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Old music: The Electras – Action Woman

Friday, June 1st, 2012

The Electras have got to find themselves some action, a little satisfaction – anyone know a woman who might lend a hand?

In his magnificent autobiography, Head-On, Julian Cope recounts one of the arguments that would rend asunder Liverpool’s music heads in the 70s: whose version of the 1967 garage-rock staple Action Woman was better? Was it the one by the Litter, better known by far, after featuring on the first volume of the Pebbles series of albums? Or was it the one by their Minneapolitan confreres, the Electras?

Action Woman was written by a man called Warren Kendrick, who was the manager of the Electras. He was also the manager of the Litter. So the ownership of the song – usually ceded to the Litter, though no one seems sure whose version came first – is open to debate.

What’s certain is that in either version, Action Woman deserves its reputation as one of garage’s gnarliest, snarliest, most tight-trousered pieces of hormonal aggression. He’s got to find him an action woman, you see, to satisfy his soul, a mind distraction woman before he loses control. And he’s got to find that woman while a brutal three-chord riff lumbers on behind him, and Keith Moon-style drum fills occupy all the spare space.

So what makes the Electras’ version better? I’ll give it to you as three-point plan (this isn’t sophisticated music – we won’t need any more points).

1. There’s a baroque-style harpsicord intro! The Litter’s version goes straight into the riff, and that’s fine, but harpsicords are the great instruments of 60s rock. There isn’t a song they don’t improve – and the nice-nasty contrast of the intro and the riff works just fine.

2. It swings a little more. The Litter lurch, but the Electras up the pace just a bit, making Action Woman seem a fraction less self-pitying, a fraction more angry. These things are relative, though – this song is never going to be about anything but not having sex. And, particularly, not having spectacularly dirty, throw-me-round-the-bed sex.

3. 2’01″. The greatest scream in garage punk. Better even than the one at the beginning of Gonn’s Blackout of Gretely – because our boy has to get some words out, too.

• Old Music will be on holiday until Monday 12 June.

PunkPsychedeliaPop and rockMichael 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Friends: Manifest! – review

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

(Lucky Number)

Two effervescent singles last year – Friend Crush and I’m His Girl started the chatter about the Brooklyn five-piece Friends. With strikingly “cool” videos and sleeve art, married to a pick’n'mix approach to New York’s musical history – some girl group here, some early hip-hop there, some punk-funk round the corner – they seemed like nothing so much as a tumblr account given musical form. The highlights of their first album, sadly, are still those two singles, and there are some missteps here. The reverb-heavy, lo-fi production deadens things, and – as is ever the case with indie rhythm sections – the funk is as approximate as it is charming. Still, in Ideas on Ghosts and Va Fan Gör Du, they show they can hit the target. The former would have been ruined with a big production, reduced to icy bluster – instead its waves of synths are softened and mellowed. There are summer indie-disco hits here, for sure; there’s enough to hint there might be more than that.

Rating: 3/5

Pop and rockMichael 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

30 minutes with … Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

The Hives singer on his love of punk, Andy Kaufman and ninjas

• Album stream: listen to Lex Hives

The Hives are known for their onstage showmanship. Have you worked out a move that could top The Freeze (1)?

Yes. But I will keep it a secret. It’s not perfected yet.

You sound like the Australian cricketer Shane Warne …

I sound like a cricketer? Is that an insult or a compliment?

It’s a compliment. He was the greatest ever spin bowler and before every series he would promise to unveil a new delivery that would astound all observers, but he would keep it secret …

Ah! OK! That’s good. I like that.

Can you give us any clues?

We have one that we excavated from the vaults as well. I guess somebody probably did it in the 60s, but for us it comes from a Finnish band called the Flaming Sideburns. Other people have done it as well (2), but they have ripped it off from us. It’s where we get the entire audience to sit down. It’s a good move as well.

You have already made the best rock’n'roll album ever (3) several times. Doesn’t that make it hard to do it again?

It does, yeah. That’s why it takes us so long. We get a lot of questions: “It’s been four and a half years since your last album. Why did it take so long?” Well, why do you think? Have you heard the album?

You were introduced to UK audiences as Your New Favourite Band (4), but that was quite a long time ago – are you now our Old Favourite Band?

Old sounds like we’ve stopped being your favourite band, and I don’t like the sound of that so I’ll just say no. We are still your favourite band. Your perpetual favourite band.

Are there ever nights when you’re not the greatest rock’n'roll band in the world?

