Review of The Kashmir Gig, London, 17th December 1999, by Guy Lovelady (Founder of Ugly Man Records)
Until I saw Ian Ford's fan site for I am Kloot I was unaware that 17th December 1999 was a date written large in my life. The memories of that day are still very fresh but the date itself had been lost.
It was the first time that I had ever seen I am Kloot play. Not remarkable in itself but by this time they and I had already released their debut single To You/Titanic.
I had met Johnny early in the summer and in the course of a discussion about a gig booking at the Night & Day for a talented singer songwriter I was working with [Steve Finn], John had convinced me that I really ought to have a listen his latest musical offering. In the following months, I met his new combo, Pete and Andy, met his producer Guy [good name nice man] and fallen in love his new project. There are more stories surrounding all that which hopefully i can take you through another time.
But on 17th December 1999, I went to that London to see the fast emerging I am Kloot play at the Kasmir Club. "it's not easy tofind" said Pete Jobson and he was dead right. The west end in rush hour is the place of Satan but all those evil one way streets around Harley street and baker street were causing me an absolute nightmare. Ordinarily I would have parked somewhere easy and got the tube in but I had Andy's drum kit in the back of my car and time was getting close to sound check time. Blood pressure rising I made the gig, unloaded and went for a walk around and picked up a copy of Time Out.
Time Out made for exciting reading. There were 5 recommended gigs for the evening. Elton John - Wembley or somewhere like that, Ian Brown somewhere big and brash and third on the list I am Kloot at the Kashmir Club. This was a moment of pure ecstasy. Later at the venue I met the man responsible for the piece Andy Fraser, was the London based press agent whom Kloot's then manager had recruited to help spread the word in the papers and magazines, that decide on our behalf what is good and what is worth listening to. Andy was a diamond geezer and every inch the cockney waif/music biz mover and shaker I had envisaged from my previous phone conversations prior to us meeting. He was gentleness and sincerity personified [rare commodities indeed in this part of the business] he took me through his meticulous plan for the night and ongoing with the band with a passion born out of his total belief in the band and the music. The plan for the night involved his new band, who were called The Libertines. They had a very teenage/underage looking pretty boy lead singer, who had I known he was a rabid QPR fan who wrote for a club fanzine, I dare say I would have had a chat with him. But I didn't so I can't say I ever met Pete Doherty, but I saw the Libertines play one of their early gigs.
Another dramatic coincidence that evening was the guy doing the sound. Dave Dickie is another of those rich characters that populate the London music business. I had worked Dix on the very first record my brother and I released as Ugly Man records. He was half of Black and produced the smash hit Wonderful Life. Now after a lifetime in and out of the studio and on the road he had settled in SW London and was helping with running the Kashmir Club. The loveliest of coincidences prior to seeing Bramwell Jobson and Hargreaves justify my blind faith in their musical abilities.
For blind faith replace that with astute musical intuition, I am Kloot were/are/ will be one of the greatest live acts I have ever seen. In the intimate cellar room I could scarcely conceal the most cheesy of grins. I was working with a most incredible musical act. All the spacey atmospheric vibes that Bramwell had described to me on a bar stool in Night & Day and had then put on to vinyl rang totally true in this jazz den in London's west end. It was total bliss.
Later I would realise that wherever and whenever they played, they would always be totally on the money, great tunes, played well, great banter, whether you were stood in field, in a cellar, in a dance hall, I am yet to see anything less that complete and total consistency, without losing any of the bite, beauty and humanity.
So that, I will take to my grave with a sense of intense clarity and immense pride. That night I was Kloot, too. Magic
Single review of "Titanic/To You" by Piers Martin. NME 27th November 1999.
I Am Kloot 'Titanic/To You' (Ugly Man) Enchanting debut from a promising Manchester group who might just have heard one or two Go-Betweens albums seeping from the door of the local second-hand record shop as they trawled the city's streets in search of the same beguiling Manc spirit currently being touted by Badly Drawn Boy and, still, El Moz. Singer Johnny Bramwell need look no more, though, for both 'Titanic' and 'To You' are incisive, darkly humorous musings on the minutiae of life rendered listenable by their thinly veiled debt to kindred souls like Elliott Smith and Leonard Cohen. It's hard to get excited about something so self-deprecating and determinedly bleak, but bloody hell, we're trying. They Are Kloot, then, and they are not to be confused with Klute, the veteran junglist. (Piers Martin)
Highbury Garage Upstairs Gig Review by Siobhan Grogan. NME 27th Novermber 1999.
