Interview by Kris Griffiths
You can sit around for the rest of your life waiting for things to change and maybe they will, maybe they won’t, either way you’re not responsible, you’re not to blame. Sumo say that life’s too short for that sort of attitude. Purveyors of stripped down 21st century Punk with a Pop heart and beats for brains, Sumo call it the antidote to the deluge of Chart Dance, Drudge Rock and twinkly eyed RnB that saturates our culture on a daily basis regardless of the season. This Wolverhampton (England) based outfit looks set to make an indelible mark on British music by the time Coldplay’s next album is released. I chilled and chatted with guitarists Dan Raven and Mick Butler at their Shepherd’s Bush studio.
(To Dan) Is that a lump of hash you’re fiddling around with?
DAN: No, it’s a conker. I’m very much a weed man to be honest… I haven’t smoked any resin in years. It don’t half fuck your throat up, man.
When writing your music do you find the influence of drugs a help or a hindrance?
DAN: I do tend to get stoned when I’m working on a computer cos I find it much easier to apply myself. It’s a fine line though – you only have to push it by about half a joint and then you’re suddenly spazzed. But we’ve been so busy these past three months that we haven’t even had time to have a good drink together… we’ve been the least rock n roll band in history. We have to make serious amends to the situation very shortly.
MICK: I don’t think they go very well together really, especially drink, when you have to try and create something half decent afterwards. It just clouds your judgement. But it’s mainly the day after that I can’t function. I just feel shit and don’t wanna do anything.
You haven’t been together for that long – what were you all doing before forming Sumo?
DAN: Me and Mick were just sitting around in a studio we’d built up at my place, just hanging out and making loads of music, identifying a style that would suit us.
What were your day jobs?
MICK: I worked in a dark room. It was very dark.
DAN: I actually worked at a theatre in Wolverhampton as part of a stage crew, so I was in the dark all day too. And Jason worked as a slaughter-man killing pigs for a living so he was getting up at four in the morning before it was light and getting home when it was getting dark. So none of us really got any daylight, which suits us really cos we do our best creative work after midnight.
How would you describe your musical style?
DAN: Basically, we just want to make records that come purely from the viscera, cos we’ve been working on stuff before but were too preoccupied with subtleties and logistically it was boring the living fuck out of us.
MICK: It’s good that we’ve been kind of guided by our lack of equipment: a battered couple of keyboards, a computer, guitars and an amp. It’s worked out in our favour I think.
DAN: If you’ve got every effects unit under the sun, you tend to use them all. We did tend to throw everything including the kitchen sink at stuff in the past, but with this it’s been much more of a matter of taste really – just keeping things to a bare minimum and letting the rawness of the idea come through, rather than trying to impress anybody.
What’s the crack with all your new material?
DAN: We’ve got about 30 / 40 tracks done up at the lab at my house, so we’ve just got to figure out which ones are gonna be best for the album, which ones are gonna be best for the B-sides and so on. We’re gonna pick around 14 tracks for the album but it’d be nice to have a bit more than average cos to me there’s nothing worse than having 12 tracks and a total running time of 36 minutes, especially with the stuff we do cos everything’s under 3 minutes. If you can’t say it in 3 minutes then it’s not worth fucking saying is it?
What music did you listen to in your younger days?
MICK: The early 90s to me was just Nirvana. Being a guitarist I was totally fucking hooked. That always sticks in my mind.
DAN: My father was a folk singer so he’d be in the front room playing his fucking folk songs all the time and my brother who’s about 40 now was always listening to The Pistols, The Clash and The Stranglers all of that kind of stuff in his bedroom, so I had this horrible cacophony all around me from an early age and I guess it all rubbed off on me.
What have you been listening to recently when you’ve not been working on your own stuff?
DAN: I’ve been listening a lot to a band called Soulcoffin recently, and other off-the-wall alternative Pop music, and also a lot of crooners for some reason like Tony Bennett and Dean Martin and stuff like that. I’ve stopped listening to Rock so much because I’m playing it all the time.
Who rocks more – The Strokes or The Hives?
MICK and DAN: The Hives.
DAN: It fits in with my philosophy of music right now in that there isn’t really anybody out there that’s making pop music that’s straight down the line, that has no ulterior motives, no agenda, other than to make you shake your arse. I just love the Hives’ whole attitude, which is sadly lacking in British music today. We have to deal with the likes of Starsailor, Travis, Embrace and all that bullshit, which is all just sonic masturbation for want of a basic expression.
MICK: And now we have to cope with all this crap coming across the Atlantic like Staind…
MICK: You can’t actually decipher which one’s which cos they’re all exactly the same.
DAN: We were just saying earlier man, they’re as much constructed as your average fucking boy-band.
What do you reckon of the new metal bands that have surfaced in the past year?
DAN: Slipknot were the only ones that moved me. They’re one of the best bands I’ve ever seen. I saw them live in Wolverhampton (Engand) and it was fucking ludicrous – I haven’t seen anything like it. It was just raw energy flying at you. Again, it’s something that’s lacking in British alternative music. The insular nature of it has gone beyond a joke and it looks like America is heading the same way only in a more pompous way.
Did you see much of Pop Idol?
DAN: I did actually. But that Will Young song at number one is just a regurgitated Westlife record, and who owns the publishing for it? Simon Cowell. 1.1 million records sold man, that’s 1.1 million British people who deserve somebody going round their house with a fucking shotgun.
Quite harsh maybe, but sadly, quite true. Sumo release their dynamic debut single UNSEEDED on 1 April 2002 with the album and nationwide tour to follow shortly afterwards. Keep your ears and eyes open – this band is a train you really don’t want to step in front of.