Interview with Paul-Ronney Angel of The Urban Voodoo Machine

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Calling The Urban Vooddoo Machine a band is really not a fair description, there is just so much more to them than that. The music is certainly a great cocktail of sounds but they also bring a true feeling of showmanship. We got the chance to speak to their charismatic lead singer Paul-Ronney Angel:

Ok, the band isn’t just a normal four piece guitar band, so can you give us some details on how you originally formed?
I wanted a band with an acoustic sound without losing the fuck off attitude of punk and wanted to mix up a lot of the genres I like. I had a bunch of songs and started making demos getting help from various people. When I was asked to play a show I simply called up some of the same people asking them if they would be up for a gig, they were and are still with me a decade later! Plus a few additions, we started off as a 6 piece, now we’re officially an 11 piece!

What about the name, where did that come from?
It was floating around the universe and I was the lucky one that had my antenna on that day – a bit like songs really, sometimes they just land right there in my lap – if you have to try to hard the outcome usually isn’t that good.

At the moment, who does the band consist of and are these all permanent members or is it more fluid than that? Do you or the other members appear in other bands?
This is the ‘full patch’ line-up, there are also a few people who play with us depending where in the world we are or what the show is – every show is different, which makes for interesting music.
Paul-Ronney Angel – Lead Vocals, Acoustic & Electric Guitars, Mandolin, Banjo, Harmonica
Nick Marsh – Electric Guitar & Vocals
Dr. Lloyd Gomez DeVille – Trumpet & Vocals
Slim – Accordian & Vocals
The Reverend Gavin Smith – Upright Bass
The Late J-Roni-Moe – Drums
Jary – Drums, Cajon
Ane Angel – Sousaphone, Gong
Lucifire – Tenor & Baritone Saxophone
Rob ‘The Kid’ Skipper – Fiddle
Joe ‘Mongo’ Whitney – Washboard, Melodica, Autoharp

For me and most of the guys this is the number one priority, but most of us get up to other stuff on the side too: I got a side project with my sousaphone playing wife, Ane called The Dalston Devil Trio, another fun project with Sami Yaffa (New York Dolls) called The Babooms, and I’ve played live or on record recently with artists as diverse as Treme Brass Band, Steve Conte, Texas Terri, Pierre Omer, Ginger Wildheart, King Salami & The Cumberland 3 and Flesh For Lulu which is our guitarist Nick’s band that he recently reformed.

Having just reviewed your Rare Gumbo album (https://thesoulofaclown.com/2014/01/19/urban-voodoo-machine-rare-gumbo-review/) one of the hardest things is just trying to describe the bands sound. I am sure I am not the only one who has found this, so how would you describe it?
I call it Bourbon Soaked Gypsy Blues Bop’n’Stroll – an unique form of Rock’n’Roll with real songs played by real musicians.
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Have you made a deliberate decision to make sure you can not be pigeon holed in to one particular style or genre?
Yes, that is deliberate – we want to be original. The original Rock’n’Roll in the 50’s was original, they mixed up genres like country, blues and gospel and came up with something new – that’s kinda what we’re doing too.

It’s incredible that Rare Gumbo is a compilation of EPS, B sides etc when the songs are of such a high quality. Do you think it represents a good introduction to the band? or would the uninitiated be better getting one of your other albums?
Glad you like ‘RARE GUMBO’, it’s a fair representation I guess – though do check out ‘Bourbon Soaked Gypsy Blues Bop’n’Stroll’ (2009) and In ‘Black’N’Red’ (2001) too!

Who are your own main influences?
Tom Waits, The Clash, Hank Williams, early AC/DC. Bob Dylan, The Stones, New Orleans Jazz, Gypsy Music, Delta Blues, Cuban Music, Rockabilly, early Ska, Stax Soul, Country, Gospel – I could be here all night, but hopefully you get the picture. Most the stuff I like has got 3-4 chords in it, tells a good story and dresses well!