Sssh. You may need to listen closely, but you'll find something special if you do. There's nothing much to see, certainly, just two blokes perched on chairs in semi-darkness, eerily spotlit from below, in front of a drummer whose face barely emerges above his cymbals. But the pleasure is all in the listening.
Starting with similar roots to Shack, the terribly named Mancunians, I Am Kloot, take things slowly and gently. They're not about to ram their presence down anyone's throat and won't even rise to the bait of the irritating chattering hordes gathered at the back, knowing it's their loss.
For one thing, they're missing the affecting mix of influences that make I Am Kloot much more than just another band who know the power of silence. Indeed, despite being together for less than a year (incredibly, this is their London debut), I Am Kloot already write songs verging on classics.
Frontman Johnny Bramwell crams into each song the sort of prosaic lyrics normally expected from Morrissey, but couples them unexpectedly with soft jazz rhythms ('Sunlight Hits The Snow') and dramatically plaintive Burt Bacharach-inspired melodies ('Storm Warning'). "This is kind of lovely really," Johnny murmurs wistfully at one point. And he's not wrong. (Siobhan Grogan)
Notting Hill Arts Club gig review by Stevie Chick. NME 3rd March 2000.
Dawn Of The Replicants/ I Am Kloot "You've got blood on your legs," murmurs I Am Kloot's Johnny Bramwell from the darkness, "I'm in love with you". It's the opening gambit of an afternoon of acoustic reverie in the hands of two most idiosyncratic bands, ripping at the tapestry of rock and weaving shocking new shapes from their own with immeasurable grace.
Mancunian trio I Am Kloot aren't as befuddling or vague as their name. If singer/guitarist Johnny Bramwell's hauntingly Lennon-esque vocals are what initially catch your attention, you are also swiftly seduced by his simple, graceful songs, deliciously rendered here on fragile guitar, cresting bass and gently rumbling drums. More timeless than classicist, I Am Kloot are expert navigators of the bedsit soul. A single, 'Titanic', awaits your purchase.
Back from record label purgatory, Dawn Of The Replicants unveil a batch of new material, distorted brilliance that recalls Led Zeppelin's third album, left to warp in the sun. Songs like 'Hollywood Hills', stripped bare of FX and extraneous carnival noises, are deft mixtures of gentle psychedelia and skewed pop, only a critical few degrees astray from the mainstream.
The tired argument that DOTR have a tendency towards bloody-minded abstraction doesn't hold this afternoon. In this pared-down state, the simplicity of their songs, their addictively fried melodicism, are revealed. If they resist the over-elaborate productions which have sometimes sunk their records, this could be the beginning of a remarkable second wind. (Stevie Chick)
Interview with Johnny, Pete and Guy, by Ra Page. City Life Magaizine 3-18th May 2000.
HITTING THE RIGHT NOTE For two vocalists who collaborate on almost everything – Johnny Dangerously and Guy Garvey still have plenty to disagree about. Not least the issue of Manchester’s ‘acoustic scene’ and whether it actually has one. Ra Page pressed ‘record’ on the tape recorder and I Am Kloot’s bassist Pete Jobson bought the beers.
Johnny Dangerously: For a start, I’ve got a problem with the very phrase ‘acoustic music’, I really don’t fucking understand it. A song is a song. I could play something like I Am Kloot’s ‘Twist’ on the electric fucking glockenspiel if I could play the thing. It wouldn’t make much difference. Music is about notes, not the volume you play them at, or even the instruments you play them on. Acoustic, electric, synthetic – they’re all just versions of the same thing: a song.
