Kings Have Long Arms
words: Jack Tractor
Salfordian exile Adrian Flanagan is KINGS HAVE LONG ARMS. Mixing pisstaking, pop and electronica KHLA are set fair to give 2004 a good shoeing.
You’re from Manchester originally, what brought you to Sheffield? How would you compare the two cities? musically/ culturally?
I’m actually from the city of Salford, which is the city where all the cool people and bands come from. Manchester always claims these bands and people as their own but as a geographical fact Salford bands and sons include Happy Mondays, Barney and Hooky from New Order, The Fall, Buzzcocks, John Cooper Clarke, Albert Finney, Jesus (Robert Powell), Ghandi (Ben Kingsley), Mike Leigh, L.S.Lowry and friggin’ Ian McShane. In fact I’m sure Elvis was conceived in Salford too.
Sheffield is quite similar to Salford as the people are really earthy and call a spade a spade. Mancs are puffed up southern imitators with houmous on their chin.
I heard you were in The Fall for a bit, how did that come about?
I wouldn’t say I was a member of The Fall exactly, I just stood in on guitar for a few gigs years ago. I’m of no significant part to The Fall’s history. Call it a YTS in rock and roll. I was just helping out a hero of mine. I was a fan and still am. Mark E Smith is the only man true to the Rock and Roll spirit, still doing what he wants. 25 years on and he’s still making uncommercial, intelligent, challenging music and not selling out. I mean, look at Iggy Pop playing bloody golf with Alice Cooper and Ronnie Corbett, what’s that all about??
How did you get into playing music in the first place?
I always had music in my head when I was a very young child, always made up my own songs. I remember at primary school I had a song called ?Dogs of War.? It went‘when the dogs of war come marching down the front you better run or they will find you and when they find you they will kill you-when the dogs of war come!!’
I was 7 when I wrote that, so I guess I wasn’t like other children. I realised I was in it for the long haul when no bands were really making the music I wanted to hear. So here I am, a slave to my own taste, ha, ha!”
I saw you at the university a few years ago under the name Ha!Logic. It’s quite a jump in sound compared with what you’re doing now, what do you reckon?
Yeah I’d agree, the sound was terrible that night - bloody student sound engineers! I think we walked off at the show. Ha!Logic had electronic undertones though. It was like a lo-fi version of what I’m doing now. Most of what I do is me experimenting trying out different styles, I get bored, I wouldn’t call myself an electronic artist anyway. I’d call mi sen a piss artist. Ha!
How would you describe KHLA? (Oh yeah, better do the obligatory where’s the name from bit?)
Important. I’d say KHLA is everything that’s right about pop and rock’n’roll. No, really, music is so boring; especially live music and double especially pop music. I like a catchy tune, choruses you can sing along too, lyrics that make you smile and think and a beat that can make people who can’t dance, move, and if you think that’s an easy thing to do then lets see what you can do...ha,ha! The name KHLA - I wanted to be called Kings have long penises but I thought it would be a bit of a mouthful??!!???
How do / did you recruit the band? Who are they all?
I recruited my live band by logging in on other people’s friends re-united. Ha! I’ve got a Rotherham lad who plays electronic woks / drums, who also turns into a stand up comic when drunk. He’s very funny and called Dave Laws. He used to be in some rubbish Rotherham band, till I saved him from definite obscurity..!! Hee, hee!!
Then there’s The Gimp. He’s called Lee Mann. He works at Granada TV he puts together all the clips of people making tits out of themselves for You’ve Been Framed. If anyone’s got any video clips at home get‘em to me and we can sort out a deal on the £250 fee you get paid for having them shown. It’s not what you know, it’s if you know me. That’s what counts.
That leaves Ralph Parmar. He can’t play his synth but the ladeez love the way he holds his organ. He’s officially the worst driver in the world and has a Ralphette in every town post KHLA tour!”
The Sheffield Electronica scene. Does it exist, what is it if it does and how does it link in to other nights round the UK - Suicide, Chips, Nag Nag Nag etc?
Scenes are for people with no fucking imagination. I live in a dream world mate! It would be nice if the city could somehow pull together a bit. I do big up this city a great deal it would cool if more people did that, there’s a lot to be proud of. I’m also the main link between Suicide and Chips for all the Sheffield bands that have played there – Pink Grease, Fat Truckers, Hiem, I Monster, etcetera.
Much of Northern Electronica seems to have arrived via I Monster’s studio. How influential are I Monster to what’s going on now? What’s yer take on Add N to X, Chicks on Speed, Fischerspooner, Ladytron et al? Who stands out, what’s new and what’s just old with a new hat on?
Northern Electronica [the compilation album] is funny really. It’s just Dean (I Monster), Ross (Fat Trucker) and Joe Robinson (Mum and Dad). They’re the key producers. What you are hearing is the sound of their studios which is why it all has a distinctive sound (apart from Hiem - who record in their own studio)) and luckily they have a big enough sense of humour to record their dickhead mates and their silly idea. That’s where I come in as I’m the number one dickhead mate with the silliest of ideas!
