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Live at The Barfly, Cardiff, Wales - 12 May 2003
concert review and interview
More Confuzion at Musical Discoveries
review and interview © Stephen Lambe 2003
HTML and editing © Russell W. Elliot 2003
images © Stephen Lambe 2003
more photos from gig at Confuzion's website
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Last updated: 31 May 2003
Confuzion are five-piece band from Reading, UK, fronted by the delectable Emma Pook. Emma has an excellent voice, capable of blasting out the band's louder songs in operatic style, while demonstrating a warmer style on the quieter and funkier numbers. The rest of the band are Nick Willson on keyboards--who combines a 'classic' Hammond sound with some jazzy piano and some interesting synth sound-scapes, and Pat Kohlhammer, who is an excellent, mobile, guitarist. Dave Woodage (bass) and Nick Mylum (drums) provide a tight, technical rhythm section. Read our concert review and exclusive interview with the band members below.
The venue is small and intimate, and the band do not have much space to play with. Emma and Pat are sandwiched between Nick Willson's keyboards and Thijs Van Leer (of Focus') trusty Hammond. With Emma dressed somewhat less skimpily than the promotional pictures on the band's website (allowing greater concentration on the music!) the band play a set culled from their debut album Opposition (review) and one new song, "Perspective."
Thankfully, the band can certainly produce the goods live. Nick's piano introduces "Corporate Whore," a lively, funky piece with more than a hint of jazz about it with Emma on fine form and Pat and Nick soloing freely. "18124" is another excellent song, with a great groove and Emma showing off her impressive range, while "Reasons" slows things down a little but has some great guitar from Pat. "Dreamland" is a glorious jam with some great progressive organ. "Perspective" on first listen, sounds interesting. It is a more complex piece with some great slap bass from Dave.
"American Psycho" is another funkier song, while "Turn Out the Sun" is pure heavy rock with Emma rasping the lyrics with venom, (despite a faulty microphone), and some great guitar and John Lord-style organ. The set closes with the triumphant "At the End of the Day" (a personal favourite), with its glorious hook and great organ and drum duet.
The complete set list from the gig: "Corporate Whore," "18124," "Reasons," "Dreamland," "Perspective," "American Psycho," "Turn Out the Sun," "At the End of the Day."
During the interval between Focus' sets, Musical Discoveries joined the band for a Whopper in a nearby Burger King. We had a boisterous, fun and often revealing conversation. Keyboard player Nick Willson is very obviously the band-leader (and the provider of the band's studio), while Emma Pook, by far the band's youngest member came in for some playful teasing. A big fan of Rush, regular lyricist and drummer Nick Mylum also contributed frequently to the conversation, with Pat and Dave chipping in from time to time.
We are very excited to have interviewed such a promising band at such an early stage of their career. They are clearly ambitious, but also great company, and we hope this comes across in the interview.
Musical Discoveries: So where did the name Confuzion come from?
Nick Willson: I honestly can't remember, but sometimes a name sort of sticks. I think it's clever in some ways, because you have 'con' meaning 'with' and 'fuzion' [sic] -- we couldn't really label ourselves. We thought we were a sort of fusion of styles. And we could get a web page.
You mean the domain name was available?
Nick Mylum: (Laughing) There lies the actual truth of the matter!
Nick W: Mind you, the best band name in the world is Cooper Temple Clause (another Reading-based band).
So what's the philosophy behind the band? Why did you form in the first place? I hear you had a male lead singer to start with--
Pat Kohlhammer: Yes..it was an experiment.
Dave Woodage: We were just going to do a three track demo originally, and the singer wrote all the songs.
Nick W: The drummer left--by mutual consent--and then Nick [Mylum] came in, and all of a sudden there was this chemistry that wasn't there before. It just sort of clicked, and we thought 'hang on, we've got something that's a bit more serious.' We had four musicians who just seemed to gel, and we started to come up with more complex stuff.
Did you decide that you wanted to play a particular type of music at that time?
