Below if our feature on DC Fontana's 2012 EP 'Pentagram Man'! The feature includes a review of the EP from AB Records, a track by track in which bassist Mark Mortimer talks us through each track from the EP and some excerpts from our interview with Mark from last year!
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PART 1 - "AB SAYS..."
"DC Fontana's 'Pentagram Man' EP is a superb collection of six songs that leaves the listener wanting more. The tone of the EP shifts from psychedelia, to funk, to pop, to rock 'n' roll and back to psychedelia again. However, it also has a mysterious undercurrent to it as well. It sets this feeling out effectively with the mysterious sampling of the spoken word vocals on the opening two tracks and it does not stop there! The eponymous opening track is a masterpiece with a catchy, almost funky chorus and exceptional instrumentation from the band. 'DevilAngel' features a well conducted brass ensemble and the song has anthemic tones throughout with hints at the band's more psychedelic edge. The chorus itself will surely bring a new highlight to DC Fontana's live show and will surely entail huge singalongs. This is followed by 'What Would It Take?' - a folk ballad with heartfelt vocals set to some John Martyn/Bert Jansch-esque acoustic guitar picking. A definite highlight. Meanwhile, 'Satisfied (Part One)' seems to shift between DC at their most psychedelic and progressive and DC at their most funky, featuring some bongos and congas for percussion. This combination is no bad thing at all and when the percussion kicks in it sounds not too dissimilar from madchester legends The Stone Roses or The Rolling Stones a la 'Sympathy For The Devil'. The atmospheric 'Sighed DC' follows featuring a reprisal of the mysterious spoken word vocal. The EP is then concluded with a re-recording of the title track in which they recruit in Sorrows legend Don Fardon to sing lead. Overall, a really top notch collection of songs and one that leaves us impatient for the new album in 2014. Rock on DC Fontana!"
PART 2 - "DC SAYS..."
Here, bass player Mark Mortimer talks us through the 'Pentagram Man' EP track by track!
"The song came to me while I was sat in a traffic jam on the M40 motorway en route to a London gig! Funny how songs come to you when you’re least expecting them. It’s about an imaginary character from Birmingham who’s fooled himself into thinking he’s a serious magus of consequence. He wrongly thinks he’s related to the occultist Aleister Crowley, is convinced he fought in the Vietnam War and lives his life at a frenetic pace because he’s terrified that if he slows down someone will laugh in his face but no one likes to be humiliated do they? This delusional loner, whose interest in black magic stems more from reading Dennis Wheatley novels than any real esoteric knowledge, is ostracised from his neighbourhood because he doesn’t fit the bill, has no friends, no money, lives on the outer periphery of society and is sad when people take the piss out of him. He could be your uncle or old school teacher or the sad, silent drunk who sits in the corner of your local boozer. He might even be you. The song was allegorical, lamenting humanity’s ability to fool ourselves about all manners of things while also celebrating eccentricity and sticking up for those who live and turn far from the mainstream of society’s usual orbit. It was recorded in Balsall Heath, a suburb of Birmingham where you can see lots of pentagram men wandering the streets in this former red light district. On the main version of the song we decided to leave the horn parts out, partly as a conscious signpost that our sound is evolving and partly so we could use them on the alternative version featuring Don Fardon on vocals. To promote the song we shot one of our allegorical short films using a number of actors and it was filmed at Tamworth’s ancient Norman Castle, out in a field in Leicestershire and also in and around the Custard Factory arts quarter in Birmingham."
"This track seems to gain a lot of attention as it has its own sound really. On one level it’s a twisted love song while on the other it’s about the paradoxes within us all: good and bad, the dark and light, the yin and yang I suppose. It’s about dealing with those contradictory forces and the interconnecting and interdependence of them with everything around us. I wrote ‘DevilAngel’ about personal matters of the heart as well as another means of plugging myself into the ancient grid and feeding off it. I am wary of talking about this because I don’t want to sound like a fool but there’s something of a heathen element, underpinned by the chant in the middle of the track which name checks some of the old deities, namely Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali and Inanna. Sonically, I am always curious to use different sounds - it’s no different to an artist wanting to mix and match colours and collide ideas. We used a really unusual collection of instruments on ‘DevilAngel’ so you get the usual guitars, drums, retro organ and horns plus a cimbalom which is a Hungarian hammered dulcimer famous for the theme tune of “The Ipcress File”, a Chinese yangqin, autoharp plus orchestral reeds like cor anglais, oboe and flute. This desire to keep using different instruments and textures was something I picked up at an early age from listening to the Beatles among others. We filmed a fairly 'straight' promo video by our usual cinematic standards and did a performance shoot inside a studio with the only acting involved from two performance artists, one who dressed up as an angelic figure and the other as a demonic figure."
"What Would It Take?"
"This was a lovely skeletal acoustic tune which in many respects is a modern day anti war protest song and it’s centred around some beautiful finger picked guitar. We added some accordion, flute and even used a saw being played with a violin bow! It was another unexpected musical turn from us and I have to be honest I enjoyed the fact the song was so sparse and stripped back compared to some of our much bigger productions."
"Satisfied (Part One)"
"This was written and sung by our keyboard player Scott Riley and in fact was the first version of this song, a live favourite with our followers. But the second version we recorded (i.e. 'Part 2') came out first when it appeared on our debut album ‘Six Against Eight’. The one on the first album was all about dynamics with dirty hammond, thundering horns, a screaming guitar solo and lots of quieter moments but this first version is a much more stripped back and organic affair. In fact when we came to mix it I suggested we remove the drum kit, electric guitars and most of the organ parts so we could de-clutter and give it a more vibey feel. There is some beautiful piano on there played by our good friend, the incredible Italian jazz musician Oscar Marchioni and his partner and regular DC collaborator, Kicca Andriollo also added some haunting vocals. I love the doomy cellos that add lovely drones to the tune and there are some lovely congas played by Nigel Horton while Scott plays the acoustic guitar parts as well as the remaining hammond and accordion part. There is an overall lazy jazz element and I really like that."
"This is our 'Revolution No 9' moment! It is DC Fontana at our most experimental so far and it is an abstract piece of lysergic musical sound scaping. Part ambient and part twisted, the track was pretty much a collaboration between myself and our producer Donald Skinner and Scott. Actually the idea for this came from a friend of mine Rob Cross who was a member of nineties indie band Mr. Ray’s Wig World - he was messing about doing a sort of remix using some elements of piano and guitar parts from our first album. Donald then did a 'bubble and squeak' thing and introduced some unused orchestral string parts that were left over from the album and we built it up from there. The clock effect that lasts through most of the tune was actually Donald tapping his autoharp and the lovely trippy wah-wah guitars were played by Scott. We added some mellotron and celeste and our video director friend Martin Copland-Gray recited a mediaeval magic spell from the Galicia region of Spain relating to the queimada drink and that sounded suitably odd. Donald and I chose random words from a dictionary to add further idiosyncratic vocal snatches and he sculpted the tune into three distinct sections giving you the sensation that the song is moving forward always. I wrote another very experimental piece for our French and Italian sung album ‘La Contessa’ called ‘Les Fantômes du Père Lachaise’ so ‘Sighed DC’ is another in this tradition and provides more evidence that we are never content with writing and recording the obvious. As for the title, that was Rob Cross’ idea and a fun play on words - obviously referencing Arthur Lee and Love’s 'Signed DC' song!"
"Pentagram Man (Don Fardon Vocal Version)"
"It’s been great performing live with Don Fardon, the former Sorrows singer and I was very pleased when he happily agreed to record an alternative version of the title track. He is still a superb singer and the finished vocal is pretty much a full live take two...his first take was sung an octave lower because the key is quite high for his voice and the second one was a 'let’s go for it and see what happens' effort and that was the one we used. Working with him in the studio was great - he hadn’t recorded for a while but got straight into the vibe..."
PART 3 - THE INTERVIEW
Below you can read some excerpts of an interview we did with Mark last year!
What was your earliest musical memory and what pushed you towards pursuing a career in the music industry?
"Earliest musical memory would be hearing my mum’s Everly Brothers and Jim Reeves records then getting into the Beatles aged ten and totally immersing myself in the outbreak of punk a year later! No one but myself pushed me towards the music industry - my parents had a typically old fashioned view and actively discouraged me from making a racket which of course only served to make me more determined to make a bigger, louder racket."
Had you been involved in any other band prior to DC Fontana?
"Sure did - most of my earliest bands were just group names and make-believe...most were just band names and never even met but in the eighties I was in The Dream Factory who had a minor flirtations with the charts when we signed to northern soul label Inferno, run by Neil Rushton. I have never been outside of a music-making project in my adult years. Scott Riley, who is the DC organ player, was a member of Spectrum and E.A.R., the offshoot projects of Pete Kember’s Spacemen 3, whereas Donald Ross Skinner was Julian Cope’s long term right hand man, guitarist and producer."
How did DC Fontana begin?
"The band evolved from a previous one called The Lovebirds in the nineties and was initially just an excuse to socialise, write songs and have some fun with my hometown mates. In fact our story doesn’t follow the norm and it took quite a while before it really became a serious band. We have continually evolved and enjoyed different line ups which have helped keep the project totally viable, fresh and ever moving forward. The blueprint remains constant but it is constantly and freely re-designed."
Where did the name DC Fontana come from?
"Our original guitarist Neil Jones came up with the idea to name ourselves after Dorothy Fontana, the “Star Trek” script writer from Hollywood and she recently contacted us to say she is honoured we did so - in fact she lectures at the American Film Institute these days and often wears her DC Fontana shirt which is great!"
How would you describe the sound of DC Fontana?
"It’s turned-on music to shake your hips and pluck your heartstrings but I don’t see it as being any particular genre really or allied to any kind of movement. We filter the joy and pain of everyday life through a kaleidoscope of an ever-changing sonic arsenal and the music is as urban as Harry Palmer and as pagan and hallucinatory as Lord Summerisle."
The interview excerpts in Part 3 are taken from an interview conducted with Mark Mortimer last year! To read the full interview click here - http://aldorabritainrecords.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/devilangel-our-interview-with-amazing.html
All images and photographs were provided by DC Fontana.
Hope you enjoyed this feature on DC Fontana! Check out our previous feature on Kartica!
Get your copy of 'Pentagram Man' here - http://www.dcfontana.com/shop.html
Check out DC Fontana here - http://www.dcfontana.com/
Get your copy of 'Pentagram Man' here - http://www.dcfontana.com/shop.html
You can also like our facebook page to keep up to date with all future interviews at the following link - https://www.facebook.com/aldorabritainrecords