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Interview: Fearless Vampire Killers at Camden Rocks 2014

 
By on Friday, 27th June 2014 at 11:00 am
 

With an acoustic gig down and a full blown electric fandango to follow, TGTF seized the opportunity to crack open a cold one (and, not the beer-y kind…) with horror punk five-piece Fearless Vampire Killers at Camden Rocks 2014. The bumpkins from Beccles turned bombastic ball busters with extra bite gave the low down on Katy Perry, festival fun times and inter band rivalry in the shires.

The theme of today is rock music. How important do you believe events like this are to the genre as a whole?
Kier Kemp (KK): Well, I guess I would have to say very important! Specific rock festivals are always important because it’s a genre that gets a lot of bad press, in the sense that everybody is always going on about dying all the time. “Oh, rock’s dead”! That guitar music’s dead, but it never is and just lives on. There are always people that don’t want to listen to fucking Katy Perry… Even though I love Katy Perry, actually. That was a bad example! But, [people who] don’t want to listen to something else rubbish. It is important to have something billed as rock. It’s like: “rock music together, man!”
Cyrus Barrone (CB): This festival is particularly good because it’s got the whole street. So many venues and so many different things going on. You can basically stumble into someone you haven’t known before. You hear something outside, like when we were playing earlier with all the windows open so everybody could hear it. It means that, even if you’re not at the festival, you’re still hearing that rock music’s alive and well in Camden. If I hear a snippet of something, I’ll think “I’ll need to check that out” – that’s the appeal of these types of festival.

How does it feel to be playing in Camden, with such a unique rock music heritage? Do you feed off that a little bit?
KK: It’s pretty cool. We live down the road so it’s not quite as exciting for us…
CB: We’re seasoned!
Laurence Beveridge (LB): We used to play here every month. We had our own club night at a place called Tommy Flynn’s. We played it every month and at the first three there weren’t people there.
KK: They charged 50p to get in. We didn’t want to make money, they just wanted people to come.
Drew Woolnough (DW): We used to flyer around Camden market. Well, not flyers but wax sealed envelopes inviting people to come to the gigs. It didn’t make any difference, but it looked fucking cool.
LB: Every band in London has played a million shit gigs in Camden – write that down!
DW: But, there’ll always be a gleaming gold one, like when we played The Underworld.
LB: Some our best gigs have been in Camden. The Barfly – we sold that out. The Underworld. Where else have we played?
CB: Purple Turtle!
KK: Camden is a place of highs and lows. It’s got that stigma.
LB: We used to be here every night, just trying to meet new people and bands.

What’s your favourite Camden venue?
KK: Of the bigger ones, Roundhouse is an amazing venue. The smaller ones, Barfly, now. It used to be shite but they put a new system in and it sounds good, so Barfly’s good now. That’s where we met our sound technician, actually.

What is it that makes a good Camden venue?
KK: Dirty!
DW: It’s got to be grimy but also sound good. Sometimes you have grimy and run down, which is not good… But, then you’ve got grimy and it’s meant to be grimy. When you walk into The Underworld, you feel this stench – a wave of sweat comes over you, but you don’t mind because you know you’re going to have a good night. We don’t mind smelling of shit. It’s all about the vibes!

Urban festivals, or fun in a field?
KK: I’ve never been a massive purveyor of festivals, just because I’m a pansy and I don’t like being dirty. So, the only way I can survive is trying to be drunk the whole time, so I don’t realise I’m disgusting and horrible.
LB: I think the best festival to play and be at – definitely to play – is Takedown Festival, because it’s fucking brilliant! They just give you loads of booze, and – there’s booze everywhere. You can go anywhere with your booze. It’s all within the university, and it’s so easy to get to. There’s like five stages within three minutes’ walking distance. It’s just a walk through to another room. Just so easy, so relaxed.
CB: You feel so connected. You feel like you really get to talk to everyone. You get to meet all your friends, and talk to new bands.
LB: With most festivals, there’s always the fear of being run over. At a field festival, if you fall over then you just get a bit muddy. If you fall over here, you might get run over by a bus! I did once get run over at Glastonbury. I just wasn’t paying attention. There’s this one road that they’d kind of sectioned off – “This is where cars go”. I didn’t know this, and got run over. I say ‘run over’, he kind of nudged me out the way.
CB: But, you’ve never been run over at Camden Rocks…

Just to stick with the ‘rock’ theme; what inspired you to start making rock music in the first place?
KK: Something random, I guess. It’s kind of what you grow up with to a degree, isn’t it? My Mum was into the old punk stuff. She was a punk back when she was a kid and I just grew up on what they listened to. Then, I guess you just get naturally drawn to that kind of subculture, in a way, because if you’re not – and I hate to say mainstream – but, if you don’t fit in as a person, you often turn to things that also aren’t mainstream.
LB: At the time we were growing up, rock music was really popular. It was in every film – every thing. ‘American Pie’ had this punk rock soundtrack. ‘School of Rock’ had just come out. Everything was very rock orientated.
KK: We had pop punk, and then nu metal, and then emo all within the early years of our youth.
LB: Even hardcore was part of our youth.
CB: You get these massive albums like ‘American Idiot’ and ‘The Black Parade’; even The Killers. They were rock. Everyone had a bit of rock in them.
LB: This is what you did. If you didn’t play football, you were in a band. In our town, Beccles, there was a population of like 6,000. It’s not a big population and there were like fucking 20 bands – and we were all trying to get the same gigs. Even we were in rival bands. Half of the band… they’re two different bands.
CB: We’ve formed an uneasy alliance now…

So, there’s still some general suspicion?
CB: Oh yeah…
LB: Massive suspicion!

 

Camden Rocks 2014 Roundup

 
By on Friday, 13th June 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

Camden Rocks‘ mission? To raise the studded standard for the borough’s rock heritage, past and present. Two hundred fifty bands across 20 venues and infinite beer pumps is a heady combination for just over half a day’s entertainment, especially when the bands are mindful of competing to be remembered in the same breath as the district’s forerunners, from The Rolling Stones to The Ramones. But, who might use one of these cider-soaked stages to write themselves into Camden folklore? No matter how big the band, this historically eclectic setting means all bets are off.

The Underworld is transformed into something in between Frankenstein’s lair and Dexter’s lab for the on-rushing psychofest that is Hounds. (Read my interview with Olly Burden of the band here.) Adorned only in sterile white, the throbbing lights and monotone hum of their entrance creates a sense of mechanised power fused with intriguing unease that would continue throughout the set. Trivial sound trouble aside, a track list including the likes of ‘Stigmata’ and standout tune ‘The Witch is Dead’ ensure a powerful reception for the boys from the countryside.

Sonic Boom Six, by comparison, is kid’s TV. The lighting engineer back above ground at The Electric Ballroom turns the contrast up to maximum as the predominantly suited and booted troupe from Manchester – fronted by the anomalously naked Laila Khan – has the day’s largest venue bouncing to their unique reggae/rock/hip hop crossover. ‘Drop the Bass and Pick it Up’, ‘Piggy in the Middle’ and ‘All In’ are undoubtedly floor-fillers, but there is an element of style over substance in their scramble to cover every genre and aesthetic within half an hour. It’s a small world, after all.

A quick licking by The Howling‘s resident axe man The Rev, and it’s off down to Purple Turtle for the force of nature that is Palm Reader. This is not a gig. This is a tumultuous, chest-thumping display of disenchanted machismo: a charmingly anarchic right of passage requiring limitless energy, plus a promoter willing to pick up the tab once the dust and debris has settled. Towards the heavy end of the South’s resurgent punk nouveau riche, to call them abrasive would be an insulting underestimation. With bassist Josh Redrup in the crowd and singer Josh McKeown emitting some kind of primal scream, it hardly matters which track they were playing (although ‘Spineless’ and ‘Uncomfortably Lucid’ somehow stood out in the malaise), and signing off “let’s get a beer or something” could not be a more welcome sentiment.

Managing to avoid the pitfalls of Sonic Boom Six despite their penchant for eyeliner and a statement fringe, the choreography of Fearless Vampire Killers feels somehow more sincere. A product of the My Chemical Romance era, the five boys from Beccles are theatrical in both dress and attitude, spitting water and multi-layered vocals across the youngest crowd of the day. A smattering of tracks from 2012′s ‘Militia of the Lost’, alongside a curious cover of Wham!‘s ‘Club Tropicana’, is clearly a release after the relative confinement of an acoustic set earlier in the day.

