Token Rose video now on YouTube

We’ve put Token Rose, from our Token Rose EP (available on Spotify, iTunes and bandcamp) now on YouTube. It’s not a “new” video proper, just assembling live footage from other videos… all very lo-fi! We don’t have a budget nor friends who can do cool videos for us haha.

We just wanted to put the song out there… you know… we’re still here, still trying to do something better and with more personality than the boring indie music most bands seem to do these days, in Liverpool as much as elsewhere. If you know any other band who’d do a song like Token Rose, with its alternate guitar tuning no-one else has ever used, rhythm track created with circuit-bent kids’ keyboard, moody vocals and which is heavy and rock’n’roll, do let us know! We’re not trying to sound like anything or anyone else – we’re just us and it’s fuckin’ good enough!

You get the picture.

Enjoy the darkness, anyway! And play it LOUD, mofos!

Dirtblonde Archives #6: When A Liverpool Band Came to Play in Brazil

Being Brazilian, I often go back to visit home, but it was only on one occasion that Lula and me managed to actually arrange some gigs in Brazil. Dirtblonde were the first Liverpool band to play in Brazil post-2000. In fact, the only Liverpool band who played before us were Echo & The Bunnymen in 1987. Here’s our story, it was our first adventure abroad…

dirtblondeinbrazil

 

Ah… that trip to Brazil will always bring back great memories! In the wake of one of our typical setbacks – namely, fighting with our label on the eve of releasing our debut 7″ single – we decamped to Brazil at the end of 2004, to escape the British winter and enjoy the Brazilian sunshine. I had brought my Epiphone guitar and drum-machine, but there were no plans to play any gigs. For all we knew, Dirtblonde would never play again, after the debut single fiasco!

I really don’t remember how things came about. At some point in the start of 2005, when Lula and I were living in a tiny flat between Copacabana and Ipanema, we decided that we would release ‘The Hangmen’ ourselves as  CD and download, and that we might as well get started and play some gigs in Brazil, while we’re at it!

The first step was to get some new gear, as cheaply as possible: Lula bought the cheapest bass guitar she could find, a Brazilian-made Fender copy that she still uses today – it’s one of the best and coolest bass guitars we’ve ever seen! I bought another guitar, also very cheap (like, under £30 probably) and barely playable – but it sounded good enough. I also got the basic setup I needed: a distortion pedal (Brazilian, excellent!); a wah pedal (also Brazilian) and I found a second-hand Boss delay pedal from an amazing guitar shop in Copacabana (the guy who owns it still remembers me, and always calls me “Jeff Beck” for some reason!)

paranoidflyer

Our flat was next to a popular basement night club we used to go almost every week in Copacabana, Bunker, and I think we’ve been to a gig there, and got some promoter contact. I recall he was called “DJ Terror”. He said he’d help us out and sort us a gig there.

First gig in Brazil took place on 4th February @ Bunker, Copacabana:

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It was the first time we covered Beat Happening’s ‘Black Candy’… and the gig ended in our usual noisy mess, as you can see above! It was one of the most fun nights we’ve ever had. We only got to play after 1am, the place was busy and after our set, we went to a house party with some of our new Brazilian friends – I remember the guy who drove us there was drunk (!) and I was playing a harmonica on the car.

People were jamming at the party, and I remember leaving and returning to Copacabana in time to watch a glorious sunrise on the beach, then going to a 24h snack bar ’round the corner. Perfect.

 

The second gig was at Teatro Odisseia, Lapa:

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Teatro Odisseia is one of the biggest and best music venues in Lapa, the bohemian hub of Rio. We were supporting Brazil’s foremost psych rockers, Jupiter Maca (aka Jupiter Apple for the international market). The funny thing is – we had been in touch with them  a few weeks previously, and they said they liked us and they’d see about sorting the support slot for us… but then never got in touch again! So we thought no more of it. That is, until the night of the gig! I got a phone call from the singer saying “So Ivan… what time are you guys coming down to venue?” just ONE HOUR before we were due onstage! We rapidly got our gear and went down to venue.  All of a sudden, we felt like a “proper” band – Jupiter Maca were quite popular and gig was a big deal… we had people asking for photos and autographs, and got interviewed for some cultural webzine, who filmed the whole gig.

