We've Moved

Hello friends,

We hope you’re well. We no longer update this site so please come and see us at our new website www.theemperors.co.uk or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tom-McKean-And-The-Emperors/24462761049

Feel free to have a mooch around here first though – we haven’t deleted it as there are some pics, vids and articles that you might enjoy.

Tom xxx



We've joined Twitter! Follow us at twitter.com/theemperorsband

Spitting Fire...

Dear Friends,
We hope you’re well. Just wanted to share a few snaps from our recent show at Shoreditch’s Scrutton Street Studios – performed with the lovely Miss Kitty Bang Bang and the London Youth Gospel Choir. Lot's of fun had by all and we’re looking forward to hooking up with them again.
In the mean time, get yourself along to our show at the Luminaire on Thursday night (3rd) if you’re free. Voted best venue in London by Time Out and best in the UK by Drowned in Sound it promises to be a cracker. We’re feeling suitably warmed up from our recent gigs so we’re planning to blow the roof off the place.


Library Corner

Hello Friends,
Hope you're well. I've been getting into the habit recently of quoting a poem by Norman MacCaig at our live shows and so many people have asked about it that I thought I'd do a quick blog. It always gets everyone into the right mood to hear our song "This is a War" - which it inspired - and is called "A Man in My Position"...

Hear my words carefully.
Some are spoken
not by me, but
by a man in my position.

What right has he
to use my mouth? I hate him
when he touches you
the wrong way.

Yet he loves you also,
This appalling stranger
Who makes windows of my eyes.
You see him looking out.

Until he dies
of my love for you
hear my words carefully -
for who is talking now?

Hope you enjoy it. Here's a few words from the great Scotsman himself...

"I feel like writing a poem the way you feel hungry or thirsty. And if it's possible, I sit down always in this particular chair, and with a particular size of blank paper, no lines on it. And I have not an idea what's coming. Not a clue. And very quickly into my head comes a memory of a place or an event or a person or all three. But far more often it's a short line, a short phrase – four or five words, nothing extraordinary about them. Down it goes, and the poem trickles down the page until it's finished. They come very quickly, very easily. I'm asked "how long does it take you to write a poem, Norman?" And I say "two fags". Sometimes it's only one."




Hello Friends,

We’re warming up for a cracking summer by playing at a few of our favourite venues over the next month or two. First up is the Electroacoustic Club at the Slaughtered Lamb in Clerkenwell on Monday 10th May. This has got to be one of the coolest places in London to see live music and we’re very excited to be supporting the simply fantastic Paul Armfield. We’ll be using the opportunity to road test a few new tracks and dust off a couple that we haven’t performed for a while. So come and join us next Monday night – the cider is strong and the fish finger sandwiches rock.

Details and tickets here.



Pictured above are Michael Nyman, Ashley Jones and our very own Andy Simms, collecting the award for Best Soundtrack for feature documentary 'Erasing David' at last night's East End Film Festival awards. Michael and Andy scored 'Erasing David' (which also features a contribution from Pulp), and Ashley produced the film. It's a riveting and dramatic exploration of the data-base state and surveillance Britain, directed by and featuring our good friend David Bond.

It's a brilliant film (I would say that, since I worked on it too, but it really is!), which you can see at cinemas around the country right now, and on the telly on More 4 this Tuesday, 4th May at 10pm. And, of course, it has a fantastic, award-winning soundtrack.

Don't miss it!

More about Erasing David (including trailers etc) here



Here's a video of the band playing A Little Something live at St Giles in the Fields Church in London. Enjoy!



Here's a pin-drop quiet rendition of 'This is a War', from our recent show at St Giles in the Fields Church in London, performed for the first time with double bass and piano. Hope you enjoy it...



Little Triggers is a series of posts about the influences that have helped shape our forthcoming debut album. This one’s about Emperors HQ in London…

We wrote, rehearsed and demoed the album (and live in) a house that used to be the home of legendary poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. Peter O’Toole was their long-standing lodger (in what's now Bobby's bedroom) and he, Hughes and Plath would drink and read poetry aloud to each other late into the night with friends including David Lean, Jacques Tati and Albert Finney. O’Toole especially was known for giving monologues so long that, one by one, everybody would leave until he was performing to an empty room.

We like to think we're in some way carrying on the tradition of the house and take a great deal of pride in its heritage. Much of our record was conceived in the same room O’Toole drunkenly emptied and, to be honest, the ability to clear a room after a few drinks too many has been passed on to some worthy successors.

We often throw shindigs where we play host to musicians, artists and writers who come down and share their work and this has resulted in some very memorable moments and great performances. The house feels like a special place that draws creative people to it and its association with great artists has encouraged us to explore their work and lives. Inevitably, this has made its way onto our album.

A good example is our song “Gazing at the Dying of the Light”. It was inspired in part by the immortal Dylan Thomas who was often to be found drinking round the corner from Emperors HQ in our local pub. Thomas was also an inspiration to Hughes and Plath and the track quotes directly from his poem “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night”.

We realise what a privilege it is to have this house as our headquarters and very much hope that some of its spirit has rubbed off and affected the work we do. But regardless of that we would encourage anyone reading this to go off and explore the work of Dylan Thomas, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath - your life will be much richer for doing so.




Sneaky Peek of the New Album

Hello Friends,

We hope you're well. We're delighted to let you know that we finished making our album this week. Some tracks have been posted on MySpace - www.myspace.com/tommckeanandtheemperors - so feel free to have a sneaky listen. We'll be rotating the tracks regularly over the next few months. Hope you enjoy 'em.




Here's the second installment of us recording our debut album in Dallas, where we tinker around with a new song, watch Obama getting inaugurated, Paul Alexander from Midlake pops in to help out and Andy eats some magic beans...

So don your stetson, fry up some beans, put your feet up and enjoy...

(You can see part one a few posts down on this blog.)



Hello friends. This is the second in the series of “Little Triggers” posts that we’ll be writing in the run-up to releasing our Spitting Fire EP and debut album. The idea, dearest reader, is that we write about the things that inspire and excite our wretched little souls, that provide the relief we need to drag ourselves out of bed for another gruelling day, the things that make it almost worthwhile and, as a result, may have had some influence on our new record. This one’s about recording our debut album in Dallas…

We found a producer by going through our record collections and noting down the names of people who’d made the albums we’re into. Of the small number of people both alive and young enough to make it to the studio every day for a month without the help of a nurse, it was John Congleton’s name that kept cropping up. We had no idea that he was Texan and that the records we liked so much were coming out of Dallas - we just knew that we were really into his work with people like Bill Callahan (Smog), Micah P Hinson and Explosions in the Sky (not to mention Antony and the Johnsons, Modest Mouse, The Polyphonic Spree, Marilyn Manson, Erykah Badu, Bono and, to add a bit of welcome surrealism, Celine Dion). That he was Grammy nominated and fronted anarchic noise rockers The Paper Chase sealed the deal for us. A few phone calls between our managers ensued, some demo’s were despatched and, before we even had time to dust off our six-shooters, we had a producer on board and five tickets to Dallas…

For a band like ours Texas is a musical Mecca - a place soaked in an incredible heritage. For a start, some of the great Delta Blues guys recorded down there. Robert Johnson cut his legendary final 13 tracks near our Dallas Studio (just before he had to pay up on his deal with the Devil!). And that’s not even what the place is known for. There’s Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, Janis Joplin, Waylon Jennings, Tex Ritter, Lyle Lovett, Townes Van Zandt, Lightnin' Hopkins, take a breath, Woodie Guthrie, Don Henley, Emmy Lou Harris, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Kenny Rogers, Steve Earle, Boxcar Willie, Bill Haley - and we could go on for some time here, but you get the idea.

