in the U.K., the band known as The Brainiac 5 are keeping the
spirit of U.K. pop-rock alive and well on their 2015 CD Exploding
Universe. Much like the CD cover art, the music within
contains a touch of tongue in cheek humour and plenty of solid rockin
sounds. The B5 web site mentions influences like The Move, The Yardbirds,
Spirit and even Funkadelic. One could also mention The Kinks and late
70s post punk era influences like Ian Dury as theres a
definite psychedelic-flavored punk-rock spirit here. Lead singer /
guitarist Charlie Taylor sounds influenced by Ray Davies and
theres plenty of solid backup from John Woody
Wood (bass) Wayne Worrell (drums), Nic Onley (sax,
flute) and Duncan Mad Dog Kerr (guitars). Speaking
about the unique name of the band and the surreal CD cover art, Charlie
Taylor tells mwe3.com, "Our
drummer at the time was a big DC comics fan he came up with
the name. DC and Marvel comics were easily available in the UK in
the 60s and 70s. We all loved Doctor Strange! Woody, our,
bass player, designed the cover. Its based on the mediaeval
alchemists idea that the universe is actually a very large human
being, so the image represents the moment of the Big Bang, the creation
of the universe."
by the renowned Reckless Records label, The Brainiac Five CD is superbly
recorded and and its well presented with cool cover art and
packaging. Fans of U.K. pop and rock will catch a buzz off of the
exuberant and often over the top grooves on Exploding Universe
by The Brainiac 5. www.Brainiac5.co.uk
an interview with
Charlie Taylor of BRAINIAC 5
Where are you from and where do you live now and what do you like
best about it? What towns and cities in the UK and other countries
do you like to visit?
Brainiac 5: Im from Newcastle in the northeast of England,
and Duncan is from Durham, also northeast, the others are all from
London. The band actually formed in Penzance, Cornwall, in 1977. Cornwall
is a very remote part of England which, at the time was full of artists
and musicians who had fled London for some peace and quiet. Penzance
is a bit similar to, say, Mendocino in Northern California. The band
was able to do a lot of rehearsing, several hours a day most days,
and we had plenty of well-paying gigs entertaining the tourists in
the summer. We all live in London now. Were still fond of Cornwall,
where we play the occasional gig from time to time.
mwe3: Is there a cool story to tell us about how the Brainiac
5 album Exploding Universe took shape and fell into place?
How long did the album take to create, from start to finish and is
there a link from the new CD looking back to the sound of the original
Brainiac 5 band from the late 1970s?
Brainiac 5: We used to play Your Bodys Alright
and Glue back in the 70s. We still have the basic
sound we developed then, which grew out of psychedelic guitar jams.
Exploding Universe was heavily influenced by new member Nick
Onley. Wed played with sax players before, but usually only
adding them live for the long improvisations we sometimes play. This
was the first time wed had a sax player rehearsing regularly
with us, which pushed us more in the direction of Traffic and Family,
plus a bit of Evan Parker here and there, and Caravan when Nick is
playing flute. Hes also a good harmonizer so the backing vocals
became more elaborate.
We spent about a year recording and mixing the album. The mix was
done by Martin Griffin, former drummer with Hawkwind, who has a studio
in Cornwall and made the original B5 recordings in the 70s so
he has a good feeling for what were trying to achieve.
What is the band chemistry like on this new lineup of Brainiac 5?
Sounds like you guys are really on the same wavelength!
Brainiac 5: Yes, we really get on well together and had a great
time recording the album. Nick left after the album was released as
he needed to spend more time earning money but he still comes to our
gigs. Now that there are again four of us weve reverted to our
guitar-orientated Quicksilver/Television style.
mwe3: Its amazing how many musical genres you blend on
the Exploding Universe CD. From acid punk, ska and pop to that
kind of Traffic / Family inspired feel of early progressive music.
Is that where your main song writing influences come from? I read
that you even listened to Henry Cow!
5: When we began playing together in the mid-70s we were
very psychedelic, but then the Sex Pistols played a show in Penzance
which blew us all away and we acquired some punk influence by osmosis.
We were playing reggae tunes from the very beginning. You can probably
hear some Canterbury influence, which partly comes from listening
to the first Henry Cow LP many times.
We also enjoy free jazz and have group outings to see improvisers
like Evan Parker once a month or so. Theres a completely free
approach in parts of our live show. You can hear that on the improv
at the end of Exorcist Plan, which was recorded in one
take after we recorded the backing track for the actual song and then
just kept on playing with no predetermined form. Henry Cow used to
do that live, too.
mwe3: Tell us about working with Reckless Records and what
that label / artist relationship is like? Theyre a very world
renowned label for high quality psyche-pop and rock sounds. I hope
its going to be a long term relationship!
5: Well actually Im the owner of Reckless Records so the
relationship is indeed very close!
mwe3: How important was Ray Davies and the Kinks on your song
writing and vocal sound? Also what makes England such a great place
for music? Someone once commented that for a smaller country, England
has contributed an enormous amount of great music and art to the world!
