The Scaramanga Six

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The Scaramanga Six are an English rock band noted for their aggressive live act, their flamboyant and theatrical songs and their independent business practices. Self-managed and self-releasing,[1][2] they have been described as “working entirely outside the indie scene, let alone the actual industry."[3] A significant band on the Leeds rock scene, they are also involved in recordings promotion and distribution via their Wrath Records label and video promotion via the associated Poison Pen Films business. Their business practises and promotion of other artists has seen them hailed as “the closest we'll see to a British answer to Fugazi.[4]" The band has historically been based around a core of Paul Morricone, Steven Morricone and Julia Arnez.

Sound, influences and lyrical themes[edit]

"A lot of the lyrical content is designed to draw the listener in and empathise with the characters mentioned, or sung from the point of view of – whether they be real, exaggerated or fictional (sometimes it’s hard to distinguish). For that reason we might come across (as) misogynistic, cruel or self-obsessed, which of course is all rubbish. Inspiration for lyrics can often come from people we see milling about trying to live their lives amongst severe futility and obstacles (usually self-made). There’s a lot of our frustrations in there too. People like Scott Walker, Elvis Costello, Andy Partridge etc were all good at this approach – and also managed to get enough pop hooks in too."

Steven Morricone on the Scaramanga Six lyrical approach[5]

The Scaramanga Six play a tuneful and carefully arranged mixture of heavy rock, vocal pop, rockabilly, garage and crooner songs described as “intense-yet-aloof rock operas” (Drowned In Sound), “B-movie chic combined with real musical muscle” (Kerrang) [6] and which has seen them compared to “a British Queens Of The Stone Age.[7]" Influences cited by the band themselves include The Stranglers, Cardiacs, The Cramps and Tony Bennett. Their song lyrics are characterised by themes of dark humour, desperation, tongue-in-cheek self-aggrandisement, criminality, “the drudgery of everyday life, work and office politics”,[5] and human/animal behaviourism. The band has a strong visual sense reflected in their use of video and their onstage presentation (they perform in a Mafia-style “confrontational family” manner[8] wearing suits and ties and have a tendency to stare out audiences).

History[edit]

Origins, and Scaramanga (1995–1999)[edit]

Chief songwriters and fraternal twin brothers Paul Morricone (vocals, guitar, saxophone) and Steven Morricone (vocals, bass, keyboards, saxophone) were born in Weston-super-Mare, UK. They spent their formative years absorbing a mixture of The Stranglers and Tony Bennett, resulting in the discovery that “there was much fun to be had in crooning and shouting in equal measures."[9] The brothers went to university in Yorkshire and remained in Huddersfield after graduation. In 1995, they formed the band Scaramanga[1] with guitarist Bill Bailey, also recruiting keyboard player John Gulliver (alias "Chester Valentino") and Emma Calvert on vocals, percussion and drums. This line-up (bolstered by drummer Jem Bowden) recorded the demo cassette Tetsura (two of the songs on the tape, "Choking" and "Ladies And Gentlemen" would later appear on subsequent recordings).

Calvert left in late spring 1996 to be replaced by Julia Arnez (vocals, guitar), with whom the band recorded another demo tape called Big Themes And Incidental Music and another recording called Stereo Car Chase. Evidence on the Scaramanga Six homepage - an inlay scan - also suggests that another cassette mini-album was produced, called The Liar The Bitch And Her Wardrobe, although it is not mentioned in the homepage biography. None of the tracks on the inlay match the subsequent album of the same name.[10]

In late 1997, the band recorded a split single for Double Plus records with Slot Jockey (the Scaramanga contribution being "Vamp", co-sung/screamed by Arnez and Steven Morricone). Scaramanga gigged in Northern England for another year and a half before renaming themselves The Scaramanga Six.

Early Scaramanga Six - The Liar The Bitch And Her Wardrobe & Are You One Of The Family? (1999–2001)[edit]

The debut Scaramanga Six album - The Liar The Bitch And Her Wardrobe – was released in spring 1999 on the band’s own label, Trinity Records (later to metamorphose into Wrath Records). Mostly recorded as a live-in-the-studio session, the album also included "Vamp" and several songs which would later be improved and re-recorded for later releases ("Poison Fang", "The Coward" and "Horrible Face" on the Cabin Fever album and "Singer Of Songs" for the …Continuing Saga EP). At this point, Julia Arnez wrote songs, played guitar and sang almost as many lead vocals as the Morricone brothers. On subsequent records she would concentrate (by choice) on guitar and harmony vocals, and would not participate in the writing.

