Review Fix chats with Noko From Am I Dead Yet, who discusses the band’s origin, goals and creative process.
Review Fix: How did the project start?
Noko: The origins of ‘Am I Dead Yet?’ go back to 1992 when I was producing Mary’s first post-Gaye Bykers On Acid album ‘Metaphasia’ (by the band that eventually become Hyperhead). There were a couple of songs on there that were going in a moodier, darker more film noir direction than the rest. We were enjoying that particular trajectory and said ‘we must make a whole album like this one day’. Later in 1996, Mary joined my band Apollo 440 and even then, every once in a while, we’d refer back to that conversation. We never got round to it until 2017 when Mary came back to England from Brazil.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Noko: Our working relationship is remarkably effortless: somehow we both kinda know what our respective jobs are, and respecting each other’s ability to do it without too much high-concept discussion, we just get on with it. Broadly speaking the musical soundscapes and production are my dominion and Mary’s the lead singer and primary lyricist, though there are songs where I’ve written all the lyrics and others where the musical idea came pretty well formed from Mary. We act as bullshit detectors to each other : if one doesn’t like something the other’s doing, there’s usually a good reason for it and we try something else without any fuss. Trust me, it’s not like that in most creative partnerships!
Review Fix: What’s your standout song? How was it written?
Noko: It’s not for me to say what our standout song is. That’s your department.
If what you’re asking is which is my favourite from the album, I’d have to say ‘Joe Meek Shall Inherit The Earth.’
The rise of reality celebrity culture: the modern idea that stars are made on gameshows and that simply wanting to be famous in itself is enough… where did that come from?
It’s kind of a roll-call-to-arms celebrating a great tradition of maverick misfits, weirdos and outsiders that dared to dream out loud and in the process shone more brightly. That’s where real star quality resides. There’s a line in the song ‘Revolutions come about through random acts of rage’. That’s about the top and bottom of it.
The Stylophone solo I play in that one is a kinda homage to the great record producer Joe Meek and his optimistic, futuristic 1960s hit ‘Telstar’ which topped the UK and US charts. Joe’s a kind of cypher for all of that stuff. He was a very highly-strung paranoid character who though everyone was out to get him and it didn’t end well.
Review Fix: What are your goals for 2019?
Noko: To get through it without joining any more bands.
Review Fix: How do you want your music to affect people?
Noko: I was watching Ricky Gervais’ brilliant show ‘Afterlife’ last night. The way it walks the razor’s-edge balancing act between the abject bleakness of modern life and the glimmers of hope that the human spirit manages to always dredge up from the bottom of the sludge. That’s kinda where I’m standing.