Ten City Nation are one of the more exciting and independent-minded bands on the circuit in the UK, so it was a great pleasure to interview their frontman Seymour Patrick for this site.
The three-piece were born out of Miss Black America, an English band that gained a lot of deserved attention in the early part of the last decade for their blistering rock that had a certain respect for American indie whilst retaining a quintessential Englishness.
The initial incarnation broke up in late 2002, following a moderately-received self-titled debut and various personal problems. Seymour Glass, as he was called then, was the sole member of that version of MBA to coninue in Mk II. I saw them a few times in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk when I was living there, this was following the split, and they sounded edgy without setting the heather on fire.
Eventually, with MBA past its sell by date, Glass, met with Neil Baldwin and Mike Smith over a drink and the original MBA line-up was back, under the name Ten City Nation.
I talked to Seymour about the reformation, their unusual methods of working, how he went “completely mad” and the fight against the crypto-fascist British National Party.
In the next Lowdown on the New I will review their second album, At The Still Point.
Porky: The new album sounds quite menacing, such as on tracks like Room 10101. Was there an event, or feeling that resulted in this aggressive sound, or was that the intention from the outset?
Seymour: I don’t think the way an album sounds is ever intentional, but there was a very strong feeling being totally removed from the world when we were making it. We’re very aware that as far as music scenes go, we don’t fit in anywhere at all, so there’s that feeling of confident insularity, which may come across as menace and aggression. We’ve learned over the years to be wary of outsiders, which is sad in a way but it also means we turn up to gigs feeling defiant, like a 3-man gang. We’re working on the next album at the minute and there’s that same feeling – that because we’re so removed from everything, all we have to worry about is whether we like what we’re doing. What I’m essentially trying to say is that as a band, it’s incredibly healthy to have no friends.
Porky: How did the transformation from Miss Black America to Ten City Nation come about?
Seymour: It was very long, slow, gradual and painful. Me, Mike and Neil were the original line-up of Miss Black America – we recently celebrated 10 years since MBA started, in that I texted them bemoaning the fact that you get less than 10 years for manslaughter. We wrote a lot of the songs from the first MBA album as a three-piece, so we already knew that we wrote well together. The problem in the interim was that during 2001-2002 we toured the UK toilet circuit constantly, living on beer and crisps, my marriage broke down and I went completely mad. By the end of 2002 Mike and Neil had had enough and quit, which I can’t really blame them for. They formed a really good band called My Hi-Fi Sister, with Mike as lead singer, while I struggled on in MBA and eventually made a second album, which I was really proud of but the line-up in MBA was like a revolving door nightmare and I ended up having a complete breakdown. So I’d just convinced myself that I never wanted to be in a band again when Mike and Neil invited me for a pint, completely out of the blue, bought me a drink and asked me if I wanted to form another band – I said “yes” and they finished their drinks and left, and that was that! It was like something out of a 60s spy movie. I’m amazed they didn’t turn up in disguise.
Porky: There’s been some comparisons to Nirvana and grungy/ punky US music in the press and in cyberspace. Are they fair or do you feel you’ve been misunderstood?
Seymour: It’s entirely understandable because we definitely don’t sound British when compared to 99% of British music that’s happening right now, at least in the mainstream – and by “mainstream” I don’t necessarily mean bands who sell lots of records, I mean bands who lazily conform to the rules of how a UK indie band is “supposed” to sound. That whole costume cupboard trust fund indie sound means absolutely nothing to us, so we have no interest in developing what’s currently seen as the “UK” sound. There are a lot of bands currently getting press for sounding exactly like early Creation Records bands, but they only seem interested in apeing those bands rather than creating something of their own and they tend to be Anglophiles from elsewhere in the world. There are a lot of very good bands in the UK doing their own thing, it’s just that very few people have the balls to write about them or play their records on the radio. We do sound like a lot of UK bands used to sound in the early 90s, particularly stuff like Th’ Faith Healers, Jacob’s Mouse and early PJ Harvey, and we’d be lying if we said we didn’t love Nirvana, Queens of the Stone Age and Fugazi. But Mike sings in quite an English accent really, and my voice is a lot less grating and emo than it used to be. We just don’t milk our plums like so many indie singers do when they want to sound “English”.