Nick W: No. We've never decided that, really.
Emma Pook: The only reasons we've branded ourselves a rock band now is because you have to! People ask, "what are you?"
Nick M: And the reason we brought in Emma was because as soon as we realised we could do something reasonable, we looked at ourselves and said, "we're too old." So because we're old geezers, we asked ourselves, "how are we going to market this band?" So we got in someone with big boobs (laughs).
Emma: So that was my interview: "What's your bust size?" That's the long and short of it.
Nick W: We didn't have to ask!
Emma: Shut up!
So how did you get Emma then?
Nick W: I run a recording studio, and Emma was in another band. She came in, and I was very impressed. But I didn't think she was ...
Emma: Fulfilling my potential--so they stole me!
Nick W: So we decided to part company with the singer that wrote all the material, because he was a bit old and crusty. We had to think about the commercial aspects. It was either stay with him, or get someone that would make us a bit more appealing to the masses. We still see him from time to time.
Emma: Can I just say that I'm not in the band just because I'm a female and I've got boobs!
Well, one of the things people have said about the band is that you've got a great voice. What some people call an 'operatic' voice.
Emma: I've had vocal coaching for years and years and it was classical training.
In fact, some of the reviews I've read have likened your voice to Tracy Hitchings, though hers is more operatic in my view.
Emma: I'm sorry--I've never heard of her!
Nick W: Anyway--so we did the album--between Christmas and New Year.
Emma: Seven days--job done.
Nick W: It took another week and a half to produce it, and we're really pleased with it, but since then we've begun to discover where we're going now.
The album's got a very live feel to it.
Dave: And we recorded it without a singer.
Emma: Yes, I came and did it afterwards.
Well, that doesn't show, I have to say.
Nick W: We had to record it live, because I couldn't play and e ngineer at the same time, so I basically just brought the whole desk down into the studio and just pressed record.
Nick M: That's what I enjoyed about it, though, because when I was a kid you would read about bands like Led Zeppelin, who just threw the gear up in a corner and played , and you thought, "well, that's musicianship."
Emma: There's no need to do twenty takes of one part.
Nick W: There are some mistakes on the album, but we'd rather have it like that--raw and authentic.
Emma: People say we're better live, too.
I thought you were very good tonight, very tight.
Nick M: You always worry about that, because you never know. It's nice to hear someone else say it.
So have you got a feel for where you're going as a band now?
Nick W: The only track you won't have heard before is "Perspective" which was the first one we wrote after we did the album. It has a very different sound to it. And the new one that we've started on is different again, dare I say it, it's quite Yes-ish.
Ah, so you're getting progressive!
Nick W: Yeah, but we want to keep the strong song element. It's instrumentally good and clever and exciting, but with a very strong vocal theme to it.
Nick M: It's about how you feel about it. The new one I get a real kick out of playing, because you can feel that we've stepped things up a bit.
Emma: You're challenging yourself more.
Nick M: Yeah, there's more a feeling that you're getting what you expect out of yourself. Emma has the sort of voice that we could write a really commercial song for her. Something like Cher!
Emma: You could be Emma's backing band!
Could you ever see yourselves going that way?
Nick W: No. But it's difficult. You want to show that you're technically good, but you don't want to get stuck in some niche market. This is where the strong song element comes in. Hopefully that will appeal to the bigger audience while still remaining instrumentally rich.
Nick M: I don't think anyone in the band likes commercial music anyway!
Emma: I do!
Nick M: Well, nobody likes the same music. It's bizarre.
No, I don't think it's bizarre, really. It's how great bands are made. By clashing, sometimes. So, how aware are you of some of the other bands around in the same sort of genre as you, like Mostly Autumn and Karnataka? It occurs to me that there is a sort of classic rock movement happening at the moment.
Nick W: There's a backlash from young kids who are fed up with all the processed stuff that's about. There's a rebellion going on where they are looking back at what happened in the 70s, which is where our roots are. All bar Emma of course, who's a mere baby! The rest of us have the 70s as our base influence.