As usual – we ended our set with a big noisy feedback orgy. People in Rio probably had not seen anything like this since Jesus & Mary Chain fifteen years earlier, and we got some big cheers.

 

Recording new songs…

Sometime before the next gig, we decided to book a recording session at a tiny studio in Tijuca, the neighborhood where I grew up, near Maracana stadium.  We recorded two old songs, Snow White and Pretty

We also recorded a new one we wrote with our best new Brazilian friends Ju, Bianca and Gabriela on a happy, drunken night at our Copacabana flat: I remember us watching The Evil Dead and playing around with our carnival costumes (including Osama Bin laden mask!).

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The song, however, was quite melancholic, and called Now That You’re Mine. The girls helped us in the studio: Ju sang backing vocals, Bianca played bass and Gabi played rhythm guitar.

 

Third gig: Baratos da Ribeiro Bookshop, Copacabana

Baratos da Ribeiro flyer... our favorite!

Baratos da Ribeiro flyer… our favorite!

Baratos da Ribeiro is one of the best bookshops in Rio, specializing on second-hand & rarities, comic books and vinyl records.  The owner was a crazy Brazilian who gave us an advice we never forgot: “Remember Iggy Pop… the audience don’t like nice performers, they like it nasty!”

It was one of the most fun gigs we ever played! The bookshop was tiny and it was rammed. We were playing next to the entrance so lots of people were watching outside, on the street. From casual customers, street kids, drunken old bums… the crowd was a total mixture of what you’d find on an early evening in Copacabana! It was the only time we played Now That You’re Mine live, with the help of our friends.

After the gig, we made friends with three poor little girls, who enjoyed the music! Most people (us included) would think that these three girls were homeless kids, but no: they told us their mum couldn’t afford to pay for anyone to care for them when she was out at work, so they’d roam the streets the whole day until they’d meet their mum to go back home. I remember we felt quite sad when it was time to leave them, they were some of the best kids we ever met, very bright and very happy, despite their situation. The photograph of us with them kids still hangs on our house today.

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Fourth Gig & Radio Show in Sao Paulo:

After those gigs in Rio, it was time to go to Brazil’s own answer to  Gotham – Sao Paulo! We had a headlining gig at a cool venue called Funhouse, not so far from the red light district, so to speak.  Seedy, but cool. We travelled to Sao Paulo by bus, a long journey taking us up the mountains that divide the South-East region of Brazil. Some amazing, very scenic sights, by the way – we recommend!

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I remember arriving to Sao Paulo and heading to it’s main artery, the Avenida Paulista. Lula was looking for a newsagent to get a bottle of water, I wanted to get a copy of O Globo newspaper, the biggest in Brazil, because they had an interview with us. The headline was “Liverpool Beyond The Beatles”.

Before the gig, we did the popular Garagem radio show at Brasil 2000 FM, a rock station in Sao Paulo. They played some of our songs (including the ones we recorded in Rio) and interviewed us. I remember we had a great, fun, mad time, and at the end one of the presenters produced a screwdriver out of nowhere and destroyed a Colin Hay CD live on air, in our homage – he wrote “DIRTBLONDE” on the CD, with the screwdriver!!! Now, that’s how you do a radio show!

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After the radio show (which we did about 2 or 3 days before the Funhouse gig) we travelled to a small tropical island, Ilha Bela (Beautiful Island). Unfortunately it was as rainy and cloudy as in England! But we still had a good relaxing time, before returning to the big city for our show.

funhouseflyer

The Funhouse gig was… fun! Once again, the venue was full and we did a rocking set. During the last song, I threw my cheap Brazilian guitar across the stage, and smashed it. I also remember jumping offstage and smashing a beer bottle on my guitar. Once again, a rockin’ mess… as IT SHOULD BE!

Afterwards lots of people came talking to us, take photographs and grabbed whatever they could from what was left of my guitar.

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It was fun.

Last gig in Brazil… back in Rio de Janeiro… back to reality in the UK

The last gig in Brazil was two days after Sao Paulo. We were supporting a cool shoegaze band we first saw in a dingy Lapa bar a few months before, called Cactus Cream. The gig took place at Clube Boqueiro, quite near MAM (Museum of Modern Art) in Botafogo… it was an outdoor space with views of the bay… amazing location! It should be a great farewell to Brazil… but alas, it wasn’t. I don’t remember exactly why… some of the other bands were shit… the sound wasn’t good… we didn’t play well… and I got pissed off, kicked a bottle and it nearly hit someone on the audience.


