Interview with Johnny Moped/Paul Halford 18th January 2018
Please tell us how the band started up as Johnny Moped and the 5 Arrogant Superstars way back in May 1974?.
We actually started off as the ‘Black Witch Climax Blues Band’ with Captain Sensible’s brother Phil Burns on guitar and me on piano and thats also when the Johnny Moped song ‘Hard Lovin Man’ evolved along with songs such as ‘Genetic Breakdown’ and ‘3D Time’.
We used to do rehearsal sessions nearly every Saturday afternoon in Phil’s bedroom at his parents house, 34 Edith Road, Selhurst. Which you might have seen on the 80’s TV programme ’Through the Keyhole’ or on Youtube when they visited Captain Sensible when he was still living with his parents. Phil had an upright piano in there right by his bed.
The bedroom they filmed used to belong to Phil, Captain had a bedroom originally upstairs at the back of the house and of course this is where we recorded the original Johnny Moped ‘Bootleg’ tapes too.
All we did was just have these mad musical jam sessions in Phil’s bedroom and we used to come up with crazy songs like ‘LA Ding-Dong’ and played all these bloody bar chords up and down the keyboard. When Xerxes first heard it he said ‘ What the fuck is that?’
Needless to say we didn’t carry on with the ‘LA Ding-Dong’number, but quite a few Johnny Moped songs like ‘Groovy Ruby’ ‘Hard Lovin Man’ and the cover version of Chuck Berry’s ‘Little Queenie’ were all on the bootleg tapes originally.
I remember we played at The Brigstock Arms, Thornton Heath in South London and Phil & Captain’s dad Tom who was an electrician by trade and had one of these lamp post maintenance trucks with an arm on it. So as we had no other way of getting our gear to that gig we loaded it all on the back of this bloody lamp post maintenance truck and we all jumped on the back too for a lift to the gig! I have no idea how we got the gear home again though?
Captain had trouble setting up his bass guitar when we got there so by the time we all finished bloody sodding around we only managed to play one song as it was the end of our slot as it was some sort of local talent contest.
I remember I had the sheet music for a load of Chuck Berry songs at the gig and we plonked ‘Johnny B Goode’ on the pub pianist George’s music stand and I then got up and performed the song and I was bloody petrified too as it was my first time ever performing in front of an audience.
What was it like growing up in Croydon in the 70s?
It was all very free and easy really, we didn’t get caught up in any of the hippy/flower power stuff too much. Friends and future members of the band used to meet up at The Gypsy Tavern in Station Road, West Croydon, which is no longer there now sometimes, on a Saturday afternoon and after we just used to float around Croydon to see what action was going on there.
We were a gang but not the sort of gang that causes trouble or anything like that.
We also used to visit the popular but now sadly demolished ‘The Forum’ Pub’ in the Whitgift Centre too, which is where Captain met his first ever girlfriend called Penny who was a Nurse who worked at St Barts Hospital in London at the time and lived in Mardell Road, Addiscombe, East Croydon.
What was it like playing your first two gigs at the Roxy during its first 3 months?
We played there a few times between February and April 1977 supporting bands like The Damned, Eater & Slaughter & the The Dogs and we also actually filled ‘Siouxie and the Banshees’ slot on the Roxy live album performing ‘Hard Lovin Man’ as they were all ill with the bloody flu or something? The funny thing was afterwards I was up on street level by the entrance of the club and they all walked in larger than life shortly after we had finished recording our track on the album, I’m not sure if the record producer Mike Thorne fitted them in the end though?
Can you tell us about the Millwall football fans who allegedly trashed the Roxy?
Well there are two conflicting stories about this incident, but basically a mob stormed the club and totally trashed the place but shortly after we where told it was Millwall fans who caused all the trouble and laid siege to the place.
So its either one or the other?
It didn’t effect us downstairs as luckily the mayhem didn’t spill down there where we where actually playing so we were all unaware that the upstairs bar at street level was getting completely bloody trashed! I can remember I was looking around when we came up after the gig to look at the devastation and in the women's toilet there was some bloke and a girl going at it in one of the bloody toilet cubicles and there was beer cans and bottles shoved down the bloody toilet pans too!
It all looked liked the aftermath of a bloody air raid. In the lounge bar you couldn’t see the carpet either or what was left of it as it was ankle deep in bottles and beer cans and other assorted debris. There was one guy outside propped up against Dave Berks Blue Morris Traveller car in a very bad way and dripping blood all over the paintwork and so an ambulance had been called and all that.
It was fucking crazy outside the bloody place too!! Dave Berk couldn’t start the bloody Morris Traveller so he had to get a fucking hand crank handle out of the back of the car and crank the fucking engine over, we had all our gear in the back and after a while managed start the bloody car so we could all get the fucking hell out of there!!
Lets put it this way,there was never a dull moment when we played the Roxy club as there was always something going down or probably going to kick off and probably the reason why the Police/GLC closed it down eventually.
What can you remember about signing to Chiswick records back in 1977.
Well funnily enough we consulted a solicitor, called I think Paul Mitchell who had a practice near Warren Street Tube Station in London W1 before we signed our record contract with Chiswick.
I still don’t know why our drummer Dave Berk approached a Solicitor who had no real music business expertise but after we handed over our unsigned draft contract he said ‘Hello!’ and found one or two rather dodgy clauses so he called us all into his office. So we all sat around this large conference table where he outlined all the contentious/dodgy clauses etc.
At the time we where being managed by a couple of Soho market record shop flunkies called Phil & Stan. So we took it up with them and they arranged to meet with us upstairs in the attic room of the record company with Ted CarrolI the boss of Chiswick Records. We eventually ironed all the issues out so an offer was made by Ted Carroll and the contract got signed with a few of the dodgy /contentious clauses duly deleted.
The band were initially very reluctant to sign to an Indie label like Chiswick, but as a firm offer was made to us and put on the table the contract was then signed. Later on Dave Berk or Slimy Toad got the impression that Chiswick didn’t really want to record a second album even though our first album ’Cycledelic’ got to number 54 or 56 in the UK mainstream album charts.
I think in all probability we belted out three singles and an album but Chiswick probably thought the album didn’t clock up enough sales to make us think about doing a second album with the Mopeds and after that it just fizzled out.
The follow up album ‘The Search for Xerxes’ was eventually released on Captain Sensible’s record label Deltic in 1991 and was just a musical project really as it was never intended theoretically to be the second Johnny Moped album with all that disco stuff.
At the time I spoke to people who had heard it and they felt like myself this album is a real bummer and in a ditch and you can’t really change the direction of the band from being a punk rock band to a fucking disco/rap band can you? I think Dave Berk and Captain Sensible at the time thought it may be a concept album and wanted to get the Mopeds to do all this disco shit to appeal to a wider audience but it bombed, it absolutely bombed. Alright I went along with it at the time but I wasn’t happy with it at all.
Captain Sensible did a final mix when he lived in 34 Bath Street, Brighton where he had a bloody 24 track mixing desk in his back room. OK he did a fair job but to be fair he wasn't a trained sound engineer so in the end the record left something to be desired.
The sound as it turned out wasn’t too bad but the actual production of the two rock tracks namely ‘I Believed Her Lies’ and ’Save the Baby Seals’ was all very weak and feeble and drowned out by a load of bloody electronic keyboard music so that album was truly destined to crash and burn upon release, which it did.
I think Dave Berk and the Captain where on a bit of a dream trip with this record which sadly alienated the remaining Moped fans and the general music audience alike.
How did the songs ‘VD Boiler’ ’No One’ and “Darling let's Have Another Baby" come about?
‘VD Boiler’ was actually written by Slimy Toad who had a hand in Panic Button, Wee Wee, No One, Incendiary Device Maniac and Make Trouble they were all Toad songs.
Slimy Toad mentioned after this interview that the song ‘VD Boiler’ was based on the permissive state of a deteriorating society.
‘Darling’ was written by me and my late bass player Fred Berk and ‘Panic Button’ was co-written by myself, Fred Berk and Captain Sensible.
‘Groovy Ruby’ was written by me and Captain Sensible along with ‘Hell Razor’ as well.
I thought the cover version of ‘Darling’ by Billy Bragg and Kirsty MacColl was quite good too, which was tagged onto the end credits of the Johnny Moped documentary film ‘Basically Johnny Moped’ directed by Captain’s son Fred Burns which was released a few years ago. I think Kirsty put it on the ‘B’ side of her hit single ‘Walking Down Madison’ originally?
Please tell us about some of your past guitarists in previous line ups of Johnny Moped.
Adrian Winchester joined the band in 1983 as a bass player and we have had Eddie Turtle out of The Daleks and some guy called Mark Lemming. They rehearsed all our songs and we played The Ace in Brixton, South London, the concert actually went quite well but I went a bit fucking crazy and had this fucking real hatchet on stage and said to the audience ‘If you don’t fucking boogie I’m going to chop yer up!!’. When I looked back I thought were did this bloody hatchet stuff come from?
I think what it was Mark Lemming wrote a song called ‘Fox Hunters’ which we had previously rehearsed and half way through the song we sang ‘Chop them to bits’ and I then swung this bloody hatchet dangerously close to the front members of the audience and in the end I had to step back and throw this bloody hatchet to the back of the stage out of harms way. The audience probably thought I had completely lost the fucking plot that night and completely fucking flipped out!! I think I was trying to do an Alice Cooper or some sort of other outrageous rock stuff as I would never have usually taken an offensive weapon on stage with me
Our bassist Jacko joined the band in the early 80’s and met us all originally at a Croydon Underground gig which was a subterranean basement dive near St Georges Walk in Central Croydon.
Rob Brook (aka Rock & Roll Robot) originally from the legendary Croydon punk/ska band CASE joined the band in 2015 as a second guitarist.
Were you pleased that nearly 16 years after its release the Guinness Encyclopaedia of popular music named ‘Cycledelic’ as one of the best 50 punk albums of all time?
As a matter of fact ‘Cycledelic’ was very highly acclaimed critically originally and Melody Maker gave it a five star rating too. The music press in those days didn’t ridicule us at all and were actually more fascinated by us with headlines such as ‘Is this man a basket case?’ there was really nothing malicious about our music press reviews back in the day.
We were getting full three page spreads as well compared with The Damned and the like who were only getting only one and a half pages of coverage. Brian James of The Damned use to complain that we where getting more media coverage than them!
Were you pleased with the positive critical reception your latest album "It's Real Cool Baby" had when it was released in 2016.
I was personally very pleased with the reception and in fact it was highly acclaimed just like Cycledelic’ but I don’t know by who??
What are your favourite songs on the last album?
‘Real Cool Baby, Rock N Roll Rookie, Burt Bullethead’ and ‘Live it Up’. I did like ‘Paint My Aubergine’ too and when we did the BBC radio broadcast at Maida Vale we speeded it up a bit which gave it a kinda perk.
We also recorded a session for Marc Riley on his BBC 6 radio show which was recorded in Salford, Manchester when we stopped off there on the way to the Rebellion Punk Festival in Blackpool.
I got a copy of the Maida Vale Session but not this one so Marc please supply me a copy if you are reading this interview?
What gigs have you got lined up for 2018 then?
We aren’t doing anything between now and March 2018 as all we are doing is rehearsing at the moment unless anything comes up in the meantime that is.
We have three confirmed gigs coming up in Germany on Thursday 1st March in Essen, Friday 2nd March in Hamburg & Saturday 3rd March in Berlin and plus a gig in Oslo, Sweden (TBC) where we played before and also two UK confirmed gigs at the 100 Club,Oxford Street, London W1 on Friday 9th March and the Lewes Con Club near Brighton on Saturday June 16th with The Members supporting.
We may also may be playing a few gigs in Japan this year but nothing has been definitely been confirmed yet.
Are we going to see a new Johnny Moped album this year?
Well we have another 6 songs to knock up to make a complete album which I think we will all be working on in the coming months so it may possibly be released later this year but I don’t really know for sure yet? We are all collaborating on writing the songs on this album too.
As per our ‘Catatonic’ single last year we are trying to branch out more into hard rock territory than punk but of course some of the stuff like ‘Hey Belinda’ will still sound quite punky as you can’t really go straight forward to hard rock as it all ends up sounding like punk rock anyway.
Finally how are Crystal Palace FC doing these days?
Well they are currently struggling at the top but beat Burnley 1/0 a few days ago, other than that I think they are still hanging in there.
Thank you Paul for taking the time out today to do this interview.
Interview with Smash-It-Up-The Series creator Mark Williams
SIU what inspired you to do this original six part web series?
MW We (Son of Bill Productions) did a documentary feature film back in 2014 called VHS Forever? Psychotronic People,co-directed by Darren J Perry which was luckily very well received by VHS/horror genre fans and critics alike and I'm told actually become something of a cult item too.
So we were looking for a quick follow up project and so I decided that I would like to do something different and more music related and as I was a big punk rock/new wave fan in my youth this seemed to be the natural path to follow.
SIU where did you grow up and where did you see your first punk gig?
MW I was born in Balham, South London in 1963 and moved to Croydon in 1971.
My first ever punk gig was at a wedding in Coulsdon, Surrey in 1977 where the band playing was the cult local punk band “Bliss” who played on a regular basis at a grotty pub called "The Star" in Tooting.
I also used to rehearse in there dads home studio on a Saturday morning along with many other wannabee punk rock guitarists.
My Second ever gig was at “The Greyhound” in Croydon in 1978 where The Damned briefly known as “The Doomed” for contractual reasons or something,played a Sunday matinee supported by Shane McGowan’s band “The Nipple Erectors” who were a last minute replacement for either “Johnny Moped “or “The Ruts” who failed to turn up for the gig!!
Anyway it was a great show and I seem to remember “The Doomed” played a long set including an impromptu striptease from the then bass guitarist Captain Sensible.
A few weeks later they were on Top of the Pops back as “The Damned” again performing “Love Song”
SIU how easy was it to get people like Spizz Energi & Charlie Harper “UK Subs” to appear in the series?
MW Actually it was very easy as I had been friends with Spizz for a few years anyway so I just messaged him via Facebook and he very kindly agreed to spend a few hours with us to film the interview near his home in South London and also pose for a photo shoot which was photographed by specialist free lance punk photographer Andy Craddock.
The actual interview was filmed in an old burial ground in Borough called Cross Bones Graveyard which according to local lore was the final resting place for the Winchester Geese, who were medieval sex workers licensed by the Bishop of Winchester to work in the brothels of The Liberty of Clink, which lay outside the law of the City of London.
A great colourful location with a fascinating dark history but it proved to be very noisy too with constant planes and helicopters flying overhead along with lots of noise from the road traffic nearby.
Spizz reckons Helicopters arent proper flying machines as they dont have wings!!
Charlie Harper was a different story as I actually met him back stage at a gig by “The Damned” at The Worthing Assembly Hall so we exchanged telephone numbers and a few weeks later I called him and arranged to meet him at one of his favourite pubs “The Heart in Hand” which was situated in the lanes in Brighton, again a very noisy shoot once the pub began to fill up on the Friday afternoon.
Charlie said himself all the background noise in the pub adds ambiance and he is probably right too.
SIU how did you persuade Brian James to do his interview?
MW My good friend graphic artist Graham Humphreys was already an acquaintance of Brian and suggested we all meet up in Brighton to do the interview with him and Billy Chainsaw.
So I called Brian direct on his landline as he doesnt possess a mobile phone and arranged to interview him the following week at one of his favourite Brighton watering holes.
The afternoon was very successful and we managed to film great interviews with Brian, Graham and Billy all in one afternoon.
We also did a day’s filming at “The Spice of Life” Pub in Soho with Film Director/Author Alan G Parker and graphic artist Graham Humphreys.
So as you can see we had a great time making the series with so many interviews in pubs!
SIU Are you pleased with the reception Episode One “Being Spizz” has got so far?
MW Yes I’m delighted with the overall positive reaction to the first episode of the series so far with it getting over 300 views in the first few weeks alone.
Future episodes feature Charlie Harper, Brian James, Graham Humphreys, Alan G Parker and Billy Chainsaw.
We plan to put out an episode every month until March 2018.
SIU Thank you Mark Williams
Episode 1 BEING SPIZZ
Simon “Slimy Toad” Fitzgerald SLIME Interview
Please tell us how your one off solo band SLIME was formed way back in 1978?
What happened was Johnny Moped/Paul Halford wasn't around for rehearsals, gigs or recordings, so in the do it yourself spirit of punk rock the vibe was still happening so I decided that as I had a couple of songs I would just put them out myself, so that's what we did.
Did you come up with the band name?
Yes, it just had to be that way and the only name that I could use, a progression of the slimy toad name.
Where did you meet the other members of SLIME namely Dave “Jock” Tate on drums & Phil “Jock” Sayers on bocals and bass, where they local lads too?
These guys were good friends of mine and we had been playing music in the Caterham Valley together for years and I also used to play football with the Phil “Jock” Sayers for many years too on the local pub circuit.
Phil “Jock” Sayers is in Australia now and we keep in touch via Facebook but I haven't seen Dave “Jock” Tate for 40 years so I hope he is keeping well?
How did the record label Toadstool records run by Chris Goodness who owned a chain of local record shops back in the 70’s come about?
It was just a natural progression of the name Slimy Toad to Slime and then Toadstool Records, Chris Goodness decided to call the actual record label Toadstool Records and got all that side together including the artwork and whoever he got to do the artwork did a really good job too.
I took care of the recording side of things in the same place as Johnny Moped recorded there album Cycledelic which was at Richmond studios in Chiswick,West London.
We did a few sessions for a little while there.
Do you still own one of the legendary Goodness Records carrier bags? (JOKE)
I don’t, No not at all.
Can you remember any good stories about the original Goodness Records shop which was located at 16 Godstone Road, Caterham which was open to the mid 80s I believe?
No I was just a regular customer really and got chatting to Chris Goodness and the rest was history.
