First of all congratulations on becoming a father of twins – how is that treating you?
Thanks Melli, they're treating me to about 16 nappy changes a day! It's mental having lockdown babies! Two little 'coronials' who've not seen many people out of masks, and that's just the Birdman ones. Hope they don't grow up being weirdos.
Please give us a little intro about your band and how did the Bristol-Newcastle connection came about?
I'm the singer from the band Birdman Cult, we describe it as ' lout rock, doom wave, rock and roll, post punk, post coitus come down, future throwback wave'... We've been going about 18 months and just released our fourth single 'SON OF STYX'.
The Newcastle link comes from me being from South Tyneside. When I was in my teens and early twenties I started a hip-hop label KILLAMARI RECORDS and was in a local band 'Dialect'. I made a lot of connections in the North East and obviously with family and friends it's sort of my creative umbilical that I like to keep healthy. Inevitably I gravitated to where I could get work and Bristol answered the call.
What makes Bristol special for you?
As an out-of-towner I was made to feel welcome, not all cities are as open armed as Bristol was to me. It's a place where whatever your into there's bound to be a group of people you can meet and go to nights that cater to your taste, perhaps that has something to do with its rich and diverse musical and cultural history or its now transient student flow of bands and artists.
'Birdman Cult' is a very unusual name – can you please elaborate on that one?
Sam who plays lead guitar is responsible for that one. We were talking about possible names and nothing felt right but Sam (Otis) was heavy into researching cults and their leaders and it led him to an indigenous group from Easter Island 'The Birdman Cult'. In a nutshell there would be an annual contest where all coming of age warriors would compete in life or death games and would have to retrieve an egg unbroken from atop a deadly cliff across dangerous waters. If they succeeded they would be looked after and adored by the village until death or the next Victor took his or her place. I guess we liked the metaphor, and it sounds pretty cool, and suits my love of masks and large Roman noses.
I saw you guys live on stage at my last Bristol gig at Zed Alley – how did Covid affect you?
Covid has fucked the whole industry so I try and spare the pity party but obviously it's hindered plans. That Zed Alley gig was fun and one of the last we did in Bristol. We had a plan and it was going smoothly, just started gathering momentum, getting a little attention from blogs and promoters, then after a packed Rough Trade gig, which felt like a turning point for us, all this happened, and like any new band I guess we existed very much on the live circuit with only a few tracks released. So I think like everyone we had to regroup and think about what's important. We just concentrate on the music for now. I tried a lockdown podcast thing, our bassist and drummer opened a new recording studio and spent a few months fixing that up and we've been writing and recording bits ready for a release plan. To be honest with two new kids there was always gonna be limited output from me anyway, so in a sense it levelled the playing field somewhat for us knowing we aren't the only ones on pause.
I read something about ' band secrets' – you think you can tell us one of those?
Really? Shit that's maybe a secret even to me. I can say that only one of the following statements is untrue: One of our cult members has webbed feet, a member once set fire to their house and when the fire brigade arrived blamed the cat or one us is a descendant of Aleister Crowley's uncle Kev aka Creepy Crowley.
What inspires you? / Do you have any hobbies that you turn to to rejuvenate your creativity?
When I get writers block I just read a book, or some poetry or watch a good film. Honestly there's enough great inspirational art out there that if I'm stuck I just try and see something from a different person's perspective. I also steal ideas and twist 'em! 'TIME' our latest single comes off the back of reading Dr Seuss to my kids and the whole song stemmed from one line in the book 'how did it get so late so soon?' but nothing too prescriptive to get the juices flowing, just whatever is at hand.
Are you working on any projects right now...when can we expect new tunes?
We're recording all the tracks that we play live and writing some new stuff alongside it. We plan on releasing a slew of singles until we feel people want something more like an EP or a album.
What's the best/worst advice you ever received?
Try the pull out method it's 99% effective... just kidding. Good advice would be 'always pack like your gonna shit yourself everyday of the holiday' bad advice would be 'try the grey stuff it's delicious'.
Being in a band and owning a label - Are you currently making a sustainable and profitable living off your music? What changes would you like to see to the music industry to allow you to make a living from your music?
In short not by a country mile. The label has made money but never enough to live on so to speak. It's self sustainable which is all I can hope to expect from a niche North East Hip Hop label. Same goes for our Bristol label 'Donut Records'. These are all just there to support our friends and in turn help us legitimize releases and get gigs. Gigs wise it may have been lucrative once upon a time but 5 people in an originals band you'd have to be charging a fair bit to make that worth while and were just not there. The obvious fix would be the government/art councils to subsidize venues paying for performances like they do in Germany and other parts of Europe, I was blown away at how good your treated in the EU as an unsigned band.
Another obvious one would be for sites like Spotify to share their relative profits with the artists that are making them the money. It's incredibly corrupt right now. But maybe bands should be poor and at the bottom of the totem pole, it's where the good stuff comes from after all.
Catch the video for their previous single 'Time' here: