Lightning Strikes Twice – Ed Quigley talks magic and music ahead of two Brian Lightning shows

Words by Billy Beale / Pics by Conor Wells, Rosie Sco, Ben Dornan

You might have crossed paths with Brian Lightning already.

Whether you’ve seen him in Grand Central Station wearing some ambiguous signage, performing songs and magic at various Birmingham gig venues, or simply a funny video on social media, the chances are that you’re familiar with the disco-era Pierrot and his bold black geometric face paint.

If you’re unlucky you might have had dealings with the dastardly Frankie S. Gasspipe.

On the 10 May ‘The Life of Brian Lightning’ will be a show celebrating the life of this mysterious magical crooner. One week later, on 17 May, ‘The Death of Brian Lightning’ mourns him. Both shows are at Digbeth’s Centrala – with links to more info and ticket sales at the end of this interview.

Life and death… music and magic? Who is Brian Lightning? Billy Beale caught up with the mind behind the character – musician and magician Ed Quigley – in an attempt to ascertain just what it’s all about.

“The idea for Brian came from a frustration with my onstage persona in previous acts and bands,” explains Ed Quigley.

“I was trying to act aloof and cooler than my own music, but it only served to make me anxious. But when I would do a magic show I felt more of a connection. It felt like ‘me’. Blending the two helps me feel more at home in what I’m doing.”

Artists throughout history have used personas to empower themselves and their work. Ed and his characters exist alongside Steve Coogan and Alan Partridge, or David Bowie’s various personas. But the fusion of sleight-of-hand and artful pop is something you’re unlikely to find anywhere except at a Brian Lightning show.

“Brian’s a vessel for me to communicate my ideas. I relate to him quite a lot. After a while it does feel like it’s just ‘me’.

“Frankie Gasspipe is where I can completely separate myself and dive into the character. That’s always good fun and gives me an opportunity to do more of the glam rock things I would do in my previous band Cave Girl.”

Quiqley adds: “We get compared to a lot of genre-defying artists like Alex Cameron or Gorrilaz. I think having the two characters, some songs lean more towards heavier rock and roll for Frankie Gasspipe.

“Brian has got more love songs and ballads. A little bit like Pulp’s more romantic songs.

“You write songs for yourself; you have to like it and if the audience don’t then they don’t. Whereas magic is the other way around. It’s all about what people will think and how they respond. That creates an interesting atmosphere to write in. The songs are still pretty personal, if not to me then to the character.

“I don’t think about how they come across to an audience in the way I do with magic.

“Occasionally we will write a piece of music for a trick. It can help keep the show flowing rather than talking through a trick for four minutes.”

It’s hard to say if the blending of music, magic, and theatre would work as well as it does if the songs were in a different style. The mournful whirrs of an old organ makes Brian and their songs seem like they were frozen in an unremembered corner of the late 1970s and only recently defrosted.

Ed Quigley continues: “It started with the organ I got from a charity shop in Kings Heath, an Electone FE30. It had bass pedals, drum machines.

“I could hear the whole show in its sounds. Because it has the vaudeville, circus-y sort of sound, it inspired me to create a character to fit that sound.”

Unfortunately, that particular organ won’t be attending the upcoming ‘Life’/Death’ duology of shows – held at the Centrala gallery and events venue on 10 and 17 May.

“The old organ has now died,” adds Quigley. “It died at the ‘Divorce’ show at The Sunflower Lounge. I think we’re all just amazed at how long it lasted.

“It went around the country with me for a year, up and down shaky stairs in venues. It was supposed to just grow old and gather dust and die in an old people’s home, not go around the country with a band.”

Divorce… now life and death. Why are the two May shows themed this way? Does it mark the end of an era or a new beginning?

“Kind of both,” tells Quigley. “It’s gonna mark the end of an era for a few songs and ideas and also the beginning of a different musical direction.

“I’ve always loved the idea of staging my own funeral. My mum’s coming in a black veil but said that fake tears were too dark.”

Preparing for the May shows at Centrala, Ed explains how the other acts were carefully chosen to suit the themes.

