Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Artist Interview: ULYSSES

Brit Rockers Ulysses Return with
Interview by The Dedicated Rocker Society

UK rockers Ulysses have been praised in major publications from The Guardian to Shindig! and Classic Rock Magazine. They bring a quirky pop delights and to die for big riffs with what is fast becoming their own distinct sound that lands between psych, glam and rock, guitar stroking and pop sheen. 

They've toured with the likes of Rival Sons, Purson and members of The Black Crowes, it seems that Ulysses have unknowingly brought their cheeky influences (Syd Barrett, psych-era Stones, The Cars, Thin Lizzy, Hot Chocolate, Supergrass, Sailor, Alvin Stardust and Paul McCartney & Wings) to the heart of the new rock elite.

We had a chance to ask the band about their latest release, 'Law And Order', on Black Glove recording, their musical influences and their plans on whar they have in store us next. 

Here is what they shared with us...

Q: How long did it take to record your latest release, 'Law And Order'? And how did you approach this album, as far as musical direction, than your previous release, 'Kill You Again”?

JULES (Bass): This time we decided to spend some time tracking most of the album in Wales at Monnow Valley Studios, then finishing it off at Steve Evans (our producer)’s studio, whereas ‘Kill You Again’ was made at Ulysses HQ and was recorded, produced and mixed by Luke. On the ‘Law and Order’ album the songs were pretty much up together when we went in to the studio, we tracked everything live and did a few overdubs then built up the production.

DENNY (Guitar): Speaking as a fan of the last album, and participant in this one, I can see continuity between them in terms of great songwriting and entertaining themes. There's also the same acknowledgement that every moment that has happened and will happen all exists together in one bundle, so we are all cosmically bound to the single moment that that is the past, present and future. In terms of differences between this one and the last, I think the idea was to make everything bigger and slicker, which it definitely is. What really makes the album stand out is the bizarre range of lyrical themes and characters Luke conjures, which range from vampires to perverts and crazy ladies, but all linked by a sort cartoonish presentation that renders them entertaining rather than seriously disturbing. I think we are similarly playful musically, visiting other times and places, but not staying too long.

Q: There are twelve songs on the new album. How many did you actually write for the album? What were some of memorable moments, good or bad, in the making of 'Law And Order”?

LUKE (Vocals / Guitar): We had 11 for the album and then I knocked out ‘Dirty Weekend’ quick to complete it, as I wanted a 6 a side of vinyl track listing.

Bad moments - the long drawn out process of getting the album finished and then shopping it around labels. We had some moments assimilating Denny Peppers also, but they then turned into beautiful moments, but it wasn’t an easy ride for any of us. We split with previous guitarist Tom Sartorial after ‘Kill You Again’ album as he wasn’t happy, we weren’t happy and he wasn’t really cutting it anyhow. He was a great friend though, so it was a painful process. Hearing back the mix with Rosalie Cunningham from Purson’s vocals on ‘Song That Has To Be Sung’ for the first time was a great moment. We had such a great time at Monnow Valley Studio too, as you can no doubt tell from the documentary if you’ve seen it.

Myself and Steve Evans (co-producer) then slaved away for 8 months at his place finishing it off to perfection and eating a lot of chicken. There were some beautiful moments there hearing it all come together with the sun coming through the window.

DENNY: The food at Monnow Valley Studios is great also, and inspired me to play some of my best notes.

Q: In terms of your own writing process, how does that work? What inspires you? 

LUKE: Ideas just pop into my head, simple as that. Usually when I’m not near an instrument. It’s then a whole lot of work to turn that into a complete song that satisfies me, I get obsessed and I can’t stop until it’s as good as it can possibly be.
Lyrics usually drive me insane. I’m definitely tapped in to some kind of erotic spiritual vibe these days. People often find us bizarre, it’s just normal to us!

JULES: I think the main inspiration for this record was sex ,kink, and lots of magic kinky sex.

SHANE (Drums): Luke writes the songs but presents them to us in a number of different ways initially, maybe he’ll just have a riff and will jam it out with us until something comes or sometimes he’ll have a whole demo recorded with all the parts mapped out and ready to go, either way the song is more important than anything else and we know if and when its good to go.

Q: Speaking of the new songs. Two in particular, the title track and "How Long?". First the title track. Are you familiar with the T.V. show, "Law And Order". Is there you got the idea from to write it?  (Just curious). Secondly, "How Long?" Were you channeling your inner David Essex when you wrote that? 

JULES: Hey man, we are talking about the law and order of the universe and yes our David rocks! 

LUKE: I really don’t know why I came up with ‘Law And Order’ as a song in itself, there is a Lindsey Buckingham album called that, and also in ‘Let’s Go To Town’ by Sailor there’s a line in there “where there is no such thing as law and order”, maybe they went in me head and came out weird. The leather gloves was me trying to make Jules (bass) laugh as he always wears his leather gloves when he’s out and about. Speaking of which, Jules is the genius behind our videos, I give him a bit of love and he gives me leather gloves! The song took on an espionage type theme, although conceptually as an album title it’s more about the law and order of the universe.‘How Long?’ is basically a blues song about tripping, or maybe a spiritual awakening, the verse never worked until I hit on the David Essex sex-vibe.

DENNY: I think it's safe to say our Law and Order can be disambiguated from the TV show. I used to watch LA Law when I was younger - that was quite good.

Q: Who came up with the ideas for the videos shoots for those songs?

