Anyone who saw The Devil Makes Three live knew what all the fuss was about: here is a group that infused Americana traditions with an unabashedly modern energy that caused any ears within a mile radius to buzz with excitement. Anyone who heard the early Devil Makes Three records heard something more: a solid group that showed promise but didn’t necessarily light the world on fire. For so long, the trio of guitarist Pete Bernhard, bassist Lucia Turino, and banjo-player extraordinaire Cooper McBean hadn’t figured out how to translate their live shows into the studio, at least not until 2011’s Stomp and Smash and their 2013 followup I’m a Stranger Here.
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It all started with a mix. Well, more accurately, it started as a remix.
For both Richard Norris and Erol Alkan, these two young Londoners started out, by themselves, as Djs, Alkan focusing more on dance and electronic music, Norris befriend Joe Strummer and playing on some of the Clash maestro’s latter-day creations. It wasn’t until 2006 that, after having rejiggered some tracks under his own name, Alkan began using the Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve moniker. Norris had joined in, and the group, gaining notoriety for productions of artists of both the underground (Midlake) and the mainstream (Franz Ferdinand, The Chemical Brothers) variety, started making the name for themselves. EPs and singles would trickle out here and there, but outside of 2008 compilation of their earlier recordings, nothing concrete.
What a joy it is, then, that The Soft Bounce is here, and goodness is it a mishmash of so many varied things. From the hippie-friendly go-go bounce of “Creation” to the ‘80s synth homage “Diagram Girl” to the ambient instrumental “Tomorrow, Forever” to the string-driven mod number “Door to Tomorrow”, The Soft Bounce encompasses so much but still originates from the group’s clearly-defined psych-friendly aesthetic.
Thus, to help celebrate the occasion, the two Wizards themselves answered PopMatters 20 Questions, revealing a love of truffle oils, an affinity towards author John Higgs, and some remarkably practical advice for handling life’s problems.
“These were some of the best days of my life”, says Londoner Koray Fuat. “We had three music videos played on TV. We supported Montell Jordan, Lil Bow Wow and performed on the same stage as Kelle Le Roc and Roll Deep. These were interesting times.” Fuat refers to his days as a rapper in one of London’s few, if not only, Turkish-Brit hip-hop crews, Kontagious. The band’s one and only album The Epidemic failed to pave the way for further success, but it did make an admirable notch in the underground hip-hop/garage scene that had championed everyone from the Streets to Kano at the time.
Caleb Caudle’s upcoming album, Carolina Ghost, is his first that’s been fully created since he got sober. The Country Fried Rock alum was previously featured on this program following Paint Another Layer on My Heart. He shares tips on releasing a record successfully, choosing songs to record, and the benefits of recording in a legendary studio close to home. After extensive touring both solo and with a band, Caudle feels like he’s starting to get it right.
“Sometimes I’m really weird, I know,” concedes Wolfgang Flür towards the end of our interview.
Certainly, his eccentricities precede him: for starters, and to get the obvious out of the way, Flür was a member of Kraftwerk during their classic ‘70s/‘80s lineup, along with Karl Bartos and founders Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider. With 1974’s Autobahn (the first to feature Flür as a full-time member), Kraftwerk infamously drew a line in the sand between their long-haired, jam-filled psychedelic past, and their precise electronic future.
But that’s the past. And since his departure from Kraftwerk, ending a great run with 1986’s underrated Electric Café (since reissued under the originally intended title Techno Pop), Flür has taken the seemingly paradoxical turns of repeatedly and public distancing himself from Kraftwerk, and penning a memoir, I Was a Robot (2000), which namechecks his artistic leviathan in its very title.