There’s only one way to describe the next band: ‘Shit Just Got Real’. Fittingly, this is already a song title from their debut album ‘You’re Listening to The Hell. Starting off as a smarmy joke at the expense of the hardcore scene, the band’s modus operandi is to instigate moments of raw, self absorbed aggression. Appropriately, the first act of their set at The Black Heart is a man with a deadpan look nonchalantly chucking his pint into the anonymous singer’s face from point blank range in an almost silent room.

Needless to say, it only spurs them on to incite more carnage through the likes of ‘These Butters Bitches’, ‘Groovehammer’, ‘Everybody Dies’ and ‘Hanneman’ – dedicated to the late Slayer shred machine. It could be their unique aesthetic – the guitarists play on just four strings between them and their merch tag is ‘…You Dick’ – that seems to unite the crowd in an anarchic union bound only by the uniqueness of their reactions. In any case, a joke about similarity has come to encompass a definition of individuality.

Rap metal maestros Hacktivist (pictured at top) openly admit that theirs is an act to be witnesses live before it can be fully comprehended. (Read my interview with Ben Marvin and J Hurley this way.) Chastised on occasion by elements of both the hip hop and metal scenes, their model doesn’t include a Chester Bennington or Fred Durst to bridge the gap like their noughties forerunners. This is more for the UK purists. With a thick smattering of London grime vocalists Ben Marvin and J Hurley machine gun out syllables that hit the crowd consciousness square between the eyes.

It also becomes evident who The Hell had sold their strings to, as the band’s Korn-esque rhythm section wove through the likes of ‘Fight Fire with Fire’ and Jay-Z‘s ‘Niggas in Paris’ on their six-string bass and eight-string guitar. Onlookers tear the place apart metal-style, and trying to envisage this same set getting an identical reaction amongst a room full of hip hop fans is tough, but that shouldn’t detract from a massive performance by the boys that have clearly been welcomed in to this scene with horns raised.

What organiser Chris McCormack have achieved in this year’s edition is quite possibly the most biggest buzz you can get in Camden for £25. And, as just a short walk amongst the shady characters around Camden Lock will tell you, there are plenty of ways to get your kicks in this borough.

 

Interview: Ben Marvin and J Hurley of Hacktivist at Camden Rocks 2014

 
By on Wednesday, 11th June 2014 at 11:00 am
 

With a name like Hacktivist, an interview with some kind of 21st century incarnation of HAL 9000 would have sufficed. Instead, vocalists Ben Marvin and J Hurley spurn the monotone passive aggression to offer a colourful account of their rise to prominence, their unique rap/metal crossover style and and their love for the borough that is the heartland for London’s alternative scene at this year’s Camden Rocks festival.

So, obviously the theme of today is rock music. How important do you believe events like this are to the genre as a whole?
Ben Marvin: Very important, man! It brings everyone together – a lot of bands that have done festivals and tours together all getting to mingle. It’s good for the fans because they get to split and choose who to see and at what venue and stuff. But, yeah, really cool.

How does it feel to be playing in Camden, with such a unique rock music heritage? Do you feed off that a little bit?
J Hurley: I love coming to Camden and playing music. Every time. Obviously it’s the heart of music for London. I’ve always enjoyed playing here. The crowd’s always crazy – everyone’s always crazy! Every time we play it’s always energetic and just… crazy!
BM: It’s always a good vide in Camden. Good Chinese too.

What’s your favourite Camden venue?
JH: Underworld. But, I went to see Yelawolf at The Electric Ballroom, and that was awesome.

What is it about the Underworld that keeps drawing you back?
JH: It’s nice and dark and dingy and low…
BM: It’s a grimy venue, but it’s a big grimy venue. So, it’s the best of both worlds. Your on top of the crowd; it’s really intimate, small stage. There’s a lot of injuries take place. Ticks all the boxes.

Urban festivals, or fun in a field?
BM: I say both. Both have their qualities. I think we’re yet to play a festival or gig that we haven’t enjoyed. There’s pros to playing urban festivals. We played a lot of festivals last year where the bill’s were all over the place with the artists that were playing. So, we love doing shit like that. But, at the same time we’ve played stuff like Fieldview, which was kind of like a hippy fest so we were really out of place there. And, that was a proper ‘sit down on the grass’ kind of thing – and even that fucking went off. So, I think all festivals are good.

Sticking with the ‘rock’ theme; what inspired you to start making rock music in the first place?
JH: For me, my brother kept coming home with loads of drum n bass/rave tapes. It wasn’t even called drum n bass then! It was just ‘rave’ music to me. And, then I used to listen to the tapes and sing along to them, and then one day I just thought I might as well make my own lyrics. Rather than singing their stuff, I’ll just write my own. That was when I was young. I was probably about 14-15 when that started happening, and then when I got to 16 I thought “Right, I’m going to write lyrics now”. From then, that was it.

So, lyrically, who are your main influences?
JH: I’ve got a log of influences, like Wiley, Dizzee Rascal, Pharrell Williams, P Money, I like Eminem
BM: Obviously, J’s not from the rock scene. I kind of wheeled him in a few years back, and ever since then I’ve been getting him in to metal. Then, about a year later, that’s when we started Hacktivist. I’ve been in metal (there or thereabouts) bands since I was 14, so me and J I guess got in to the music scene at the same time but from different angles. I mean, I’ve always been involved in the rock scene, so we kind of met in the middle and created Hacktivist.

How’s the reception been to your unique brand of crossover?
JH: They’re loving it. The reception’s been amazing – the reception’s been better than I thought. Every gig’s been like “woah!” – people singing along. Even when we went to Russia, there were people singing along to every single word of the lyrics. I just thought “wow!”, it blew me away, man.
BM: We’re definitely a ‘love or hate’ band. I think when we started, there was a lot of controversy about what we were doing for some reason; because we don’t fit in to a certain category or whatever. We never tried to be a certain thing anyway. It was just an experiment. We never realised we would even be a band. I think, over the course of time, even the haters are slowly moving over because – a lot of people who hear us, don’t like us. They come and see us live, and they come and speak to us and are like: “I never really got you guys, but now I get it”. It takes a while. I mean, I was the same when I was a kid and first heard Slipknot, I was like: “What the fuck is this shit?” – this is when I first started getting into the rock music and stuff. And, you know what, I listened to the album 2 or 3 times on loop and something just clicked. From then I was into heavy music. I can understand why people would automatically take a dislike to us, but overall I think the reception’s been way better than we could have ever dreamed of, man. It’s just going up and up!

Stay tuned for more of Ben’s coverage of Camden Rocks coming soon.

 

Interview: Olly Burden of Hounds at Camden Rocks 2014

 
By on Tuesday, 10th June 2014 at 11:00 am
 

B-movie mad scientists Hounds – a motley troupe of up-and-coming electro punk rockers – were delighted to occupy their slot at The Underworld for Camden Rocks 2014. Having escaped the ecological entanglement of their countryside roots, TGTF’s own Ben Parkinson managed to grab 5 minutes with lead singer Olly Burden to muse on the day and its impact on the scene at large. Here’s what he had to say:

The theme of today is rock music. How important do you believe events like this are to the genre as a whole?
I think, very important really. As we were driving into here today, as we were loading our gear in, the whole of Camden had been taken over completely by bands. Everywhere you look there’s splitter vans and transit band pulling up. I’m really impressed, to be honest, as to what Chris [McCormac, the event organiser] has done. I’m really impressed, man, he’s done a great job and it provides the opportunity for a lot of people to get some publicity – to get their name out there. And, he’s sold it out, which is amazing. I think it can only be good for the rock scene as a whole. This IS the British rock scene – the capital – and everyone’s come here to play and show what they’ve got. So, respect.

How does it feel to be playing in Camden, with such a unique rock music heritage? Do you feed off that a little bit?
We love playing Camden. We’re not a London band. We come from a tiny village out in the middle of nowhere. So, for us to be included in this type of thing is always a big deal. Even though we come up here and play a lot, it’s still a big deal because there was nothing to do where we came from apart from cause trouble and start fires and stuff like that. So, we use to look at this sort of thing and think, you know, “one day we’ll be included in something like that”. For us, now, to get the invite to play something like this, it’s like a sense of achievement. It felt like something that we would never be able to do because there was nothing going on and we didn’t feel like part of a scene where we came from. We had to work hard to get here. We love it. To be included in this today is great.