“For Life, we have Sancho Panza. They blend disco, rock and roll, new wave, no wave, and they put it all into a really great show. Like us, they obviously can’t make up their mind.

“The next band is Astles from Liverpool. Incredibly lovely people. Dan is an exceptional songwriter. I might have to ask them to reign it in so that we still look good.

“The other band on that show is the Ha Ha Hats who I think are an alien band from somewhere between Mars and Jupiter. I ran halfway across Birmingham to catch them because I’d gone to the wrong venue.”

But whilst both the upcoming Brian Lightning shows might grip the same narrative thread, the life and death of the titular artist, they each have their own story to tell.

‘The Life of Brian Lightning’ event on 10 May will be 1970s disco and glamour themed, but ‘The Death of Brian Lightning’ will be more of a funeral black themed affair – although we have been assured “it can be sexy”.

Quigley adds: “Firstly for ‘Death,’ we have Skinned. A project made up of Toy and The Horrors, two of my favourite acts growing up and suitably quite dark for the theme of the show. They describe themselves as ‘violent minimalist shoegaze for the discerning death’… need I say more?

“Also on the bill are local legends Dirty Hound. Fronted by Ritchie James who I used to play with in Cave Girl.

“Finally, we have Mash House, who I played with really recently. I’ve known them for years. It’s one hell of a show, a real party.”

If we can take anything from the weird and wonderful world of Brian Lightning, it would be foolish to expect that these upcoming shows will just be straight-ahead gigs. And surely, the magician has all manner of things up his sleeves?

“The bands have all gone in on the themes and there are some surprises for the ‘Death’ show that I won’t spoil,” admits Ed .

“I’m super honoured that they’re all travelling to the shows and that we’ll all celebrate the life and death of the band together.”

Brian Lightening will be presenting two shows in May at Centrala.

‘The Life of Brian Lightning’ takes place 10 May, with ‘The Death of Brian Lightning’ held on 17 May – tickets for both shows are available through Kikimora Records:

For more on Brian Lightning follow them on Instagram at

Or to check out their music on Spotify, click here.

For more on Centrala visit

Taking you from fear to frivolity, Mutes release new single ‘Barely Living Proof’

Words by Ed King / Photos by Sam Wood – artwork by Megan Henebury

“Dog-sick with the possibility of another failed escape.”

When you read the lyrics to Mutes’ latest single, ‘Barely Living Proof’, it does not bode well. Beginning with “Force fed eyes” and ending with “Young violence speaks our fall to ruin” you’d be justifiably left a little concerned.

It’s just Mutes, I say, as I contemplate Googling the Samaritans hotline and frontman James Brown’s Facebook profile. No, no. It’ll be fine… let’s just see when he posted last.

But the audio reality of ‘Barely Living Proof’, self-released by Mutes on Friday 29 March, is actually quite joyful. Seriously. Oddly. Joyful. Its message might be the blood-based scrawling of a tortured soul but the tune itself is considerably more blissful.

Sure it’s gritty, dark; a wounded animal in a corner, with vocals that appear to have been sung whilst being suffocated. But it hops, skips, punches, and jumps forward with an almost spring in its step. And as strange as it sounds, The Monkees and The Velvet Underground both crept into my head on the first listen.

Starting with a spangly indie saunter, to expand the metaphor, ‘Barely Living Proof’ builds into more of a determined march over the first half of the track.

Then – at the line at the start of this review – breaks clean in two, leaving fragments of the first half hanging in the air… only to be thrust back together for about a minute and a half of angsty noise rock with a ‘Starla’/Smashing Pumpkins elongated end. And there I go with comparisons again.

But it’s good, really good. Purple prose and clever tropes aside. And if words ‘aint your thing…

The third offering from Mutes’ upcoming album, …buried where you stand, scheduled for release on 17 May this year, ‘Barely Living Proof’ was also recorded at Megatone Studios – Mark Gittin’s musical play pen found lurking beyond the urban wasteland that was once Birmingham Wholesale Markets.

