If you know one thing about Martin Cohen, it is probably that he has a wonderful beard. If there is another thing you know about Martin Cohen, it is probably that he used to be in Nine Black Alps, a band that started off brightly before the wheels came off, their songs became less catchy and the NME decided to hate them. Those facts are quite important, but not quite so as that Cohen himself has started a new band that is already making up for all those years playing ‘Unsatisfied’ to group of teenagers in sticky-floored venues. Milk maid is his new venture, and it’s a project that has already had a two page spread in the Manchester Evening News, as well as having a 7″ single put out by local trendsetters Suffering Jukebox Records.
The music itself is that usual blend of wonderfully laid back guitar and heavily distorted, distant vocals, and the shows Milk Maid have played alongside the likes of Male Bonding and Titus Andronicus are probably as good a place as any to start the comparisons. Depending on where he practices, this could either be labelled as garage rock, grimey basement fuzz pop or friend’s unused back room bro-fi. Have a listen for yourself and see. Here is an interview with Martin, too. The single is out now.
Hiya Martin, how are you?
I’m good. Tired but good.
What have you been up to of late? Anything exciting?
Just got back from a week in America, went to that matador 21 festival in Las Vegas, fairly ridiculous but amazing….so many bands…..highlights were guided by voices, sonic youth, yo la tengo and this band called come who I can’t get enough of, they just reformed for the festival, mind was blown. Still processing it all. And getting things ready for the 7inch.
And how bored are you of answering questions about being in Nine Black Alps?
I’m probably answering more questions now about nine black alps than I’ve ever had to in the past. I’m not sure if bored is the word!
So you are/you are in Milk Maid now. How long has that been going on? And why did you start?
I starting writing properly just under a year ago after the last nine black alps tour, full songs, I’ve always tried to write but only small bits came together, never entire songs. So, after that tour I didn’t know what was happening with nine black alps and I just wanted to keep playing and just needed some songs. with nine black alps it took so long to organise things, even practises since everyone lives fairly far apart. so I just wanted to do something where I didn’t have to rely on people and I could just write and record as and when I felt like it. playing live wasn’t even on my mind at that point.
Has it been difficult starting again after being so far ‘up the ladder’, so to speak?
I’m having more fun now than I ever had. even a couple of rungs up the ladder you start losing control on what you’re doing, the money men start interfering and that’s the part that makes it difficult. right now there’s no pressure and I can do whatever I like.
Who are your biggest influences? Guided By Voices have been mentioned a lot in regards to you.
yeah, jack cooper said we reminded him of them, not sure if he meant song-wise or just vibe-wise. the main thing I take from GBV, and maybe more so from bands like the Ramones and The Vaselines is that you can record fairly innocent sounding pop songs but live you can make them as loud as you want. I’m really into those bands too cos they write these innocent sounding pop songs that manage to have these sinister undertones going on all the way through that might not be so clear at first. So those bands are up their influence wise for song writing and its stuff like Sic Alps for production.
How would you describe the noise you make? What fictional scene do you reckon bloggers are going to attribute it to?
I’d probably describe it as the moment where shorts turn into underpants. It’ll sit nicely under the umbrella of Liberian folk metal.
How much do you reckon your beard influences your music?
We keep our distance, he has his own band.
Anyway, your single is due out soon on Suffering Jukebox – you played the label’s launch night too. What are your thoughts on the label?
That night was ace. I’ve seem Former Bullies so many times but I think the last time we played together was about 5 years ago so it was good to be sharing the same warm rider beer again. Jack (cooper, label dude) has been a massive help, he was the first person outside of my immediate friends to show any interest in what I was doing, even before he decided to start the label he’d got in touch to say he was into it which was a surprise.
For better or worse, it feels like people are trying to shape the Manchester scene into something marketable again. How are you finding it all at the minute?
The bands I’ve heard seem to be more of what the marketing people expect from Manchester music which makes that whole press thing much easier for them since there’s less to explain. It’s not really something that I think about, it’s like any other band, you hear a couple of songs, if you like them you find some more if you don’t, you try and find something else.
And who are your favourite new bands at the minute?
Looking forward to new stuff from weird era and their first live shows, heard a couple of track from the sun electric band that sound ace. I’m normally late on new bands.
There are a lot of good beards in Manchester at the minute and yours is definitely up there. How would you reckon it compares to the competition?
It’s not a competition. All beards are one.
And tell us a little bit about the single itself. What’s it about?
it’s a double a side although I’ve just realised I’ve ballsed the artwork by listing the tracks as side a and side b, but they’re meant to be equal billing. the songs are “such fun” and “can’t you see.” “such fun” is half about the older members of my family, wondering if I’d get on with them better if I knew them in some sort of parallel universe when we’re the same age and the half nonsense. “can’t you see” has no meaning. Recording wise, the drums for such fun were recorded in my friends practise room and he played drums, then rest was done at home and all of Can’t you see was done at home with my borrowed microphone.
You did a session with Mark Riley too, not long back. Is this going to be the start of another illustrious career?
someone dropped out at the last minute so we sort of fell into that one, it was the day after the launch night……was the other career that illustrious?
Lastly: any tips on how to grow a good beard?
Eat bananas, they’re full of potassium, that’s why monkeys are so hairy