‘The Cut Up’ by Jo Bartlett | Interview | Album Premiere
Exclusive album premiere of ‘The Cut Up’ by Jo Bartlett, out September 30th 2022 via Indie Through The Looking Glass.
Jo Bartlett is to release her new album, ‘The Cut Up’ tomorrow on her own Indie Through The Looking Glass label. Featuring the voices of Shaun Ryder (“keep Britain drug free, move to Aldershot”), Bobby Gillespie, James Dean Bradfield, Huw Stephens and Gideon Coe.
While still a teenager and along with being part of the C86, early indie movement as a musician, Jo started to put bands on at her Aldershot based, Buzz Club. From November 1985 to December 1993, she ended up promoting gigs by The Stones Roses, Primal Scream, The Happy Mondays, Blur, The Manic Street Preachers, The Charlatans, Suede and many more. (Jo and her partner, Danny Hagan – It’s Jo & Danny – later founded the Green Man Festival in Wales). “I put the word out via Facebook in 2007 that I was looking for any flyers, photos or memories people had about The Buzz Club. Over the years I have been sent not only plenty of flyers and pictures but also a couple of incredible live video recordings, lots of live audio recordings and so many people getting in touch with memories”.
Jo has been writing about these gigs, including any artefacts she has, on her Indie Through The Looking Glass blog. “I decided to add another dimension to my writing, so I started cutting up cassettes of old band rehearsals, radio interviews and live Buzz Club recordings and putting them into Logic. I added drum machines, synths, guitars and vocals and had an enormous amount of fun along the way”.
‘The Cut Up’ Track By Track
I used a cassette demo of a band I was in called J.D. & Bob, we demoed for Island Records. The band was myself and Danny (just before we became It’s Jo & Danny) plus Bob Whittle on guitar and Mathew Priest (of Dodgy) on drums. You can hear all of us singing. All the synths and squelches were made by me, recording onto the original in Logic, then fading the original recording in and out at various points.
2. ‘And I Loved You’
A rehearsal recorded in the barn in Brecon where Danny and I lived. Myself and Danny (on bass) plus Kevin Moorey (on drums) – this means it’s 3/4 of the band Bluetrain who released a 12” on Dan Treacy’s Dreamworld Records in 1987. I added synths and other vocals recently.
All voices are recordings from The Buzz Club – “Aldershot!” & “make some f**king noise!”- the Krispy 3 (from Chorley outside Manchester supported The Ruthless Rap Assassins in 1991). 1:45 James Dean Bradfield / Manics “control your temper…bit more constructive, like a bank. Value for your money, you’ll get this song again” (a fight had broken out so they stopped playing to sort it then started playing again) there is a live video recording of this on YouTube. The Manics still mention this gig as being very important for them. 2:37 Shaun Ryder “This one’s called ‘Keep Britain Drug Fee, Move to Aldershot”. 2:58 Bobby Gillespie “We’d like to dedicate this one to Neil Young and Crazy Horse”.
My Dad’s cousin (my ‘Aunt Eileen’) sent me a cassette of her singing in Gaelic. I put the tape twice into Logic (sounding like a harmony) and added the other instruments. (“Eilean” is the Gaelic for “island”. My dad was from the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides where Eileen was also from).
6. ‘Our Reward’
Huw Stephens and Bethan Elfyn.
Rudy, the 4th member of Bluetrain, made a VHS video recording of a birthday get-together for Danny in Chinatown. I got the audio from it and used it here. “Do you admit you’ve been taking drugs?” is him making a spoof documentary. The singing is us all round the table for the birthday meal!
“I like the idea of retelling an old story, using new methods”
‘The Cut Up’ is coming out very soon. Are you excited about it?
Jo Bartlett: Yes, I am. I haven’t released any solo music for eight years and consequently, this album is a far more up to date version of where I’m at. I think it’s the first time I’ve relaxed properly and tapped back into the Jo who made ‘Lank Haired Girl To Bearded Boy’.
How long did you work on the album?
It’s been a couple of years getting the music and the ideas together. I released a few early versions of tracks under my Christine X moniker a couple of years ago. I realized that the themes were too personal, radio interviews of myself for example, and it was silly not to release them in my own name. I deleted the Christine X versions and kept recording. The cut-up cassettes I’ve used on some of the tracks are from the mid 1980’s and late ‘90s so you could argue, I’ve been working on the album since then! I like the idea of retelling an old story, using new methods.
“One of my favourite things in life is messing around with the vocals all day”
Would you like to share some further words about how the album was recorded and produced?
