It takes some grit, self belief and a copious amount of love for music to start out over seven years ago with passion combined with raw music and seven years later to remain true to what you do and believe. So much has changed in that period of time, New Labour were even popular back then and, most bands around have tried a multitude of different things to stay in the public eye, or to get there in the first place.
This is why it is important to take time out and listen to bands like Red Mojo and what they have to say, as they are immutable evidence that honesty and music are not estranged in the same way that originality and television are in this modern era. 60% of Warrington's bold and authentic rockers; singer and lyricist Lee (Lenn) Leonard, guitarist Mike York and bassist Pete Kenny kindly agreed to sprinkle some honesty and insight into our lives, as they openly dissect a range of topics with their cutting wit and endearing openness.
It is currently a time for reflection. Describe what 2004 has been like for you guys and what were your aims at the start of it, have you achieved them?
Lenn: Well, as with every year, you say to yourself this is the year we're gonna do it. Obviously we haven't signed a deal yet, but we've played with some more signed groups, written quite a lot of great material and we managed to stay together through some rough spells. So I guess we've done well.
Pete: 2004, as far as have we got a deal? Is Sony interested in our shit? Then we haven't really achieved much, but we have achieved a mindset, how we communicate with each other, musically and otherwise has improved so much this year. We're all kind of in the same place mentally and musically.
Mike: Good, Bad, Indifferent, I think progression is the main point, we've kind of got through a few things that were getting to us and we're making good music again, not that we've been making bad music its less that'll do and more that sounds good. Only the best quality here.
Your sound can be described as combining the rawness of early days The Rolling Stones with the convincing belief and tightness of The Music and the ripping nature of AC/DC, as is aptly demonstrated in 'Stix N Stones' 'When Your Not Around'. What is the story behind these numbers and please give us an insight into the song writing process for Red Mojo using these two nifty numbers as examples?
Lenn: Hmmm, well, eeerrm. Both these tracks were written in that classic writing style, Mike got his guitar and I sat down with some words I'd been working on and a short time later we had the basics ready. After that we take the bones to the band and they flesh them up and give them life. Stix N Stones, is about being frustrated in a previous relationship and how it had gone on longer than perhaps it should. 'When You're Not Around' is a new track about what's going on now, It's a release track for me.
Pete: It's always nice being compared to professionals, but we just sound how we sound. I can't really explain it. I suppose we trust ourselves and each other. We all like good music, so we all sort of know what will work and what won't. If it sounds shit it's not going in, simple as that.
As for the song writing process, some songs just come together, whilst some take a bit more work. Me and Andy have always jammed with each other, sometimes we come up with tunes then present them to the band and they put their own parts in, as I said we trust each other to come up with decent music. So we have different methods of coming up with music. Variety is, after all, the spice of life.
Mike: “When Your Not Around” has a very personal feel to me, this isn't to do with when or how we wrote it, just things happened and the song took on a new meaning, plus the tension builds so well at the end with the monster keyboard riff and the bass, changing the tonality of the whole piece.
I have witnessed two of your live shows, one recently and the other four years ago. I was imminently impressed by the way you have not compromised your sound, style and authenticity at all to fit in with the fads of the music industry. How hard has it been to stay true to your roots and do you find the music business frustrating in the way that fads and fashions appear to rule the day?
Lenn: Its not hard staying true to your roots. I listened to the message they were trying to get across and I heard it, then I believed it, then it became part of me. This kind of stuff happens all the time, additions to the soul come from fucking everywhere. If it’s got no souls, then it wont add to your soul I suppose. The changing fads and 'produced' trash are killing the world of its heart – its just fucking wrong. Take 'Westlife' or 'Blue', yeah they sell a million records and are loaded because of it, but when you listen to them sing the words, do you believe them? You can’t, because the song was written by some guy that works for a publisher far far away who is getting paid a mint to write something that under 12's want mummy and daddy to buy them. The legends of tomorrow seem a million miles away from the Lennon's, Clapton's, Joplin's and Bowie's etc that shine from our yesterdays. The problem is, is that bands like these have been pushed to the fore for so long that people seem to have lost track of what 'music' is supposed to be about, I think. Yes, the music business is frustrating.
