Dawn of the Replicants
We went to John Peel's funeral and I cried my eyes out throughout the whole thing. Partly because I thought, 'this is the end of my career!'
As their dazzling new album 'Fangs' suggests, you'd be hard pressed to find a more entertaining interviewee than Dawn of the Replicant's front man and lyricist Paul Vickers. The album, their fifth over a ten year career, is a voodoo New Orleans Jazz-rock-opera featuring a cast of boozed-up lounge lizards, pterodactyl dinner guests, diminutive brawlers, and surrealist wild west imagery. Beautifully arranged and produced, musically it spans classic rock, Ennio Morricone, doo-wop, BB King-style blues and consistently melodic yet inventive songwriting.
The Replicants began when Vickers moved from Nottingham to the Scottish Borders town Galashiels to work on cult music magazine Sun Zoom Spark with brothers Roger and Mike Simian. Unfortunately it folded prematurely, but Roger and Paul had begun writing songs together and The Dawn of the Replicants was born. They used Roger's student loan to press up a batch of their first single and the contacts they'd built up with the magazine to gain exposure. "We got over the fear of phoning people up and not knowing where to start as we'd been dealing with record companies for two years through the magazine."
The single instantly gained airplay from John Peel and Mark and Lard as well as support from the NME and Melody Maker. Record companies were soon on the phone and the band decided to sign to major label East West Records. "East West had Mick Hucknall and Tori Amos, so it wasn't that cool but it was the right A&R man so we thought 'let's go for it'".
However, after recording second album 'Wrong Town, Wrong Planet, Three Hours Late' the band were dropped, another casualty of a cruelly indifferent music industry. "What a lot of major record labels suffer from is no company loyalty. What happens is nobody's safe in their jobs, and the turnover of jobs is so fast, that you have a lot of people who don't really give a damn working for the company."
Luckily, after a period of disbandment in which Vickers and Roger Simian went it alone as the electro duo Pluto Monkey, the Replicants reformed (albeit with a couple of new members) and have now hooked up with Edinburgh's SL Records, home of Ballboy, Saint Judes Infirmary and Misty's Big Adventure. Vickers is philosophical about the glitches in their career, regarding it with a characteristic sense of humour.
"You can't be in Dawn of the Replicants without having an element of humour - we're underdogs. People have preconceptions and write us off as being a weird band without actually listening to our records. I think the problem was that we didn't look cool - we were even described by one journalist as 'four farmers and a freak'".
Fortunately John Peel was always a major supporter of the band, and one of their sessions for him was recently voted amongst the best of all time. Vickers regards the reaction to his death with bemusement. "It's a weird thing because it went from nobody giving a shit to everyone really caring after he died. In a lot of ways Peel was just doing the right thing, he cared about music and he stuck by bands he really liked regardless of whether or not they were in fashion. We went to the funeral and I cried my eyes out throughout the whole thing. Partly because I thought, this is the end of my career!"
Fangs' is released through SL Records on Feb 13.
Dawn of the Replicants play Glasgow King Tuts on March 2 and Edinburgh Cabaret Voltaire on March 3.