Chris eventually disappeared after the closure of his remaining record shop on the Godstone Road, Caterham and the last time I saw him he was working as a taxi driver.
Can you remember if there where any other releases on Toadstool Records?
No other releases were ever released on Toadstool Records.
Did you do any local live dates to promote the single Controversial/Loony?
No but Johnny Moped seems to think we played them both live at the Tramshed and still remembers all of the lyrics too! But I'm still not sure if we did or not?
Was the original SLIME 7 inch single released on coloured vinyl too?
No it was released on 7 inch black vinyl only.
Did you originally plan to do a full album with SLIME?
No just the single, and with the new wave scene emerging after punk rock It was an opportunity to say lets feel the water and put something out.
Was any thing else recorded under the SLIME name?
No, we only ever did two tracks which we just worked on, recorded and put out ourselves.
Where the other members of Johnny Moped supportive of your solo venture?
The band at the time was stop/start so I didn't see them so much back then whilst I lived in Caterham and they were living in Croydon.
The single was my kind of thing, my experiment if you like, punk/new wave was all about if you knew two chords then just record a song and put it out.
I just wanted to express myself really and it was also an opportunity to record these two songs and give them an airing.
And we had cheaper guitars back in those days too!
Did the original single release on Toadstool Records sell well?
I didn't ask Chris Goodness about the figures as he could have asked me for money.
I only ever had a verbal contract with Chris and never signed a written contract either.
Our main intention was just to put the single out nothing else.
But on the other hand I'm not a vegan so will accept fivers and other stuff.
What made you decide to re-release the single over 39 years later on Damaged Goods records?
Ian Damaged approached me to re-release the single on his record label Damaged Goods Records and I just said yes if we can find Chris Goodness and get the master recording from him that would be great.
But you need to ask Ian how he managed this though.
* *Please see UPDATE below.
Are you doing any solo shows to promote the release or are you too busy with Moped at present?
No SLIME band for obvious reasons but the songs Controversial/Loony may be included in future Johnny Moped live sets at the Lexington, London or Rebellion, Blackpool depending on what songs we are asked to play at the gigs by our Manager.
Great interview Simon, many thanks for taking time out to chat to Smash it Up and we look forward to seeing Johnny Moped live again later this year.
**UPDATE-Ian Damaged replied as below.
The answer is, we didn’t, we couldn’t track down Chris Goodness the chap who used to run Goodness records (and put it out originally) who had vanished and Toad didn’t have a clue either. So I got hold of a mint copy of the original 7” and re-mastered it from that…Noel Summerville did the mastering side and made it sound as good as the original to my old ears at least.
The single is available on 7 inch Green vinyl and download via the link below.
Check out our forthcoming gigs page for news of the forthcoming Johnny moped live gigs too.
Exclusive Interview with J.C.Carroll of the Members
How did you come to join the Members way back in 1976?
JC: Nicky Tesco formed the band with an aircraft electrician called Gary Baker neither of them looked very punk and I was living in London in 1977 so he asked me to join coz he heard I had some written some good songs.
Do you think you brought the reggae influence to the band or was it already there?
JC: It was possibly me who was the original reggae influence on the Members.
Back in 1977 I was a complete Reggae freak but the next man in after me Chris Payne was a great reggae bass player too. So I guess he is Mr. Reggae of the Members.
The B-side of the Stiff record was the reggae influenced song “Rat Up A Drainpipe”
What are your earliest musical memories?
JC: My father played a lot of music in the family house he had very eclectic tastes such as French torch singer Edith Piaf and some Turkish music and Classical music.
How do you write songs, is it an easy process?
JC: Sometimes they come quickly sometimes it takes 20 years.
Do you rehearse as if you are on stage?
Do you have a favourite guitar?
JC: In the early days of the Members I had a Fender Music master; it was the cheapest guitar Fender made at the time.
How did your first released recording "Fear on the Streets" come about with Steve Lilywhite producing which was released on the Beggars Banquet label on the punk rock compilation album "Streets" released in 1977?
JC: Steve Lilywhites brother Adrian was our drummer and we got a call to come and record.
It features the original Members guitarist Gary Baker.
Please tell us about the joys of working on the pub/club circuit between 1976 to 1977; it must have been a hard slog before your first hit record?
JC: We all had day jobs and we did gigs in the evenings. As the band got better and the songs got better more and more people came to see us the punk pub circuit was a very sociable thing it was much more about the people the scene as it were.
I wouldn't say it was a hard slog as it was much more fun than working in the bank which I was doing in the day time.
How did the band come to join Stiff Records and release the classic single "Solitary Confinement”?
JC: I grew up in Surrey near a village called Bagshot one day I met a guy called Graham Parker in a pub in Bagshot I would help him record some demos in my bedroom. When I was about 17 or 18. He became quite famous and his manager was a guy called Dave Robinson who was co-owner of Stiff records. It was Graham who put a good word in for us.
Do you think being championed by the music press and John Peel helped you get a record deal with Virgin Records in 1978?
JC: John was a huge fan of the band and I liked him a lot and I went to some of his live Radio recordings too.
Virgin records were back then signing up everything and anything.
Where you surprised by the UK chart success of your first single with Virgin "Sound of the Suburbs"?
JC: I was not surprised at all as I knew from the moment we first played it at the Marquee Club, Wardour Street, Soho, London, W1 it would be a hit.
The follow up single "Offshore Banking Business" wasn't quite so popular was that a personal disappointment to you?
JC: No, not at all was it a top 20 record and it was quite groundbreaking as no other bands were playing reggae like we did then. We had Rico Rodriguez on Trombone. and I was sticking it to the man!
You would not get an opportunity today to write a song like that and get it on Top of the Pops.
How did this song achieve viral cult status as the unofficial anthem on the Panama Papers?
JC: There are not many songs written about tax invasion mine is probably in the top three.
Were you pleased with your first album for Virgin "At the Chelsea Nightclub"?
JC: I am pleased that the album sounds great I am not pleased that we do not get royalties from it.
The subsequent two albums weren't as successful on the Virgin label, was that a disappointment too?
JC: You have to remember that the music was moving very quickly in those days I remember going to Virgin they said they had signed Phil Collins from Genesis so we are going to put all our efforts into him.
The band broke up in 1983 when Nicky Tesco left after the last tour in the USA, had you had enough of touring by then too?
JC: Not really I love touring
What made you decide to reform the band in 2007 after you were reunited at the Inn on the Green, Ladbroke Grove, and London?
JC: The band reformed for my 50th birthday party, it seemed like the right thing to do.
In 2008 you resumed touring with a line up of yourself, Chris Payne and Nick Cash and a new single called "International Financial Crisis" which was a re-write of the single "Offshore Banking Business" and recorded by Nicky Tesco, Yourself, Chris Payne and Nigel Bennett, how did that come about?
JC: All my life I have reinvested money I earn from music business into new projects I paid for it and I made it happen
Did you enjoy playing Glastonbury and the Isle of Wight festivals?
JC: The Isle of Wight was a lot of fun; Glastonbury was hard work because if you are not one of the big brands you had to carry all your gear across the field of mud.
Where do you consider your best ever gig was?
JC: We played a show at the Roundhouse with the Buzzcocks recently which was fantastic.
What now closed venue do you miss the most?
JC: I miss the Nashville I guess
How did Rat Scabies come to join the band in 2010?
JC: We were about to go on tour in Europe and Nick Cash had to have a procedure. I needed somebody at short notice and Rat was available. I thought it was only temporary but he stayed three years!
How did you fourth album "InGrrland" come about in 2012?
JC: I paid for it.
Please tell us about your coast to coast tour of the USA in 2014 which was the first one for 32 years.
JC: It was like an amazing buddy movie but a nightmare at the same time.
Somebody had pulled out at the last minute and I had to play Bass. I am now good
Bass player but like all tours there are highs and lows.
Please tell us about your fifth studio album "One Law" which was released to great acclaim in early 2016.
JC: I'm really happy with the album One Law. After taking nearly 2 years to make it, it sounds fantastic we were even happier when Cadiz music came in and said they want to press it on vinyl. Making albums these days is a labour of love, lots of hard work and hours in front of the computer.
Do you still enjoy playing live and how have the crowds changed since 1976?
JC: I love playing live and I love meeting people who enjoy my music. We are blessed to be able to play. Every day is a bonus.
Who do you hang about with in the music biz these days?
JC: I have some old friends; I love Glen Matlock, The guys in my band. And other people on the scene but my favourite people are the people that come to see the shows.
What have you got lined up for the rest of the year?
JC: I am working on a movie soundtrack and a solo album
I'm doing my first ever solo shows. It all sounds very grand but it is hard work I am very lucky to be able to do it.
Many thanks JC for providing us with some insight into your career with The Members.
A Coffee with Glen Matlock
SIU – What made you want to go to St Martins College of Arts?
Glen – I have always liked drawing and it was a release from doing Maths (laughter). I was learning guitar and read that every band I had liked had been to Art College. I kind of thought go to Art College and somehow I will get into a band. It was about that time I got a job working for Malcolm in his Teddy boy shop. That’s where I met Steve and Paul and this other guy Wally Nightingale the very first original guitarist for the Sex Pistols. I got talking to Malcolm and he was a bit arty. I was applying for Art College and you had to have a couple of references. I asked Vivian Westwood if Malcolm would give me a reference, I think she was annoyed I did not ask her for one. She said I am not sure you want to ask Malcolm I said why not she said he had been thrown out of every art college, I thought that’s interesting. I asked him and he seemed interested so our relationship started. It’s also the time I met Steve and Paul. This was very early around 1973-74 so I had sort of found a band outside of Art College. I did a year foundation at the Art College then in the summer I decided to take the band seriously.
I booked the band then went to the office and said I am not coming back, I thought they would say no, but they went alright then (laughter).
SIU – Was the Bass Guitar the first instrument you tried to play?
Glen – No, I had a guitar when I was about 10 or 11 but did not get very far with it. I met this kid at school who showed me some cords funnily enough his name was Steve Jones too but a totally different person. The guitar I had is now in the Hard Rock café in Piccadilly. They have all these great guitars then my cheap one, the one my mum and dad gave me. Around that time I learnt a bit and then some kid at school had a bass for sale for £25 quid. I soon realised that sitting home playing a bass on your own is pretty much like having a wank. You have to play with other people.
SIU -What were the early rehearsals like before John Lydon joined the band?
Glen – It was about year before John joined and it was a horrible racket. They were a bunch of likely lads and Steve got knocked about a bit by one of his mums’ men. So he was always around Pauls or on the streets a bit of a wild one. They had all this gear they got from somewhere, I played my first rehearsal they said right your in. They said that’s not a bass your playing it was a plank, they reached under the bed pulled out this case it had a Fender Bass in it. They said this is a Bass I agreed they said you have to play this one, I said alright. I said where did you get it from, they said don’t ask.
SIU – Then John joined what where rehearsals like then?
Glen – We kind of didn’t know what we wanted to do, but we did know what we didn’t want to do. We didn’t want to be like yes, we wanted something simple. Being in the shop we were at the epicentre.the New York dolls would pop in, Mick ronson etc. So we had this thing but Steve was singing but had got better on guitar so he moved there. We started looking for a singer we put an add in the paper and stopped people in the street, but back then everyone had long hair and flares. We had all Malcolm's mate looking for a singer and also Berne Rhodes who recommended this bloke John who came into the shop,
We auditioned John then Berne said that’s not the one, it turned out he meant Sid, funny enough John and Sid where mates. John had the potential to capture in words the sprit that we had. The sprit was more driven by Steve and Paul.
SIU – Did you find song writing easy?
Glen – What I found was we did a lot of covers and you try to find out how a song goes and sometimes it’s a bit to hard, so you do a simpler version of it and it sounds nothing like it and sounded new that’s kind of what happened with a lot of it. Me and Paul liked Motown John hated it john liked Can. Me and Steve liked the Small Faces so it was all a kind of mash up.
SIU – Any early shows that stand out?
Glen – there was some funny ones, one with the Doctors of Madness. I booked the early shows at art colleges as Malcolm did not know how to go about it. The first one ended up in a punch up because john was kicking the monitors around and the singer from Bazooka Joe who we were supporting did not like it. He went on to do the graphics for the James bond movies. It turned out he was upset as the equipment was still on Hire Purchase it was little things like that that added to our mystique. We got about a bit and people started coming people from the shop the Bromley lot.
SIU – Was you surprised the effect the Pistols had and how it snowballed?
Glen – Yes and no really, we knew we had something but it was in its infancy. There was a shop next door which attracted the Rolling Stones, Brian ferry etc, Malcolm used to call them tossers so we did too. So to have that king odd attitude when you 17/18 towards multi millionaires Is quite a good thing if your in a rock n roll band. You know people were just fed up and we were different not like anything around. My favourite songs are the first three singles. When we played the first time the most we played to was 400 people, when we did that tour in 1996 the Finsbury park show we played to 36 thousand people.
SIU – You left the Pistols and started the Rich Kids were you pleased with them?
Glen – I was a little bit disappointed with the Rich Kids the best song I had ever wrote was Ghosts of Princes in towers it should have been a hit. I was playing after we split with Iggy in Paris and Malcolm free loaded a meal, he said to me its fine moving on from Punk in London but outside of London it was just catching on, and looked like I was taking something away from them, I had not looked at it like that, it was quite astute. We did a gig in the summer sadly Steve New pasted away. Gary Kemp did it he came to see me and said he used to watch us while they were getting Spandau Ballet together, and we were a big influence on them. I am pleased with our little place in the scheme of things. Financially the record company did not help; I do not think we were ready to make an album as we only had half an album. Mick Ronson said we should put out an EP. I was also tarnished with the backlash that we were not the Sex Pistols. The reason I got a proper singer rather than some kid of the street is I did not want to be a 2nd division Sex Pistols.
SIU – You played on the Iggy Pop album ‘Soldier’
Glen – After I split the band up I was sitting at home wondering what to do. The phone rang about two minutes after thinking this. This bloke said is Glen Matlock there I said yes he said you don’t know me I am Peter Davies. I manage Iggy Pop he is hear and would like a word with you; so I spoke to him, he was staying in Piccadilly I went and met him and they were short of a bass player and asked if I would do it. I said yes and did the tour in Europe to promote new values. So there I was on tour with Iggys people ask me what it was like well after the Pistols and Rich Kids where it was all a little ramshackle have we a lead that works No. He had been touring for years it was really professional roadies/proper hotels etc. all we had to do was turn up and play and not cock it up. We played big shows sell out in London. We took a break and recorded the solider album not his best album. We went to the states to tour and mixed the album in New York.
SIU – You were also on the Damned LP?
Glen – Rat Scabies was a mate of mine and asked if would play the bass on something. I remember going to the studio I walked in and their bass player was there. I thought this will be awkward it was Algy Ward, Rat said right Glens here now fuck off (laughter) I did not know it was for the Damned I thought it was something Rat was doing. I like some of the Damned stuff I have always liked Eloise
SIU – You played with the Small Faces?
Glen – Yes I played with my all time favourite band. It’s a pity the original singer did not do it but Mick Hucknall did it and he was really good. It was special playing with Ronnie Wood and Kevin Jones. They are just really good and seem to have a laugh all the time.
SIU – You were in a band called Dead Men Walking?
Glen – That was a little thing I did. What was good about it was I bumped into Slim Jim who I had not seen since the Stray Cats, We were friends but lost touch and bumped into each other and been friends ever since. When he comes to London he stays with me and we have an album in the can which we hope to get out sooner rather than later.
SIU – Sorry about going back to the Pistols when you reformed in 1996 were you hesitant?
Glen – Yeah but in a way I started it. I was in LA in 95 looking for a singer, Mickey Most said come over to see him and use the studio I had nothing to do so went with Steve New. Met the block nice bloke not a singer so I was mucking about in LA. I said I would not mind seeing Steve Jones; I had not spoken to him for about 15 years. Next day I was staying at Calvin’s house he said here I have a number for Steve call him up, I said maybe in a day or so, every day he asked had I called this went on for a week or so. I called him and he said come over so I did as soon as I got there he said lets go see Rotten. I though how will I get on with John a lot have been said. We were in his house he was upstairs we were waiting for him to come down I went to the loo as I came out he came down stairs and we bumped into each other. That broke the ice Steve said lets call up Paul, who was in London he was out so we went out to lunch, when we had got back Paul had called up and left a message, it just started the train in motion. Then in 96 we did that tour I think if I had not made that phone call to Steve it might not have happened. It was great flying around the world first class playing massive gigs playing our music; it was not the same as the first time around. John can be awkward, when we started the faces Ron was doing it then not lol me and Ian traded jokes over who had the most awkward singer.
SIU – What about Slinky Vagabond?
Glen – Yes that was another little thing. That’s were I first met Earl Slick. A friend called me up said he was starting something with Clem and Earl Slick, I said if you get it together I will fly over and play bass and see what happens. That’s what happened we recorded some stuff and that was it really.
We all were busy with other stuff this is the thing with the internet someone put up it was a band when it was just a little project.
SIU – International Swingers?
Glen – Little project I was doing with some people Clem, James and Gary. I don’t do it any more but I am a little annoyed as they keep putting my name up, I like the guys not too keen on the music and I hated the name. I am 60 now and really enjoy what I am doing my sole shows and sometimes with bands. This year I have finally got a decent agent done some big festivals Montrose etc.
Got lots stuff coming up, in fact I am getting really busy now off to New York on Sunday for 3 nights, and then I come back and tour with heaven 17 as a guest artist. Then I have a 14 date show around the country just me. I am busy well there’s not that much on the telly.
I will tell you a funny thing not the filthy lucre tour the one after that, We get on the tour bus in LA there was this DVD player on the bus, We thought oh bollocks we did not know about this and have not brought anything to watch. There was all these punks outside waving us off with gestures lol then Steve slots in a DVD I am thinking its going to be porn or something it was Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday. We drove off as all these LA punks were gesturing and waving us off, and were going were going on a summer holiday lol. All those type of films had an influence on our upbringing.
SIU-QPR do you still go and watch them?
Glen – Sometimes I have been once this season, they always set you up to be disappointed. They just had a good win against Fulham, I had a season ticket for a couple of years running, I supported them for 40 years. My mate sorted out the season tickets, my seat had my name on it I took a picture put it on face book, half time we were 2-0 down I was getting stick on face book so I had to pay my mate 800 for the ticket and we lost 4-0. We had a manager called Ainsworth who kept us up with a cheeky lob. I became friends with him and invited him to the Sex Pistols at Brixton so I got him and his missus he was injured at the time so I got them into the disabled enclosure lol.
SIU – Where you pleased with the reception your book I was a Teenage Sex Pistols got?
Glen – It could have done a bit better but its in its 5th edition now. I was pleased I did it as it got a lots of rubbish out of the system; I thought if I write a book I would never have to talk about the sex pistols again.
SIU – Any favourite venue’s?
Glen – Whoever pays the most lol, I like playing in Japan. People are cool were ever you go; I play the 100 club quite a lot. The Greek Theatre in LA. If you sell lots of tickets the promoters are better towards you as well.
SIU – Any favourite gigs?
Glen – playing with the Faces in front of 50,000 people, playing with Iggy, I played in New York on Halloween night the whole audience was dressed in Halloween costumes. The Cramps supported us and backstage was Debbie Harry from Blondie dressed as a witch and she gave me a kiss on the cheek.
SIU – What does the future hold for you?
Glen – More of the same. Got some tours coming up and I am getting booked out for next year. I am getting requests to go to Australia and back to Japan again. I did some strange cabaret show in Berlin last week; they want me back to do a whole night. Just lots of nice little things. I do pistols numbers as people want them, my own stuff and some covers but as I wrote them on my acoustic they all come together. I think I have positioned myself as the Johnny Cash of punk.
SIU – Any tips for up and coming musicians?
Glen – Get on with it.
Exclusive Don Letts Interview June 2016
SIU – How much has Reggae inspired you and how did you meet Bob Marley?
Don – Bloody hell nothing like an easy question to start. In my culture music and reggae is not something kids do. Its part of our culture, your mum will be listening to it, your grandparents are listening to it, and so are the kids. So it’s literally all around you. Lucky for me my dad had a sound system; it was called Duke Letts Supersonic Sound. It was old school and my dad would play it after church for the then immigrants. It was a way for them to ease the pain and stay in touch with each other and get news from back home. So being a DJ is sort of in my blood. The tunes around that time were about having a good time and partying etc. As I became a teenager the music changed and become more political. I learned more about my culture through the music as they certainly did not teach me about it at school. I could go on for ages about how reggae has affected me. It’s about something and I think that’s why the punks liked it. They are singing stuff like Chant Down Babylon which is the equivalent of Anarchy in the UK. It’s an interesting you have asked me, as through my culture its helped me integrate with a certain aspect of England as when I was growing up as all the young white kids were listening to reggae as well as their rebel sound, this is before punk. The first skinheads the fashion version not the fascist version people don’t realise the first skin heads were the first multi cultural sub culture in country. It was a mix of music and style from Jamaica mixed with a white working class attitude. So reggae was helping us form a bond. With Punky Reggae Party and Bob Marley it has been a major influence, the base line, and the music is party music but also a tool for change. When I first heard Get Up, Stand Up for Your Rights, empowering stuff man.
SIU – How did you meet Bob Marley?
Don – Like many black youths in this country I was a fan. I am first generation British born black, which sounds very easy to say now, but back in the 1970s it was a very confusing concept trust me. We had an idea what we should sound like then we say the harder they come so we knew what to look like, but we were born here so we were not really Jamaican. Then Bob Marley comes along and speaks to me and everyone else. He spoke in Jamaican not the Queen’s English and he had dreadlocks and seemed empowering. Back then in school they just taught us about great white men and I was just a slave in history. Through Bob Marley we realised we had some serious stuff here and had as much to bring to the party as the white guys. Anyway Bob come to live in London sort of in exile. He played some gigs. After a gig at the Hammersmith Odeon followed him back to his hotel in my car. I blagged my way in and sat in a corner, Bob was holding court in the middle table. He outlasted everyone and about 3am there was just me left and we started talking and formed a bond. We stayed in touch and I used to sort him with bits and pieces. He stayed in a house on Oakley Street just off the king’s road where I was running a shop Acme Attractions. He used to pop in the shop now and again. Once I went around his house in bondage trousers and punk was happening at the same time.
He was reading the wrong press and said Don you look like one of them nasty punk rockers. I said what are you talking about these are my mates, I held my corner. I said you’re wrong there is something going on we are like minded rebels. A few months later when he was more familiar with what punk was about he wrote Punky Reggae party. I was defiantly the first person to tell him he was wrong about punk rock, and it was not easy standing your ground against Bob.
SIU – Have you any all time favourite reggae tracks.
Don – That’s impossible. Tell you what I am not trying to sell anything, actually yes I am they are worth every penny. I have these albums Dread Meets Punk Rocker, Don Letts presents the Mighty Trojan etc. Dub was a big thing of mine, Joe Strummer liked it as did John Lydon I must say Lydon was one of the people who knew reggae. He knew stuff I did not know about. That’s how we became friends through a love of reggae.
SIU – What was it like growing up in London in the 70s?
Don - When I was growing up signs on the wall No blacks No dogs No Irish. Tell you what was interesting before Enoch Powell made that river of blood speech that racist speech that changed the cultural landscape he was the one who invited us here. He was the Minister of health or something and they did a drive to get people from the commonwealth to come here and rebuild after the Second World War. Before that speech people just worked it between them and got on. After the speech I was no longer Letts my mate it was Letts the black bastard. It had that much of an impact. It was a strange time with the wind rush and I can see it both sides with the white people saying what the fuck. The older generation were scared and the younger generation were intrigued. The young generation liked three things the style, music and loved the food. I will tell any immigrants coming now, if you have good music and food your half way there.
SIU – How did you get involved in the Punk scene?
Don – I was working on the Kings Road in Acme Attractions around 1974 selling retro clothes I was playing Reggae dub and all these white kids were coming in that weren’t into what was popular at the time. As it was a million miles from what’s happening on the streets prog rock etc. I had a sound track to ease my pain. My white mates not so lucky. Some bright person had an idea to create their own sound punk rock. It all started around 1975 early pistols, London SS; it was for the people by the people. There was no real place for these people to go, they used to drift between my shop and Sex run by Malcolm McLaren. They seemed to be attracted by 3 things, the clothes, the sound tracks and an alternative way of life. I knew Malcolm before I opened the shop and he was a big inspiration to me. Without Malcolm I might not be the man I am today. He taught me that if you have a good idea and are brave enough you can part of something new. Which was the start of the punk rock ideas this was before he had been to New York and seen the dolls? Punk came out of the youth who visited my shop and I saw it start and evolve.
SIU - How did you first meet the Clash/Pistols?
Don – Through the shop. You could tell from these guys something different was going on. They had a love of Jamaican music as well which helped form a friendship if it was not for Punk and the DIY aspect I would not have picked up a camera and re-invented myself as a film maker, as when these guys picked up guitars I wanted to pick up something too.
SIU – As a venue what was the Roxy like?
Don – It was a shithole to be honest, it used to be a gay club called Shagarama. It was a basement club with seats around the outside mirrored back wall. Low ceiling low stage, the DJ booth was left of the stage, it smelt like the Marquee. However it was the centre of the punk scene. It only run 100 bloody days but man what a fast and furious 100 days. It was a crucial part of the mix as you need a place to meet and exchange ideas.
SIU – What made you start filming early gigs in Super 8?
Don – When I a kid I watched” The Harder They Come “which was Jamaica’s best film. I liked the way it inspired and I thought I would like to express myself that way. But then a black man in 1972 trying to make films was a daft idea. I was always drawn to the visual media. I wanted to express myself with film it was a day dream then punk came and made that dream a reality. That was the great think about punk it was not about creating more fans it was if you have something to say have a go. It was not just music. It was a complete sub culture, artists, film makers, designers, etc that’s why it had the impact it did. Nothing since then has had that complete impact. It’s a disgrace that nothing has. It was 40 years ago people should be saying Punk was great but what about this… There have been over types of music but no school of thought. It was not all guitars and Mohawks it was about attitude and sprit.
SIU – Was it easy to film and edit in Super 8?
Don – No it was bloody difficult. In fact with “The Punk Rock Movie “I just had an idea and started filming, I was filming the acts that spoke to me, pistols, clash, slits etc luckily I had good taste but there was no intention of making a film. Until one day I read in the New Musical Express newspaper that Don Letts is making a punk film I thought what the fuck that’s a good idea I will call it a film. So I Literally just stuck the bastard together and got it shown at the ICA. That’s how I got into film making; once some of the bands got noticed and signed they asked me to do some of the music videos. I then had to get my act together which I did rapidly the first video was the Public Image debut single, the second for the Clash “London Calling” I went on to do maybe 300-400 music videos in my time. Don’t do them anymore.
SIU – How did the Punk Rock movie get a distribution deal in the USA?
Don - I don’t know I don’t understand all that. Someone came to me and said they can blow it up put it on the big screen etc… I went fine what I know. It looked horrible on the big screen Super 8 was not for that type of enlargement. Lucky for me Malcolm took an injunction out against it. I don’t know why maybe because his film” The Great Rock and Roll Swindle” was coming out at the time and mine had the Sex Pistols in it too. I thought he did me a favour. It’s now been done so it works on a big screen and it looks fantastic. It was good training back in those days processing costs were not cheap nowadays with instant digital make for a lot of mediocrity
SIU –Did you enjoy directing your first dramatic feature film Dance Hall Queen?
Don – It was a big big buzz for me. Got to tip my hat to the people who made it possible to do my first feature film. I always thought my first film would be about the place I grew up in and loved London but it turned out to be about Jamaica. It was a massive hit if you ask anyone in Jamaica what their favourite film is they will say “Dance Hall Queen” it struck a chord man as people saw themselves on the screen. After” The Harder They Come” which is still the best film out of Jamaica you got all these films in between that had actors playing Jamaicans that were American and really did not represent Jamaicans. I am immensely proud of it. When it was premiered in Jamaica it was on one screen with another film on another screen the demand was so great they kicked out the other and put “Dance Hall Queen” on both. One of my best achievements.
SIU –Going back, what were your favourite early gigs?
Don – The first gig I ever saw was The Who in 1971. I was at school near the Oval and one afternoon there was this rumour going around that some young band were playing the Vic. So I go down there in my school uniform and it turns out it’s the Who doing a full production rehearsal. It was great I was 14 years old and 10 feet away from the stage and it changed my life forever that was it. It was like opening the Ark for me from that moment on. Can you imagine 10 feet away from the stage fucking hell. Other gigs off the top of my head Bob Marley at the Lyceum, watching of the Clash shows at Bonds New York., Patti Smith at the Rainbow. I could go on and on. Rage against the Machine at Glastonbury in the 90’s man that was surreal. There was this other band I used to enjoy called Big Audio Dynamite.
SIU – Did you manage the Slits?
Don – I never managed them, all I did was give them the money to go on the white riot tour. I was supposed to be their manager but you cannot manage the Slits. I remember standing by the stage at one of the shows next to Bernie thinking no this is not for me. But a long time friend of the band due to Jamaican music. All the Slits loved reggae. I used to take them to clubs sometimes I would take Strummer sometimes Lydon these were hard core reggae clubs they would be the only white people there; they got a lot of respect for it.
SIU – How did Big Audio Dynamite form?
Don - I had a long term relationship with Mick. He got kicked out of the Clash; he was not going to become a milkman was he. So I introduced him the bass player Leo Williams. After a few trials they had a drummer they did try out Topper. We were standing a club one night Leo to Micks left me to his right he said we look like a group. I said ok but I cannot play anything Mick said well Paul could not play bass when we started. So I joined and as I could not play I was doing all the sampling. With Micks guidance I started to write lyrics. The first lyric I wrote was E=MC2. I wrote around 50 of the lyrics/songs but had to have stickers on my keyboard even when we reformed. This time they were bigger stickers as my eye sight was not so good. Punk rock man… still works for me on a day to day basis.
SIU – Were you pleased your Clash documentary film” West Way to the World” was received so well?
Don – I was glad to have the opportunity to make that film. You cannot make a bad film about the Clash as each one of them was such a strong person. They were the only band that mattered. I wanted to make it a blue print for rock n roll so it was not dated by effects. I wanted to make a historical rock n roll document that would inspire people for years to come. I am glad they gave me the opportunity. It’s a good film because of the Clash not Don Letts.
SIU – When it won the Grammy Award in 2003 did it surprise you?
Don – Yes but I took it for Joe Strummer really.
SIU – With the 40th Anniversary of punk do you think it’s still relevant?
Don – The attitude is still relevant. The attitude is not about selling a bunch of t-shirts and that’s what’s bugging me about the whole thing now. It’s become a marketing ploy, when what we should be doing is saying where is it now, and why is it after all these years we are still talking about it now. All we have done in 2000 is look back its done nothing of its own. We don’t seem to be moving forward. People should find their own sound track to what’s going on now. God knows there plenty to be pissed off about.
SIU – What are you up to nowadays?
Don – Hustling like everybody else. Still making films I have just made a documentary about skinheads. It will be on BBC around December looking at its birth and looking at its roots and where it went wrong. I still have my show on radio 6 music. Still doing DJing. I am old school I think if you can make a living doing something you enjoy you’re on a winner. If you can get rich even better.
SIU – You have lots of footage from the punk days will you be releasing any?
Don – Funny you should say that God willing nothing goes wrong between me and Sky Arts I am starting a project which is called 27s Clash. It’s a good reason to get out some of my archived stuff it’s going to be the untold story. Hoping to do this before the end of the year. I have some great stuff on film. This nostalgia thing is a little unhealthy I hope someone who was not around sees it and gets inspired to do their own thing. Punks were inspired by stuff before but instead of copying they got inspired and did their own thing, that’s the nature of rock n roll.
SIU – Are you still in contact with people from the era?
Don – the ones I can recognise, I see Mick and Paul they are local. I saw Marco the other day Jennet Lee lives around the corner from me. I still keep in touch with Lydon who has matured and is very clever, his grown up lol. Paul Cook & Glen Matlock I still see.
SIU – Any advice for up and coming film makers?
Don – If I had I would not tell them Lol, I cannot compete with them, some work for nothing or do what they are told I cannot compete with that. Last thing I need is more piranhas in the tank lol.
SIU-Thank you Don Letts
Well here's our exclusive interview with Puss of Pussycat and the Dirty Johnsons
Are you a punk or rockabilly band?
I'd say we were a mixture of a lot of things, but essentially we're a rock'n'roll/punk band. We like to call it Dirty Rock'N'Roll.
When was the band formed and what motivated you to do it?
I'd already been playing with Dirty Jake in a band called The Johnsons for years before Pussycat And The Dirty Johnsons was formed. I guess The Johnsons was a toddler and when we formed Pussycat And The Dirty Johnsons about 6 years ago our sound had grown up and found itself. I think I can speak for myself and the rest of the band when I say our motivation is purely the enjoyment of creating and performing music.
Do you write all of the songs or is it a collaboration with the other band members?
I write most of the songs, Jake wrote one song on our first album. I usually have the lyrics, basic guitar parts and ideas to bring to the table and we work on it from there. Everybody in the band puts their own stamp on it, it is a collaborative effort that makes our sound come together through our varied influences.
Has growing up in Basingstoke inspired some of your more darker lyrics?
I've always had a morbid sense of humor, I always have my tongue firmly in my cheek when I write songs, even the more serious sounding ones. I couldn't say if Basingstoke has inspired my dark lyrics, I think maybe I make light of some people treating me badly by writing songs about murdering them (for example)! Music is a therapy.
How did the Pussycat image develop?
I think it just grew really, it started with a hairstyle idea and love of leopard print. My mutation from human(ish) to feline was quite a natural progression. I like cats.
Who has inspired you the most musically in the past?
It's hard to pinpoint exactly, my dad used to take me to see a lot of blues bands growing up and my eldest brother plays in bands so I've always been around musicians and live music and been into a lot of different styles of music. I think the biggest revelation to me was going to see The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion about 13 years ago, our band introduced me to their music. It was a game changer seeing him perform, it was electrifying and I've been a fan of Jon's various endeavors ever since. I think it put me on the path to defining what kind of music I'm really into.
Were rockabilly band The Polecats a big influence on you?
We played with The Polecats back in 2011, I didn't previously know much about them. They were an excellent live band and nice chaps. I danced like a nutter through their whole set, that means I really like a band when they move me to gyrations! Phil Polecat very kindly joined us in the studio on our last album 'Dirty Rock'N'Roll' to play double bass on a couple of tracks, he's an amazing player.
Where you surprised by the critical success of your first studio album Exercise Your Demons and its follow up album Dirty Rock N Roll?
I don't think I thought about it really, you hope it will be a success obviously! It felt good in the studio.. I think you get so caught up with actually being in the band, you record the album and then your next mission is to go out and tour, and people buy it if they like when they see/hear. It's feels like a calling, you just do. Sometimes you do stop for a minute and think "wow" though when you see how many albums have been sold! But I tend to always be thinking 'so what's next?!' after we finish something.
Are you going to record another LP this year?
That's the plan! We have enough songs on paper to record a new album, we're going to do some intensive rehearsing and then get on the road and play the new songs. We always like to play them live before we go into the studio, it brings out the total potential of the songs.
What else have you got planned for the future?
"So what's next..........????"
Exclusive interview with the one and only Martin Degville
How did you come to join Sigue Sigue Sputnik way way back in 1982?