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Eventually… we had to head back to the UK. Back to reality. We released our debut single, to universal acclaim (well, everyone who heard it thought it was great! Our universe was small then) . Air France lost my beloved Epiphone Riviera sunburst. I had no insurance… all I got was £200 back, not enough to buy a new one. We went back to playing some shit gigs, unpaid gigs, gigs to audiences who didn’t get us. You know, our typical existence as garage rock’n’roll outsiders in Liverpool.

Other experiences abroad,  when we played gigs in New York in 2006 and at South By Southwest in 2009, proved again and again that for some reason, our sound was (IS!) more appreciated in other, more distant shores, rather than in our own backyard… what the fuck is wrong with Liverpool? I never found the answer, and now, in 2014 (!!!) I really couldn’t give a fuck. It’s just pathetic.

But, gigs are just gigs… good or bad, small or big…  it doesn’t matter. What made the Brazil time really stand out, was the good times we had, not just onstage, but offstage. We made some great friends, had some great times… and now, it’s all gone. Those days are just a memory. They were happy times, but happiness always plants the seeds to sadness, so looking back makes me quite melancholic.

 

I remember our last night in Rio, when we hung out with Ju, Gabi and Bianca, and when it was time to give hugs and say our goodbyes… it was sad, there were tears… I remember… but they were good times.

 

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POST SCRIPT:

I found my original reminiscences of our Brazilian tour, here’s what I wrote:

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Too Late (Acoustic demo)

We have just made available on our Soundcloud an old acoustic demo, Too Late. This is a song Dirtblonde have never played live before or had the chance to record properly. Listen now:

Ivan Hell’s New Music – Check it Out!

While Dirtblonde’s activities are on hold, Ivan is still making music with his new project(s) Songs About Death (www.songsaboutdeath.co.uk) and Lucifer Sams. Here’s his demo for a song called I’m Insane:

FILM NOISE night at Sound! Playing only film soundtracks!

FILM NOISE night at Sound! Playing only film soundtracks!

Ivan will be DJ-ing some cool soundtrack music, as well as doing a live set with the ever enigmatic Esa Shields. The duo will be scoring a projection of classic FW Murnau film, Faust (1926) using keyboards, synths, tape loops, copicat echoes etc. That weekend It’ll also be Sound Food & Drink 1st Birthday, so come to this event and let’s start to celebrate early!!!

Drone & Spoken Word for National Poetry Day!

To celebrate today’s National Poetry Day, Dirtblonde have decided to make a new track available, called ‘Your Story’. It mixes Ivan’s dronescape with Lula’s dark poetry. The original poem featured on Lula’s first poetry collection, At 3 o’clock I think of sex and death.

Dirtblonde’s next gig in Liverpool will take place at The Lomax later this month, on Friday 19th October, supporting The Shondes (from Brooklyn, NY). Also on the bill, So Sexual and Mashemon.

Mello Mello Liverpool Faces Closure!

Oh, shameful news. The Liverpool City Council strikes again… just a few days after we put a night there (coincidence of course, ha!)

Dirtblonde live at Mello Mello, Liverpool

Dirtblonde live at Mello Mello, Liverpool

Today’s post was supposed to be just a quick round up of Dirtblonde’s latest gig, which took place at Mello Mello in Liverpool, last Wednesday. But just last night, news came in that the popular venue is now facing closure, thanks to the Liverpool City Council, who once again seems hell-bent on destroying all that’s fun, bohemian and non-corporate in Liverpool.

Just a few days ago, we had a great time there, putting the latest Dirtblonde gig. We were supported by two ace bands – Beach Skulls, and SeaWitches (who just keep getting better and better!). We had some cool film projections, psychedelic lights and everyone seemed to have a great time.

