Captain Black are: Keith Austin (lead vocals and acoustic) Sam Relleen (guitar and backing vocals) Simon Shields (bass and backing vocals) Mark Austin (drums) Johnny Manning (keyboards) Over the powerful medium of electronic mail I threw a series of mentally challenging questions at Keith and Simon and found out that behind their intelligent countenances lie two men fascinated with using windows as toilets...
SoundsXP: Are you named after Captain Black? As in Captain Black, the arch rival of Captain Scarlet and most misunderstood naughty puppet of our lifetime? I hope so!
Keith: We are named after him in as much as I like the name, not a huge fan of Gerry Anderson though. I always think band names should be as simple and unpretentious as possible. Captain Black is very simple and kind of
stupid sounding but I like it.
SoundsXP: In one of your logo type images you have used a scene from William Hogarth's Gin Lane. Any reason for that? Do you endorse intoxication and abandonment of responsibility, thus leading to the downfall of society?
Keith: I think Hogarth is a great artist and I really felt an affinity with his work when I first moved to London as he created a world in his paintings that doesn't seem too different from London today. The woman in the painting is a depiction of a real event where a lady drowned her baby in a drunken stupor and sold its old clothes for more money to buy gin.
Simon: I think Gin Lane is a great backdrop to our sound but not all of our songs. I think Beer Alley would be more fitting for our happier more jaunty songs. We do endorse intoxication, but at the same time on more occasions than not we're fine examples of why you should stick to the soda and lime.
SoundsXP: 'The singer is dead.' is my favourite tune of yours. It paints a rather pessimistic view of the fate of a man who enters the music business though. Is this song based on fear or observation?
Keith: Thanks, its one of my favourites too. We are recording it again for the album so it will be back very soon in a new improved form. It is an old theme - failed singer, music business gets him down, blows his head off with a shot gun. I am quite fascinated by those sort of characters and love the songs that portray them. "The Singer" which is sung by Johnny Cash and Glen Campbell is quite similar in theme to "The Singer Is Dead."
SoundsXP: You seem to be quite a warm bunch of lads. When you say 'Come up to our house.' I think you actually mean it. Can I come to your house? Can anybody come to your house? What is your idea of a nightmare house guest?
Keith: Of course you can come to our house though we have just received a letter from the council about noise levels so we will have to be a little quieter than usual. Nightmare house guest would be a french exchange student who stays for two weeks, never pays a penny in rent, doesn't lift a finger to help and leaves the front window open all day. This actually happened.
Simon: I think I've got a contender for the 'Nightmare house guest.' Not entirely sure who would be worse actually, Keith. I think the French lady comes a close second to the guy who lives three doors down from us. I'd rather have a peck on the cheek from the French lady than a Glaswegian kiss from Gary Lager at number 49!!
SoundsXP: Will the album be ready for January 2008? Are you just teasing us? That is miles away! What can the music public expect from this?
Keith: I really hope the album wont be too far from that release date. It's a self release so we should be able to operate on our own terms and conditions rather than relying on the 'sloth like' pace of a major. It is a way off but we will have one more single before it's out and we have a lot of promotion to do.
SoundsXP: Who are your influences? Personally, I can hear gypsy folk flowing through your musical veins.
Keith: I love so many different artists I find it different to pin point a certain group of influences. I write a song that, to me, sounds a bit like REM and someone tells me it sounds like Nick Cave or something else totally off the mark. I like that though and I guess if my songs end up sounding like another artist who I love then it's a sign of how indelibly they have affected me. I am currently listening to alot of early 80's pop rock like Tom Petty and The Cars. Also, to be slightly more predictable, the soundtrack to O Brother Where Art Thou. I love early folk and blues. Folk has the best vocal melodies I have ever heard in music.
SoundsXP: What goes through your minds when you are performing live? Do you enjoy the live experience?
Keith: I love playing live, if I didn't I would give up. Its really cathartic and in an industry full of so many shitty deals, disappointments and hard work, it pulls your socks up, dusts you down and says "Remember how good it can be, it could be like this all the time so keep going and ignore the bull shit" Yes, I love it more than anything else.
