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Welcome to the official Distractions website. We will be aiming to record the history of one of the greatest, but least heralded, of all Manchester beat groups.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Delays

Here's the second part of Malcolm Carter's latest interview with Mike, Steve and Neil Storey (Hidden Masters), published by our friends at Penny Black Music


The Distractions : Interview
Author: Malcolm Carter
Published: 14/12/2013


Penny Black:  We’ve heard that a PledgeMusic campaign is getting underway. When it is that likely to happen?

Neil Storey:  Only when we have all the ducks lined up and in a satisfyingly neat row. A project like this cannot be rushed because otherwise something’s bound to go horribly wrong and bite us in the arse. (Our lawyer is responsible for that quote… and he’s right).

As much as I don’t want to, I’ll delay any HiddenMasters project until it is exactly right. Because, unless it is precisely as it should be, then ultimately one is letting the artist down, and letting the fans down. And, that simply doesn’t happen so far as I’m concerned; it’s not an option. One example – with our recent 'Jess Roden Anthology', we changed the packaging and overall design at the last minute. It caused a considerable delay, but it was the right decision. The fans were a bit pissed off initially because that project had been more than three years in the making, but they stuck with us, and all we’ve had are enthusiastic responses for what we ended up putting together. Jess was, and continues to be, thrilled with what we did.

PB:  Are there going to be any ‘limited edition’ versions of the album?

NS:  The 1st edition of the set is limited to 500 copies worldwide. Pre-ordering will be exclusive to PledgeMusic.com and any copies remaining after that process will be exclusively available from HiddenMasters.net – in other words, this will not be found on, say, Amazon or via any other carrier whatsoever.

PB:  Apart from the fourteen songs on the original album are there going to be any bonus tracks included like the Island and Factory singles?

Steve Perrin:  It’s best not to think of this as a reissue of ‘Nobody’s Perfect’, but as a Distractions retrospective. Over the years people have asked me if there’s any unreleased stuff, to which I have always replied ‘no’. Things have, however, been unearthed that I’d totally forgotten about. Happily I’ve been surprised by the quality of most of it and, yes, the Island and Factory singles will be on there.

NS:  I don’t think in terms of ‘bonus tracks’; that’s not how we work. To me, that’s just a bit of a cop out. Reissue an album and chuck in a few (so-called) bonus tracks, singles, B-sides or maybe a couple of live tracks. Frankly, that’s a bit rubbish and doesn’t really offer any kind of value for money as I see it. No: this is a different beast altogether, and we’ll be including a good deal of material that has never, ever, been heard before. Be prepared for a few surprises.

PB:  We’ve heard that the packaging of the album is going to be something a little special? Can you tell us a little more about that?

NS:  Sure. It’s a 12” hard-backed, case-bound book format. The inside pagination is currently at 80 pages (and I don’t think that’ll now change). So, pretty substantial! Images inside include between 80 and 90% that have never been previously seen alongside a lot of other ‘things’.

SP:  Again, there’s stuff in there that I didn’t know existed. I would have sworn that some of it didn’t, but it’s hard to deny the existence of a photo when somebody who looks like a younger version of your self is in the middle of it




NS:  We are not really wanting to give the game away too much as I’m sure you’d understand, but it looks pretty good. Actually, you asked about delays previously and, I guess one of the ‘delays’ was caused by the fact that it did take quite a long time to figure out just how the layout would best work.

The cover is quite graphic (for want of a better word) and, while a picture of Hulme Arch Bridge in Manchester may not sound very exciting, it sits perfectly. That, too, took time to figure out. The genesis of that was, I knew in my mind’s eye that, with the title suggesting curves, we needed something quite stark to represent that. One afternoon, while walking along a canal near where we live, we came across a set of canal bridges that, if shot from the right angle, made the most fabulous curves. We experimented a bit, then Jayne (who is overall responsible for the design and layout) saw a web image of the Hulme Arch Bridge and we realised if we shot that just right, we should have what we were after. We shot that in Manchester on a very dull day (exactly what I’d hoped for).

