Friday, 12 November 2010



Back in the late nineties, long before the remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a very different variety of Everlasting Gobstopper was making herself known.  Known simply as Fantastic Everlasting Gobstopper, this precocious talent blew onto the scene in 1997, with the seminal Christmas anthem - that - never- was, "Schoolgirl Psychedelia", which she recorded at the tender age of twelve, along with "I Am A Kitten" (she was evidently much too young to record "I Am A Tiger") for the Trattoria Menu compilation, "Songs For The Jet Set," which became a college radio hit in America.  In 1998, she appeared on the labels "Bend It! Japan '98" compilation, covering "Back Home" before vanishing from trace and re-emerging a couple of years later as Angela Faye Tillett, teenage chambermaid from Clacton-On-Sea, and singer in psychedelic pop ensemble, Death By Chocolate.

Like the "Songs From The Jet Set" compilation, Death by Chocolate are inspired by sixties soundtrack pop, and as such make psychedelic soundscapes in which Tillet's spoken word musings on colours, chocolate, and word association sit happily alongside a particularly innocent sounding "My Friend Jack", sharp modish pop such as "Ice Cold Lemonade" and "Salvador Murder Mystery" and film songs such "Who Needs Wings To Fly?" (from The Flying Nun) and best of all, "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out" (from Harold and Maude).  The later album "Zap the World", includes the track "While I'm Still Young" from "Smashing Time", which could be seen as representing Tillett's approach to her musical career very well.  "It's a band," she told Alexander Laurence of the Free Williamsburg site in 2001, "It's me and two other guys.  There's also a producer who decides what we will record.  They do the music and I do most of the lyrics."   Mike Alway, who runs the label el Records, had worked with Angela before, and it was he who put the band together.  The idea being that, "We wanted it to be like you were watching the film Willy Wonka."

At the time of Laurence's interview, Angela was working in a pub at Colchester, "I grew up in a pub, so I like it.  That's what they did.  I like to drive around in my car.  I like cider.  I drink Guinness, too."  When she was at school, she had a job in London, working for the government.  "I worked in the publicity office.  It's a job that you do when you're at school.  It was at Whitehall right by Big Ben."

Keen to stress that Death by Chocolate weren't jumping on any kind of sixties revival bandwagon, Angela told Brenda Khan of Womanrock, "People sometimes think, especially in America, that (Death By Chocolate) kind of jumps onto this kind of sixties Brit bandwagon, but it's been going on a lot longer than that.  People have been passionate about it for a lot longer than it seems."   Of course, reviving the sixties in any way, shape or form, can often lead to misunderstandings, as Angela recognised:  "But there's other ways that's it's been done that I think are really crude.  Like Austin Powers or something like that.  It makes people forget what it was really like and really about.  Now all of a sudden there's young people thinking that kind of sixties thing in London was about walking around Carnaby Street looking like a twat."  Good things she takes from the sixties include Peter Cook and Dudley Moore and The Monkees, "I used to watch them (the TV shows on video) with my brothers and that, and I never really liked sort of the eighties, so it had to be the Monkees.  When I was little I liked Davy, but now I'm older, I like Peter."

As to her musical career, Angela, in 2002, was remarkably down to earth and matter of fact, telling Brenda Khan, "Well I think I might be pushed to get a career in it.  But I don't know, I see it as a hobby really.  You know I have do insurance and such to get by, and then everything else is a bonus.  If it wasn't fun, I wouldn't bother."  These comments echoed her general approach to music, as explained to Alexander Laurence a year before, "You have to want to do it because you believe in personal expression.  Don't bend over backwards to please other people.  Just do something silly and relevant to yourself.  You are not going to change the world and be anything better than you are.  Do it for the right reason."

Whilst Death by Chocolate haven't released anything since 2002's "Zap the World", both it and its self-titled predecessor are well worth hunting down if, as Brenda Khan put it, "you never got a chance to learn first hand about the sixties, bands like Love, Jefferson Airplane, Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd) and Strawberry Alarm Clock then Death by Chocolate just might be your ticket in."
Notes:  The quotes in this piece were taken from interviews available on the following websites and Womanrock (site no longer up).




