El Hombre Trajeado
El Hombre Trajeado
They teamed up with friend Stevie and began writing frenzied experimental music with a focus on contrasting time signatures and moods, being heavily influenced by bands such as Minutemen, Firehose, Deep Turtle and NoMeansNo. The iconic 13th Note club in Glasgow was the focus of the Glasgow music scene in the nineties and provided an exciting experimental atmosphere for the group to feed on. The band name started out as “Canker’d” but this was quickly dropped in favour of El Hombre Trajeado (translates as The Man In The Suit) as a two fingered salute to commercial music. Early gigs with Lungleg, the Yummy Fur and the Van Pelt honed their ideas into a batch of songs which were recorded during all-night sessions at Beatbox in Finnieston where Hubby was working. Assistance during recording was provided by Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand who doubled as engineer and backing vocalist.
The result was their first single, the double A-side Logo/Moonunit Manual released on local label Flotsam and Jetsam in spring 1997. The List review described it as “lovingly crafted…like a downbeat Fugazi remixed by Mo Wax”. The next offering was a split with Lungleg as part of The 13th Note’s series of Club Beatroot singles, followed by more writing, gigging and recording. The group were invited to fulfil life-long ambitions in early 1998 and they made the trip to the BBC Maida Vale studios, recording four tracks for the John Peel show on Radio One. Ben Jones joined the band at this point, providing textures and melodies which fleshed out the El Hombre sound.
After the airing of their first Peel session the band were contacted by London indie label Guided Missile who fronted the money for production of the first album. The band focused their efforts over the summer into refining the remainder of the LP Skipafone (recorded and mixed by Jamie Watson at Chamber Studio, Edinburgh in August 1998) and returned to Maida Vale in July to record a second session for John Peel, who was rumoured to have their music on his in-car stereo. Described by the Melody Maker as “engaging post-Slint instrumental meanderings”, the band became tagged with the math rock label and were drawing comparisons with Tortoise and Ui. Simon Williams of the NME reviewed Skipafone; “…ticking over so impeccably…deft of bassline and complex of guitar chord, El Hombre cleverly alleviate the potential left-field gloom with a myriad of fancy noises from various synths and glockenspiels found lying around the studio.
That they dare to mutter the odd lyric or five merely adds to the sonic satisfaction.” A series of London and Brighton gigs helped to raise the El Hombre profile. From the NME’s Kitty Empire,” El Hombre’s take on the post-rock two-step is enlivened by a crazed raver on keyboards, who produces some delightful electronic sneezes, and will later throw his gear in the air in an unorchestrated kamikaze finale.” Their next offering, the Shoplift EP (1999), saw Ben experimenting with turntables and sampling over plangent rhythms and included a remix by Auto Cade (side-project of Sub-Club DJ Twitch). They played with The Delgados, Sebadoh and Nick Cave among others, and further split-singles on the Guided Missile label with Glasgow bands the Karelia, Yummy Fur and Mogwai plus a remix of Icelandic band Mum kept El Hombre busy while writing their second LP Saccade (2001). From the NME, " Though operating in a similar orbit to Mogwai, silvery, sculpted keyboard interventions, fazed guitars and DJ interplay elevate this beyond a post-rock guitar work-out".
According to the Melody Maker, ”Cool lo-fi suggesting early Happy Mondays or the skewered sketches of a Caledonian Tortoise....Bursts of melody are squeezed out like juice from an orange and are twice as refreshing”. Construction of the third LP Shlap was a lengthy affair. It was recorded in instalments at Chamber Studio and in Hubby’s flat over a three year period, finally being released on Lost Dog Records in 2005. During recording Ben left the band due to work commitments in Aberdeen. Shlap met great reviews: Stayfun wrote “El Hombre Trajeado rock my world.
Jesus, their album is fun. It’s also a complete mindfuck. Talk about unpredictable. El Hombre is what it feels like to walk four seemingly random pathways each taking you through extremely different landscapes in complete synchronicity. Rooted firmly in the more mathematical side of indie-rock, but influenced by twisted jazz styles, the places they take you are almost indescribable” Organ magazine made it their album of the week; “…twelve songs that clock in at just under 30 minutes – so much in those twelve songs though - each one of them a scuttling bendy plinky jazz-ish thing for disciples of the Minutemen or those who love their rock to be unpredictable and laced with the flavours of Charles Mingus.
Like falling down the stairs with grace and passion, like all the millions of insects hectically flying in different directions and never ever colliding – all perfectly natural and at ease and just how it should be…by far their finest moment yet.” According to Ian Fletcher “El Hombre Trajeado stick a sharp two fingers up to a wider world who may well never tune into their acute wave-lengths. That in itself is another victory for a sharp-eared minority over the cloth-eared masses.” The band split in 2005 after the release of Schlap. Hubby went on to play and record under the name RM Hubbert and won the prestigious Scottish Album of the Year in 2013. Visit his site for El Hombre downloads and other musical offerings at http://www.rmhubbert.com/.
Stevie went on to work with Malcolm Middleton, Aidan Moffat and Arab Strap among others and released his debut solo recording as Sound of Yell in 2014. After working in Aberdeen, Ben moved back to Glasgow and is now Professor of psychology at Glasgow University. Stef was persuaded to take up management of a Chemistry department in a Clydebank high school. In 2014 El Hombre Trajeado reformed for a one-off show at Platform in Easterhouse to open the Chemikal Underground backed East End Social. The gig was a roaring success and the band have now reformed and have begun writing tracks for a fourth album.
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