And whilst that may not be the official Google Maps list of directions for the birthplace of Mutes’ new baby, we felt it fits the tone.

Following singles ‘Televangelist’ and ‘Mere Slaughter’, released in Nov ’23 and Feb ’24 respectively, ‘Barely Living Proof’ is in our modest opinion the best yet – carrying with it the sound and scope of the two first releases, but coming in at a considerably longer 4mins 10sec and with an ineffable edge that just gives it the win.

Mutes are no stranger to building tension and, after quite a sharp introduction with ‘Mere Slaughter’, this may well have been the plan all along.

But all three singles are laying a very promising path to …buried where you stand. And if their nine brothers and sisters share even a bit of the family features then there’s going to be significantly impressive album out this May.

We’ve long said it, but Mutes are one of the more pertinent musical outfits to come from Brummagem – and this latest studio album is already looking dangerously promising.

Plus, always worth watching live, Mutes will be showcasing their new album at the Hare and Hounds (Venue 2) on 22 May – with Spits Milt and Stay In Nothing as support. Click here for more info and link to online ticket sales.

Mutes release …buried where you stand on 17 May. For more on Mutes visit

Seth Lakeman celebrates twentieth anniversary of Kitty Jay at Birmingham Town Hall

Words and pics by Emily Doyle

On 28 February, Seth Lakeman’s tour party rolled into Birmingham for an evening at the Town Hall.

It’s twenty years since the Devonshire folk artist appeared in the public consciousness with the release of Mercury Prize nominated Kitty Jay, and in celebration they’re treating audiences to the album in full.

A hushed crowd fills Birmingham Town Hall as Lakeman and co kick off their first set with the opening four tracks of said album. Everything sounds just as haunting as it did two decades ago. Lakeman’s vocals are unchanged, a crisp and measured tone cushioned by tenor guitar and double bass. Vocalist Alex Hart deftly weaves melodies around Lakeman’s tales of Dartmoor folklore.

Towards the end of the first set, the band drops away and Lakeman walks to the front of the stage. Commenting on the great acoustics of the hall, he announces he’s going to do the next track off-mic. What follows is the highlight of the evening.

‘Farewell My Love’ is a raw, forlorn tune that sees Lakeman in call and response with himself. Pitch perfect fiddle is answered by a warbling vocal, set to a minimal drone that challenges how much can be done with how little.

There’s pin-drop silence in the busy room. The lack of amplification feels timeless and primal.

To a wave of applause Lakeman steps back over to the mic for the title track, ‘Kitty Jay’ – a fiddle tour de force which originally catapulted him into the spotlight back in 2005 when he performed it live on TV at the Mercury Awards. Percussionist (and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire member) Cormac Byrne reappears on stage to bring the track home, before we go to an interval.

For the second set Lakeman seems glad to get away from the dark sound of Kitty Jay and into the more jovial sounds of his later work. The atmosphere in the room shifts noticeably as favourites like ‘Lady of the Sea’ and ‘Take No Rogues’ get the crowd dancing in their seats.

A rockier, more American-sounding side to Lakeman’s work comes through – though he brings it back to basics in the encore with a joyous rendition of ‘Scrumpy’s Set’, one of his early compositions arranged for fiddle, bodhrán, and guitar.

It’s celebratory, and rightly so; everyone in the room is beaming ear to ear.

For more on Seth Lakeman visit:

For more events at Birmingham’s Town and Symphony Halls visit:

“It hurts. Why am I enjoying myself so much?” – post punk noise rockers Gilla Band headline The Castle and Falcon

Words by Matthew Osborne / Pics by Emily Doyle

Dublin’s Gilla Band are riding the crest of a wave of noise-punk bands currently enjoying a surge in popularity and critical acclaim. They are joined at The Castle and Falcon this evening by the equally abrasive and experimental French noiseniks, The Psychotic Monks, for the first date of their UK Tour.

There is a sense of expectation in the cosy little front room of the venue before doors open for the gig, with The Psychotic Monks being as eagerly anticipated as the headliners. It is the end of another frenetic working week for most of us, and a couple of slightly dazed looking gents in full suits remind us all of that. We are here to relax.

