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John Clay (vocals/guitar) and Rob Homewood (vocals/bass) form the foundation of Colossus (joined by drummer Andy Sturges for this debut release), and a rotating cast of guest musicians. They’re an artful noise pop band from London who surprise and challenge at every turn and wear their DIY hearts on their chests.

They recently released their ace new EP, The Gods Hate Colossus, rooted in dynamic punk rock, each of the seven songs are riddled with an intriguing mix of 60s r&b, blues, grunge, new wave and industrial rock all underscored by an appreciation for how to deliver an addictive tune in a different way.

This debut EP is a towering chronicle of where the band’s sensibilities lay in the mid-2000s. A worthy documentation of who they were, offering a few clues of the progressive post-punk blues band they’ve now become.

We caught up with Clay and Homewood to peel back the curtain on Colossus

When did Colossus form and what was the inspiration behind starting a band?

John Clay: The simple non non-retractable answer would be mid to late 2022. I for one was definitely inspired to get some releases out there instead of allowing recordings Rob and I had made to sit on our hard drives. There was a shared powerlessness contributing to the social mood and music being an impactful libidinul mode that serviced our need to express ourselves publically.

I am reading about the impressive list of guest musicians you have worked with of late, is your idea to keep it fresh and new influences added to the melting pot?

Rob: Well.. making life as utterly fucking hard as possible for ourselves seems to just be our thing I guess (Laughs). Also, it’s nice to make new friends. It’s good to never be the smartest person in the room, it’s been a real honour getting to learn stuff from very very talented people. Also, the community is nice. It’s like an old-school webring where we are all linking to each other and binding by association and stuff.

Oh dear I got a bit too nerdy with that metaphor let’s go back to the first answer, life under late-stage capitalism is too easy so we decided to up the ante

I’m digging the graphic novel /comic book style bio by the way, I know John is a big fan of comic books, does that feed into your imagery and artwork?

Rob: Thanks! Yeah well we used to jump around onstage wearing superhero outfits at the time that we recorded this material so we thought it was fitting. This was a bit before the whole superhero thing was quite so mainstream or at least on the cusp of becoming so dominant anyway. I think we are likely to move away from the comic book look a little bit going forward (or perhaps just pivot in how we do it away from being “hero-centric”), I’ll let John better address this as a) he has a philosophy regarding the matter, and b) it’s only fair as he is the one that’s been wearing basically a full superman outfit every day for the better part of the last 15 years. The title of the EP is a bit bombastic too so we thought we may as well lean into it and have some fun with the artwork.

John: Thank you for giving us a chance to address the comic book shtick. The only superhero content I take seriously is The Boys, a show where under the umbrella of hyper-capitalism, racism, anti-LGBTQ and organised religion are identified as antithetical to solidarity. The main characters of the show have no chance of solving their problems using powers and more fundamental to my upcoming point, these people struggle to obtain happiness through the lens of individualism. Superheroes work as a power fantasy, whereas Colossus is all about the collective. That’s a significant change in outlook to the early to the late 2000’s when I first appropriated the suit, let alone said costume being misappropriated by the red pill manosphere community. Where we start now is adjacent to that group of people, but it’s certainly not where we’ll stay.

So tell me about your new EP, I hear a lot of different influences, from punk and industrial to grunge and even some poppier melodies. How does your writing work? Do you have a different approach to each song?

John: Our job right now is to curate a lot of material rather than write new songs. There’s just so much already written. I will say this: isolate the vocals from the music and you get a lot of blues. The varying styles are the landscapes that we’re journeying through. Come with us if you’re open to a rapidly changing course of scenery.

I see you released ‘Sharp as a knife’ around a year ago what was the inspiration behind it? It takes some nice left turns. I bet it’s fun to play live.

John: This song is about a formidable person I used to date and am very proud to have learned a thing or two about life from. I could have been a more mature suitor. Celebrating a woman for her wit isn’t often found in blues, a genre subsumed in reductive aspects of patriarchy. ‘Sharp is a Knife’ is one of the outliers. I love blues for its possibilities if the form is understood. However, it’s no longer lyrically progressive, not unless you subvert it. This is not to unfairly treat it through a modern lens without due empathy. The music was a reflection of what the greater culture defined men and women as, despite its inner countercultural pursuits which flew in the face of respectable society. Playing it live, especially with the sublime talent of Ted Mitchell on saxophone is a joy, mainly because of its odd structure. We pride ourselves on songs that are quite literally three minutes or like ‘Strike Up the Band‘ are under that run time. I’ve long held the belief that every song feels twice as long to play live to an audience. Their presence transforms the song. In this instance we hope Colossus demonstrates our understanding of time and space within this medium.

John I read your piece on Joyzine, with Kill the Icon! And Big Joanie asking where are all the POC in guitar music? What are your reflections on that conversation. And linked to that do you think diversity can help expand and stretch genres with fresh perspectives, voices and experiences?

