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An Interview With Eurovox
by Karla Ash

According to MTV, Britpop has been dead for nearly ten years now, arriving and vanishing from the airwaves faster than a john at a whorehouse. But the following for anything English still remains strong. The appetite for British rock bands is quite voracious, whether or not MTV gives a damn. If it weren’t for the unexpected rise of English youths such as Franz Ferdinand and the Kaiser Chiefs, Eurovox (http://www.eurovoxuk.com) would’ve been labeled as spoiled milk. These Jam-stoked power-pop punks whip out the retro riffs and teach today’s so-called alternative rockers how it’s supposed to be done. The following is a recent chin wag I had with lead singer Mat Hammond and producer Robbie Watson.

Karla Ash: Was the group's name inspired by the U.K. band Ultravox?

Mat Hammond: Actually, no. I wanted something that reflected what the band was about… the very “Englishness” of it… and of me… and “Eurovox” obviously fits pretty well given that I sing everything with my Bromley accent instead of trying to sound like an American as most singers do. Plus it really had to be a “one word” thing… and nothing that you could put “The” in front of… Having said that, I do like Ultravox and I thought people might link us together initially, but they were around in the ‘80s and we sound completely different so I’m sure it won’t create any confusion.

Robbie Watson: I had a band called the Speedometors (Arista/Acrobat Records) in London before our Arista deal we were briefly signed to Island Records (Ultravox’s label). The Speedos played a lot of shows with Ultravox. The Eurovox name, however, was not intentional but maybe it was the back of my mind.

Ash: How did Eurovox come together?

Hammond: Stevo (Steve Flores, the bass player) and I were in another band, which after some U.S. touring folded after our previous record label collapsed around us. Robbie and Stevo and I then set about just writing and recording demos and we spent a long time looking for a drummer. We auditioned about 35 guys and met and talked with dozens more and it took us a very long time to find Jeff (Tellez). We really wanted someone who completely understood what we’re doing and where we’re coming from musically and Jeff totally fits the bill to a “T”! Stevo and Jeff are in charge of driving the bus on stage. They’re completely solid, and I know that they’re locked in real tight and they’ll always be exactly where they’re supposed to be… which is great because then I can relax and concentrate on my part. I just wish I could actually sit back and watch them a little more.

Watson: Mat and Steve and myself were very frustrated by the non-drummer situation. So I said let’s go in the studio and start knocking the shit down. Mat played the basic drum tracks and the next thing you know is "this sounds pretty good." Jeff came along a little later and the rest is hopefully history.

Ash: Eurovox have a "dated" sound, and I mean that as a compliment. How was the group able to achieve such a late '70s-styled record with modern recording equipment?

Hammond: Thanks… I’ll take that compliment. Actually, it’s very simple. The album was recorded using all the technology available. No tape. Not even a tea boy to make us a nice cuppa. We recorded straight to hard disk and Chari, Robbie's wife boiled the kettle with a laser. The real point is that technology is just a tool. When the Beatles first walked into Abbey Road the technology that existed was reel-to-reel 4-track tape… that was the state of the art. What set them apart from everyone else wasn’t that they were using the latest technology, or even inventing it for that matter, but it was how they used it to achieve the things they wanted to achieve. If our record sounds dated it’s because we didn’t use anything we deemed unnecessary like keyboards and string arrangements and tons of digital effects on everything. Eurovox is essentially a rock and roll band. Drums, bass, guitar, and a vocal… It’s pop in its purest form. The guitars are Rickenbackers through a Vox amp turned up enough so they bite, the bass is a gritty and growling Fender Precision through whatever amp was in the room on the day including a 15 watt Vox guitar amp at several points… and the drums are big round things that make a lot of noise when you hit ‘em. Really, we made the album to reflect on the way the band sounds live… raw guitar pop. I don’t think that makes it sound “dated”… a timeless classic, maybe?

Watson: I'm old school, but I embrace technology, and love it. Way back when I read my hero Pete Townsend was doing "Who demos" in his flat on two track tape I thought I've got to do this. So after my first "Second or fifth hand Sony Sound on Sound two track 1/4 inch tape machine" I was hooked. I recorded all the "Speedos" demos. I progressed to producing and recording Shepherds Bush Punk and New Wave bands, some of which landed indie deals. I worked in New York in the eighties as an engineer/producer for indie and major labels funnily enough doing rap and hip-hop, (which I still love). I have recorded many different artists with many different sounds, from Rock to reggae plus, but it was not until Eurovox that I really felt at home and could really draw from my roots and experiences. It's a natural; I knew exactly how the band should sound and the rest was instinct. The other important thing that always hit me over the years was that I would hear the demo and then record the expensive version. I would then play the simple demo again and it would have simplicity and charm that the professional recording sometimes lacked, same song, players, and chords, etc., but I now try and keep the early takes and "Not over analyze the performance or arrangement." If the song does not flow then forget it and do something else. If you have to force it, it won't happen.