Despite hailing from San Francisco, there has always been a strangely British quality to the records made by The Aisler's Set.  Maybe it's their influences, which appear to include Sarah records and Girls At Our Best, or maybe it's simply that they sound as though they come from Glasgow, and that they wouldn't be wildly out of step with bands such as Camera Obscura or Adventures in Stereo.

Singer/guitarist/producer Amy Linton, formerly of Henry's Dress and (briefly) Go Sailor, began recording songs under the name The Aisler's Set in 1997, in her garage, before being joined by Wyatt Cusick (guitar/vocals), Alicia VandenHevvel (bass), Jen Cohen (organ) and Yoshi Nakamoto (drums), all of whom play in other Bay Area bands.  "The way I used to do things was that everything would be worked out before anyone else heard it, and that would be easier for me, as I had an idea of how I wanted it to sound.  But as it turned out, they're four completely competent musicians and capable of making everything better", Linton told Louisa Thomson of "Purr".

Linton's relaxed, low key approach to making music can be seen as stemming from the fact that she has been in and out of bands since she was eleven.  "Tellingly, she cites The Smiths and The Dead Kennedys as the bands that were most important to her, growing up in the middle of nowhere," reported Louisa Thomson, "Now, San Francisco provides most of the inspiration for her songs."   If Linton's early life provided her with a sense of isolation that is eloquently conveyed on songs such as "Emotional Levy", it is fair to suggest that her life in San Francisco has provided the warmth that makes such isolation and melancholy sweet and moving, musically.

"Mary's Song", from the debut album, "Terrible Things Happen", with its blurred and echoing vocals and subtle, understated chords conveys this sweet, aching melancholy to great effect, revealing that less is so often more.  It's a wistful song of heartbreak and sadness, with a warmth that is provided by the bar room camaraderie, and a charm that is almost part Velvet Underground, part Jesus and Mary Chain, but most of all, totally itself.

Much like Belle and Sebastian's "Tigermilk", "Terrible Things Happen" was a well-accomplished debut that displayed quality songwriting set against minimal-yet-perfect production.  Punky indie pop anthems, like "Friend Of The Heroes" sit happily alongside the cheerful thrashy garage pop of "Holiday Gone Well" and "Falling Buildings", whilst "London Madrid" and "Why Baby" show a fondness for understated simplicity and sixties folk tinged pop coupled with Sarah records that would lead them to support Belle and Sebastian on their debut U.S. tour two years later.

By 2000's "The Last Match", the band were gaining a small yet significant, not to mention loyal following internationally.  The album made it into's top twenty albums of the year, led to radio airplay and a session fro John Peel, as well as enthusiastic reviews in NME, Mojo, The Times and The Guardian, and it's easy to see why.  Opening track, "The Way To Market Station" comes across like The Darling Buds with sixties girl group harmonies, whereas tracks such as "Hit The Snow", "Chicago New York" and "Lonely Side of Town" (the latter showcasing Wyatt Cusick's almost Stuart Murdoch-esque vocals) could all have been singles, had the band not plumped instead for "The Red Door", a thrashy but catchy, feedback drenched slice of punk pop.  Whilst The Aisler's Set's use to harmonies is pure Sixties California, it's on "The Last Match" that the band display most clearly what is an admittedly small debt to Phil Spector, in this case, probably the Phil Spector Christmas album, as evidenced on "Hit The Snow".  Many reviewers have compared The Aisler's Set favourably to Phil Spector's wall of sound, but the comparison meets terse reaction from Linton, who acknowledges the influence, but who admitted to Louisa Thomson that she "doesn't seem to hear it as much as other people do."

Certainly by 2003's "How I Learnt to Write Backwards", the Spector influence is negligible at best.  Opening track "Catherine Says" mixes sixties style harmonies with handclaps, glockenspiel and light fuzz guitar to make for glistening upbeat catchy pop that contrasts strongly with the sparse, brooding "Emotional Levy", a soundtrack of tension to the beat of a ticking clock, which, with it's minimal guitar and drums, displays Linton's quietly sweet voice to great effect.  The song ascends, in its climax, into an almost gospel infused call and response of glorious despair and heightened emotion that is strangely moving.