Pete: We've been in this band 5 years, if we were trying to sound like what was fashionable all the time we'd be constantly changing our sound we'd have gone from Britpop to garage rock to Britpop again. We just try to be true to ourselves and what we feel at the time. Obviously looking back, not every decision or song was the best, but if we felt it at the time, then who are we to argue with ourselves. If you sound like the fads and fashions you'll only last as long as that fad. If you sound like yourselves, however you'll last as long as your creative thoughts and expressions allow.
And yes, the music business is frustrating, but it will always be there. The key for me is to be in it on the edge, not get sucked into all this celebrity bullshit. We want ultimate control over what we do, no compromises, that's not to say we aren't open to other peoples ideas but if we don't believe it, it's gonna sound fake.
Mike: The money would be nice, but I don't think we could get up on a stage and act out songs, its just what comes out.
On the topic of your live shows, your live set sometimes culminates with the ripping 'Suddenly Unexpected Man' incorporating the chorus from the Super Furry Animals number; 'The Man Don't Give A Fuck'. What is the story behind that number and is singing it cathartic for you, as it is quite an angry little piece?
Lenn: I can't really go too deeply into its meanings that would take away all its mystery. Basically, it's a shout at all the 'everyday rock stars' that come and go so frequently, you know the unsigned guys with big ego's and no talent. It's about backstabbing and jealousy, my doubters and obviously fakers that play at it but don't believe. The whole thing with band music (for me) is that its too much fucking hard work to fake it, its either real to you or it isn't. 'Suddenly Unexpected Man' gave me an opportunity to release and the rest of the band didn't mind.
Pete: I can't really add anything to that apart from some bullshit that only readers of Bassist digest would give a shit about so I'll shut up.
Mike: Fuck it, we can all be cunts some times but some people (you know who you are) can be really really obnoxious and really think that they are rock stars and I think “Suddenly Unexpected Man” puts them in their place. Your not fuckin' rock stars your not fuckin' special and neither are we, its just we know it and we are the men that “don't give a FUCK”. At least we don't fake what we're doing.
How far off is a record deal for you guys, if you don't mind me so enquiring?
Lenn: What's next week winning lottery ticket numbers? I suppose if I am to play the game, like every other unsigned band in the world, then I suppose I should say “We're currently in talks with Sony, but we're not too sure about the deal. So we think we might go for an offer we had from one of many smaller labels that are trying to get us.” Its weird how everyone is constantly in that position, but no-one ever gets signed.
Pete: There is only one “deal” that would work for us and that's the one where someone truly believes in what we do and would like to give us the space and time to really express ourselves. And make some shit hot music. We all work at the moment and come up with good shit, so we like to imagine what we could come up with when all we have to think about is music and lyrics, not 'shit I forgot my lunch again'.
Mike: I don't know can you tell me.
You recently opened for a The Cooper Temple Clause DJ set in WA1 in Warrington. How was that experience for you, did you converse with Didz and co about making music and did you learn much from the experience?
Lenn: It was the Coopers and good. God, they are sound lads with good taste in music. I was a little disappointed that Didz was wearing drainpipe jeans, but it was good to learn about the new album progress. I didn't ask them about our stuff, but I heard that they liked it. That's good enough for me.
Mike: They were cool, well what I saw of them. I wasn't happy with my performance but everyone else was good. All I wanted was a Guinness and it took 5 hours to get me one. They had to roll a barrel across from the pub across the road so I could finally be happy; it always settles your stomach out when you've had a good Guinness.
There was a bit of local controversy surrounding the above-mentioned gig in the WA1 Club, as there was two different indie events in the same venue (upstairs and downstairs) that night. This resulted in a degree of animosity towards yourselves from other local bands and promoters. Do you have any retort to those criticisms?
Lenn: I could say a lot but I'll just say that a gold fish only grows to fit the bowl it's put into and Oorrrr, bubsy, wubsy woo, woo, didums.
Pete: We're used to that from some other bands, whereas others are so friendly it's untrue. It's just like having work colleagues, some you get on with others you don't.
Mike: No Comment
Do you feel that the local Warrington indie scene is in danger of decimating into a farce of backbiting, jealously and lack of support, despite the obvious depth of talent that exists?
Lenn: Hahahahahahahahaha, yes.
Pete: there's definitely some good shit coming out of Warrington, and I suppose with any scene there will always be competition. But competition is good, without it it's very easy to just rest on your laurels because you're the only band around.
Mike: As I said before they're not special we're not special, so why doesn't everyone just get on with it and stop being so fuckin' petty.
Which of your songs sums up your current mood and why?
Lenn: 'Who Am I To You' because I’m so up for something different at the moment, musically that is. 'Nobody Else' because its so heavy in so many different ways, its really powerful and moves me loads, my head just floats into it, how messed up is that?!. I guess my mood is 'ready to explode'.
Pete: I'm always in a funk mood, funk is my bread and butter so I'm in love with 'Sitting on the fence' but I also love dark and moody, almost epic DJ Shadow-esque music so I'd have to say my current favourite is 'Nobody else', plus I wrote part of it. It's always nice to write a song, visualize how it will sound then be completely surprised by what the other musicians around you add to it.
Does your live sound differ to your sound on record? How would you describe your live sound and how do you want to leave people feeling after they have witnessed a Red Mojo live show?
Lenn: I hate recording, always have. I'm really excited about the new E.P though, we've changed the way we record and the whole thing has miles better vibe and sound. When we play live, it’s like thunder and when you listen to the records we're like, nice. I hope.
Hmmm, I hope people are like “fucking hell, how good was that?!” but I'll settle for “that was cool that, I bought their E.P.” I just hope everyone thinks it's alright, you know.
Pete: We don't really have a 'recorded' sound. In the studio, we try to emulate what we hear when we play the song as a band. Sometimes it comes off well, other times, not so great, although the current demo we're working on felt really good when we laid down the music. I do actually like recording but sometimes it lacks the energy of a live show. I hate overdubbing though, I like playing to the drummer, and it's hard to communicate with a recording. For a while we've been going to clicks and loops, but this time we did it on an almost analog vibe, no clicks, no fancy editing tricks, just playing until we got the fuckers right. Hopefully this one will reflect how we sound live a bit better, but there's always one obvious difference; you can turn the volume down on a CD.
Mike: Yeah, sometimes I'll take the recordings a bit too far, like put loads of guitars on and mad effects. It all sounds good but it’s not really like us playing in a room and giving out the vibe. This time we've gone for that sound a little more so it's more of a true representation of the live side of Redmojo.
You have been together since 1997 what has been your fondest memory since your inception?
Lenn: I always remember the morning after the first time we played Warrington's Parr Hall. The realization that getting on a stage in front of loads of people really smashed and just screaming down a microphone makes you look like an absolute tone-deaf knob. Yeah, that is a funny memory, especially as I walked off stage, marched up to my old head teacher and said “Bet you didn't think I could do that did you?” it was a real turning point.
Pete: Gigs, gigs, gigs and more gigs. We feel at home on the stage (for the most part) and that's were we really come into our own I'd say. My fondest memory though would have to be going in a studio for the first time. I'll never forget being surrounded by all that gear and thinking, 'yes, this feels like home'.
Mike: Not to sure, there have been a few, after a gig in Crew one night we drove back through Crew town center shouting “Crew is shit, crew is shit crew is shit”. That was quite funny going to Croydon and ending up in Dorking was good, some festivals we've played were good. There's too many to remember.