Interview with Blood Sport ahead of Tramlines 2014.
Three-piece Blood Sport are aspiring inventors as much as they are musicians. Their concoction of post-punk, electronica and Afrobeat- termed ‘Aggro-beat’- has made them local favourites, the sound slipping easily into Sheffield’s contemporary horizon. After the success of their first full-length LP, Life In Units, the boys have been back in the studio and aim to break the generic boundaries even more. Samantha Fielding caught up with Alex Keegan, Nick Potter (guitars), and Sam Parkin (drums) to talk about being students in the Steel City, analog televisions, and how they met in an underground, post-industrial club night (which may or may not have actually been PopTarts)…
Hi guys. I’m a vegetarian- what can Blood Sport do for me?
SP: Empathise! Two thirds of us are too.
NP: The name isn’t about appreciating the death of animals at all! We had to think of a name really quickly, so we just tried to find something that sounded good. A few of our ideas came from the video nasty films that were banned in the 80’s- one of these was called ‘Blood Sport’, so it stemmed from that really. The name for us becomes a challenge. Hopefully one day we’ll go beyond people asking how it was founded.
Well you’ve convinced us, but you might want to explain it all to Morrissey if you ever come across him… We hear you’ve invented a new sound- ‘Aggro-beat’. How would you describe ‘Aggro-beat’ to an unaware audience?
NP: We’ve basically taken influences from Afrobeat and added elements of post-punk and experimental rock, so it’s more intense and noisy. From a logistical point of view, the term has allowed us to be able to define our own music without using too many adjectives.
AK: Afrobeat is meant to be upbeat and happy, but what we’re doing isn’t really like that.
SP: Yeah, so the word kinda side-steps the whole ‘white people using African terminology’ thing, which is important. We’re aware that we’re not playing traditional Afrobeat, we’re just inspired.
So how did you meet? Was it through mutual Afrobeat love?
AK: When we first came to the University of Sheffield, African music kinda brought us together.
NP: It was almost a joint discovery- we’d exchange so much music between each other. That created an excitement over starting the band. The ‘conception’ story goes that I bumped into Sam at the Student’s Union and mentioned that I wanted to start a band that sounded a bit like David Byrne and Brian Eno’s My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. That was the original talking point.
AK: I met the others through Small Ideas [the alternative music society at the University of Sheffield], which we ended up taking over in our final year. Sam did all the work!
SP: We put ourselves on quite a lot though Small Ideas too, which was kinda cheeky…
Do you think being surrounded by the Afrobeat hype in Sheffield has influenced your sound?
SP: Our latest album is inescapably Sheffield. We’re all such fans of the club scene and the Electronic music in the city especially, so there’s a lot more of that in our sound now.
NP: Now that we’re taking more influence from the Sheffield band Cabaret Voltaire, our Afrobeat inspiration has taken on a bit of industrial, techno-feel. And with guys like Banana Hill around now, we’re happy that there’s more of the Afrobeat sound out in Sheffield too.
This new release sounds exciting. What else can we expect?
AK: We decided to introduce a drum machine, just to experiment. We thought it would be an interesting counterpart to Sam’s drumming. Our sound does focus around rhythms, so we thought we’d give Sam a rival to fight against!
NP: It’s exciting, and we think people might be surprised to hear the new sound. This year, we’re also trying to put on a number of unique performances- which admittedly we never really announced! Each gig is a one-off performance exploring one specific concept, to A) make our lives more difficult, and B) just explore what we can do within a live show. We’ve already done one as a part of No Lectures from the Western Works, an event based around Cabaret Voltaire’s old recording studio. For that, we did a set inspired by music from the time. So we want to keep working on these.
Looking forward to Tramlines?
NP: Yes! Wehave a special collaboration on the Sunday, with a Japanese band called Nissennenmondai. We’re big fans of what they’re doing, and we’re excited to get the chance to play alongside them. We’ve also confirmed Sayid Silk Hands, BHS and Swan Hunter & Yaxu to play until late.
Who will you be going to see yourselves?
AK: Awesome tapes from Africa- he has been a big part of our appreciation for African Music. Shackleton are playing Friday at The Millennium Galleries too. Public Enemy could be tragic or could be good! And the Audacious Art Experiment will be putting on things throughout the weekend, which will be amazing.
Blood Sport will be playing on Sunday 27th (with Nissennenmondai) at Millenium Galleries, as part of Tramlines. For more information, visit www.tramlines.org.uk. Their first full-length LP, Life In Units is also available to buy at www.bloodsport.bandcamp.com.