Afterwards, an influx of happy drunk students flooded Mello Mello, all dancing to the “Dirtblonde Sound System” DJ playlist, which included Azaelia Banks’ ‘212’ (we just GOT to always play it!!!), Wugazi (‘Sleep Rules All Over Me’), Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd (‘Candy And A Currant Bun’), Lee Hazelwood & Nancy Sinatra (‘Some Velvet Morning’) and lots of the usual (for us) obscure 60’s French psych, which I’m obssessed with at the moment!

In short – it was great, cheap fun, that could only have happened in Mello Mello, a place that was cheap for us to hire, with good sound and a friendly staff.

We had many good times there (usually at Pete Bentham’s Free Rock & Roll…) and it’s a shame that now it’s seriously facing closure. We hope that the artistic community in Liverpool will once again fight – and beat – the Liverpool City Council! As  the Keep Streets Live campaign showed, when people get together for a good cause, we can fight the law and win!

 We urge anyone reading this to sign the Mello Mello petition, to stop Liverpool City Council from closing the venue!

Finally, here’s a statement from Mello Mello: ‘Liverpool City Council is set to force MelloMello CIC out of business. We will NOT let this happen.

We will fight Liverpool City Council’s unjustified and unexpected decision to slash our business rates relief from 80% to 0%, to demand £30,000.00 a year and force MelloMello into administration. We intend to explore every possible avenue available to us as Liverpool City Council have left MelloMello CIC, its employees, its customers, its users, its local community with nothing left to lose other than everything.

MelloMello was founded, run and staffed by volunteers who have turned a previously derelict building into a vibrant artistic hub of activity and business. The closure of MelloMello will result not only in the loss of facilities for grassroots artistic endeavours but also the loss of over 20 jobs, the loss of trade for other local independent businesses, and the loss of income of ANY business rates for the Council.

MelloMello has never received funding, grants, sponsorship or investment in order to grow. The success of MelloMello is that it has grown out of, quite literally, nothing into one of the city’s favourite bars/restaurants/venues.

‘For the Council to force MelloMello out of business by taking away the only charity it has ever relied upon sends out a clear message of cultural indifference, a blatant lack of acknowledgement for the people who have managed to build a sustainable not-for-profit business out of nothing, and serves as yet another affront to Liverpool’s musical, artistic and creative communities.

MelloMello is worth saving, because once it is gone you will never see anything like it again.

We must ACT NOW to SAVE MELLOMELLO, we must let Liverpool City Council know that MelloMello WILL NOT CLOSE DOWN without a FIGHT.

 

Dirtblonde + SeaWitches + Beach Skulls live at Mello Mello this week!

Dirtblonde play at Mello Mello Liverpool

How come no one in Liverpool has thought about this before? Putting these three bands –  three of the best and most unique guitar bands in Liverpool, we think! – to play on the same bill: Dirtblonde, SeaWitches and Beach Skulls.

Well, that’s exactly what’s happening this Wednesday at Mello Mello (Slater Street, corner by Parr Street) and fans of guitar music can’t miss this!

After all, this will be a very special bill, featuring sonic delights far superior to the usual safe, cliched indie that dominates most guitar music in the North West. Dirtblonde will bring our usual Sonic Youth-meets-Suicide-meets-Patti Smith noise; SeaWitches offer their very special blend of dark, psych guitar music; and Beach Skulls will open proceedings with their lo-fi surf music inspired by Link Wray (and approved by Ken Dodd!)

Add to this: cool film projections, psychedelic lights and the ‘Dirtblonde Sound System’ pumping some ace tunes through Mello Mello’s PA, all for the modest entry fee of £4, and you have all you need for a memorable evening.

If you’re in Liverpool this Wednesday 19th September, don’t miss this gig – after all, it’s not just Liverpool Biennial and the usual Freshers Week carnage going on this week… But some excellent rock’n’roll, too!

Details:
Dirtblonde + SeaWitches + Beach Skulls
Live at Mello Mello (Slater st.)
Doors 8pm / £4 entry

Facebook event page: http://www.facebook.com/events/447382738628947

 

Dirtblonde Archives #5: Playing at Leeds Festival

One of our most memorable early gigs, was when we landed a slot at a new bands stage at the Carling Weekend Leeds Festival. Of course, our gig wasn’t quite the Kasabian-style crowd pleasing set most festival goers like, haha…

dirtblonde live at leeds festival

Dirtblonde live at Leeds Festival

It was our biggest gig up until that point, so it was quite an exciting time. We were invited to come to the Leeds Festival press conference launch, a few months ahead of the gig, which was pretty cool. By pretty cool, I mean the usual – free booze and nibbles, of course! A few (shitty) bands were around, such as Pigeon Detectives, and festival organiser Melvyn Benn gave a little speech to the press. The NME were there  too, and it was the only time they ever mentioned Dirtblonde on an article (the fuckers, haha.)