Nick M: Yeah, The Wombles! [Ed note: The Wombles were a 70s British novelty act.]
Nick W: I get a lot of bands coming into the studio, and they're going to see older bands, and you can hear it in their music. It's got a modern edge to it, but you can hear it in the influences. It's brilliant.
So what about all your influences? Who are your favourite bands?
Pat: Oh, blimey. Anything from Van Halen, Hendrix, to Jeff Beck. I've become more of a Focus fan recently. Deep Purple, Zeppelin.
Dave: I play bass but I'm a guitarist. For me Gary Moore is God! I started off as a drummer, and I played guitar for 15 or 20 years.
Nick W: Well it was Focus for me. Focus, Purple, Supertramp and Floyd. Oh, and Nektar. When I started playing in bands I had a real Supertramp style, but John Lord is my main influence. I'm also a big Porcupine Tree fan. I saw them live a couple of months ago, and didn't like them. But their albums, I love.
But anyway, what about your influences, Emma?
Nick W: Steps!
Emma: Shut up! No, actually I like bands like New Order, and as for female singers, I like people like Cher and Anastacia.
Ah, now, strangely enough I'm a big Anastacia fan. What a voice!
Emma: I'd love to be able to sing like that.
Nick W: Our ambition, at the moment, is gig and gig and gig--just tour as much as we can and get the name around.
Have you got many lined up?
Nick W: We've got good quality ones, but they are few and far between.
What about a support tour?
Nick W: Well this is what we'd like to do really. It's not easy. You almost need a readymade audience. You can play in front of 300 or 400 people who are there to see the other band, and you know you'll win a percentage of them over. There might be some tonight who buy the album as a result, who knows?
Emma: We've had a lot of people asking about the website tonight. I've given out loads of free singles.
Nick W: It's interesting to watch the sales of the album. There are always peaks when there's some sort of band activity. Gigging's the way forward, I think. It's what we get off on. In the meantime we're writing. Each time we finish a song, we record it. "Perspective" is finished and ready for the album. We're now on the new song "Why does it have to be that way?"
Emma: Is that what it's called? It's a bit of a long-winded title, Nick!
Nick W: Well, just call it "It" then! In a month or so, that'll be done and ready!
Emma: And the second album should be done in October.
Nick M: There's loads of lyrics written. There's lots of stuff ready just to stitch together.
Nick W: We got a thousand of the first album pressed, which won't be enough really, but there's no way we could afford a distribution deal, so we're selling it through the website.
You have to be quite aggressive to promote yourselves.
Nick W: I think you have to be. It's a question of time and energy, really. You can't get the major shops. Distribution is a nightmare. The Classic Rock Society has been good, though. It's interesting looking at the album sales as a result of the coverage we've had in the magazine (Rock Society). They've been all over the country. Maybe 60% up north, but the rest down here.
Emma: We've had two in Austria, thank you!
Nick W: We really want to aim at Northern Europe. Germany, Holland, Belgium, Scandinavia.
Nick M: The problem is when you look back at the biographies of most bands like us who have "made it," they've usually done it by piggy-backing someone else's tour. Even Rush did it that way. And then Primus supported Rush in 1992 on the Roll The Bones tour, and a lot of us went out and bought their albums as a result.
Nick W: Well, we're determined to tour like mad.
Presumably you all do other things as well!
Emma: I graduate from College in July, and then it's a case of ... quick boys, help me out! ...
Nick M: Well, if we had eight hours a day just to play music, we'd be twice as good as we are.
Pat: I was reading about Chess records and Muddy Waters. The only way he could make any money was to paint the Chess studios.
Nick W: But this is what we live for. Nobody has ever talked about a major record deal or being famous. We just believe in our music, and we want the world to know about it! If it's a small number of people that get off on it, fine. If it's major, fine too! All we can do is play what we believe is good and what excites us, and then whatever will be, will be.
Well, with that comment as a final statement from the band, that's probably a good place to end! Thanks very much.
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