Are WORLD OF TWIST ready to make a splash? A world within a world, putting the 'and' back into band, they defy normality, or encapsulate it. It hardly matters, does it? They make the scene a better place just by being.
World Of Twist are a band with a reputation. They're weird - off-planet kitsch merchants with a taste for the bizarre and an eye for the supernatural, they're without doubt the strangest group ever to feature a mermaid. They're flamboyant - born sons of the stage, WOT exude showmanship like others pass water, frequently transforming drab concert venues into otherworldly theme parks of delight. They're subversives - co-ordinators of the ultimate pop experience, each World Of Twister uses his/her panoramic knowledge of cack sixties and seventies music to turn peoples pop opinions well and truly on their heads. One thing they're most certainly not, is normal. Singer Tony's more of a game show host than a vocalist, sea noise provider Julie seems to think she's some kind of fish, guitarist Gordon is a manic Hawkwind fan, and that Adge, the wizened visuals mastermind, the one who looks like Merlin or something - well he's weird, isn't he? Yep, World Of Twist are everything and anything.
"CARE FOR ANY SEAFOOD, Y'ALL??"
This is what's known as a sneak preview. About half way through the interview, we're interrupted by the arrival of a loudhailing seafood salesman. Crying cockles and muscles alive alive o, he puts the cat amongst our conversational pigeons quicker than any well aimed faux pas; play being suspended while Adge, Gordon and drummer Nick pick their respective jaws up off the pub floor. Gordon in particular is dumbfounded. He's been telling all his friends about this amazing character, this strange old man with a foghorn voice and breathtaking stock of edible seafood, and now via the presence of yours truly, he's actually got him on tape. He's a bit pleased. Talk then turns to the idea of getting Mr Seafood to ply his wares at their gigs - maybe they could get him to star in their forthcoming video. It's all very amusing, very fanciful, very World Of Twist. The point, however, is that...no, hang on, we're getting a bit ahead of ourselves here, this is meant to be a sneak preview after all. Let's go back to the bit where I registered my surprise at the minimalism of their recent Hacienda show. It was a bit sparse. Where were all the props?
"There's usually a lot more going on," admits Nick. "But you saw what the Hacienda was like, what else can you do? It's like playing a shelf in the dark. You can't redesign the whole venue, so all you can do is make it dead loud. It's money as well. Money was a bit short for that one. We couldn't afford Stonehenge."
Seeing Manchester's weirdest group in Manchester's favourite venue and not getting the full show was a bit of a let down. The performance was great, sure, and the atmosphere electric, but the absence of the fabled windmill put a bit of a damper on things. In fact their only concession to offbeat showmanship was a large revolving disc with what looked like a child's face on it. Wait a minute, what do I mean by only...
"It's an old idea," explains Adge. "It's one of a series. It's supposed to look like one of those crying child paintings. It's a classic car boot sale thing. That and the Amazonian woman. There's no reason other than that really." Much talk of crying child paintings being responsible for burning down houses then follows this statement, but nowhere in their conversation will WOT reveal what their ideal stage show would be. But then, as I found out to my cost, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
"It's best that it's a lucky dip, isn't it?" argues Gordon. "If someone comes expecting Billy Smart's Circus, and all they get is us then they're going to be really disappointed, but sometimes if we can, we do put on a big show.
"One show could be a rise of steps and curtains, and that would be that feel," chips in Adge."
"Yeah, we've got a selection of different shows so everyone sees something different," continues Gordon. "But having said that one of them might be the fact there's nothing, there's just us. 95% of other live bands just rely on themselves, so l like to feel that we can just go on. But it is good to present yourself with a lot of distractions going on."
"There's going to be a lot of brown," deadpans Nick.
"We can give that much away."
The thing I suppose, is for people to go to the shows without knowing quite what they're going to be hit with.
"Yeah, that's it," agrees Gordon. "It's like you saying about a windmill. We never had a windmill - that was our head thing. It's good how it gets turned into a windmill but then someone comes along and they actually expect a full Amsterdam Windmill on the stage."
"It was actually the heads when they were together on the canvas stand," elaborates Adge, "and the heads were revolving. But that doesn't sound very good does it? A windmill sounds better. It looks good though."
"When you bear in mind the various speeds that the heads go round at, it's fucking excellent," adds Nick. "They can reach phenomenal speeds. Or go very slowly."
So it's a bit like spinning plates?
"Now you're talking." grins Gordon. "I'd love to have that going on onstage. I've always been very interested in plate spinning. You know people learn how to juggle where do you learn how to spin a plate? It would be good to have a UV light, and all the white plates spinning."