Guy Garvey: Sorry, I disagree. What you’re saying may apply to bands like I Am Kloot, but with Elbow’s stuff there’s a distinction. Half of Elbow never play acoustically and don’t even come down to watch the other half play. There are certain songs that we have in our set which were written in a recording environment, and that are production-based tunes. They can’t be done acoustically because there isn’t a song structure to them. What gives the journey to those types of tunes is the production, different instruments coming in and out, and the way it’s all mixed together. It’s also a result of songs being written collectively. Acoustic isn’t just all music ‘stripped down and intimate’.
Johnny: OK, But for those songs that do have a song structure, acoustic nights like Gecko and Palookaville are the best places to test them out. The Stone Roses used to road test every one of their songs acoustically. If it didn’t work with just Ian Brown and John Squire on an acoustic, it wouldn’t appear on a Stone Roses album. If it wasn’t happening there, it wasn’t happening. When you’re playing on your own, the song has a lot more space to fill; it can’t hide behind an amp gain or fellow band members. There’s also a lot of passing trade at nights like Gecko. It’s free for punters so a lot of them aren’t actually there to hear you. Son in both ways it’s a really hard gig. There’s a kind of Frank Sinatra New York, New York thing going on, “if you can”, tush-tush! “make it in there…”
Guy: Again, I don’t agree. When MTV first started the whole unplugged thing, there was this ‘go on, lets see you with your pants off’ type vibe. It was competitive and point scoring. I don’t think Manchester’s acoustic nights are about that so much. They’re just portable gigs for kids who can’t afford a taxi to lug their gear about every night. There’s a guitar waiting at these nights for everyone to share, and it takes 20 second to do a soundcheck.
Johnny: Perhaps the reason I won’t admit there’s an acoustic scene at the moment is because of the labels that immediately get attached to ‘acoustic music’. It sounds worthy; it conjures images of Cat Stevens, Donovan, protest singers, and huge egos. As he acoustic guitar is so easy to play it does attract egos. But we’re trying to get away from that at the nights we run. There’s also a myth that acoustic music is always played meekly, softly in hushed surroundings. Whether playing on an electric or acoustic, I’ve always felt like The Clash were playing in me head. Just because things are quieter doesn’t mean they are any smaller, they’re often bigger.
Guy: I do think these stigmas are beginning to fall away though. There’s a mainstream appreciation for acoustic music that hasn’t been there for a long time – people like Elliot Smith, Ben & Jason, Belle & Sebastian. People are digging out their Nick Drake albums. It’s some sort of reaction to the full-on guitar thing that’s been happening for so long. Though it isn’t a direct response to it or anything. What’s gone wrong with the music industry in the last few years is that they are trying to apply the ethics that work in any other business to something that changes all the time. They find a formula that works for a band, like Oasis or The Verve, and then try to duplicate the formula in order to calculate their projected figures and they always fall flat on their face. If they don’t take a chance on something and actually have an opinion, if they haven’t got someone with artistic vision in a position where they can get money then it won’t work. In the same way, you can’t get a formula from the Gecko night to apply to other nights. The point is that you’ve just got to be relaxed about it, whether you’re organising it or just coming to listen.
Pete Jobson: In the end, there’s a core group of performers who you’re generally guaranteed to see at these gigs: Brain Glancy, us three, Sleepwalker, Indigo Jones. Maybe that’s where the scene is. It’s hardly a scene, it’s just friendship really: playing in front of friends and strangers who only come down for the £1 bottles of Carling. In that sense, it’s completely organic. That’s maybe why people are calling it a scene because instead of looking for record companies and big breaks, these people are saying bollocks to that, it’s up to companies to find us. It’s this natural longevity that musicians’ careers are built on: people doing their own thing.
I Am Kloot Profile, by Ra Page. City Life Magaizine 3-18th May 2000.
Name: I Am Kloot (after classic 60’s flicks I am Sparticus and Klute).
Personnel :John Harold Arnold Bramwell, aka Johnny Dangerously (vocals, lead guitar) Pete Jobson (bass) Andy Hargreaves (drums)
Choice track: Debut single ‘To You’ released on Ugly Man last November and featured on the coming Wall of Sound compilation We Love You SO Love Us “Because it’s about Ghosts and it sounds like there’s ghosts on it”.
