I had a very interesting conversation with Sam Nicholas of London’s “post-post-punk” band, Corrections, who just released his new, state-of-the-art LP, “Projection”, on France’s Icy Cold Records. I’m going to request that you now switch over to whatever it is you stream music on and find it. Soak it in while you read this.
I was put upon this valuable little chunk of underground post-punk by my friend, Paul Rhodes, who somehow just retains info like this perpetually. It took 10 second of listening to a song called “Sweet Lust” before I asked Paul if he thought I could get an interview from this guy.
“Probably. Ask him.”
I found Corrections on Instagram (@correctionau) and reached out. The guy on the other end was very cordial and agreed to an interview. I thought maybe we could do it over the phone because I wasn’t hip to the fact that he was in England. He suggested we video chat on Instagram.
At the time I thought this was a bizarre request. But I really dig his music, so I relented as unflinchingly as I was able to.
Looking back, I guess what I was afraid of was a young artist seeing me, an aging pile of audiophile, a man that has dragged himself through every conceivable misadventure and come out clean and sober and anti-defeated, in his natural habitat.
It’s not you, it’s me.
We set a date, which I flaked on, partially due to my reluctance to video chat with almost anyone except my children and partially because I had some crazy plumbing shit going on with the apartment. It wasn’t a great day to meet anyone. So we rescheduled.
The contents of the most fun interview I’ve ever done, following a rant about post-punk:
I’m a big fan of it. I spend a lot of time debating with myself whether a band is or is not post-punk when I first hear them. See you must consider the fact that there are always sub-sub-genres. Rock and Roll has been around for three quarters of a century at least so it stands to reason that there are nearly infinite incarnations of it with more sprouting up exponentially. So, you have this stuff where some dude is moaning cheesily about cemeteries or whatever over a synthesizer and a drum sequencer.
I say to myself “What the fuck? This thing said it was post punk! What is this shit? It’s like death wave or something.” I don’t know.
See to me, post punk isn’t hard to classify. It’s refined punk rock with feeling, intellect and an upgraded musicianship. The need to play fast or repetitively isn’t present. Neither is the need to prove you’re a bad boy or girl. It is driven by emotion. And if that emotion happens to be anger then so be it. But it’s real.
A blanket term to cover a lot of material that cropped up during the end (and beginning) of punk rock’s (real punk rock’s) short lived heyday. Television doesn’t sound anything like The Smiths don’t sound anything like Joy Division doesn’t sound anything like the Buzzcocks…etc. But the common factor being that these people are unbelievably cool and unbelievably in touch with their emotions is undeniable. Dapper fucking punks. My kind of stuff.
I was thrilled to see bands like Interpol and The Killers (Yeah, I’m not too cool to admit it) coming out of the woodwork in the early 2000’s. New wave and postpunk had become increasingly uncool in the 90’s with the advent of grunge music. I mean look at those Flock of Seagulls characters. Nevermind how rad they sound. LOOK AT THEM. I can’t listen to somebody that dresses like that.
So post-punk went into a coma. And in alot of ways so did everything that was cool about popular rock and roll.
Oh yeah! Interpol and The dreaded Killers. It had been so long we didn’t even know we had been missing this sound. And now here we are wondering how, as audiophiles, we got by without it for so long. Aloof cats in black suits standing still with hi-slung guitars looking like they could be androids or something playing some of the coolest rock music ever made. They weren’t busting up their equipment or fighting with the audience. They were chill. They were a cool fucking breeze wafting through a veritable musical Sahara.
So the rest of the story, in a nutshell, is that post-punk is back. “Modern Post-Punk”.
It is and isn’t good.
Here’s me letting Instagram video chat ring and buzz as I sort of hope this dude doesn’t answer.
When he does I’m almost immediately put at ease. On my tiny phone screen is one of the nicest, chillest young men I’ve ever met. He shows me around his flat and I inform him awkwardly that we don’t call them flats. He laughs and as we exchange pleasantries. He sits at a table and begins eating. I don’t know what, but he’s making himself totally comfortable, which has a calming effect on me.
I show him a record or something and we rap about post punk and things.
JC: Ok. So where are you from?
SN: Canberra; The Capitol of Australia, which is actually really small.
JC: What brought you to England?
SN: Australia’s dead. Not really much going on there. It’s a huge country with a small population.
JC: How do bands like cut/copy thrive there?
SN: (Laughs) Well, their music’s really fucking good. They get a lot of airplay. Plus, JJJ carries a lot of weight there. It’s like the BBC or something there.
JC: “Projections” is a serious album. Sort of reminds me of The Church. Who are some of your biggest influences?
SN: Depends on how far back you want to go. In terms of songwriting, you can’t really get past Joy Division. I really love The Chameleons.
JC: What does your typical song-writing process look like?
SN: Depends, man. Depends entirely on what I’m going for. I tend to write very strummy, Church-inspired stuff on the acoustic. More synth-wave stuff on the keyboard, obviously. I’ve been experimenting more with starting out with drum beats first, lately. I’m getting very disillusioned with it because every day there’s a new post-punk band coming out.
JC: Before this record your stuff hasn’t been on any of the popular streaming services. Why is that?
SN: There’s really no point in doing that until you have a following and I don’t really have a following
JC: Where did the name “Corrections” come from?
SN: It’s just a name I came up with. I was training to become a teacher. Like correcting papers.
JC: What about the music itself?
SN: I’ve been writing music for a long time. The early stuff was shit…my early demos. I’ve deleted about ten songs over time.
JC: What are your songs about?
