By Jordan Mooney.
Today’s band are another group from far afield, all the way out in a country that has only appeared once in our publication in the past. Babyface Clan are a fine little number. Sporty, quick witted, good handling. And hail all the way from Bulgaria.
Babyface Clan have got a very devoted following, and have only just sprung back up from the burning remains of fairground tents and a collection of electronic synths and keyboards after some twelve years, and, now, are even suitable for Bulgarian Radio despite their English (very English, actually…) vocals. They’ve gotten straight back to work, too.
Fronted by the nattily dressed Nasso (I, too, respect the fashionable benefits of white gloves and bowler hats), the Clan, consisting of Ivo (guitar), Bobby (bass), Ficho (keys) and Dakata (drums), have been cooking up a pulsating little mass of musical accomplishment named, in a manner oh so pleasing to my inner motion picture obsessive, “You’re Not Wearing Your Tie.”
You’re Not Wearing Your Tie (how does it know?!) brings to mind the idea of a civilised man, poetic, intelligent, perhaps a writer, visiting a gypsy fairground one mild spring morning, only to eat some laced Candy Floss. The gypsies have taken him in, and are now bringing him to a life of experimental sex, drugs and alcohol, not specifically in that order. As it all continues, our friend becomes more violent, confused, scared, but full of the faux joys that this strange new world is providing him.
They later strap him into a Waltzer, wherein he snorts big lumps of white powder off of a prostitute’s suspiciously springy rear end until he throws up on her from the confusion brought about by the fluorescent lights reflecting from her firm, supple flesh. Disgusted, she refuses to go any further with him and tries to leave, starting a fight.
By the end of it, he’s killed her, and, drenched in blood, looking for a new high. The lights are still reverberating in his mind. He doesn’t know where he is, or who he is, or what to do. He’s going insane, laughing, shouting, screaming and begging for the world to touch him. His gypsy friends are following him and smacking him with planks of wood. He loves it and begs for them to continue. For those few days, weeks, months, years, whatever his life has become or however long time is taking to pass, his existence is perfect, sublime, insanely amusing and full of debauchery.
If that sounds like an entertaining thing to witness, and I do hope it does, this is an album for you. Ranging from jeering riffs to those that celebrate your every move, that classic ‘blackpool organ’ veering back to my theory of a slightly fucked up fairground and a ton of swearing, references to sex while off of your face and calling out anybody and everybody it feels it should, ranging from failed relationships to people it just feels like shouting at, this is, essentially, an album that does all of it for you so you can listen while sober.
The majority of it is quick paced, fun, tongue-in-cheek rock and roll with every bit of the authenticity I think most of us tend to seek within the genre – it isn’t, of course, above slowing down every so often, with tracks like Lecher and Magnifying Glass slowing down just enough to get your breath from the likes of Bomb Filled Bouquets.
It’s a very jaunty, fun loving release that I think ultimately shows all of the spirit and pure enthusiasm one loves to find in Rock and Roll. It has youth, it has talent and it has beauty. In the same way that a nuclear explosion is a very beautiful thing. It’s violent, it’s wrong and it shouldn’t be happening, but, really, didn’t you enjoy it? Of course you did. And you’ll probably do it again.
Babyface Clan strike me as the sort of group that would find great pride in being likened to a power that could potentially destroy the world. And they’ve every reason to be proud of this album. Good on you, lads. It’s a riot.
We eventually managed to get Nasso to sit down on our beautiful leather sofa at Cat on the Wall Towers, and he enthusiastically answered our questions while drinking grape flavour jelly beans out of a champagne glass. His bowler hat looked splendid.
Cat on the Wall: Hello there, and welcome to Cat on the Wall! Please, introduce yourself!
Nasso: Hello there, we’re called Babyface Clan and we’re from Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria – the very same country you were told to expect massive immigrant hordes from. Which, of course, never happened…Well, I’ve invaded your land many times throughout the years, so count me as a one-man horde!
As for Babyface Clan, we’ve been going for a while now, we have a few albums and are known for our very… incendiary live performances. We’ve played with everyone from Groove Armada, to Placebo and Asian Dub Foundation, too many to list really, but we’re only just now getting ’round to organizing some serious European touring. Lots of people think the band is British, due to my accent, but it comes completely natural to me, having grown up in London. We used to not get played on TV and radio back in Bulgaria, ’cause we sang in English, but, thankfully, that idiocy is over. We have a very loyal following who have always stuck with us, through thick and thin. There was a period when it was cool to like us, then me and the guitar player went off to London to sign for an indie label with an electro project of ours, so people forgot the Clan. But now, we’re back and it’s cool to like us again, we’ve come full cycle, as you do!
COTW: Tell our readers – what exactly is it you do, what do you aim for and how do you work? If somebody sees you in the street, is it a safe situation?
N: Me personally? I sing, write the words, dress like a mix of John Steed and Vincent Price with Boris Karloff make up on, and gyrate onstage in a mesmerizing fashion. Or something of the sort.
Meanwhile, the band are busy creating cosmic soundscapes of euphoric hysteria wrapped in some bloody tight rhythms. We aim to create a poison umbrella sound, and, if you get enticed, you’re one of us. The Clan’s motto is “they can’t touch us, when we touch each other”.
It used to not be very safe for me out in the streets back home, due to the way I dressed, but then I got this really cool cane/walking stick with a real blade inside it, mmm… That or a poison umbrella. I’m safe, but you ain’t.
COTW: You’ve recently released your latest album, You’re Not Wearing Your Tie, your first release in more than a decade. What’s it all about, then?
