After the massive Britpop boom of the mid 90’s came an inevitable decline. In an attempt to breathe fresh life into British music, more explorative bands such as Mansun and the Super Furry Animals emerged, pushing guitar music to the next level. Ultrasound were another, arriving at a time when their heart-on-sleeve glam-prog anthems seemed wildly out of step with the pop hits of the late 90’s. The world clearly wasn’t ready for them and their sprawling debut ‘Everything Picture’, and neither was the music industry, who dropped them for refusing to play ball. Wounded, the band went their separate ways. It would be nearly a decade until the beast roared back into action, but their incredible 2012 comeback LP ‘Play For Today’ more than made up for the wait, a stellar record that proved Ultrasound not only had unfinished business, but were back better than ever.
Following the acclaimed sophomore album, 2013 has seen the group back at work recording their third album which is due for release next year. But you won’t have to wait until 2014 to get your fix of new Ultrasound magic, since they have a truly spellbinding Christmas single coming out on December 13. Beginning with a bright festive glow before Tiny’s unmistakable voice sets the scene, building gradually into a heartfelt reminder of the real spirit of Christmas, ‘Modranicht’ is also a rare musical acknowledgement of the Winter Solstice. The brilliant track is available to pre-order HERE. I spoke to Tiny and Vanessa from the band about their hopes for the festive season and the new year…
So a Christmas single from Ultrasound! How did this come about? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do or did it just happen by chance?
Tiny: “Yes it’s something we had always planned because it’s just so Ultrasound. Every song we write tends to become epic, over the top and dramatic, so we are the perfect marriage. I’m sure it won’t be the last time we tackle it as there’s so much to say about such a special time. Richard came up with the main riff and I instantly thought this could be the Christmas song we had always threatened to do. I tried to backtrack the theme beyond the Christian meanings because this festival goes further back than Christ, and tried to return it to a more innocent celebration of life and hope, as that is ultimately what Christmas is about for the majority of us.”
Vanessa: “The cover of the single is Goddess Danu, considered the most ancient of all Celtic Deities. Her name means knowledge, wisdom, teacher, wealth and abundance.
She brings the power of versatility and teaches us to honour and respect diversity within ourselves and within others and reminds us to honour each stage of our physical life. There is a lot to learn from Ancient culture, it seems the feminine elements have been edited out until we left with purely masculine model.”
“Patriarchal attributes include history, linear time, dogma, rationality and science while the matriarchal include eternity, art, cycles of time, life giving, nurture and teaching. Society works best when there is balance. To quote our song ‘Glitterbox’ from ‘Play For Today’ “And did we almost lose our way behind the grey stone leaders”… maybe its time to crash the patriarchal pillars of capitalist self serving corporations, organised religion has shown itself to be as flawed as whoever is leading it. We have history pre Christianity that has been demonised…. There was a time when folk held nature and love higher than consumerism…. We are in the midst of a spiritual revolution there is a a real need for the survival of humanity to vibrate much higher in love, giving, empathy and get back in touch with the natural world. Debt, plastic, sadness, loneliness, stress all symptoms of society chasing the wrong things. I live in ‘trendy’ Shoreditch and live a city life, I’m not sat in the hills knitting with Alpaca wool. We just want to spread a postitive love and encourage people to value what is important, people not things. Eat, drink and celebrate.”
Tiny: “There really hasn’t been a great Christmas song in so long and I don’t think bands should shy away from it – it dosn’t have to be mainstream. Christmas is not just for fireside Boyle/Buble fans. Goths love it too! The period is a bad one for new releases as there’s so much arse gravy clogging up the charts like best of dad rock and NOW! that’s what I call X factor pop idol gubbins. Modern production doesn’t lend itself to the period very well. We need more sleigh bells and tubular bells and ridiculously over the top choirs!”
What are your favourite Christmas songs?
Tiny: “I love the Greg Lake song ‘I Believe In Father Christmas’ – it has all those epic qualities and a social message, and not a snowman in sight. Jethro Tull’s ‘Ring Out Solstice Bells’ is similarly non-Christian. I also love the low key approach by Low on their EP, especially ‘Just Like Christmas’, along with the ludicrously camp offer by The Darkness ‘Don’t Let The Bells End’. The Slade song is of course timeless and I never tire of it, but if you want traditional fayre by the fireside with your Gran you can’t go wrong with a bit of Nat King Cole.”
What’s top of your Christmas list this year?
Tiny: “Depends who’s buying but I’d quite like a onesie with a bottom flap so I never have to take it off.”
Over a year later, are you still as proud of ‘Play For Today’ as you were when it was released? It really was a magnificent piece of work to return with.
Tiny: “Yes I’ll always be proud of it and hope that one day it will be recognized and that it will forever be regarded as one of the great records of the early twenty first century! We can only do what we do and hopefully keep doing it – the rest is in the hands of the twin sisters of faith and chance.”
You’ve been busy recording the third LP. Has it been difficult trying to follow up such a fine album like ‘Play For Today’ or have you guys been on a bit of a roll?
Tiny: “I like what Robert Plant once said about their records being a statement of the moment, almost like a diary. This is where we are right now and this is what we’re doing. The making of music is a continual process and since putting the final touches to the last one we are looking forward to the next one. The only frustrating thing is finding the time and the money to make it, otherwise we’d be making them faster.”
Tiny: “We all had a lovely time in Scandinavia and Europe with The Darkness. We found inner strengths that we didn’t know we had, and shared feelings that we never knew. Unfortunately we hit the ground bleeding when Andy decided to leave and had to drag our arses around for a while licking our wounds and feeling sorry for ourselves and wondering if we would ever recover.”
Your hopes for 2014?
Tiny: “New album, winning Mercury Music Prize, Touring.”