Trivia: Aged 12, Johnny Watched a woman singing with a guitar in a Welsh pub when the ‘I could do that’ thought occurred. He’s been borrowing other people’s guitars ever since, even now with a Wall of Sound record deal still drying on the page, he still doesn’t own one.
Unplugged: Evicted from his band the Face Brothers at 18, John’s debut solo gig was in front of a packed London audience. “I ran on” he recalls “tripped on a mic lead, fell off the edge of the stage, broke my guitar and climbed back on for a standing ovation without even playing a note. As I limped off, the MC baptised me ‘there you go! Johnny Dangerously’”. The hazardous one has been a stalwart of Manchester’s acoustic nights from the New Troubadours performance night (Follies, Tuesdays) “where Carol Batton was about the sanest one there”, to Chris Coupe’s Manchester Busker (Green Room). Johnny toured with Lemn Sissay and Henry Normal as ‘The Last Poets Society’ and presented Granada’s Music show Juice. From ’97 to ’99 he was the promoter for Night & Day’s Acoustic Mancunia night where he met Pete and Andy with whom he formed I Am Kloot last summer. Johnny and Pete now work as A&R men for Guy Lovelady’s Ugly Man Records (rejuvenated for Manchester bands like Elbow, Brian Glancy and Sleepwalker) while Johnny hosts Gecko and Palookaville. I Am Kloot are arguably the sub-luminary triumvirate around which the acoustic scene, if there is one, revolves. “Only there isn’t one” insists Johnny “just a surplus of bands around with real songs”.
There are two myths about Manchester, which persist. Firstly, it never stops raining. Secondly, gangs of scallies roam the streets in search of mischief. Tonight, it never stopped raining and my car was stolen. Still, a little rain never hurt anyone and I could do with the exercise.
If the British music press are to be believed, Manchester’s northern star is once again in the ascendancy. The rise of a group of local acoustic based bands has garnered enough column inches to warrant talk of a genuine scene emerging. Certainly venues like Night And Day and across town The Blue Cat Café are giving new songwriters a chance to air their pastoral wears in public. While certain elements of the British music industry are desperate to breath life back into a stagnant music scene, talk of a new scene could be premature. I AM KLOOT lead singer Johnny Bramwell has already made his position clear on the subject in the local press and reiterates the point tonight. ‘There is no scene!”, he exclaims.
I was here primarily to see I AM KLOOT but tonight was also a showcase for acts on the new We Love You…So Love Us compilation. This made the gig feel like a real event. As a prelude to the main attraction, we were treated to a fine set by American singer-songwriter Shawn Lee. An attentive crowd seemed to appreciate his efforts.
There was a palpable air of excitement in the crowd as I AM KLOOT took the stage. Friends and family aside, it was noticeable how much genuine warmth and good will was directed towards Johnny Bramwell. More commonly known in these parts as Johnny Dangerously, Johnny has been on the periphery of the music scene in Manchester for nearly twenty years. In the early 1980s he fronted The Face Brothers and more recently The Mouth; all without any great success. But that could all change very soon. With just over twelve months experience under their collective belts, there is still something shambolic about the band's performance. This is not a criticism, it’s a compliment. I am sick of seeing new bands with a smug look of accomplishment on their faces. These bands are playing to a crowd of A.R. men, not us.
Peter Jobson on bass and Andy Hargreaves on drums provide a solid back bone to Johnny’s songs of bliss and despair. Prone to bouts of self-deprecation, Johnny balances the scales with biting verbal attacks. I’m reminded of The LA’S in their pomp and Billy Bragg in his most heartbreaking moments. Eschewing the pose of the moody, aloof rock star, Johnny is not afraid to make a fool of himself. The crowd are more than happy to indulge his more comedic moments. At one point he auctions the engineer’s shoes!
I was a little disappointed that the set was cut short by a lack of material. The band were profuse in their apologies and assured us that a whole album’s worth of new stuff would be written by September. I AM KLOOT are not the finished article just yet, but I’m confident that, if the next batch of songs can rival the current set, ant rough edges can be smoothed out. (Mark Rezzano)