This is the first album I have recorded myself. My previous two solo releases were done at Bark Studio in East London with the wonderful Brian O’Shaughnessy. I was recording and learning Logic as I went along, sometimes happy accidents would occur. I enjoy it when that happens, it takes me off in another direction. I love both the recording and mixing processes. I know when I’ve recorded enough and when to start sorting out what I have. Muting sections, getting rid of bits, copying and putting effects where needed. I love the whole creative process. I do everything by ear. I am not particularly technical. I just fiddle with the EQ and effects until they sound right. I have a few great microphones that were bought for me when I was signed to R.C.A. (as It’s Jo & Danny). Learning to record my voice has taken a while, but one of my favourite things in life is messing around with the vocals all day. I record at home and convert one of the rooms into my studio. I tend to leave it set up for two or three days and then pack it all down again. I’m happy working this way, it keeps me focussed. My family is used to it. I try to pick days when the house will be quiet, but sometimes I have to do a retake as the sound of a squeaking floorboard has cut through! I‘m very comfortable recording at home now. Sometimes in a studio you can get self-conscious about the time. Not at home, plus there’s no journey back into the real world after the session. I love playing the bass guitar and synths, things I don’t get to do in my bands. For ‘The Cut Up’ I would have the idea of the track first, knowing what cassettes I would be using and mess around in Logic for a bit adding synths and drum machines then usually the bass and guitars. Finally the vocal – quite often on this album simply holding my SM58 and singing whatever comes into my head. Then adding harmonies and other vocal parts. The track takes me over and I keep going until it’s done. Like decorating a room, there’s that moment when you take a step back and know you’ve finished. It’s a great feeling. I don’t tend to return to tracks, when they’re done, they’re done. I get obsessive listening to music I have finished until it’s released though.
You have quite a lot of musicians doing voices on the records… tell us about them.
I had the idea of putting various cassette recordings into Logic and then put music under them. Some of the voices are of live recordings by bands when they played the Buzz Club. The track ‘Aldershot’ features Shaun Ryder (“keep Britain drug free, move to Aldershot”), Bobby Gillespie (“I’d like to dedicate this song to Neil Young and Crazy Horse”), James Dean Bradfield (“Value for your money, you’ll get this song twice”). I had great fun with this track. Cutting things up and recording a few different sections. ‘Fortress’, the opening track, is based on a demo tape I made for Island Records in their Fallout Shelter studios in 1998. About a year ago, I put the whole song into Logic and then played synths and drum beats all over it. I faded the original track out, bringing it back in about half way through and added loads of reverb. The cassette recording has, along with myself, Mathew Priest of Dodgy on drums, Danny Hagan on bass and Bob Whittle on guitar. We did a four-part harmony gathered round one mic which sounds lovely on ‘Fortress’. ‘And I Loved You’ is a rehearsal recording that I added a couple of vocals and synths to. Keven Moorey, who was the drummer in Bluetrain, was staying at our barn in Wales for a few days so we set up the gear and played music. I put a couple of mics up in the room and recorded the session. I think we really captured something special on ‘And I Loved You’. The other parts came easily because the basic track was so good. It’s Danny on bass again. There are a couple of radio interviews on the album, (‘Camden’ and ‘Hwyl’) so the voices of radio DJs Gideon Coe, Huw Stevens and Beth Elfyn are also featured. My Aunt Eileen sings on ‘Eilean’. She had sent me a tape of her singing Gaelic songs for me to learn for my dad’s birthday. I put her voice into Logic twice at slightly different places so it sounds like she is singing a harmony with herself. My friend Rudy, (Bluetrain and The Yellow Moon Band guitarist), had a video camera in the 1990’s when we lived in London. We were bowling around Soho and Chinatown one chilly November night, while he made a spoof documentary, those are the voices on ‘Hero’.
How do you usually approach songwriting? Would you say there’s a certain concept behind the album?
There is definitely a concept. It’s autobiographical. It’s a specific period of my life. ‘The Cut Up’ was quite different in terms of songwriting. On certain tracks, (‘Camden’, ‘Hwyl’ and ‘Greener’) I would have a few goes at the singing and capture whatever came out of my mouth into my handheld SM58 mic. The atmosphere of the music is guiding the words that form. Sometimes a memory will be triggered. On this album, the two tacks with full lyrics, ‘And I Loved You’ and ‘Our Reward’ – the words are Danny’s.
“I was always music mad”
Would you like to tell us how you first got into the music biz back in the 80’s?
