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By: Bruce Cowie
Some of the E&D team saw Wozniak in action last weekend and were pretty blown away. These guys are the real deal, no question, fusing powerful shoegaze with elements of psych and post punk in to a heady and exciting brew. Just prior to that show, Bruce Cowie caught up with Sarah to find out a bit more about the band and what they’re up to.
(((o))): Before we get stuck in to the heavy questions, can you tell us where the name Wozniak comes from? Also, can you give us a quick biog of the band for the Wozniak newbies out there?
The name is for Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, genius and all round good guy. Simon is a bit of an Apple fan boy and was even on the news when the Apple store opened in Edinburgh.
Wozniak are Simon (guitar and pedal collector), James (bass), John (drums) and me, Sarah (guitar, vocals, occasional keys). We formed in Edinburgh in 2012 after Simon, John and I had played a few times in a covers band for a bit of fun. We’d all been in bands before, but not for a while and wanted to get back into it. James joined us a few months later after he’d finished climbing every Munro in Scotland. There was no fixed plan at the start, we just thought we’d be loud and a bit post-rocky. As time’s gone on, it has evolved into something else with strong shoegaze influences, a bit of no wave and some good old-fashioned rock and roll too.
(((o))): Your first London gig – are you stupidly excited? How did it come about? What can those southern softies expect from a Wozniak show?Any previous gig experience outside Scotland?
We are crazy excited to go to London. Not only is this our first gig EVER in London, it’s our first show of the year and there is a lot of anticipation (at our end anyway, I don’t know how London’s feeling about it).
The gig came about because of the wonder of Twitter and a brilliant radio show on 6 Towns Radio called Loose Cannon. Wozniak and InViolet got played on the programme one night and we got in touch via Twitter. They were saying we should go to London, so we had some chat with the good folks at Goodsouls Promotions and that was it! This is our first foray outside Scotland, but we’d really like to play farther afield when we can. We’re going to Dublin in May too, so that’s also very exciting.
We’ll be bringing our usual cacophony of reverb, distortion and delay and our main aim is to leave ears ringing and maybe a few hearts soaring too.
(((o))): How easy/hard is it for a band in your position to get gigs outside your own back yard?
It’s hard! I spent a lot of time trying to get shows around this trip to London and it just wasn’t happening. It’s a weird culture in the music industry (at least I think it is) that people don’t even respond to your emails or phone calls, even if it’s just to say ‘that’s not going to work for us’, or ‘sod off, you’re rubbish’. Where are their manners?!
(((o))): BURNING QUESTION 1: Star Wars or Star Trek?
Star Wars, hands down.
(((o))): Morningside Young Team – what’s that all about. (feel free to plug yourself as shamelessly as you like)
Morningside Young Team is our promotion and record company. For the readers who are not au fait with Edinburgh and Scottish youth culture, the name is a bit of a joke – Morningside is a rather genteel area in Edinburgh and a Young Team is a gang of rowdy youths.
It started as way of organising gigs and then we decided to put out our EP under the same name. So far it’s been very Wozniak-focused, but we are hopeful of putting out at least one non-Wozniak release this year, although we’re still ‘in talks’.
(((o))): BURNING QUESTION 2: Cats or Dogs?
That question is unanswerable.
(((o))): Apparently, we are seeing something of a ‘shoegaze’ revival. What do you think is behind this? Has it raised public awareness of Wozniak generally?
More of a resurgence of interest I think, than a revival. Shoegaze has been bubbling away for the past 20 years and there’s quite an active online community. With Slowdive getting back together and now Ride, more media are talking about it and maybe there is an opportunity for current gazers to attract a wider audience.
There’s a healthy and truly global network of shoegaze bands writing, recording, gigging right now. Lots of them (including us) are on a recently-released compilation called Revolution – The Shoegaze Revival – it’s got 30 bands from 16 countries and was put together by Ear to Ear Records in Wales and Gerpfast Kolektiv in Indonesia. It’s a free download and great snapshot of the current strength of the scene.
It’s pretty funny that shoegaze has endured because at the time the music press were quite rude about it and Britpop, which arguably finished shoegaze off in the UK, was not exactly a long-lived phenomenon.