One thing I remember, was chattting to some Hall Or Nothing PR lady, and thinking oh, that’s the kinda people big bands deal with – nice. I mean, I’m sure the music industry is full of assholes, but the toilet circuit has even more of them! I just thought how easy it must be for all those big signed bands, who can afford proper PR people etc… money can’t buy you love or happiness, but can certainly make the life of a rock’n’roll band easier. Being DIY ain’t a stroll in the park… So, it was interesting to see all the very professional people who grease up the music bizz machine… and they all seemed quite friendly and nice to be honest, as far as I remember.

Anyway, ahead of the gig itself, one of the coolest things was that we were given lots of free one-day Leeds Festival tickets to give away, so we got family and friends to come along… it was just great to be able to offer that to our mates!

Lula playing at Leeds festival

Lula playing at Leeds festival

On the day of the gig, in true rock’n’roll style, we got two friends to be our roadies, and crammed all our gear and camping stuff in a tiny old car (NOT very rock’n’roll… but a tour bus was a bit over our budget) and headed to Leeds!

Arriving at Braham Park, the site of Leeds Festival, was quite surreal. The first view we had was of the Main Stage, from behind, where at first we briefly parked our little car… right next to the big tour buses, because we were not quite sure where to go!

But still, even being just a little band, the overall festival experience was much, much better than if we went just as punters: smaller & more exclusive camping site, exclusive backstage hanging out area, cleaner toilets, exclusive bar where you could get your pissy Carling without facing huge queues. All told, pretty cool. It’s definitely better attending a festival as a performing artist, than as “the public!” Plus – we got to see many cool bands for free, such as Franz Ferdinand, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Long Blondes, Primal Scream, Serena Maneesh, Morning After Girls…

Lula rocking at Leeds Festival

Lula rocking at Leeds Festival

As for our gig itself. It was messy, loud, classic Dirtblonde – ie. some people loved, lots of people hated hahaha! No soundcheck, quite hard to get a good sound… but we just went for it, as we do. I had something written on my chest, don’t remember what, but started with “Fuck…”. I think it was “Fuck the Kooks”, the popular indie band that year.

During the last song – messy and improvised as always – I picked up a can of Carling beer and hit my guitar strings with it. So strongly that the can split open on the side, making the beer shower everywhere, as told on the previous Dirt Archives (guitar #5).

Ivan abusing a beer can at Leeds Festival

Ivan abusing a beer can at Leeds Festival

Some people loved our set, some people hated us (usually the “lads” who think bands like Kasabian are so “rock’n’roll” but can’t handle NOISE, haha).

We got some cool reviews. One reviewer even said that we were the 2nd most rock’n’roll thing to hit Leeds that weekend, after Peaches!:

“Liverpool’s DIRTBLONDE are the most enigmatic of the bands on this stage. They’re a punk duo with a spitting and snarling Ivan Hell on guitar and a gentle bass playing vocalist in Lula Blue… DIRTBLONDE achieve the wonderful result of driving a lot of bored people away while a small but fierce cluster of disaffected and wonderful looking kids are drawn like bruised moths to a rather guttering candle of venomous wax. Hell savages the security rails with his guitar in the finale and the new fans are in raptures… for the kids who love it this is the real thing, and probably the only dose they’re going to get all weekend.”

“Dirtblonde on the Topman Unsigned Stage are far more divisive, attracting looks of adoration or disgust from passers-by with their scuzzy rock’n’roll. Arrogant (one fan offering them a CD is knocked back with the words “I don’t want it if I’m not on it”), bolshy, rough around more than just the edges, it’s the second most rock’n’roll thing to hit Leeds today.”

And that’s how it should be done, really, in the gospel according to Dirtblonde – fuck joe public! Some people will inevitably love what you do, and some people will inevitably hate what you do – so  there’s nothing worse than trying to be a crowd pleaser, like so many cheesy indie bands do at festivals.