Although relaxing isn’t a word that springs to mind when describing either of tonight’s acts. Gilla Band’s second album, The Talkies, begins with a close mic recording of singer Dara Kiley having a panic attack.

But whilst both acts produce music which is harsh, atonal, and unforgiving, these anxiety-laden walls of noise are bringing in the punters tonight – and the main room at The Castle and Falcon (for me, one of Birmingham’s best live venues) soon fills up.

The Psychotic Monks take the stage quietly, tinkering with machines and sending a rhythmic pulse through the audience, before slamming us with two gut punchers influenced heavily by the dirtiest German techno. Multi-instrumentalist Paul Dussaux writhes to his panel of buttons and wires like Jimmy Somerville channelling Ian Curtis and, despite the unflinching harshness of the music, all four members look to be having a great time.

Just as I think I’ve got the hang of the band they morph into a more abrasive Sonic Youth-informed monster with a perverted but welcome sense of melody, before closing their set with a stunning and sprawling song called ‘Décors’.

This is fronted by guitarist Martin Bejuy, who downs tools in favour of thrashing about the stage, unhinged, and, foot on monitor, goads those of us brave enough to be standing on the front row with a dangerously untethered microphone stand.

Gilla Band have a tough act to follow. Making it harder is a drunk guy flailing about at the front. He tries to shake Dara Kiley’s hand, and when he is rejected he grabs for his leg instead. Knowing that Dara suffers from anxiety (and reading the grimaces on the faces of those nearest the drunkard) I tense up, bracing for an inevitable confrontation.

Thankfully, security wade through the crowd and eject him a couple of songs into the set, leaving the rest of us free to finally unwind to an hour’s worth of concrete static, air raid siren guitars, and shrieked vocals. Ah… pure bliss.

There is something cathartic in this kind of music. Not everyone is able to chill out to whale noises, gong massages, and finger cymbals – some of us prefer retreating into dark rooms with barely contained explosions of sound obliterating what is left of our eardrums, bouncing with and rebounding off a room full of strangers. Overstimulation clears your head; with senses running at maximum capacity, the brain has no time to think, no time to worry.

Halfway through the gig I become mesmerised by guitarist Alan Duggan’s technique. He spends more time kneeling at his enormous bank of pedals than he does strumming the guitar’s strings.

I watch his fretboard work; at one point I see he is playing an A major chord, but that is not what is ringing out. What I hear when he strums this chord is a concrete slab of white noise weighing roughly the same as a really fucking huge concrete slab smacking me in the face, ribs and heart. All sense of melody is removed from the band’s sound and we are left with, I suppose, Drum ‘n Noise…?

It hurts. Why am I enjoying myself so much? Why are we all enjoying ourselves so much? The crowd behind me is lurching forward, and I turn to see a sea of hypnotised faces swaying in the strobe lights, Buddha-like grins now replacing the traditional British frown.

Gilla band are relentless live. They briefly acknowledge their audience some five or so songs into their set, but banter is sparse. And unlike their support, they don’t look like they’re enjoying themselves so much as exorcising something from within them.

The beats are propulsive; the sound is ferocious and gnarled, broken, but not defeated, not hopeless. There is something about Dara’s vocal delivery that brings to mind James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem.

Gilla Band could be seen as a reworking of that band, if you pushed them violently through a food blender with no regard for your own limbs and recorded the resultant mess onto cassette tape which you then spooled out onto broken glass and stamped on in a fit of cynical rage.

Which is to say, there is humour and playfulness in there somewhere – but it masks something altogether more disturbing.

At the end of an intense hour or so of fresh sounding music that resembles the overstimulation of our times, I leave the gig feeling calm and relaxed and decide to buy a kebab with no concern for my cholesterol at all. I listen to the two bands I just witnessed on my headphones whilst I eat. I feel calm, happy, and content.

Tomorrow will be another day with its own challenges, but tonight I will sleep. God bless noise rock for pummelling my brain into a quiet submission.