It’s hard to say how much Wozniak have benefited, but the gaze scene is nice to be a part of. We’ve got friends and supporters from all over the world, we get asked to be involved in interesting creative projects, folk say nice things about us. Realistically, Wozniak is never going to fill stadiums and we’re good with that. It just means that we’ll have to hold off on ordering the Rolls Royce and swimming pool…
(((o))): The live scene in Edinburgh is perceived by some as being a bit weak. A number of local bands have said that they hate playing their home town. Any comments? How hard is it to drum up support/enthusiasm for gigs in Edinburgh?
There are loads of bands and promoters busting a gut to put on live music all year round in Edinburgh. I think it’s wrong to dismiss all of those efforts by just saying ‘Edinburgh’s rubbish’. If the scene is to improve, more folk need to make stuff happen.
Putting on gigs is hard work and there is no money in it, but it’s worth it to see brilliant bands on your doorstep. Wozniak have had great support from Edinburgh venues, promoters, other bands, sound engineers, radio, blogs and gig-goers and we appreciate it all. One thing I’d like is to play more gigs with other female musicians – there aren’t very many women in our genre. I’m hoping the Girl’s Rock School that’s just started is going to spawn some exciting noisy new bands who Wozniak could gig with!
(((o))): BURNING QUESTION 3: Xbox or Playstation?
Which do you get Street Fighter on?
(((o))): As a (mostly) instrumental band, is there any significance to your song titles, or are they just random phrases picked out of the aether?
We usually take turns at naming songs, some are named for places, some are named after band conversations, some are phrases overheard in real life or on the telly. This is purely my approach, but when I’m coming up with a title, I’m really trying to capture the feel of the song more than anything else. Even where there are lyrics, the titles tend not to relate much to the words, except in the case of New Hampshire where the lyrics are all about New Hampshire.
(((o))): BURNING QUESTION 4: This one’s a bit redundant now, but still – YES or NO
Rock versus hard place
(((o))): I wouldn’t recognise a delay pedal if one ran up to me and slapped me in the belly with a fish, but I understand that some of our readers are interested in that sort of thing, so please can you give us a quick run-down of some or all of the knobs and buttons you use?
A quick rundown! We are planning to do a few gear rundown videos at some point, but we haven’t found the time yet.
We use many, many guitar pedals, but they can largely be boiled down to the holy trinity of distortion, reverb and delay. Simon’s currently got about 20 pedals on the go – some of his favourites are the Nine of Swords Hand of God, which is a handmade-in-the-UK distortion and is a right face-melter, he’s got the reverb of reverbs in the form of the Eventide Space, his main delay is the TC Electronic Flashback 4.
I’ve got a more modest selection, mostly reverbs, including a Mr Black Supermoon chrome, which is a rare and wonderful thing. Distortion-wise, I’ve got a Little Big Muff and a really cool Smallsound Bigsound Team Awesome Fuzz Machine, but I’m thinking of getting something new soon. James has just expanded his pedal line-up too – he’s got a Boss distortion, an EHX Bass Big Muff and a Stereo Memory Man too. He makes some truly evil sounds. So far John’s keeping it classic on the drums, but it’s only a matter of time…
(((o))): Finally, we’ve been asking everybody to give us a few words on their favourite 5 venues. Let’s have yours…
CBGB, NYC – I am pleased to say I got to see live music on a rainy week night at CBGB in August 2005. So many legendary bands played there, it was kind of overwhelming, as was the stench from the toilet.
Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh – this is where Wozniak made their live debut, so it holds a special place in my heart!
Barrowlands, Glasgow – I’ve been to so many great gigs here, it’s impossible to list them all. Touring bands often say it’s their favourite crowd in the UK.
The Deaf Institute, Manchester – we go down to Manchester to see bands quite regularly. It feels quite intimate, does excellent Admiral Sandwiches and Dolly Parton wallpaper in the ladies’ loos.
Bar Bloc, Glasgow – Bar Bloc do amazing work to support the music scene. They’ve got a label too which is cool. And amazing hot dogs. More power to them.
Parc de la Cuitadella, Barcelona – as part of the Primavera Music Festival, there are usually a few stages set up in this gorgeous park in Barcelona. It’s free to watch and there are beautiful classical statues looking over the bands, as the sun shines.
Many thanks, Sarah, even though you clearly can’t count to 5!