Porky: What’s your future plans?
Seymour: Album number three, and lots of gigs. We’re planning a Love Music Hate Racism compilation EP with R*E*P*E*A*T Records first of all, then a couple more EPs on my label, then the album. We’re also planning UK festivals and tours in Germany, Japan and hopefully the US.
Porky: If Ten City Nation were to be killed a group of Cornish nationalists on Tuesday week what would your legacy be?
Seymour: Mike’s legacy would be his paintings and his collection of 2nd World War memorabilia. Neil’s legacy would be an almighty flood caused by all the women on Earth weeping uncontrollably forever. My legacy would be … a really, really good collection of T-shirts? And I buy ace presents for my family, which I’m sure would be treasured.
Porky: Is downloading music good for TCN and for indie music in general?
Seymour: Yes – more people have heard TCN’s albums with minimal publicity than ever heard MBA’s records, which had the full hype machine in operation behind them and cost everyone involved thousands and thousands of pounds they’ll never see again.
Porky: How important is your involvement with Love Music Fight Racism and fighting against the British National Party?
Seymour: It’s very important to me, but what causes me a great deal of frustration is that it shouldn’t be my job to try and help convince people not to vote BNP: it should be the job of the other parties to show themselves as something other than a bunch of cretinous, self-serving wankers and to make the British public believe that they actually have more inside them than a gaping vacuum where a soul should be. A vital job of any Government should be to make its citizens – regardless of background or ethnicity – feel that their best interests are being served. Either this Government isn’t doing that, or they’re doing the worst PR job in history, and the other main parties seem incapable of offering anything that even resembles a tempting alternative. Meanwhile, the BNP are going door-to-door and talking to people like they actually matter, in their own language rather than in the language of politics, and are offering scapegoats for their woes that seem logical in the context they’re given, so of course people are voting BNP. I dream of a time when I actually want to vote FOR a party rather than AGAINST the ones I hate most. But that time ain’t now, so we’re left with idiots with guitars like me handing leaflets to people who probably agreed with me in the first place. It’s a shocking state of affairs and if I ever meet Gordon Brown, I’m going to punch him in the tits.
Porky: Any other Bury St Eds/ Suffolk bands the world should wake up to?
Seymour: Cure Caballo just won the BurySOUND Band Competition and their song Predators is ace, I’m looking forward to hearing more stuff. Thee Vicars are brilliant, but you’ve probably already heard of them. Tell It To The Marines started with the standard post-hardcore/emo sound and are rapidly turning it into something entirely their own, which is quite an achievement – we’re hoping to do lots of gigs with them this year. And we also love Kunk, from Norwich, and The Resistance and Hyman Roth, who’re from Cambridge. You can’t afford to worry about county boundaries when everyone everywhere is basically trying to rise above the same old crap.
Porky: What’s the weirdest or most outlandish gig you’ve done?
Seymour: In MBA we played at Soham Village College while Ian Huntley was still the janitor there – it was literally a few months before he killed those girls. That’s only weird in hindsight, but thinking about it still makes my blood run cold. In terms of actual gig weirdness, MBA were once asked to play at an actual Masonic lodge in Otley, West Yorkshire. There are clips from it in the video for the Miss Black America single (it’s on YouTube). And last summer, TCN played at a festival in a rural life museum in Farnham, supporting Jethro Tull and Mungo Jerry. They had a TARDIS in one of the sheds. We drank locally-brewed cider under the string lights, then Neil commandeered an abandoned stall, put some Northern Soul on the boombox and caused a mass pile-up of grooving revellers. It was fantastic.