Simon: When we're playing live I often find myself thinking about quite funny things like, have I got any clean socks for tomorrow...? And then think 'shit! What part of the song comes next!!?' Playing live is what we do best, as it should be for every band.
SoundsXP: Did I read that Keith was playing a solo acoustic gig the other night? Were you Keith? Do you often abandon your band to pursue personal music pleasure? Does anybody else have any 'side projects' on the go?
Keith: Yes I am doing a few solo/ stripped down gigs, I didn't abandon them though they abandoned me. They went to Benacassin and I was left on my Jack in London so, when asked, I agreed. Its fun to hear the songs as they were when I wrote them but its very lonely and you miss the band desperately. Nowhere near as satisfying but it's important to do it and change your songs to suit different situations.
SoundsXP: You're all a bit easy on the eye so your moral question is, 'Would you use your looks to further your careers?' I want to bring out a poseable doll range based on you all. Can I?
Keith: The people in the photos are actually not really us. They are low budget models we got to pose as how we like to look. As soon as the album sells enough copies I'm going to sort out my hunch back and hair lip and venture out in public. Lock up your daughters.
Simon: No and yes you can. NEXT!
SoundsXP:Tell me five fantastic things about being in london in 2007 and five from 1750 - Gin Lane days. If you had the choice would you live in present day london or latter day london.
Keith: In no particular order - today would be Regents Park, Camden pubs, our fans and friends, free art galleries (which I rarely ever take advantage of) and great unsigned bands that you can still see for free on the guest list. Old times - Gin, Dwarfs fighting bears, heaving bosoms on aristocratic ladies, shitting out the window and drinking beer instead of water. If I had to choose I would definitely go for modern London. It's far safer but I would quite like to see someone shit out the window on to our clean streets.
Simon: I too would find it rather funny to see someone shit out of a window. Or even better see Keith pap out of a window. I'm sure we could get Keith to do this for us here in 2007. That's the clincher - definitely 2007.
SoundsXP: If Captain Black and the Mysterons took on Captain Black, the band, in a battle who would win?
Keith: You put that question way to late in the interview, I can't be bothered to answer it. No offence.
Simon: We would lose.
SoundsXP: What should I be feeling when listening to your music? Do you care about the audience or do you just create songs and worry about the aftermath later, if at all?
Keith: I care greatly for the audience, I wouldn't write songs if I didn't care about them being received well. Although you shouldn't analyse your songs too much before you play them as you can never really tell what is going to capture peoples' imagination. I would quite like you to feel happy when you hear us and possibly feel like you are entering into our own little world. I think the mark of a great artist is they can put you somewhere you can only go to when you hear their music. When Kurt Cobain sang "Give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld" In Penny royal Tea I am sure he was referring to that little comforting place his music can take you too.
SoundsXP: What does music mean to you? Why do you find yourselves in Captain Black? Is this all by accident or orchestrated with precision?
Keith: Music is the most important thing in the world. If you don't listen to music you should probably just fall asleep and never wake up again. I guess you try to keep a tight grip on what your band becomes with time but in a way you just end up stepping back and saying "This is very different to the band I thought we would be in when we started it" but as long as your influences shine through and you don't bastardise your sound with cheap commercial gimmicks you should find yourself in a very satisfying and individual arena. I am very proud of the arena Captain Black has found for itself.
SoundsXP: What lady puppet is the more desirable and why -Lady Penelope (thunderbirds) or Marina (stingray) I can supply pictures.
Keith: Penelope, in the back of that little pink limo would be a hell of a time.
SoundsXP: Is there life after Saturday? What are you doing when this interview ends?
Keith: Yes there is life after Saturday, it comes in the form of marmite on toast and an asprin. I am going to use the spell check after this interview as I cant spell for toffee.
Well you may not be able to spell, Keith, but you have a bottomless pit of wise words to share with us. The single 'Come on up to our house' is available to buy now and I suggest that you do so but don't play it too loud as you'll receive a letter from the council...