INTERVIEW: Extradition Order

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“I’m good I’m in my dressing gown, I have had a pretty wild morning by anyone’s standards – I’m trying to activate Windows 7….” I’ve clearly caught Alastair Harper the lead vocalist of Warrington born, London based cult five piece Extradition Order in the midst of a frenetic day. Computers aren’t the only thing that’s been consuming his thoughts of late, the release of his band’s new 12” vinyl release on the bloody good independent label ‘Helen Llewelyn Product Nineteen’ has been taking up a fair bit of his time too. Indeed he even went to Rough Trade this weekend to check the record was actually there: “I thought I’d pop down and made sure it’s at the front of the pile… “

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It’s not an album as such, but a record consisting of two very distinct sides, two EPs: “Our Thoughts on Failure” documenting the realisation that you’re just not going to be everything you wanted to be, and “Our Thoughts on Revenge” which talks of the steady, silent anger that result. These different themes and artwork, are brought together as one package: “It is two different projects, physically it’s secretly two sides of the same record, but the artwork and sides are quite distinctive,” Alastair reveals. “I think they were broadly recorded at the same time, we did a few different session when bits of both sides were done. Different ideas.”

But what of those ideas – the dark sometimes chaotic first side, ‘Our Thoughts on Failure’, details a broken promise from society: “There is a point everyone gets to where the life they had anticipated isn’t the one they’re going to have. You are always told to behave yourselves with the promise of perfection to come. If you just spend long enough of your knees worshipping, one day you’ll be the worshipped. ace, But then you die and you just decompose. Very anticlimactic.” Alastair laughs “It’s tricking you, so it’s better to realise it as young possible. It is very sad to realise your own failure, but I guess you can set about plotting your revenge for all the fibs you have been told.”Alastair has clearly thought about this broken promise and widens it from religion and society, to the subject of ‘career opportunities’. “It’s the same with employment, I always find it amazing people aspire to promotion. You can only have so many bosses or we’d all be in charge of nothing. That’s the maths, there’s only one person who will move on in a group. Every queen bee needs the workers for the hive.But you always think you won’t be with the majority that will be left behind.” Alastair notes before broadening out this idea “It’s why working class Americans vote Republican.They think you shouldn’t be mean to rich people because one day they will be one. .”

It’s this dejected feeling that chimes with many and sums up how many feel about the current state of the music industry and the all-consuming economic slump. Alastair seems quite resigned to the fact that his band will always be outsiders who do this for the art rather than any kind of mythical success or wealth(which doesn’t exist) “My band will never live successfully off its music – and I don’t mean Bono style. I mean we won’t even be some jobbing good arty band like Liars or what have you.We’ll not be very much. It’s horrible to feel small, but then it can be quite liberating – you don’t need to behave anymore, because it won’t make a difference either way…”

Lead track and first single ‘Canoe’ certainly plays into this feeling of resignation and broken promises with its undulating rhythm, chirruping backing vocals and Alastair’s sermon like hymn to failure. It’s followed up by the seething rumble of foreboding that is ‘Day 1 : 2 PM’: “If Canoe is the prologue, showing a life in rut, then Day One, 2 PM is about not giving up on these compromises, all the silly morality you had as a teenager – the idea that some stuff is right and some stuff is wrong. Live for songs and books and betray ambition for authenticity. That’s less appealing and really seems quite selfish when you grow up. What’s the good of being Holden Caulfield? The myopia of a teenager is not much use to anyone. But it’s sad to let the purity go. You can’t live like some kind of indie monk…” He chuckles. The crashing, howling streams of consciousness, born of youthful experiences and dead end political careers develops this theme on the next track ‘Brow Furrowed‘.

If the first side is a maudlin but resigned sense of non-achievement, the second side is about ‘bugger that’ ‘Our Thoughts on Revenge’ begins with ‘In A Nice Way’. A man sells a false life, before revealing his horrifying real-self while Extradition Order rumble menacingly beneath the floorboards. ‘In A Nice way’ is as much about the sound than the lyrics – it’s about breaking things apart.”

But what of the buzzing Hammond organ driven track ’Paris, France’ with its juddering exclamation toward the French capital? Is there a want for escape from this trap within his breast? ”Definitely. We’re singing about escaping from some tiny town that stays the same forever. We’re not from Wigan we’re from Warrington, but it’s just this idea that the world that you’re born into is the same as your ancestors and it’s about this idea that you should push them away and move to this mythical romanticised idea of Paris…But only metaphorically. The real Paris isn’t for me. I’ve only been for a few days.It’s alright, y’know.” .”

Meanwhile epic closer ‘Peter Grimes’ has Alastair’s wild eyed vocals lurch gloriously through a literate modern narrative above a washing sway of cinematic stings and thudding guitar distortion, it’s less a character study more a twisted tale of obsession and the violence of a killer: “It’s a Benjamin Britten opera that I really love. Britten is supposedly a cuddely British treasure but he always composed for these psychotic tales on the English coasts. The only time I’ve seen it was an ENO production it was dark and wonderful. Compositional high music never made sense to me before.”


Ian Button was at the controls for this record and Alastair applauds his extraordinary ability to make Extradition Order sound “like we would do if we could play our instruments,” before reeling off the reasons why Ian Button is part of the genius behind how his new record’s sound – “He should be as famous as Martin Hannet or something he’s the most amazing man for finding all these bands who are all a bit weird, Paul Hawkins, David Cronenhburg’s Wife, and knowing he can make something special out of them. He was guitarist in Death in Vegas and Thrashing Doves and has worked with Go-kart Mozart, and other bonafides but it’s the off-kilter work that excites me.. He takes eccentrics with a bit of something beneath the surface and magnifies all that’s good about them.”

And that’s what’s fresh and exciting about Extradition Order’s new release is that at times it sounds unhinged and on the edge of falling apart, and yes abrasive and unlistenable, yet it retains this sharp eyed focus and vision that transcends the transient. It has a message too for the resigned and the outsider which makes it essential listening for all fans of dark, artful, cultish music out there: “We poured a lot of angst and pretension in there. I really thought it was like Steve Reich – all grand phasing or what have you.I realise it sounds nothing like him. You have to have an absurd sound in your head if you’re going to make the actual one a bit more interesting.” He notes, “You see these bands who when they mention their influences and you see the law of diminishing returns. Someone says they want to be the Beatles and end up sounding like Oasis.” Alastair sneers, before enthusing about his influences, (while at times they may sound like the dark wit of Mark E Smith in a dark alley concocting messy experiments with the caustic sparks of the Grindermen and artful rumbles of PiL, they are aiming for higher sources): “If you aim for Beethoven or Buddy Holly or some kind of perfection then maybe you shoot under where you’re aiming for them but you still go further. I don’t think anyone ever pulls off copying things even when they try too anyway.That first round of britpop that was meant to sound like 60s stuff didn’t have anything to do with it. It’s all just a puddle when you’ve got a whole ocean of brilliance out there…”

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.