Paul-Ronney Angel - The Urban Voodoo Machine - Uber Rock Interview Exclusive Print E-mail
Written by Ben Hughes   
Sunday, 16 June 2013 03:30



Celebrating 10 years as a band this year Dalston's favourite collective of red and black-wearing, vagabond gypsy rock 'n' rollers The Urban Voodoo Machine have recently released a compilation of rarities titled 'Rare Gumbo' and are playing several shows in the run up to their appearance at the legendary Glastonbury Festival. Known for their entertaining, high energy 2 hour sets that bring the carnival atmosphere to the pubs and clubs, they travel the back roads of Europe in a train of Gypsy caravans (maybe not but they should do) plying their trade and playing their own brand of bourbon soaked gypsy blues bop 'n' stroll music. Uber Rock caught up with main mouth-piece, songwriter and all round nice guy Paul-Ronney Angel for a chat to find out exactly what it's all about, so read on to get all the tips on how to dress sharp for Glastonbury and find out exactly what a Charango is.


So where did The Urban Voodoo Machine story begin?


Well, I started writing some songs and I didn't want that electric, rock 'n' roll kind of thing, I wanted a more acoustic kind of sound to it you know, but without losing the attitude. I had the band name and started recording some demos and I got Nick Marsh in, he was the only guy I knew that could play double bass, we got a violin player in and it all started to sound quite good. Then someone asked me if I wanted to do a gig, so all I had was these songs and a name, so I called a few people up and asked if they wanted to do it, and they were like "yeah, as long as there's a drink in it." Then the next month there was another and in that first year we probably did 5 or 6 shows, then all of a sudden it became more of a band thing and people started joining. First was Lloyd on the trumpet, the next year Slim on accordion, then Luci and so on, we are officially an 11 piece now and on our albums there is probably just as many guests.


So I guess you didn't really plan for it to grow into this big monster of a band then?


Well, it's just the nature of the music with so many different styles, it's good to have different instruments. I want to cover all the colours, not just black 'n' red.


Where did the black 'n' red thing come from then? It seems to me a gang mentality, you know dressing up for the show like you mean business.


Yeah, it took a couple of years for me to come up with that idea. The rule from day one was always to be suited and booted, it was two-tone shoes and black suits, then we started with black 'n' red because it was just simpler, in case someone turned up one day in a yellow shirt and someone else in an orange one, we don't want any colour clashing.


Image is important with you guys really, it wouldn't be the same if you turned up in jeans and a t-shirt would it? It's like returning to how the guys used to do it in the '50s and '60s.


Yeah, well we are influenced by all that, all those old blues guys; check out the pictures of Robert Johnson, he dressed great you know.




Do these musical influences date back to your youth then?


Nah, well I kinda grew up with Classic Rock I suppose. AC/DC were my first love, I was on stage at 13 playing a cardboard guitar to AC/DC, I won an Angus Young look-a-like competition. Cut my jeans into shorts and put a tie on badly.


So you grew up in Norway, when did you move to the UK?


I came here in '92 with a guitar in one hand and a bag of clothes in the other, spent all my money in a month and did shitty little jobs to survive. I sold The Big Issue for 6 months, it was pretty rough actually but 20 years later, here I am.


And things seem to be going well, you have a new album out, 'Rare Gumbo', a collection of rarities that stands alone like a proper quality album to me.


Yeah, well we tried to put it together like that. First I was thinking maybe we should put it together with the 3 EPs in chronological order, then we decided no, let's mix it up a bit like you would do for an album. I know it's a long album with 22 songs, but hey that's value for money.




Sure is, you also have a new album titled 'Love, Drink & Death' out in September, what can we expect from that?


Well, me and a few of the guys have been out to New Orleans about 3 times during the making of it, so you definitely hear a bit of New Orleans influence in there. There's a few Latin kinda rhythms maybe that we haven't touched on before and of course the Blues, Country and Rock 'n' Roll...some European stuff, it's just a complete mix.


That's what I like about you guys, the way you mix up so many styles, it's diverse and exciting.


Well, I hope we manage to sound like us and not anyone else.


And your audience is diverse too, I see you pull in the Rockabilly crowd as well as the Rockers and the Indie kids and anybody else that is hanging around it seems.


Yeah, we have a really mixed crowd and a big age group as well, we see parents taking their kids and all joining in together, it's quite cool. I mean we do put on a show and we play quite long sets as well, some bands just play for 45 minutes we try and mix it up and never play the exact same set twice.


Do you write all the songs yourself then?


Yeah, well I co-write with a couple of the guys in the band, there's always 2-3 songs on each album that I have co-written with someone, but I suppose it's my baby really. Other people could probably write but I kind of like to have my say if you know what I mean, it's kind of an understood thing.


It must be difficult being the leader of such a large band, keeping the band going and on the road so to speak?


Yeah sure, I mean financially, at the moment we drive in two vans and one of the guys even came up by train. To Glastonbury I think we are going in four vehicles. It's a big operation and there is not that much money to actually make it happen, but it feels like there are more people at each show which is good.


It must be rewarding to see people shout out the words to your songs each night?


Absolutely, we don't have a big fan base but it's a loyal one.


You guys are like the ultimate festival band, and you are playing Glastonbury in a few weeks, are you looking forward to that?


Yeah, I mean we have played there about four times but this is the first time officially on one of the main stages, we have played in the Lost Vagueness area in the past, probably 10 Glastonbury shows in 4 years. This time we are on at Avalon and it's a good stage and time slot. We are on at quarter to 7 for an hour and then pack up and go to see The Stones and get drunk!


So you hang around at Glasto then, it's not a case of turn up, play, then leave?


Two years we stayed in tents - it's rough though, you try it, suits and boots in a tent!


I went in 2011 and it was an absolute mud bath for the first few days.


Yeah, I refuse to wear wellies and I went through four pairs of really nice two-tone shoes, they got really fucked, but I'm not wearing wellies, man. It's rock 'n' roll, suited and booted rock 'n' roll style, I'm not a farmer. Gary, our drummer, he had Trench-foot, that was in 2007.


2007, that was the year Iggy Pop played yeah?


Yeah, Iggy Pop and John Fogerty. I saw John Fogerty and I was in awe. Ane my wife ran over to see Iggy but I was just there taking in all these great songs, I am a massive Iggy fan too but sometimes the concert experience can be so overwhelming you just have to sit down and take it all in rather than just rush from one stage to another. I'm excited about seeing The Stones too, Mick Taylor is back with them and I think he is playing the whole set too.




Cool, so you are also mates with Uber Rock faves Steve Conte and Sami Yaffa, yeah?


Yeah, Steve just stayed at mine actually, he has a new solo album out soon that I'm playing on as well. He plays guitar on 'Love, Drink & Death', a song called 'Train Wreck Blues', a killer country song and I play a bit of harmonica and banjo on his solo album. I think he has Michael, Sami and Ginger all on there too.


How did you come to know Steve and Sami then, was that through the New York Dolls?


Yeah, well I've known Sami for about 10 years actually through mutual friends, he was told about Voodoo Machine because he has a band called Mad Juana who are sort of similar and that's kinda how we met. We did some shows together in London, he's a big fan of the band, he got us the support with The Dolls and he also played on 'In Black 'n' Red'.


Is he on the new album?


No actually, I was going to get him to play Charango which is like a Peruvian instrument similar to a mandolin, but his Charango was broken, so I don't think he'll make it on the new album.


Do you have anyone else on the album playing Charango then?


No, he's the only Charango player I know.


And on a final note, your albums aren't available on vinyl are they? Are there any plans to release them?


I think 'Love, Drink & Death' will be on vinyl, the front cover is a painting of the band, it's kind of a Last Supper type thing. It's a big, big painting it would look great on 12", so I'm hoping that will happen, yes.




[Photos by Sin Bozkurt© -]


To visit The Urban Voodoo Machine store on Amazon - CLICK HERE