Lula during the Dirtblonde set at Leeds Festival

Lula during the Dirtblonde set at Leeds Festival

Some people were/are impressed that we played at such a major festival as Leeds Festival. To be honest, it’s no big deal, it was just a gig, and we played better ones in tiny venues such as The Castle Hotel in Manchester, to be honest. It was a memorable gig that, to me, just showed that nothing’s really impossible and even a little band such as Dirtblonde could land on one of UK’s biggest music festivals. But I wouldn’t call it a “career highlight”… that’d be depressing! The way I think is – my band is fucking good, so of course we had to eventually end up playing at a major festival… no big fucking deal. I don’t think any band should really brag, be proud or be surprised about any such “achievement”. If you think you’re good, whatever things you end up doing should come as something you expected, as the due course of things. If you don’t think you’re good enough to do these things, then don’t fucking be in a band in the first place!!!

Whenever we mention that we played in New York, Leeds Festival, SXSW… it’s never ever bragging about it, it’s just something we feel we need to mention to some promoters etc to show them that even though we’re not famous, people thought we were good enough to play at those places.

(Ironically enough, even though Dirtblonde are one of the few Liverpool bands who’ve played at Leeds Festival and SXSW, local festivals such as Liverpool Sound City tend to ignore us!)

Ivan at Leeds Festival.

Ivan at Leeds Festival.

The only surprising thing to me (or should I say disappointing)  is that we don’t play big festivals more often – we’re certainly good enough, but most promoters are idiots, of course.

It’s quite depressing that so many, forgettable indie bands get to regularly play at festivals just because they got a deal/PR/ managers… even though no one actually comes to those festivals specifically to see any of those bands lower in the bill or on the smaller stages!

At the end of the day, most music  festivals are shit anyway. Since that time we played at Leeds Festival, I never felt the urge to spend my money to attend another Leeds Festival again. To paraphrase Lula: If I’m not playing on it, I’m not interested in attending it!

Dirtblonde Archives #4: Museum of Destroyed Guitars

Ying and Yang. Light and Dark. Order and Chaos. Creation and Destruction. Life’s full of dualities. But when it comes to rock’n’roll… sometimes Destruction and Chaos take the lead! Here’s a heartfelt tribute to the memory of Dirtblonde guitars of gigs past, who didn’t quite survive to tell the tale. Destruction won, on these few occasions…

1) Brazilian “Contre Le Sexism” Jennifer bass

Broken Jennifer Bass

The first bass Lula ever used was my Brazilian Jennifer bass which I bought second-hand in Rio (a brand I never heard of before or since, btw). It’s a great sounding bass with a Fender Jazz Bass body but with a narrow Epiphone-like neck. It’s still my favourite ever bass, which I still play at home to this day. And it only has 2 strings… because Lula was the one who inaugurated the era of destruction in Dirtblonde, breaking the headstock at the ending of the 2nd ever Dirtblonde gig! Luckily, the headstock broke in a quite nice, neat way, allowing the bottom 2 strings to still be played normaly. It also looks dangerously pointy… which is cool. I’m always trying to convince Lula to use it live again, but she refuses, since now she’s got two bass guitars of her own. I think the last time she used it was at the Liverpool Calling gig with Pravda at Korova, a few years ago. Boo!

2) The “Tragic Perfect” Stratocaster

Tragic Perfect Squier Stratocaster

I really don’t remember how this Squier Stratocaster finally met its maker in the Great Guitar Shop In The Sky. I remember throwing it across the room at our Ladyfest gig in Leeds. The body got cracked, but I carried on playing it for quite a few more gigs, having gaffer tape wrapped around the body to keep it together, but after one throwing too many, that was it for the guitar. However… as fucked up as it is, it sounds great for Sonic Youth-y droney sounds. I’ve been experimenting with it recently and hopefully it may still be used in future Dirtblonde songs!