Windmills...revolving heads...spinning plates - all these are things most bands wouldn't even care about let alone consider putting onstage. Do you think other groups don't really make the effort?"
" I Just don't think they think about it in the same way," says Nick generously. "It's not important to them."
"It just depends on where you're coming from," adds Gordon. "When I used to see groups it was at big venues so you didn't come away with a show you were a bit disappointed. Just seeing The Buzzcocks and nothing else was great of course, but you knew when you went to see...Barclay James Harvest, that you were going to get a fantastic show."
Adge and Nick collapse into fits of laughter. Gordon's being a bit of a wag here - he's no more been to see Barclay James Harvest than I have the Goombay Dance Band. And yet, everyone seems to have the idea that World Of Twist are massively influenced by such greats as Hawkwind, Can and Eno. While I don't believe for one moment that Adge has never heard Can (Adge: "Never", Gordon: "I heard them once at a party", Adge: "What do they sound like?',), I'm not entirely convinced that driving up these type of musical cul de sacs is really WOT's thing. We're much nearer the mark with Roxy Music, a band who managed to combine off the wall ideas with commercial success. In tact we're pretty much spot on.
"I'd like to think that we're as strange as Roxy," nods Gordon, "because they came across at the time as being really odd. Roxy really felt uncomfortable, and if anyone sees us like that then I'd say it's worked. It's not the kind of thing we set out to achieve though. It's not that hard to grasp. I can't imagine anyone coming out of seeing us and saying 'what was that?"
This all sounds remarkably like pop music. Is World Of Twist a pop group?
"Yeah. Yes and no. Not if pop implies bland. I don't think we're bland. but definitely we're not trying to cater for a specific group of people - you could put us alongside anything in the top 30. Yeah, of course it's pop music. I hope it's slightly twisted but that's only what I prefer. It's not like something like Kylie, is it?" There's much more to it than that."
World Of Twist's music may be slightly (ahem twisted, but this doesn't necessarily make them strange. They've just got different concerns than most, a different way of looking at things. After all, who are we to say that Julia is nuts for wanting to be a mermaid? Or that they're odd for making the 'sad and lonely tale' of their new single 'Sweets' sound as sugary as its title. They're not 'we are weird', just 'we are what we are'. World Of Twist.
"We're not from another planet," stresses Gordon. "We're not freaks or anything, we just have ideas which just happen to not coincide with everyone else's. We don't sit around thinking of strange ways to act. We're just being ourselves."
"Like The Farm with their Subbuteo," he continues. "Everyone's got their favourite things, it's just that some people keep it to themselves while others try and put it across. We've got those kind of things, like we use a lot of sixties imagery, advertising and stuff, just because have a certain feel to them, something you remember. I always remember the Embassy Classic cigarette packet we had a load of T-shirts made out of it. The Number Six was a design classic, and all those sorta things, that's our Subbuteo. Plus there's also the sort of twist to it, because smoking's a bit taboo, sick advertising, encouraging people to smoke."
Not everybody enjoys design though.
"Not everyone's going to enjoy World Of Twist are they? It'd be a poor show if everybody did. We're going to irritate the shit out of as many people who are going to enjoy us. The thing is I hope none of what we do comes across as a private joke, because when we think of an idea it entertains us, when we first think of it we have a smile, and I hope when it actually reaches somebody they get the same feeling. When people come to see us it's not a miserable experience, there's nothing intense about it. I like the idea of being strange, I like the idea of people standing there and being a bit bewildered - going to see Hawkwind was a bit of a strange experience - but you come out at the end knowing that you'd been entertained, you didn't go away thinking you'd been at a devil worshipping session. So we're just trying to entertain, and I hope it's what people haven't seen before."
And here is where we pick up the point with the seafood seller. Although he was a bit of a bizarre figure, he was entertaining - and thus so perfect for Gordon, Adge and Nick. Just by not quite being not quite normal, he managed to totally transform the evening. Which of course is exactly how World Of Twist hope to operate.
"It's bringing another environment into it." decides Gordon. "If you live in Nottingham or Reading or somewhere, you're used to going to the same club each week. So if you go to that club and see a show that really turns the place on its head, then that's special. That's the kinda thing I like, to walk in there and suddenly feel as if you're in a different world. I can't understand why more groups don't do that. That's not to say we're superior, it's just that it's not that hard to do. The music's good as well. I think we're a quality act."
So are World or Twist weird, flamboyant, subversive? Yes, and...not at all. They're just being themselves - mundane, crazy, familiar and exciting. Yep, just that.
What a Wonderful World.