Yeah. It happens. It’s terrible. It’s an awful feeling. After a show where you don’t feel you’ve done your best there is a feeling of nausea and vertigo. And that’s why we constantly have to try to be as good as we possibly can. Because no one wants that feeling of nausea and vertigo. It will follow you until you can redeem yourself by doing a good show.

Can the audience tell when you haven’t been the greatest rock’n'roll band in the world?

Maybe if you’ve seen us a lot you could tell the difference. There is less ecstasy going on: you feel less greatness.

Moving on to the individual members of the Hives. What does Dr Matt Destruction hold his doctorate in? Destruction?

Bass guitar. He claims. I am not absolutely certain where you would get such a degree, but he claims to have one.

It would be very hard to get that postgraduate course funded these days …

Very hard. He could probably teach a course in it, though.

And exactly how dangerous is your drummer, Chris Dangerous?

He can be very dangerous. Apart from the fact that he is an extremely fast and safe driver. So the only time he would not be dangerous is behind the wheel of a car.

Isn’t he getting a little less dangerous now, after nearly 20 years with the Hives?

It’s sort of this thing where you have to project the fact that you can, at any moment, become dangerous. And you get better at it as you get older. If you are rumoured to be dangerous, you don’t have to be dangerous that often. You can just establish: “Hello there, I’m dangerous. Don’t try anything.” And you can just perpetuate the image of being dangerous. He’s practised so much that he can just cruise at altitude.

Vigilantism is widely frowned on. Does your guitarist Vigilante Carlstroem not fear the authorities might clamp down on his activities?

He doesn’t talk a lot, so I don’t know what he’s thinking (5). But one would fear there’s not a big fear of authority there.

I recently had to explain the concept of arson to my children, after telling them about Nicholaus Arson (6) while playing Lex Hives at home (7). Will you indemnify me in case they start burning things down?

Not really. That’s down to your insurance company.

And down to you – in rock’s league of howlers, who is the greater – you or Howlin’ Wolf.

I think Howlin’ Wolf is better than me. But that’s just genetics. I’ve worked harder at it, but he was born with something extra.

Is the great Randy Fitzsimmons (8) still your writer and manager?

Yeah, he’s still involved, but slightly less so. I feel like he trusts us more with every move we make in his spirit, so he doesn’t have to steer us as much as he used to.

And how does he communicate his spirit to you?

Well, it’s a little but like Chris and his dangerousness. We’ve been brought up in his school, so to speak, so we have developed similar aesthetic tastes, so we usually do the right thing. Otherwise he will smack us around a little bit, steer us back to the straight and narrow.

I would hate to imagine him having to email you, or tweet you …

Nah. He’s not a very modern guy.

Has he never got fed up with being behind the scenes?

No. That’s the funny thing – it makes people so nervous, this sort of Big Brother edge, because he doesn’t want to be seen. I think that’s where all the questioning about his existence comes from. People have been religious for millennia, and that takes a leap of faith, but that’s the point. If you don’t believe, you don’t believe.

It’s a very unusual name for a Swede, isn’t it?

Oh, he’s not Swedish. I think I’ve already said too much.

Have the Hives never felt the need to exercise their own creative muscles?

We’ve had our run-ins. There have been ideas about maybe doing something else, but it feels pretty perfect.

Would the Hives – being the greatest rock’n'roll band in the world – be capable of being the greatest at any kind of music they turned their hand to?

We would be capable of playing it. I just don’t know how good it would be. For what we do, it doesn’t really matter that much, but the band consists of some pretty accomplished musicians and we could fiddle with jazz and fiddle with reggae, and a lot of bands seem to do that. But being more stylistically diverse is watering down what’s at the core of what you do, I feel. Even in art, there’s basically just Picasso who could have 50 different phases that were all genius. For most people, it feels more powerful if an artist has something you can immediately recognise, and what you want as a band is to have people saying: “Oh, that band is like the Hives,” not, “Oh, the Hives, they’re like that band …” And in order to get to that point you have to have an identity. And to have an identity you have to be consistent.

Have the Hives ever felt they have had anything in common with the raggare (9)?

At first there was a big rivalry between punks and raggare. We liked a bit of both – but we were more punks, so I don’t think the raggare took any notice of us. But there was a foot in each camp. It’s like in the UK, if you are a rod or a mocker, you can be a little bit mod and a little bit rocker.

You share that love of American cultural heritage …

Absolutely. Most of our influences come from America, and there is something to be said for how much awesomeness has come out of American culture, as young as it is.

How do you feel about the state of American rock’n'roll at the moment?

Pretty shit. But I feel like for a very, very long time it has been pretty shit. There’s always good stuff if you scratch the surface. But if you look at the nominees for best rock Grammy (10), there hasn’t been a rock band there for 10 years. It’s all pop bands with distorted guitars. Nothing blues-based, whatsoever. Well, a few things.

I take it you don’t have a lot of time for emo, then?

Not really. We used to like it in the 90s – there were a few emo things we thought were good and we liked. I liked Jimmy Eat World and Fugazi. Then I hear people say the second Weezer album was an emo album, which I don’t agree with at all. But for what it is now? No. It’s pretty shit. It claims to be rock’n'roll but it’s people constantly whining. Rock’n'roll is 50 drunk people in a room who want to have fun, but there’s something extremely unsexy about it being perverted into middle-class guilt and whining. We like our rock’n'roll sexual.

All those words have had their meaning changed. Punk means something completely different now, doesn’t it?

I have a friend who is writing a big bible on punk aesthetics. The last picture in the book was supposed to be a picture of Demi Moore on the cover of Architectural Digest, where it says “At home with Demi and Ashton” and she’s wearing a Sex Pistols T-shirt. That’s basically the end for punk. And David Beckham wearing a Crass T-shirt. It’s all the fault of stylists. Stylists and anyone in trend analysis. That’s the age of the hipster though – you take everything and you turn it into bland.

What does punk rock mean to you, then?

Punk rock to me is an era in rock’n'roll, one of my favourite eras in rock’n'roll. It’s also an attitude, and it’s been called different things – that attitude has existed probably since the youth gangs of Roman times. But my version of rebellion in puberty was punk rock, so it’s probably the musical genre that’s closest to my heart.

Over the past couple of albums the Hives have evolved. Do the gods of rock’n'roll look kindly on evolution?

I guess it depends. But yes. We do what we need to do in order to feel excited about playing rock’n'roll, and that sometimes means we need to stretch it as far as we can. I think The Black and White Album (11) was our way of going into space. But once we got there it was a little cold and lonely. So therefore now we have travelled to the Earth’s core. I think Lex Hives is probably our most classic rock’n'roll album. So I think the gods of rock’n'roll are smiling on us at the moment.

You have become adept at provoking crowds. Has it ever gone horribly wrong?

It has. It used to go horribly wrong all the time, when there were fewer people at the shows. Then it becomes more personal to the people you’re baiting. The crowds we used to play to – 20 punks – would have no issue with walking up on stage trying to fight us. You get some boos. But horribly wrong? You have to look it from an Andy Kaufman (12) perspective, where going horribly wrong becomes part of the art. Any reaction is better than no reaction.

It’s interesting you mention Andy Kaufman: do you feel kinship with the notion of playing absurdist pranks on your audience and daring them to get it?

We do feel like that, yes. Some of it comes from comedians, but comedians that are not necessarily funny. Andy Kaufman might be the best example – as long as he liked it, he didn’t really care what was going on. He seemed a little crazy too. Lenny Bruce, too – very confrontational standup comedians we took a few things from.

Is it hard to be an exciting band when rock’n'roll becomes a career rather than just an explosion of self-expression?

Everyone has that first moment, but if you don’t quit then invariably there is a career after that. And I think that career is sometimes underestimated. People always say: “Oh they were good once.” Like the Rolling Stones. First people said: “Oh they were good in 66.” Then people said: “Oh they were better in 71.” Then: “Oh they were also pretty good in 78.” If you are band for a really long time you will have peaks and valleys, and the first peak will be most noticeable because then you are coming from nothing. But I also feel what happens after the explosion can be underestimated. But the first time is always the first time: you’re worse at it, but it’s gonna feel pretty exciting.

Finally, how important are ninjas (13) to rock’n'roll, and should more rock’n'roll bands employ ninjas?

The skills that are required to be a ninja are also the skills that are required to be a good backline tech, so it’s worked really well for us. But I fear other bands probably shouldn’t, because then we’d have to beat them up.

And is a ninja more useful than, say, a samurai?

Yeah, the ninjas are just hired guns. You pay them and they do their jobs. Also, their agility and ballet techniques and rappelling are more useful to us than a samurai just waving their sword around.


(1) Mid-song, the Hives all, well, freeze. Then they start again. It looks great, and it costs nothing.

(2) You can see the Flaming Sideburns doing it here. The Decemberists do it, too. Come on, Howlin’ Pelle, you can do better than this.

