The Return of Black Box Recorder

Black-hearted pop trio play tribute to rock and roll original Nick Sanderson.

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When Nick Sanderson, formerly of the legendary Jesus and The Mary Chain and art-punk provocateurs, Earl Brutus, passed away from cancer earlier this year, his funeral was a rock and roll affair that celebrated a life fully lived, with his name spelt out in neon lights.

The tributes continue on Oct 27th with a special concert at Kentish Town Forum headlined with a rare appearance by JAMC and the first gig in 3 years by Black Box Recorder.

Like Earl Brutus, BBR were outcasts on the Britpop scene. Named after the device that records the last screams when airplanes go down, this was clearly a band attracted to the darker side. Their chillingly bleak debut ‘England Made Me’ was a masterpiece of dysfunction that exposed the dark heart rotting at the core of Middle England. While subsequent affairs were more melodic and even led to them playing Top Of The Pops, their pop hooks were always laced with arsenic. In an age of global financial meltdown and political unrest, we need the tonic of Black Box Recorder now more than ever.

Dazed Digital spoke to chief instigator Luke Haines down the telephone.

Dazed Digital: What was your connection to Nick Sanderson or was it through John Moore (both played in the Jesus and Mary Chain)?
Luke Haines: We all knew Nick from the pub! There is sort of solidarity of The Jesus and Mary Chain drummers, they all stick together. But we were big Earl Brutus fans as well.

DD: Can we expect new stuff from Black Box Recorder on the night?
LH: Well the official line is we never really split up which is actually true. We just stopped making records together because it got harder and harder. Basically every record came out on a different label. After the 3rd time, we got fed up. Every year since the last record, we’ve talked about making a new record. We’ve got out of the Fleetwood Mac stage with John and Sarah (Nixey, frontwoman) marrying and then divorcing. If you like, Black Box Recorder were a cryogenically frozen corpse. We are going to do a deep freeze and see what happens.

DD: BBR were formed at the height of Tony Blair’s Swinging Britain. Are you equally disillusioned with Gordon Brown’s administration?
LH: We were never disillusioned, we saw through it all!

DD: One of the most subversive moments in British pop history must have been BBR performing ‘The Facts of Life’ on Top Of the Pops. How was that experience for you?
LH: I’m pleased we did it. John and I felt guilty about whisking Sarah away from her stable 9-5 existence and thrusting her into this life of no glamour. So we set out to write a song that was a hit. As a symbol, being on TOTP is pretty important but as you can imagine, the reality is different to that.

DD: As a songwriter you’re drawn to the darker things. Is this global recession we are going through now inspire you lyrically?
LH: Well Black Box Recorder predicted the whole economic crisis 10 years ago! It’s there in the whole body of our work, like a cipher, waiting for someone to crack the code.

DD: People make a lot of the acts of misanthropy you’ve committed. (Haines famously attacked a journalist with a book and called his record label ‘fucking c**ts’) Has time mellowed you or are you as bitter as ever?
LH: I was never bitter, I was cynical. Cynicism just means clever, able to see through stuff. It doesn’t mean that you don’t see value in anything, it means you’re looking for the value.

DD: Whatever happened to the stage musical you had in the works?
LH: I think my big mistake was that I didn’t really know how the theatre worked. I didn’t realize the enormous expense involved. It was going to be a grandiose musical that would cost millions. I think we might have to wait for the economic crisis to resolve and till I find some backers for it.
It was called Property and it was written at the height of the boom in housing, around 2004. I spent a year with the National Theatre writing it. This was before Damon Albarn did it of course. But they abandoned it because they thought it was too right wing. It wasn’t, it was just written from the point of view of a right-wing character.

DD: What else do you have coming up?
LH: I am working on my new solo album and I have my memoir coming up next year.
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