Noise Annoys: Gimme shelter with Luke Haines
Noise Annoys is back in bumper form today with Luke Haines, reformed Britpopper turned gleefully idiosyncratic 21st century solo artist. The former Auteurs leader graciously discussed his latest concept LP, British Nuclear Bunkers, released today
LUKE Haines's recent recorded works include a pair of lovingly conceived concept LPs inspired by classic British wrestling and New York's 70s rock scene.
The ex-Auteurs man's most recent album took the form of a breezy 30 minute 'micro opera' about a Mark E Smith impersonator having his caravan holiday ruined by former Skrewdriver leader Ian Stewart and, just last month, he (Haines, not the late Stewart) published Outsider Food & Righteous Rock N Roll a crowd-funded 'psychedelic cookbook' written in the entertaining style of a Martini-crazed Lester Bangs.
Yes, it's fair to say that the Walton-On-Thames-born muso is fairly comfortable 'doing his own thing' these days, having already tasted the bright lights of near-fame during the 1990s with his Mercury Prize-nominated indie band (key moment: Unsolved Child Murder) and chart-bothering indie pop trio Black Box Recorder (key moment: Top 20 single The Facts of Life with catchy chorus "life is hard, kill yourself or get over it"), while not courting infamy with thrilling 'terrorist funk' side project Baader Meinhof.
For his latest opus, British Nuclear Bunkers, Haines has temporarily chucked his trusty guitars in favour of grumbling vintage analogue electronics: entirely appropriate tools for the construction of an album inspired by 80s Cold War paraphernalia and paranoia.
Self-described as containing 'maximum electronic rock 'n' roll', the LP features an array of ancient synthesisers (plus the sound of Haines attacking the actual Camden Borough Control bunker on the way back from the pub) in its musical depiction of a near-future British public that, "for reasons unknown", has fled underground where they live in utopian harmony while offering prayer to a religious artefact that looks suspiciously like Eric Bristow's trophy from the 1980 Darts World Championship.
"I'd started using some analogue synths for the New York In The '70s album," Haines explains of his new record's distinctive sound.
"I was working on a new set of songs and suddenly I had the idea for this album. I had all these analogue synths that I'd been collecting, so I started wiring them all up and had it recorded in about two weeks.
"It was almost written to tape – and because it's all analogue, you kind of can't ever really reproduce those sounds exactly again, which I quite liked.
"So it's sort of unique."
However, the 'one-offness' of the new material begs the question of how exactly the album will be reproduced live, at its debut outing at Bush Hall in London next week and a planned tour of actual British nuclear bunkers beyond.
"The tunes are all there but the sounds will just be slightly different," he explains. "It's going to be me handling the synths, then I've got a kind of Yoga guru onstage with me –and a gorilla.
"It's kind of a power trio, if you like. Just a different one than you'd normally imagine."
You can get a glimpse of this unique combo in action in the video for the LP's opening title track and lead single, a sparse and suitably portentous number prefaced with a mock BBC nuclear alert announcement.
"The album is about communicating via the subconscious, really," reveals Haines.
"I think we're already doing it more and more with social media anyway. We're saying things we would never normally say without the filter of polite society.
"The ultimate conclusion of that, I think, is that people will stop talking. A gorilla kind of seemed to me like the obvious signifier of that 'return to early man'.
"Him and the Yoga dude are kind of like pilgrims."
Elsewhere on the record, listeners will thrill to a pair of foundation-shaking minimalist electronic floor-clearers in Bunker Funker and DADA Station, plus the slightly more conventionally 'song-shaped' numbers New Pagan Sun and Pussywillow (Kids Song), the latter featuring guest vocals from Luke's young son, Fred, who's apparently a fan of the new LP.
"He likes it," says Haines. "There's some simple tunes on there which he quite enjoyed. He also liked some of the more extreme stuff like, Bunker Funker. I think to his ears the synths on this record make it sound a bit more modern or spacey than my normal stuff."
God knows what this post-millennial tyke will make of his da's latest, post-British Nuclear Bunkers endeavour – a tune inspired by Arthur Daley's long suffering 'muscle' in classic TV serial Minder.
"I've written a song called Terry McCann's Blues – it's not bad," confirms Haines, "I quite like it."
Sadly, although this doesn't sound anything like the theme song by Dennis Waterman and Kenny, apparently Haines would "quite like to do something like that".
"That kind of music appeals to me," he enthuses. "Just get some real proper musos and stick an actor in front of them, preferably singing.
"I quite liked it when Jimmy Nail had a sort of pseudo funk outfit going."
That Spender-inspired concept LP can be only an accidentally glimpsed ITV4 repeat away.
:: British Nuclear Bunkers is released today on Cherry Red.