(3) For the purposes of this interview, we will be taking all the Hives’ claims about themselves and their greatness absolutely literally. We leave it to you to decide whether or not to accept them.

(4) The 2002 compilation on Alan McGee’s Poptones label that introduced them to Britain.

(5) He was doing a round of interviews, so presumably he does talk sometimes.

(6) He’s actually Howlin’ Pelle’s brother.

(7) Actually, I didn’t. But given that the Hives are prone to creating their own mythologies, why can’t interviewers, too?

(8) The Hives have always claimed their songs are written and their activities directed by this mysterious svengali. No one believes them. One journalist, with more time than sense, gave it the Woodward and Bernstein treatment and disovered Fitzsimmons was a pseudonym registered to Nicholaus Arson. In other news, the pope is Catholic. And have you heard what bears do?

(9) The Swedish cult obsessed with 50s Americana.

(10) The actual award for best rock album appears to be given in turn to Foo Fighters and Green Day.

(11) The 2007 album that saw them working with hip-hop production team the Neptunes, and which did not make them the biggest band in the world.

(12) Have you seen the film Man on the Moon? No? Go and watch it. It’ll tell you all you need to know about Andy Kaufman.

(13) The Hives’ roadies are all ninjas. Or, possibly, people dressed as ninjas.

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Hot Chip: ‘We’re middle-class white kids, and we’ve never tried to hide that’

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

With a singular sound that nods to R&B, folk-rock and hip-hop, Hot Chip are among the greatest modern pop acts. So why, on the eve of their fifth album, are they still perceived asgeeks?

‘Best to get it out and be done with it,” Joe Goddard tweeted to me the other day. “Otherwise there’s just a geeky elephant in the room throughout.” The geeky elephant is the certainty that in any interview with Hot Chip, the writer – adopting the high-handed tone of some Victorian missionary inquiring as to whether this latest heathen tribe really does practise cannibalism – will ask the band if they are indeed geeks, or perhaps, at a stretch, nerds. At which point Hot Chip will roll their eyes, sigh, and explain that, no, they are not geeks, they are just not awfully fussed about stylists.

The thing is, when I try to sidle my way into this topic, halfway through our interview, I don’t want to accuse them of geekery. In fact, I struggle desperately to avoid using the word “geek”. To Goddard and Hot Chip’s co-leader Alexis Taylor, though, it must appear as though I’m just rackingmy brain for a synonym. The two men – friends since school – stare at me in silence, waiting for the word to spill out.

What I want to say is that Hot Chip don’t look like geeks to me. At this point, five albums into their career, they look – and sound – increasingly like one of the great British pop groups.They look like a gang – not a street gang, not a tough gang, but the slightly baffling boys who’d be in the corner of the school dining room, and who turn out years later to have been cooler than the rest of the sixth form put together.

It helps that they all look different – who said gangs needed to be identical? – as if each of them expresses some part of the collective Hot Chip personality. Of the two frontmen – who share a sometimes alarming taste in garish sportswear – Goddard is big and garrulous, Taylor small and self-contained. Their three bandmates – generally besuited – seem to occupy different roles. Felix Martin looks like an eccentric inventor, Al Doyle like a bedheaded partier, Owen Clarke like the token matinee idol. Watchingthemhave their photograph taken for the Observer – a process borne with varying degrees of amusement by the band members – it’s hard not to think: Hot Chip look peculiar, but they look great.

“I think you’re one of the only people who thinks that,” Taylor says when we sit down afterwards. Goddard just looks astonished before explaining that the “geek” thing is one of many misreadings of Hot Chip made in 2004 when they released their first album, a tribute to the US R&B and hip-hop they loved.

“If a group of people are going to bring out a record like Coming on Strong, maybe they’d really consciously try to put together an image that suggested they were into US hip-hop,” he says. “But we were middle-class white kids from Putney and we never tried to hide that. We just had a love of Destiny’s Child and the Beastie Boys. People are used to bands that tell you what to think about them by all dressing in leather jackets and Converse. And we just never did it.”

If they weren’t geeks, they faced the great catch-all insult of the last decade: they were hipsters. A reviewer of a 2004 live show wrote: “A little bird tells me that there’s a degree of Hoxtonite irony at play here, and that Hot Chip actually spend their spare time listening to such hyphenated genres as lo-fi, alt-country and post-rock.” As if Taylor couldn’t possibly have been just expressing the depths ofhis own love of Prince when he sang:”I’m sick of motherfuckers tryingto tell me that they’re down with Prince.” As if the spindly sound of theirdebut was some conceptual joke at the expense of American R&B, rather than a reflection of the fact thatit’s hard to make a Timbaland record on a laptop in a suburban bedroom.

