I have recently come across the music of The Magnificent. A young band from the Yorkshire area of England, they trade in a melodic, upbeat punk sound that bears comparison with many of the great 80s bands such as Naked Raygun and even the mighty Riverdales.
Following on from their brilliant set at the Hansons show we went to last night, I spoke to guitarist Matt at the end of their set and asked if they’d be willing to do an interview for RIP IT UP [in fact they now have the distinction of being the first interviewees in RIU for 23 years!] – and then when it came to exchanging email addresses I couldn’t find him. Undeterred, I got in touch via an email from the address on their website, and collared them for a short interview in order to try and find a little more out about the band and what they are about. Bass player and singer Jimmy was obliging and so read on and enjoy the chat.
RIP IT UP: Give us a bit of history about the band, i.e. where you’re from, why you formed and also tell us a bit about what made you decide to start the band in the first place?
TM: We are all from the Huddersfield area of West Yorkshire (England for international readers). Matt (guitarist / singer) and I went to high school together and started bands around 1996 / 7. Charlie (drums) is my cousin and we have also played together since we were young. When we were all around 15 we started a pop punk band called The Pedantics who played a few gigs in and around Hudds, Wakefield and Leeds. We had some time apart but all still played in various bands, Buzzkill, That Fucking Tank mostly in the punk / DIY scene. We got The Magnificent together in 2008-ish as we missed playing together.
RIP IT UP: I liked the quote in your recent review on punknews: “The Magnificent trades in punk rock tunes of the highest order and does so seemingly with ease, creating a body of work that is fresh and relevant to the 21st century whilst not forgetting the past”. What, for the Magnificent, is ‘the past’ – by which I mean what period of music did you grow up in and what kind of bands were you listening to at that time? I’m guessing, based on the line in ‘1990’, that it would have been the 80s and 90s when you were getting your influences? Tell me about the kind of gigs you saw back then, and the scene that was around?
TM: Ha! Maybe we are a bit younger than you think! I’ve just turned 30 and Charlie is the youngest member at 27. We all got into punk rock as we were learning to play music. It just seemed like a really direct way to express emotions and ideas through music, and an obvious channel for teenage energy. My Dad took us to see Green Day and the Riverdales in ’95, I think Charlie was only 11; that moment was really magical and opened the door to bands like the Clash, Stiff Little Fingers, US stuff like Ramones and Descendents. We lived in the countryside so it was hard to find punk rock music pre-internet so the music we got into was just whatever we found in weird second hand shops. I remember really clearly the day when Matt found a Hanson Brothers record in a shop in Barnsley! It might sound really obvious to older readers but we just found out about bands from the ‘thanks list’ within LP sleeves. Eventually we found out about other local punk rock fans, fanzines and even a DIY punk rock scene in Leeds. We were not alone after all! I would say our biggest influences or bands we all really like are Rancid, Dillinger Four, Teenage Bottlerocket, The Bomb, The Methadones, The Dopamines, Bangers, The Clash, Ringers, RFTC.
RIP IT UP: I believe you’re from Huddersfield, is that true? I lived there from 86 til about 94, and at the time there was a great music scene going on, which saw a lot of great bands [Leatherface, who ended up sleeping in our living room that night! Snuff, Sink, Mega City 4, Perfect Daze and so on] playing at venues such as the legendary Top Spot snooker club and the Wharf pub next door. Are those memories that you recognise?
We started to play and put on gigs in Huddersfield in around 1998 and found out about local bands like Lubby Nugget. I think the punk scene you experienced had pretty much died by then and we were one of the only punk rock bands playing or organising local gigs. The Wharf had changed to Doc Browns by then and we used to hang out there as we could sometimes get served beer when we about 15. They sometimes used to play stuff like NOFX and Nomeansno in there. I found it a very close-minded scene with no real ambition (and a lot of drugs) and after a while Matt and I decided to move to Leeds where it seemed like a number of people our age were making stuff happen, like Fracture ‘zine, Cops and Robbers, Out of Spite Festival and loads of great gigs. I have good memories of that time in Hudds though, in particular when we got showered in spit at the White Hart when a load of old punks turned up to one of our gigs.
RIP IT UP: What are your ambitions for the band?