What’s your favourite Camden venue?
It’s hard to say! We’ve played most of them. We tend to play The Barfly a lot, so I’d have to say The Barfly just because we feel most at home there. The dressing room is kind of like our own living room. And, if we’re not playing and we’re going to see our friends playing it’s still the same, because it’s our mates!

Urban festivals, or fun in a field?
It’s hard to say, because we’ve just played the urban festival and it was amazing. Fun in a field is always good. We come from the countryside, so maybe we feel more at home in the woods, in the dark surrounded by trees and shrubs. So, our own festival, I feel comfortable with.

Sticking with the ‘rock’ theme; what inspired you to start making rock music in the first place?
Well, my Dad was the drummer and singer in a band, so growing up I just used to listen to rock music all the time. It was what was played in my house, and I think it’s the same for anyone that ends up in a rock band. It’s the first sound you hear. Luckily for me, it was things like Black Sabbath and Deep Purple rather than some shit pop band. So, yeah, it was in my blood, even from being a little kid. And, then it’s the same for everyone else in the band. Like I say, we grew up together in a small village, and we all gravitated towards each other because we were the only people, in a place where there was nothing to do but course trouble and play football, we gravitated towards each other because of the same interest. So, we ended up in a band together, causing chaos.

We noticed during your set that there was an element of mad scientist, with everyone coming out all in white, this throbbing light and drone going off in the background. Could you tell us about the idea behind that?
We think of ourselves as, you know… We’re always experimenting, so I guess the tag mad scientist kind of fits. It feels comfortable hearing you say that. It’s like, in a sea of black, it would be quite fitting that we’re the only band swimming in the opposite direction. Looking around, I’m probably the only guy in Camden wearing white, and I’m quite happy with that. That’s where we wanna be. We’re swimming in the opposite direction to everybody else.

So… nothing to do do with purity then?
[Laughs] It’s fuck all to do with purity! Quite the opposite.

Stay tuned for more of Ben’s coverage of Camden Rocks coming soon.

 

Album Review: Darlia – Candyman EP

 
By on Monday, 21st April 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Darlia aren’t known for reinventing the wheel. In fact, they’re known for doing things by halves; half ball-busting rock riffs and husky vowels over arpeggiated melodies. And, so it is that the three boys from Blackpool return with a collection of tracks that can be defined by their relative diversity within this occasionally prescriptive spectrum. The timing of their latest EP ‘Candyman’, released last week on B-Unique Records, means that any prospective degree of success could serve as a potent fuel to the band’s festival prospects, having already signed up for the likes of Rock Am Ring, Great Escape and 2000 Trees.

‘Candyman’ (stream it below) starts bombastically; a mess of durgy power chords and high tension squeals that creates a rush of anticipation akin to the anticipation after uttering the famous title phrase 3 times in the mirror. In tried and true Darlia style, there is a significant tonal shift between the beef of the riff, and the jangling quorn of the verse.

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Think A on the likes of ‘Nothing’; it is a complex tapestry, but one that has been stitched together with some accomplishment. The chorus is a catchy cacophony of rousing choral tropes backed by more meathead chords. But it is let down somewhat by a second vocal layer thrust so high in to the mix that it detracts from the main impetus. The solo sticks flaccidly to the top end of the neck, leaning back into a classic rock groove that fits with the overall flow but will not melt your face off. The track calls time with another round of chorus, pushing the limit of vocal reverb so much that it sounds as though it is being played from the back of a truck speeding past at 100 mph.

The second number, ‘Animal Kingdom’, is an altogether sunnier affair, still tinged with a kind of ‘Black Hole Sun’ quirkiness derived from an almost aquatic secondary guitar tone. Both tracks possess a singalong quality, but in such disparate ways. ‘Animal Kingdom’ attempts to inspire emotion in it’s irreverence, but ends up being almost irritatingly non-committal. This is highlighted by the spaghetti western solo, which seems to come from nowhere but is at the same time one of the most endearing and clear elements of unique character.

