How Trojan Horse are sneaking their new album onto the airwaves
Life’s a beach for Manchester men Trojan Horse, who’ve hooked in Pete Trewavas, Kavus Torabi and Jimi Goodwin from Doves to get their broadcast a wider hearing
Secret radio stations? Atomic disasters? Prog snooker player Steve Davis on a synth? Salford boys Trojan Horse have always been eclectic, but with their third record, Fukushima Surfer Boys, the band have really pushed the thematic boat – or surf board – out. Trouble is, it’s taken three years and the loss of long-time drummer Richard Guy Crawford to get here.
“We were the essence of a touring and recording band,” vocalist/guitarist Nick Duke explains of life after Crawford’s departure over a table in a greasy spoon in Camden Town. “We were everything a band was supposed to be. You get to a point where you’re like, ‘Okay we can carry on doing ‘band’ things indefinitely’, or we can say, ‘We’re supposed to be progressive, doing things that are new, always changing, so what can we do that’s going to change ourselves?’”
With spectacular 2014 psychedelic maelstrom World Turned Upside Down just out of the traps the answer was to head into the studio – Red Eccles, their production hub since forever – and work as a three-piece to quickly prepare a new release. The remaining TH core – the three Duke brothers Nick, Eden (vocals/keys/synths) and Lawrence ‘Loz’ (vocals/bass) – enlisted the percussion skills of their steadfast producer/collaborator Danny The Red, who knew his way around a kit a bit. Duke admits they went in “with nothing”, then the ideas started to flow, inspired by the experimentation of Flying Lotus and Thundercat, the soundtrack to The Wicker Man and a long-standing fascination with weird electronica.
“We went, ‘Let’s change our approach, do something completely different, something abstract.’ And a couple of tracks went that way, starting with UVB-76.”
Ah, UVB-76, aka ‘The Buzzer’. Discovered at some point in the 70s, if you can tune a shortwave radio to 4625 kHz you might stumble across its mysterious, continuous signal that’s allegedly a beacon from the Russian Armed Forces. Originally a repeating two-second pip, in 1990 the broadcast changed to a buzz sound interspersed with short bursts of spoken messages. Duke discovered it after falling down a rabbit hole on Wikipedia and became obsessed with it.
“It’s just bizarre. You tune in and there’ll be someone speaking in Russian, then screaming in the background, then countdowns,” he continues. “Nobody really knows who broadcasts it or what the purpose of it is. Even the location is a bit of a mystery. I came in with this recording, saying, ‘We should do something like this. Let’s take that and write something over the top of it.’”