It was just a natural progression. I was always music mad. If I was a fan of the band, I had to have a single the day it came out. I’d ask my parents to write a note to my school, saying I was allowed out into Camberley in my lunch break to buy certain 7” singles. I would have been 11 or 12 years old. I toured Europe with my band when I was 18 and then worked for Our Price Records. Fab job. I learned about retail and distribution while vastly increasing my music knowledge and broadening my taste. At the same time, I was in Bluetrain and wanted to support bands I liked.
So Danny and I started the Buzz Club. I would book the acts and do all the promotion and talk to the venue and support bands alongside my day job in the record shop. Sometimes I could get a few too many phone calls at work and get a light reprimand.
I used phone boxes in the town centre of whichever shop I was in – Woking, Camberley, Aldershot, Richmond – to call agents. Meantime my band was releasing records and getting regular London and some European gigs. I moved to London in 1989 having been employed by The Rock Garden in Covent Garden as the band booker. After a couple of years there I got a job as press officer and radio / tv plugger with Ultimate Records. I bumped into Andrew Winters who had just set the label up and he asked me if I wanted to join them. A year later we had a top 4 album with Senser and I had a wild few years, including trips to Japan and Europe, filming for various tv and radio shows and plenty of parties. I decided I wanted to do my own music full time and at a risky age, I was 26. I left Ultimate Records. It took longer than I thought it would, we worked so hard, writing and rehearsing. Getting better, getting poorer. We recorded and released ‘Lank Haired Girl To Bearded Boy’ in 2000 and instantly people started writing and saying great things. We got played on daytime Radio 1 by Jo Whiley three days in a row and we got signed by R.C.A.. Danny and I moved to Wales and got dropped by RCA. We decided to start a festival! We started working on the Green Man Festival in 2002, the first one took place in August 2003. It got 4 stars in The Times and it grew organically, very fast. At this point, I really was in the music biz, while ironically I had been trying to escape it, after we were dropped by RCA!
What’s the story of Buzz Club? We really enjoyed the exclusive Elastica footage that we released a few days ago….
It was fun. I made a deal with the West End Centre in Aldershot and booked bands we wanted to see, once a month as The Buzz Club. We made flyers with cut up images, Letraset and photocopy shops. We stuck posters up. I always had an intuition when a band was worth booking. Everything would feel right, press build up, how they looked and obviously sounded. I was a fan and we only booked bands we were into. I decided to call it a day when London life and Aldershot became a bit of a stretch. Dodgy and Shed 7 played the last one in December 1993. I decided to start writing about The Buzz Club ages ago and put the word out on Facebook looking for people who went and who might still have flyers etc. It’s incredible what I have been sent over the years. The live recordings were the start. We met Dave in a pub and he pushed about 20 cdr’s over to me – he had digitalised all his cassette recordings. He had captured loads of the Buzz Club gigs on his Sony Walkman. That Elastica footage was the most recent thing I have been sent – about a month ago. It blew my mind! We also have footage of the Manic Street Preachers there – that was an insane night.
Buzz Club – Manic Street Preachers (1991)
From November 1985 to December 1993, you ended up promoting gigs by The Stones Roses, Primal Scream, The Happy Mondays, Blur, The Manic Street Preachers, The Charlatans, Suede and many more. You were such a big part of the scene, what are some of the highlights thinking back?
The Stone Roses will always be the first thing that springs to mind when I get asked this question. I was already in love with the band and had seen them live a few times at the Buzz Club gig. I was down the front singing along, dancing and feeling pretty great through their set.
The Happy Mondays arrived so late that their sound check turned into a gig. They just stayed on stage and kept playing. Suede cancelled and then played a few months later. The party at my parents’ house – Primal Scream, various other band members, people who had been at the gig, word got out. Instruments were set up and sets played. Sly and the Family Stone through the stereo in one of the other rooms. That lovely feeling that comes with putting on gigs. I was still a teenager when I started the Buzz Club. It felt pretty cool knowing it was me who had organised all this. Even on nights when we didn’t break even it was always fun haggling with the venue manager, Jem Barnes.
Together with your partner, Danny Hagan you founded the Green Man Festival in Wales.
When RCA dropped us in 2001 we had to think of something to do – we had two small children and now lived in the mountains of Wales. Based on the knowledge we had both gained over the years – (Danny’s path had been similar to my own. He had been label manager at Cherry Red Records), so we decided to start a festival. We knew the music was to be bands in the same scene as It’s Jo & Danny.