With only a teeny amount of PhotoShop work, we had our front sleeve for Mike and Steve to approve. Obviously, if they didn’t like it we’d have been back to the drawing board, but it got the thumbs up!

We also struggled with the opening pages for quite a while. Neither Jayne nor I could get a layout going that worked, until, in the middle of one night, she put the first eight or so pages together in about half an hour flat. They worked absolutely perfectly – from which I’ve been slotting the rest in from that beginning. We’re now pretty close to having the entire book sorted out; just a few more images need attention and some more text to drop in. After which, Jayne will do her not-inconsiderable thing and tweak away until it’s as good as it humanly can be (it’s not for nothing that she’s won the design awards she has over the years).

The text, by the way, consists of interviews with all those relevant to the band. In other words, there is no journalistic essay (however worthy that might be). This is the Distractions, and those who played a key role telling their story in their own words.

PB:  Is the early version of ‘It Doesn’t Bother Me’ and the other songs from the ‘You’re Not Going Out Dressed Like That’ EP going to be included too?

SP:  All the tracks from ‘You’re Not Going Out Dressed Like That’ will be included and there’s other stuff from earlier, and later, than that.



[to be continued] 


Saturday, February 22, 2014

No headaches

Late last year our good friends at Penny Black Music published another fine interview with The Distractions by Malcolm Carter.  This time Mike and Steve were joined by Neil Storey, ex-Island Records and now head of Hidden Masters, who is managing the (slightly delayed; more news soon!) 'Parabolically Yours' book-set.  Here's the first part of that interview.
 

The Distractions : Interview
Author: Malcolm Carter
Published: 14/12/2013



 
At a time, even when it seems that almost every album ever made is now given the reissue treatment on CD with anniversary packages, box sets and limited/deluxe versions appearing weekly, most music lovers could still make a list of albums that have long been deleted and never been reissued on any of the ‘new’ formats. On a personal note one such album on my list is The Distractions' ‘Nobody’s Perfect’. Originally released on the Island label in 1980, the Manchester band’s debut album has never been reissued on any format, and of the clutch of 7” singles the band released around that time, few have made an appearance on any of the many compilations of 80's music that are readily available.

It’s been frustrating for fans of the band, although maybe understandable. ‘Nobody’s Perfect’, although receiving critical acclaim at the time, failed to sell in great numbers and once the band parted ways it was probably felt that there wouldn’t be enough interest for a reissue, but that all changed when The Distractions released a couple of EPs on the Occultation Recordings label a few years back. Finally gaining the recognition they always deserved, and not just from the music press this time but from a new generation of music fans who had discovered the band’s now thirty year old recordings and couldn’t believe that they hadn’t aged a day during that time, The Distractions proved that they had lost none of the magic they created over three decades ago.

Two of the new songs on the EPs, namely ‘Lost’ and ‘Oil Painting’, could have been pulled from ‘Nobody’s Perfect’, the timeless, intelligent pop music that the band produced all those years ago was back sounding as fresh and relevant as ever. The fact that ‘Oil Painting’ was written by ‘new’ Distraction Nick Halliwell, but sounded like a Steve Perrin song meant that original members Steve Perrin and Mike Finney had given some thought to the project and were keeping alive the standard they set some thirty years ago. And Mike Finney had lost none of the emotion in his vocals; he still ranks as one of the best blue-eyed soul singers ever.

2012 finally saw the release of The Distractions' second album, ‘The End of the Pier’. While capturing the spirit of ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ the ten original, new songs also captured more attention than the band’s debut did on release. Again, timeless, intelligent pop music, coupled with sharp lyrics was the order of the day. The album was more, so much more than we could have hoped for.

We have covered the history of The Distractions over the previous interviews that have been published on this site together with reviews of their Occultation Recordings releases, but news has just arrived that the long promised reissue of the band’s early work is now really underway and finally looks like actually happening.

HiddenMasters, the label behind the 'Jess Roden Anthology', which has been extremely well received, not just for the music that it brings together but for the outstanding way the package is presented, has taken on the task of not just reissuing ‘Nobody’s Perfect’, but compiling a complete retrospective of the band’s work from their early days right up to the present. Given the label's past excellent work, it comes as no surprise that this is not just going to be the standard double CD reissue of an album and a few extra tracks but the complete Distractions story. A PledgeMusic campaign is being set up shortly and this link www.pledgemusic.com/widgets/6874?get_widget=true will point you to a free download of a previously unreleased Distractions song as a taster of what is to come.

We took this opportunity to put a few questions to Neil Storey from HiddenMasters and Steve and Mike from the Distractions about the new collection, and their answers reveal that ‘Parabolically Yours’, the title given to the project, is going to satisfy the needs of the most dedicated Distractions fan.


Penny Black:  It’s been over two years since the initial murmurings of a re-issue of ‘Nobody’s Perfect’. Is it now really going to happen? The fact that a title, ‘Parabolically Yours’, has now been revealed has given us a little more hope! Has a date been set?

Neil Storey: 
It most certainly is! And yes, that’s the title. There’s no official date currently set due to a number of factors, not least of which is we’re still wrestling with the budget which will also impact on the actual pricing. Due to the nature of what we have planned, this won’t be a cheap-as-chips manufacturing process either; careful consideration has to be given to the weight of paper being used, the quality of that, the board being used to house the actual book and having bespoke packaging made in which to ship the finished set.

All of those things (and many more, for example, where we actually manufacture which is currently either going to be in the Czech Republic or maybe Germany) have to be firmed up before we get to the stage of working out the actual price. I’ve a rough figure in mind but we won’t confirm that until the actual pre-ordering process begins. So long as all goes according to plan, then I’m reasonably confident we should have finished copies by approximately May/June 2014.

PB:  Obviously organising such a project takes time, but this seems to have taken an especially long time to come to fruition. What caused the biggest headache on this project?

NS:  Firstly, there are no headaches involved in a project like this; a few problems and issues to resolve but, because HiddenMasters projects are what some might describe as labours of love, that means there can’t ever be headaches, just ‘stuff’ to figure out. We’ve also had to find all the source tapes and, in fact, we’re still short of one. So, if any of your readers knows the whereabouts of the BBC session recorded in October 1980, I’d love to hear from him/her!

Steve Perrin:  I would add that the fact that this is coming to fruition is largely down to Neil’s dedication and tenacity. Others have tried in the past and been put off by endless wrangling with former labels. I guess Neil having contacts in the Island/Universal organisation helped, but he’s had to put a lot of hours in to get to where we are now.


[to be continued] 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

True pop

More from the Palatine: The Factory Story 1979-1990 box set.  Volume 3 was The Beat Groups, and there are short but rather sweet words from Paul Morley, Martin Hannett and Jon Savage.




THE DISTRACTIONS / Time Goes By So Slow

Oh, I really loved this song.  Billy Fury Baudelaire at the end of his tether, at the end of a mortail coil. /PM

The dramatic appearance of the Gay Animals, Liz Naylor and Cath Carroll, in their matching 60's suits.  And what about Pip?  City Fun.  Factory met Zoo halfway at Leigh and nobody came.  MH: 'Four cars parked in a field.'  True pop: melody masking deep loss. /JS




Friday, February 7, 2014

Palatine

The original Factory Records compilation was Palatine: The Factory Story 1979-1990, released in 1991.  The Distractions feature on Volume 3:




Future Factory Records projects remain vague; Fac 3 (Fac 1 was the original Factory venue poster, designed by Peter Saville) looked set to be a 12-inch disco single from The Tiller Boys, but internal confusion has temporarily shelved that.  Factory has expressed an interest in The Distractions, The Negatives, and current musician's favourites Manicured Noise (ask Vic Godard, the Banshees, Wire what they think of M. Noise - politely, of course).

Send Factory Records your cassette: The Factory, Hulme, Manchester.  Let's all take risks this Christmas!

Paul Morley, NME, 2nd December 1978




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