By Martyn Coppack
Wrexham Music Scene – Spotlight on The Fag Machine
It’s a cold Wednesday lunch time and after a rather surreal photo opportunity and interview with the Daily Post it is time to meet up with the singer, lyric writer and raconteur from Wrexham finest art-rock band The Fag Machine. A quiet pint in the pub promises to be a journey into the morbid, dark and often humorous world of a band who take no prisoners with their abrasive live show and songs inspired by B-movie trappings and gothic writings.
Formed 3 years ago by a group of disparate friends with a common love of The Stooges, Captain Beefheart, Nick Cave and although Phil (the singer) denies it 80’s Matchbox B-Line Disaster, they have honed a sound which harks back to the old gothic blues tradition and updated it with a garage rock sound. Using the local live circuit to develop their ideas their music wavers from a maelstrom of punk to a more brooding sound. They are due to enter the studio soon to record their first album, out in Spring, which will build upon the blueprint of their first two EP’s, New Ways To Walk and The Safety Word.
As a way of understanding more of the Fag Machine ethic talk turns to the inspirations and subject matter of their songs. When watching the band play live it is often difficult to discern any themes in the songs so it with interest that I listen as Phil regales me with tales from the dark side, so to speak, and also an hilarious fascination with Hilary Swank.
“You are quite abrasive in your approach, where does the inspiration come from, is it from the more darker aspects of human nature” I ask Phil
“Yes, in a way. Take a song like Hilary. This is a song about celebrity obsession. It was inspired by the actor Hilary Swank who has, in my opinion, the greatest name ever to grace a person. Although the subject matter is a dangerous one we approach it from a King of Comedy angle. It is about someone who is so obsessed that they cut are willing to cut their own leg off for her”
“There seems to be a certain element of black humour in that, is that something you aim for, and is it something that you think people may have trouble relating to?”
“Yes definitely, anyone who knows us knows that we are very humorous. The subject element asks for a sort of humour to be injected into it.”
“And what about the abrasive element, will that always be there or will you look to tone it down as your music develops?
“Our music will always have a dark aspect to it. This stems from the influences of the band. Then again I can see it being toned down in the future. People have a certain idea that you sit at home listening to all this dark music but that’s not the case, except maybe for Alfie who loves The Fall, the rest of us listen to more mellow music. Its just the way our music is and always will be that there will be a dark element and in the way we play the abrasiveness will always come through.”
We discuss how an audience reacts to this. “There is an audience out there for us, its just a case of finding it. We played in Liverpool and the crowd went nuts for us. Granted they were all wearing Cramps T-shirts so you’re already halfway there!”
“And what about Wrexham?”
“We have a following who turn up to every gig. They are very loyal as well which is great. The job now is to reach out to people who haven’t heard us and stumble into one of our gigs. If only half of those people enjoy it then I’m happy.”
Talk inevitably moves to the Wrexham music scene. In a town of this size there are a variety of venues and nights mixed in with a group of promoters all trying to do what they can to bring live music to people.
“How do you see your band fitting into the current music scene in Wrexham? Do you think the scene is healthy?”
“Its certainly healthy, there are quite a few venues for us to play and we love doing it. Perhaps the biggest stumbling point is that there is no specialism. This would stem from it being a small town. There is no one place for genre or just plain awkward music”
I agree with him on this point. There are numerous bands in Wrexham but for a band such as Fag Machine who are going to rely on a core audience of people it can be difficult to attract them to a night of music which is going to be eclectic. We discuss that maybe more could be done to attract more music fans. Possibly reaching the people who are in college but aren’t old enough to get into the venues.
Finally I ask Phil for his thoughts on other bands in Wrexham.
“The Mayors are certainly one band who stand out. Unfortunately for them they seem to be taken for granted now as they’ve been at it so long. What people forget is how consistent and fun they are. Mother of Six are another band, I know I’ll get crucified for this but I think Keiron is one of the most soulful singers in Wrexham.”
I laugh at his honesty. The discussion descends into other topics away from Fag Machine and the interview ends.
Next time your out in Wrexham keep an eye out for them. In three years Fag Machine have come a long way. Take a chance and enjoy the dark side of life for a change. You will not be disappointed! Check out there music here…