We know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: “Why should I care about The Urban Voodoo Machine? They’ve been around for ages, haven’t they? Aren't they a novelty band who wears funny make-up? Don't they sometimes play jazz? Aren’t half of them dead or something?”
So bear with us, sunshine, cos you clearly need educating.
The story starts with Paul-Ronney Angel, a man with a double-barrelled first name. I could be a wanker about this and say the story starts with Bon Scott-era AC/ DC – with Tom Waits, or the Clash, Louis Armstrong, the Pogues, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, Johnny Cash, Lionel Bart or Bertolt Brecht – but let’s stick with Paul-Ronney, it’s quicker. Paul-Ronney Angel ate his parents and fled the fjords of Norway with just a bottle of moonshine and several slices of decomposing fish in his back pocket. (Before he left they tried him in the Norwegian Army – he lasted a total of five hours.)
After that, Angel washed up in London during the dying breaths of Thatcherism and took advantage of all that swinging London had to offer: he sold The Big Issue, busked Johnny Thunders & Robert Johnson numbers in Soho bus stops and played guitar for anyone who'd have him.
The Urban Voodoo Machine came to him in 2002 as a fully-formed idea. He'd lead a band who'd play ‘Bourbon Soaked Gypsy Blues Bop’n’Stroll’. They’d dress in black and red. There would be a LOT of them. And their music would sound like a great night out in a dangerous part of town. From the get-go, The UVM fused junkyard blues and stinging rockabilly with mariachi horns, fiddles, sinister cabaret and punk rock tangos. "I wanted to play rock'n'roll music with a different instrumentation," says Angel, "taking inspiration from everything from delta blues, latin and gypsy music without losing the spirit and attitude of punk." His lyrics – part Lemmy, part Bob Dylan – made other (more acclaimed) songwriters sound totally. Fucking. Boring.
"We're not Americana and were definitely not 'retro'," says Angel. "I write songs about living in London right now. Although having a shit time, no money, heartbreak, mental illness, addiction and suppression from the big guy is kinda universal and timeless, I guess..."
“Yeah-yeah-yeah,” you’re thinking, “but can they cut it live?” Well, there’s a reason why they’ve played Glastonbury, Download, Latitude, Bestival, Hard Rock Calling and toured with The Pogues and New York Dolls. With an act honed alongside the burlesque dancers, snake-charmers and fire-eaters they call friends, The UVM have become one of the greatest live acts in the country – terrifyingly bizarre, hysterically funny; a riot for the eyes and sensation for the ears: a sing-a-long, drink-a-long, clap- a-long affair.