Monthly Archives: July 2008

Frolicsome Foals at Dour Festival

“Bonjour!” A hearty French greeting delivered in a Flemish accent.

With stages like “Le Petit Maison dans la Prairie” and notice boards in French, Flemish and English, you’re a long way from Glastonbury.

Punters, bands, staff and food vendors deftly skip from one tongue to another.

Just the sort of thing to make you feel like an inadequate, monolingual English oaf.

It’s the 20th Dour Festival.

The what festival? Dour.

Four days, 85 euros, and over 200 bands on six stages.

A rainy field in Belgium where tens of thousands of young men gave their lives in the First World War.

Now 36,000 young ‘uns stomping along to the likes of Goldfrapp, Wu Tang Clan, Foals and The Notwist… and a few others you may or may not have heard of.

Dour is proud of setting more established acts alongside more ‘discoverable’ bands across many genres.

The site boasts a large NGO village that boasts everyone from Oxfam to anti-capitalist groups that still believe the revolution is coming in our lifetime.

Organisers stress that it isn’t just lip service but offers a “social dimension to having a great time watching your favourite bands”.

To this end fryingpanfire hooked up with one of the UK’s more progressive acts, Foals, to ask what these Oxford boys thought of the big wide world beyond the stage.

Affable young men. University dropouts (bar one).

Musical influences from Talking Heads to Steve Reich.

Haircuts to drive geometry teachers wild.

“We’re not overtly political but we’re products of politics,” begins the Oxford University educated frontman Yannis Philippakis.

“If you make music it’s always something political even if you make vapid glossy pop music, because that proliferates materialistic culture.”

Guitarist Jimmy Smith goes further.

“In America the news media lacks any real dialogue. It’s too isolated and a bit self-obsessed.”

“In the UK you get a broad spectrum of media from left to right, and you can consume it as you please. Online, newspapers, television.”

“There’s an objectivity and a sense of the wider world that you don’t really get anywhere else. And with the internet you can bypass all the jargon and choose the news you want.”

“We try to read as many newspapers as possible.”

“(US Presidential Candidate) Barack Obama is great. He will change the world,” continues Yannis.

“If he doesn’t win it’ll be a catastrophe.”

“What it would mean for America to have a black president will be amazing.”

“Blair changed nothing but the Labour Party. He shifted it centre right and took all the socialism out of it.”

A band with interests beyond groupies and hard drugs?

“Oh, they’re nice too. But what matters to us are our friends who don’t care what we do for a living.”

“And the music.”

“”We’ll be making music in some capacity for the rest of our lives. It’s what we were made to do.”

Tomorrow, we’ll be speaking to Dreadzone… remember them?


This article was originally published on Sky News Online on 18 July 2008. All rights reserved.


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Mexican Hitmen Offer Services Online

Police in Mexico City are investigating online classified ads posted by people selling their services as assassins for as little as £3,000.

Between listings offering gas fitters and modelling agencies, a post reads: “Gun for Hire – $6,000. Professional. International. Discretion guaranteed”.

Another reads: “former soldier with 10 years experience in the private sector, very professional and discreet”.

A hitman called Jorge leads with: “Problems with someone? Would you like a solution? Write to me. 100% professional – we do not charge an advance”.

As drug cartels and organised crime gangs step up their tit-for-tat murders by leaving bodies and severed heads in Mexico City streets, police are taking these ads seriously.

At least 1,700 people have been killed this year in the battle between warring cartels and the raids by soldiers and federal police sent out to stop them.

Paid assassins are often used by gangs due to their relative anonymity and high-calibre weaponry.

Demand for such services has stretched further into Central and South America.

A Mexican cartel aired radio ads in Guatemala this year looking for former soldiers to work as smugglers.

Another hung banners in towns near the American border advertising “lucrative opportunities”.

Fryingpanfire contacted a man based in Chile who offered a professional hitman by assignment, promising to “work in arranging scenarios” or to “fix it like a robbery, accident, etc”.

An ineffective justice system means very few killers get caught.

Police spokesman Miguel Amelio Gomez said the problem of hitmen was real and was one they were “facing all over the country – people offer their services to kill someone for a price”.

He has not ruled out the idea that the ads were faked, but is “investigating all possibilities”.

Mexican police are not immune from threats – in May this year Edgar Millan, the acting director of Mexico’s Federal Preventive Police, was killed by an assassin’s bullet.

It is believed that the so-called Sinaloa Cartel with interests in transporting cocaine and other illicit drugs to the United States was behind the attack.


This article was originally published on Sky News Online on 14 July 2008. All rights reserved.

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