By summer 1999 James Agnew (a cousin of the Morricone brothers) had replaced Bowden on drums. Jenny "Jet" Harris (formerly with another Leeds band, Chest) joined on guitar and keyboards a year later in summer 2000. In April 2001 the band released the Are You One Of The Family? EP (the debut release by the newly launched Wrath Records). This began to gain the band attention in underground publications across Britain, and featured a re-recording of “Ladies And Gentlemen” from the band’s first demo tape. However, by this point the band had parted company with Bill Bailey, who had left during the EP sessions.

Progress and consolidation: The Continuing Saga... & Strike! Up The Band (2002–2003)[edit]

In January 2002, the band released another strong EP, The Continuing Saga Of The Scaramanga Six with the driving "Pressure Cage" as the lead song. The EP featured several inventive video clips directed by Paul Morricone, whose day job was as a film and television director/editor.[1][11] (He had helped to establish Poison Pen Films - affiliated to Metro Films in Leeds - which would handle all future Scaramanga Six video work). In September 2002, the band released a split single with Les Flames, contributing the song "You Do, You Die".

The second Scaramanga Six album - Strike! Up The Band - was released in November 2002 and compiled various tracks from the last few EPs and singles as well as new tracks. It was described by Rock Sound as “retro-rock with panache… as raw as scraping your knuckles on a cheese-grater.[12]” It would also be the last time (to date) when The Scaramanga Six would match their name and appear as a sextet. Problems with lineups continued to dog the band, partly due to their stubborn determination to remain independent and self-financing via dayjobs. John Gulliver had already left and rejoined the band several times since 2000, becoming something of a "floating member" before leaving for good in 2002. He was followed by Jenny Harris, who took up a career in arts administration.[13] Finally, James Agnew left the band in order to move to Australia (although he would later return to Britain and join The Gresham Flyers in late 2006).[14] The remaining band members soldiered on, recruiting Stephen Gilchrist (ex-Quint, stuffy/the fuses) as the new drummer.

“We really found a real kindred spirit with Tim – he really seemed to instinctively know what we were after. No idea was too ridiculous or too elaborate – he was up for all sorts of bold production ideas."

Steven Morricone on working with Tim Smith[5]

The band toured in February 2003 to promote Strike! Up The Band (with Jenny Harris helping out on keyboards at a couple of gigs). Following the tour the band settled as a four-piece of the Morricone brothers, Arnez and Gilchrist. Steven Morricone would double on bass guitar and keyboard at future live concerts. At this point, the Scaramanga Six also began a fruitful (and ongoing) collaboration with producer Tim Smith (leader of Cardiacs), beginning regular recording sessions at Smith’s Wiltshire studios.[1][2] By the end of 2003, the band had recorded most of their next album. However, they had also parted company with Stephen Gilchrist, who left to work with Graham Coxon and to concentrate on his own band stuffy/the fuses). He was replaced as drummer by Anthony Sargeant, a musician poached from a Queen tribute band (and who could add falsetto backing vocals to the band’s live set).[5] In December 2003, the band released another split single (with Beachbuggy), contributing "The Poison Pen".

Cabin Fever (2004 to 2006)[edit]

The third Scaramanga Six album, Cabin Fever, was released in April 2004, receiving rave reviews in the underground press. Trakmarx stated "The Scaramanga Six have talent, taste & humour in spades - all they need now is your patronage" while Gigwise commented that "Cabin Fever makes you laugh, stroke your imaginary goatee, dance like a frog on E and shit your pants in one hearing." [6] The band toured around the UK and released two singles from the album - "We Rode The Storm" (November 2004) and "Horrible Face" (May 2005 - the latter another re-recording of a …Liar… song).

At around this time, The Scaramanga Six became a quintet when multi-instrumentalist Chris Catalyst was brought into the band. Catalyst was a well-known man-of-a-thousand bands: besides his own Robochrist project, he had worked with The Sisters Of Mercy, AntiProduct, The Tanks With Wings and two Wildhearts spin-offs (God Damn Whores and Clam Abuse). He could cover keyboards, second drum set and backing vocals (plus occasional bass and trombone), greatly expanding the band’s live potential. In November 2005, the band revealed new material with the release of "I Wear My Heart On My Sleeve", the Scaramanga Six half of a split single (with Me Against Them).

The Dance Of Death, "Walking Through Houses" and Hot Flesh Rumble (2007–2008)[edit]

In August 2006 (and with Sargeant now replaced on drums by “Maraca” Gareth Champion) The Scaramanga Six released a new single called "Baggage". The single also featured on their fourth album, The Dance Of Death, released in January 2007 and hailed as their most accomplished and coherent release to date. A re-released "I Wear My Heart On My Sleeve" was released as a stand-alone single in November 2007.

In May 2008 The Scaramanga Six released a brand new single - "Walking Through Houses" - and announced the title of an upcoming fifth album - A Pound Of Flesh. However, in an e-mail newsletter to the band's mailing list on October 17, 2008, Steven Morricone announced that A Pound Of Flesh would be shelved indefinitely following the cardiac arrest and subsequent hospitalisation of producer Tim Smith. Steven explained "The news was a dreadful shock to people, especially to his many close friends. Tim is now starting out on a long road to recovery and we can only wish him and everyone close to him the greatest of strength and resolve in this very difficult time. If love alone is all that is needed for recovery there is certainly no shortage for Tim. With this in mind, we decided to postpone work on A Pound Of Flesh for the near future. We will return to it one day when Tim is better."[15]

In the same e-mail newsletter, Steven announced that Chris Catalyst had left The Scaramanga Six to concentrate on his band Eureka Machines (leaving them as a quartet again) and that the band had written a brand new sixth studio album to replace A Pound Of Flesh. The band would begin recording this new album at the end of October and would also be scheduling a tour for the same time.[15]

On December 17, 2008, the band released a live radio sessions album called Hot Flesh Rumble. This contained their radio session recordings from the previous few years, featuring "gritty versions of songs from all the previous albums as well as the first recorded release of many of the songs from the postponed A Pound Of Flesh."[15][16] On the same day, the band announced that their new album would be called Songs Of Prey and was being produced by James Kenosha (who'd previously worked with Duels, Grammatics and This et al.) for a release in the first quarter of 2009.[16]

Songs Of Prey & Cursed (2009–2010)[edit]

Songs Of Prey was released on 20 April 2009, with the band playing a short British tour (plus an appearance in Denmark) to promote it. The album was once again well received by the alternative press, with This Is Fake DIY describing it as "cinematic art-rock that combines thrashing guitars with orchestral and distinctly non-rock instruments to create something individual and that has instant replay value... This is pop music that's not only absurd but pop music that's aware of the inherent absurdities of creating pop music. Yes, there's moments where you feel that the most appropriate action to take whilst listening to the record is to thrust your fist in the air in a stadium rock fashion, but somehow this bombast is endearing, where we would expect it to be off-putting."[17] The Yorkshire Evening Post also hailed it as "a riff-heavy, ballsy heavy rock album that mixes up the stirring bombast of Rainbow and the compelling muscularity of Queens Of The Stone Age, yet still throws in enough musical and lyrical curveballs to lift it out of the ordinary. With vocals that are part dive-bar crooner and part righteous rocker, theatrical overtones and gothic undercurrents, the album is overblown, intense and great fun."[18] On 13 June, the band announced the release of promotional video clips for two of the songs from the album, "Misadventure" and "Back To School".

In May 2010, the band began recording new sessions at 2Fly Studios in Sheffield with producer Alan Smythe. The band went on to play more concerts in England and Scandinavia, with Steve Gilchrist filling in for the absent Gareth Champion.[19] In a blog posting on November 22, 2010, Paul Morricone revealed that the band had completely reworked and re-recorded the material originally written for the shelved album A Pound of Flesh and would release it as a brand new album, Cursed (featuring a guest appearance from Thomas Truax).[20]

In December 2010, The Scaramanga Six contributed two songs to the "Leader of the Starry Skies" project (a fundraising compilation album initiative to benefit the hospitalised Cardiacs leader and Scaramanga Six producer Tim Smith). The band's version of Cardiacs' "Home of Fadeless Splendour" appeared on Leader Of The Starry Skies: A Tribute To Tim Smith, Songbook 1, while their version of Cardiacs' "Everything is Easy" appeared on the limited-edition companion volume Leader of the Starry Skies - A Loyal Companion.

Related projects[edit]

The Morricone brothers have several musical side projects. As well as their occasional acoustic duo The Disclaimers, they have two ongoing collaborative projects with ex-Landspeed Loungers songwriter Dave Cooke - the song-based Being 747 and its alter-ego From Amoeba to Zebra (the latter designed specifically as a schools educational project to teach children about natural history and evolution).

Steven Morricone also plays saxophone in Leeds psychedelic dance-rock band Kava Kava. He played bass in Eureka Machines (with Chris Catalyst) until leaving in early 2009.

Paul Morricone started a second acoustic project - this time solo and under his own name - in mid-2009. He continues to maintain a parallel successful career with Poison Pen Films. He has created music video clips for The Young Knives, Graham Coxon, The Holloways, The Pigeon Detectives, Larrikin Love, Marvin, My Passion, The Whip, The Go Team, Little Man Tate, iLIKETRAiNS, Cold War Kids, Forward Russia, Gallows and Polytechnic as well as viral animations for The Charlatans.

Discography[edit]

As The Scaramanga Six[edit]

Albums[edit]

  • The Liar The Bitch And Her Wardrobe (1999, Trinity Records)
  • Strike! Up The Band (2002, Wrath Records)
  • Cabin Fever (2004, Wrath Records)
  • The Dance Of Death (2007, Wrath Records)
  • Hot Flesh Rumble (2008, Wrath Records)
  • Songs Of Prey (2009,Wrath Records)
  • Cursed (2011, Wrath Records)
  • Phantom Head (2013, Wrath Records)

Singles and EPs[edit]

  • “Are You One Of The Family?” EP (2001, Wrath Records)
  • “The Continuing Saga Of The Scaramanga Six” EP (2002, Wrath Records)
  • “You Do, You Die” (2002, Wrath Records – split single with Les Flames)
  • “The Poison Pen” (2003, Wrath Records – split single with Beachbuggy)
  • “We Rode The Storm” (2004, Wrath Records)
  • “Horrible Face” (2005, Wrath Records)
  • “I Wear My Heart On My Sleeve” (2005, Wrath Records – split single with Me Against Them)
  • “Baggage” (2006, Wrath Records)
  • “I Wear My Heart On My Sleeve” (2007, Wrath Records – re-release of previous release with new B-sides)
  • “Walking Through Houses” (2008, Wrath Records)

As Scaramanga[edit]

  • Tetsuya (1995, privately released demo tape)
  • Big Themes And Incidental Music (1996, privately released demo tape)
  • The Liar, The Bitch And Her Wardrobe (1996, privately released demo tape, entirely different from later album with same title - not confirmed in biography text)
  • “Vamp” (1997, Double Plus Records – split single with Slot Jockey)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d “The Scaramanga Six - Fengende galskap” – interview by Eirik in Metal.norge.com, April 16, 2008
  2. ^ a b “Wrath of the Mighty” – article/interview in ‘’Vibrations.org’’ by Sam Saunders, May 6, 2008
  3. ^ Drowned In Sound review of Strike! Up The Band by Toby Jarvis, retrieved October 11, 2008
  4. ^ CD Times review of "Walking Through Houses” by Theo Graham-Brown, retrieved October 11, 2008
  5. ^ a b c d 'Vanity Project Interviews - Scaramanga Six & Wrath Records (Steven Morricone), posted April 9, 2005, retrieved October 11, 2008
  6. ^ a b various reviews of Cabin Fever stored on history page on Scaramanga Six homepage, retrieved October 11th, 2008
  7. ^ 'Drowned In Sound' review of "Horrible Face" by Toby Jarvis, retrieved October 11, 2008
  8. ^ Drowned In Sound review of Strike! Up the Band by Toby Jarvis, March 2003 (as reproduced on Scaramanga Six homepage)
  9. ^ http://www.thescaramangasix.co.uk/ - Scaramanga Six biography on homepage
  10. ^ 1996 biography page on Scaramanga Six homepage
  11. ^ "The Scaramanga Six: Paul Morricone of ireallylovemusic's fave band The Scaramanga Six! tells us all ‘bout the gore and horror that is the band's new album Cabin Fever" – article in ireallylovemusic e-zine
  12. ^ Rock Sound review of Strike Up The Band stored on history page on Scaramanga Six homepage, retrieved October 11th, 2008
  13. ^ Jenny Harris page at the Hub homepage
  14. ^ http://thegreshamflyersblog.blogspot.com/2007/01/gresham-flyers-missing-in-action.html
  15. ^ a b c Scaramanga Six mailing list newsletter, October 17, 2008 – retrieved October 24, 2008
  16. ^ a b Scaramanga Six mailing list newsletter, December 17, 2008 ("The Scaramanga Six - Hot Flesh Rumble OUT NOW!") - retrieved December 17, 2008
  17. ^ Songs Of Prey reviewed in This is Fake DIY e-zine by Lee White, April 20, 2009
  18. ^ Songs Of Prey reviewed in the Yorkshire Evening Post by Martin Ross, April 17, 2009
  19. ^ October blog postings @ The Scaramanga Six homepage
  20. ^ "The hideous transformation of the new album" - blog posting on Scaramanga Six website regarding the new album, November 22, 2010

External links[edit]