It was a Wednesday night before the snow came. I braved the uncaring wind and chose a t-shirt unsuitable for the clime in the hope that it would earn me some kudos from all of the hipsters (don't snigger, that word is coming back, I tell you) I imagined would be present. A bit like when my uncle would wear a Dire Straits t-shirt to show he was down with the kids when I was growing up.
Actually, that was my dad.
Oh, no. It was me.
You get the point.
The alleged venue was across the road from the train station in Chester. I was there to see Anglesey's Bastions. A band I'd played many times on my show but who I had never seen live.
Bastions make furious, complex songs that are as restless as a caged wolf being pursued by an unreputable wildlife photographer. They're hard to categorise when your musical past includes Dire Straits t-shirts. I'm intrigued by their hardcore roots and influences as opposed to being knowledgeable of them. I wonder if that disqualifies me from proclaiming their brilliance. Because they are, you know.
The venue is the old mail club. A place where the GPO used to be able to get their rocks off to cabaret bands, snacking on a nice chicken leg in a plastic basket, before they'd cycle home at presumably 5pm to have nightmares about bared canines behind letterboxes and local radio DJ's in loose dressing gowns.
The posties have gone elsewhere, I think, and the mail club has had a lick of paint, some new fixtures and fittings, and it's probably a good thing that the kind of tat that used to pass as stylish in the early 90's is getting recycled and finding a home somewhere.
I cross my fingers that there will at least be one person in there half my age and walk through the door expecting a throng of 18 year olds wearing hair that looks like it has been cut by a man on a very light boat in a very rough sea, but there is no one there other than the bands.
Oh, other than the barman and the DJ's.
I remember how thankless it is to cajole a transit van tens of miles from home only to find out you're playing to your own shadows. Even the comedy (unintentional) scouse metal band who open proceedings with some spectacular asynchrous headbanging don't manage to crush Bastions' indomitable spirit. I'd have run screaming from the venue the moment I realised it didn't have a PA if I'd have been them.
But they're made of diamantine spunk. Please don't snigger. It's a proper word.
Bastions play as if kidnappers have their loved ones dangling over nets made of razor blades and have sent a ransom note that demands a currency of bloody noise and indefatigable battle.
Somehow they transcend the gaud. They blow holes in the puce walls, splatter heart all over the Blackpool illuminations, and stamp hard-spirited feet on a dancefloor that has surely been designed to accomodate half-arsed strippers.
I can't believe they managed to dredge up an A game for such a GM Conference night. But I'm a Liverpool fan and I'm quickly becoming unfamiliar with the capable, passionate and diligent.
A month after this revelation, I finally sent Bastions the questions for the interview that I promised them that night.
Here you go.
I've seen some perplexing descriptions of what you are: post hardcore, dark punk, screamo - what are you? Would you rather you weren't labelled and tinned, or do you recognise the need for it?
Fundamentally, i'd say we are a punk band.
What kind of problems does not fitting easily into one box or the other cause you?
It's a double edged sword. Not having a set genre means different people can identify with different things within the band and music. It also means however that we just float in the outer circles of various scenes, not really belonging to any one thing. For the record, we're totally okay with this.
There's a punk exhibition over in Bangor at the moment. What does ' punk' mean to you? Do you feel your roots are in what happened back in '76 / '77, or is it all too far removed to have any real relevance to what you do?
Dillinger Escape Plan were something of a revelation to me when you picked them for my birthday mixtape... what other bands have shaped your sound?
Any bands that are honest and have heart.
Bastions are a fortification / the last vestige of something... what are you fortifying / the last vestige of?
Is DIY the only way you want to get your music to people?
We release everything ourselves because we're impatient. It seems like the obvious choice to us: why wait for someone to do it tomorrow when you can do it yourself today? On a practical level, we're fortunate that we're all artistically inclined and can dabble with artwork and different media formats. We'd love to have the full monty, six panel digipaks, full vinyl inlays and laser etched discs, but it's really not financially viable. That being said, this way of doing things has become as much as part of the band as the music.
Are there any labels you'd be happy to have interest off?
Deathwish Inc. Holy Roar Records, Anchors Aweigh, or any label that's forward thinking enough to realise that the music industry is changing, and labels are having to adapt to survive. I don't think major labels will be around as we know them much longer.
When you look down to Cardiff and the South Wales Valleys, are you not at all envious of the strong DIY scene down there and the better opportunities to gig / get yourselves heard, or has the greater challenge of coming from Anglesey sharpened you?
I'd say we're far too removed from that scene to formulate an opinion on it, but I would say coming from Anglesey, and having to travel has made us have to work harder, and I wouldn't necessarily say that's a bad thing.
It strikes me that it's regarded as okay for bands within the DIY scene to have a job as well as be in a band. Used to be that musicians who also had jobs were looked down on as part-timers... okay, generally by slackers and junkies. But is work part of your ethos? Is the bohemian musician a thing of the past, because of the way the industry has changed (i.e. that fat advance is probably never going to arrive for anyone anymore).
Danny - I don't think that opinion has changed at all. Maybe it's because I have a family as well; I can't be too sure. But that opinion is still thrown at me in spades. The irony of course, is that it just makes me want to work harder.
The sea - and the history of seafaring - seems to be a recurring theme in the imagery in your artwork and lyrics, quite apart from the fact that you live near the sea, what is it that intrigues you about the sea?
I wouldn't say it was a recurring theme as such, We Will All Sink had a unifying theme about the sinking of the Royal Charter, check Wikipedia!
Death crops up a lot, too. I think. If it does, why? (I like to try and ignore it, personally - thanks).
Death is coming for all of us, Adam.
You seem like pretty mild mannered chaps (on the basis of meeting you a whole once) - where does that incredible scream in your sound come from?
That's probably why we're so mild mannered!
It's brilliantly constructed music - you can hear a complex framework underneath what you do. How hard do you work at that in rehearsal rooms / studios?
Thank you, I'd say we work hard at rehearsal to get everything to a point we're happy with, but when it comes to writing, some things just 'happen'. It's defiantly a 50/50 process.
Given the relative complexity of what you do: are you the kind of band who practise Yngwie Malmsteen fingertapping in the privacy of your own homes?
Jamie - To be completely honest, I hate guitar shredding, I can't do it and I don't want to do it. Even if I did, I'm far too ham fisted and impatient to be sitting there and watching Yngwie Malmsteen instructional DVD's.
Danny - Once upon a time... but not since Bastions formed.
John - I enjoy Jazz Modal Workouts. Other than that, no!
Your gig at the Deva Mail Club in Chester is one of the most visceral I've seen. Am I just being a bit naïve, here. Are there lots of bands out there who sweat blood out their foreheads and scream the hope into tomorrow? What does performing like that - that intensely - do for you?
It comes from a feeling of playing for us first, audience second.
More shows, more songs, more vinyl!
Anything else you'd like to say?
Just a thank you to everyone that's supported us over the last 18 months.
Find out more: http://myspace.com/bstns