3) The “Stay Free” no name Brazilian

Ivan's Stay Free guitar

When Dirtblonde played in Brazil, I had to buy an extra guitar. The only thing I could afford, at my favourite second-hand guitar shop in Copacabana, was this unbranded, piece of shit. It was the cheapest guitar on offer. To be honest…  with the distortion pedal it sounded pretty good and today I remember it fondly. Got no idea what kind of guitar it was or who made it, and it looked pretty cool. It was destroyed at our gig at Funhouse, in Sao Paulo. I remember soem Brazilian dude getting all excited with the remnants of the guitar and keeping it as a souvenir.

4) The “Rock’N’Roll” Teisco/ Audition

Wrecked Teisco/ Audition vintage guitar

One thing I must make clear, is that guitar smashing is NOT a normal ocurrence in Dirtblonde gigs. It happens sometimes, in the heat of the moment… sometimes when the gig is really exciting, or when the gig is shit and I feel frustrated. It’s not something I take lightly… ie. it’s not me indulging in some luxury. Most times, I can’t really afford to smash guitars! In the past, we had to spend certain lenghts of time without playing gigs because I didn’t have an instrument and couldn’t afford a new one! And then, when I was finally able to get something, I bought this Teisco/ Audition guitar, because that was literally all I could afford – got it for £40 on Ebay! And for almost a year it served me well. I remember I smashed it hitting the guitar on the ceiling, at The Magnet’s basement. It was a shitty gig and I didn’t mean to break the headstock… but that’s cheap guitars for you! I still got the neck and I hope to use it to make a Coke bottle guitar, similar to the one Jack White made inthe film It Might Get Loud!

5) Hohner Les Paul Copy

Ivan destroying guitar at Leeds Festival

I remember I got this really cheap from Cash Converters. I don’t remember ever liking it much… again, it was all I could afford at the time. But it did the job, for a short while.

Ivan destroying the guitar at Leeds FestivalWhen we played at Leeds, it was quite electric… the sound was terrible, but we were excited and wanted to really rock the place.

During the last song I hit the guitar with a can of Carling, which exploded open in a big shower of piss beer, then I jumped offstage and into the barrier separating the crowd from the stage, hitting the Les Paul until it was fucked. A member of the Leeds Festival security team was heard saying “I was trained to protect the band from the audience, not to protect the audience from the band”. Gig over. 

I kept the body and a few years later decided to turn it into an artwork!

Ivan's Guitar artwork, with the guitar destroyed at Leeds Festival

Ivan’s Guitar artwork, with the guitar destroyed at Leeds Festival

6) The New York Guitars

Dirtblonde's New York Guitars

We wanted to travel light, so we arrived in New York with 5 gigs booked and no instruments to play! Lula bought her bass second-hand from Craig’s List and arranged to pick it up after we arrived, in Union Square. I bought my Epiphone Les Paul Junior from Guitar Center in Downtown Manhattan (an ace place!!!).

Ooh… I really loved that guitar. But things ended on a dark note when we had a big fight and I just dumped the guitar in some corner of the Lower East Side, possibly by Delancey st… a few minutes before we were due to play at Arlene’s Grocery (the venue were The Strokes used to play). I thought that was the end of Dirtblonde, to say the least, and the trip ended on a somewhat bitter tone. Also, I’ve actually never seen another Les Paul Junior like this again, and it really bugs me! I want to buy one just like it someday, and play in New York again and replace all the bad memories for good ones. Someday it’ll happen, I hope! (ps: I don’t remember what happened to Lula’s bass. I think she got rid of it in New York too, or maybe sold it once we returned to the UK)

7) The “Corsican” Epiphone Coronet

Bloody Epiphone Coronet

Here’s another cool guitar that met its end under shitty circumstances. I got this rare, cool Gold Epiphone Coronet second-hand from Ebay and I used to quite like it. Eventually, I decided to paint it dark brown to make it look a bit less shiny. Anyway, one of the frets came off just a little bit, and this guitar became a truly blood-thirsty beast. every time I’d play a gig, it’d end up soaked in blood. I never bothered to fix because I wanted to save money and, well, blood is pretty cool.

However… it met its end at Korova, when, once again, Lula and I had a big fight. This time, onstage. She stormed offstage and, drunken and in frustration, I smashed the guitar. It wasn’t a pretty sight. A friend actually filmed the whole (short) gig… where I can be seen smashing the guitar and then facing the audience and saying “there, you like it?” and someone comes and holds me, probably thinking I was going to kick off and smash the whole of Korova! It was a shitty time and some people thought it was the end of Dirtblonde.

