Venini's debut single Mon Camion is the point where the polar opposites of Sheffield's '80's musical heritage - effeminate futurism and Leppard's spandex glam - have combined. The Gallic theme and keyboardist Danny's synths hint at Stereolab pop, but are underpinned by the same absurdly rollicking beat which propelled The Sweet's Blockbuster. "It's a trucker's beat, isn't it?" admits Danny sheepishly. "The rock band's secret weapon. I think you can only get away with it about once every ten years though," advises Russell.
Both the beat and the band hark back to the days when the stout yeoman of the North could dress up to the nines, slap on the make up and sing about tiger's feet. "Going to see Gay Dad really livened me up," enthuses Russell. "I don't think they're the future of rock 'n' roll, but the audience were people dressing up again. I thought 'Crikey, there's some people here who might have got beaten up on the way to the gig,' and that's got to be a good thing. I don't want people to be beaten up on the way to the gigs anymore, but I do think that young people should be prepared to take that chance for a band that they love!" Danny instantly proves his credentials: "I got beaten up outside a Transvision Vamp gig when I was 14. I'd gone to the wrong venue and 10 scallies jumped us." There is something to be said for the functionalism of youth culture that has been largely absent over the last 3 years, a time in which most people have become Carhartt man, a homogeneous mass of shapeless canvas. "I think being part of scene, you need that identity when you're young. And in some garbled form, that spirit is there in us, and is becoming a bit more apparent generally in music now." Russell links this gradual re-emergence of separate youth culture to the recent problems of the music industry. "I like this bonfire that's occurred of these... vanities. All the pompous indie Britpop has died a death, and the music industry - in its panic - has got to go and find something new. They've been rather cowardly for a few years, and had their comeuppance. When the Stereophonics are important, that's the definition of a fallow period."
Having set up their own label Bikini "as a vehicle to get our own stuff out" Venini are aware of the problems of being on a 'true' indie and the current culling of rosters by the major labels. "I would hate to be a talented unknown group at the moment, because if you don't have 10 grand to it yourself it's really going to be really hard to break down the door." Russell is scathing of those who adopt independence as an artistic statement and condemns wilful obscurantism as cowardice. "That is being scared that people won't like what you do, and so pretending that it doesn't matter if they don't. There's a very limited value in bands with that kind of mentality, people who have the temerity to release a record and then say 'We don't care if people like it or not.'" He also proposes an alternative to the need for bands to become musically mainstream in order to satisfy their paymasters. "I like the idea of corporate sponsorship, as you end up getting associated with certain products anyway." Does that not reek a bit of Spiceworld endorsement overload? "It doesn't have to. It's acknowledging that the world has changed and that people going and buying seven inches is not the way that music gets listened to nowadays. It gets listened to in hundreds of different contexts. Also, they've got to run out of Republica and Lust for Life soon and start looking for new advert music."
As the interview draws to close, it transpires that the band turned
down an interview with Loaded as, according to Russell, "We wanted a
coffee table magazine not a toilet magazine. Singer Debbie adds, "It's
half way to being a porn mag anyway, so if you're going to read it you
may as well do the real thing." So can we expect to see Russell and
Danny, legs akimbo on the front of Razzle in the near future, baring
all? "It's good to have a bit of mystique - most personalities are
nowhere near as big as their stage personas."