Folk, electronica and psychedelia. Along with the groups and djs, it had to have literature and short films. Lots of the agents I had worked with at The Buzz Club and Rock Garden were still around, so I made a few phone calls and got the ball rolling. We called it the Green Man Festival. The Green Man represents rebirth. We figured that’s what this would be. The first one had 351 people and we lost £9.10. We got 4 stars in The Times and a host of great reviews. It had taken about ten months to pull everything together. We started straight away on the next one. The festival grew rapidly in size and reputation. We changed location a few times, always in the Brecon Beacons, where we lived. Robert Plant phoned us at home to ask if he could play. Over the years I booked Bon Iver, Four Tet, The Flaming Lips, Michael Kiwanuka, Laura Marling, The National, Iron and Wine, James Blake, Mumford and Son loads and loads more. I booked the cinema tent.
Live soundtracks to late night Hammer Horror films, ‘Dougal and the Blue Cat’ on 16mm film, Bagpuss with orchestral live soundtrack. The DJ tent. Andrew Weatherall and Sean Johnston, David Holmes. Warp Records. Danny and I moved on after the 2011 festival. We had grown it to 15,000 people attending over four nights, camping on site. Fleet Foxes headlined. Absolutely amazing weekend.
It’s Jo and Danny at the first Green Man 2003 ‘Love Expression’ featuring Mathew Priest on drums
You have been writing about these gigs on your Indie Through The Looking Glass blog. What can we expect in the near future?
I’m attempting to complete the 1990’s in London. I’ve nearly finished 1993. I’ve written from 1984 (with an intro starting a little earlier) and my aim is to get up to leaving London in 2000. Then see where I’m at.
Would you mind sharing some insight on projects you were part of including Blue Train , Christine X, Go! Service, It’s Jo And Danny, Kodiak Island, Plaza, The Yellow Moon Band…
Go! Service was my teenage band. We toured Europe and released a 12” through the Television Personalities’ Dreamworld Records. We morphed into Bluetrain and released another record.
Go! Service live in Germany (1984)
Plaza was next – London based three piece, American drummer. We released two records.
It’s Jo & Danny – Danny and I went it alone, splitting up the last band we had and decided to go for it. We recorded ‘Lank Haired Girl To Bearded Boy’ and released it on our newly set up Double Snazzy label. It got fantastic reviews!
‘A defining record’ NME 8/10
‘Heartfelt vocals and swathes of Vini Reilly-style guitar.’ Mojo 4 stars
‘Ferocious joie de verve’ Q 4 stars
‘Spellbinding’ The Times 4 stars
‘Loaded with sprit’ The Observer
‘Folk to feed your soul’ i.D. Magazine
‘Beautiful’ The Daily Telegraph
‘Spritualized fronted by Carol King’ The Face
‘a carefree fusion of Ancient and modern’ Uncut 4 Stars
We signed a record deal, released an album and got dropped. Released two more albums back on Double Snazzy. ‘But We Have The Music’ was the Sunday Times Album of the Week. Our live band featured Mathew Priest on drums and Rudy Carroll on guitar. We decided to call It’s J&D a day and formed The Yellow Moon Band with Math and Rudy.
The Yellow Moon Band was nearly all instrumentals. Psych / prog / grooves. I ‘m very proud of this album. We had tracks used on Guitar Hero computer games and by Liam Gallagher to sell his Pretty Green clothing brand.
Yellow Moon Band (Liam Gallagher Pretty Green advert)
Christine X was a name I used to release instrumentals by myself. The ‘Eurocentric’ album got some great reviews.
Kodiak Island is my band right now. I love this band. We released a 10” early in 2022 on i40 Records. This was then released digitally by our old friends, Cherry Red Records.
Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?
Miles Davis, The Stone Roses, Van Morrison, The Upsetters, Nick Drake, John Martyn, John Coltrane, Do Say Make Think, Kate Bush, Lloyd Cole, NWA, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Kinks.
New – I love Phoebe Bridgers and I love Haim’s current album to bits. Those ladies sure can sing. I dig Fat White Family. I heard a great album by dltzk I love ‘Quivering In Time’ by Edris Drew. I love Courtney Barnett. Arooj Afrab has a gorgeous voice. Yasmin Williams plays a mean guitar. I think Yard Act are good. Kelly Lee Owens is fine.
Thank you for taking your time. Last word is yours.
It’s been great digging deep and trying to answer your questions. I rarely get asked about myself as a musician or producer so it was a pleasure to talk about ‘The Cut Up’ and my other musical ventures with you. Thanks!