Random Facts With… Steve Mason
Steve Mason has been quietly going about the business of being ace for years now. The Beta Band merrily laughed in the face of any and all of the laws of what an indie band is supposed to do. His solo work as King Biscuit Time has produced some truly unlikely club bangers – anyone whose heard I Walk the Earth played peak time on an open minded dance floor knows exactly what I'm on about. Now he's returning with a new solo project that gives everything a Mason fan could want – day dreaming folk spiked with sudden left turns and downbeat vocals with layers and layers to peel apart. As ever, Randm Facts seemed like the best way we could talk to Steve, so brace yourself for a trawl through conspiracy theories, underwear related factoids, and possibly, if you're very lucky, some bits and pieces about the new album.
OK, fact tennis; here we go. There are more plastic flamingos in the USA than real ones.
That kind of sums up America though really doesn’t it.
Yep, I actually got to that fact from the men’s underwear index. Do you know about that?
It’s an economic indicator, used most notably by the former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, to determine the end of economic slumps. Apparently as people have more money to spend on non-essential purchases, they purchase more underwear.
So that’s what he uses as a benchmark. Wow. I remember that last autumn, me and a mate went on a walk from a place called Devils Dyke to Lewes and we totally underestimated how far it was. We thought it was about five or six miles and it turned out to be about fourteen. By the time we got to Lewes we were totally knackered and we were both really hungry, but I just thought I’d wait till I got home because I was so skint. Then somehow he wanted to go to this Gentleman’s Outfitters, this really expensive shop in Lewes and I ended up buying four pairs of socks. I didn’t look at how much they were, so I went up to the counter and the guy said that they were £55. Like, fuck sake. But I ended up fucking going for it. What that really meant though, was that I was struggling to eat for the next two weeks. Maybe I’m an anomaly, but I’m glad I don’t fit into that psychopaths little thing…
Lets grab one of yours whilst we’re here as it feels like it fits in here. "In 1979 the United States House of Representatives selected for assignation concluded that on the 22nd November 1963 at Dealey Plaza in Dallas there were at least two gunmen who fired four shots at President Kennedy."
That’s a fact.
Yep, definitely. I started going down that rabbit hole of American facts and found that the US has not had a treasury since 1921 and it’s actually just a department now. I started delving far too far into these Ickeisms…
There’s a really fascinating series of documentaries called The Men Who Killed Kennedy and there’s about nine of them.
Once you’ve watched the first four, they’re so well done – they’re from the late 70s – but the witnesses they’ve got is just so overwhelming it’s almost ludicrous. I’ve been fascinated by the whole thing, like many people, for years and years but I think the whole idea of history being written by the victors is amazing. I watched the Black Panthers documentary recently and years ago I read a lot about Malcolm X and it just seems like there was a real power struggle in America in the ‘60s between, literally, the forces of darkness and people who had a vision of a better world. Unfortunately it appears as though the forces of darkness definitely won and that’s kind of where we are now…
We’re at the apex of that.
But it’s so easy for anyone who talks like that, to be a complete conspiracy lunatic. It’s so easy to do. The further you away from the facts and lets say, the 22nd of November, the House of Representatives thing was buried. What became the standard was the Warren Commission one, which said it was Lee Harvey Oswald who was one crazed gunman and Jack Ruby who was some other crazy guy. But, Oswald was a CIA agent who went over to Russia and then came back again, went back out to Russia and then came back again. Jack Ruby was a guy who ran a nightclub and was up too his eyeballs in the mob, all the cops used to drink at his bar every night of the week and he had free reign at the Dallas police station, which is why he was wandering around the building the whole time whilst Oswald was locked up, because they all knew him. So when he was standing there, nobody thought anything of it, until he pulled the gun out. That whole history written by the victors thing is fascinating and after I’d read a lot about Malcolm X a few years ago I started to read more about black history and African history. I read the book called King Leopold’s Ghost, have you?
No, but Ian has and keeps banging on to me about it.
It’s an amazing book and it’s still written by a European, but you’re basically reading the history of white people that you’re not taught.