What actually marks out Hot Chip, and something they have mastered on album five, In Our Heads, is an empathetic warm-heartedness. They are sincere: for all the detachment of Taylor’s falsetto, the cold squiggles of the synths, the sense that clever peopleare at play, Hot Chip actually remake soul music for the English middle class, swapping unbridled passion for diffident understatement.

“It was funny to be so misunderstood at the beginning,” Taylor says, “becausethat wasn’t something peoplepicked up on. I thought it was obvious the music was open-hearted.”

“There’s more humour and silliness on the first record,” Goddard says, trying to explain why it was misread.

“But it’s affectionate about records!” Taylor protests. “I think people are beginning to understand it, five albumsin.”

The vast distance between Hot Chipand those who use music as an ironic prop is made evident when they talk about current pop, and the motivations of its makers. “There’s quite a lot of cynicism now about how to make pop records and what the point of it is,” Taylor says. “I saw the lady from N-Dubz on a chatshow and they were asking how she felt about the band splitting up. She just talked about having to pay her mortgage being the main issue.”

Goddard complains about the lack of imperfection in modern pop, about it being full of records that “feel like they’ve come from a factory that tries to correct everything and takes out all the flaws that make everything really lovable for me. Pop music’s become quite conservative in a lot of ways.”

Hang on. Isn’t that reading ignoring the reality of pop’s past? Think back to the late 80s, to Stock, Aitken and Waterman’s Hit Factory churning out identikit singles by singers whose sole function was to look nice for the sleeve. Think back further to the svengalis of the 50s, 60s and 70s, whose sole concern was maximising production to maximise profit.

“Yeah,” Goddard admits. “Yeah, that’s true.”

“There are good examples of hit factories working, though – Motown and Phil Spector,” Taylor says. “I’m talking about the motivation of the people who are actually the pop stars, loving records and making records because of that. I think it was more to do with whether people have a fascination with the sounds of records.”

“You can make good records on computers,” Goddard concludes, “but it’s down to your intention.”

Listening back to our conversation, it’s remarkable how much of it – whatever the ostensible tack of any particular question – ends up being about the state of pop music. Taylor and Goddard seem to be always comparing Hot Chip to prevailing trends, and finding the prevailing trends wanting. They formed, Taylor says, because “we were quite dismissive of other music around”; they put a lot of work into being a good live band, Goddard says, “and it seems increasingly anachronistic, because most electronic pop acts would be a laptop and a singer”.

They look at the recent rash of nostalgia for first-wave rave culture and worry that dance music, like rock music, has just become another recyclable nostalgia commodity.

“I think it’s difficult for a musical movement happening now to be such a widespread thing, where everything else is swept aside,” Goddard says with an air of regret. “When that happened at the beginning of rave, it was the mostexciting thing in popularculture and it swept everyone along. Maybe that’s what makes it exciting to the people that are reviving it, the fact thatit cleared the decks. Like the Chase& Status video [for the 2011 single Blind Faith] – everyone in the pub is part of this thing that’s going tohappen; they’re all going off to therave.

“Now, if you’re in the pub with your mates, there’ll be people going to a jungle night, people going to a garage night. There’s not one thing that everyone’s into.” He looks up, like a big, sad St Bernard. “But you can’t stop the march of progress.”

The curious thing, though, is that Hot Chip are, as they recognise, the embodiment of that move away from the single hegemonic pop trend. Their own music contains many of the varied strands of dance music, steals from hip-hop and R&B, with melody lines taken from English folk-rock, attitudes from post-punk. Don’t Deny Your Heart, one of the stand-outs from In Our Heads, could be a great lost80s mainstream pop hit, with its bold sonic building blocks held together by the mortar of Al Doyle’s Chic-aping guitar.

Then there are the external projects that feed back in, notably Goddard’s 2 Bears house revivalism and Taylor’s adventures in improvisation with About Group. Somehow, through it all, they have contrived a signature sound. No one else sounds quite like Hot Chip.

“I think when we started out we were quite conscious of the idea that it had to sound like it was new in some way,” Taylor says. “Obviously, I can nowsee there are things other people hear in our music and it’s not asoriginalas we might want it to be. But what’s very important to how we make music is layering things togetherso it doesn’t just sound like the most obviousthings you could put on a record.”

