AS YOU CAN PROBABLY imagine xBomb Factory are an incendiary agit-punk band with a singer who has been known to use a tannoy at gigs. They originate from Cambridge, eastern England, a city full of students with plummy accents, who are kept far away from the rough and tough working class estates on the outskirts.
I interviewed Ranting Jack from what was then known simply as Bomb Factory in October 2009 and described them as “offering a bit of a push against the perpetual shove, an antidote to the poison we’re dealt with every day.”
Read the full article, https://craighaggis.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/bomb-factory).
They now have their debut album, No, out – ten years after their first released anything. I will review this very soon. It is an appropriate time, then, to catch up with Jack and his merry men to find out about police computers, an ever-eccentric Mark E. Smith and that slight name change.
Porky: Firstly, the obvious one, why the name change, is there a purpose to this or was it that there’s a Japanese band by the same name and you want to play in Tokyo?
Ranting Jack: It’s because we’re all puppets of the sinister internet overlords. We always knew there was a Japanese band called Bomb Factory but it didn’t bother us and it really didn’t matter until we got signed. Then the label pointed out we’d never show up on an internet search because the Japanese lot had got there first and spread themselves over the web like a fine paste.
It became clear that confusion would reign and the clouds would weep blood. Or something. So we changed it. Naming a band has got to be one of the hardest things to do. Every name you can think of is already taken by some half-arsed fucking skiffle group in Patagonia. So in the end we got pissed off and just stuck an x on the front, xBomb Factory.
Tell us who is in the band just now … and why.
Well, there’s me, Ranting Jack. I’m in the band because the band was my idea. Mine, I tell you, mine. I am also the last surviving member from the original line-up.
The others, in order of longevity, are:
Mills, who went from watching early gigs to being in the band. He’s the one who gives it the spiky, trebly, scratchy guitar action.
Dave, who is in so we can have someone with a proper rock haircut. Also, because he’s an amazing guitarist and actively wanted to be in the band. Never look a gift guitarist in the mouth.
Ed. Ed drums and screams. Got to have a drummer, right? Well, try finding one. It’s a big investment, drums. We’re lucky to have Ed. He can never leave… ever.
Tom. He can play the bass line from Leave Them All Behind by Ride. That’s enough for me. Plus, the ladies love the beard.
We all knew each other before to a greater or lesser extent. Cambridge is a small place and if you’re in a band you get to know the people who play in bands.
It’s been nearly five years since your career highlight (being interviewed by Porky) … what has happened in the meantime, and why has it taken so long to pin down an album?
We’ve been to the high places and breathed the ancient air that drifts from the melting glaciers. I don’t honestly know. Time just … goes. We all have lives and they don’t stop until they stop, so just living I suppose. A few line up changes, an EP. But, to be honest, there didn’t seem any point going to the bother of an album until we knew someone wanted it and it would get heard.
Who is the character in the opening track My Name Is Gulliver, and why should we want to get to know him better (or less)?
He’s a sort of everyman. The song is about people getting labelled, about being forced to conform to stereotypes, but also about the bullshit situations you find yourself in. I just had the line, ‘my name is Gulliver’ and then all these other fictional characters came pushing in – Oliver Twist, Robinson Crusoe. They’re all everyman figures dealing with the shitty hand their dealt and that the reader is meant to identify with. That’s why the last line starts ‘my name’s not important’. So, maybe you know Gulliver quite well already.
Tapes, from the Bomb Factory EP, is about a man who went insane at the mass surveillance of society and sent letter bombs to government agencies. Given what has been revealed by Edward Snowden and The Guardian newspaper, mass surveillance has become super mass surveillance and virtually everything we do is being detailed in some way. It must be quite demoralising to read all this?
The most depressing thing about the whole Edward Snowden thing was how everyone just shrugged and said, “well of course they’re watching you when you take a shit. Duh!” People feel powerless, perhaps. Maybe they’re just too busy getting by. But I think most people – most people who think about it anyway – have this nagging anxiety. It’s what we’re trying to tap into with pretty much all of our stuff really.
What can be done to preserve our last vestiges of privacy?
You need a private self. An inner self. Don’t be hanging all your innermost on the washing line of social media. They can see your bank details and all that, ok, but there’s no need to go giving people a window into your head too. If they’re going to try and piece you together from your online habits, then make sure you’re more than just a digital jigsaw of shopping and Daily Mail celebrity sidebar porn. Consume less. Value your private life. Refuse to love Big Brother.
With a name like Bomb Factory/ xBomb Factory I imagine the spooks would have an alert to whenever the name is posted online, even inadvertantly, given the dangerous words that they follow.
Maybe. Someone did tell us that a few years ago – he was looking at our website on a library computer when someone seized control of his mouse to have a look at what he was up to. We did also get a series of visits from police computers – at least that’s what the analytic software told us. We got a load of visits from a Metropolitan Police computer in a short space of time and then it stopped. Maybe someone was checking us out because of the name. Maybe someone working there was a fan! They’ve probably gotten bored shitless and scrubbed us out of their Boolean search terms by now.
How did the connection with Noisolution come about, and tell us about how you are doing in Germany and beyond. I would have put a bet on that you would have released the album through Repeat Records.
We’ll always love R*E*P*E*A*T. They gave us our first gig and put out our first record on a white vinyl split single with Attila the Stockbroker.
Noisolution came about through a German magazine called Ox. We sent them our EPs and they gave them both the big thumbs up. Seems the guy who runs the mag knows the guy who runs the label and he pointed them in our direction. It happened very fast when it finally happened, and now we’ve got an album out and we’re going on tour in Germany. Berlin beckons. There’s been a good reaction to the record over there, good reviews and lots of radio play. Radio 6 have played a couple of tracks here too, but the other big highlight recently was supporting The Fall in Cambridge. Couldn’t ask for a better warm up really. Mark E. Smith disappeared off with a mic on a long lead about four songs in and phoned about half the gig in from the dressing room while the band soldiered on out front. There was a kind of fatalistic acceptance from the punters.
xBomb Factory on Facebook … https://www.facebook.com/bombfactory
Website that’s not being updated but has plenty of information on past activities …. http://bombfactory.blogspot.co.nz/
Chris Boland, photographer who provided the photos here … https://www.facebook.com/chrisbolandphotography