INTERVIEW

“Believe Ox Eagle Lion front man Fred, for your own sake. Sometimes he’ll bend the truth, other times he’ll snap it in two, but cover all bases and take what he says as gospel. We didn’t believe Fred, which is why he is now singing an acoustic rendition of ‘Welcome To The Black Parade’ at […]

“Believe Ox Eagle Lion front man Fred, for your own sake. Sometimes he’ll bend the truth, other times he’ll snap it in two, but cover all bases and take what he says as gospel. We didn’t believe Fred, which is why he is now singing an acoustic rendition of ‘Welcome To The Black Parade’ at the top of his lounge bar crooning voice. Note to self: next time Fred says that his favourite album of the year is MCR’s ‘The Black Parade’, nod and smile as if concurring.

For your interest – and what with this being the 2006 review issue – guitarist Shaun has a favourite album of the year also – Mystery Jets’ ‘Making Dens’. Bassist Tommy opts for Muse’s latest ‘Black Holes And Revelations’ while drummer and Bono Must Die co-creator Tobi settles on the return of Trousersnake, in the form of ‘Future Sex/Love Sounds’, despite admitting that he is still to have actually heard it – “He thought the reviews sounded good,” laughs Fred.

So it’s a pretty mixed bag of influences that mutate into the sound of Ox Eagle Lion Man then – a sound that Fred will later surmise with the darkest of analogies, worthy of a pull quote on the Nathan Barley DVD. But first the background.

There’s not too much that you need to know on that front to be honest. Then again, considering the band are all in the earliest of their early twenties, there’s certainly enough to get your biography quills around.

Three surviving members of the Les Incompetents split last month, Fred, Shaun and Tommy have played in a band together for the last three years. Six foot six Tobi completed the band lineup after The Horrors’ Faris Rotter recommended him to Fred. Whether Tobi was smitten with the idea of having a side project to his techno-metal racket producing (and heroically named) Bono Must Die, Fred is still unsure about.

“I was messaging him and saying ‘I love Bono Must Die’, trying to soften him up. Then it took us about 6 months to oust him from his family home to get him to a rehearsal room where I like to think that there was a musical meeting of minds. But I think Tobi thought the opposite and we couldn’t get hold of him for another 3 weeks or so. So we kept turning up at his house. One time he said he didn’t have a drum kit, even though he’d said he did, so we went and got him one. Then he said he was ill‚” The long and short of it is we bullied him and since then we’ve been turning up at his house every day.”

Any means necessary, aye? As a man of few words, it’s pretty impossible to tell if Tobi is yet to start enjoying being in Ox Eagle Lion Man or if indeed he’s as over the moon as Santa on Boxing Day. But as it seems to be more of an effort to not have a laugh in the company of Fred and his surreal ramblings than it is to fix a poker face we refrain from calling the police to report a kidnapping.

While still close to Les Inc’s only missing guitarist from the OELM set up, Chris, relations between Fred and former co-frontman Billy Bell clearly appear to be tense. Besides joking about how Billy turned down joining Fred’s new outfit, the singer also goes on to adamantly state, “Frank Sinatra could survive without The Rat Pack, they couldn’t really survive without him.” Enough said.

Confidence is needed in this world of show, especially if your area code is E1 and you’re defending your street corner from fellow bands armed with sometimes equally as dazzling charity shop scarves and satchels. The streets of Shoreditch can been mean to the underdressed so it’s a good job that Ox Eagle Lion Man have the fashion savvy needed to back up their DIY impromptu noise to any clambering fans that are bound to materialise now that they’ve had their gig stabilisers removed at White Heat last week (November 28th).

Take note: a hand full of gift vouchers for Wow Retro will suffice for Fred’s Christmas gift this year. Once or twice he’s been let down and he doesn’t forget easily.

THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT
“My family all lived in Scotland,” begins Fred in what is about to become a lengthy anti Christmas rant about what not to buy a loved one as a gift, “and I went once to my great uncle’s house. He’s called Gordon. He’s my grandpa’s brother and basically he was second in line to all of the family estate but my grandpa got it all and Gordon didn’t. So, to combat the amazing house and 40 thousand acres of land that my grandpa got, he built his own house in a medieval castle style with a load of secret passages and booby traps. Anyway, me and my brother went there with my dad and my mum. I was about 3 and my brother was about 5. He opened his present first, which was this toy truck that you could build into loads of other types of truck. When he opened it I was like, ‘Woah! If my present is anything up to that level, or even ten presents worse than that, this is going to be the best present ever. It had a driver whose head swiveled but it wasn’t a big name or anything. It was just a well-crafted piece of equipment. So then I opened my present and it was a book! And I remember be so angry. It was called ‘Cars And Trucks And Things That Go. So I took the book and tore it down the middle, ripping the spine off. I’ve never forgiven them. How dare they!”

Inadvertently, our light-hearted seasonal question of ‘your worst present?’ seems to have opened up aging but tender wounds for Fred. As the rest of the band fall about to the singers top 3 (in at the other two top stops is a matching polo neck and sock combo from the tightest distant non-relatives every bitched about on tape and a non-opposable Aladdin action figure, given four years after the film’s release), he’s like a troubled teen in an obscure Cohan Brother’s film, venting his anger at a quack from the psycartrist’s couch. It’s quite the paddy.

Fonder memories include listening to his dad’s double CD of Christmas songs relentlessly while playing Rapido (think Pictionary with play doe) with his family – if only the play doe hadn’t turned hard from the previous year, triggering some home made goo to be mixed up using flour, water and salt. “It would get ingrained into you finger nails so much that if you lick your fingers afterward they tasted so salty that it made your eyes hurt,” remembers Fred.

It sounds frightening, and while Fred clearly talks with fondness about his Childhood Christmases, it doesn’t stop the teetotal lyricist comparing his band’s sound to the stuff that of which the darkest of nightmares are made. Take it away Fred…

“If Les Incompetents was a little toddler at Christmas time who was taken into a cupboard and molested by an uncle, we would be the uncle.”

Or, to put it a less controversial way, OELM sound like big band show tunes, sung by the ring master of the most bizarre but wonderful circus to come to town.

NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS
Leisurely working away until Christmas, Ox Eagle Lion Man are currently putting their new band to the test, seeing what they can come up with quickly. But the real work begins in January when they begin their campaign to make 2007 theirs. The future – as if their MySpace demo ‘I Am The Future’ suggests otherwise – is one thing that Fred and Co. may still grin about but discuss in all seriousness. Where Les Incompetents failed, OELM aim to succeed, basically by making enough cash to keep the TV repot man at bay. Some studio time is penciled in for the New Year and the A&Rs are already circling.

“Basically, we’re not in it for the glory,” says Fred “but it gets to the stage where it’s all about getting paid and getting laid. And if you ain’t getting paid‚” you know what I mean.

“I’d like to sit here and give you platitudes about how we’re in it for the music, and we are, but the time has to come when you say, fingers crossed that someone gives us enough money to never want more. The point is Les Inc was about the fun, about the party. If anything, Les Incompetents was New Year Eve, Ox Eagle Lion Man is the morning after the night before.”

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