8) White Epiphone SG

Ivan Mod guitar artwork

I got little recollection of this guitar. It was a cheap one I got from new, but it didn’t last long. I played maybe one Dirtblonde gig with it, two at most. I used it for my “bagism supergroup” when I organised the bagism event at View Two Gallery in Liverpool… and that was it. Eventually, I used the guitar on a new artwork which still hangs on the wall of our rehearsal room.

9) Sunburst Epiphone Les Paul Junior a.k.a. The Frankenstein

broken Epiphone Les paul Junior

This is probably my favourite guitar! I can’t even remember when I got it, but it’s always been a joy to play. One day, at Korova, when we were playing with Pravda, things got a little too exciting and I smashed the guitar. Thankfully, the body was intact. I took it and the neck of the smashed white SG mentioned above, which was also intact, to John’s Guitar Shop on Aighburth road, and he made a “Frankenstein” guitar for me!!! So… so far, this Les Paul Jr. is the only guitar who actually survived being destroyed, and I still use it at Dirtblonde gigs… a Sunburst Les Paul guitar with a white SG neck, very unique!

10) Vintage V2 Telecaster copy

Vintage V2 bloody Telecaster copy

Oooh, how I used to love this guitar! Here’s another example of a blood-thirsty instrument. I played it on most tracks of our debut album. I loved how it sounded… but it was destroyed after a bad-tempered performance at Glasgow’s Nice’n’Sleazy. I remember I was really drunk and really pissed off, and decided to smash the guitar to vent angst and to make the journey back home a little… lighter. Once again, there was that feeling I just couldn’t be bothered and didn’t wantto play live ever again! Also, I never bought another Telecaster, because too many trendy indie bands started to use them.

11) Vintage V100WR Wine Red Les Paul Copy, the Teenage Bride

vintage v100wr broken

Another one of my favourite guitars. Quite an underrated instrument, this guitar is a copy of the 1970s Les Paul Deluxe, with mini humbuckers that sound GREAT! I only used it for one song, ‘Teenage Bride’, which requires a very unique tuning, so needs a dedicated guitar for gigs. This guitar was broken at the ending of our South By Southwest gig at Emo’s Annex, getting soaked in blood, too. 

Once back in Liverpool, I took it to John’s Guitar Shop to be fixed, and carried on playing it until 2011, when I threw it across the stage at The Kazimier, when we played at the Chew Disco night. So… I took it to be fixed, refret etc once again, and it’s in great condition once more! However, I’m too afraid to use it live again, certainly not as the last guitar of the night, always a dangerous job! So I gave it a new experimental tuning and occasionaly play around with it. Hopefully will be used in future Dirtblonde songs and gigs.

12) Ivan Hell Custom “Love For Failure” Stratocaster

Ivan Hell with his custom Love For Failure Stratocaster, at mello mello

This is a very, very special guitar. It was a Stratocaster copy customised by my friend and guitar guru Denis. It has Telecaster pickups and some unique pickup switching configurations, that make it sound, at the flick of a switch, at times like a Telecaster, like a lipstick equipped Danelectro, or as fat as an SG. Pretty cool. It became the new Teenage Bride guitar, usually used as the last guitar on the last song of the set.

So, I ended up smashing it (or rather, its neck) when we played Free Rock & Roll at Mello Mello. The story is here. I quite miss it and it’s due to be fixed so hopefully it’ll make a comeback!

And so, our list of broken guitars comes to an end. For now, anyway…

UPDATE! 19/07/2012

13) Epiphone Dot ES335 Sunburst

Fuck, totally forgot about yet another guitar smashed at a Dirtblonde gig! I didn’t this guitar for long either, I don’t even have any image of me playing it. Smashed at our first – and only – gig in Sheffield, in 2008.

It was yet another of those gigs when we didn’t play to that many people, the sound was crap, we played crap and I smahed the guitar in frustration and decided never to play again… I still feel like a dick for smashing this one, it was a nice guitar! But at the time I was working in a music shop, with regular income and could buy guitars cheaply… so my temper got the better out of me. I guess I never felt attached to this guitar because it was just a poor relation to my 1990s Epiphone Riviera, which Air France lost!