N: The title comes from the Hitchcock film Frenzy, you know, the very last line of the film: “Mr Rusk, you’re not wearing your tie”. Add to that the fact that my actual surname is Mr. Ruskov, and there you go. The album’s about many things – the various Pyrrhic victories in life, the way certain people can inspire you, the way you can unwittingly destroy those same people, romance, spectacular downfalls, gobsmacking adventures and, if you’re lucky, an epiphany or two.
COTW: Actually, where on Earth have you been?!
N: Well, in 2002, right after we got nominated for a record number of local music TV awards (and won none) and played some shows with the Stereo MC’s, who are good friends of ours, me and the guitarist Ivo (known also as Charlie, but nothing to do with cocaine) decided to put BF Clan on hiatus and immerse ourselves in an electro-punk-hop project called Imbeciles & the Poison Umbrella.
We played with Ladytron and Placebo and then we sent out one single demo CD, to a new indie label in London, called Only Lovers Left Alive. This was run by Marco Pirroni of Adam and the Ants. Now the Ants are my favourite ever band and as a kid, the first ever record that I owned was Prince Charming. So, to then, years later, get a reply from Marco, who wanted to sign us…Well, you can imagine how I felt personally!
A few months later we’re in London, sitting in Marco’s wicked Baker Street penthouse and the man himself is telling me that Ivo’s a genius. These things don’t happen too often in life, do they?!
But people are ungrateful and greedy bastards, and so was I. We did get invited on a Placebo tour by Brian himself, playing Brixton Academy and Manchester Apollo, which was quite amazing. We also played with some of our favourite bands, and established ourselves on the arty electro scene in Soho. People liked us, but to progress further up the ladder, we needed more financial support and a bigger label. Plus connections. It’s all about the connections.
So, at some point we realized we were stomping the same ground, and that was hard. We had Kevin Mooney (No known relation to Jordan – Ed.) from Adam and the Ants as our bass player for over a year and many, many great adventures, but we got a bit too immersed in the “rock’n’roll” lifestyle, if you get my drift. And then me and Ivo both fell in love with Bulgarian chicks and came back to Sofia. Yes, yes, love rears its ugly head again – haha!
COTW: How was the process recording the album? A lot of musicians we speak to have varying opinions about recording in a studio environment. Do you feel this release turned out the way you’d wanted it to?
N: Yes, definitely, this one came as close as we wanted. We had a real cool guy producing us, a talented musician in his own right, called Bebo (check out his bands Leepra Deluxe and Urban Grey). He spent weeks in there, he charged us half price and he was a joy and inspiration to work with. Before that we also did a couple of tracks at Bluba Lu’s studio, they’re a wicked BG band, who’ve released music for LTJ Bukem’s Good Looking Records.
COTW: Your record doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever heard from Bulgaria in the past – as a matter of fact, it strikes us more as a group from the musical epicentre of Camden during the 1990s! Nasso, we know you’ve spent a great big chunk of your life in London – would you agree with us, and, as an extension, do you think London made a particularly large influence?
N: Well, of course, for me, London’s like a second home. I love the city, the culture, the history of it and I’ve been to about 500 Arsenal games. We used to play the Underworld in Camden all the time with Imbeciles, with cool artists like Lene Lovich and D.A.F. Ivo also loves the city, he can’t get enough of going round record shops, he’s a vinyl buff. I love Soho, the mix of music, art, restaurants, sex, filth, drugs, debauchery, the danger and the thrill, it’s all so vibrant and you’ve got to be alert all the time, or you’ll be fair game.
COTW: What groups do you feel have impacted Babyface Clan the most, both in style and the way you work?
N: Wow! Well, it’s not only music, I think our music is influenced by cinema and fashion, too. I listen to everything from Edith Piaf to Adam and the Ants and The Horrors, while being an old horror film fanatic and a massive admirer of the 1960s Avengers series etc. I also think the best frontman in the UK for the last ten years is Martin Tomlinson from Selfish Cunt. Ivo listens to everything from Kraftwerk to King Krule and the latest electronica. Our bass player is into The Who and is an encyclopaedia on 1960s music and rockabilly. The drummer is into Red Hot Chili Peppers, Faith No More and the Seattle 1990s stuff. The keyboard player listens to loads of hip hop and jazz, he’s a totally schooled musician and it’s fantastic to have him in the band. So, all over the place really!
COTW: Naturally your record is probably one of the best releases the universe could ever hope to see. But are there any other groups and releases you feel we and our readers should be keeping an eye on?
N: Nah, just ours.
…Joking aside, there’s a tsunami of exceptional music out there, as long as one has the time for it. From all genres and countries, if you dig for it, you’ll find it, the best stuff is usually the stuff you don’t see too often on telly.
COTW: And what are your plans for the futuristic space year 2014?
N: Well, the album’s coming out on CD in March, and we plan to start recording a new one straight away. But mostly, we need to start touring Europe, cause we’re a throbbing dynamo onstage. We’re currently looking for a decent booking agent.
COTW: Thank you very much for sitting down with us for a chat! We wish you all the best and here’s hoping we’ll be hearing from you again very soon!
N: Thank you chaps, loving the old film materials in your webzine. Please accept my apologies for the delay in getting back to you.
With that, Nasso chugged the rest of the grape flavour jellybeans and walked out of the door, hitting our long-suffering interns with his cane as he left. We would have stopped him, but…
Wait. No, no we wouldn’t.
You’re Not Wearing Your Tie was released digitally on the 23rd of December 2013 on Bandcamp. As we’ve repeatedly suggested in this review, it’s dangerously entertaining, and should definitely be worth the paltry sum they’re requesting. Listen to it for yourself and find out!
If you love them already, and I’m very sure you do, you will likely enjoy clicking ‘like’ on their Facebook page. Go ahead.
Suggested to us by the lovely Tsvetelina Yordanova, who promises to bring us more exotic treats from Mainland Europe very soon!