Brainiac 5: When I was a kid, hearing You Really Got
Me on the radio for the first time had a massive impact. I knew
I had to play guitar like that those riffs! Why has so much
great music come out of Britain rather than, say, France, if we exclude
Magma? Its a mystery to me! But its true that the Beatles,
Stones and all were mostly inspired by US artists such as Elvis and
blues players like Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry, and
we do have the advantage of speaking (more or less) the same language.
mwe3: How has the Exploding Universe been accepted by
press and radio so far? Have you been getting some exposure for the
CD outside of England? How can you branch out to create even more
interest for your music and how can the internet help spread the word
about Brainiac 5?
Brainiac 5: Weve had positive reviews in magazines like
Shindig!, Prog Magazine, Terrascope, R2 and others, plus various blogs.
So far its been played by radio stations in the UK, Greece and
What made you choose the name Brainiac 5? Was it named after the DC
comic book character Brainiac? Those comic books must be worth a fortune
now! Did they sell DC comic books in England in the 1960s? Also can
you tell us something about the cool CD cover art? Its disconcerting
in a cool kind of way.
Brainiac 5: Our drummer at the time was a big DC comics fan
he came up with the name. Yes, DC and Marvel comics were easily
available in the UK in the 60s and 70s. We all loved Doctor
Strange! Woody, our, bass player, designed the cover. Its based
on the mediaeval alchemists idea that the universe is actually
a very large human being, so the image represents the moment of the
Big Bang, the creation of the universe.
mwe3: Tell us about some of the gear that you used during the
Exploding Universe recording? Theres some amazing guitar
work throughout the album. Tell us about your guitars and other gear
that helped you get that great sound on the CD.
5: Duncan has some very nice old guitars, principally a 73
Stratocaster and a customized 74 Gibson L6S, both of which he
used on the album, played through a Fender Vibralux amp. I was playing
a new-ish Telecaster through a 50 watt Peavey.
mwe3: Stars Plan Ahead is a bizarre song. Sounds
a little Daevid Allen influenced, ala Planet Gong. Even some Syd Barrett
style. Is there a story you could share about that track? That middle
guitar section is also brilliant.
Brainiac 5: Its partly about a friend of mine who was
very creative and active in every sense, but ended up taking too much
cocaine, which unsettled his mind. The song tries to show that what
happened to him is actually OK if you look at the larger, cosmic,
picture, so Gong is a good reference point. Im a big Syd Barrett
fan we were all influenced by the early Pink Floyd singles
and first two LPs.
mwe3: What story can you tell us about the first track Haphazard!?
What a great rocking way to start the album.
Brainiac 5: We used to play that riff with different lyrics
back in the 70s. Its in 7/8 time so has a rather disconcerting
feel. We werent planning to put it on the album so we didnt
rehearse it for the recording sessions, but we had a bit of time left
at the end of the last day and we gave it a go. The fact that its
unrehearsed gives it a particularly manic quality because we werent
sure we would make it to the end without mishap!
mwe3: Your Bodys Alright is classic! Love
or worse? I like the Sea Shells juxtaposition!
Brainiac 5: Its about a very fiery woman who liked to
set up conflicts between men but was very passionate at the end of
Im The Glue is fascinating sounding. I think theres
a range of musical styles. What inspired Im The Glue?
Brainiac 5: Some of the songs have fairly specific meanings
but others are more allusive, this one particularly so. Its
intended to evoke a variety of associations, probably different ones
for different listeners. The musical arrangement just happened, quite
mwe3: What can you tell us about Exorcist Plan?
I dont know whether to laugh or cry. Its a like a post-mortem.
Youve only got yourself to blame, your gurus gone
insane! A fitting ending to the album!
Brainiac 5: Its partly about an older lady who died not
long ago and was a member of a spiritual cult based upon the ideas
of G.I. Gurdjieff. I was a member of the cult for a while and got
quite friendly with this lady, but I left when I realized the guru
was more interested in sex and money than spirituality, as these people
tend to be, and was behaving more and more irrationally. When I left
she cut me off completely, refusing to even say hello if I saw her
at the local store. I felt it was sad that shed died still believing
all that nonsense, although I also hoped that at the last minute she
might have seen through it all.
mwe3: Youve stated that were really in some kind
of time warp now. So where do you see the future of pop music going
Brainiac 5: Its basically wide open. If you want to form
a band, play some gigs and make a record you can choose from all the
different styles youve ever heard and do whatever you want with
Has there been any new developments on new music writing and recording
and live shows? Its taken a long time to get an album this great
from Brainiac 5 so I hope still therell be more music coming
from you guys.
Brainiac 5: Weve got a batch of new songs that were
working on and will probably record next spring. Were working
on some long pieces, 15 20 minutes, with several different
sections and unusual instrumentation, thumb piano and the like.