SN: That’s a big question. I just did a track by track with Renato (The Blog that Celebrates Itself). Just depends on feeling. Usually not a very abstract sensation. But it’s getting more abstract as time goes on. I’m more about how words sound together. I think they seem sort of literary
JC: Are there any other artists in the East London scene that you’re close to?
SN: No…everything here is sort of garagey.
JC: Do you think the music industry is dying?
SN: I think in the sense of the classical music industry, yeah, it’s dead. The independent labels now, like captured tracks, are like what EMI was in the 80’s.
JC: What’s your take on post-punk?
SN: Essentially, if post-punk, in the classical sense, cause obviously when it was happening…it’s not as if Public Image just popped out of nowhere and everyone just went “Oh Man! This is like punk but better!” no one was being like…oh they’re still just trying to push boundaries. Like incorporate different genres and stuff into the sound. You know, when, like….I think the big difference between Sex Pistols and Public image is, you know, the introduction of dub influences and um…musique concrete and myriad other things to different aspects of it. However, another example would be something like…at the same time…Magazine…who were very good musicians and were writing very strong, progressive rock songs. And you also had new wave groups like TALK TALK, who…it’s very unfortunate that Mark Hollis has departed this earth because he was a behemoth, in that sphere, to me. But now it’s just turned into this, pretty much, your post punk…you use a drum machine, have a prominent bass-line and baritone vocals. That’s…that’s like “oh yeah, post punk!” Three things….and you’re post punk. And it really frustrates me cause I see a lot of gigs around the place that advertise themselves as being post punk bands or….and they’re just not!
They’re post punk bands in the same way that bands like…Indie…like means anything other than being independent. It’s just a but silly, and I…um…see it also online. All the popular promoters, who also, (and I thank them very much for even promoting me at all. Putting me in their page and stuff) Everything is post punk. Like, it’s just ridiculous. The only reason I call myself post punk now…like pure post punk…is because I don’t want any other label attributed to me because I’m doing it aesthetically… It just annoys me so much.
JC: I noticed you’re calling yourself “Post-Post-Punk”. I really like that.
SN: (Laughs) I’m glad. I found out that Actors are doing it unironically. They actually really do….I didn’t know this. I just looked at their bio a few weeks ago..cause I like Actors, obviously. But Actors are like….celebrity…I really like them and I really like their album. It’s really good. It’s just doing it really well. But, like, there’s nothing…different, really, about it. The production is phenomenal. The song-writing’s great. I mean…I think “Projection” is…pretty derivitave now…when I listen to it.
JC: I got a Midnight Oil feel from the first track and a Church feel from a lot of it (Projection). You’re all over the board when it comes to post punk. You definitely cover a lot of ground with one record.
SN: Here’s hoping. Cause that’s what I was trying to do. I mean, I was getting shoe-horned into the burgeoning “Shoegaze” scene, which I….kinda detest. I detest it not for the reason people would think, though. I detest it because it’s….it’s just going nowhere, I mean, I pulled off the whammy off my fucking Jaguar cause I hate whammy bars so much. It’s just so easy to do. At one stage I was really into it but I never really liked it for the reasons that, I think, it’s popular for. Dude I love a droning guitar and some wispy little vocals over the top. I get that. But my favorite, once again, my favorites were always much more able vocalists. I think Pale Saints are one of the better ones from that era. And they’re so underrated! Like, Pale Saints, I think, are the best….to me. Kitchens of Distiction, which I wouldn’t even call a shoegaze band because Patrick Fitzgerald had a very distinct vocal style and actively wanted to be heard. I guess the only thing that would make it shoegaze was the fact that the guitarists really liked effects. I….I just don’t like those little genre norms because it’s so boring. When I first started playing it. I was just like, “Cool, this is kind of easy. Why would I want to do this myself?” I prefer to…like I love Johnny Marr’s guitar playing like, as a guitarist because he’s just a good guitarist. And it’s the same with The Church, man. Steve Kilbey’s a great fucking songwriter. Peter Koppes is a really good guitar player. And…I love Steve Kilbey because he always expounds the importance of writing really good songs rather than relying on something else. Like if it doesn’t sound good when I play it on acoustic…if it sounds a bit, kinda shitty…it sounds a bit like something Paul McCartney would say but it’s true…a song should sound good.
Sam Nicholas is a man with very definite ideas about what he likes and what he doesn’t. That’s why we get along so well. I really don’t want to be in a video chat with some fence-riding Nancy who says everything is just ok. Cause it’s not.
People ask me, “Hey you like music, don’t you?”
I tell them no. I hate 99% of music in existence and just happen to be extremely passionate about the other 1%. Music is shit.
But Corrections newest offering is anything but shit. “Projections” is chock full of Neo-retro landscapes made barren by a storm. Nicholas’ vocals are out front, bold. He is a man challenging the limits of his voice without regard for convention, and the finished product is all the better as a result.
We aren’t looking at something that’s been worried over and beaten and flogged to death in a sleek studio. We are looking at a guy eeking his tunes out as they occur naturally. Listening to this album is a real experience. And I consider it a privilege to be able to hear what sort of actual underground post-punk is coming out of the flats of East London. At the root of the label “post-punk” is still the word “punk”. And I get a sense of that source at the heart of this record. It’s passionate, honest and even a bit sneering.
As an aside, Sam is mixing and mastering a new album by Middle Tennessee’s rising shoegaze outfit, Your Gaze. Keep and eye out for that.
Give “Projection” a listen and show your support to up-and-coming artists every chance you get or you aren’t as cool as you think you are.