Milk Maid Interview

Martin Cohen is best known as one part of former indie darlings Nine Black Alps. After leaving the band earlier this year, he’s been busy writing and recording with his new musical project Milk Maid.

Soundbite Culture caught up with Cohen pre gig in Hoxton to see how the hell it was all going.

Soundbite Culture: Milk Maid has a lovely ring to it, how did you come by that name?

Martin Cohen: I don’t know really, I just liked the sound of it. Trying to think, maybe I took it from the Milk Maid ice lollies.

SC. Milk Maid’s, they were nice. They were also cheap like Funny Feet.

MC: Were they milky as well?

SC: More vanilla like. But a foot.

MC: Just a foot on a stick?

SC: Yep. There’s a real difference between Nine Black Alps albums and Milk Maid’s sound; would it be fair to say you’re having more fun with this?

MC: I am because its newer and new things are always fun. It’s an impossible thing to compare the two because in a lot of ways they’re identical but they’re also complete opposites.

SC: How did Milk Maid come about?

MC: It just did really. It wasn’t with a view to play live. Self-sufficiency is very important to me. I like being able to just do it myself. It got very frustrating in Nine Black Alps trying to get everyone together and I think everyone in the band felt that. It took so long to organise things.

SC: Because everyone was far apart?

MC: That and also being on the bigger label. They have a different way of working. It was never very spontaneous. Now, I just record at home so I can do it whenever I want. It’s dead easy. And if you’re writing a song you know what you want it to sound like, where to take it; as soon as you have to start to justify everything, it slows the whole process down.

SC: Is that what you felt like you had to do?

MC: I was just aware of it. Or maybe I wasn’t even aware, but I’ve become aware of how frustrating it can be for a songwriter. Something that Sam [Sam Forrest, Nine Black Alps front man and songwriter] probably went through, you write these things and watch them get changed

SC: In to something he wasn’t happy with?

MC: Well the label would get involved and things would become different.

SC: Were they quite “hands on”?

MC: Yeah they were, especially on the first album. The American label was very involved to the point where they were calling the studio every half an hour to say “try this”.

SC: Any good suggestions?

MC: There were too many to remember. I think we tried everything they suggested, they’re they ones paying for it, might as well try it. Buts it’s pretty distracting at the same time.

SC: What are you hoping for with Milk Maid, the same sort of success as Nine Black Alps without the label interference?

MC: I don’t know really. I’m not thinking about it. I’m kind of surprised the record’s coming out at all.

SC: You’re releasing Not Me first, any reason for that?

MC: A radio guy said he liked it. I think it’s pretty catchy.

SC: It is. But some of the tracks on the album have quite a morose feel to them, with the weird exception of Sad Songs.

MC: The lyrics are pretty dark on that track, so it balances out. Such Fun has a similar sort of vibe, upbeat, but the lyrics are quite dark.

SC: Oh is a particular favourite in our house, what’s that about?

MC: No idea. I took some of the words from Blindness by Jose Saramago because I was reading that at the time. We stopped playing that live, not sure why, it’s a fun one to play.

SC: We’ve been cooking to it.

MC: Really, a cooking song? I’ll send it to Masterchef; they could use it as the theme music.

SC: What turned you on to music?

MC: Queen was that first thing for me. I remember being on a caravan holiday in Wales, and Freddie Mercury had just died, so I heard a lot of Queen that week. I think I bought about 16 of their albums after that. Their first five are amazing, structurally amazing records.

SC: What sort of music are you listening to at the moment?

MC: A band called Women released an album last year called Public Strain, I really like that. Also a band from Boston called Come, who were around in the early nineties but did a reunion show that I went to. I’m just kind of sick of listening to pop songs, I want to listen to longer more drawn out stuff.

SC: More epic?

MC: That’s a dangerous word.

SC: I’m not talking about Prog Rock.

MC: Good. I mean something with more of an atmosphere to it.

SC: You grew up in Manchester, what do you think is their best export?

MC: Roy Harper. The only album I have of his is called Stormcock, it’s like 4 songs but 40 minutes long, loads of amazing words and he’s an incredible guitar player.

SC: You once described your music as when “shorts turn into underpants”. Listening to the album though I thought it was more like the relief of taking an itchy sock off?

MC: And keeping the other one on?

SC: If it’s not itchy. Do you still stand by your description?

MC: Til the day I die.

SC: Political question now; who would you rather joined Milk Maid’s line up, Nick Clegg or David Cameron?

MC: Probably Nick Clegg. Our new song Not Me needs a maraca player if he’s up for it.

SC: And finally, who would make up your dream band?

MC: Chris Brokaw from Come on guitar, Dee Dee Ramone on Bass. I’d play maracas. Not sure about drums. Who should I have on drums?

SC: That one armed guy from Def Leopard?

MC: He’s got too much shit, it wouldn’t fit in the van. Ian who I’m playing with at the moment, I really like how he plays drums. So he’s in. And PJ Harvey on vocals. I’d like to see that.

Milk Maid’s new single Not Me is out now, with their debut album Yucca released by Fat Cat Records on the 20th June.

Tim Green

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