Guitars, drum machines, and plenty of attitude - that's Ulterior.
It's an approach that always made the band stand out among the new-wave noiseniks of London's twenty-first century post-punk scene.
But now, with their debut album Wild In Wildlife out on their own Speed Records, and a European tour with the Sisters Of Mercy under their belts, Ulterior are making it clear they've got their own agenda - and they'll make their own way forward.
Ulterior's vocalist Honey tells it like it is...
The debut album's out. Does it feel now that Ulterior isn't a 'new band' any more: that you've put down your marker, staked out your territory, planted your flag - I'll stop the metaphors now, but you know what I mean. Do you feel in some way like you're established now? Or is the album just the first milestone on a road that stretches a lot further ahead?
Well, we've been together a while now so I don't think we've been a 'new' band for some time. Although I guess 'new' is relative to the listener. We have kids telling us that we are their 'new favourite band' via Facebook, MySpace etc, yet we are old hat to the East End hipsters - so much so that I can feel a resurgence. I think personally we haven't felt like a 'new' band since two years after our first show. Forever in no-man's land, that's us, for better or worse.
I hope we never 'plant a flag' - we're called Ulterior after all. I'd like to occupy that weird little hidden world of being people's dirty little secret until everyone realises we're everyone's dirty little secret. Depeche Mode style, baby.
Before the album, there were singles - 'Weapons', 'Sister Speed', 'Aporia', 'Sex War Sex Cars Sex'. In a way that's a very traditional way to do things: a run of singles, and then the album. Many bands go straight for an album release these days, or just shove up a load of MP3s and let the web do the work. What made you decide to do the old-school singles 'n' album thing - vinyl and all - rather than putting the music online?
You missed '15'. We did both. We have broken our backs and bank accounts (and the bank accounts of those around us) to put our music out there in the best possible way (vinyl) and the most accessible (MP3).
Where it has been possible (monetarily) we have released on vinyl because it sounds beautiful and looks beautiful - but hey, who gives a fuck about beauty any more? We just want it out there in people's heads.
Whatever they want, they can have. I'm currently working on a bullet that plays the album when it rips your brain open.
Has it worked, in terms of putting the band's music out there, and getting everyone primed and ready for the album? Do you feel there's an Ulterior fanbase out there now?
It's worked in the sense that we've had time to develop into a band that can deliver an album. Had we released something a year after being on the scene you would have got Lou Reed's 'Metal Machine Music' with an aneurysm-giving 'Suicide' beat and me just swearing and abusing everyone for 40 minutes. 'Cool!' I hear all the idiots say, but we wanted more.
We were not making music back then, we were saying 'Fuck off' to everyone who came to see us, because it's what we thought they needed whether they knew it or not. We were a live 'experience' and not a recording band. They needed to know that rock 'n' roll wasn't all fucking Dior-wearing skiffle. They needed to know that they were 17 and not 28. That they were fucking ALIVE!
It was important to do, I think, and it's great to do it live now and again. But it wasn't music to our ears, so we went away, worked hard, and wrote an album that we feel captures everything that we're about and have always been about, but wrapped up in a big black shiny pop bow. Like every great band has done. Primed? They'd fucking better be.
|Ulterior perform 'Sex War Sex Cars Sex'. Gentlemen, they're looking inside our heads...|
If someone was coming to Ulterior for the first time, is there one song that you'd recommend as summing up what the band are all about? Could you point to one track and say, "That's Ulterior!"? What makes that track an essential introduction? Or is it not really possible to narrow Ulterior down to one song?
Erm, I personally couldn't do it. I think we would all answer differently, which proves my point.
We wouldn't be the band we are today without 'Weapons', for example. But then I can't imagine us not having written 'Big City Black Rain', both completely at opposing ends of what we do stylistically, but both utterly Ulterior. I think time is also a factor though. I would answer differently tomorrow, I think. Right now if I had a gun to my head and HAD to choose, I'd go for 'Dream Dream' (album version). So I could do it. Idiot...
Ulterior came out of the twenty-first century post-punk scene - all those anglular new-wavey bands making odd noises in Shoreditch basements. But almost alone among them, Ulterior was immediately, unashamedly, a rock band. I think only Romance had that same sort of 'rock' attitude. Did you feel at home among the angular indie types, or were you always aware that Ulterior were doing something different, going somewhere different?
