Like AC/DC? Like Wilko Johnson? Like New Orleans jazz? Chances are you’ll love The Urban Voodoo Machine, then.
The Urban Voodoo Machine are probably like nothing else you’ve ever seen or heard. Yes, I’m aware that’s a bold claim, but come on: look at them! It’s like Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter threw a masquerade ball in Mexico, then decided to get the guitars and maracas out at the end of the night.
With appearances at Glastonbury, Download and Hard Rock Calling under their collective (and undoubtedly customised) belts, as well as tours with The Pogues and collaborations with Wilko Johnson (of Dr Feelgood and generally being Wilko Johnson fame), the band definitely arrive into this locality highly recommended.
Ahead of their gig at Newcastle’s auspicious Riverside venue this month, The Urban Voodoo Machine’s frontman and visionary Paul-Ronney Angel paused for thought, as he looked ahead to the gig; considering his own story, that of his bandmates and his memories of the North East. Be prepared for swearing, slagging off of music scenes and ‘some of the best shoes in the business.’
For our readers who may not have come across you before, can you give us a brief overview of what The Urban Voodoo Machine is all about, and what we can expect from the gig?
We play bourbon-soaked gypsy blues bop ‘n’ stroll. It’s an original mix of rock ‘n’ roll and world music. The songs are short, sharp and honest -– three chords and the truth played on real instruments by real people. The show is a sing-along, clap-along, drink-along affair, but our music also has some quiet, tender bits so no talking during our show, please.
Have you played Newcastle before? Any memories of the city or the rest of the North East?
The first time was supporting The Pogues in 2008 and we’ve played our own shows at The Cluny and the Academy too. Another place we play regularly in the North East is Mickleton in Teesdale; it’s a village hall and they only have about six shows a year, but they keep inviting us back and we’ll be there in December.
How hard has it been to continue with the band after losing two key members?
Robb Skipper (violin) died in October 2014 followed by Nick Marsh (guitar) in June 2015 and it was, of course, very hard for all of us, but there was never any doubt we were going to continue. For Nick’s funeral, we transformed ourselves into a Marching Band and gave him a New Orleans-style send-off. We sometimes perform in this capacity and have even played fans’ funerals.
Your new album is a retrospective of the last 15 years. What was the thinking behind releasing a compilation album at this point in your career?
Quite often people come up to the merch stand and ask ‘what’s your best album?’It’s an impossible thing to answer, as I am personally equally proud of all five albums. So here you have it: the Best Of!
You left Norway to come to England – what’s the music scene like over there? The fjords of Norway seem like a strange place to discover New Orleans jazz and rock ‘n’ roll?
I came to the UK in 1992, as the music scene was crap in Norway. I was very disappointed to discover the scene was crap in London too. It was all ‘indie’ – I thought indie was Indian music. Then there was ‘shoegazing.’ What a bloody joke – I’ve got some of the best shoes in the business, but I don’t stand and gaze at them on stage! I spent a decade or so playing in other people’s bands before I decided to form my own band with all the best bits in music, show and shoes!
What was working with Wilko Johnson like?
Amazing! He’s been a big influence on me and didn’t disappoint in the studio. At the time he came, he was actually supposed to be dead but, luckily, he was wrongly diagnosed! He recorded two songs with us that we released in 2014: ‘Help Me Jesus’ and ‘Heroin (Put My Brothers In The Ground)’.
I loved your cover of ‘Hells Bells’ as a B-side to ‘Rather You Shot Me Down’; I take it you guys are big AC/DC fans – any other big influences on your music you’d like to mention?
AC/DC was my first love and their influence will always be there – although it might not be so obvious as our sound is a mix of delta blues, Cajun, Gypsy, Jazz, Country, Rockabilly and other roots music – but the spirit of Bon Scott is always there!
Can you sum up each current band member in three words?
They are all talented and beautifully fucked-up!
The Urban Voodoo Machine will play at Newcastle’s Riverside venue on Saturday 7th April 2018. Tickets, priced at £15.95 (including booking fee), are available from seetickets.com.