Back in 2018 we attended Vienna Ditto’s last ever gig. It was a joyous celebration of a band who had carved themselves a special place in the hearts of a small but passionate group of people who packed Deptford’s Bird’s Nest to bursting point and danced until the very last electronic beat snapped and fizzled out. And that was it.
Or so we thought, for last year social media rumblings suggested the band might be performing at Reading’s Down At The Abbey Festival. The rumours turned out to be true and following a handful of hometown shows and a planned return to the scene of their ‘final’ gig for our Night of Joy gig, which has sadly fallen victim to the Coronavirus outbreak, they’re ready to unveil Flat Earth, the follow up to debut album Circle. Recorded before their presumed demise but finally receiving a full release on 10th April, it’s every bit as hauntingly beautiful, energising and full of unexpected musical twists as we’d hoped, mashing together gospel, blues, jazz, soca, synthwave, surf rock, psych, trip hop, techno and anything else they can get their hands with a scintillating disregard for temporal or stylistic orthodoxy. It’s available now on 12″ vinyl and as a digital download from their Bandcamp page.
We got in touch with Nigel and Hatty and asked them to talk us through the album track by track.
I can’t really remember how the lyrics came about, but I remember the music was born of frustration; I’d watched the new Bladerunner movie in the cinema and preordered the movie to stream – it was gonna be perfect, I was going to watch it on the big computer in the studio and listen on the fancy monitors (I’d remembered really liking the soundtrack); it was due to come out boxing day and I’d be in the studio for then after going to my folks’ for Christmas – boom. As it happened the boxing day release was only in the US, and I was so disappointed and pissed off that I made my own Bladerunner soundtrack, and that was this tune. I got to play my electronic saxophone on it.
Dose of the Salts
Is inspired by insomnia and lust. And the many uses of the word ghost.
Little Egypt, Deptford Boy
I first heard that rhythm at my mate’s Layla ‘Little Egypt’ Mohammed’s wedding, played by the mighty Zaffa Band. I’d put a version of the rough tune on our email and Hatty jacked it, and put a tune to it… I jacked it back and tweaked the lyrics a bit. Layla has inspired more than one ‘Little Egypt’ tune (and the title came from a song her Dad did on the BBC about his Egyptian/Somalian social hub in London), so I drew attention to her husband’ Jules’ background and gave it some Romeo and Juliet schtick. Strangely I now have nearly the same name as her Dad. he’s Mustafa Mohammed and I’m Mustafa Mahmood…
All the Pretty Horses
This is an African American lullaby, originally called ‘Hush a Bye’. It’s a funny one; that second verse: “Way down yonder in the meadow, cries poor little lambie/Birds and flies were pecking his eyes, poor thing crying for his mammy”- a bit dark for sending a little one to sleep. I heard it was sung by slaves to their masters’ children, and the words were about how they couldn’t care for their own child because they were off caring for someone else’s.
I grew up being told a story by my biological dad that my brother (who I had seen a baby photo of) and his mum had been deported so I couldn’t meet him. When I was around 20, me and my sister had the realisation that he had probably reached an age where he was on Facebook. He was. It turned out he had grown up in the same town as us, went to the same school we went to and was still living there. We reached out and met up and we’ve had a relationship since then. This song is about my brother, and my sisters who I’ve yet to reach out to as they’re a bit too young still. It’s about a kind of bitter sweet feeling of something I had gained but also the realisation of the loss of something we could’ve had if it weren’t for the lies.
You Can’t Hurt Me Any More
The name says it all, really. A jilted lover sings of his paramour’s learned helplessness.
I like this one but it needs some work still, I think it might be one of our better songs. The chorus makes me feel nice, i thought maybe it’d be good to write songs that were positive rather than just write horrible ones all the time.
Send That Man to Jail
At the time the man in question was Tony Blair, but plenty of likely candidates have cropped up since then. We used to get people to nominate people at gigs. Ah, I like that ’So call a priest, call the Police/Make them aware there’s been a breaching of the peace’ line, I’d forgotten about that. It has a soca/carnival feel.
This is a bit of an apocalyptic techno blues number. Weirdly it reminds me of ‘Welcome to Techno City’ by Cybotron. there was a fair amount or synthesiser jiggery-pokery went into making it. I like synthesisers.