Whilst the thrashy, fast punk pop of "Languor in the Balcony" is reminiscent of "The Last March", "Mission Bells" hints towards almost Marine Research or Stereolab territory, whilst "Sara's Song" has a brooding 4AD/Twin Peaks feel to it, and "Attraction Action Reaction" mixes angular post punk riffs with sixties harmonies and the jangle of tambourines, allowing the vocals to soar.  "Unfinished Paintings" recalls the gorgeous wistful melancholy of "Mary's Song", and displays the band at its most pared down:  just Linton and her guitar, singing a lullaby to a lost love, of sadness, of things left unfinished, with a cool quiet dignity that is her preserve alone.  By contrast, "Melody Not Malaise" shares a peculiarly jazz like spiralling with "The Train #1" as well as some gorgeously soaring vocals and an eerie restlessness, suggesting the shape of things to come perhaps.

Whilst "How I Learned To Write Backwards" is, at face value, the least accessible, or least pop, of The Aisler's Set's three albums, it builds on the quiet subtleties of the earlier works, and displays a flair for experimentation with a number of different styles that usually comes off, and which should be admired.

As to what the future holds for the band, they are currently gigging around San Francisco and the U.S. and it is assumed that a new album will appear at a later, as yet unspecified date.  The won't-be-hurried-won't-be-rushed approach that Linton and her bandmates have taken so far has served them well, so playing the waiting game for a while longer should be all worthwhile in the end.

Yahoo! Music Canada.


Wednesday, 10 November 2010


Most of Shampoo's original releases are now out of print (although they're usually fairly easy to get hold of second hand).  

There are a couple of good fansites out there Wash and Go-go and Shampoo community on Livejournal
And this fan has put up loads of great Shampoo videos/TV appearances on YouTube here



Shampoo were once described as the Barbie doll equivalent of the Sleaze Sisters from New York punk movie, Times Square --- a description which goes some way in summing up their appeal as a mixture of glamour and mundanity, spite and sweetness, clever manipulation and dumb naivety, and most of all, the collision between pop and punk.  In a sense, Shampoo were in a tradition of bleached-blonde pop-punks like Debbie Harry or Wendy James.

Jacqui Blake and Carrie Askew were two teenage schoolfriends from the South London suburb of Plumstead.  They bonded over a love of music and retreated into fandom and glamour as an escape from their mundane surroundings.   They became known on the London scene for their peroxide punk babydoll kitsch look (which was later to spawn an army of imitators) and they wrote a fanzine for Manic Street Preachers called Last Exit which blended Sylvia Plath quotes with collaged images of Kylie or Bardot.  They had a cameo appearance in the video for Little Baby Nothing and began to get several mentions in the press.  Deadline magazine described them as a performance act looking for an outlet and made it clear that they'd designed themselves as a pop group.  The girls were always quite clear that they couldn't play instruments or write music but they knew what they wanted and how to get it.  In the same Deadline interview, Jacqui was quoted as saying, "If anyone's manufacturing us, it's ourselves.  We knew what we wanted and set out to meet the people who could help us create it --- a raw punky glamorous band."

Bob Stanley from St. Etienne signed them to his record label, Icerink, after they sent him a mixtape featuring some of their favourite songs such as The Waitresses' I Know What Boys Like (which they went on to cover themselves).   They released 2 singles --- Blisters and Bruises (co-written by Lawrence from Denim) and Bouffant Headbutt (co-written by Con Fitzpatrick who wrote all the music for their songs from then on).  The singles got good reviews and Bouffant Headbutt, in particular, had more a punk sound.  People forget but when Shampoo first started they were seen as more of an indie band than a mainstream pop act.  In their interviews, they raved about 60s pop like Brigitte Bardot and 80s strangeness like Grace Jones or Adam Ant alongside indie bands of the time like Cornershop or the Manics.  But like Blondie and Transvision Vamp before them, the music press didn't know how to treat blonde pop babes who loved short skirts as much as the Sex Pistols.

Shampoo signed to Food (a subsidary of EMI) and released 2 albums for them, this one and Shampoo or Nothing (which popularised the phrase Girl Power before the Spice Girls).  They released a 3rd album via the internet before splitting up.  Although they'd had only moderate success in the UK, they were one of the biggest selling acts in Japan and made more than enough money to retire on.  Their later albums concentrated more of the childish pop element of their sound and increasingly their interviews seemed to appeal to a more mainstream audience as they obsessed about their love of East 17 and Take That, Barbie dolls and sweeties.

This reissue of their 1st album represents that moment where they balanced their pop and punk sides (although it is still more pop that it could have been/should have been).  The girls squawk and shriek, snarl and pout over catchy pop numbers echoing both the boring mundanity and rampant egotism of teenage life.  The songs are as sweet and light as candyfloss but dig a little deeper and you'll detect a sharper edge.  There are no love songs on the Shampoo album --- only songs mocking those that buy into the myth of romance, laughing at the too-cool-for-school indie boy scenesters around them and singing the praises of "running wild in the city late at night" and not caring what anyone thinks.  Surely lines like --- Everyone hates us/We don't care/Who needs friends anyway? --- wouldn't sound out of place being sneered by Johnny Rotten.  And wasn't Dirty Old Love Song merely a simpler version of the ethos behind the Manics' Motown Junk --- "songs of love echo underclass betrayal".  And is it just me or does Game Boy have a subversive double meaning?!

While it's true some of the album tracks are fillers, the reissue has added 6 bonus tracks (the B sides to the singles off this album, a couple of which were only available on CD releases) which have the petulant brattiness and kitsch sweetness that made Shampoo such a great band.  Although it is a pity they didn't include their 1st two singles and the B sides from them, this album is still a great introduction to a duo described as part Lolita/part Children of the Damned.  Shampoo --- a band that so perfectly embodied teenage glamour and pop culture that they could have been an Andy Warhol creation (if their essential Britishness didn't evoke more St. Trinians than Manhattan Factory).


Tuesday, 9 November 2010


Wicked Little Dolls self-titled debut album is available from CD Baby (   There are live videos up on YouTube featuring new songs - it also says the band has a new line-up but I've been unable to find out any more information on this.
Here's the video to Rotten Candy off their 1st album

Sunday, 7 November 2010


Scareifina is the lead singer for Wicked Little Dolls (the other band members are MarrCello, MiZari and LuCi).  Classic Rock described them as "a loony, possibly Satanic cross between Alice Cooper and Daisy Chainsaw" and dubbed them New York City's darkest, dirtiest secret.  Their self-titled debut album is out now and they're currently working on the follow-up.

You got your start writing songs for black metal band, Ancient.  What's your favourite memory about your time with that band?
My favourite memories are seeing Europe on tour and being in the Lillith's Embrace video.  We shot it in Norway and we were freezing.  I remember for one shot we thought it would be a killer idea to go inside a cave and make a fire.  We all nearly died in the friggen cave.  There we are, a bunch of badass black metal members scrambling to get out of a cave in Norway, that was filling up with black smoke because of your brilliant make-a-fire-in-a-cave idea.  We did get the shot, but yeah, not the best plan, lol.

Do you have any other side projects now or are you just concentrating on Wicked Little Dolls?
WLD is my one and only baby.  It's more than a band to us, it's a way of life, a family, it's an enchanted empire.

What's your favourite song on the album and why?
Rotten Candy.  It feels good to be the predator.  I need that feeling on stage, unrelenting rage.  It takes a certain type of monster to rape a child or beat an innocent creature and it takes an equal amount of anger to slay the slayer.

In your CD notes you thank Eminem and Oprah Winfrey.  What is it about these particular people that inspires you?
Eminem speaks his mind with no filter.  I admire that about him, and he's got a ton of talent and came up from nothing.
Oprah Winfrey uses her life to speak out and put focus on topics that need to be discussed.  My music is often inspired by something she brought to my attention through her show.  I do not believe in accidents, so if I see something I ask myself why did I see this and how can I help.  I first learned about baby rape on her show.  Men with AIDS in Africa were raping babies because they were told that having sex with a virgin will cure them.  I thought that babies were so young and innocent that they would not know what had happened to them until I saw this six month old little girl's eyes.  She had been raped at five months old, her body had to be put back together, and in her eyes I saw a sadness that brings me to tears even as I write this.  If Oprah had not followed her path to the top I never would have seen that little girl.  It's important to use your life.

You use a lot of doll imagery in your songs (as well as the name of the band itself) --- what is that fascinates you about dolls?
Secrets were as normal as the sun rising in my house growing up.  There is something about the way a porcelain dolls' eyes look that make me think they keep secrets.  Many people have a fear of dolls because they always look like they are looking at you.  I have many, many dolls all over my home.  I love them obsessively.   My first doll Emily was on the WLD album.  She has a music box inside her, I wound her up and you can hear her song on the end of our record.

I first came across your band when you donated a CD to Ladyfest Newcastle (which was given to me by the organisers as a thank you present) and you sent this amazing package where you customised a box to look like an antique book and put dried flowers in with the CD.  Do you have any craft-type hobbies?  What's the favourite thing you've ever made?
I do enjoy painting and drawing and making things inside boxes.  My favourite thing I made was "Scareifina's Box".  It was a box with a broken porcelain doll from Italy inside it.  Inside the box I decorated it to reflect my life and I took string and bound another doll to the box.  We all have a box we live in, things that make us feel stuck.  That was my favourite and it was stolen at a show.  I hope whoever stole it loves the dolls the way I do.

The video to Rotten Candy shows you as a vampire and your CD has quite a strong horror vibe to it.  What's your favourite horror movie and why?
I have so many favourite horror movies, "The Blood Splattered Bride" is one and another one I really love is "Alice Sweet Alice".   I love "The Blood Splattered Bride" because it turns me on.  I don't like porn, but this movie is like porn to me.  It's a haunting story, beautifully shot, and so rich with romance, obsession and horror.
"Alice Sweet Alice" I love because it's such a twisted tale with two sisters, two little girls, one is good the other is bad.   I love duality, and little girls that kill is always a good time.

If you could cover any song what would it be and why?
I really don't know, I wish I could cover something crazy like a Devil Doll song.  That is some insane music that I love.

Do you and the rest of the band all come from New York?  What do you like best about living in the city?
LuCi and I grew up in Northern Virginia, MarrCello and MiZari grew up in Argentina.  We all love the city because you can find anything you want at any time.  MarrCello told me yesterday, "It's crazy man, I went downtown to get some coffee and found this place that sells coffee, tea and shoes!  The tables in the place were made out of old drum sets, I fucking love NYC!"  His statement sums up how I feel too, it's a magic box that moves and doors change and open and close and open all the time.

What are your live shows like?
I never really remember much after I hit the stage, I stop thinking and just sing and by the end of the set I have two bloody knees and I feel like I cried for three days.  It's the best feeling in the world.  We do each show differently, sometimes we hand out candy, lollipops are a must at any show.  Other times we bring out hot WLD's with us to sing back up vocals.  Our last show, one of my closest friends, Andrea, did the show with us.  She had a fantastic voice.  I love to give other women the experience of being on stage.

Do you have any plans to play Europe/the UK?
We don't have formal plans but we are going to London at some point in time.  I plan to stay there for a few months.

What are your future plans for WLD?
We have almost finished our new album.  It will have 13 songs.  One song is called "Angel in Darkness" and it is about a NYC girl from our scene that goes by the name of Dark Angel and she killed and castrated her father in July.  He raped her from age 3 till a teen and her sisters too.  We will sell this track online and donate the money to her.  (EDITORS NOTE:   The website address that Scareifina gave me isn't working but if you Google Brigitte Harris + Dark Angel you can read more about this case.)   The money is going to get her a good lawyer.  She slayed a monster and saved another little girl from the horror she went through.  I hope she gets help and goes on to live a good life.  If every little girl who raped killed we wouldn't have a million perverts all over the world.  A word to all the WLD's out there, I'm not saying to go kill who ever wronged you, it's better to not fuck yourself over, find a way to use your life instead, and always use the dirty secret parts --- that makes for very rich soil.
Bloody Kisses,
Scareifina, MarrCello, MiZari and LuCi.