Our EP and album are infused with the influence of Texas – from the radio playing on the way to the studio, from the characters we met along the way, the people we worked with and their expectations and inspiration. Paul Alexander from local band Midlake (www.myspace.com/Midlake) contributed double bass to Old Fashioned Morphine, One Thing on My Mind and Spitting Fire, and various other local musicians popped in to help us out or just have a few beers with the strange British guys who’d ridden into town. John had recently recorded Bill Callahan and we used lots of the same gear, our hammond had just been delivered the day before we arrived – it had been saved from a derelict Mississippi church and was still full of hellfire, we had bags full of duty free rum and fags and a couple of reels of tape to play with. We hope that you enjoy the results. Best, Tom.



Our friends at youcrazydreamers.com are featuring the Emperors at the moment and giving away a free download of our demo of 'Fever'. It was recorded live at Emperors' HQ (well, ok, in my living room), and is unavailable anywhere else at the moment.

Head on over here to download it and read the article. And remember, you can still download our demo of 'This Old Heart of Mine' here if you join our mailing list



Little Triggers is a series of posts about influences, stories and friends that have helped shape our forthcoming debut album...

Leonard Cohen

Tom McKean and I first met in 2001, playing on the same bill in a hotel basement somewhere in West London. It would be years before we decided to work together and form the Emperors, but I was drawn to his songs and voice as soon as I heard him soundcheck. My immediate thought was - "Wow, he's the Scottish Leonard Cohen". I'd grown up with Cohen's music, my Dad being a huge fan who sang 'Suzanne' and 'Hey That's No Way to Say Goodbye' to me as a child and often had his records on our old Garrard record deck.  'The Songs of Leonard Cohen' (sleeve above) is one of the most perfect records I've ever heard, and certainly the best debut album I can think of (unless Astral Weeks counts as a debut, in which case please don't ask me to choose.)

Now, I've heard Tom's voice compared to Cohen's plenty of times since, but back then, playing solo with just a guitar, songs like 'She Dreams' and 'The Ringing Bell' sounded particularly Cohen-esque.  Any Cohen-fans who've seen us play 'She Dreams' at acoustic Emperors shows will know what I mean.  To me, their voices are only really similar in that they're both pretty low, but the feel of the songs, the finger-picking patterns on Tom's guitar and the melancholic dark humour of the lyrics were unmistakable - this had to be a fellow Leonard Cohen fan.  I was stunned when I mentioned his name to Tom after the show and he replied that he'd never heard him...

Fast-forward seven years to Glastonbury 2008.  Tom McKean and the Emperors are making their first appearance at the festival, and amazingly, so is the 74-year old Leonard Cohen, albeit slightly higher on the bill.  Tom and I are close to the front of  the main stage, watching an extraordinarily moving performance.  He really is in fine voice - and anyone who doubted that Laughing Len's chirpy little ditties could unite the masses under the Glastonbury sun (me, for one, and I suspect the man himself) were in for a surprise.  There was one moment I'll never forget, where, during a chorus of 'Hallelujah', Cohen stopped singing, looked up at surely the largest crowd he'd ever played for, and was visibly knocked backwards by the spectacle of tens of thousands of people singing along to a song which, until recently was a long-forgotten curio, hidden away on one of his least successful albums.  The vision of this humbled old man, clearly having a fairly memorable moment of his own was poignant enough to bring a tear to the eye of both me and Mr McKean, although being a proud man from somewhere north of the border, he'll probably deny it.



We came back from America with an album and an EP, both of which we are delighted with. The EP should be due out before the summer, to be followed by the album in the winter. If you're on our mailing list, you'll get the chance to buy special edition copies before they go on sale to the general public and we'll keep you updated on when, where and how they can be purchased.

We'll also be posting some tracks online for you to preview soon, at our myspace site - watch this space...



The band arrived in Dallas on Wednesday, gin soaked and jet-lagged. It's taking a few days to acclimatise but we all made it through immigration unscathed, the studio is great, all the gear turned up and we've already completed two tracks, "There Go My Dreams" and "Good Night and Good Luck". We're planning to post an occasional video diary following our progress and we'll let our mailing list members know about these updates via email. If you want to be included then please join our mailing list at www.theemperors.co.uk where you'll also receive a free download.

(Note that the YouTube player has been updated - install the latest Flash Player so that the video plays properly.)



There's a write-up of the band on music blog 'you crazy dreamers', set up by fans of Ray Lamontagne... they also feature our song 'This Old Heart of Mine', which you can download for free here.

Read the write-up here. They cover loads of other great music too, so it's well worth a look.



We're delighted to confirm that Grammy nominated producer John Congleton will be producing our debut album. We knew he was the right guy when we heard his recent album Micah P. Hinson and the Red Empire Orchestra (if you haven’t heard this we thoroughly recommend it.) He has worked with artists as varied as Modest Mouse, Antony and the Johnsons, The Polyphonic Spree, Explosions in the Sky, Marilyn Manson, Bono, Celine Dion, Erykah Badu and his own band The Paper Chase to name but a few. If we’re honest it was the Celine Dion connection that really swung it for us.

John should be way out of our league but he has an ethos of working with underground bands that he really likes. We put together a list of producers who we’d like to work with on this album and sent them demo CD’s. John was our number one choice and we are as excited as we are surprised that it’s all working out.

The band will be in Texas with John over January 2009 and will no-doubt be posting some of the results for you to enjoy when we return (as well as some pics and vids of the trip). The plan is to release a single off the album fairly soon after we get back to be followed by the album release and some UK/European touring after that. We’ve still to agree a suitable label for the album release but we’ll keep you updated and make an announcement when we’ve found a nice home for it.



Photographer Ben Broomfield took some great photos at our recent show at Cadogan Hall - here are a couple, and you can see more on our myspace site.



Another live performance from the roof of Emperors HQ - this time a rollicking run through live favourite 'Old Fashioned Morphine', written by the fantastic Jolie Holland.



Our debut single 'This is the Year' recently won Single of the Week on BBC Radio 2's Radcliffe & Maconie show. It was played on the show every night in the week starting 3rd November. Mark and Stuart hinted that they would be playing the record again some time, so feel free to request it in the coming weeks by emailing radcliffe.maconie@bbc.co.uk

Thanks to everyone who voted for us.

“…a rather beautiful record” - Mark Radcliffe, 30/10/08

“Really, really gorgeous” – Stuart Maconie, 04/11/08



Our debut single is out now!  It's a double A-sided download featuring 'This is the Year' and 'The Smile of an Innocent Child'. You can hear it in the player above, but for a high quality download you'll need to part with about £1.58. We're aware there's a credit-crunch going on, but that still seems like a bargain to us.

You can get it from iTunes or from Tesco

The artwork, above, has been designed by Graeme Swinton.



The people at livemusic.fm have written a review of our last show at the Borderline (14/10/08).  They have been great supporters of ours and have written a few reviews of our shows - here are links to all of them:



We've re-arranged how our website works, so you can now easily join our mailing list and link to Myspace, Facebook, or this blog. There's also a new track available to download as a high-quality mp3 - 'This Old Heart of Mine'. Help yourself - it's free!

Visit http://www.theemperors.co.uk



We raided the roof of Emperors HQ a little while back to play a few songs - here's the first.



Photographer André Penteado has taken an ace set of photos of us. You can see them and download hi-res press shots from Flickr.



We've been awarded 'Record of the Day'! This is a music industry mail-out with tons of influence, and they choose a track every day to bring to the industry's attention. They chose 'This is the Year', from our debut single which will be coming out in October 2008.

"The mixture of McKean's growl and the excellent lyrics evokes a sound reminiscent of Leonard Cohen or Tom Waits."

Click here to read the full write-up, and hear the track.





We've been awarded the inaugural Record-Play Artist Development Award.  Record-Play is a music consultancy that has set up the programme to help new musical talent.  We'll receive free photoshoots, recording and assistance with all aspects of a record release.

We couldn't be more chuffed!



This is a video our good friend Matt took of us at the Borderline.