JULES : The videos are usually ideas that Luke and I come up with, chat about over a few weeks, then I will tend to come up with some mock-up ideas via storyboards or still animations to see if they will work out, then I will edit the footage together after it has been shot. I have been lucky enough to meet and work with a few great camera guys . Thank you Will Sansom, Nick Pitt and Jon Davey! 

DENNY: Julyan Wells Cathedral directed and edited our videos, storyboarding and bossing us about. He is a man of many talents - not only is he a great bass player but he’s also a kick ass drummer and mean blues guitarist. He’s equally thorough and painstaking with his work in the visual arts, and we were all very happy with the videos. He also talks profane bollocks.

Q: Who are some of your musical influences?

LUKE: I love that pan-generational thing of great but experimental pop music, that appeals to kids, the supposedly cool young people, and older people who like a good tune, be that The Beatles, The Cure, whoever. I couldn’t give a shit about authenticity or being cool myself.

SHANE: Our musical influences individually are probably too many to list but collectively we love the Beatles, Wings, The Kinks, The Move, The Pretty Things, The Cars, Bowie and more recent bands like Super Furry Animals, Bobby Conn, Vampire Weekend. I suppose the bands that influence you are the bands you'd happily be in, in another space and time. We're also influenced by politics and ladies beachwear!

Q: Do you think it's important as a musician to listen to a wide variety of music?

DENNY: Yes, or no, depending how you want to do things. Nobody exists in a vacuum, so you’ve always got influences seeping in no matter what you do. It's important to play lots, and whatever you listen to, listen to it with a critical ear, rather than allowing yourself to use music as aural wallpaper.

JULES: I agree with Denny on that, I’m still singing The Wombles hits!

Q: What are some other artists/bands that you listen to that might surprise people? 

SHANE: We love to listen to Rupert Holmes whilst travelling to gigs and stuff. Ariel Pink and Bobby Conn too, I suppose that might surprise people, we’ll listen to anything that has a good sentiment behind it regardless of genre. The Rutles are another favourite of ours!

Q: What’s on your playlist recently?

LUKE: I’ve actually been listening to a lot of 80s music recently, The Cure, Siouxsie, Prince, Jonah And The Wail, XTC, Suburban Lawns, The Dead Kennedys and 80s inspired things like Ariel Pink - ‘Pom Pom’ is my hands down favourite new album of recent times, great songs, unbridled creativity - if a leprechaun suddenly starts talking halfway through a song then so be it! Saw them live in Bristol as well, best gig I’ve been to in a long time - someone I would absolutely love to work with one day.

Q: For those are not familiar with Ulysses, how would describe your band? Who's the best dressed mate in the band?

LUKE: Well the best dressed is me of course! Shane’s clothes are all mine anyway, I give him the ones that are too small for me to get away with!

DENNY: As a band we were recently described as "four natural piss-takers", which is astonishingly accurate given that the journalist hadn't met any of us, or me at any rate. As far as best dressed, Shane will tell you it’s him, so I guess we’ll go with that - only last night we were all watching ourselves (who else?) on video and Shane was heard to remark "I look good", and to be fair he's not wrong. As for me I'm going through a dungarees-based mid-life crisis, which the band are being very understanding about.

Q: Any plans for Ulysses coming to L.A. to a couple of shows? Who would you like to tour with?

SHANE: I think we would go down great in L.A, and the chicks, I think they would go down great in L.A too! At the moment though I think we would have to sell our incredibly talented kidneys to afford to do anything stateside. Maybe someone will have a little faith and throw us a bone who knows?

LUKE: We would absolutely love to come to L.A. sometime, not sure if it’s possible, but maybe. We know the great band Smash Fashion out there and also some people on the Long Beach scene, so maybe we can figure it out at some point. You might not be able to get us to leave though!

DENNY: We want to play this album to death and get it out to as many people as we can, so yes please, we would love to come out in L.A. We are happy to tour with anyone, but if you could get Motley Crue back together for it that would be great.

JULES: Ulysses would love to come L.A , if the stars align maybe it will happen! I know Luke would love to tour with Weezer!

Q: What's next for Ulysses?

LUKE: I think this album has legs, at least I hope so. But it feels already like it’s growing and people are telling new people about it, so as long as we can keep playing new places and getting new people to buy the album that’d be great. I’d love to tour with Purson again.We also have plans to record a new album at our own studio, and get it out fairly soon if possible, I’ve got some bangers up my sleeve and demoed and we’ll probably experiment our way to the rest.

DENNY: We are all still buzzing off being able to hold the album in our hands and pore over the booklet etc, so our main thing right now is sharing that wonderful experience with the people of Earth, by whatever means necessary. 

JULES: Lots of local shows coming up, some new videos are on the cards and plans to try and tour in the autumn.

SHANE: What's next for Ulysses is anybody's guess, our videos are getting better all the time, thanks to our very own Julian Wells Cathedral and his love and understanding of film and editing, our productions I expect will become more extravagant (and expensive!). We need to get touring too we love playing shows and meeting people who get what we're doing, more support tours and more good times playing music please!

11. Any plans for Ulysses coming to L.A. to a couple of shows? Who would you like to tour with?

LUKE: We would absolutely love to come to L.A. sometime, not sure if it’s possible, but maybe. We know the great band Smash Fashion out there and also some people on the Long Beach scene, so maybe we can figure it out at some point. Daniel from Howlin Rain has his own awesome band Mrs Henry down in San Diego too so it'd be ace to hook up with them if we came over. You might not be able to get us to leave though!

For more information on Ulysses, please visit:

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