Sometime during the mid-1990s, after the success of 4 Non Blonde's grunge-lite hit What's Going On? but before she became known for writing & producing hit records for Pink, Christina Aguilera, Courtney Love et al; Linda Perry discovered a band so great she decided then & there to set up a record label to unleash their music on the general public ...

This band was Stone Fox.  You probably won't have heard of them.   They are the San Francisco rock scene's best-kept secret & their diverse career lasted between roughtly 1990 and 1998 producing 3 studio albums and 1 reissue/compilation.   The band consisted of Jorjee (vocals), Yvette (guitar), Kim (guitar) and Janis (bass).   The band had numerous drummers throughout their career.

The album Perry worked on with Stone Fox wasn't actually their first album - they released Burnt on an independent label in 1992.  This self-titled album was released on Perry's Rockstar Records in 1996 & it is one of the best albums I have ever heard!  Whenever I tell other people about it or play the songs to them - they never really 'get' it, I don't know why.  From the Barbarella-esque artwork (a scantily-clad female space explorer being sized up by robots) on the sleeve and the cute flaming heart cartoon adorning the CD itself, to the diverse range of sounds displayed on the songs themselves - this is a CD no record collection is complete without.
Sometimes sounding like a straightforward female rock act on songs such as Coke Whore and Tiny Box of Lies whilst showing a more tender side on the heartbreaking HIV+, as well as displaying a tongue-in-cheek 'deep south' attitude on the very catchy Poach - Stone Fox really do escape any kind of pigeon-holing - their music is a mix of punk/rock/blues/country and more!

In 1997, Stone Fox moved to Bad Taste Records and released an album called Dirty Pillows, complete with a blood red Carrie-style cover image.  (Despite many Ebay bids & e-mails to online record stores, I have yet to get my hands on this album & can't tell you what it sounds like!)  Punk queen Exene Cervenka even joined the band for the song Something to Brag About.

Around this time Stone Fox supported legendary metal gods Metallica at one of their fan club shows - apparently Kirk Hammett was a fan - whether the girls successfully won over the Metaliheads, however, remains a mystery.

In 1998, the Man's Ruin record label released the album Totally Burnt - this was a reissue of Stone Fox's debut album Burnt with additional tracks culled from early demos & live shows.  Particular gems from the album are the laid-back rockabilly of Embalm Me & the 50s doowop of Candee.   Despite the poor quality on the demos & live tracks, it is possible to tell that Stone Fox were a truly diverse band who mixed a range of musical styles with a hard rockin' attitude.

Exactly when & why the band disbanded after the release of Totally Burnt is a mystery but I am thankful for the 3 lovely records they bestowed on us & urge you to check them out.

Band members have gone onto various projects with other girl-rock luminaries.  Kim Pryor plays guitar in Auf Der Maur - the ex-Hole bassist's solo project.  Janis was part of punk girl group Auntie Christ, before joining L7 - and now appears to be playing bass for Pink!  Since joining ex-Hole bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur's solo outfit, guitarist Kim Pryor's profile has increased somewhat - there are a number of fan sites set up to provide a comprehensive list of her musical work, and feature a lot of Stone Fox info.  To my knowledge, there was only one Stone Fox fan website (EDITORS NOTE:  This now appears to have disappeared).   For more information on Exene Cervenka, visit

In the fields where she lay in the grass all day, mixed with green and the red while she contemplates a man, should  I bother to love him cause he'll only bring me down.  Ah hold my water till the last note.  An, my hooves have grown tired from the shit that I see, if I breed will he bring me up to ecstasy.  Ah hold my water till the last note.  Ah kick up my heels like a billy goat, I don't mind bleeding or smelling like a fish, but I think he should bring me nautical gifts, since that day I have sent away for license to Mary so my love will never die --- Two Solid Weeks of Menstruation 1996.