Wednesday, February 22, 2006


John Bramwell - Voice/ Guitar
Pete Jobson - Bass Guitar
Andy Hargreaves - Drums

For a pint-sized, snot-nosed little scruff from Hyde, John Bramwell has one hell of a way with words, a voice like a fallen angel and a genius for capturing the dark side of love almost as great as his ability to make a calamity out of a casual affair. The diminuitive scallywag has a genius for penning twisted torch songs and heart-wrenching serenades laced with gorgeous melodies, littered with savage one-liners.
Born in the East Manchester suburb of Hyde, Johnny spent his teenage years picking out songs by dead people on borrowed guitars, before absconding abroad to busk on the streets of Paris, Athens and San Fransisco - living on fresh air, writing songs for foreign paramours and moving on each time they threw him out. After almost starving to death on the streets of Paris, he finally decided to come home. “Paris is the worst place to busk in the world,” he declared. “I think you get a better class of disinterested twat in the subways of Stockport!”

Back home, Johnny shacked up in a caravan in North Wales for a year, singing songs to cows. When he got bored with that he decided to return to his native Manchester and try his luck there. On his second day back he walked into the Manchester’s bohemian epicentre, The Night and Day Cafe (“kind of like the Left Bank crossed with a lunatic asylum”) and blagged his way into a job as a gig promoter. Charged with the task of filling the bookings sheet with the cream of local talent, Johnny quickly realised that the cream of local talent would be put to better use as his backing band. Given the use of a free phone and a contact list to die for, he set about putting his pop dream together, recruiting bassist Pete Jobson and drummer Andy Hargreaves from separate local acts.
Brought up in Newcastle, Pete moved to Manchester in the mid-’90s, after seeing John Cooper Clarke on the TV. “I was just blown away. I wanted to go where all that energy was. So I did.” Andy, meanwhile, had been paying his dues in a succession of bands in his native Stockport. “Johnny said if I didn’t join his band he’d make sure I never played in Manchester again. When I said ‘No’ he said I could probably forget London too. I didn’t believe a word of it, of course. But I thought, why not?”

Meanwhile, Johnny became embroiled in a personal soap opera that scandalised Manchester’s Northern Quarter - he got into a fist fight with the Night And Day’s Dutch proprietor, made mortal enemies of several barmaids and became a familiar sight dragging his guitar through the gutter of Oldham Street, looking like a man who’d fallen into a washing machine on a vigorous spin cycle. When local impressario boss Guy Lovelady rang one day to plug one of his bands, Johnny wouldn’t even discuss them. Within 15 minutes he’d talked the hapless label boss into putting out his record. Lovelady, a true music fan, and one of the best-loved figures on the Manchester music scene - didn’t even hear the release he’d paid for until it was released. He loved it.

I Am Kloot played their first gig at the Night And Day - the sight of a gaggles of girls clustered around the stage indicating that Johnny’s clubfoot Casanova reputation had quickly spread. A week later, the debut single Titanic/ To You was released. Reviewing the singles that week in the NME that week, Piers Martin initial response was “Bloody hell!”, before recovering his wits to laud its “incisive, darkly humorous musings.” Reviewing the band’s debut London show at the Highbury Garage upstairs, in the same issue, Siobhan Grogan took one look at them live and proclaimed: “I Am Kloot already write songs verging on classics.” Johnny refused to take the Great White Wordsmith plaudits too seriously. “Words? It’s just junk! I’m making it up!” he told the Melody Maker, with typical contrariness.
Meanwhile, Johnny’s reputation for recklessness was beginning to get on top off him. “I am able to lead a normal life!” he protested to Mancunian listings mag City Life. “I’ve held down a job, everything’s been fine...” City Life’s pop correspondent clearly had information to the contrary, but was in little doubt as to the potential of the man he was interviewing. “The best songwriter in Manchester by about the length of Deansgate.” he announced. No small praise from a magazine that’s had it’s ear to the underground of Manchester’s mercurial music scene for the best part of 15 years.

The second single, a double A-side featuring 86 TVs and Twist (featuring the now infamous ‘blood on your legs’ refrain) was released by Ugly Man on Valentines Day 2000 - appropriately enough on red vinyl. It saw the band make further forays into the capital, playing a spellbinding show at the Monarch in Camden. This time, The Guardian were there to check out the fuss. “Five feet of attitude with piercing eyes and a blunt Mancunian yowl” was how Maddy Costa appraised the diminuitive singer, before gushing: “...proper pop songs with memorable choruses that you can easily imagine topping the charts...unsettling lyrics that ricochet around the room.” Gush quickly melted into swoon. “You start wondering if this is how Alan McGee felt on the legendary night he saw Oasis in Glasgow’s King Tut’s...”

Incidentally, most critics attempted to draw loose comparisons to the band’s spiritual forebears, which their press officer was forbidden - under pain of a sadistic beating - from dignifying by reprinting them here.

The band finally signed to Wall Of Sound offshoot We Love You in May 2000, contributing To You to the labels’ inaugural compilation CD, We Love You....So Love Us in June. Performing at a launch party on the Thames, Johnny did his best to incite the crowd: “Peasants!” he screamed, to the astonishment of the assembled liggers and freeloaders. “We’re pulling the fucking strings here, you greasy monkeys.” By this stage, Time Out were advising it’s readers to “catch them before they conquer the world”.

With an EP planned for the October, to be followed by an album in February 2001, the band look set - just so long as they can manage to control their errant frontman.
“I think it’s pure compulsion” says Pete of his “It’s not for any other reason. It’s just pure passion.”

“And then he blames it on the music!” chips in Andy, as a round of guffawing ensues.
Johnny shrugs.

“I’m not gonna change, I still don’t own a guitar, and the terrible consequences and beauty of it will all be on the album” he says, imparting just a glimmer of that wicked irony. “We can change people’s lives at three decibels.”

(Taken From 2003)


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