A rolling bass line comes to the fore on final track ‘Blood Money’. It is a track for the rhythm section purists, with verses supported by neat flourishes by Jack Bentham on the skins, creating an original beat with a cute little skip to it. Sadly, the rest of the number veers towards a kind of self-indulgent, fractious anarchy in the mould of The Vines, that cites it as the weakest of the three.

Overall, this EP is a bit like climbing into a steaming hot shower, only for your deaf nan to go and switch on the cold tap at the kitchen sink; it leaves you wet, exposed and just a little confused. The title track bears all the hallmarks of previous releases that have hiked the band up by the belt buckle to where they now dwell. But, ‘Animal Kingdom’ and ‘Blood Money’ feel like an experiment designed to find the answer to a question that didn’t need asking. Darlia don’t do dull. If they stick to massive riffs, melodic verses and a hint of wild-eyed warbling, then they’ll do just fine.

5/10 (7 for ‘Candyman’)

Darlia’s latest EP ‘Candyman’ is out now on B-Unique Records. As described by our Martin back in February here, the band will be making high-profile appearances at Liverpool Sound City, Live at Leeds and the Great Escape in May 2014.

 

Preview: Camden Rocks Festival 2014

 
By on Friday, 11th April 2014 at 3:00 pm
 

Camden Rocks is one of a new breed of urbane festival that has infiltrated the scene across the U.S. and Europe. It requires the special kind of electric setting that can be found in places like Camden and Dublin, or organically grown ala SXSW; the corner of Texas that grew into national new music mecca. On 31 May, 20 venues across the borough will fire up their PAs, and over 200 bands will take to the stage from midday through to the small hours. There’s no mud, no tents and no burst fibreglass urinals. But what it lacks in escapist appeal, it will surely make up for in cultural backdrop and convenience. The Subways are what you might call the conventional headliners, but you can almost guarantee that it will be one of the plethora of lesser known talent that will steal the headlines.

Camden Rocks was conceived as homage to the borough’s staggering influence over the British music scene for the past 50 years. For so long an incubator of fragile new talent – from psychedelia to punk to Britpop – festival promoters have sought to express this diversity with an eclectic line up set across 20 of the town’s famous aural boltholes. It began as a one off, headlined by Pete Doherty and Carl Barat in 2009, and boasted a distinctly London chic, even if its scope was embryonic by comparison.

Resurfacing again in 2013, this year’s line-up is now a leviathan with hundreds of slobbering, stage-hardened heads just waiting to gnaw your face off. Some, like electronic punk rockers Sonic Boom Six, will be returning for another bite after appearing at the festival’s inception, whilst the likes of young guns The Hell will be attempting to muscle in and gain their share of the spoils. And, with festival scene rival Camden Crawl shipped over to Dublin in 2013, the locale will likely be chomping at the bit to host an event that expresses the veracity of the areas musical mythology.

For many, it won’t be headliners The Subways or Reverend and the Makers that are the big draw (although the £25 ticket fee would get you little change from going to see either individually on any other night). It is in the malaise of the lower line-up that the rare stones can be found. Starting at the top, Turbowolf and Orange Goblin will be representing the more traditional end of the hard rock spectrum, whilst Hacktivist’s intense hip hop/metal crossover is sure to compliment the likes of the anarchic Gnarwolves, and slackers Nine Black Alps. Further down the list and there is a thread of uber aggressive noisemakers that can be traced through the likes of Hang the Bastard, Crazy Arm and The Hell – the latter of which are solely responsible for leaving Watford as the wasteland it is today. Even the famous London poseur will be catered for, thanks to Blitz Kids and The Blackout.

It may just be a hyperbole of a standard Camden evening, but when your starting point is the motherland for so many generations of musical genres, the magnification creates a heady brew. It’s on nights like these, when Dr. Martens delve into every dive bar from Dingwalls to Dublin Castle, that you can sense the ghosts of Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Clash and Ramones – even Winehouse. On that Saturday in late May, the music of the new generation will do the talking; Camden Rocks has seen to that. But, it’s rare to find a festival at which the talent will be conscious of playing second fiddle to the venue itself.

Tickets and lineup info are available now from the Camden Rocks Web site.

 
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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest tours, gigs, and music we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like idiots.

The blog is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington DC. She is joined by writers in the UK and America. It was started up by Phil Singer in Bristol, UK.

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