Gilla Band + The Psychotic Monks @ Castle and Falcon 23.02.24 / Emily Doyle

For more on Gilla Band visit:

For more on The Psychotic Monks visit:

For more from The Castle and Falcon visit:

Modern Literature deliver frenetic post-punk at ‘Bootlicker’ single launch Hare & Hounds show

Words by Sophie Hack / Pics by Emily Doyle

Britain can be bleak at the best of times, but it’s the bemusement and chaos of being part of this island that births raw art and, with it, a bit of hope.

In the same week that funding for the arts in Birmingham will be cut by 100% next financial year, Brum’s local music showed once again that, despite adversity, it will be firmly rooted in the hearts and minds of many.

Modern Literature’s ‘Bootlicker’ single release show proved that the beating heart of Birmingham’s music is still pumping and adrenaline-fuelled, as they conquered the stage at the Hare and Hounds on Wednesday, 21 February.

But the overall line-up saw a full room even at the opener – the enigmatic White Hot Cum (…yes, really). Ciggy behind the ear of Kaila Whyte and Hi-Vis adorned by Connor Hemming, the duo seemingly rolled straight off the street and into their thrashy skate-punk. Raucous and uncontrollable, they ripped through songs such as ‘Breakfast Burgers’ and ‘Bosom Friends’ – heckling and telling unfiltered jokes to the crowd in between.

“Wu-Tang is for the children, White Hot Cum is not,” Connor confirmed before flying through hazy, punky, and sometimes blues-y tracks, with an energy on stage I can only liken to the Looney Tunes character Taz. Ending their set with a cover of Black Flag’s ‘Rise Above’ and a declaration of free Palestine, the hilarious White Hot Cum must be seen to be believed. The duo is fantastic at tantalising the crowd with pure charm, wit, and deliciously infectious punk.

The tempo slowed down with the next act, Animal Bones, serving smooth rock & roll with a classic American sound. Frontman Miles Cocker had a huge stage presence, using the monitor to peer closer into the crowd while delivering the sucker-punch rock you’d hear on a hot desert drive.

The slick bass lines and crooning guitar solos brought the heat to the Hare and Hounds, to create a sound like Queens of the Stone Age meets the moodiness of Massive Attack – a timeless sound that will pique the interest of any rock fan.

Modern Literature’s headline show was to celebrate the release of ‘Bootlicker’ – a single that is a “visceral warning” of “the danger of populism, jingoism and right-wing isolationism that’s infected the consciousness” of society. An ode to the people who “pull up the ladder after themselves”, ‘Bootlicker’ takes modern-day inspiration while harking back to the rage felt in the 1980s, through the prominent bass lines and syncopated guitar stabs that echo into this era.

Their set began with an almost apocalyptic sound married with Sean Thompson-De Wolfe’s poem hailing that: “We’ve made a violent God in our own image.”

The brunt force of Modern Literature’s post-punk sent shockwaves through the room, heaving with frenetic energy in tracks ‘Buzz Buzz Buzz’ and ‘Panic Attack’. Frontman Greg Smith handles the stage in a similar way to David Byrne, twisting and contorting as the heavy crashes of symbols spliced with synths and guitar.

The adrenaline that’s building throughout the set comes to a head during the encore ‘Weeping Willow’, as singer Greg and Bassist Skip Davies join the crowd while Kieran Naughton (guitar), Mark Lewis (guitar/keyboards), and Jacob Hall (drums) hold the stage with a wall of fuzz and noise.

Guitars crash to the floor (and singers crash into drums) as their single release show comes to a close, shinning a beacon of hope over Birmingham’s arts scene which needs our support, our energy, and our passion more than ever now to keep it alive.

Modern Literature + Animal Bones, White Hot Cum @ Hare & Hounds 21.02.24 / Emily Doyle

For more on Modern Literature click here to visit their Spotify page. 

For more on Animal Bones visit:

For more from the Hare and Hounds, including a full event programme and links to online ticket sales, visit: