9 o’clock Nasty take a big rock swing and swig with their latest single, “Mickey Humpper”
9 o’clock Nasty always have a story behind every song. Sometimes it ‘s what makes the song so entertaining to listen to. We don’t chat often with these lads. They’re busy making music, not running their mouth to people all the time. For their latest release, they were eager to provide insightful answers to my dumb questions. In a way, I got checkmated. However, I am no Mickey Humpper, their latest single.
9 o’clock Nasty tell a nice story
Another song, another incident to tie it to. Where did the idea of Mickey Humpper come from?
We were doing an interview with The Qwarks for their new LP. Addermyre and Ted had been due to go to Brighton, and we were going to make a video on an open topped bus asking them stupid questions to try and freak them out. We wrote the most rude and confrontational questions we could, but the Qwarks are pretty much unshockable as well as being incredibly generous and kind, so the effort was doomed from the start.
For various reasons, the visit didn’t work out, so one Saturday morning we did a Zoom call and recorded it – clips from it do pop up every now and then. Somehow we got talking about football and Phil told us the story of Ludo, his neighbour’s dog with a special gift and affinity for Disney toys. Ludo humps Mickey when people go to his home to watch football. We’re not sure whether it is because of the football or the visitors. We were charmed and said we should write a song about it. Then we said it again. Then again.
As far as we know, The Qwarks sat down and specifically wrote a song. It’s a killer. The chorus is so infectious. We wish we’d written it!
We can’t work in quite that way, and what actually happened is that Pete was playing Ted a demo for a song, I can’t remember what the title was going to be, and Ted just started with “give it up, give it up, give it up for Mickey Humper and kept on doing it until everyone joined in and that improvised skit turned into the song.
Leaving a microphone on when you’re improvising stuff sometimes unearths little treasures. Or absolute nonsense.
In case anyone thinks that was how easy it was, we should say that Pete Brock spent about 30 hours editing together all the strange fragments into a song, and then we recorded overdubs onto that.So a chance conversation, a random thought and then hard work.
Like I mentioned to them, I see this to be a great stadium chant. Sing it at home, sure your family locks you up and exorcises you for a couple of weeks. In a pub where 9 o’clock Nasty play? They are more than happy to hear the hardwood creak. The riff has that returning Queens of the Stone Age feel to it. They turn the instruments to a muted radio jam, while the lyrics boom. They have purpose and a few pints in them when they scream “Hey Mickey!”. Very soon, it becomes auto-suggestive, and you can’t stop yourself relooking at that retro rodent with different eyes. The name is so synonymous with the font, I give 9 o’clock Nasty props for using it on their cover art.
Thinking of music as collaborative
The opening is like a stadium chant. Do you hope that this is how the audience will demand Mickey Humpper? Provided you take requests?
Yes. Of course we do! We do not have a band “sound” as such, we like to experiment and break down ideas, but we do have a number of golden rules to everything we do. The key one is “don’t bore us, get us to the chorus” – we aren’t always writing pop music, but we can learn from it. The hook has to hit hard, and it has to hit early. Another is writing anthems. All of our favourite music has an element of a hook you can sing along to. A chant, a call and response. Mickey is essentially a whole load of them, all mixed up and smothered in honey.
If one of our songs doesn’t have a hint of a stadium chant in it, we didn’t do our job right.
You have had two collaborations with I Am The Unicorn Head. Any more like-minded fiends you think would revel in mirth with you three?
Three actually. We have a fourth in the works too. We clicked musically. Together we make things we can’t make on our own. It adds magic. Expect more Nastycorns. Working with the Qwarks was different but equally rewarding. Musically we each did our own thing, but the mindset and the joy around the process was entirely infectious.
We did tease a third collaboration this summer. Our September single, the final one before the LP drops, is pure pop. Without a shade of subversion. Without any kind of knowing look to the listener. We wanted to make something with the purity and the confidence of a real pop ballad. We’ve been fortunate enough to work with Meg from the Margaret Hooligans on it, who has a magical voice. The song is called Bird of Happiness, and we think it’s as close to a true masterpiece as we’ve got so far on this mad freewheeling journey. There is a yang to the song’s ying, called Chicken of Despair that will be on the LP too. That’s where all the dark-energy went to hide from the bright light of pop perfection.
What is one genre you’d like to make a song in which you haven’t been able to, for the stars refuse to align?
Hmm. What is a genre? We’d say genres are a way for someone to say, “I like music like this, give me more.” An artist might deliberately make music in a genre, but that’s hopefully because it is a style they love and want to add to. We make songs and as we make them, they fit the genre that best expresses what that particular song wants to be.
We never set out to write a “pop” song or “trip hop” but if that soundscape is the right one, the song lands in it. Right now we have an absolute killer drum loop, just awesome, and a lyric (it will be called Make It Hairy) and an idea of how the guitar will sound after we’ve processed it and looped it. It is entirely possibly that what falls out will not be in any way related to hip hop, because the process of building the song can give you all kinds of swerves and curves. Going with those inspirations, those flows, is the freedom we give ourselves.
If we were in a commercial situation – with people paying us to make stuff – we’d not have that freedom.
Is 9 o’clock Nasty still composing music off the cuff? Or are there studio sessions and a formalized approach now that y’all are in the big league?
We never really made anything ‘off the cuff’ although it may have looked like that. We may have encouraged that impression.
For the first two LPs we lived and worked in the studio. 9 o’clock Nasty were literally together 24 hours a day. We slept. We talked. We ate. We had lives, but every moment of time in-between was writing and recording or, more importantly, listening to music and talking about it.
That meant we would pour huge amounts of time into songs and try out many variations on each until it clicked together. We now operate across two studios and work in a more deliberate way. We will kick around an initial idea and work on it in much more detail individually. That’s meant that some ideas that were too delicate to survive the full on attack of all the band ripping them up managed to strengthen and grow a while. That’s why there is probably more variation of tone and style, and more subtlety and experimentation in the new LP.
We have talked about the idea of deliberately going into a studio without anything written and putting ourselves under pressure to create 2 or 3 songs from scratch in a weekend. That could be a lot of fun.
As for Big League. We get 22,000 streams a month. That is rising, but it is not anywhere near big league. We do have the ambition to reach many more people. We want attention. We want to be noticed. To move the dial. We reach about ten times as many people every day than we did 18 months ago. Hopefully they are good people that enjoy what we do and they will go with us when we take it strange, and dance with us when we play it straight. But big league, real big league, means compromises we are just not capable of making.
Break on through, to the other side
If you had to make a music video for any of the songs you haven’t been able to-if there were no budget restraints-which song would it be?
Well, the honest, direct answer to the question would be Playboy Driver. To go to Monaco, dress up as James Hunt and film parties on yachts and fast racing cars would be a blast.
But the limitations of not having a huge budget is a huge part of the creative process. We filmed a video for a new single “Savage Mechanic” last week. It was (by English standards) a blisteringly hot day, but we had to wear black woollen jumpers. We filmed most of it on a staircase under a really powerful strobe light. By the end we were soaked in sweat, bruised, burned and exhausted. You can’t buy that level of creative agony! Restraints make for better Art.
And we are, after all, professionals.
To be wrapped with their music is another thing. The simple riffs tie the song together like only this trio could. Imagine this song to be a snooker set all cued up- they are putting balls in pockets on their felt of green. Every song I’ve heard since I’ve heard them first has been a gut-punching, butt munching fantasy-and I can’t stop looping it. Somehow, the song sounds good with just the vocals-which I try to imitate but fail.
Sure, you could try and be like 9 o’ clock Nasty, but there can only be one. Their penchant for finding music in the most banal of tasks is the very definition of life inspires art and vice versa. With the kind of music they make, you’d like even your life to be inspired by their blues, grooves and moves. Listen to their awesome single here: