Welcome,

My name’s Ross Campbell. I’m a freelance journalist.

Here you’ll find a collection of my writing.
Work on this site has also been used for a number of other publications (click) – Dead Press, Tyne Met Online, Deviant Online Magazine, Music-News, IAreYeti, Cloak & Swagger , One Media Group and Grads.co.uk

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Daft Punk through the years

Daft Punk, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo aka (Guy-Man) and Thomas Bangalter, met in 1987 in the Parisian school, Lyceé Carnot. The duo formed a rock ‘n’ roll band with a school friend called Laurent Brancowitz in 1992 going by the name Darlin’ (after The Beach Boys song, of which they later covered).

A Melody Maker journalist described their take on music as “a daft punky thrash”, and concurrently birthed the international household name we’re familiar with today. After a very short lived success the group disbanded, leaving de Homem-Christo and Bangalter without an outlet. They soon started experimenting with sampling, synth loops and drum machines that were quickly becoming more prevalent in the French house scene.

The 70s were exceptionally important in Daft Punk’s musical journey. Before either of our helmeted heroes could even pick up a plectrum, Germany’s Kraftwerk, a self-proclaimed ‘robot-pop’ group, were paving the way in European techno and primitive hip-hop. Kraftwerk worked with drum machines and digital metronomes, pivotal instrumentation in the development of this new minimalistic and artificial sound. Meanwhile, on the East coast of America, a rapidly growing movement in disco (Sister Sledge, Chic), hip-hop (Run-DMC) and soul was swiftly advancing and it would eventually carve elements of Daft Punk’s sound at the beginning of the 21st century. In 1997 the group release their debut studio album, Homework, after a trio of successful singles (‘The New Wave’, ‘Da Funk’ and ‘Mystique’) with Virgin Records. The album sold well and charted in fourteen counties.

It’s safe to assume that Daft Punk may have taken Kraftwerk’s self-assessment a bit too literally and quickly began work on their famous guises; however there was a genus of Daft Punk before the pristine Yves Saint Laurent suits and dramatic robot headgear. In their formidable years our lads would simply don cheap Halloween masks to obscure their identity and ever since, they’ve managed to avoid the photographic capture.

Somewhere towards the end of the century and just before the birth of the Discovery album the helmets were soldered on, rumoured to have cost around $65,000 to produce, each being capable of displaying scrolling text and housing thousands of LED lights that would react and sync with their music.

2001 brought the release of the groups most acclaimed and recognised album, Discovery. The record was massively successful and peaked at two in the UK charts, forty-four in the United States and was triple-platinum in France by 2007. The album provided itself as a soundtrack to the anime film Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem, and each single exhibited a different extract of the film. ‘One More Time’, ‘Digital Love’ and ‘Harder, Better, Faster Stronger’ firmly put Daft Punk on not just the house and techno map, but introduced them to a mainstream fame. ‘Something About Us’ was the sixth and final single to be released from Discovery, however it went almost unrecognised and didn’t chart well. I personally feel it’s massively important and should be viewed as the potential building blocks of the future, exhibiting licks of not just techno and disco but a soul element that has reared its much more evolved head in the 2013 album, Random Access Memories.

In 2005 the duo released their third studio album, Human After All of which received very mixed reviews – supposedly created as a counterpoint to the their 2001 studio release. Fans cited it as repetitive and noted that it wasn’t as ‘fun’ as the groups previous release. Luckily the tour that followed (Alive) put all the naysayers back in their seats, reimbursed the lost revenue and set the journalists straight with their poor reviews. Bangalter commented, “We were definitely seduced at the time by the idea of doing the opposite of Discovery.” He compared the deliberately unpolished record to ‘an unworked stone’. The album was essentially produced with a couple of guitars and an automated drum machine, and was mixed and boxed in four weeks. Probably not their greatest move, but at the time it was noted that Daft Punk thought of it as their best work to date.

After the aforementioned 2007 tour, the trail went cold for Daft Punk until they magically appeared in the 2010 Disney sci-fi blockbuster, Tron. The boys were brought in to compose the soundtrack and received a cameo appearance in the club scene providing the entertainment.

Almost three long years passed without a peep from our petit protégés until the duo let slip that they had something in the pipeline in early 2013, and of course thus came the highly acclaimed drip fed marketing campaign of Random Access Memories.

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Daft Punk – Random Access Memories album review


I doubt I’m alone in thinking that everything currently careering off the pop music production line is looking a bit lacklustre next to Daft Punk. Yes, you may be the hottest new boy band, suited and booted in your Sunday best with chiselled jaws, designer stubble and high cheek bones but you’re Human After All. You’re not an awesome set of shiny robots sent to Earth from the farthest thinkable outreaches of the universe, to engage us in a disco-funk renaissance, are you?

Of course not – very few are.

Daft Punk are probably the most enigmatic and magical outfit to have ever seduced the music industry and that title isn’t about to fritter away. If anything it’s snowballed with the release of this spectacular composition.

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I, like many others, have been gripped by the fascinating drip-fed marketing stratagem of Random Access Memories. RAM is the French duo’s fourth studio album and the first since Human After All (2005), although they have enjoyed the release and success of their live album, Alive (2007) and the soundtrack to the 2010 Disney blockbuster, Tron, since.

It features an all-star line up from the likes of acclaimed Italian producer, Giorgio Moroder to disco Jedi Master Nile Rogers on both sides of the desk. Fronting three tracks, one of which we’ve already grown to know rather well, is Pharrell Williams – and what a sensational choice of vocalist, I must say.

The album’s heart is captained by the early east coast scenes of disco and soul – ‘four-on-the-floor’ lives on. I’m hearing Chic, Sister Sledge, KC and The Sunshine Band, but they’re joined by some of the micro-genre offshoots that fed from their influences too.

Throughout you’re constantly reminded of the amount of work that’s gone into this stellar release – it’s so polished – every single aspect is a finely tuned intricacy. Every single iota of the fourteen track album has been overturned, observed, examined, buffed up and replaced.

Just when you think you’re being led into a boring and melancholic indie record with Julian Casablancas (The Strokes) featuring the same chugging power chords everyone’s been beating out since Nirvana, everything suddenly explodes into a composed yet electrifying soundscape. ‘Instant Crush’ is all about Mr Strokes’ auto tuned falsettos scraping the rafters of your mind, flanked by dazzling virtuosic solos and complementing slap pop bass. The track rings more truth with Casablancas’ solo stuff (see ‘Left and Right in The Dark’ or ‘The Four Chords of the Apocalypse’) as oppose to work with his world famous New York based group.

Pharrell makes a comeback with ‘Lose Your Self To Dance’, echoing Sister Sledge’s ‘Lost In Music’. It’s the high barre-chords that the 70s disco scene sat on for so long and Nile Rodgers isn’t about to let you forget about that. To be honest, it’s nothing short of excellent – constantly moving bass rides shotgun next to Williams and Daft Punk sat comfortably in the passenger seats harmonising ascending techno backing. Great metronome claps flirt with a ‘Bille Jean’ drum beat accommodating powerful semibreve raps on the snare.

On the Pharrell note, ever found yourself getting to the end of ‘Get Lucky’ and wanting play it again? Worry no more, as the feature length album version is over six minutes long.

Todd Edwards (celebrated house producer) is introduced with ‘Fragments of Time’, a Jamiroquai-esque acid jazz number, which is awesome for us but I bet JK is shitting his pants right about now. Daft Punk just stepped it up a few hundred gears in your world, buddy. What you saying?

It’s a cocktail of influence and the outcome is a smooth, composed, majestic beast of an album. Every track offers a fresh take on an old idea, but they’re executed with such precision. In music journalism you’re all too often presented with albums that stick to the same tedious theme throughout and you find yourself bored before track five. Fortunately it’s blindingly apparent that Daft Punk know not of ‘tedium’ – it’s not in their vocabulary.

Essentially, the project is like everything you’ve ever known about trance, dance, techno, funk, disco and pop, amalgamated into one elegant and arcane album. This kind of thing hasn’t been done before – Daft Punk were pioneers at the beginning of the century and they’re still pushing all our buttons twelve years on.

Random Access Memories culminates in an immense arpeggio laden drum and bass track that gyrates on the sticky adolescent pelvis of time and space. In one colossal crescendo, that acts exactly as you would expect a collapsing star to, ‘Contact’ builds levels upon levels on top of itself but eventually succumbs to the organised chaos and decadently implodes into nonentity, concluding the album and Daft Punk’s epic five year venture.

Soon to be published with I Are Yeti.

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Tynemouth Fakefest review

Fakefest and North Shields had a lot to live up to after last year’s successes, after seeing the date sold out before the gates even opened. On arrival (4 May 2013) however, it was clear there was nothing to worry about in that regard as the concessions were already abuzz with an excited crowd.

A smattering of local talent decorated the bill finally culminating in an impressive set from The Longsands. Their local following clearly made up a reasonable percentage of the audience front and centre. One fan commented afterwards “We love The Longsands – we’d follow them anywhere.”

To kick off the main event, the Debbie Harry and Blondie tribute act, ‘Blondied’ took to the stage. The open mouthed crowd were treated to four wardrobe changes; each one more flamboyant than the last, as the band went through the greatest hits of the celebrated singer. The enthusiastic gatherings lapped up the professional rendition and were very forthcoming with their appreciation.

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“You’re all from the North East, right? I want your cell, I want your social security – there’s just one way, guys” admonished Michelle Hendricks in Debbie Harry’s American accent, before delving straight into ‘One Way Or Another’ to close her set. A truly heart-warming and awe inspiring act. Michelle later told me she’s met Debbie a number of times and that they share not only a taste in music, but height, shoe size and have the same ‘crooked little fingers’.

Kazabian‘ have been voted the best tribute act on the circuit at the moment and have been personally endorsed by Tom Meighan and even Serge himself – “They make venues crumble where we ain’t got time to. They’re awesome.”
After rallying up the highly anticipating crowd the boys showcased an incredible likeness to the original act executing songs from the self-titled album, ‘Empire’, ‘West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum’ and the most recent release ‘Velociraptor!’

As darkness drew in around the giant marquee it was time for the headline act – ‘Oasish‘. Before the boys even opened their mouths it was evident that they’re merely a shade away from enjoying a chinwag and a cup of tea with Noel.
Their backline and instrumentation were perfect mirror images, right down to ‘Noel’s’ Union Jack Epiphone Supernova and ‘Liam’s’ Pretty Green parka (admittedly now looking a bit worn).

The group played for around an hour and a half and hit almost every acclaimed Oasis song ever penned. As ‘Liam’ stood behind the microphone, his hands behind his back and his head awkwardly tilted to one side I wondered if I’d moseyed in late, would I have queried why Oasis were playing in North Shields? Unbelievably accurate and very well practiced.

As the crowds slowly dispersed for their return journey, it was evident that throughout the day there had been a certain notion sewn into the ether. A notion that I feel was mutually understood – let’s all get a guitar, learn a handful of chords, buy a hat and start a band.

Find the published version on TyneMet‘s website

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