Tony James ex Generation X bassist,Neil Whitmore and Magenta Divine used to hang out at mine and Yana's shop “YA YA” in Kensington Market. they often purchased our designs and it was a while later into our friendship that Tony mentioned he was looking for a vocalist for his new band project.
I guess the rest is history and Sigue Sigue Sputnik was born.
Did you design and supply all of the bands clothes at the time?
Yes, myself and Yana created the whole look for the band as they had no style whatsoever lol!!
Can you tell us about the bands 1st gig in Paris supporting Johnny Thunders?
I demanded to go to Paris and stepped on stage half way thru the set and demanded to sing "Personality Crisis" which turned into a fiasco as the crowd started pelting me with beer cans and whatever they could get their smutty little paws on. I was eventually dragged off stage,way to go eh? lol!!
How was Mick Jones formerly of The Clash involved with the band in the early days?
Yes good old Mick provided us with the classic Pro-One synth and a Roland 808 drum machine which created the early sound of SSS.
In fact it was Mick who eventually chose me as the singer and frontman as I didn’t realise until much later that Tony and Neil had been auditioning many other singers,the CHEEK of it!!
Who came up with the name Sigue Sigue Sputnik?
The name was taken from a feature in the Herald Tribune newspaper and thrown on the table by the then manager of Bananarama so yes it was him who laid the curse lol!!
PS we did have other names like "The Hot Dogs,Festival of Sperm" and of course our alter ego "Sci-Fi-Sex-Stars" yummy!!
Where you pleased to have 3 top 40 hit singles in the UK in 1986?
Well wouldn’t you be? lol and yes I am still waiting for the royalties!!
Who decided to get Giorgio Moroder in to produce your successful album “Flaunt It”?
Dave Ambrose the head of A/R at EMI eventually chose for us. That’s music politics everyone!
So we lost out on working with David Bowie and Prince but I was very happy with Giorgio and "Flaunt It" god bless him xx.
Where films such as “Mad Max 2” and “A Clockwork Orange” a big influence on the band when you started out?
Yes I remember watching "A Clockwork Orange" having taken the day off college,very scary at the time and of course I loved all the imagery about Mad Max 2,all the John Waters movies featuring the fab Divine were a big influence also especially "Pink Flamingoes" and "Desperate Living".
What made the band want to work with the mega hit factory pop producers Stock, Aitken & Waterman for your single “Success”?
I didn’t,Tony did and it was a huge mistake for the band. It was against what I thought SSS was about and it all ended in tears. SOLD UP THE RIVER some would say! many fights in the studio and in the end the sound engineer actually mixed the track and to add insult to injury EMI took all the guitars out of the mix for Top of the Pops which were re-instated, I mean we were a guitar based electro punk band weren't we????
Did you enjoy doing the promo video’s at the time?
Yes they were lavish productions and cost a bomb to make, its always good to get into make-up, drive around in limo's and hit the champagne bottles.
Please tell us about your solo album's "World War 4" recorded in 1991 and "Prophet of Freak & G.O.D" recorded in 2007/2008.
I had always written songs for SSS so "World War 4" was really most of the demos intended for the next sputnik album,this featured Mick Rossi from the great punk band "Slaughter & the Dogs" on guitar,great album by the way! And Prophet was an album I did with a Spanish rockabilly band called "Hellfire Club" very electro and very intense.
Did you enjoy playing live again in 2009 as Sigue Sigue Sputnik Electronic or SSS?
I must say I have a really great time now as I can choose any musician I want to play with me,no arguments, no diva fits,god it’s like being in HEAVEN!!
where the re-recordings of the first two SSS albums ever finished?
Yes "Flaunt It" has been recorded and is available and I’m kind of halfway thru "Dress for Excess" but I have so many ideas now musically I want to try, I don’t know if I want to keep re living my past though?
What was your favourite gig?
OMG so many of them but I guess it has to be at The Royal Albert Hall,London.
What made the band reform to record “Piratespace” in 2001?
Tony James discovered the internet and we realised that we still had thousands of fans worldwide so we decided to get together and record again and then tour to promote,good times had by all I seem to remember!
What are you up to these days?
Still recording and touring,I have also created a new clothes collection "Clothes For Rebels" which is ultra-cool and who knows I may be on a celebrity TV show in 2016.
Yes angels my life has disintegrated into THAT lol!!
Great interview!! thank you Martin D!!
Please check out Martin's website below
Exclusive interview with Jock Strap from The Straps
Where did you meet the other band members and how did The Straps form?
I Moved down to London from Glasgow in early 1978, the punk scene up there had gone quiet and punks were finding it hard to go and watch live punk bands, it seemed the only venues who were putting on punk acts were the bigger venues such as the Glasgow Apollo who concentrated on the big bands at the time such as The Clash, Blondie, The Ramones and such like or we would have to travel to Edinburgh where the city seemed to be more tolerable of punks. I watched many punks turn straight or Mod due to this, so I decided to pack in my day job at Dunlop tyres in a factory where I was a tyre builder. I was determined to keep on enjoying being a punk and decided to move down south where punk was very much still alive I had friends squatting in Battersea who kindly let me move in with them.
One evening we had a huge party where lots of punks turned up. Dave Reeves (rhythm), Brad Day (Drums) and Green (bass) were there and told me they had formed a band called The Straps, but needed somewhere to practice. I had a few beers and said why not pop around here with your equipment and practice. A few days later that's exactly what they did. They had a singer called Howard Jackson, but he never showed up at the rehearsal, the lads were moaning that he kept on letting them down, and asked me if I could sing. I never actually knew if I could, still don't lol.I had been playing bass guitar just as a hobby really, this was new territory so I gave it a go and the rest is history as they say.
Where did you rehearse?
We used a studio in Lacy Road Putney which belonged to Dave's Uncle, It was a great little place Marianne Faithfull used to use it too in fact I had a go on her Glockenspiel a few times.
Please tell us about your first gig with the band at the Latchmere Pub, Battersea Park Road, London in 1978.
I think the band had about 3 rehearsals when we were offered a gig at a school hall in Wandsworth with the UK Subs we had 5 songs sort of rehearsed which meant playing them twice as a set, but that didn't stop us. Dave and I turned up with a van and all the equipment but there was a sign up saying “TONIGHTS GIG CANCELLED” So we lost the hire of the van costs, I should have known then how much being in a punk band costs. A few days later we got the dreadful news that our bassist Green had been found dead in a laundrette from a heroin overdose .I had just started working in my local Pub in the kitchen just helping out cleaning ovens etc. The landlord asked me what else I done, was I a student or something? I told him I have a band, He then asked me what kind of music we played? And for some reason I heard the words country and western leave my lips. Oh that sounds great he said do you fancy playing next Saturday? I agreed but we needed a new bassist and fast.
Andi Sexgang was staying nearby and he and I had become good mates , Andi was just writing songs and doing acoustic stuff at that time without much success,so he agreed to learn the songs . We put flyers all around south London and managed to fill the place with punks and skinheads. The gig was a cracker, we got a great reception and even the landlord was happy as his bar was probably busier than it had ever been. I remember Andi playing with blood pouring down his bass from his sore fingers from practicing an instrument he had never really played.
Were you pleased that you had such a cult following around London at the time?
I can honestly say it never really entered my head that we were becoming a popular band. It was only when we were headlining The Music Machine in Camden with 1,000 plus people in attendance that it sunk in that people actually liked us. But yes it was very pleasing.
What were your most memorable gigs when you supported The Damned, Stiff Little Fingers & Sham 69?
The most memorable gig for me was when we supported The Damned on the Black album tour in 1980 in Glasgow my home town at The Apollo Theatre which is sadly no longer a music venue ,it was the kind of place only a musician could dream of playing, I have seen so many great bands there, In fact it was the first venue I ever saw a live band play back in 1975 where I saw Cockney Rebel supported by Sailor and Midge Ure's Slick. I remember thinking how I would love to be on a stage like that. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that 5 years later there I would be there with my Mum and Step father sitting in the Royal box.
A SLF gig at the Hammersmith Odeon was very memorable too also it was when they had just released Inflammable Material in 1979. I wore a pink Mohair jumper with a Grant Tartan Kilt which seemed to stick in a lot of punk’s minds.
Sham 69 ,We played with several times ,I think the 100 Club charity gig we done with them around 2007 was a great show with Fire Exit my mate Gerry Atricks band on the bill too that was a great night in London.
What was the worst gig?
I don't really remember ever playing a gig I didn't enjoy with the exception of maybe 1 or 2 gigs,one being Digbeth civic Hall , where a load of skinheads turned up to have a go at our fans who had followed us up to Birmingham from London. I remember being on stage and this lad right at the front of the stage was spitting at us ,then he took it a step further and puked up his lager and blackcurrant which went all over me ,some going into my fucking mouth as I sang, I just felt this hot shit in my mouth .I lost it and attacked him with my mic stand which didn't really help matters.We all ended up getting a police escort out of the venue, I don't think we even got paid.
Another gig I hated was Rebellion 2007 where we were all very drunk and we had a stand in drummer who's timing was well out , it was one of those rare gigs you couldn't wait to end. We were also on very late at around midnight when everyone was smashed so luckily I don't think most of the crowd remembered how shit we were haha.
Were you disappointed by the lack of UK chart success?
At the time I was a young punk just having fun so stardom never really entered my head. I was surprised we never done better considering the quality singles we released ,Just Can't anymore/ New Age and Brixton done well in the Indi charts reaching the top 10 or something for a week . I do think we were one of those bands who just missed out ,like Menace ,Chelsea or even Wire who should have been a huge band ,all these are still going . .But like most thins we do in life .if your not an arse licker or be part of a load of bullshit which exists in the industry you wont get to the fucking top.
What was it like working with Andi Sex Gang & Rat Scabies on your debut album which was released in 1982?
Andi was a good mate and he was always a joy to be around , he has a very positive input to everything he does so his ideas and input were very much welcomed , Rat and I were working on the Bartok project with Jah Wobble and the late great Simon Werner who's guitar playing in my opinion was overlooked especially his early with the Pack and if you get 5 mins have a listen to his guitar work our House of the Rising Sun.
Rat is a fantastic drummer so him me and Simon recorded a version of No Liquor while recording the Bartok stuff I actually played bass on that track and we decided to use Jim Walkers version of No Liquor on the single and include Rats on the album .
He had very Keith Moon approach to his playing which works fucking amazing with fast punk rock.
I am very proud to have worked along side such talent .
What made you reform in 1991 for the one off Brixton Academy gig?
I stepped out the music thing late 80s after my band Freakshow disbanded when John Werner left to go back to Canada I had a young family so needed to get in the real world and start earning some real money, that's what you have to do sometimes as punk and indie music don't feed babies.
Just out the blue Dave Reeves turned up at my house and told me we were invited by John Curd to play on the Fuck Reading show, so I think once you have tasted live gigs as a performer its like a infectious disease that won't go away.
We booked a rehearsal room in Brixton and brought in Lester Jones (Crisis ) to play lead guitar as Simon had moved to Spain (Malaga). What a show though all the top bands together UK Subs, Sham ,Chelsea, Lurkers ,Vibrators ,GBH , Exploited, It would have been rude not to have played it.
Back stage during the show ,there were many faces hanging around like Polly Styrene ,Andi Sexgang even that Pet Shop Boy geezer Neil Tennant was there and said he loved us , I even managed to blag a beer out the fucker too haha.just about everyone was there I think that show paved the way for such events like Rebellion festival which is now an annual event not to be missed by any punk rocker.
The band disbanded again in 2008 but you reformed again in 2012 for the Last Jubilee and Punk by the Sea festivals what were they like?
Ha Ha that's a good question.. They both fucked up big time . The Jubilee thing never actually happened, and to this day people are awaiting refunds from tickets they bought. I lost money myself ,because I had booked hotels which we were never refunded for.It was either a con or just bad organising which turned into a shambles. It learned me one thing though money on arrival or better still before the event. There are many crooked cunts out there and the Punks by the sea thing proved that. I got a phone call on the night before the event was to take place in Portsmouth, so Thursday night the phone rings , Hi Jock the Damned have pulled out at the last minute says the promoter , why I asked? Because they want x amount of dosh up front.
I thought that was a bit of an odd last minute request but their perogative I guess. so you see some punk bands command large paydays while others struggle to cover costs ,which is not very punk in my humble opinion . Anyway the bloke asks me if The Straps would headline or do 2nd to top slot on the Sat night which I agreed to do for a lot less than than of the some bands had demanded .
So the show went ahead, but the promoter is in tears asking me what he should do as people have boycotted the weekend because the Damned pulling out .I managed to convince him that everything would be ok and as all the other acts were turning up including Sham 69 and the Rezillos there would be no problems,I also advised him to put on facebook the show is still on ,and whatever he done don't pull the plug on it. Sat morning I got a call from Dave saying all the posters had been took down the venue was all locked up instead of soundchecks being up and running.
The promoter had just disappeared into thin air. Luckily I was staying at my mate Paul's house so my costs were just travel , but the rest of the lads and most of the other bands had booked hotels etc , all losing out . Anyway the show did go on Tara from The Duel had managed to get a small pub in Portsmouth called the Milton Arms to take on the Punks by the sea gig and the show did indeed go on with huge success , Even Sham 69 played for free as did out the blue the UK Subs and to top the weekend off I got to do a covers set with Mick Rossi from Slaughter and the dogs and night of Treason. Turned out a top weekend but costly yet again. No one knows to this day where the promoter fucked off to with all the dosh. The upside of the whole thing for the Straps is that gig was our first gig as a current unit, we had never played together,I had not seen Pete since we done our first album back in 82 we all just learned the songs, and were so tight and it worked well instantly ,I knew then we had a great future and Brave new Anger or last album is proof of that.
Did you enjoy playing the legendary 100 Club with Chelsea a few years back?
That was a fucking cracker yes. The place was packed with many old faces from the past, its always great meeting up with old mates and fans and punks from punks reunited are turning up at these type of gigs so you get to meet new people . I have much admiration for Gene October James Stevenson and Matt Sargent.
Octobers voice is superb and the rest of the lads are top musicians also.We have gigged together a few times,its always a good punk night.
What was it like to record your second album Brave New Anger in 2013 after such a long recording gap?
I had been writing these songs at home over the last few years , so I guess there was a lot of anger and frustration in most of the lyrics.So by the time we all bought it to the studio as a unit, my part was probably easier than for the rest of the lads I knew what I wanted to do and how I wanted it to sound .
The aim was not to lose the old straps sound and to update to current subjects which I feel we managed to achieve . Phil is a top guitarist and a real pleasure to write with and has a real understanding of arrangements, something I lack in as I don't read music I just play .
We were also very fortunate in having Pat Collier (Ex Vibrators) on the desk ,he is a top punk producer, who I will work with again im sure.The Straps don't release much but when we do we make sure its high in punk quality.
Our first album for instance was basically recorded live in a recording studio, but again we had a top engineer he was the guy who worked of the Stranglers first album.Its very important to get that mix right otherwise don't bother.
Are you ok with people recording your shows and the front row filled with people holding up phones?
Its always nice to see your band at work on youtube but its fucking irritating when your watching a band and some cunt sticks a phone in front of your face blocking your view. Its a tough call ,in many ways its killing events ,because a lot of people don't go out anymore when they know that they can view it usually online.Its easier than making the effort to get out and watch bands live sadly.
Any Venue that you would have liked to have played but as of yet have not?
Sadly we never made it out of the UK which has always baffled me. So Europe and the USA would be nice, I think we have played all the major UK gigs ,I miss some of the venues which are all disappearing slowly gawd elp us guv.
Using Facebook you have a large following do you see the crowds getting bigger due to this?
Yes the internet is a great tool for promotion I think if we had had it back in the early days the Straps would have been up there with the bigger punk bands. Now you can have a demo sent to a promoter or a record company in minutes , back then it was telephone boxes and waiting weeks for a reply that's if you were lucky enough to get one. The same applies with gigs ,you can advertise more easily .So yes it has its obvious advantages. My Punks reunited page on facebook is very popular more so than the Band page because we don't do much as we would like to do.
On your facebook page I see a lot of posts "is this punk" etc What do you think of those type of posts?
Yes it annoys the fuck out of me at times. If your unsure what punk in 2015 then where have you been?
Be yourself ,challenge injustice and stand up for the underdog ,oh and looks as cool as you can we were all a bunch of posers haha .Its always been about that for me (not the posing) .As Mr Lydon said once rules are for fools. mostly I'm with that theory.
Will there be a documentary or book on the Straps?
Who knows,maybe one day we will get the recognition we deserve the band has a lot of important punk history. I started to write a book back in 2007 and got 3/4 of it done but got writers block and just abandoned the idea but I am tempted as we approach 40 years of punk and 38 years of straps to get it finished and out there .
A documentary would be great as ive said many stories and connections with big punk names have been involved with the band . Its a huge piece of punk history that the public are missing out on. It does get very tiresome reading about the same old fuckers , especially as most of them were only around a short time.
I'm afraid too many great bands like Wire,The Adverts ,Uk Subs, Vibrators and indeed The Straps get pushed to the back of the big 4 as I call them.
When you see a TV documentary its usually about the Pistols ,Clash, Damned or Buzzcocks.Yawn what else is there to learn about them?
Any gigs lined up?
Nope. Promoters would rather put on tribute acts these days, or get shit bands who will be more than happy to play for free Rebellion fest will probably be our next gig which is many months away
I actually don't gave a fuck about playing live anymore. It’s just not worth the aggro trying to get costs covered.
By promoters playing safe with shit s bands or tribute acts, they are killing the scene and people are missing original material so its they’re loss not ours.
Any tips or advice you could pass on to new upcoming groups?
Aye don't get into a band to make money, you won’t make any ,Do it for your own enjoyment and fuck the critics, not literally of course.
Do as I have done set up a band page as I have did with Punks Reunited and The Straps on Facebook ,its your best hope for a new audience it also keeps your fans happy after all they are the most important part of your career aren’t they.
