For no real reason at all (do we need one?) we’ve dug up the Arctic Monkey’s original Radar piece. It was their first major bit of national press, and originally ran on 28 May, 2005.
You can read the article in full below. But first here’s Rick Martin – who wrote it – with his memories of the encounter:
I remember it well. It was my first interview for NME after begging Krissi (Murison, then Radar Editor) for weeks to let me do it. It was published in May 2005 – I think Bloc Party may have been on the cover.
I’m about as close to being the first national press journo to review/interview them – when I moved to Sheffield to start uni in Sept 2004, they were the band on everyone’s lips and were getting coverage in the local fanzines (particularly Sandman).
Due to their name (!) I didn’t actually go and see them til early 2005, when I wrote their first NME live review at Sheffield Harley (small pub), ending with the words: “Watch this space, these provincial pop dreamers are nothing less than stars in waiting.” A few weeks later I followed this up with a review of their support slot with The Coral at the Leadmill.
A few days before that, I spent a day with them (not for NME – was a personal invite) on the tour bus to a gig in Nottingham – at this point they were a lot less guarded and were happy to have me about. Remember playing plenty of PlayStation and getting battered (thus memories of the day are pretty hazy).
A couple of months later I did their Radar interview in their practice space in Neepsend, an industrial unit at the heart of the city’s red light district. They had a great little set up – couches, pool table and sizeable practice area. The interview didn’t get off to the best start when my dictaphone batteries died and I had to send their PR Anton out for more. Pretty excruciating wait but was a valuable lesson!
Helders was the most talkative and gave the best quote (slagging off the Kaisers). Cooky was the most guarded – he hated having his photos taken beforehand and refused to have his portrait done, I think. Alex interjected now and then – you could tell he was the brains of the operation. Nicholson was largely silent.
They seemed more surly that previously, but it was prob more nerves than anything. I’ve since read that their manager Geoff told them to be more wary of the press around this time, and this is when my contact with them ended, other than bumping into them on the odd night out or when I was knocking around with the Rev for a year or two.
For the Radar photos, they actually performed a couple of songs. I’ve never really understood why, as you can’t see sound in photos (maybe to give them more of a ‘live’ feel?) – whatever the reason, I’ve probably seen one of the smallest Arctics mini gigs ever!
Sign up for the newsletter
When it all took off a few months later with ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’, their NME coverage was effectively taken out of my hands by Tim Jonze, Mark Beaumont and the like – something that’s probably understandable given I was still in my teens.
It was probably the most important article and band of my music journalism career – I’ll probably write a book on it one day….
And here’s the original article:
The Most Talked About Band In Britain – NME, May 2005
The messageboards are buzzing and their gigs are turning into fan riots but Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys haven’t even had a record out yet
Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys are the Noo Yorkshire scene’s answer to The Libertines and the must-see live band of 2005. The last time they played in their hometown, punters hiked from 30 miles away just to scrap it out for a view through the window of their sold-out show.
At their first London gig, frontman/guitarist Alex Turner , expecting to play to an empty room, finished the show being carried around the venue on a sea of hands. And two nights ago in Nottingham, NME couldn’t even see the band behind all the people jumping onstage to touch their heroes.
“It’s incredible,” says teenage Paul Weller-alike Alex. “I find myself looking up while I’m playing and just thinking, ‘What the fuck?!’”
Just two years ago the Arctic Monkeys – completed by drummer Matt Helders, guitarist Jamie ‘Cookey’ Cooke and bassist Andy Nicholson – were four average hip-hop lovin’ schoolfriends getting pissed-up on White Magic (downmarket White Lightning, binge-drinking fans) in bus shelters on break time. Now they’re the biggest unknown band in the country.
“Me and Cookey got guitars for Christmas that year,” remembers Alex. “It got to March and I’d only learned a few chords but he could already play all of the Bond theme. I realized I had to step up my game.”
A few months and intensive rehearsals later, and the Arctic Monkeys realized they’d stepped into a whole new ballpark.
“We played a gig in Sheffield and as soon as I started singing the entire crowd sang it back to me,” blushes Alex. “I thought, ‘Something’s going on here!’”
Some post-gig detective work revealed that an early three-track demo the band had recently put up on their website and started giving away free at gigs had become the chatter of internet forums across all indiedom and that their songs were being swapped around quicker than a leaked Oasis album.
But the rise of the appalling-named Monkeys – one story says they were christened by a tramp after an impromptu gig in the middle of Sheffield one night, another says “it’s a mystery” – isn’t just another case of teenagers desperate to turn another grot with a guitar into the second coming of Carl’n’Pete.
Alongside their brilliant post-garage melodic racket are Alex’s refreshingly bullshit-free lyrics, weaving seedy and hilarious tales of Sheffield street-life through his Mike Skinner-smart, smalltown jive.
Take ‘Scummy’, a black tale of the prostitute-riddled landscape outside their Neepsend rehearsal space (“So who’s that girl there? I wonder what went wrong so that she had to roam the streets/She doesn’t do major credit cards – I doubt she does receipts.”
Or debut single ‘Fake Tales Of San Francisco’ written when Alex was working at his local venue quietly observing the scene-chasers and rock’n’roll fakers (”Yes I’m going to tell you all my problems/You’re not from New York City, you’re from Rotherham”).
“I’ve been penning things since school,” admits Alex. “I’ve been writing for longer than my friends realise. You couldn’t be creative at school, could you? You’d have the piss ripped out of you. Even when we started the band, lyrics were an area that we were ashamed to talk about and we just wrote bollocks to start with. But I’d always write things down in secret and one day I just thought, “Fuck it!”
Now there’s no holding them back, not even the confines of the Kaiser’n’Cribs-spearheaded Yorkshire scene.
“I don’t want it to be a niche thing like, ‘We’re from Sheffield so fuck everyone else.’ I’ve never understood that attitude,” frowns Alex. “It’s like Roots Manuva said, ‘I got love for every one of those scenes, but them pigeonholes were never nothing to hold me’.”
“Plus,” pipes up Matt at the end, “Tricky Ricky Wilson is just annoying.”
Tellingly, tickets for the Arctic Monkeys’ debut headline tour are already in the hands of the eBay hellhounds – and going for substantially more than the ‘Ricky Wilson is God’ pin-badges. Stump up the cash and go see what all the fuss is about.