Add N to X - art school sickos. Chicks On Speed - every girl in Nag Nag Nag and Shoreditch dresses like‘em. I’m not a big fan of their music but I like their cottage industry attitude - sistas doing it for themselves. I’m down for that shit. Fischerspooner - like every other 1980’s San Francisco fag band, style over substance. Where are they now? Electroclash was total bollocks; I’d rather sandpaper my own testicles than listen to that rubbish!
I don’t really see anything exciting happening. I’ve seen and heard it all before, there’s not enough yodeling in pop music, I mean if you’re gonna do electropop, write a letter to Phil Oakey and ask if you can roadie for the Human League, they are the only band who do cool electronic pop music. The League’s Secrets LP shits on all them electroclash tosspots from a great height. Create, don’t imitate. That’s why I got the Master Oakey to do RnR Is Dead. Why should I do a Phil Oakey impression when I can get Phil Oakey to do it? It’s a travesty how the music industry treats its pop icons, it really is. Shit like that gets me really annoyed, I mean, come on, Fischerspooner? They’re like a poor man’s Sigue Sigue Sputnik and they were crap to start with!”
2003 seems to have been a pretty decent year for you what with plenty of gigs home and abroad, Radio 1 play for rocknroll. Highlights? Lowlights? And next year what’s planned other than world domination etc.?
The L.P, entitled ?Who Stole My Crackerjack Pencil should be out mid-February or March. We’ve got some dates coming up in Italy and Copenhagen and two nights in Manchester at the end of January with I Am Kloot. The next single, Electro Honkey, should be out in February and I’m doing another event in Sheffield early March.
It’s pretty bonkers I get emails from all over the world off people saying they found my single in like Chicago or Lithuania, or they bought it off the Internet. My singles are like blood, a little bit goes a long way.
In 2003 I’ve been on two compilations. Sonic Mook’s‘Hot Shit’ which, apart from my song, was shit and also I’m on the Northern Electronic release, obviously because I’m big in France and some other Sheffield / Manchester bands have hung on my coat tails, ha,ha!! Then there was the Phil Oakey record and a 10” mini comp released in Norway with myself and Flying Lizards. I didn’t like the pressing when it came back though, the people got my track mastered, and then just pressed it without me hearing it. It sounded shit; they put a load of bass in a track that I purposefully didn’t want any bass in. “But there is no bass,” they said. “I know, it wasn’t meant to have any, you Dick!”
Rock’n’Roll Is Dead (with Human League’s Phil Oakey on vocals) always gets referenced as your debut single but there seems to be quite a few things out and about. Are they still available?
Rock and roll is dead was my first single (released Jan’ 2002 - the version without Phil Oakey which came out on Twins of Evil [I Monster’s label. Then there was a 300 only release of a song called Re-enter The Two-Tone Deaf which came out on a little London label (uncharted audio)in July last year then my single Pigeons Carry My News/Hot Buttered Booty got a very limited release on Manchester’s Chips records. All the above are pretty much sold out/collectable pieces of vinyl which was what I intended. They are like little gifts and they remain, I think, pretty special records as they were only very limited pressings as was the Phil Oakey release. So if you come across the singles buy ‘em. Not only are they a little piece of history but they will probably be worth a quid or 3 in the future.
What are you listening to? I reckon one of the album tracks sounds, of all things, a bit Tom Waitish - fair enough?
I love all sorts - United States of America, The Monks, White Noise, Bruce Haack, Kid Acne, Supreme Vagabond Craftsman, Pink Grease, Stazi, Radiophonic Workshop, Lee Perry, Motorhead, Nancy Sinatra/ Lee Hazelwood, Hank Williams, Diana Dors, Mr Vegas, Sizzla, N.E.R.D, that doesn’t even really touch briefly on my taste in music. And I don’t own any Tom Waits!”
Back to Sheffield. You’re often out at gigs. What’s stuck in your mind, who’s doing good stuff?
The Lovers, Ape Drape Escape, C-TRL, Ross Fat Trucker has been doing some good stuff. That M.I.A. Galang (along with Pulp’s Steve Mackey] track he did was awesome. I always love seeing Pink Grease. They’re a gas. Who else? Me. I’m the Daddy!!?
Any such thing as overnight success in music?
Don’t be daft!!! It would have to be a very long night for the label, the artist, the pr, the stylist, the manager, the accountant to all agree on something and make a decision, music business is bullshit mate. It’s the occupation of morons!!?
Does the hat actually come off. Ever?
Only at funerals to be honest. It’s no big deal. I’m just someone who likes wearing crap hats in the same way some people like wearing crap haircuts. But you won’t see me going up to people going ‘let me pull yer hair off, is that a wig?’ as occasionally, and usually, the not very bright will make a grab for my hat or make comments about it which really is hattist and I could probably sue in a court of law. Ha!?
Preferences – live or studio?
I’m pretty much a man for throwing all caution to the wind and seeing what happens, so I guess I love doing my live thing. I love getting amongst the crowd and getting intimate, well within the boundaries of the law. I would never break the law, honest kids! Studios are a cool place for me too. It’s where I have a lot of battles and personal triumphs. I don’t like equipment and technology to beat me. Believe me, it has a good go. But if I have to I just take a blade to it and rip out its wires...?
Any questions you fancy being asked but never have been?
You’re a great bloke Adrian, a national treasure. Do you want a million pounds? Or take me, do your dirtiest to me (from Jane Mcdonald)?