TM: Ultimately, the band is a reason for us to hang out and have fun. I think and hope The Magnificent is a really fun band. We have been fortunate to do some great things; touring the USA, recording our LP in Chicago, touring with some of my musical heroes, Danny Vapid (Methadones, Riverdales, Screeching Weasel), Jeff Pezzati (Naked Raygun) and Chuck Ragan (Hot Water Music). If the band ended now I would have no regrets. That said, our new record ‘Bad Lucky’ has come out in the USA, Japan as well as the UK. It’s getting good reviews and a good response so who knows? If we can continue to tour and travel together then I would be more than happy.
RIP IT UP: My experience of resurrecting this fanzine has been interesting, because it’s led me to discover web based resources such as the obvious blogging software, but also social media like bandcamp, soundcloud and so on. I think it’s great because bands now have so much more of a route to getting their music out to the world, whereas back in the day [runs hand through greying, sparse hair] it was all about trading tapes through the post, putting soap on the stamp so it could be re used, reading Maximum Rock n Roll, and of course the network of small labels versus the big majors and their stranglehold on music. What do you think about the way that this kind of technology is being used, and what have you see it do for The Magnificent?
TM: This is a pretty huge question and I could go on for ages; I’ll try to be brief. Ultimately, the internet has allowed us to exist as an indie, DIY group. We can easily contact our audience, promotors, create our own tours, sell records, without the support of a record label, a manager or an agent. Internet resources, like the ones you refer to, level the playing field between independent bands and bands in the ‘music industry’. I’m not saying we couldn’t exist without the internet, but it certainly makes things easier. I used to absolutely love mail order records and the punk scene correspondence before the internet existed; it had a certain excitement and aesthetic that really captured my imagination and attention when I was a mid-teen. I can count dozens of people I met / corresponded with during this period as very close friends, even now. The punk scene definitely felt different then; more personal. If one thing can be said for the internet, it almost makes things too easy and there is a lot of quantity over quality in all forms of music these days and I feel like it can be harder to forge an identity within it all, politically or aesthetically. But if the tools are there, like Bandcamp or Facebook, it makes sense to use them.
RIP IT UP: In an extension of the previous question’s theme, you’ve done a split ep with Elway from the States, and also Noise by Numbers. I always liked split records because of the 2 for 1 aspect, but how did that come about and can you describe how you work on cooperation with other bands, i.e. do you, or do you intend to, trade gigs and so on?
TM: Noise by Numbers is a band from Chicago featuring Jeff Dean who recorded our latest LP. Those guys organised a tour for us in the US in 2010. It was a surreal experience as Danny Vapid sings for NBN and he was singing for the Riverdales at my first ever punk gig 15 years earlier. It was magical really and we all enjoyed that experience so much. American audiences seem to really like our music.
A Birmingham-based label called All in Vinyl put out the Elway split in a series of 7″ splits featuring US / UK bands. I like the concept, especially when it leads to collaboration, contact sharing and bands helping each other tour in the respective countries.
RIP IT UP: Didn’t you do some US dates last year? How did this go, and was it your first time in the US? Tell us about Chicago, and what the scene is like over there? Did you happen to meet the legendary curmudgeon Ben Weasel?
TM: Yes, we did our 2nd US tour in 2011 with The Bomb, a band featuring Jeff Dean, Jeff Pezzati and Mike and Pete, the awesome rhythm section from the Methadones. It was a total blast and probably the wildest time I’ve ever had. Pezzati is a truly inspirational person and I’m happy we got to spend time with him and hear all his crazy stories. We’ve never met Ben Weasel, although a lot of the people we’ve met are mutual friends. I don’t really care for his attitude much and it puts me right off his music, which I used to love as a kid.
RIP IT UP: The show last night at the Brudenell was great. How was the reaction for the Magnificent? The venue seemed full and the sound was good too.
TM: We loved playing last night, it’s a great venue plus getting the chance to play with the Hanson Brothers was ace. People seemed really into it and it weirdly we met a lot of people with a connection to Huddersfield, including the Nomeansno clan. We just love to play and if it sounds good and people like it, it’s truly the best feeling in the world. It’s really nice of you to get in touch on the back of seeing us live and I hope you’ve enjoyed learning what we are about. For anyone reading, check us out at http://www.themagnificentcentral.com
My thanks to Jimmy and the guys, and you really should check them out, the live sound is really great stuff.