set). Chuck spent the night with us at Gonzo Division HQ in Ibrox before heading back off on his UK tour. I then spent the weekend at Dijancer's (Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5) taking in the Swiss army knife of music that is the Girobabies, providing from their members in one gig, Gordy Duncan JR. (solo acoustic), Jackal Trades (spoken word/hip-hop) and The Twistettes, all of which were brilliant, at an awesome hospitable venue in The Weavers Conderrat in Cumbernauld (where they make the sausage?). 

To top off a great weekend (as a sort of bank holiday treat) Dutch Rukowski invited me down to Carlton Studios to preview his band's new material, it's pretty difficult to get a hold of an NHC member on a Monday as we're all inevitably bust from the weekend (the shop doesn't even open on a Monday, El Hefe Jamie's a lot like Garfield, he hates Mondays and loves lasagne) but the music fan in me could not resist heading down to check out some new stuff, hangover/comedown or no.

I know Dutch through his work with Clutha and he is a big supporter of NHC, so once again I find myself with an exclusive on my hands as very few have heard this band, even fewer have heard their new album (with it not being released yet obviously) and they have only played a handful of gigs so far. But now, after a rearranging of some members, they are ready to be unleashed fully onto the public with a record release and full tour.

And thank fuck, because it would be a shame for this music not to be heard... But I'm getting ahead of myself here. I hadn't heard the band, I had heard of them, missed them at Mugstock due to inebriation, and was aware of their presence on the local scene, but not even sure what type of music they would be... The name put me in the mind of Cock Sparrer, which played a psychological trick on me that made me assume they were going to be a basic, three chord, old school punk band, and what with Dutch's punk influences, but this image I had falsely imagined was completely wrong, they were so much better than that!

Carlton Studios turned out to be a little difficult to find, I had not been there before, but I thought I knew where it was, only, when I arrived off the tube all I found where I thought it was, was a cafe? Maybe I should go in and ask directions, nah I'll circle the block a couple of times and see if I can see it. No luck, but then I spy a figure crossing the bridge with a guitar on his back and I thought, surely he must know where a recording studio is. Turns out the Universe had sent me a guide as he was on his way there and took me right to the door - it was the cafe I had originally arrived at, turns out their studio is fronted by a cafe, and not very advertised... So if you're ever trying to find it, you know how now.

Inside and through the drifting smells of various breakfast rolls being cooked I find my way into something that's starting to look more like a recording studio. A salubrious enough place, well-equipped, well-run, a good recording studio and very affordable too if you're looking for somewhere here's the page - I recommend them.

I locate the room Sparrahawk are in quickly, and I don't think I was even that late despite getting slightly lost. I'm introduced to the band, a nice, gregarious bunch of guys, five of them, a cross-section of age and appearance, so a motley crew, and I'm even provided with a coffee as I sit down to take in their music with the warning that I may need psychological rehabilitation afterwards, fortunately I've tripped the psychedelic cosmos through enough mental music that I think I'll survive...

A couple of rolls and sausage are scoffed down by the guys in preparation and the band are ready to go. I've already gathered by their array of instruments and devices scattered around like the controls of some UFO that this isn't going to be your average band, and I'm excited, I have a good feeling, a nice vibe. Prepare for take off...

An elven-looking older punk rocker with spiky grey hair (known only as Alien Pig) starts up a throbbing tone from the keyboard, accompanied by the drummer Kevin Dunne's cymbals crashing, casting their golden shine around the walls in their vibrating, shimmering reflection, which adds an appropriate kind of light show to the psychedelic intro, some trippy guitar effects bring us up to a peak as the older pony-tailed frontman (who goes by the handle of Frodovskee) starts a spoken word lead in to the opening song and I can't help but experience acid flashbacks to a time years ago where I listened to Hawkwind high on the wings of 300 liberty caps.

I can tell immediately, my music journalist senses tingling, that A) this band are going to be right up my particular street, and B) whatever's about to happen is going to be fucking amazing. To be hooked in by music this quickly and completely is the sign of a really good collective of musical individuals, and this just from the intro piece. Frodovskee lurches in with some heavy guitar licks to accompany Dutch's driving riffs, and the vocals get going properly, the vocs are offering a punk influence, John Cooper Clarke kind of style, but all the while the guitars are taking us through soaring stoner rock riffs and Alien Pig is surrounding us in a bubble of surreal sound from his Novation keyboard.

The singer is juggling wizardry, multi-tasking like a motherfucker, switching between a few different guitars, singing, talking, sound engineering, conducting the band, orchestrating the instruments, fiddling with various gadgetry and even jumping on percussion now and then to provide a tribal booming to underpin the heavy, loud psychedelic sounds, at one point he even whips out a shiny, sharp-looking chef knife and I think Oh fuck what's going on here? but he just uses it to deftly slice an orange into a wedge, he's doing all the above things while making his lunch and eating it, now that is fucking multi-tasking! He also possesses a captivating, frenetic, ball of energy and alacrity within him, which is sure to invoke the spirit, backed by that music, of any crowd he stands in front of.

This band are multi-instrumental at another level, apart from the drummer and his kit, the keyboard, and the two guitars there is also Will Bongo on percussion playing various bongos, and assorted types of drum I could only guess at the names of and so won't bother trying. On top of all this, at certain points, Will's whipping out selected outlandish looking handheld instruments I've never even seen, and so is Dutch sometimes, the result is a phantasmagoria of sounds to delight the auricles.

The next few songs took us through a whole host of genre-leaping opuses, ending with 'Death By Swally' a dipsomaniac ode to alcohol that I really liked and which kinda' put me in the mind of what Johnny Cash would have been like if he had had an awesome punk/psychedelic backing group. The song is incredibly progressive in its depth (as all their songs seem to be) even ending with a sort of reggae-esque vibe to finish off a well-rounded perfect performance to their one man audience in the confines of this recording studio.

The band is a fantastic mix of heavy loud, and soft quiet, they are tight and they are all very well attuned to their instruments. Sometimes during the quieter bits, they would go all tribal and I felt like I might be attending an ayahuasca ceremony or something, especially when Frodovskee starts chanting into his mike. They are gonna' really please the ears of the psychonautical community, but are heavy enough too, to attract the attention of the hardened rockers, awesome balance.

Let's face it though, it doesn't matter what you're into, there's something in this smorgasbord of sounds for every listener. I left (with a new t-shirt and a pre-release copy of the album for my ears only) feeling privileged to have been involved in the embryonic stages of this music, because I could tell it was going to be popular, and if there's any justice, successful too. They end with the announcement that "Counseling services are available after the gig, you'll be okay in six weeks time"...

...So inspired was I by their sound, I felt uplifted all the subway journey home, and was fired up enough to come in and immediately start writing this article, which is where you find me now, listening to their forthcoming album on my stereo. The record is called 'Sixty Eight Addresses and a Belly Fool of Beer' and is due for release in October (date to be announced), the Mighty Sparrahawk will be playing live in all their glory at the Clutha on Saturday 1st October. Closer to the album launch you can expect a full detailed album review (as I have a lot left to say about it but feel this article is long enough for now) from me and you can be sure NHC will be attending the release party, whereupon I will seeya' in the pit!!!

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