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A Dirty Dozen with NOKO of AM I DEAD YET? – June 2019

| 13 June 2019 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “Retro-Cinematic, Noir Electronic duo AM I DEAD YET?, made up of POP WILL EAT ITSELF and GAY BYKER ON ACID frontman MARY BYKER with APOLLO 440 and MAGAZINE guitarist and long-time collaborator NOKO, has released their stunning, debut, self-titled LP. Out Now via Wire-Sound and worldwide via Cargo, the 11 track LP introduces audiences to the pair’s hauntingly unique sonic universe.” We get guitarist NOKO to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets the band put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

Noko – Our debut eponymous album, Am I Dead Yet? is about 60 mins long and well worth an hour of anyone’s time. During the recording, I managed to pick up an C19th cimbalom on Ebay – a huge beast of a stringed instrument (the largest member of the dulcimer family and the national instrument of Hungary). This one looks like it’s been at  the bottom of the sea for most of it’s life, but the magical sound is to die for. There’s an awful lot of it on the album. Actually, some of the songs work so well instrumentally, that we re-worked 5 of them as a cinematic-remix EP Never Mind The Bolex…Am I Dead Yet? reimagined on 35mm, so you get a 360 degree point of view on some of the highlights.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

There were 3 other kids who played guitar in my street and I hit on a genius plan – if I bought myself a bass guitar, I’d be in a band straight away – result! I mean, how difficult could it be?……I mean it’s only got 4 strings.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

The first time I saw Marc Bolan and T-Rex on Top Of The Pops on TV, time stood still. I realized that everything I’d experienced up to that point meant nothing and my future life was mapped out in front of me. (see later question for ‘live show’ epiphany)

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Marc Bolan, British film composer John Barry, Johann Sebastian Bach, King Crimson ( specifically ’73-74 Larks’ Tongues In Aspic, Starless And Bible Black, Red LP trilogy), the late Allan Holdsworth RIP.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

As a guitarist, they don’t come much better than the godlike Jeff Beck – I had the good fortune to co-write and produce some tracks with Jeff in 2002 with my band Apollo 440 on what became his Jeff album. For a 2 week period, he came into our studio, Apollo Control in London and just played the most sublime, other-worldly electric guitar. I’d have happily paid good money to go to work each day! Hard to improve on that one.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

Right now, as we’re on our first album, I enjoy any attention, good or bad.

7. What’s the best thing about being a musician?

The hours.

8. When the band are all hanging out together, who cooks; who gets the drinks in; and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

The closest thing we’ve got to an acoustic guitar in Am I Dead Yet? is bass player Derek ‘Hoodlum Priest’ Thompson’s beautiful gold top Epiphone Jack Cassady bass, and that’s a semi! I’m always the first to crack out the bongos – much to the annoyance of everyone else. I’m probably the worst cook of the four of us. Drummer Cliff Hewitt is our wine expert…Chateau Skem anyone?

9. When was the last time you were star struck and who was it?

I was playing the Hop Farm Festival in Kent with Magazine in 2011. Morrissey was top of the bill, along with Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and some other pretty cool stuff, including Patti Smith. I’d always been a huge fan and had seen her play on many occasions. I was hanging about in the backstage quietly having a beer after we’d come offstage, when who should walk up to within a few feet of me, but the high-priestess poet of NYC punk rock herself, Mrs Smith. Caught me off guard – on another day, I’d have had an immaculate, knowing one-liner up my sleeve, I could have strategically dropped insider hints that her music had changed my life in ways she could never know, but this time all I could do, in the presence of astral greatness, was mumble something to the effect that I’d enjoyed her set, or some such gargantuan understatement. I wanted to connect with her on French symbolist poetry, I wanted to sing her the entirety of Tom Verlaine’s fragile gtr solo on her “Break It Up,” I wanted to tell her she was the only woman I’d ever really loved… but alas, no. She smiled politely and walked off.

10. If you weren’t a musician, what would be your dream job?

I’m totally unemployable. The only other thing I was ever interested in, going back as far as childhood, was bird watching – If I hadn’t got the rock’n’roll bug, I’d have been a mad survivalist loner living out in the forest with a pair of binoculars psychotically ticking species of my list, and eventually I’d have lost whatever social skills I’ve got left.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over”, even if it didn’t change your current situation?

When Apollo 440’s music started to be used in lots of Hollywood movies in the late 90’s, we should have upped-sticks and moved to LA and really have given it a proper shot over there, but I think the next Am I dead Yet? album should be our American Album – I reckon it would sound very different if we did it over there… if anyone will put us up?!

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

The first Van Halen album. It’s the most immaculate record of a band on the precipice of greatness and universal recognition. They’d done their homework as an LA party band doing Kinks covers and knew in ways beyond simple youthful arrogance, that they were THE BEST and the world was about to be theirs for the taking. I was at school at the time and my Apollo 440 bandmate Howard and another mate, went to see Black Sabbath at the Southport Floral Hall. This was Sabbs’ Never Say Die comeback tour (they hadn’t gigged for a few years, so this was special). We knew nothing of the young support band Van Halen, other than this was their first time in UK, so expected nowt. Over the next 45 minutes, my life changed forever as they launched themselves at the audience the the swagger of a band who had everything to prove, but knew simply how good they were and that this, and the whole rock world (particularly Sabbath’s on that tour!), was theirs for the taking. That night was the sound of the rule-book being shredded into pieces and guitar playing would never be the same. That’s how it felt anyway.  Apparently the whole album was recorded and mixed by Ted Templeman in 10 days. The amp hiss at the end of “Eruption” is rock’n’roll poetry in itself.




Category: News

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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