What about current bands? is there any one else that you are really enjoying and liking at the moment?
Not sure what the word ‘current’ means in the music biz no more, but here’s a a few that are around and should be much more attention than they are – do check out: Firewater, The Future Shape Of Sound, Mad Juana, Los Plantronics, Dr Will, Son Of Dave, Miraculous Mule, Reverend Beat Man, Juke and the All Drunk Orchestra – lemme know how you get on with that for a starter – I could go on!

Tell us about the image and style of the band, again you are not some boring rock band and the visual element seems very important, would you agree?
Yes.

This also transcends to your live shows where it seems to have as much a relation to a cabaret or a burlesque show as a gig, are these other art forms an influence?
Of course, and it a part of our world – quite often we’ll have a stripper or a circus act on as a support instead of a band.
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Is this linked to The Gypsy Hotel Club night that you are involved in? and can you give us any more details on that?
We started the club in 2006 in East London as we wanted to have a home for likeminded people and it’s been every 3rd Saturday since then mixing up great music and other great entertainment – we’ve also released a compilation album Gypsy Hotel Vol 1 – Bourbon Soaked Snake Charmin’ Rock’n’Roll Cabaret. Available on iTunes, Amazon as well as from our website.

I first saw you live at The Secret Garden Party, which I felt was the perfect environment for the band as it had a great feeling of hedonism? Did you get the chance to enjoy it?
No, we hated that festival actually – we were treated really crap by the organisers – there was only 1 dressing room that was meant to be shared with the other bands, there was not enough drink, we had to part pay for our own food. Crappy cheap skate stuff that should not have happen. We didn’t let it affect our performance though, and still put on a show, but after signing some CD’s after the show we headed out of there – I guess it was starting to rain too! Anyway, I am glad to hear you enjoyed the show – makes it all worth it!

How do you feel about playing festivals, I would imaging that the eclectic nature of some of them could quite suit you?
We love playing festivals generally, you get a chance to play to a new audience as well as see and hang out with other bands. The downside is mud, no sound check, smelly hippies, and the dreaded Carling rider – who drinks that beer flavoured piss?
We’ve done quite a lot of festivals, from Glastonbury and Download to Bulldog Bash and Bestival in the UK to Sziget in Hungary, Passpop in Holland and Sjock in Belgium and we generally have a great time!

You have recently released a double A side single, Help Me Jesus/Heroin (Put My Brothers In The Ground) which was recorded with Wilko Johnson, can you tell us a bit about that?
Our accordion player, Slim has played with him for years on and off so I got him to ask him as I’m a massive fan – we were very happy when he agreed to do it and am chuffed with the outcome!

Wilko was already a legend in the music world, but I think everyone has even greater admiration for him and the way he has approached his illness with bravery, dignity and determination. How was he in person?
Great, cracking jokes and being good fun to be around. We did several takes of both songs before he was happy – he could have come in, done a quick take and said goodbye, but that wasn’t the case at all – he was a total pro and wanted to give 110%! He stuck around having some beers too, think he was slightly hungover as he’d been at the Royal Opera House with Elton John the night before!

In terms of 2014, we understand that a new album is on the way, when will we get the chance to hear it and what else can we look forward to from the band?
There will be a second single coming soon called ‘Pipe And Slippers Man’ and ‘Love, Drink & Death’ our 3rd studio album should be out late spring. The albums 16 tracks are recorded and mixed and most of the artwork is done too, now we just need to find the funds to promote it. I think we will start a crowd funding campaign soon, it seems to have worked well for other artists I know and we have some cool fans who hopefully wanna help us get this record out

It’s great to see that an album is ready to go and give the passion of the fans for the band there can be no doubt that a funding campaign would be a success. For now, I suggest you grab hold of all the albums and definitely check them out live or perhaps for a taste of the alternative check out The Gypsy Hotel night.

All photos courtesy of Paul Needham / Mohawk Visuals

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