It’s all about fact over fiction really, and re-writing history.
Yeah, completely. Everything you’re taught about the First World War and the reason for why the First World War started, because of Archduke Ferdinand who was obviously the most popular man in the world at that time and that meant the whole of Europe was prepared to go to war. When in actual fact, it was about control of resources and Britain didn’t want Germans extending the railway down into Iraq. These are the big things, the massive things, that were done on a world stage and there are thousands of these little things going on all the time. For me, I dealt with it all with Monkey Minds and don’t really feel like I have a whole lot more to contribute.
So the new album is set apart from that.
Well no, because there’s still a lot of that stuff on there but I guess it’s just hidden a little bit more.
Is that how you’ve got to be these day then? A bit more covert about it all?
There was politics in the Beta Band stuff, but I had to hide it from the Beta Band people because they didn’t want me to put any politics in the lyrics, which I always thought was fucking pathetic and lame. There wasn’t much politics in King Biscuit Time though… there are subject matters on the album that I don’t really want to talk about because it could potentially jeopardise future things that are going to come from the album. You just have to read the lyrics though; it’s all there. I guess I just tried to lay off the metaphor on Monkey Minds. I haven’t deliberately cloaked anything though; they’re just the words that came out of my mouth and onto the page. I know what I was talking about. I’ve almost completely withdrawn now though, almost to the point where it’s become embarrassing for me. People will say to me, ‘What about this? What about that?’ and I literally have no fucking idea what they’re talking about. I think it’s the fear that’s peddled twenty-four hours a day, that’s what I don’t like.
There’s not enough good news.
No! There’s never any good news. All of it is essentially just western propaganda. It’s all designed to make you think. If the news was balanced and I felt like it as coming from a number of sources, people on the ground that you can trust, from all different nationalities and all that kind of stuff then I would look into it… But of course it’s not, all these things are set up and designed for some greater picture that none of us are aware of. Whilst that may sound like the start of a conspiracy theory, I don’t give a fuck. I really don’t care if people think I’m a conspiracy nut.
I think the only way to combat that is through your music, or whatever medium someone decides to do it through. Everything we try to do on the site is about perpetuating something positive. It may not be a solution, but it’s just about some sort of positivity towards things.
If I’ve learned anything in my life, and luckily I’ve learned quite a lot about myself and how I think the world works, I used to think that “changing the world” to a more positive place would come from one huge act. But I don’t believe that’s true anymore. Whilst I say I was drawn from consuming news in all its forms, what I’ve decided to do is just be fucking nice to everyone I meet and be positive and lead a positive life. I just try to realise how fortunate I am and appreciate that. I guess for me, it’s because I suffered from depression for so long, it’s only really that recently I’ve been able to live in the moment and actually genuinely say that I feel happy. That’s something that I’ve never been able to do and I’m enjoying that so much that I think it’s my duty as s human being to genuinely live the best life that I possibly can. What I mean by that is just to be nice to people and be positive. Those are incredibly basic things, but it’s certainly taken me the long way round to understand what that means and to understand how that’s possible. If you engage anyone in a positive and friendly way, it has ripples that go all over the place.
I totally agree. My partner and I when we set up the business, wrote down on a piece of paper ‘Just don’t be a cunt.’ It’s a really simple thing to live by.
It’s so easy to be a cunt. It’s so easy. It takes no fucking thought whatsoever, no intelligence.
It’s about being mindful really, that’s ultimately what it’s about. On that note, did you know that it is an offence to be intoxicated and in charge of a cow in Scotland apparently.
Well that makes perfect sense. Did you also know that on the Isle of Man it’s legal to shoot a Scotsman with a bow and arrow before breakfast?
I did not know that!
Yeah, that’s true. Well, Scotland had a big problem with Whisky back in the day, so much so that it was banned. Imagine a farmer at 7am pissed out of his head trying to deal with his cows before he heads to bed. They could end up bloody anywhere!
In Scotland, if someone knocks on your door and requires the use of a toilet you must let them enter. That’s quite nice.
Even if he’s got a herd of cows with him?
Haha! If you could fold a piece of paper in half 42 times it would reach to the moon.
Lions 25% bigger than African Lions existed all over Europe and even in the UK and only died out around 12,000 years ago, which means they existed alongside humans for about 180,000 years.
They must have been fucking huge.
Imagine that. Imagine just nipping out and suddenly there you are trying to negotiate that. If you just want to go see your mate, or if you’ve got your herd of cows with you, you’re fucked. Seriously fucked. Everything we’ve been talking about has happened in the last 70 or so years, but think about 180,000 years of existing with huge fucking lions.
We need to revive them.
Yeah, that’s a good idea. It’d totally sharpen your senses on the way back from the pub wouldn’t it!
The titanic crew had no binoculars, which may have helped them see the iceberg. They were inside a locker and the key was lost.
Well, do you know what? In actual fact even on a dark night it’s still completely possible to see an iceberg. I’ve read a lot about Titanic and even on a flat calm night you can see where the water breaks around the iceberg. The whole Titanic thing is really fucking fascinating. There’s a whole mad conspiracy around that, which I’m not saying that I believe, but it’s fascinating. There were two boats, the Titanic and the Olympic. Before the Titanic set off, something went really wrong with it and they crashed it and there was loads of damage too it. So what they decided to do was paint up the Olympic as the Titanic, because they looked almost identical, and used that instead. I can’t remember the rest of it, but there’s a whole bloody thing about it.
I’m going to look into that.
It’s amazing. It was insured for way more than it was actually worth before it left and all that kind of stuff.
Yeah. It’s really interesting.
One of yours then; the reason the royal family walk around with their hands clasped behind their back is so that they don’t have to shake hands with members of the public. Really?
Yeah. A friend of mine told me that, it’s called the Windsor Lock. I seem to remember him saying that a member of the royal family actually told him that. It’s just easier though. If someone has got their hands behind their back you don’t automatically go to shake it.
I bet their handshakes are really weak when they do shake hands.
Damp in the middle.
There’s nothing worse than a limp handshake. It is still and offence to beat or shake any carpet rug or mat in the Metropolitan Police District, although you are allowed to shake a doormat before 8am.
Imagine what it must have been like back when people didn’t have carpets. They’d have to hang up the rugs outside.
You wouldn’t be able to see in the street, although you couldn’t see down the streets anyway…
Must have been crazy. These are facts yeah?
Yeah. That’s still a law apparently. One of them laws. All beached whales and sturgeons must be offered to the reigning monarch.
Well that’s interesting. Almost makes me want to hire a flatbed truck and drive it around looking for one. Alright you old bag? A few of them have popped up recently actually.
I wonder if they got offered to the royals? We should investigate whether they were.
If not, why not? If I was a proper rock star with money that’s the sort of thing that I would do. I’d research where the most recent one was, get a flatbed down there and get it winched on and then smash through the gates and just kick it off! Fucking there you are! Here’s your fucking whale!
Let's crowd fund the next one.
Please help us deliver this whale to Buckingham Palace. Pray for the whale.
A pineapple takes between one and half to three year to grow.
I didn’t know that before.
People should treat them with more respect then.
They’re pretty cheap at the market where I am…
That can’t be true can it?
Apparently so… The skull fragment taken by the Russians from Hitler’s bunker, complete with bullet hole, which was always claimed to be that of Adolf Hitler’s, was found to be that of an unknown forty year old woman. This means that no trace of Hitler’s body has ever been found. I didn’t know that.
Well there’s another mad theory that he actually died in 1963, because they all basically buggered off to Argentina. There’s a hotel there where a maid swears that she was his housekeeper every day and that he lived there.
And they just made that up for propaganda’s sake.
I guess they have to have a body don’t they? They have to say that the evil is over.
Like they did with Saddam Hussein or Bin Laden.
Well not really with Bin Laden, they chucked him in the fucking sea, which is a really fucking bizarre thing to have done. State sanctioned murder and then get rid of the corpse like that…
Doesn’t make any sense.