Unashamedly? Where is the shame in being a rock band? Shame lies behind 17 pedals that hide that you cant write a song. Shame lays down under the haircut that diverts attention from the pedals that make the noises that hide that you cant write a song and that you have nothing to say.
Though we made a lot of friends from those parties, in musical terms for me, every one of those bands were and are literally pointless. I have never felt a part of that.
Romance are doing pretty well themselves right now, and it's interesting that it's the two most 'rock' bands to come out of the east London post-punk scene that have in many ways achieved the most. I remember a gig at the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen in 2009 where both Romance and Ulterior played on the same bill - maybe, in years to come, people will remember that one like those early punk gigs where the Sex Pistols and The Clash played together (and just like those gigs, many more people will claim to have been there that actually attended!)
So, out of Ulterior and Romance, who's the Sex Pistols, and who's the Clash? Or is is more a case of the Stranglers and the Adverts?
Ha ha, I shall take that as a well placed dig Michael! OK, because we're 'orrible and get into trouble all the time, and Romance are posh and lovely and better looking, I guess we're the Pistols, and they can be The Clash.
I remember something a friend of mine said when he first heard Ulterior. He said: "They sound like Suicide! Do they know they sound like Suicide?" Of course, Ulterior don't really sound like Suicide (who never used guitars, apart from anything else), but there's certainly something Suicide-ish about that relentless machine-beat that underpins everything. Is Suicide a reference point for you, an influence?
Let me clear this up once and for all. When we formed, we wanted the most full on, non-musical assault we could inflict on other humans. There was no musical reference per se. We discarded any melody, any formal rhythm or any traditional sound (or so we thought). Occam's razor in the hands of the ripper. Decrease musicality, increase volume. Fucking brutality.
We must have only played about three shows before we played this warehouse on one of our first London gigs and this old boy (about 50) came up to me after the show and told me that he used to watch Joy Division week in week out in that pub they used to play in Manchester all the time, and that we reminded him of them. Not the sound, but the attitude - a lovely compliment. He then said the we sound more like Suicide than Joy Division. And I was like 'Suicide... Really?' So he walked off thinking I was taking the piss.
It was only a few weeks before that we had actually started listening to Suicide - the music was already written and happening. We stumbled upon the comparison by - I don't know, history repeating, similar environments / attitudes, complete fluke? Fuck knows, but yeah, they got absorbed very quickly and put through the machine. Just like every other influence you see or hear in us.
I seem to have sneaked up on the 'What are your influences?' question. I try to avoid that one because it's such an unimaginative thing to ask. But still, let's ask it and get it over with: what are your influences?
Well, I'm not going to sit here and list 20 bands that we love, because we've done that in the past and it always backfires. People read it and then lazily announce that we are 'copying' them. There is a difference between copying a band and ripping off bands. Our policy is rip off everyone, sound like no one.
I'm pretty sure most people could hazard educated guesses at our main influences, it's not as if we hide them now is it? MCG writes the music, I don't know what is influencing him presently.
I can only speak for myself and state that I am unaware of any outside influences in my lyric writing at the moment. I feel very much locked into my own world, and that doesn't leave much room for anything else.
[MCG puts his head round the door to add: Just for the record, I'm listening to Ministry, Simple Minds, Led Zepellin (who I still dislike, but I'm persisting), Depeche Mode, Tears For Fears, Guns N Roses, Bruce Springsteen - and Billy Idol of course.]
Not so long ago you went on tour with the Sisters Of Mercy, and by all accounts went down well with the Sisters crowd. I think many people were slightly astonished that the Sisters had a decent support band for once: in his efforts to avoid goth bands, Andrew Eldritch has frequently also avoided good bands.
But it seemed you had no hesitation about going on tour with the grandfather of goth (Eldritch will hate that title, but - let's face it - he's the daddy). Did that tour go well for you? Did you feel the audiences 'got' Ulterior? Did you look out from the stage every night and think, "These are our people too" ?
Definitely. For the first time in our career we were playing in front of thousands of people that were obviously Sisters fans, so it was trial by fire. They are a discerning lot that can smell bullshit quicker than most so it was great to have them give us so much support.
Great times for all of us. I just hope they buy the fucking record!
And finally...what's coming up for Ulterior? Gigs, tours, sex, war? Or all of the above?
Touring this album and recording the next. And trying to stay together and alive whilst doing both.