Artists: Crystal Grenade

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GONZO WEEKLY #241: Carol Hodge interview

Carol Hodge is a remarkable young lady and possessed of a remarkable talent. I first heard about her when she joined ex-Crass vocalist Steve Ignorant about halfway through his ‘Last Supper’ world tour, in which he performed songs by Crass for the last time, at least in the style to which we have become accustomed over the past three and a half decades.

Carol had some pretty big boots to fill, as she was singing material originally recorded by the legendary Eve Libertine back in the day. Her renditions of ‘Shaved Women’ and ‘Poison in a Pretty Pill’ were particularly impressive. For lots of reasons, mostly health ones, I was not able to go to any of the shows, but I followed the tour avidly on YouTube. The final show, at what was then The Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London, is now available in a swish DVD set with a cover by yours truly, from Gonzo. So you can see it for yourself.

There were several highlights from this show; not the least being when Eve Libertine joined her on stage for an impromptu rendition of the aforementioned ‘Shaved Women’. But the highlight for me, which always brings a hint of a tear to my eye, was when the band played ‘Bloody Revolutions’ for the last time, and Steve was obviously overcome with emotion as well. Then up came Carol with a big sisterly look on her face, and held his hand as the two of them finished off the song:

“Nothing changed for all the death, that their ideas created
It's just the same fascistic games, but the rules aren't clearly stated
Nothing's really different 'cause all government's the same
They can call it freedom, but slavery is the game
There's nothing that you offer but a dream of last year’s hero
The truth of revolution, brother...is year zero.”

Hell! Forget about pinpricks of tears. The first time I saw this I was blubbing like a big blubby thing, and I still find it massively moving to this day.

After seeing that, I decided that I needed to find out more about Ms. Hodge.

Carol adopted the personality of Miss Crystal Grenade, an existentialist Victorian artist, singer and freak show performer with a peculiarly deformed hand. Accompanying herself on piano, and with some songs featuring multi-tracked vocals (presumably by her), this music fills the same sort of cultural territory as did the recent BBC detective series Ripper Street; a gloriously aesthetic re-creation of the latter days of Victorian London. In Miss Crystal Grenade this slice of ur-historical synthesis now has the perfect soundtrack.

I was so impressed by this that I rang my old friend, and boss, Rob Ayling, the Gonzo Grande Fromage, who was equally impressed, and proceeded to sign Crystal Grenade to Gonzo.

Then, a few months later, I was in Manchester with Corinna, to see Peter Gabriel performing an emotionally tinged show on his ‘Back to Front’ tour. We had a couple of days in Manchester, and I wanted to do some filming in the Natural History Museum there, but I took the opportunity to arrange an assignation with Carol, and Corinna, Carol and I spent a happy hour chit chatting in the museum gift shop.

Then, in 2014, Carol came and sang at the Weird Weekend in character as her existential Victorian waif and – with the addition of a few more interviews over the years – that brings the story pretty much up to date.

EXCEPT (and this is a bloody great big except), this year Steve Ignorant and his band Slice of Life, for whom Carol still sings, played Glastonbury. Steve was the headlining act at the final Weird Weekend last summer, and for Igs & co. to have performed such a prestigious event seemed too culturally significant for us to ignore. Carol (who seems to have ditched her Victorian persona for the moment) has also got an exciting new project in the works, and so I decided that it would be jolly good to phone her up and talk about both of these things. 


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Gonzo Magazine #241
Carol Hodge talks about the excitement of playing Glastonbury with Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life, we meet a bloke who wants to make a giant bronze statue of Great Cthulhu in the Orkneys, Phil Bayliss’ reggae themed Listening Post, the details of Hawkwind’s legal victory and the Doctors of Madness box set. Good ‘ere innit? Read More

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Crystal Grenade Biography

Carol Hodge was last seen in November 2011 on stage at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire.  She was holding the hand of the one-time Crass vocalist Steve Ignorant as they closed both Ignorant’s world tour and his career of singing songs by the one-time Kings and Queens of anarchopunk, with a massively emotional version of Bloody Revolutions.  Even watching it on YouTube brings tears to my eyes so I can only imagine what it would have been like being in the audience or even more on stage. Carol joined Ignorant’s world tour half-way through after the previous female vocalist had dropped out for family reasons.  And she had some pretty big shoes to fill (I suppose if I was clever enough I should make some sort of reference here to Crass’s notorious song about Chinese footbinding but I can’t think of one).  And she filled them righteously.  After all, having to perform songs made famous by the doyenne of anarchapunk, Eve Libertine, cannot have been an easy task.  One of my favourite moments from the tour was also from the last show, when Eve joined Carol on stage for a particularly blistering version of Shaved Women.

But what happened next? 

Carol has adopted the personality of Miss Crystal Grenade, an existentialist Victorian artist, singer and freak show performer with a peculiarly deformed hand. Accompanying herself on piano, and with some songs featuring multi-tracked vocals (presumably by her), this music fills the same sort of cultural territory as did the recent BBC detective series Ripper Street; a gloriously aesthetic re-creation of the latter days of Victorian London. In Miss Crystal Grenade this slice of ur-historical synthesis now has the perfect soundtrack.

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