Cheers Jock for the interview and good luck for the future mate.
The current line up for The Straps is Jock Vocals, Phil McDermot Lead Guitar,Paul Rogers Bass Guitar, Dave Reeves & Bill Gaynor Rhythm Guitars ,Pete Davies Drums & Jon Millar Keyboards
THE LAST PUNK IN TOWN? INTERVIEW WITH SPIZZ OF SPIZZENERGI
Smash it up caught up with Spizz in his favourite pub in South London the Lord Clyde.
Do we get free beer for the plug Spizz?
SIU – Where did you grow up?
Spizz – I grew up on the edge of Birmingham a place called Solihull. Then we moved further away from the city to a little village called Dorridge. So I grew up with country side over here and Birmingham over there. We used to cycle to Stratford and Warwick when we were kids and we used to cycle along the Canals and muck about in Hay barns.
When I was older I started getting into music I had two older brothers who were buying music, you know, Hendricks, Motown etc. One brother was more into Rock the other was into everything Soul/Rock. Then I started buying my own records and listening to the radio, just general pop music. Until I heard David Bowie. I was on holiday with the family at the sea-side listening to the radio on the beach and Starman came on, I thought this is great. I got home put on Top of the Pops the following week. Then there was the famous Bowie /Ronson appearance and they looked WOW!!, then Roxy music came on. It all happened at the same time, and it was the start if the 3 minute rock songs that I liked. I then went to Art College as I was good at drawing. I though great as I was reading the music papers and lots of people who went to Art College ended up in bands such as David Bowie, john Lennon Ray Davies etc., it was a hot bed of musicians the bass player from the swell maps had his desk next to mine.
SIU – Did you always want to be a musician?
Spizz – I wanted to be an actor, but when I saw Bowie I thought that was a bit more interesting.
I got to see David Bowie which was my first ever rock concert. I used to play guitar in my room and you think it does not sound like the record. I saw The Clash well I saw a few punk bands but The Clash I thought yes I want to do that. I thought you can do it, one month later I did my first public performance. I had no songs I blagged my way on it was a punk festival in Birmingham August 29 1977. There was about a 1000 punks there. I got a connection with the crowd but not the promoter who switched me off after 5 minutes. I did whip up the crowd by chanting I am being switched off, they responded with his being switched off. When I came off the crowd carried me back on stage.
I thought I am having some of this, and the DJ was managing the band I borrowed the guitar from. He got me another gig. I saw Pete driving a bashed up car and said you have a guitar don’t you, so I went around his bed sit. We wrote 4 songs there and then. So we did them and some covers played the Vortex Club and got booked again and again and we got paid 25 quid. I had a tape of The clash Complete Control and City of the Dead and we played it nonstop all the way back.
SUI – The Clash were a big influence then?
Spizz – Yes and the promotor who unplugged me asked me to work for him at Barbarella’s Nightclub Birmingham.
I was the office/ run around boy I was in an office with all these old Sex Pistols tickets. Bernie Rhodes from The Clash would call up often and want to talk with Dave. I got involved with helping out carrying the equipment in and out and did that for a couple of Clash gigs we got paid and also had as much beer as we could find. I got to meet Ray Gange who is now a mate there. So The Clash are the reas
SIU – Were your early gigs easy to organise?
Spizz – After the Vortex gig, which took over from the Roxy the organiser Dave Woods who eventually became our manager. I used to phone him every week looking for gigs. It was also just after the Banshees gig at the roundhouse on July 23rd 1978. It was around the time the skinhead gangs were getting bigger, with lots of friction. So at the roundhouse there was 200 hostile people at the front the first band on were Rat Scabies White Cats, they got through relatively unscathed. Then on came The Shirts a sort of American Blondie type band. They lasted 3 songs. Then it was us, I thought sod it and insulted them left right and centre, I put my shirt over my head and said your spitting is not hitting. We had great reviews from the three music papers and a standing ovation we did an encore. From that we got the John Peel session and then the Rough Trade record deal. Then the Siouxsie tour in the autumn.
SIU – The later Banshee’s tour in 1979 where they split half way through did that disrupt you?
Spizz – I think we got added after the split, the poor boys from The Cure playing there set then joining the Banshees to fill in for the members who left, they must have been shattered. Some dates were cancelled about a week after the split.
SIU – You have a lot of name changes such as Spizz Athletico 80, Spizz Oil,The Spizzles etc.
Spizz – lol yes I change every year I did write to the Guinness book of records but they told me in a letter from the Deputy Editor saying it was too specialised, lol too specialised!! They have people in there sawing up motor bikes and eating it, how more specialised can you get?. So I did not get in, but the deputy editor did say “oh and by the way I brought your record “where’s Captain Kirk” lol. I now use the name depending on the show. If it’s the whole band its one name if it’s just me and the guitarist it’s another. I have some fans in Milan who know the songs so sometimes they support me, it’s how Chuck Berry used to do it.
SIU – It’s a different world now with the internet and social media isn’t it?
Spizz – I was meant for this era. I mean the speed of things now, I used to turn up to do a show and the poster would be the old name. I still do flyers in a run up to the show if the promoter prints them. Otherwise I use the social media sites. Its better engaging with people handing out leaflets there is more chance of them coming to the show. Going back to The Clash I did the On Parole tour a can of beer bucket of paste lol posters in the back of the van. We drove over the country putting up the posters and the poster wars broke out. Other promotors became hostile as you often went over their posters. Lucky we never met up but there are some instances of fisticuffs.
Camden and Westminster Council then brought out new rules and they would do the venue if there were posters put up illegally. Of course then the venues would fine you, it was £1000.
SIU – How do you feel if people turn up and just video your shows on their Iphones/iPad etc. as some musicians don’t like it.
Spizz – I have not had many film me with I pads but lots with Iphones, I am happy for anyone to film me. If you’re going to take pictures please use flash as it lights up the stage and clothing. If they want to film with I pads I would prefer them to be nearer the back. In the old days you would get thrown out if you had a camera or a tape recorder. No rules at all on I phones they cannot throw everyone out lol. The industry has changed as soon as you release a record its bootlegged downloaded and copied, sol the way is to do shows put the bums on seats and sell t-shirts mugs etc.
SIU – You have played many venues are there any that have gone that you miss?
Spizz – The Marquee in Wardour Street, I used to hang out in there like I did in the 12 bar Club recently. Now that’s gone well they moved it but it won’t be the same. It used to be great you would be in the 100 club until they turfed you out then you head to the 12 bar. Filthy Mc Nasty’s is another I played there so did Glen Matlock from The Sex Pistols, there have been book launches there etc. The Marquee was the best I used to hang out there regardless who was on. The bar with the glass screen so it was a little quieter so you could talk. It was brilliant I am on face book with Nigel who used to be the manager in my hay day period. In 1979 we had a guitarist who was so overwhelmed he was on the stage stage as Ronson and Bowie he hid behind the cabs. Lol I played there for my birthday gig, it was 95 degrees when we had about a foot and half of snow it was -8 degrees lol about 8 men and a dog turned up lol. I stopped doing the birthday party after that.
SIU – Do you mind bootlegs?
Spizz – As a Bowie fan my mate got the Santa Monica Bowie bootleg, How do you get a pressing plant to make the LPs it’s hard enough to make them legally with all the forms you have to fill in. I was lent that and the Hammersmith gig one, I was so excited. They cost twenty quid, lots of money back then. YouTube I am still waiting for my 50p check for the views it so miniscule what they give you. I love live music I buy live music albums, sometime they are not that good but they are different. I just love live music, when the Sex Pistols played Brixton I was in the mosh pit but only lasted about 5 songs. It was mad it was like a cement mixer of human kind, I think Holidays in the Sun was the one that finished me off.
SIU – How did your tour with Spear of Destiny go?
Spizz – Could not have gone any better. Kirk Brandon was in Theatre of Hate the night he changed the name to spear of Destiny he was supporting me at the Marquee. He is a nice bloke we bumped into each other over the years we get on, I got this offer out of the blue, do you want to tour as support I said yes why not. We did not stay in hotels we had a bus a big one. It had 14 births we were the 3rd tour to use it. Alison Moyet and Lulu before us. If you check into a hotel sometimes your there less than 4 hours if you have a long journey next day. The coach was lovely the tour was well organised, got paid no worries. It was the least stressful 5 nights I have ever done in my life. I had not done 5 nights in row since 1987. It was great we all got on, looking forward to the next one with them. He tours all the time with one of his two bands. 3 of the 5 shows were sold out, the London one was jammed packed. Parties on the bus, the unwritten rule was to take all the drink from the venue lol!!
SIU – Are the artists treated better by venues now?
Spizz – it depends, this tour was good. In Europe it’s always super. Not all venues are set up to look after you, it depends on the promotor really. In Europe nine times out of ten its better, food is arranged beer is arranged.
SIU – Any gigs you have done that really stand out?
Spizz – they are all good for various reasons but the pivotal gig I did which was a punk festival then the Souxsie show which got us the Rough Trade deal. In the early days we used to go down well in Scotland and Germany, then we did not go down so well, we did Berlin a while ago and it was great it just comes and goes.
SIU – Do you find song writing easy?
Spizz – well I wrote Captain Kirk in my head on the bus on the way home from rehearsal. I did not have a pen or paper but I kept singing it until I got home, so that was easy. Some take an age. I cannot just write a song like Andrew Lloyd Webber I have to be angry or passionate about the subject matter. It’s normally lyrics first tune later. I am not schooled in writing I just go with the flow.
SIU – What do you to relax away from music and art?
Spizz – Well I used to play football until January this year when my knees decided to pack up. I cannot risk getting injured I don’t want to hobble onto the stage. So I used to leave a week between football and a gig. I used to play number 9 a goal scorer. I support Aston Villa. I support a team I was born near. they turned the tap off at villa he want to sell, no one wants to buy.
SIU – Do you like living in South London?
Spizz – I moved here in 1987 from North London, and fell in love with it, I like the South side. I have lived in my current place since 1996, it’s a terrific area and full of great pubs.
SIU – What would have done if you had not got into music?
Spizz – I thought about that and I think it would have been graphic design. Or advertising if punk had not come along, I may have been rich but would not have the stories I can you today.
SIU – Any advice for upcoming bands?
Spizz – Don’t be ahead of your time. Don’t follow the crowd and don’t try to be too clever lol.
SIU – Thanks for your time
PS-Spizz is now playing football again on a weekly basis
Interview with TV Smith
We caught up with TV Smith just before his show in Reading.
SIU – A few people we have interviewed have mentioned they are getting a little fed up with the front row of gigs just being people holding up Ipads/Iphones recording gigs.
TV – When I see people holding them up at gigs it just gets in the way of the people behind who cannot see and they cannot enjoy the gig, I don’t like that. They are just recording to watch later, but the thing about a live gig is its happening at the time. It’s the one thing we have got, no matter what the music industry does it’s the one thing we have going to a live gig. If you just going to stand there recording with your pad, your taking away the one thing we have left it’s a bit of a shame. As far as discreetly recording my shows I don’t mind as long as they are not getting in the way.
SIU – You grew up the West Country?
TV – Yes it was great for a 9 year old kid. I was born in Essex but we moved down to Devon when I was 9. It was brilliant loads of fields and air, trees animals the sea 30 miles away. It was a wonderful experience. However back then there were no real opportunities for music. It was hard to see a band, the nearest to me a band would play was 30 miles away. It’s hard to get to them then when your 16 no one has a car. Also back then they were often student union gigs and you had to get signed in it was the only way to get in. So even if you got a car found your way to the city there was no guarantee you would get into the gig. It was very frustrating, it was hard and it made you really value music. If you got in it was hard work so you would enjoy it what ever happens.
SIU – What are your early gig memories?
TV – Lots of gigs stood out. The first gigs were at the school some middle of the road groups. When I started choosing gigs to go to myself I went to the likes of Hawkwind, Focus, JohnCale. When I got a little older 17-18 it was things like Cockney Rebel, who I was very impressed with. There were not many bands who come our way so your choice was very restricted really. There were some bands that came again and again as they found a niche were they were supported well, I have found this as well with my shows. The best gig I ever saw was David Bowie in between his Ziggy &Aladdin period at Torquay town hall. It was a real mind blower to see that when you 16-17.
SIU – How did you get into early punk?
TV – Well there was not really a scene. You had the Ramones albums and you read a few things in the music press about this band the pistols who had done a gig and that was it you know. Me and Gaye moved up to London in the summer of 1976. There were not really any bands to see there were the Stranglers some thought they were not part of the punk scene I thought they were. The occasional gig from the Clash or the Pistols, stunning gigs but not enough to call it a scene. In retrospect that was the start of the scene but there was something in the air , I thought I had something to offer as did lots of other bands. The pivotal time was the 100 club punk festival in 1976, with the Damned and a few other bands. The Buzzcocks did an early show but there were very few bands at the start. More bands appeared and it got crystallised with the opening of the Roxy in 1977. It was a misnomer that I moved to London for the punk scene it was because I had a band and could get nowhere in the West Country with it. We had to move to London to get something going with it, its one of the drawback of living down that way.
SIU – How did the Adverts Form?
TV – Gaye wanted to learn bass, so I wrote the base lines to the songs I had written and then wrote the base lines to the songs I was writing. I then showed it to Gaye. That’s how she learnt, from playing Adverts songs as did I. We were in London a long time without any other members really. I was putting adverts in the music papers, we eventually found a guitarist through the small ads. He lived down the road from me which was handy. He also worked in a music shop which had a rehearsal room at the back. The three of used it for a couple of months as we still had no drummer, eventually Lorry who worked at the music complex said he will give it a go, he had never played drums before. The only professional musician was Howard on guitar.
SIU – Do you remember your first gig as the Adverts & were you nervous?
TV – Our first gig was at the Roxy the UK’s first punk rock club, but we did not know at the time I cannot remember being nervous, when you do your first gig you don’t know what to expect as you don’t know who your audience is. The reputation of the Roxy had not been formed so it was not wow we are playing the Roxy first. I remember the sound there was terrible we were fumbling around making mistakes but it was high energy and exciting. It was good to be finally out there in front of people after being in the rehearsal studio for months.
SIU – How did you feel after the first show?
TV – Well we did not think never again, we wanted to keep going. We were in it for the long run. I cannot recall one that really stands out. I am not someone for lists each gig has its own thing. We have had plenty of good ones and plenty of disasters.
SIU - Any favourite venues?
TV – I used to love the Roundhouse a fantastic venue. It’s been revamped now since the punk era. It had great sound a great stage, all the audience could see really well. I used to like going as a member of the audience. I saw the Ramones there for the first time. So to play there and get up on stage myself was a real big one.
SIU – I see you play the Marquee on Wardour Street a few times.
TV – That was a great venue a right old sweat hole. Great atmosphere there. Never the same when they moved it. The Marquee was a classic venue we went to see bands there before we played their ourselves. It was really nice to get up there and play. I remember seeing AD/DC at the Marquee in 76 and there was rows of chairs their 5 rows of chairs at the front. There were people sitting down, which was unbelievable, you saw it six months later with people going nuts and flying all over the place. AC/DC Playing and the first 5 rows are sitting down (laughter)
SIU – Why did the adverts split?
TV – Well that’s a big question, I think we just had enough, we were not getting on. People kept leaving or getting chucked out. We tried to do a second album which we thought and I did, it was an exciting step forward, and everyone hated it. We were not getting on, the line up kept changing, and we were too young. Not many people brought it and we were on a label that hated us. I still stand by that album I still rate it. The press hated us, it got some of the worst review I have ever seen. People believed it and stayed away from us, audiences were going down. We just thought whats the point anymore we aren’t enjoying it, we are not enjoying each others company, the audience are not enjoying us. We got to the point where you know the time had come, and it had come for the adverts.
SIU – Your next project was The Explorers?
TV – I had no intention of stopping, I was a song writer before and have no intention of stopping. I have been in bands since school. I knew the adverts had gone, and I was thinking what do I do next. It just so happened the Doctors of Madness had just broken up and the bassist was one of my all time favourites. So he had no band I said how about starting one with me. There were a few other people I was interested in they got involved and we had the next band. We went straight into the rehearsal studio weeks after the adverts split. I saw the writing on the wall and started thinking about the next thing. It was a case of history repeating its self, we had a bright beginning, and we nearly had a hit single with tomahawk, but then an album which flopped, tours that flopped. People did not come to the gigs; it was like the adverts all over again but in a shorter space of time. We had the same disappointment at the end and it was not worth carrying on. Cheap came after, I was writing recording demos with no one being interested at all. I played the odd gig with friends I was missing playing in a band and needed to do something about it. I spoke to a couple of friends who were up for it, getting those songs out there, We did not want money for it, it was get some cars go around the country get gigs were we can and just play and have fun. All the ideas of being a professional musician getting a label getting in charts all that had gone. I really did not care about that any more, I just wanted to do gigs and play in front of people.
SIU – Now you are solo?
TV – Yes now I am solo I am playing 130 gigs a year and making a living out of music. It seems bizarrely that but not trying to be successful I have become successful. It’s weird. I don’t have to bring much not even an amp I bring a guitar and merchandise.
SIU – Travel light then?
TV – (Laughter) it’s not light its 23 kilos (laughter) it’s not light at all, I hope its lighter when I leave. You know I am not only the musician I am also the record shop. I am also the label, you know of the record industry is not interested I will do it myself and I will take the shop with me. I make the records I pay for them, I book the gigs I do it all myself and I like it; I like not having those horrible people from the music business involved. I only work with nice people now and do the rest myself. I work with the local gig bookers like tonight, I do have a UK agent who gets me a few but mainly I deal direct. By taking the shop with me I won’t be selling millions like the big bands but I don’t care. People can by through the web site as not everyone can get to a gig or they may just be curious. You buy from the web site; I put it in the jiffy bag write the address myself and take to the post office. It gives a connecting with me as the artists to the people who want to hear my music.
