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Schubert Dip Stigma Cha Cha Cha The Best of EMF: Epsom Mad Funkers BBC In Concert 30th January 1991 BBC In Concert 29th August 1992 Mark Goodier Sessions 17th November 1990 The Remixes

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The band, April, 1991 | James, late 1991 | Ian, November, 1995 | Derry, May 2001 | James, July 2001 |

"Cherubic Youngsters With Mischief On Their Minds"
Music Express, April, 1991
(Thanks to Jojo for this one!)

By Kevin Murphy

At times you might be forgiven for thinking that Manchester was the only musically active volcano in Britain. So when the West Country errupted to the sound of EMF and their debut single, "Unbelievable," last year, the shock waves spread quickly throughout the U.K. as the group trashed its way onto the charts and into the affections of a nation being spoonfed Putrids On the Block.

Now, as "Unbelievable" is let loose on this side of the Atlantic, the band has the harder task of convincing Americans to forsake their own candy-coated contrivances in favor of five cherubic youngsters with baseball caps on their heads and mischief on their minds.

EMF shop at the same musical supermarket as fellow Brit groups Jesus Jones and Pop Will Eat Itself, but unlike some of their counterparts, EMF's trolley has a fresh lick of paint and isn't quite as loaded up with cynicism and rhetoric.

Formed some 18 months ago, EMF (which includes James on vocals, Mark on drums, Derry on keyboards, Ian on guitar and Zac on bass, augmented by DJ Milf) was signed by EMI after only a handful of gigs in and around the Forest of Dean area, where its members grew up. The band's first provocative move was their choice of name, although they deny it.

"Everybody thinks it stands for Ecstacy Motherfucker," explains Derry in his broad West Country accent, "but it doesn't. We're just stringing people along. We never do things to shock: we're just taking the piss." Perhaps the fact that the B-side is called "EMF" and boasts the chorus, "E: ecstacy! M: motherfucker motherfucker! F: from us to you!" might have something to do with the confusion.

What EMF does stand for, however, is the return of adrenalin-fuelled pop. Their live shows are notoriously raucous, with Derry playing a human tornado while the other band members leap around the stage in surfing shorts with wicked grins on their faces. They've even done a gig in a laser-lit cave, though their beginnings were a trifle more subdued.

"This booking came up at this club," explains Mark, a self-confessed Phil Collins fan who possesses a disturbing but unmistakable resemblance to Sinead O'Connor. "So we had two months to form a band and come up with some songs. At the first practice we didn't even have a singer-he was off having a driving lesson." "Before that, me, Zac and James had this one rehearsal in Afghan coats," laughs Derry.

"I turned up and there was heavy metal playing full blast," recalls Mark in an incredulous tone. "It was early on a Sunday morning. I climbed through the living room window to find Derry dressed in an Afghan, Zac in these ridiculous shorts and some strange kid in the corner of the room. We didn't even know who he was-he just walked into the room and stood there."

"That was our legendary Afghan coat phase," boasts Derry. And after they had added Ian to the lineup, once they had managed to have him removed from twee guitar janglers Apple Mosaic for the sake of his credibility, the EMF monster was complete.

With their pretty-boy looks and pop sensibililties, entwined with Ian's more vitriolic guitar outbursts, EMF have often been dismissed by skeptics as pubescent pin-up fodder. But as they're eager to point out, they possess a darker side.

"The teeny fans will flip the next single, 'I Believe,' and hear the Foetus mix and wonder what's going on," says Ian, referring to their collaboration with Foetus Inc.'s Jim Thirlwell, better known for his somewhat less accessible work with The The's Matt Johnson and Lydia Lunch.

Littered among the praise that's been heaped upon them recently was a comment from The Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant, lauding them as the new Sex Pistols. "I quite enjoy that," enthuses Zac.

"It's good in a way," adds Derry, "cause they breathed freshness and energy into the music scene when it needed it. And they didn't give a fuck. And we don't."

Siren magazine in late 1991

John Fat Beast of Carter USM fame talked to James...

--Thanks to my good buddy Mathew Jones for this one!--

JFB : Ok James, lets have a go at getting something down on tape- I know you hate doing interviews but...

J.A. : I really don't do them I, Cant....

JFB : Well if I keep the questions non prying to start with, to put you at ease and try to delve a little deeper later on. I want to try to get as much out of you as possible because nobody else has. What to begin with, do you feel are the reasons you don't do interviews?

J.A. : I'm not sure Jon, I'm not sure, I think the rest of the band have a great deal to say and I can't really see why anybody would be the least bit interested in me.

JFB : People are always interested in a successful band's lead singer, you're the front man. I've got to know you as a friend and realised theres many interesting sides to you that few other people get to see.

J.A. : Er I still don't think I'll ever do interviews, I cant do this Jon, I really can't...

JFB : Give it a try, I'm as bloody nervous as you are. What are some of your favourite lyrics you've written?

J.A. : Well new songs really, I'm much more pleased with them. I spent a lot more time writing those, the first album was a little naive really, and it was a bit rushed, they were the first songs we ever wrote as EMF. This time I've sort of thought them through a bit more. I'm really embarrassed about some of the lyrics on the first album.

JFB : Why?

J.A. : They were all lovey-dovey love songs, that's about it.

JFB : How then are the new songs different?

J.A. : I think they're a bit more wary....

JFB: Wary of what?

J.A. : Er I don't really know . I cant do this Jon, I really can't....

JFB: What are you scared of James?

J.A. : Shit, er, people's reactions to me. I think sometimes when I walk on stage that everybody's going to hate me.

JFB : The number of times I've been with you at the side of the stage, just before you're due to go on, and you really haven't been confident. I've obviously noticed that, but once you get up there all your nerves disappear and it goes really well. Do you suffer from an awful lack of confidence in every thing you do?

J.A. : It depends on what I'm doing really.

JFB : Well as soon as I put a tape recorder in front of you, you seem to bottle up, you go all shy, quiet and your confidence disappears completely, yet ten minutes beforehand I couldn't stop you talking If I'd wanted to...

J.A. : I think you're right, Cant we do it without a tape recorder?

JFB : No, I don't think the tape recorder's the whole problem you just don't seem happy having you're view aired publicly, but you know me well enough to know I'm not going to stitch you up... come on then what else scares you?

J.A. Well to be honest I get very scared of the future and what it's all about and I get all confused, I'm really scared I'm going to go mad.

JFB : We're all scared of going mad, I've been there a couple of times but it's only part of you as a human

J.A. : maybe you're right, but it still really scares me.

JFB : what do you think is going to send you mad?

J.A. : I don't know but I'm scared of losing control.

JFB : Every time I've been too rock n' roll in my life, got into taking too many drugs or drinking too heavily then my reality gets a little blurred, is that the sort of thing that's scaring you? your reality is obviously different already, so what are you doing to hold onto your sanity?

J.A. : What precautions am I taking Jon? well Jo my girlfriend seems to keep me together a lot, I mean she never talks about the band or the music which is really cool. It's just theres a totally different side to me that's all.

JFB : What about your parents were you close?

J.A. : Yeah I'm sort of close; I mean I communicate with them but I don't tell them half of what really goes on, Mark will tell his mum everything, who he's shagged, what drugs hes done...

JFB: I know I couldn't tell my mother most of what goes on. She'd have a heart attack and disown me. It just doesn't seem right to tell her some things, she doesn't need to know. do you have many prized possessions?

J.A. : Not really, I've made a bit of money and I can't think of anything I couldn't really replace, maybe my photos. When I was growing up with Zac and friends, old bands, that sort of thing....

JFB: What were you like growing up? Were you an embarrassing teenager?

J.A. : No I don't think so, I was a lot more confident than I am now. I seem to have lost so much of my confidence somewhere along the way. We used to have a riot....

JFB : Where and how do you think you lost this confidence James ?

J.A. : I don't know, I just bottle it when all the attentions on me, I sort of completely clam up.

JFB : You're an extrovert on stage, you seem to be getting livelier as the tour goes on....

J.A. : Yeah I really enjoy it sometimes, I like to keep it natural though, I'd hate to go out there and just act.

JFB : Have you ever seen something you can't explain.

J.A. : Well I've seen lots of things I really can't explain, but they might have been my imagination, or my brain playing tricks on me. I often wake up in the middle of the night and see things in my room, I have very strange often very scary dreams.

JFB : And you're sure they're dreams, or might you actually be waking up and seeing things that are there?

J.A. : To be honest Jon, it scares me a lot to think about it, I'm not quite sure, I wake up and see things maybe I'm making myself hallucinate. I can seem to do that easily when I'm awake, I suppose a lot of people can...

JFB : Well you never really know just what other people can do, the human mind is a very complex thing.

J.A. : I agree, it's just that I don't think my views on this sort of thing are relevant.

JFB : Well James it's all part of you.... tell me about your management - do you get on with them?

J.A. : Yeah I really like Linda...

JFB : You seem to have a much closer relationship with Linda and Abbo than I ever thought you did. It's very easy to think that because you're a young band people might see you open to manipulation, but to be honest you don't seem at all manipulated...

J.A. : We're not, we've all grown up together, I think at times our management are just as naive as we are, I think they're still learning as well. It's not like they've got all the answers or anything.

JFB: Tell us about your life in the forest James.

J.A. : Well all the parties and stuff were never really planned , they just happened, we'd all just go out raving, dancing and making our own entertainment, sort of partying in the woods because there was nowhere else. We'd have a group of people around us, real characters, oddballs.

JFB :You were actually born in Birmingham weren't you?

J.A. : Yeah, but I moved down to the forest quite early on, Mark was one of the first people I knew, he's the same age as me, and Derry and Zac are a couple of years younger. I used to get Derry to skive off school to come and rehearse in Gloucester with us, I used to ring up the school and pretend to be his old man, and say Derry had to meet me, then we'd skive off.

JFB : Were you well educated then?

J.A. : Nah, I don't think so, I sort of lost the plot somewhere along the line.

JFB : Who are you closest to in the band?

J.A. : Zac I think.

JFB : Both the MM and the NME did an on the road feature and to be honest I think they must have played down the mayhem they saw - you do go for it don't you...

J.A. : Yeah sometimes, I didn't realise we partied so much but I suppose we do...

JFB : You nearly killed PWEI; they're old men they can't take the excess....

J.A. : Nah, the Poppies stood up, they were good. They taught us a lot as well, they just went for it and really enjoyed themselves. It made everything clearer. I was getting far too wound up about things.

JFB: You do get wound up very easily it seems. You come across as very insecure, I know for a fact that I'm really insecure, I just try to hide it with an act don't.

J.A. : But it's your crowd, it's people who have paid to see you and most of them obviously love the band.. but I still fell I've got to prove myself.

JFB: Of course in a way, but I'm sure you could go onstage and shit into a bucket and most people would woop and clap.

J.A. : It's just because I'm the frontman and not a very confident person anyway. I find it really daunting ...

JFB : Do you have any role models, or other performers you really admire?

J.A. : Well I think Ian McCulloch was really cool on stage and I still think New Order are one of the best groups around, I know it's not hip to say but I really like them live.

JFB : What's the next move for EMF, is there a big plan?

J.A. : well the main thing to do, and I know it's going to sound boring but we want to record all these new songs properly, we'll leave all the press and the radio, get on with writing new stuff and just see what everybody thinks.

JFB : We've touched a bit on your musical side, you can play guitar well, what else can you play?

J.A. : I've been playing guitar for years, I'm playing on some of the new songs on the next album. It's difficult to play guitar live at the moment because we're mostly still doing old songs.

JFB: You have quite a hand in writing the songs then?

J.A. : most of the lyrics are mine, Ian comes up with some good one liners, good hooks, and I often write around that. He's also really good at writing vocal melodies.

JFB: Are you wary about the obsessivness of some of the fans who come and see you ...?

J.A. : Yeah I really can't come to terms with it at all, I don't understand it. I detach myself from all that, I don't play on it, it's not me at all. Sometimes when I'm really low, really down it's an ego trip to cheer me up, but to be honest I could do without all the attention.

Under Dusken (Norwegian newspaper) on November 22, 1995.

--Thanks to my good buddy Jonny for this one!--

The british band EMF are on their way up again, after some years on low activity. They will not write a new "Unbelievable", but do hope for a new hit-single. During UKA they performed with Seigmen in "Cirkusteltet". During the break between the show and the saturday night party on "Samfundet", Ian Dench takes some time to meet the press. He is the one who writes the songs for the group. As to add, he plays guitar.

He´s worn out after the concert, but has got the warmth to his body at last, after the cold, Norwegian November night. In spite of the cold, he´s in a good mood.

-The new material are very exciting. For the first time ever, we agree of which musical direction we should go for. Before, everyone in the band wanted to show what they new musically. I think it shows on our last album. The audience got confused of all the shiftings between styles.

The first single from their new album, "Cha Cha Cha", are the Beastie Boys-sounding "Perfect Day". The tempo is quick and funk inspired, and this is the line EMF will follow to get to the hitlist´s top again. The original meaning of the group´s name, Epson Mad Funkers, tells that the band always have been a little funky. But they don´t originate from Epson.

-We just called us that to get the bizarre element in our music into the picture, says Ian.
-We´ve been playing together for five years now, and at last have learned what we´re in to. Now I can say that we´re good musicians. Finally we managed to take care of the problems that appeared with our success. We hadn´t existed as a band for more than a couple of months when we suddenly got a record deal. We were totaly unprepared of all the fuss. Naturally enough, we change a bit now and then. The important thing is that we´re doing our own thing. You should be an "original" to make it. The things described as "hot" are constantly changing.

EMF originates from a small town in the English countryside. The kids hadn´t much to do except playing in bands, and everyone was involved in musical projects.

-I also like the dance-music for the same reason. Everyone can do it. The most things regarding EMF in the music press are infantile ideas, which Ian is fed up reading about.

-The english music press only write about scandals and not our music, which I think it´s more natural to talk about. Of course we party as other people, but do not run around beating people up.

He is also tired of british musicpress, which tends to ditch bands that they have been a part of building up.

-The best thing to do, is try to ignore music tabloids such as Melody Maker and NME, and play the music you´ve been listening to. You can not rely on the press.

From Designer Magazine, May 2001

Was it Epsom Mad Funkers or "Ecstasy Muthafuckers" as the tabloids used to call them? Way back in the late 80s / early 90s who could forget that classic single "Unbelievable" and even more so the Kevin and Perry styling's of James Atkins and co. Well there's no need to worry because EMF are back with a Greatest Hits album, a comeback date in London and a new album presently being recorded. We caught up with Derry to recapture the best moments which were often a cross between a party at Brian Harvey's and Daniella Westbrook's mixed with added foreskin party games. Be afraid. Be very afraid!!!!

Q: Who would believe you guys are back finally on the scene?
A: I've just been looking at all these new T-shirt designs and it got Reunion. Well, we never really split up. We just went and did our own things. I've got my own solo album, i'm on my second album now after an album for Island. Ian, James, Zach and Mark have all been doing their own things as well.

Its like the next generation really. In 95 / 96 when we were trying to get a new album we were just working really hard, maybe it got a bit self indulgent, but there was some really good stuff on there. And it was really hard because you had your Oasis' and your Blur's coming out, but now people keep coming up saying they were listening to "Shubert Dip".

Q: You're still going to be as mad as the old days though?
A: Portugal was a lot of hard work. We were on at 4 o'clock, we had a lot of internal flights and airport delays but there was a lot of mad stuff to keep us amused. We've always had a good moral within the band and the crew.

Nothings really changed, there's still that spark there. Because we went on stage and we thought "I'm going to seem stupid" but i'm only 30. A lot of bands like in Coldplay are a lot older than me anyway and I've been doing it for 12 years.

Its kind of our right really to get out there and have a bit of energy.

Q: What was the maddest moment from the old days?
A: We got arrested down in Louisiana - that was pretty mad!!! We had to pay them like $20,000 to let us go, everybody had just taken ecstasy about an hour before and there was a bit of a fight. We all got landed on the kerb and it was like "Oh my God!!!!! I'm coming up on this with all these hick policemen sort of like with mirror shades on and the crickets just going zzzzzz. They were like "were going to lock you boys up for 30 hours, maybe 30 days. Where's all the money?"

It was quite a scary night because we'd checked into a hotel and there were six of us in one bed thinking we were going to see like Bubba and the 3 guys with nooses and dungarees.

Q: So can we expect the headlines again?
A: Well, I don't know. None of us are married or really settled down apart from Mark. There should be a couple of tales cos' everyone was sort of trying, were supposed to be a bit more mature now, but there was a few things going on in Portugal that kept the flag flying. There was people running round at 6 in the morning, a lot of banging on doors and music playing.

Q: Do you still get the same buzz off "Unbelievable"?
A: The thing with EMF even though it had that pop thing, where there is not that much depth, we always really really concerned about quality control. "Unbelievable" as a single was great to sell the album. Its a typical British attitude where people go well you've only got "Unbelievable" but then fuck, you need a song like that to open all your doors.

There ain't many bands that are out there now that wouldn't say "I wouldn't mind a single that big that's Number 1 in America and probably 56 countries around the world". Some people go is it a noose round your neck? Fuck off!!!! How can it be a noose round your neck. Come on see the house.

Whereas in America its completely different. Its kind of like the Millennium Dome. If that was on the outskirts of Los Angeles it would have been the biggest thing. They would have made it work. Whereas in England, even though it is a piece of shit and I disagree with it 100%, people are scared of success.

Q: Just before we finish. Remind us of this foreskin and lemon tale
A: Zach hasn't done it lately. I think he can get six pieces of mini-cheese (those ones on the cocktails sticks), a small fruit salad, a small lemon or a large size lime up there. I haven't seen it for a while, but I think he's saving it as his trump card. I think he did it live on Dutch TV and the guy just put the camera to the wall. You just heard these shocked voices in the audience.

Ant & Dec they want us to do that, that's what they've asked us to do. They don't even want the band to play on there. They just want us to go on there and toss a small salad into Zach's foreskin. Maybe get Jamie Oliver the Naked Chef on there and Zach the Naked Foreskin. That would be ace wouldn't it!!!

Me & Zach want to do our own cable show where we just read the news and he thinks up a new trick with his dick every week. Maybe do it on the National Lottery to pump the ratings up.

FHM (August 2001)

Robot Wars
James Atkin, vocalist with EMF, shares his home with 150 cyborg flatmates...

Why on earth did you start collecting robots?
I don't remember starting, actually - I've just accumulated them over the years. The first one was probably six or seven years ago, and since then I've just sort of been picking them up along the way.

Any of them worth a tidy sum?
None of them are really expensive, they're not the old Japanese tins ones or anything - they're all quite tacky plastic ones. I've picked them up all over the world but they tend to come from car boot sales and the like. The value's more sentimental than anything - they're my mates.

Have you ever pitted one against a pet or stood God-like over a giant robot battle?
Ha! No. Good idea, though. Sometimes I switch them all on and play a really loud banging house track while they rave around for a bit. The last one standing is the King of the Rave.

Has a ham-fisted mate ever broken one?
I don't let anyone touch them. They all stay on four big shelves unless I want to get them down. They look great all lined up together.

Is there a special one that gets pride of place on the mantelpiece?
I've got a really nice old one that I call Mr. Wheezer. It's a wind-up and it's got a piston in it, so as it goes along it makes a wheezing sound like it's just smoked a hundred fags. Another one called Kasey is pretty cool - his face lights up and he can play tapes. I've also got a radio one. The first time I switched it on, Unbelievable was playing. That was pretty weird.

They all have names then?
Well yeah, most mostly names I make up on the spot. Most of them I calll Robert.

As a cybernetic connoisseur, do you prefer the sleek curves of
C-3PO or the squat, dumpy lines of Metal Mickey?

It's got to be Metal Mickey really, although I'm not really one of those sci-fi heads - I don't go to Doctor Who conferences. I just love the square boxy ones that have lots of flashing lights and loud noises.

Finally, have you ever sampled their robotic bleeps to make a jaunty record?
I've sampled them on a few tracks, yeah. I've got this one that talks in a really daft American accent, going: "Hey kids - let's stay together and make a better world." I never got it on the EMF records though - the rest of the band wouldn't let me.