If you really think about that, that skulls fragment has been examined and it’s of a forty year old woman, so where’s Adolf Hitler? But no-one’s questioning it. For me what I find interesting is the stories that get chosen to be big. For me, that is a fucking massive story. Where the hell is he?
Unless he was a woman.
He did only have one ball.
It’s true though. Everyone gets distracted by Kim Kardashian or whoever, and then they sneak those facts in somewhere and people just believe it.
If she ends up with a bullet in her head and a burnt corpse it won’t be a bad thing! You can quote me on that.
Haha! There is a group of people who think dinosaurs were invented by the CIA to discourage time travel.
That’s brilliant. Imagine if that was actually true. To discourage time travel, please! As if you’ve discovered time travel and you’re about to press the button and the someone’s like, ‘no no, wait a minute! I watched this film last night called A Million Years BC and it’s really fucking bad!’
Chimpanzees in West Africa are believed to have entered their own Stone Age. They’ve been using stone tools for past few generations.
Well it’s about time. Where is the evolution? I read this thing that said, if evolution is true then why aren’t monkeys still changing. Is it orang-utans that we are 98% genetically the same as?
Not chimps, orang-utans. But they’re not making stone cars and mixing cement in a pelicans beak. Although there is a parallel, when you look at Donald Trump, the hair is very similar.
Did you see that thing where someone had superimposed his mouth onto his eyes?
Oh god, yeah.
One of yours' (Steve) now… George W Bush left a bust of Winston Churchill near his desk at the White House when he left. Barrack Obama had it sent back to Britain because his Kenyan grandfather was imprisoned in what became known as Britain’s gulag, without trial for two years and was regularly tortured for resisting Churchill’s empire. Torture at the time included electric shock, fire mutilation and whipping. The irony of what is going on in his own name in such places as Guantanamo Bay seems to be lost on Obama’s grandson. Interesting.
Well again, it’s the same thing isn’t it. Number one, Churchill was an utter cunt. I guess we’re repeating the same thing, but it’s that idea of history and the fact he was the British Bulldog, marching around in a fucking Union Jack waistcoat with a cigar saying that we’ll fight them on the beaches. But that man was a fucking pig. The thing he did, he was completely fucking racist. Some of the quotes that I’ve rad that he said when he was out in Africa and all those places. He was just a disgusting human being. Utter establishment scum really. I think what annoys me about things like that is, things like the BNP. It’s difficult because I’ve never been the kind of person that has been patriotic to any country, what so ever. I don’t care; I’ve got no interest. So people that celebrate St. George’s day and things, St George was a Middle Eastern guy that never set foot in the United Kingdom and was a Muslim. I mean, fucking hell! You just think, what? Then there’s people marching around high streets singing his song and shouting ‘get back to your own fucking country.’ It’s jus the way that history has been written; it turns people into complete idiots. It feels like none of it was written on any strong foundation, it feels like everything we know about where we are right now is just bullshit. It’s been completely spun and it’s fragile. You have no sense of permanence or real history. Everything that we have been taught is from the victors view, as we had the empire and now we’re sunk to the butts of America and everything about the Churchill fact disgusts me. The fact the Barak Obama is sending statues back here when he’s doing exactly the same thing to exactly the same kind of people is fucking ludicrous.
I’ll tell you a mildly funny story. I played in Melbourne the year before last and I’d never been to Australia before and it was fucking long way there. We landed and the played the next day and it was totally exhausting. On stage I was just in another dimension and I started naming my favourite Australians. One of them that I named was Alan Jones, who was the 1980 Formula One World Champion. I’m quite into motorsport. After I said his name everyone started booing quite loudly and so I was just like, fair enough. Then after the gig this guy came up to me and said, ‘mate you meant AJ didn’t you, the Formula One guy?’ So it turns out that they call the F1 driver AJ, because Alan Jones is the leader of the far right party in Australia! So we’d arrived about 7am on whatever day it was and went out that night and got absolutely leathered until about four or five in the morning on tequila in this bar. Then I had to go on the Melbourne Breakfast Show in the morning and I was still totally pissed when I went and did it. So I went to the radio station and the guy asked me one question and I ended up talking for 25 minutes about Post-Scarcity Anarchism. But I just kept talking and got completely lost in my thoughts and then when I finished he went, ‘Thanks Steve, here’s bob with the weather.’ Then that was it. The interview was done! He didn’t ask me where we were playing, who I was =, he didn’t ask me anything at all! Then as we left and we were getting into the car I said to the press woman that was with me, ‘how do you think that went?’ and she said, ‘well as I was leaving the producer said to me that what you were saying was very interesting but it won’t encourage anyone to go to the gig!’ So yeah, I was just off on one.
Formula One seems to be a bit of a weird thing for you to be into.
Yeah I guess so. It’s not easy to be a Formula One fan. All the romance has gone and a revolting capitalist machine has just replaced it. Everything that’s wrong with capitalism is really highly condensed and magnified in Formula One. It’s a completely unsustainable situation. It’s ridiculous. I follow Moto GP as well and that’s quite different, there’s still room for personalities within it. Motorcycle racing is still rally dangerous and they’re not just closeted up. But I’ve always loved motorsport and I used to be a car mechanic years ago. I’ve owned vintage Lambretta’s most of my life and I used to go on all the scooter rallies. I’ve always been into it and racing I’ve been into for quite a long time, especially Formula One. It’s very difficult to follow these days… It’s so boring.
I had no idea that there was a Formula E as well.
Yeah, the electric one.
Right, a few more facts. I’m not going to go into the conspiracy that the dinosaurs helped build the pyramids…
What, with those little arms? No way.
Human fingers can feel objects a small as 13 nanometres and if your finger was as large as the earth you would be able to feel the difference between houses and cars.
I can well believe that. Did you know that Octopus’ can see with their tentacles?
Yes, I did.
I read this little paper that a guy had written about Octopus and this group of biologists had one in a tank for about two or three years. There were certain scientists that it liked and others that it really didn’t like. Whenever they would come in the room it would shoot a jet of water at them. One of the guys that it didn’t like just happened to move on and go somewhere else. Then two years later he can back to visit one of his colleagues and he walked into the room where the Octopus was and, as soon as it saw him, it shot a jet of water at him. It knew instantly who he was. They’re so intelligent. There’s something about their DNA and it’s like no other DNA on Earth. Do you want to hear a really bizarre story? Did yu ever used to watch League of Gentleman? When I was going out with this girl, where I grew up there was a Sea Life Centre, it’s this little town on the edge of Fyfe. When I was trying to save up to move to London years ago in the early 90s, I used to clean the toilets there each morning for three days of the week. I was earning about £15 a week! I’m the worst capitalist to walk the face of the Earth. About four or five years ago we went back and we were wandering around, looking at everything, and we got to this little last room and as I was walking in it almost felt like it wasn’t part of it. But we went in anyway and there was a tank in the corner with things floating around in it and there was a little gap next to it and I just wondered what was down there. So I had a look behind this tank and there was this brick down there with a hammer next to it, and on the brick was this crab that had just been smashed to bits!
When I was at school, me and my mate bunked off on afternoon to go to this marine and reptile place called Fishtique. I was really into reptiles, and still am actually. Anyway, me and my mate walked into this place and they had this huge tank with baby crocodile in it, and I put my hand in to point at them and one of them just went bang, straight for it and clamped its teeth on my fucking finger. They were razor sharp teeth and there was loads of blood coming out. Then the other started coming over and I was shaking my hand trying to get it off. All the while the bloke is looking for over the counter and I’m standing there trying not to scream and in the end I had to bash its head against the glass! It was terrible! I had a scar on my finger for quite a few years, it’s gone now though. So yeah, I’ve actually been bitten by a crocodile.
To end, I’m going to finish on this. Words that have been added to the English dictionary in 2015 include bestie, DOGE, drunken text, facepalm, fleek and sapiosexual, which is someone that finds intelligence sexually attractive…so that’s what we’ve been reduced too.
I’m surprised the last one wasn’t in there already. What have we fucking built? Jesus!
Steve Mason's Meet the Humans is out now on CD, vinyl and digital via Dom Mart Records.