Rob: So yeah, I work in tech and I think we have a similar issue with demographics being heavily weighted in favour of white men (I say this of course as a South African born, heterosexual, cis gender, university-educated, white male, working in tech). A lot of the discussion I hear around changing this across the industry (please excuse me being a little reductionist here) seems largely based on filling some kind of quota which might look good to investors. To me, this is really missing the point… which is that by broadening the definition of who is allowed to feel welcome at the table means that you expand the humanity of your organization’s thinking (band or company), which is inherently valuable! With music I think this is just as important as it’s generally the arts which push society forward! (a factor that our silly government would do well to consider from time to time).

John: Rock n Roll is a term that has lost a lot of its meaning, and I use it according to whose listening. Do we subvert the genre’s meaning? If we’re talking your meat and potatoes Oasis/dad rock, then yes. We’re no Clt Drp, but I’d say that we twist expectations in terms of structure vocals. If I may be so bold, we follow through on melodies whereas a good bulk of our contemporaries have run in the other direction. I love a lot of talky shouty stuff, but I want to help reclaim melodies, not just hooks – from the pop world. Regarding my conversation with Nishant and Chardine (link here for those who missed it) I hope a few things begin to happen: a) I hope promoters realise that I’m not looking for shame or defensiveness. That’s no good to anyone and centres their feelings above those marginalised b) if we look back fifteen odd years ago at the grassroots contexts we’re addressing, well… it was still a vehicle for men to center themselves as the conduit of culture.

Women just were not getting the space they deserved. It’s not changed as much as we’d like, not near far enough, but at least there is an ascribed coolness in curating such gender- balanced line ups now. Can we apply that to race please?

The issue I face as a black guy in this scenario is that I’m somehow a guest in what has essentially been rebranded and colonised in order to sell to a different market. For the sake of its own survival it ought to adapt or die. It may all be a pantomime, but you can infuse said theatre with stories that give the music it’s much needed transgression. Do you want to live in a Disneyland of live music and proclaim it to be real, or do you wanna swallow another pill that is less safe? There’s a clip of Toploader playing at the conservative party conference doing the rounds on social media. Have you seen it Bill? Loads of people are laughing at it online because there is some bizarre sentiment that this band has lost any credentials it may have had. I look at a lot of line ups deemed cool and wonder how long it’ll take for people to see the easily avoidable white supremacy we’re seemingly all comfortable with. Hopefully not another fifteen years. We don’t want your shame, we want your sense of wonder.

Fascinating points, really pertinent. How do you think the industry could do better at taking down some of these barriers? Also linked to that how do you make it work as a band financially, it’s such a tough environment right now for independent artists and venues

John: It’s all about empathy and curiosity. If promoters of the grassroots variety look further into the scene and find Kill the Icon, Fari, Fraulien, Tall Child and Lilith Ai to their taste, Book em. Why wait till one of them bursts through to higher levels and supports Muse before realising just how many barriers they had to traverse, y’know?  Perhaps once those shows sell (and they will), then they can take recommendations from those bands. It’s what’s happening now with promoters whose line up considerations are aware of gender discrimination. The sooner that kind of curiosity occurs the more dominoes will fall. From photographers to videographers to press. It’s actually rather intriguing that in thirty odd years time the rearview mirror of now (which will be classed as well documented history), will unconsciously conspire to create a lopsided view of the past. Aren’t we peddling ourselves as counter culture here? This reductionism happened in the late seventies and has in its own way made today’s white supremacy pass as normal.

Our ability to make things financially is a month to month endeavor. We eat less and go out less. I’m on the musician’s diet. It’s a great weight loss programme for all the family. Seriously, everyone is in various side hustles. Modelling, bar work, sex work, filming and photography, there’s not one musician I know that’s not juggling all of these. Good for them and shame on our right and jogging further right and government.

Rob: We get by financially by having day jobs tbh. John is a film director, and I work as a software developer. It would be really great if there were better tools for musicians (from any background) to get paid for their work. Personally I feel like the government should help with this. a) This country has benefitted massively from the soft power that the British music scene has afforded them. I heard that in Norway, if you are registered as an “artist” the government will buy at least one piece of art from you at market rate, this helps set an expectation that making art is “of value”, helps artists get by financially (especially in this global financial climate), and finally it acts as a way for the country to hold a cache of artworks that may or may not grow more valuable over time, benefitting the whole system.. I like these sorts of win-win-win scenarios. b) they should place demands on streaming services which force them to be more sustainable (for themselves as well as for the artists. This business model of basically fucking the artists and then running the companies off debt and speculative artist investment means that everybody expects music to be free.. which in some respects it probably should be, but also it makes it seem less valuable and leads to an abusive industry continuing to act abusively… dangling the golden ticket of “making it” in our faces. c) employ some of the antitrust laws at their disposal to put arseholes like Ticketmaster in their place. Basically the system is fucking broken, let’s fix it already.

I hear you, I think most creative people are in that position generally right now. I have three jobs for instance too. The austerity and cuts to the arts and youth centres just make it worse too… Then there’s the inequalities in music, streaming, a 1% of three big labels and a handful of artists that seem to benefit while everyone else struggles to carry on and exist…

I have a mate who said music should be nationalised. When you think what the dole paid for in the 70s/80s I think he has a point!

John: The positive thing is that there is more solidarity between varying levels of bands now, far more than when we held our Champions of the Empire nights with Clinker and Headspace. For every Eugene Machine and Noisepilots band there are ten A Void’s, Meatraffles’ and Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons. If more promoters can work with a deeper level of solidarity that would be good. If the government could think more about how they can win out of this (paying Toploader to play your party conference is just not the way), then great.

Rob: I just want things to be sustainable.. it doesn’t feel like it is at the moment. The streaming companies have killed the record shops and are now struggling to turn a profit themselves.. it’s like a race to the bottom. I feel like music is a thing worth keeping alive. It’s also about reinforcing the infrastructure around the artists though. I’m thinking of all the venues that have closed down since the pandemic here. The whole situation with Brixton Hill Studios recently highlights this. They came really close to the edge. if it wasn’t for the support of the community, they would be gone.. the government should be supporting (financially maybe through stronger tax incentives) and protecting businesses like this otherwise it all falls apart.

John: We’re seeing mass strikes occur across the country, and thankfully, the government is having a tough time convincing people that railworkers, NHS staff and minorities are greedy people with no sense of duty. It’s just a matter of time before such sentiment spreads over into grass roots labels and venues hook up with bigger artists to make a difference. It happened during the pandemic. It’ll occur again.

On another note, what music, art, literature, TV, books films, are you both currently enjoying?

John: Well, I’m re-reading Heavier than Heaven (K. Cobain biog) and finishing White Feminism by Koa Beck. Eargerly anticipating a book on the Hillsborough disaster via post. There’s so much we didn’t get taught in school, right? Film wise I’m keen to see The Creator by Gareth Edwards of Star Wars Rogue One fame. Recently watched Ridley Scott’s Alien (for the millionth time) for research purposes. Not that you asked, but I’ve recently got Rob into Clt Drp. There is a special place in hell for one unnamed music reviewer for not finding space for them in his recent list of bands. Looking straight into a mirror with remorse in my eyes here, hence mentioning them twice in this review

Rob: A bit of a mix here but these are the things I’ve been consuming over the last couple of months. Music: Geese, Cleo Sol, A Void, Thorr, Radiohead, The Pixies, She Sees, Nine Inch Nails, Jon Batiste, Cat Drp. Film/TV: Alien (working my way through them all again atm), Foundation, Mr Robot (again), Ted Lasso, Jury Duty. Books: The Entrepreneurial State – Mariana Mazzucato, Walter Isaacson – Elon Musk, What’s Our Problem – Tim Urban, Doom Guy – John Romero, How To Own The World – Andrew Craig, The Creative Act – Rick Rubin Youtube: Joe Scott – Answers With Joe, Lex Fridman, Huberman Labs

Awesome thanks!! You are playing the Joyzine night with Bugeye and Fonda 500, do you think independent publications like Joyzine and GIITTV(if I may be so bold) are important? And what can people expect from your set?!

Rob: Yeah we are super looking forward to it, gonna be a rad night!! As ever we will have a different line up and a different set list to last time 🤘🤪🤘 #thegodshatecolossus

John: Looking forward to the night and am thankful to Rocklands, The Zine, you and last but by no means least, Paul at Joyzine for having us on the bill. All the publications have a sturdy fanbase and a history that’s not to be taken for granted, and I am of course forever thankful to Josh Cooper of Roadkill Records for putting me in touch with you and Joyzine. It’s important to have magazines that take a chance on content that asks ‘why’ instead of just ‘wow’.

Not every artist that’s hot right mow or on that trajectory has much to say. Despite the bump they give to a publication’s circulation the fact of the matter is that those artists don’t seem to nudge smaller scale acts out of the way in your history. A good amount of musicians you’ve allowed me to bang on about won’t ‘make it’, but that’s not half the reason I’ve chatted to them or you’ve printed them. The discussion is what’s key, and that there is not a bad legacy to nurture. Not bad at all. I’m sure your readership knows this, and if they don’t, well, I hope this serves as a reminder. Next gig spoilers! We hope to find new ways of communicating our ideas through yet another assemblage of musicians. In fact, we’ve split up a ton of new music into blocks of releases, collaborations and sweet support slots. We refer to this past year as phase I of the *CMU. Tongue firmly in cheek.

Was actually hoping to have Ese from Ese and the Vooduu People join us again for the Amersham Arms gig but sadly, they’re hardcore busy at the mo. Just on the way home from seeing them smashing it for Panther Record’s showcase in Stoke Newington. Go Ese! Who will join us instead? We’ve got Louis Gomes of Brixton Hill Studios and Dill tasker whose been in a billion bands. Any other surprises we’ll save for the show. That”s your cliff hanger right there. To be continued… *The Colossus Musical Universe

 Colossus open the final show of Joyzine’s 20th Birthday mini tour at The Amersham Arms in New Cross on 26th October alongside Fonda 500, Bugeye and Feral Five (tickets here).

The Gods Hate Colossus | Colossus (bandcamp.com)

Photo credit to Andras Photography.

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.