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Hideous Mink's Grassroots Spotlight: Alastair Shuttleworth

Words by Ursa Gregson



Ursa Dissects: Alastair Shuttleworth

Alastair Shuttleworth is the lead singer of jagged Bristol avant-rockers LICE - a live sensation and heavy presence on the scene, having supported the likes of The Fall, Warmduscher, Sleaford Mods and Thurston Moore. However, in his spare time he engages in a few extra jaunts such as: nationwide radio-plugging for AJPR, music writing for no less than the Guardian, the Quietus, Loud & Quiet and Bandcamp and being the creator and mastermind behind Bristol music and culture magazine The Bristol Germ. His antics are a joy to behold on and off stage, and his disarming charm and enthusiasm might perplex those who've only seen him broody and full of sonic malice with his band. We cruelly cornered him with a cup of Earl Grey and a friendly pat on the back to find out what makes this germ jump.





  1. Alastair. You're in Prague in the early 20th Century. You wake up and you're a giant insect. You're late for work at the firm and your mum is banging on the door. What do you do?

“Finally!” I cry in delight, for (yes friends!) these past years the fullest energies of my body and mind have been directed entirely towards this glorious transmutation.

  1. Passage as a music professional from bohemian Bristol (with its idealism and community) to London, where all are dehumanised in the pursuit of individual influence.

  2. Dissolution of ego undertaken in marketing LICE’s music and other creative endeavours, existing primarily as a lower creature in service to my own works as a real person.

  3. Twice-daily practice of walking on all fours, applying glue to my hands, knees and feet to build aptitude in scaling walls and ceilings.



2) How have you found touring in Europe with such eminent figures as Thurston Moore and Sleaford Mods recently? Has this whirlwind of shows affected your capacity to absolutely slay the other facets of the music industry or have you taken it all in your stride?

Touring with Sleaford Mods was tremendously enjoyable not only as an opportunity (to travel, to spend time with the gang, to play music for thousands of potential new LICE fans and monetise their love), but as an affirmation of how strange, uncompromising music like theirs can build and sustain a huge audience in the real world. Every night I watched Sleaford Mods play, and too watched massive crowds across Europe go nuts to music you’d expect to be an extremely niche concern. It was deeply inspiring, renewing my convictions that (yes, a new line for this I think):

People are drawn to artistic extremity, and will embrace music founded upon original and interesting ideas about what it can contribute to the world far more readily than music conforming to settled notions of what is enjoyable, valuable or worthy of love.

Performing with Thurston Moore (and his mighty band, including Deb from My Bloody Valentine and James from THE DEVIL) was also wonderful. Though I appreciate Thurston’s work, I’m not a lifelong Sonic Youth fan, so could relax. I’m pleased to report we earned his respect with our set, to the extent Thurston humoured some jokes I’d been working on in the van (he took a sip of water and I shouted “do you have a THIRST ON?”; I told him I thought we were headlining as “I heard you were FIRST ON”). Regarding how LICE weighs on my other work in music, I of course spin these plates with the easy grace and steely commitment of a waiter raised in the circus.


LICE (live)



3) Tell us about The Bristol Germ - why you created it, how it's going, core philosophies etc…

The Bristol Germ is an illustrated music publication designed to spotlight a dramatic, inspiring moment in underground and avant-garde music currently taking place in Bristol. It comprises interviews with Bristol artists (Giant Swan, HARRGA, Manonmars etc.), artwork by local illustrators, and manifestos outlining iniquities and inadequacies in the British music industry/media that have resulted in this music going overlooked on the national stage for so long. Since I started it in 2017, the spotlight has indeed moved towards the city, which I once saw as marginalised by various ills in the music industry: that’s not to say those ills are cured, but rather the commitment and creative brilliance of these artists has made them increasingly impossible to ignore. Chapter IV is being plotted.


4) You write for top drawer publications and plug top drawer acts for radio in the UK. Are you a spy? Are you going to bring the man down from the inside? Or are you just a man of myriad talent?

Many problems in the music industry, I believe, are down to the fact we live in a landscape where huge areas of radio and press coverage are only accessible through paid intermediaries. I always saw Music PRs as gatekeepers, whose influence in music’s flow to the media impoverishes us all, driving the increasing conservatism of music radio and publications, and making careers accessible only to artists of independent means or conventional marketability. So why did I start doing work as a radio plugger?

I want to use my career to bring people into touch with bracing, original music that will enrich and improve their lives. Working in music journalism, I eventually realised that if you’re the kind of person who will click on a link to read about an artist you’ve never heard of, I can’t contribute that much more to your life: you’re already actively seeking out this stuff. The power of radio is that when I manage to get music by an artist I really believe in beamed into people’s homes/ cars/ workplaces, masses of people who are not necessarily active seekers of new music have to form an opinion on it. Shepherding artists through a landscape that is increasingly hostile to new, left-field music is work I’ve come to see differently, and take pride in doing.


5) What's next for LICE - any juicy news you can share with us?

Following our debut album WASTELAND: What Ails Our People Is Clear, LICE are working on new music which is more ambitious, melodic, emotionally intelligent and conceptually far-reaching. Where WASTELAND was brash, arrogant and resolute in offering answers to perceived problems, the new music asks questions with colour, feeling and humility. We’re going to be playing some of the new stuff at Reading & Leeds, Raw Power and a bunch of other live dates around recording.


6) What, for you (outside of your own music), has been the most rewarding project you've embarked on?

The Bristol Germ is imperfectly created, and would have been more impactful to date if afforded my full focus, but I am immensely proud of it. It has served as a vehicle to give early gigs to artists who are now doing amazing things like SCALPING, put some wild music on festival bills (I had Bad Tracking headline a stage at Dot To Dot twice - check out their song ‘Widower’ to see why this is funny), host a 6Music Freak Zone Playlist sharing this music with the masses, and create a physical document that now lives in a lot of strangers’ homes.


7) Please invent, describe and name a cocktail that completely encapsulates everything & everyone you've ever been and ever will be.

Owen Jones' Tone-Deaf Hipster Twin

RECIPE

1 Part: Chemicals secreted from brain whilst searching for positive tweets about LICE

1 Part: Blended copies of The Bristol Germ

1 Part: Condensation from ceiling at a Kinlaw & Franco Franco show

This cocktail is likely to make you experience tremendous bouts of self-righteous fury, and pained confusion as to why the entire world is not completely besotted with industrial prog.



 

Check out more from Alastair and LICE




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