And when something big and obvious is taken, its chemistry is altered so it ceases to be a steal and becomes an invention – like the Detroit techno riff at the end of 2010′s I Feel Better, played on steel pans, with the result that it sounds like a cyberman walking through carnival.

With In Our Heads Hot Chip return to the indie sector after three albums with EMI – it’s coming out on Domino, for which Taylor used to work way back when. They were there as the venerable label unravelled before finally being sold off, and it wasn’t a happy experience. “The last time we put a record out it didn’t really seem like EMI knew what it was doing any more, especially with our band,” Taylorsays. “EMI did good things with our band, and I don’t want to make out it’s a major v indie thing, but it definitely was a bad time to still be on that label.”

“I don’t think there was anyone left who was there at the start,” Goddard says. “Our A&R man decided to become a chef and went on MasterChef. He got pretty far. People really drifted away and they were often the people who were most passionate about good records. EMI treated us as a priority for a while, and we did OK, but we never sold as many records as they would have liked us to. And then they realised that and stopped treating us as a priority.”

“They have a history,” Taylor adds. “Kraftwerk and Kate Bush and the Beatles. But I started to notice that all the bands I really liked on EMI were from a long time ago.”

Even if EMI were never quite happy with Hot Chip’s level of success, they must have noticed the group’s inexorable rise to national treasure status – the Grammy and Mercury nominations, the top 10 albums, the sense that a new Hot Chip album was an event. What disappointed EMI has been incalculable success to Taylor.

“If a record was released by a company, for me that was what I was trying to have happen. I didn’t have grander ambitions than

being able to record music that got released. This small label called Victory Garden put out our first EP [in 2000] and that wasenough to make me feel that what we were doing was being recognised bysomeone.”

Finally, though, does EMI’s share price, indie v major cred wars or the state of the world really have very much to do with Hot Chip – with this world of their own making that Taylor and Goddard have taken from their classrooms and bedrooms to the centre of British pop?

“It’s a weird dream world when you’re making music,” Taylor says. “You’re just exploring things that are of interest to you. Why would that be something to take seriously?”

Hot Chip headline Camp Bestival in July. Hear In Our Heads a week before release at from June 4

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Have you ever seen a less fitting support than Slash’s pick for his London show?

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

The hard rocker has handpicked a veteran Dutch post-punk group to open for him at Hammersmith. Is this the strangest support choice ever?

Sometimes, even in music, it’s wiser to go with your head than your heart. The big romantic gesture is all very well, but think about the consequences before you make it. This week’s big romantic is Slash, whose hand-picked support for his Hammersmith Apollo show on 6 June has just been announced. Take a moment to think about who it might be.

You want a clue? An 80s band. No, not Dogs D’Amour or Hanoi Rocks or the Quireboys. Slash has picked a group he admires, and who are more or less certain to spend their 40 minutes on stage facing – at best – complete indifference or – at worst – a hail of flying bottles. He has picked a Dutch group called Minny Pops, famous for – if anything – being signed to Factory Records before Factory discovered ecstasy and smiling. Just in case there are any hard rockers out there thinking there must be some element of riffage in store, consider this line from a review of a recent reissue: “Minny Pops never intended to be a band at all. Preferable to them was the notion that they were some kind of art installation; a floating and transient (lots of members and direction changes) jumble of ideas.”

Nevertheless, the wholly unsuitable support is a great rock tradition – leading to far more memorable gigs than you get with a not-so-good version of the headliner. The Clash were experts at winding up their crowd, pitting country singer Joe Ely against the punks, and provoking a riot when they took out electro confrontationalists Suicide in 1978, a riot preseved for posterity on the 23 Minutes Over Brussels bootleg.

The German stage-destructing noise band Einstürzende Neubauten invited 70s rockabilly revivalists Showaddywaddy to open the show when they played in London in September 1987, while the Slovenian art-propaganda collective Laibach once employed a wood chopper to split logs on stage for 45 minutes.

The most ill-suited support I ever saw was at a Pogues gig at Hammersmith Odeon at Christmas 1985. In a spate of interviews that year, Shane MacGowan had been detailing his adoration for the Leeds post-punk band Delta 5. The promoter appeared to have been taking note – but not enough note. What we actually got was a dreadful Liverpudlian arena synth-rock band called Major 5, who appear to have disappeared completely from the planet.

Who’s been the most WTF? addition to a bill you’ve ever seen? Not the worst – you can be entirely suitable and terrible – but the one you know everyone concerned should have vetoed. Let us know.

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