Interview: Music Express 1991
"Cherubic Youngsters With Mischief On Their Minds"
Music Express, April, 1991 (Thanks to Jojo for this one!)
By Kevin Murphy
At times you might be forgiven for thinking that Manchester was the only musically active volcano in Britain. So when the West Country errupted to the sound of EMF and their debut single, "Unbelievable," last year, the shock waves spread quickly throughout the U.K. as the group trashed its way onto the charts and into the affections of a nation being spoonfed Putrids On the Block.
Now, as "Unbelievable" is let loose on this side of the Atlantic, the band has the harder task of convincing Americans to forsake their own candy-coated contrivances in favor of five cherubic youngsters with baseball caps on their heads and mischief on their minds.
EMF shop at the same musical supermarket as fellow Brit groups Jesus Jones and Pop Will Eat Itself, but unlike some of their counterparts, EMF's trolley has a fresh lick of paint and isn't quite as loaded up with cynicism and rhetoric.
Formed some 18 months ago, EMF (which includes James on vocals, Mark on drums, Derry on keyboards, Ian on guitar and Zac on bass, augmented by DJ Milf) was signed by EMI after only a handful of gigs in and around the Forest of Dean area, where its members grew up. The band's first provocative move was their choice of name, although they deny it.
"Everybody thinks it stands for Ecstacy Motherfucker," explains Derry in his broad West Country accent, "but it doesn't. We're just stringing people along. We never do things to shock: we're just taking the piss." Perhaps the fact that the B-side is called "EMF" and boasts the chorus, "E: ecstacy! M: motherfucker motherfucker! F: from us to you!" might have something to do with the confusion.
What EMF does stand for, however, is the return of adrenalin-fuelled pop. Their live shows are notoriously raucous, with Derry playing a human tornado while the other band members leap around the stage in surfing shorts with wicked grins on their faces. They've even done a gig in a laser-lit cave, though their beginnings were a trifle more subdued.
"This booking came up at this club," explains Mark, a self-confessed Phil Collins fan who possesses a disturbing but unmistakable resemblance to Sinead O'Connor. "So we had two months to form a band and come up with some songs. At the first practice we didn't even have a singer-he was off having a driving lesson." "Before that, me, Zac and James had this one rehearsal in Afghan coats," laughs Derry.
"I turned up and there was heavy metal playing full blast," recalls Mark in an incredulous tone. "It was early on a Sunday morning. I climbed through the living room window to find Derry dressed in an Afghan, Zac in these ridiculous shorts and some strange kid in the corner of the room. We didn't even know who he was-he just walked into the room and stood there."
"That was our legendary Afghan coat phase," boasts Derry. And after they had added Ian to the lineup, once they had managed to have him removed from twee guitar janglers Apple Mosaic for the sake of his credibility, the EMF monster was complete.
With their pretty-boy looks and pop sensibililties, entwined with Ian's more vitriolic guitar outbursts, EMF have often been dismissed by skeptics as pubescent pin-up fodder. But as they're eager to point out, they possess a darker side.
"The teeny fans will flip the next single, 'I Believe,' and hear the Foetus mix and wonder what's going on," says Ian, referring to their collaboration with Foetus Inc.'s Jim Thirlwell, better known for his somewhat less accessible work with The The's Matt Johnson and Lydia Lunch.
Littered among the praise that's been heaped upon them recently was a comment from The Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant, lauding them as the new Sex Pistols. "I quite enjoy that," enthuses Zac.
"It's good in a way," adds Derry, "cause they breathed freshness and energy into the music scene when it needed it. And they didn't give a fuck. And we don't."