SIU – Any more books in the pipeline?
TV – No I am actually stopping the books. At least for now as I did not have time. Its very labour intensive writing up those tours. I cherry picked the most interesting for the first four books. Part five I decided to write up every gig of the year in 2013. I did not know I would be doing 130+ gigs that year, but once I had set my mind I was stuck with it. It was a nightmare really as I had no free time as, as soon as one gig finished I had to write in fairly detailed note form what I wanted to write, before the next gig. Sometime I was in the airport writing down what had happened whilst on the way to the next gig. I just thought this is going to drive me mad it’s just too much. So I decided to give the books a break for now. There are five books out there, once someone has read all five I think about doing another (laughter).
SIU – Have you reached out to new set of fans?
TV – Yes defiantly its not just 58 year olds there are kids too, I see three generations of people at the gig which is a brilliant feeling. I get good feedback from them, and they come again. My strategy is to play so often they cannot avoid me (laughter). My heartland is Western Europe Britain and Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Scandinavia I play often. Every now and again I will go outside of my heartland and do Japan or Argentina which is great to get new experiences and meet new people. Travel really does open your eyes and mind the different cultures and the people you meet your get a better world view. There are some great places and some places I never want to visit again. Part of the last tour diary’s I wrote was about my first and last visit to Russia. That is an experience I will never repeat, I don’t regret doing it, but there’s no need to punish myself again. I have been there and seen what certain aspects of the country looks like and that will do for me thank you. I want to go back to my comfort zone now thank you. Moscow is stunning but then there is the rest. Red square and the church are stunning it’s just jaw dropping. Go as a tourist. It’s like everywhere else in the music industry there 2 percent have it good the rest it’s just rubbish.
SIU – Any new bands that catch your eye?
TV – Yes I see my support bands as I am too busy to go to gigs. There is lots of good stuff out there but again like me when I started how do you get your self-known or noticed. I still think you have to get out there get in front of people. You tube I wish that that was around earlier for my early stuff. It’s a way to do it; put up a video do lots of gigs let people know it there. You have to work hard to get yourself an audience. It’s great no record companies involved, they can all go away and die. I like the DIY you make your own decisions decide what you want to do. It’s the punk ethic it turns out what we were saying was right. It’s about the music too many people got detracted by the fame. You see the results now of people thinking it’s about fame; things like the voice, the music industry just want entertainers. We were writing songs that said something and they just wanted to turn us all into entertainers even back then in the punk days.
Thanks Tim for spending the time with us, and we are looking forward to the show tonight.
Interview with Dave Barbarossa
Please tell us about your career so far starting with your first two bands Adam and the Ants and Bow Wow Wow.
I joined Adam in 1977, unrehearsed, we did loads of gigs in the early punk rock scene. It was the most fantastic initiation. I went on to record Adams first album 'Dirk Wears White Sox'. the man is a musical genius. After that, Bow Wow Wow, which was a very different thing to Adam in as much I was writing with the boys and it was my band. Played for Republica, Beats International, Chicane…loads of bands. Currently have my own band again, 'Cauldronated'
Here's a solo thing/ very drummy;
I've just started teaching the drums and find it really rewarding. Whodda thought it?!?!
What influenced you do adopt the tribal drumming style with both bands?
Adam asked Malcolm Maclaren to direct a video for him. Malcolm took a shine to The Ants (of which I was one) and offered us the opportunity be 'our own band' (eventually, Bow Wow Wow). I'd been with Adam over three years - it was time for a change. Malcolm said I had the ability to 'lead the band' and exposed me to a lot of world music, I recorded a load of beats, Adam had a copy…and so did I.
Did it annoy you that other groups such as Pil,The Cult and Killing Joke adopted this style too?
No, I'm humbled and flattered. None of us own anything in life.
Where you pleased with the success of Republica in the 90's?
Yes, delighted. They gave me a job.
What have you learned from the music industry in general?
That it is an industry, like any other. People gotta eat etc. I'm not a business man…thin though, ha ha.
Favourite UK/US Venue (old and new)
Blimey….erm….there's loads. Loved the Lyceum in The Strand - used to be punk gigs there all the time - you wouldn't think it now.
The States; Cow Palace in SF, Roxy in L.A….Radio City in NY. Such a huge country - brilliant place to play.
They are all good when they clap mate.
Most memorable show UK/US?
They wouldn't be memorable if I could remember them.
Show that meant the most to you?
They all mean a lot. Even now, the satisfaction of giving it everything and being appreciated cannot be beaten.
What do you do outside of music?
I write, watch football and try and be nice to my fellow bipeds.
Where do you live, what do you like about the area
What will the future hold?
I'm a Londoner born and bred. Don't want to live anywhere else.
Dunno about the future.
Any tips for new start up groups?
Play with passion and do not compromise…that way lies mediocrity and bafflement in old age.
Do you hang about with anyone from the industry?
Not really, no. They are business people. I'm hopeless at that.
Any gigs planned?
Cauldronated are playing The Stillery in Camden 29th May. Watch my Facebook page for info 'Dave Barbarossa' . I'm out and about with various projects all the time.
Any records planned?
Cauldronated will have a new release on Hottwerk records at the end of April. The track is 'The Ring of Khan'
Any books planned?
'Mud Sharks' my novel, is with a new publisher and out now;
Where did you grow up, what was it like?
I grew up in Hackney in London; It was a great place then, still is…loooong time ago.
Is the place still standing?
I'm listening to the news as I type…yes. Phew!
Has your musical listening tastes changed over the years?
No, I like everything. Never been into one genre particularly. I think musicians need to embrace all kinds of playing, styles and sounds.
What did you start out listening to?
Lullabies initially, my dad's latin american records, then chart music, then everything I could get my ears around. Still fascinated by it.
What do you listen to now?
After the good news that my birthplace is still standing, I'll go for Lucia Popp singing Motzart on this bright sunny morning.
Have you reached out to a new audience?
I think so over the years. I've been very lucky. People like what I do.
Have the backstage areas of the venues improved?
No. My career is in reverse. After a few years with Adam playing dives, I went onto a rather lavish life touring the world like a big shot…back to earth with a bump now.
And rituals before you go on stage?
After the trail, I've knocked that shit on the head.
Anyone you would like to meet?
Dunno, exciting thought though.
Many thanks for doing the interview today.
An absolute pleasure Ian.
Interview with Will Crewsdon
Smash it up caught up with the very busy Will Crewdson currently touring with The Selector.
Wills other day jobs are guitarist with Adam Ant, Flesh for Lulu, and his own projects, She Made Me Do It & Scant Regard.
SIU – Where did you grow up?
Will- Hampton South West London, suburbia it did not feel like London it was a like a type of different planet. I started going to gigs actually in London Hammersmith etc, it seemed to be a bit more exciting than Hampton (laughter).
Siu – When did you move away from Hampton?
Will – When I was about 17, I have lived all over London really. I lived around Hampton, Teddington, Shepherds Bush I lived for a few years. I lived in South East London Catford, New Cross. Then North London, Kings Cross and now Holloway. I like this area its call, there are lots of stuff moving in around here. The 12 bar is just down the road. It seems a lot of the old West end venues are moving around here.
SIU- What gigs did you go to?
Will – Flesh for Lulu was one of the early bands I used to follow, there was Boys Wonder and Lightning Strike those types of bands. The first gig I went to was Adam Ant on the Prince Charming tour. Then got into the more rocky bands. I went to the Marquee down Wardour street a few times before they moved it. There was quite a good wide selection of bands at that point, Pocket Rockets and Flesh for Lulu were a great rock band.
SIU – What inspired you to pick up an instrument?
Will - I had lessons when I was 9 before I saw any bands. I did classical guitar. I didn’t really enjoy it but thought it would be a good grounding for my own music, and it was I still use bits of it now. I love my Teisco which is Japanese and twangy but not suitable for everything sometimes you need a big rock sound.
SIU- You’re busy at the moment on tour with The Selector?
Will – This is the last week of the Selector tour, but there are lots of festivals over the summer with Selector. It’s good I am really enjoying it, I joined them about a month ago everyone is cool Pauline Black is great and they are really great musicians. I have the Ants tour coming up they are doing the Dirk Wears White Sox stuff, we start rehearsing next week. It’s going to be great, the last gigs we did at Islington with Adam where the best gigs I have done with him, everything really clicked.
SIU – You were in Rachel Stamp was it your first band.
Will – No but it was the first band that did anything. The first band was Jet Pac with a friend we were trying to be a bit Pocket Rockets, Westworld and Transvision Vamp. We just wanted to do that beat box rock and roll with our take on it, that is what Jet Pac was. We did about six gigs and he still have the tapes so they may end up on you tube at some point (laughter) god help us. I played bass with Westworld for a while.
SIU – Are you rehearsing in London?
Will – With Selector we are rehearsing in Northampton. Pauline and some of the band are based in Coventry so we rehearse in Northampton. The Ants will be in London as the whole band live there. It’s going to be great, some of the new stuff is amazing. The new old stuff. Some of the songs he has not played for years.
SIU – Have you anything lined up with She Made Me Do It?
Will – we have a festival lined up in Dorset at the end of May. Called Alice’s Wicked Tea Party. It’s the first time they have done it and they have lots of wicked bands lined up. We are looking for an agent really, we would like to do a proper tour. We played Poland earlier and it was the first time we really did a string of dates. I thought we improved and went up a level. We did a gig in London after that and I thought it was our best gig, we really went up a level. I want to do more, but I am on tour now until the end of May. These days you can release an album and keep it going for a bit, you don’t have to play the week of release.
SIU – With Face book etc it’s easier to advertise now.
Will – Yeah exactly yeah. I pretty much do it all though this being on tour so much.
SIU – With Scant Regard is there anything there coming up?
Will – Just finishing the 3rd album. I will properly play some gigs when that comes out again that’s developing I feel it’s getting better and better. That’s the whole thing with me, if I think something is getting stale I will just stop it. Scant Regard I am quite proud of it as its all my own, I started it and I can just turn up anywhere with my guitar and play. You have to see it live to get the full effect. We did a few gigs in Germany a couple of years ago that were really good. I would like to do more shows in the north but it’s hard really to break even.
Siu – Being very busy does it cause any problem?
Will – Nothing much has clashed yet. Just been lucky I suppose (laughter) Learning all the songs the more you do them the more you retain, I do have to work hard on it. You feel you have learned something and the next day it’s all gone. All the bands I work with are quite distinctive and I don’t have any problems with remembering which one I am in at any time. Luckily they all let me wear what I want, that’s the main thing the common thread. You get into the mode and become a part of that band.
SIU – How do you release the records?
Will – We have our own label, and with She made me do it we have distribution through Cargo. Which means it’s in the shops. Not that there are many shops left to sell it through. You can put it on ITunes which is what I do with Scant Regard. Scant Regard CDs sell better at gigs as its so home grown and organic, people come and like it. Even though it’s great with the internet it’s still hard to get people’s attention enough for them to click on something and listen to 3 minutes. You might have a song that really does not get started for a minute and people will click off as they see something else. But then I will put a photo of my cat up and get 1000 likes. That’s why I like playing live its real you cannot fake it and instant you can see people’s reactions.
SIU – Your first ever gig, was you nervous or pumped up?
Will – Oh I was really nervous really nervous I think I nearly broke out in hives. I was eighteen or something it was a really big deal. We had an audience there I got a little fed back and a taste of what it’s like. Then you’re just hooked.
SIU – Do have any rituals before you go on stage.
Will – no nothing set really. On the last Adam Ant tour we used to listen to Chas and Dave before we went on stage. For some reason, I have no idea how that helps. It’s not really a ritual more of a nasty habit. Obviously it helped the performance.
SIU – Have you had any disasters on stage?
Will – I have been breaking a lot more strings with Selector as its quite intense and a long set., but you just carry on to end of the song then pick up the other guitar. One of the last she made me do it gigs my guitar did not work for the whole of the first song. I was fiddling with stuff and just let Shaheena sing as we use backing tracks. By the second song the guitar kicked in and it was fine. There is always technical stuff but surprisingly none recently.
SIU – Of the gigs you have done have any stood out.
Will – Yes some shows you do, you get a buzz from them all but I know what you mean a sort of uber buzz, you do but you forget them until the next one. Then when it happens again it’s like that was the best gig I have ever done. In reality is because you cannot remember the time it happened. This selector tour each gig is getting better, it’s like it’s going up in degrees. So that can happen as well. The last time I played with Sigue Sigue Sputnik that was pretty amazing. It’s always great always a great atmosphere at those gigs.
SIU – And the worst gig?
Will – well when there is no one there. (Laughter) which has happened. You have the choice of going home or playing, I would always rather play. But you are obviously just playing to yourself. It’s weird but you have to see and treat it as a rehearsal. Maybe try a song you have never tried before as no one is going to hear it.
SIU – Any place where you’re always going to get a good crowd?
Will – The best Scant Regard gig I did was in Berlin really. Everyone was up for it, the club was really full it was just perfect. When you get a good crowd it just eggs you on and you feel more powerful. With the big bands you’re more likely to get great reactions where ever you go, so it’s more an internal thing, if you’re in a bad mood. The music normally lifts you above that. Even if you’re in a bad mood at the start by the middle something has clicked.
SIU – Have you any favourite Venues.
Will – I used to love playing the 12 bar. I used to love playing there with my solo Scant Regard as it’s a small stage and the crowd are right in front of you. It’s a shame, are they still squatting in there? I have been to the new one but not seen a band there, it looks cool in there. I might try and get a gig there. Apart from that White Trash in Berlin that’s a great venue and one of my best gigs.
SIU – When you were younger what were your music influences.
Will – The Ants were the first group I saw, before that I listened to Depeche Mode, they were a big influence and also one of the first bands I saw. The post punk period properly influenced me more than I thought it had. It was a magical period when you look back on it, it was sort of unattainable. I still listen to a lot of bands that come out of that like XTC, like what you would class as new wave, like talking heads, it may have still been magical to me if I had been old enough to have seen these bands, but not seeing them add some mystic. It did influence the way I write music, I listen to a lot of electronic music, I don’t really listen to that much guitar music. The model I do live is a great melody it could have been written by the Beatles it’s just an amazing melody. To me Kraftwork are great and that melody just works great solo.
SIU – How do you find touring?
Will – Well sometimes when you have to pack your own stuff away (laughter), especially after you have done a few hot sweaty gigs in a row, you think sod this. You have to take the rough with the smooth you cannot complain. There are so many good points and it’s what I want to do. Playing live is the best part of it for me. I love tour buses I sleep better on them (laughter) than I do at home, you’re in your own little coffin with no distractions. It does however take it out of you. I tour a lot it’s crept on me really all of a sudden it’s like I’m in 10 bands. I was in Rachel Stamp for 10 years I gave it my all and it just seemed the right thing to do after that. I was proud of what we did with Rachel Stamp but thought now I need the verity. I always wanted to do something on my own but it took a while to get the courage as I am the front man.
SIU – What was the idea behind it?
Will – At that point I was a bit fed up of playing in bands. I had a lot of stuff recorded already and thought it was the right time. The name is just me not caring about anything else really. It’s very selfish (laughter).
SIU – On the she made me do it LP you have just released what is the story behind it?
Will – some Kraftwork influences, but really we are just trying to write decent chords and riffs to just make them good songs. In our style. We write the songs together sometime Shaheena will have a synth line or some lyrics or a base line that will dictate the whole song. I will then just play over it. Other time I will have the seeds of the song. We just bounce of each other.
SIU – Have you a favourite track on the LP?
Will – I think Fantascopic is my favourite as it’s the first track that really clicked. It came together really easy it’s just a simple song. All the simple elements work together.
SIU – Has your music tastes changed, has the music you listen to changed since your younger days?
Will – I am listening to a bit of Ska now as it’s around me. I do listen to a lot of old stuff I have to say. It’s great when you discover a band you have not really listened to from the past as well. There is so much to be discovered. I do like pop music and I really like the new Madonna album. There is a band called TSOL which I have been listening to a lot. They are like an LA punk band, they have taken lots of influences from British punk and they have done it really well.
SIU – Any new up and coming bands you like?
Will – Well I seem to listen to old stuff and new stuff from old bands. I like Pussycat and the Dirty Johnson’s who supported Flesh, she is a great front woman. She seems to have all the right influences.
SIU – Anyone you would like to meet who you haven’t yet?
Will – Well that could go either way sometime people are not what you expect them to be and also the circumstances you meet might not be ideal. I think I have met everyone pretty much that I wanted to. I have properly worked with them too (laughter). I would like to meet Kris Kristofferson, he is an actor and musician and I love his songs. He seems like a nice guy and would not disappoint you. Prince I would like to meet Prince. I would not even care if he was a total bastard, because I would expect that (laughter). I think he is the last of the true showman. I love the way he gets up people noses, to me that’s as punk as anything. Even now he does these pop up gigs in London which is great. There should be more people in his position who just turn up at a club plug in and play. He is one of my favourite guitarists as well. It was like that when I first met Adam he would ring up and we would do a gig no set list. A great experience and luckily I knew the songs in my head.
SIU – What will the future hold for you?
Will – It’s quite organic if things come up they come up. I would like to go back to America and tour. I don’t naturally enjoy producing so not that. As was in one band for so long now everything seems fresh and new. I have the Ants tour, and in June some Sigue Sigue Sputnik dates.
SIU – When you’re not working what do you do?
Will – Hang out with my girlfriend and my cat, but I don’t feel is work so I am always working on songs, art work planning gigs. The only time I really stop is when I visit my parents in Scotland. I was there a few weeks ago. I don’t really relax at home. I don’t have a TV.
SIU- Any potential bands that read this and tips for them?
Will – Practise loads. Make it look like you’re not even thinking. The only way to do that is by keep going over it practicing lots.
SIU would like to thank Will for the time spend with us today.
Tea, Coffee & Blancmange An interview with Neil Arthur
SIU-What made you and Stephen Luscombe want to reform and record a new album together back in 2010?
NA-Well we both said yes at the same time. It had been brooked several times over the decades and neither of us wanted to do it and then, at this point in 2010 it was, I saw and spoke to Stephen a lot and said “I’ve got these songs, do you want to come and listen to them” and he said yes. Funnily enough the first song that we did didn’t go on the album, it’s a song called ‘Come on Now’ and we just ended up recording it and it may well come out at a future date.
We ended up with all these songs and seemed to be enjoying what we were doing and we finished enough to have an album and got some artwork together with the help of our old manager and he introduced us to the record company and we took a completed work in.
It wasn’t like the old days when you took a demo in and said what do you think, we took a completed work in and said “that’s it” and they were happy and we were blown away. It’s a different world now. So we took a completed album in and did a licensing deal with them and that was a number of years ago now.
NA- I have this other project that I do with a friend of mine called Brian Warner it’s called AWP One and sometimes Pandish Danesh comes and plays percussion with us and other friends. So I had this song which I had been faffing around with and we just tinkered with it there, it was a song that was about this idea of being on a beach in the moonlight but it was pretty dark lyrically (no pun intended) It was about somebody who was seeing it from the afterlife but they were beyond living, so they were reflecting on what had happened from this spirit or whatever you want to believe. Then I was just faffing around with it one day and this idea came into my head for changing it completely and I remembered I used to go this club with friends and with my girlfriend. We used to see lots of bands, it was called the Moonlight Club and it was in West Hampstead, so the whole premise of the song took me on a different journey so it’s based around a partly fictional partly true story. I got to the chorus and then I thought what would the person in this desperate state listen to? What would be our default music when I used to go there and it was the Witch Trials and the Fall so that’s where I got the chorus ‘no more no less’ and it just worked. It worked for me when I was singing it so I thought let’s get it recorded, not thinking I’d be asked lots of questions about that song. With regard to Mark E Smith, we actually wrote to each other a few times and he was very supportive before we got a record deal, and I think he was to many people. I still like the Fall. I’ve met Mark a couple of times in person and he has been different each time I met him which is good.
SIU-Where you both pleased with the positive critical reaction to that album Blanc Burn?
NA-It did get good reviews. The thing is I say I think it got good reviews, I don’t read them so I just get on with doing the music, you just do the best you can and that’s it really. I have a manager who sometimes says have a look at that one. But in general, no I don’t. I don’t write with someone else in mind, you have to be honest to yourself and if someone else likes or doesn’t like it there’s nothing you can do about it.SIU-What was it like touring again in 2011 after such a long hiatus?
NA-We toured in 2011, we had a good tour with the Blank Burn album and I went out with Dinesh and Graham Henderson, who I’ve been working with for years on film music and Graham and I worked together on my solo album in the early 90’s called Suitcase. When we went out then, obviously that was a strange one because I hadn’t been out with Blancmange since stepping off stage at the Royal Albert Hall in 1986. So there was a little bit of a gap, 26 years, but we enjoyed it. It was a little bit like stepping into the unknown but the crowds liked it and since then we have done several tours. Like I said in 2013 we went out with the re-imagined Happy Families Too album and that went down well and then more recently we just did a tour with our old mates Heaven 17.
I’m not going to tour with this one, I’m just going do the new album Semi-Detached. We are doing two shows at the Red Gallery in London. We are going to do a Friday and a Saturday night there on May 15th & 16th to launch the album and also do some of the older less played pieces and some very very old pieces, we’ll see, it’s going to be quite a journey for us and the audience.
David Rhodes (Kate Bush,Peter Gabriel) is going to come and play guitar and we will have visuals too and I’ll be doing some yodelling and possibly might get the banjo out and who knows.
SIU-Is the new album Semi-Detached radically different from Blanc-Burn?
NA-Yes, I think it is quite different, we don’t have a formula so wouldn’t like to repeat what we have done before anyway, but yes I think it’s very different. Having said that there are some structured songs in there and hopefully some strong melodies too.
SIU-Please tell us about the old days, what made you want to form an Electro pop duo in the first place?
NA-I was at Art College, Stephen had a mate at Art College called Robert, and I was involved in a punk band called The View Finders. We played at college and in people’s bedrooms and at parties and we were this group of non musicians who made a lot of noise. Stephen was involved in a similar band that did experimental music and we shared more of an interest in electronic music and experimental music particularly and so we just started making sounds,noises & textures, stuff like that.
One day Stephen recorded me messing about singing “Lets all go to the Hop” or something like that,my voice was more in tune than his had ever been so I ended up singing and decided to write a few songs as opposed to experimental pieces with very little structure to them. I had seen a band called “The Young Marble Giants” so I went off and wrote embryonic/proto versions of songs such as "Waves I Can’t Explain, I’ve Seen the Word" and took these along to Stephen and we worked them out together.
We both thought that would be as far as it went but I left college and Stephen was working as a designer in a print and Graphics Company and I went into working with graphics so music became part time for us.
It just kind of happened in small stages by just meeting people and opportunities arose from there.
The thing is we tended to say yes to stuff and ended up supporting Grace Jones on tour and on the Some Bizarre album, Soft Cell’s manager Stevo was quite a larger than life character I can tell you.
SIU-How have things changed now compared to back then?
NA-Well technology is the big thing for us, the thing is Mark it’s easier because it’s easier to access but unless you have an idea in the first place it’s not worth turning the machine on.
My point is in the old days syncing up synths,tapes and sequencers was a very long and laborious process which took a great deal of patience and you would spend more time trying to get the technology working than you did being in that creative process but that was part and parcel of what we did.
SIU-I always enjoyed your somewhat lavish promo videos back in the day, which one was your favourite to make?
NA-I think it’s got to be when we went to Cairo to shoot the “Living on the Ceiling” video, it was great fun to make.
SIU-What was your favourite gig back in the 80’s?
I always enjoyed playing in Berlin, we had a really good time there and of course the Hammersmith Palais gig in 1984 would be up there too.
The London shows are always usually quite tense as there seems to be extra pressure from the record company to get a good gig review etc.
SIU-What made you both decide to call it a day back in 1986?
NA-We had become a little bit of a victim in the machine and I think it had stopped being fun for us too.
If you are not enjoying what you are doing what’s the point of doing it?
It was all getting very claustrophobic at the time with pressure from the record company to have another hit etc.
So we decided to save a friendship, which it did, and to call it a day.
SIU-We wish you all the best for your two London shows on 15 & 16th May and thank you very much for partaking in this interview today.
New album is out on Monday 23rd March,see link below.
Smash It Up caught up with Nick Marsh of Flesh for Lulu/Urban Voodoo Machine in East London
SIU – Remember the early days?
Nick – Yes we all used to say Charlie Harper was too old, and he was only 5 years older than us (laughter). I remember being in a band called The Washing Machines when I was about 17, we played a Mod show with Secret affair, The Cords and some other big names. It was in Stevenage at the Tirade. When I walked on stage I had a Mohawk up here and tartan bondage trousers (laughter) I thought we would be ok because I had this Rickenbacker guitar like Paul Weller uses. We got showered with bottles they were bouncing of the drums we lasted about 2 minutes (laughter).
SIU – The old Punk bands were great.
Nick – The Ants were brilliant, have you seen Adam recently?, Will the new guitarist plays for Adam. It was Wills idea to do Dirk Wears White Sox gigs, Harvey Bill is going to produce the live album.
SIU – The show at the Borderline was great a year or so ago.
Nick – Yes the new line up is great, I did have some trepidation about doing it without Rocco but I thought you know it’s my right it’s my band. There were a few people moaning it’s not the original line up, but at least it’s got the original singer. A lot of these reformed bands have not even got the original singer. You have least got to have the original singer. We are recording an EP as well. I have had some songs going around in my head and now its time.
SIU – What was the worst and best show you have ever done?
Nick – The worst was some club in the East End. Genesis P Orrige came backstage and said stick out your tongue you will like this. So I did and he put a tab on it. I took it had a swig of beer and went on stage. Twenty minutes into the set I was feeling queasy and giggling. By the end of the set I was hallucinating, giggling, crying. It was an ecstasy tab. I was tripping off my nut, it was horrible I did not know what was going on. Rocco was just standing there laughing at me. Mick Turner from Hawkwind was in the audience with his Sax, he came on stage and we did Princes 1999. I did not want to play Flesh For Lulu songs. When I came off I thought I had ripped everyone off. Remember Kids don’t do pills half an hour before you go on stage.
The best one, there were so many brilliant ones. I think early days opening up for the Cramps was pretty amazing. You know just opening up for someone and looking out and seeing thousands of people on your side it’s just wow. It’s a great feeling stepping out with a large crowd were you cannot even see the back. We did a club in New Jersey and there was this 40 ft PA system I thought shall I do it so I climbed it and thought I wonder if they will catch me, but I just did it I swan dived into the crowd and they caught me, it was amazing.
Thinking back the worst show I did was an acoustic set in Woking. I went with Catherine my partner and another bloke. The place was full of these kids no one over 25. They did not know who we were, they just ignored us. It was horrible. They were all dressed in pastel pink etc proper suburban crowd. I ended up abusing them to try to get their attention but nothing worked. It was horrible just really horrible. All the effort we put in, just horrible. It was however a pivotal moment, I thought I like playing in the voodoo machine not being the front man, but wanted a little more so there and then I decided to re-form Flesh for Lulu. I wanted to be loved (laughter).
SIU – How did you get the new Flesh together?
Nick – I did ask Rocco if he was interested but he runs a bespoke vintage eye wear company now and he is very tied up in it, he works 12 hours a day 7 days a week , its a complex business. He just could not dedicate the time and keep the business going. I am doing it for the love. The chemistry with the old line up was just not there. The drummer Bish kept on at me and sort of twisted my arm, he kept saying lets do a flesh gig. We did one with Rocco but he could not commit. Will was a fan from way back and wanted to get involved and join, and Keith said as well if you ever do a flesh thing let me know I know all the songs, I am your man. These people were waiting there wanting to do it. It was like why not whats stopping me. I got a bit of a rude answer to that, this time a year ago cancer, that’s whats stopping you. The cancer did not kill me so that’s made me more determined 10 time more determined. Now I can get back up there and play nothing is stopping me now, apart from a nuclear blast. I am just so happy I can pick up a guitar and open my mouth and a sound comes out after cancer its amazing. I have nothing to prove its just enjoyment.
SIU – The border line show was great the music still sounds great today, and the energy was great.
Nick – There are so many songs. We pulled out a list for that show before I got ill, then I got better its like where were we. Look we have not done Dog Dog Dog yet or Restless, I was just like yipee and jumping up and down on the spot with excitement. I had to look up some of the words on youtube (laughter) as I forgot them and I don’t have the records (laughter). Its like what am I saying there pretty poly advert? Oh I remember what that’s about. Its about that girl who did the advert for pretty poly stockings then did want to see us anymore. Theres Will standing there going I thought it was pretty poly anna (Laughter). Lucky youtube is there otherwise I would be singing blah blah blah and making up the words (Laughter). I don’t have the records you know what its like people come around your house and take them, they think you have an endless supply. Dod Dog Dog sounds so sexy with the new line up, I was showing the drummer how I wanted the drums to do, it took me back to the 80’s, I wanted to sound a bit like Queen Bitch.
SIU – You have a new EP coming out. Will it also be available on Vinyl?
Nick – Yeah if we get enough pre-sales, maybe not through pledge. If you get enough pre-sales it can pay for the vinyl manufacture. With vinyl making a comeback and I love EPs you can have so much fun with them, like an extended version on the A side and some fun with the tracks on the tracks on the B Side. I love Eps, when we went to a record company with Flesh and said we were doing an EP it was like yeah we can do a cover version. To do an LP I’m too impatient lets get something out now. We got 4 new songs ready so lets get them out. One is crazy eyes it’s a bit T-Rex it’s a sort of tribute to Mark Bolan. We have go get naked which is well punk, glam sleazy everything you want from Flesh for Lulu. Its great being in a position were we can re-invent ourselves. Forget the rubbish we did in the 80’s when it started to go wrong. We can just play the good stuff and add in new stuff. Its letting redress the balance, the way the band ended it, well it just fizzled out. We went to Australia and did that horrible record Plastic Fantastic. It was dreadful it was the sound of a band that had lost its way. One or two good tracks but the first 2 albums are killers. I am from the generation were you know you pay £7 for an LP and if these one duff track you feel ripped off. I didn’t want to play it live, I did not want to represent that record. There were to many egos involved and to many record company people around. Everyone was trying to write a hit record and the record companies were fuelling the egos. At the time I lost my way and let everyone else put their rubbish songs on the record. It was not a record I was proud off, it had lost its edge, sexiness anger you know.
SIU – What happened after the split?
Nick – I went away with my tail between my legs and Rocco came knocking and said “What do you want to do”. I said something with you but it’s got to be rocking. We started Gigantic which did kick arse but we tried to fit in too much. We wanted to be accepted at the time that’s why we changed the name, we should have stuck with Flesh for Lulu. We wanted to disassociate with that horrible Plastic Fantastic record. So we gave ourselves a new name and it tanked (laughter).
SIU – The Borderline show was packed.
Nick – Yes there are still lots of people who are into Flesh for Lulu, from the first time around. Its going to take a little bit of ground work to get the old fans out as they don’t all use social media. Even through they are maybe 50 now you can still go to a show and have a late night (laughter).
I am really confident about the new band and the material. We are doing a Spanish show then we are going to sort out a London show. To launch the EP. When I can pin the rest of boys down, as Will is busy doing the Ants stuff. Two of the gigs I have been to recently one of my friends is playing in Billy Idols band. I went to see Billy Idol and I could not believe it, I was mobbed. There were a lot old the old punks there, all waving their walking sticks at me (Laugher) no seriously I went with my friend Ray who played Rude Boy in the Clash film, everyone was turning around I thought because of him. But they were recognising me. I went to see Adam and the Ants and the same thing happened there. So there are two of my really good mates playing in these bands, which I used to go and see when I was younger. I used to watch Adam and the Ants and Generation X. They were a fantastic band really tight. Mark Laffe is a friend of mine he used to be in them, he gigged around for a while he was in twenty flight rockers.
SIU – Do you think this line up will stay together, as you have had many different ones?
Nick – I am hoping I can keep hold of those guys. If we can build enough momentum and bring it back to a professional level I don’t see why not. I know Will is working with Adam and is committed to that. If we can work around the Ants schedule then it should be fine. I am hoping that Rocco would come back and the other people like James can get on stage and guest, that would be great. I would be happy if that happened. The current group have been with me for 10 years or so. I started up then had a break to do some Voodoo Machine stuff now we are back. So you cannot really say its a brand new line up. I am still friends with the others, its like you I have not seen you for a while but you know you don’t have to be in touch all the time. You just pick up where you left off. Once you been the tour bus and done road time together its like your family.
SIU – You have a London show, planned anything else?
Nick – We got the EP, I want to do a video for all the songs, I love the fact that you can now do videos for no money. The reason I don’t own my own house now is cause like Flesh used to do Promo videos that cost like 30 grand back in the 80’s as well, that’s a lot a lot of money. We never recouped that investment on the videos that were horrible and looked rubbish. It was just throwing money at a video with no real ideas or concept. We are going to do proper videos and have a real go at it, I want to do a big campaign have a proper go at it. I know there is no money in it, with all the free downloads etc, but I think its worth doing the world need a band like Flesh for Lulu. There is no danger no excitement out there, its hard for me to go see a rock band there is a lack of appeal its hard for me to understand what they are saying, I want to be picked up by a band and thrown against the wall, I want it to be a life changing experience. This EP is going to be a kick in the bollocks to todays rock scene. I want to pick it up and shake it and say look im 53 and rocking harder than all you dickless youngsters all those spineless little twats and posh kids with guitars bollocks (laughter).
SIU – You have had a few record labels, which one did you feel did the best job?
Nick – I thought Polydor our first label were great. The gave us freedom, and we did not fit in with the rest of the acts they had. They took a big risk on us. They were great and I commend them for taking a chance with us. It was only when they took it to America but the American divison of Polydor did not understand it. They did not know where to place us, it was just before college radio took off, so we were a bit ahead of our time for America. I think that’s why it went tits up with Polydor cause it failed to catch on in America. Polydor was great though, in the office you would see Paul Weller in the press department and Siouxsie by the photocopiers it was quite exciting times you know we were signed by a big major label who let us do what we wanted. Then we went with Static that was great as well, I sat down with the owner he asked for my vision I said we want to make records that are gutsy and not pamper to the commercial side. We want to make underground rebel rock music and he said great. He said who would you like to produce it, I said Craig Leon who did the Ramones and Blondie he called him and arranged it just like that it which was great. We would have done well with Static but the label went bust, I could have seen us doing another album with them. Then we went with Beggers Banquet they were ok they had some great challenging acts like Love and rockets. They also had the Cult and they wanted us to be like the Cult. They wanted us to be a big stadium band with hit records, they kept pushing us towards this. That’s when the rot set in, they then licenced us out to Capital Records we went to the corporate office in LA and there were all these idiots in suits with pianos on their ties and cocaine powder around their nose (laughter) very sleazy with there where is the next hit single guys type attitude. I did not know at the time we could have turned around and said Fuck you, that’s what we should have done. We should have told them we will develop in our own way and if something commercial comes out of it then brilliant, but trying to make hit records you just don’t do that overnight. They wanted just drums and vocals I wanted guitars it started to sound like the stuff I hated you know.
SIU – You used to do lots of covers Sister Ray, Time Bomb etc.
Nick – Yeah we liked doing all those garage covers. Space Ball was from my enduring like of Marc Bolan. I can still go home today and put on Slider or Electric Warrior and not hear anything I don’t like, it makes my heart soar like a hawk. We used to do TV Eye any excuse really for me to climb the PA and do my Iggy Pop tribute (laughter).
SIU – Have you any favourite venues?
Nick – Yeah the Croydon Underground was a great venue wasn’t it but I am associating that with you. The Marquee in Wardour st was great it was like hallowed ground for me, standing in the exact same spot where David Bowie and Jimmy Hendrix stood all these great Gods of rock. The Lyceum, Klub Foot were great places crazy crowds. The first time in Berlin playing the Metro club, when checkpoint Charlie was still there and the wall it was just amazing. I remember going to Hansa studios and Nick cave was recording in there. We were standing out side looking at it saying this is it this is Hansa. Then we heard this massive bell go ding a really eerie sound , I think is on the album from here to eternity. Always wanted to record there but never had the chance, we did Abby road which was cool and Olympic studios. We played the Kat club in New York which was special we were playing big venues and this was a small club a sort of last minute booking. Thre was a sea of new York faces and there was one person towering above everyone in the audience and it was Joey Ramone he just stood there for the whole set ginning, we had opened for them before, but it was a great night a great vibe.
SIU – Have back stages improved?
Nick - I do a lot of work with Voodoo Machine mainly in Europe and they really know how to treat a band there. They have large great back stage areas with great catering. With Flesh in the early days we were getting changed in the cellar with the beer kegs. I remember going to a venue in the north and we lugged our gear in set up sound checked went back into this tiny dressing room, there was a fridge there with 12 small cans of lager. I asked if I could have a cup of tea and the owner said “I tell you what lads, if you give me four cans back I will make you eight cups of tea”. I just laughed I mean how can you have so little regard for these people who have driven four hours to play your venue.
SIU – Have you a favourite song that you have written?
Nick – It changes all the time for instance Dog Dog Dog we were working our way down the list when I got rudely interrupted by cancer. Then we went back and it was like were where we oh yes Dog Dog Dog wow that’s amazing. Its got all the elements danger, sleaze just everything. Its just so great opening it up again. Its hard to explain. Seven Hail Marys (laughter) is great a rip off of a Frank Zappa song. I heard it when I was younger and later when we played it, someone pointed it out, it must have been in the back of my mind from that early age. I remember writing Subtrainians we were on the circle line after being at the Batcave or Astral Flight we were going to Madix street studios. We got on the circle line speeding out tits off and we just went around and around and I wrote the song while on the tube going round and round. We got off and me and Rocco went into the studio James and Glenn were already there. I gave them the bits of paper said play these notes. We went around the sequence once I said to the engineer hit record, and that’s it that’s the record. The whole thing was completely spontaneous you could hear the group groping around for the notes. It was a one take wonder. We tried to re-record it with different producers but the record company said no and we went with the first recording. It still sends shivers up my spine as it was one take and I remember the process.
Interview with the Godfather of Punk Rock Vic Godard by Ian Carter
Smash It Up caught up with Vic at Kew a few days after the very successful Club Left gig at the famous punk venue The 100 Club. Where we had a great interview.
Ian- Vic what have been the highlights of your career so far?
Vic- Doing the club left again at the 100 club again, that’s the highlight at the moment. It always things that have happened recently.
Ian- Have you any plans for more Club Left Shows?
Vic- Yes we are going to do it once a year. By the time the next ones comes we should be able to do a few new numbers. We were unsure what the demand would be for the show, and we were well pleased it sold out. It was a great night wasn’t it?
Ian – Yes and the support were good. The first group Jake Vegas and the Hooded Cobras were excellent.
Vic - Yes Jake was great, they are not even a proper band. They were just people he rounded up. I heard Jake just went around Soho finding people who would do it.
Ian – Of course there are always the low lights.
Vic- Yes the big low light is our 2nd ever gig at the it was at the ICA, It was an unmitigated disaster from start to finish. In the dressing room after we said we cannot do this anymore. The group decided not to carry on, but somehow we did another a gig at the RCA. Which was not that long afterwards which was lucky we did not leave it to long. Also the H3rd gig was really good it put us back on the road. The ICA gig if it could go wrong it did. The set lists we wrote our were all different. So once the bass player said 1-2-3 and we started the drummer started playing one song the guitarist another, I did just not know what to sing. I am glad there is no tape in existence lol. Shane McGowan came into the dressing room after and said you must carry on and perceiver this one may have been bad but there was some good stuff in it. That was really good of him and it made us think maybe we should not call it a day. However the drummer left around 3 gigs later.
We got another drummer Mark Laaf, the Clash had just kicked out Terry Chimes they started auditioning drummers and they could not choose between topper and Mark. Bernie said Topper would you join the Clash and Mark would you join Subway Sect. I think he was looking for another group and on the last date on the White Riot tour he told us he was joining Generation X (laughter).
We gave him a good send off, at the last gig we got the rodies to put smoke bombs in his drums, so he thought they were on fire. He came back to the 1978 now album. He did all the songs it was great of him to do that.
Ian – Now That is a good album
Vic- Yes and Mark put a lot of work into that positioning the mikes to get that drum sound. He did not treat it lightly he wanted it to be good, so a lot of it is down to Mark Laaf. It was not even in a recording studio so he put a lot into it to get that sound.
Ian – What was it like working with Malcom Mclaren & Bernie Rhodes back in 1976?
Vic – We never worked with Malcolm, he just booked some studio time for us. He said you will take 10 years to get anything tighter unless you rehearse every day. Which we did and got four numbers together which is how we got the gig at the festival. Bernie said they were looking for a support group for the clash, but you would need a longer set than four songs. So I started writing more until we had enough, as they only wanted us to do a half hour set. We started doing gigs with the clash around London and by the time the White Riot tour started we had about 13/14 songs enough for a set.
Ian – Do you find writing easy?
Vic- No its really hard, I am ok with tunes. I used Richard Hell & David Byrne (Talking Heads) as these are the groups I listened to as well as Johnny Thunders and the heartbreakers. They came over and did the first UK show at the Roxy on New Year’s Eve in 76. I thought they were electrifying so I went to as many London gigs of theirs as I could. Terry Chimes joined the Heartbreakers at one stage. That was my suggestion I was at home playing the New York Dolls album in my bedroom, the track Babylon was on and right in the middle of the great guitar solo the phone rang. It was him on the phone Johnny Thunders. I thought what’s going on here, I said “listen I got your record on”. He heard we had been auditioning drummers and wanted to know if I could recommend someone for the Heartbreakers. I said musically but maybe not everything else the best one would be Terry Chimes. Terry joined the Heartbreakers after that.
Ian – Are you still in touch with Terry?
Vic- Yes I got in touch with him a few years ago, he is doing physiotherapy and doing very well. He did play on what’s the matter album, with his brother on bass.
Ian – How did you get on with the Clash on the White Riot tour?
Vic- Ok, we were not on their level at all we were not rivals. We were small kids to them (laughter) we got on really well. I knew Joe Strummer anyway. I used to see him around. We supported Talking Heads and saw him down the front. Then one day we saw him walking down the road with some people I did not know so we knew he had a new group, but did not know what they were called. They looked different from Joe's old group the 101ers who looked grungy these looked smarter in Oxfam suits (laughter) we were excited seeing them and wondered what the music would sound like.
Ian – Where you surprised when Bernie sacked the whole band?
Vic – Yeah but you know he is a pervasive person. He said I was a good song writer and they were no good on their instruments. I just did not argue with that.
Ian – What brought about you reforming Subway Sect back in 1980?
Vic –(laughter)I was not down to me at all, I was doing this job as a song writer , I was doing loads of songs but nothing was really happening with them. I wrote of the Black Arabs album, and the stuff they did on the tour with Dexy’s. They then recorded an acetate for a single which was "Devils in Need" on one side and " You Bring Out The Demon In Me" as the B-side, which are both my numbers. I heard them and thought these are fantastic great versions, but then it never came out. So I was writing songs with no one to do them, so I thought I would write some for me. Johnny Britton who was in a rockabilly group in Bristol who was managed by Bernie at the time, they came to London to make it and Johnny ended up modelling on magazines like Jackie, he was in big demand. So hi sbend was left in limbo with no singer, and I had no band. Someone thought I should link up, but I had no rockabilly tunes only swing but It’s not a massive change from Rockabilly to swing. The first song we did worked out, so I started writing more. We did our first show at Heaven we got dressed up in tuxedo’s, Bernie was not happy he said you cannot go on stage like that, that’s for old people and old peoples music. That was an endorsement for us, made us want to do it even more. That night it was not our normal audience and they loved it the reaction was great and it made us want to do it more and more. We started playing the Lycum and then we started the Club Left at Whisky a go go.
It just became more and more successful. We took all around England and also Paris. It was not just me singing we had 3 or 4 others.
Ian – Why did you retire from the music business to become a postman.
Vic- Money really I was not earning any money. I wasn’t with Bernie any more, he had been paying me a retainer until the 80’s when I was paid per song I wrote. The songs were never used so I got a bit fed up with that, that’s when I did that trouble album with rough trade. I was paid a retainer but the album never came out, well it did two years later. So I needed a job and always fancied being a postman. So I thought now is the time.
Ian – Can you tell us about your 1979 album now.
Vic – It was stuff I had written for the Black Arabs which was never used. I thought after the 1978 album this stuff would work equally well as Northern Soul. I used the same template as I did for 1978 now , I had a bad quality cassette of the show of the music machine gig, and I used cassette of rehearsals for the 1978 now album. We learnt the songs again to capture that moment in time.
Ian – What was it like working with Edwin Collins?
Vic – I have worked with him loads of times. I think he is better than ever now. Since his stroke he has got a lot more laid back. Before he seemed under pressure , but now he is just laid back and great to work with.
Ian – What have you learned from the music industry?
Vic – Stay away from it, stay as far away as you can from it. I have not had much to do with it really, I have met people who have had trouble with record labels, but I have had minimal contact with them (laughter). Its worked well I stay out of their way and they stay out of mine and it works (laughter).
Ian – Have you any tips to new groups?
Vic – I always tell young groups to pass their driving test. They ask what is all that about. Well you’re a drummer how are you going to get your gear to the venue?. They don’t think of it, they get their mums to do it, you can’t spend your life with your mum driving you. They only person who does not carry drums or amps is the singer. He doesn’t need to pass( Laughter). The other things is for them to work on their lyrics they have great sounds but are saying nothing. Some of the stuff I get sent is great but when you listen to the lyrics its says nothing, no anger no insight, nothing.
Ian – Have you a favourite venue in the UK?
Vic – The Accies club in Glasgow. No one used to play there it was all Scottish Folk music. People used to ask why play there. It’s the Glasgow academicals sports ground. Last time we played there, there was an actual cricket match going on. We had to wait in the pavilion for the Cricketers to have their tea and go back out, before we could do the sound check. It’s a lovely venue I really like it there.
Ian – Do you have a favourite gig crowd?
Vic- Yes Barcelona,Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hamburg and London. The crowd at the 100 club for Club Left were great. Hamburg is great for us last time we went we did two nights in a row, doing Northern Soul. There is a great DJ there who is really into Northern Soul. We play other towns and its not as crowded but when we play Hamburg its great,but all our crowds are really great anyway.
Ian – What is the most memorable show you have done?
Vic – The last one at the 100 club will stay in the memory just because how it ended. Any gig were something totally unexpected happens, and that was totally unexpected. Quite often unexpected things happen but that was the most recent so it sticks in the mind.
Ian – Is there a show that has meant a lot to you?
Vic – There have been so many. There is a place in France called Metz on the German boarder which is an out the way place. I thought on the way there who is going to know who we are, but the crowd went mental, singing along to the songs. The police were called at the end as it was so rowdy and its was a sleepy little town. No one was doing anything wrong they were just making to much noise as they were leaving.
Ian – What do you outside of work and music (gardening etc)?
Vic – I do a lot of reading. I like being in gardens, my Dad and wife do the garden I don’t like gardening. My dad is 93 and my wife helps him pulling up the weeds etc. I would be useless I would pull up all the plants and leave the weeds. I love over grown wild gardens. One of my bugbears is the paved over gardens, they are naff why would anyone want to do that?
Ian – What do you like about the area you live.
Vic – I have lived here since about 1988. It’s a rich but has not got the snobbishness as some areas like Barnes or Sheen. Its a lot different around here , they are still council estates so there is a lot more of a mix. If your riding a bike around here cars stop for you. You go 2 miles down the road cars will run you over.
Ian– What does the future hold for you?
Vic – More music. The immediate future in the new year we will have a new line up as our guitarist has fallen in love with someone from Hamburg and he is going to live there in January. So we are re-doing our live set as he is not there. I will be playing Guitar all the time, where at the moment I play it for around 3 songs in a set of 20. I will be the only guitarist so it will have a new emphasis.
I am going to be working on a new album. We will do new songs with that line up with me on guitar the rest of the group are the same, just four instead of five.
Ian – You have had a few record labels in the past, which is your favourite?
Vic – GNU inc, it’s the one me and my wife run. The thing is it makes everything so much easier. You have not got to go through 4 different people, we just say what shall we do next. We just do it. I still deal with record labels like 1979 is on Edwin’s label. He is quite the opposite of normal record labels so it’s not a hardship at all. When you start working with a normal label is hard to get anywhere it’s like trying to get into a castle.
Ian – Have you a favourite song that you have written?
Vic – I love T.R.O.U.B.L.E. I just love it I always have. It was great to do at the 100 club. We never do it. I think I have only ever sung that live 3 times. When it was done I did not have a live band. When that lp came out that was when I was on the brink of joining the post office as I did not have a group. The only time I have done it live was with the 1981 line up we did it at Ronnie Scotts in 1982, and a couple of other clubs. The only other time was the Thursday at the 100 club just gone. Also it’s the only time I can remember going into the recording studio and doing it in the first take.
Ian – Do you hang around with any one from the music industry?
Vic – Not really well Paul Cook ex Sex Pistols if you count him and Edwin now and again. It was great to see him come to the gig. Like me they would not say they are in the industry its part of the life not the life.
Ian – Anymore gigs planned?
Vic – Yes we have Southend, Birmingham, in the new year and Brighton. We might be doing Oxford we have no date yet but we might be. It might be the night before the Birmingham gig that’s we what we have offered, but we have not heard back yet.
Ian – Any new releases apart from the new album?
Vic – Yes Edwin’s label will be re-issuing the end of the surrey people in 2015. Also a live DVD of a gig I did at the Town and Country in 1992 with Edwin and Paul Cook will be released. It was filmed by Central TV and shown late at night, but now BBC Worldwide are releasing it as an Album and a DVD. It is supposed to be released in Feb 2015.
Ian – Have you any books planned?
Vic – I have been asked about that, but it seems such a mammoth task. I have written a page or two for other people on the internet, so I am sure I could get something together with all the things I have done. I am not saying no but I am still doing things and when you wright a book it should be when you have finished doing stuff, but I am still doing stuff that would go in the book. Maybe I will wait until the arthritis is so bad I cannot play the guitar then I will dictate a book (laughter).
Ian – Where did you grow up?
Vic – Barnes, but it was absolutely nothing like it is now. You would not find a working class person in Barnes now, if you did it was like you won the lottery. Since the housing boom most of the people have moved out.
Ian – Has the music you listen to changed over the years?
Vic - I would say it’s the same, I have always listened to a lot of styles. I have never been into heavy metal, country or opera. If you take those away I listen to pretty much everything else. I do not like music that appears pompous. Over blown pomposity in music I am really not into it. I like some of the hip hop stuff the drum beats, that Queen song "We Will Rock You" has the same drum beat, I like the drum beat but not the song. I am not into grunge, why would you call grunge punk? It’s just the opposite we did not have long hair. I just don’t get it, they seem like status quo. I think it’s just boring rock. I think they call it grunge so people will think it’s not boring rock.
Ian – What music did you start out listening to?
Vic – When I was young the Kinks, Motown, anything with a good tune and good words. I used to like the rolling stones I remember fade away when I was a kid I thought that was fantastic. I was not into the Mersey beat stuff. When I was older and started listening to the originals Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry etc, I stopped listening to the Stones. It was like they took all the subtleties out of it and played it like a sledgehammer. I love Slade there is not one record I don’t like. They are great tunes great production, but at the time I did not like them, but now I have all the singles. I was into Bowie, Bolan and thought Slade were beneath me, but over the years I realise how great they were. At the moment I am really into the Fall, all my group are into them. Also at the post office someone was into them and kept playing them. In a lot of ways they are the English equivalent of the Velvet Underground.
Ian – Do you feel you have reached out to a new audience?
Vic – Yeah the younger audience are really into the Northern Soul. There have been a lot of films come out about Northern soul and the kids are picking up on it. At every gig there is always one person who come up and says you are really good and I have never heard of you before. People just happen to be in the venue. In Barcelona a few people came in who were just walking past and came in cause they could hear us on the spur of the moment.
Ian – Have you any rituals you do before you go on stage?
Vic – Yeah I find a kettle from somewhere. I don’t drink but all my group does as do all other groups. So when you go into the dressing room it’s all beer, sometimes not even a bottle of water. I do twenty songs and it’s hard to do without water, I find it really hard to get water or tea at gigs. They look at you as if you’re a nutcase if you ask for anything that is not beer. In Europe its ok they look after you. Over here is a crate of beer and be grateful. I often end up going down the road to the shop to buy some.
Ian – Anyone you would like to meet?
Vic – Not really, the person I like and did meet was the late actor Arthur Lowe from the classic BBC series "Dads Army", I met him on the White Riot tour. We were staying at this hotel in Guildford. Arthur was staying there and I have always liked Dad’s army, I thought it was the best programme ever. I think Arthur is a genius. I went up to him and said Mr Lowe I think your fantastic (laughter). He had a smirk about it but he was really nice. Billy Childish did a great SKA version of "Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hitler" When we played in Hamburg not last time but the time before the DJ played it, all the Germans were bopping along to it, it was bizarre (laughter).
Thanks Vic for meeting us today.