INTERVIEW: Urban Voodoo Machine | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Despite Urban Voodoo Machine having to reschedule their date at Stockton’s Georgian Theatre twice now, it’s clear they’re are excited to be returning to the North East. After a triumphant turn at last year’s Stockton Weekender, London’s finest gypsy blues rockers will be boppin’ and strollin’ back to Stockton on Friday 22nd May.

When I first listened to The Urban Voodoo Machine I felt an immediate connection to another band I recently interviewed, Gogol Bordello, who are similarly hedonistic and exuberant in style, but when I spoke to lead singer Paul-Ronney Angel (P-R for short) he was quick to put me right. While he is a fan of the gypsy punks, he’s keen point out that their sounds come from totally different places: “I quite dig them but the fact that we have ever so slightly similar instrumentation to them is where it ends. Our music has influences from rockabilly, rhythm ’n’ blues, Latin, gypsy, gospel, country and assorted bad-ass roots music.”

P-R hails from Norway, but knows plenty about life in England’s biggest city (“most of the songs are set in modern day fucked-up London!” he says). “I’m a songwriter and I started this project as an outlet for my songs and ideas. If I’m honest, I usually prefer writing on my own. When a song comes to me it’s like I get possessed or something – a higher power is involved and it just has to come out! That said, I have co-written some great songs with Nick Marsh, J-Roni-Moe, Gary Mills, Joe Whitney, Robb Skipper and Jim Jones for this band – I have some talented brothers!”

Another household name who appears on The Urban Voodoo Machine’s squad list is legendary Dr Feelgood vocalist and guitarist Wilko Johnson, who has had a well-documented struggle with cancer in recent years. “It was amazing to work with Wilko, we just plugged in and recorded some bad-ass gospel-infused rockabilly together.”

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“When a song comes to me it’s like I got possessed or something – a higher power is involved and it just has to come out!”

The title of their latest album is Love, Drink & Death, spawned from more than a few complicated events, not least the death of their fiddle player Robb ‘The Kid’ Skipper. Although it’s the imminent birth of P-R’s child that may be informing the next record: “I write about shit I know – I guess there might be some songs about nappy changing coming your way soon then! Not much chance of me getting down to earth anytime soon though!”

The rambunctiousness of The Urban Voodoo Machine is clear to see in their videos and their lyrics, but is that a full-time position or is P-R a whizz with excel spreadsheets? “I can only talk for me and it’s certainly a full time position for me. Everyone does different stuff in their role in the band as well as different stuff in their other lives. We run our own record label, club night and management so there’s a lot of ‘behind the scenes’ stuff going on, so it’s not all on-stage rockin’ and getting loaded.”

As a live act, accusations that the band – P-R himself in particular – are over-theatrical is met with a scoff of scorn. “You can sit at home and listen to our albums. All four albums have great songs, musicianship, production and packaging – or if you want that bit of ‘extra’ then come and see us live, and don’t forget it’s a drink-a-long, clap-a-long, sing-a-long affair. Our show is a two way deal – if the audience wants to have a good time, we’re there to give it to them!” In fact, you might get a bit more than you bargained for, as P-R exclaims. “I used to do a strip-tease double act with my twin sister, the legendary fire-eater Lucifire, but now we try to stick to saxophone and guitar – and we even branch out to castanets and banjo during the set. You’ll never know what might happen at the aftershow though…”

P-R himself is more than just a PR message, he lives the life, and there’s no fakery at play. Take for example, their outfits. Dressed to the nines, they are classy but swampy, red and black is the theme. “We are the best dressed band on the planet and have no intentions of sharing our secrets! Honestly, rock ’n’ roll bands are supposed to dress as well as us, it’s just gone wrong somewhere down the line when it became acceptable to gaze at your shoes and wear bloody anoraks onstage! Personally I really don’t own many ‘conventional’ clothes and the way I dress onstage is the way I am. It’s a lifestyle really – you won’t be seeing me turning up at sound check in jeans and trainers!”

Unconventional, fun, bourbon soaked, talented and mysterious, The Urban Voodoo Machine are the kind of band who will have you sweating on the dancefloor and beating a path to the record shop.

The Urban Voodoo Machine play The Georgian Theatre, Stockton on Friday 22nd May. Original tickets still valid.

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