THE CORTINAS

THE CORTINAS were Bristol’s only major first wave punk band, and boy, were we proud of them, even if they did go to that bloody Grammar School. Jeremy Valentine (vocals), Nick Sheppard (lead guitar), Mike Fewings (rhythm guitar), Dexter Dalwood (bass) and Daniel Swann (drums) started their short career in 1975, when their average age was just 15, playing R&B covers. They picked up on the emerging punk scene quicker than most, certainly than most of us Bristol yokels, and simply sped up a lot of what they were already playing, but also added new, more overtly punk songs of their own, though the R&B influence was always present.

Their break came when they supported the Stranglers at the Roxy on 22 January 1977, which came to be after Sheppard had approached Hugh Cornwell when the former Bristol University student was visiting friends in the city. The band then played the club quite regularly, and one result of this was the Cortinas signing to Miles Copeland and Mark Perry’s Step Forward label.

The classic singles ‘Fascist Dictator’ and ‘Defiant Pose’ were the fruit of this union, and the band went on to appear on the front cover of the April/May issue of ‘Sniffin’ Glue’, then in July record a fine John Peel session. Impressive or what?

The Cortinas were snapped up by CBS, but sadly, at that point, it all went a bit wobbly. The 1978 album ‘True Romances’, and accompanying single ‘Ask Mr Waverly’, both sounded pretty weak, to punk ears at least, as the band returned to their R&B roots, but by its release the band had to all intents and purposes split, only coming back together for two shows to promote it. Then, the Cortinas were gone for ever.

Or were they…?

Well, yes, actually. But now, out of the goodness of their hearts, the Bristol Archive label have unearthed two previously unreleased sets of material from the band – pretty exciting stuff for fans.

The first, ‘For Fuck’s Sake Plymouth’ was recorded in, of course, Plymouth, and captures the band at the peak of their powers in 1977. The sound quality isn’t perfect, but the band belie their tender years to deliver 13 songs as powerful and intense as most of their contemporaries, with Valentine’s hectoring vocals and Swann’s busy drums beating the initially subdued, polite crowd into submission, helped by a super-speedy rendition of ‘Fascist Dictator’. Essential stuff.

The second, ‘Please Don’t Hit Me’, contains the 12 demo tracks that Miles Copeland used to score the band their CBS deal. It would be nice to say that these tracks pulsate with punk rock fury, and it was only the interference of the monster major label that ruined them on the album, but sadly that’s not the case. For the most part they are jaunty but unremarkable R&B songs, and even the more lively punk tracks like ‘Further Education’ and ‘Have It With You’ lack the inspiration of the earlier singles.

Still, with both albums newly remastered and accessible for the first time after gathering dust for 30 years, this is pure punk gold. Unfortunately, they are only available as downloads, though we are assured that if sufficient interest is shown, they may eventually appear on CD.

For now, go to www.bristolarchiverecords.com

Where Are They Now?

Nick Sheppard, of course, played guitar with the final line-up of the Clash (see pic below), which is sometimes dismissed as a short-lived footnote in the Clash story, when in fact the post-Mick Jones outfit lasted for about two years and toured all over the world. He formed the excellent band Head, with Gareth Sager, formerly of the Pop Group and Rip, Rig & Panic, but for a long time now has resided in Australia and is still a working muso.

As far as I know, the only other Cortina to have continued working in music is Daniel Swann, who moved to San Fransisco and played with Sneetches before going behind the scenes working with the likes of Green Day, Offspring and Rancid.

Jeremy Valentine is now a sociology lecturer at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. It would be a cheap jibe to mention the Cortinas song ‘Further Education’. Ah well.

Dexter Dalwood studied at St Martins College of Art and the Royal College of Art and is now a renowned painter whose works have been exhibited in New York, London and Liverpool.

Sadly, the trail of Mike Fewings runs out after he played with Essential Bop shortly after the Cortinas’ demise.

Shane Baldwin

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THE BEST STREET PUNK BAND EVER IS…

VIVE LE PUNK reveals the results of last month’s poll…

WHO IS THE BEST STREET PUNK BAND EVER?

COCK SPARRER 34.2%

SHAM 69 31.5%
RANCID 18.5%
SLAUGHTER AND THE DOGS 11.6%
DROPKICK MURPHYS 4.1%

The West Ham shock troops come out slightly ahead of the Hersham boys. Cock Sparrer’s albums, such as the classic debut ‘Shock Troops’ (1982) and ‘Running Riot in ’84’ (1984) played a major role in forming street punk and have influenced many bands since. Here’s to the ‘Sparrer!

Vote now for the greatest Damned album ever!

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THE UNDERTONES

Formed in 1975, THE UNDERTONES are the greatest 70’s pop punk band ever (ok, the Buzzcocks give em’ a run for their money) and their single “Teenage Kicks” is a bonafide anthem. Covering the band’s celebrated single is practically a right if passage for pop punk artists these days and has been remade dozens of times. So, how did The Undertones go from a just a bunch of kids jamming in Derry, Northern Ireland to one of the most well-known pop punk bands to this day? Let’s take a look at the facts.

Original members of the Undertones were Damien O’Neill (guitar), John O’Neill (guitar), Feargal Sharkey (lead vocals), Michael Bradley (bass) and Billy Doherty (drums).

The band emerged from Derry in Northern Ireland during the punk new wave boom of 1977, 1978 alongside others like Rudi and the Outcasts.

The original line-up released four studio albums including The Undertones (1979), Hypnotised (1980), Positive Touch (1981) and The Sin of Pride (1983) before disbanding in 1983.

The Undertones drew early inspiration from the Ramones, Buzzcocks and Sex Pistols among others.

The band began practising and playing cover versions of punk rock songs at schools and scout huts under the name "The Hot Rods."

The name “The Undertones” was chosen by one of the band members who discovered the word in a history book.

By 1977 the band was performing their own pop punk material, and in 1978 they released their debut four-song EP Teenage Kicks.

The Undertones single “Teenage Kicks” was the late BBC Radio One DJ John Peel’s favourite single. Thanks to Peel’s love of the song, companies in London became interested in signing the group.

John Peel (pictured with the band below) famously said in an interview, "Teenage Kicks came on the radio, and I had to pull the car over to the side of the road. There’s nothing you could add to it or subtract from it that would improve it." It is reportably about the joys of masturbation!

According to John O’Neill, the song “was to be our epitaph for all those years…we were the first band in Derry to bring out a record of all our own songs and we were gonna leave it at that.”

Bassist Mickey Bradley recently admitted to the BBC that the band’s most cherished single almost never got made due to Sharkey’s lack of commitment to the group.

Over 40 artists have covered “Teenage Kicks,” including Razorlight, Snow Patrol, Green Day and Dave Grohl.

Allmusic stated that guitarists John and Damian O’Neill "mated infectious guitar hooks to ’60s garage, ’70s glam rock, and Feargal Sharkey’s signature vocal quaver."

In December 1980, the group made a shock announcement that they were leaving Sire Records due to “irreconcilable differences.” The band was not happy with Sire’s lack of promotion, especially in America.

Then in April 1981, the Undertones announced that they were starting their own label called Ardeck.

Tension within in the band, namely with lead vocalist Sharkey, led to the band’s split in 1983.

The group played their last headlining show at London’s Lyceum.

After breaking up, the band ended up trying to auction off their equipment to pay off their debts.

Of being in the original band, Michael Bradley has said, “It was great being in The Undertones. It was about the best thing that could happen to us at that age. Mind you, it would have been better being in The Beatles”.

Sharkey pursued a solo career that achieved commercial success in the mid to late 1980s, and two of the other band members (John and Damian O’Neill) formed That Petrol Emotion with Raymond Gorman.

The Undertones reformed in 1999 to play concerts in Derry, replacing singer Feargal Sharkey with Paul McLoone.

The band released a critically acclaimed album of original material with McLoone in 2003 titled Get What You Need.

In 2004, the band was the subject of a 2004 documentary, The Undertones: Teenage Kicks, which features the band visiting their old hang outs with John Peel and charting their history.

The band toured North America and also performed at the Glastonbury Festival in 2005.

On 15 October 2007, they released the critically aclaimed studio album, Dig Yourself Deep.

The Undertones have left their mark in the pop punk world, influencing bands such as Green Day and Sum 41.

The Undertones ROCK!!!!!

The Undertones ‘An Anthology’ double album, which not only includes the band’s hits but also rare and unreleased songs from their early days in the studio is out now on Salvo records.

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THE JIM JONES REVUE

The JIM JONES REVUE are preparing to unleash their third album, ‘The Savage Heart’, in October. Here’s a classic VLR interview with the band to whet your appetites…

How did the Jim Jones Revue come to be?
“None of us had played together before, but from the first meetings of the JJR it was like opening Pandora’s box. We knew straight away we had a tiger by the tail. It was pretty instant.”

Can you tell us what happened with Thee Hypnotics/Black Moses? Was it a case of wanting to try something different? How do you feel JJR stands apart from your other bands/projects?
“Thee Hypnotics ran its course and so did Black Moses. Sometimes you can write new songs and sometimes you need to just move on to a new project. They were both stops on my journey to here… I think the difference with JJR is that it’s quite accessible, don’t get me wrong, you’re not gonna hear our stuff used as background music in Ikea, but what seemed like a small idea on the outside, immediately had the feeling of tapping into some kind of main vein! ‘One instinctively knows when something is right’!”

There seem to be, on the face of things at least, not many bands still keeping the flame burning for proper rock ‘n’ roll – was this a conscious decision for the JJR to do? What other bands do you feel are keeping it alive?
“Carrying the torch for proper rock ‘n’ roll can be a thankless task and a badly paid job at the best of times. It’s not surprising there are only a few who respond to the calling. But it is also an honour. JJR would never shrink for its responsibilities! Meanwhile, musically, it takes a conscious effort to make it run the way it should: too rich means you’re gonna run cold and no speed, too lean means you can overheat or loose combustion at full tilt. It’s hard work, but you have to get the mix right!



What’s a JJR live show like and what does the combination of players bring to the mix?

“A band only exists on the energy that is put in. If there is no one putting energy in, then the band no longer exists. Everyone in JJR brings something special and delivers it with gusto – maximum commitment. Playing live it becomes more so. It’s quite religious, probably the most purifying thing I’ve ever experienced. There is the sense of doing it for the cause. There is a message to deliver and once you’ve got the good sisters dancing at the front the rest of the congregation will usually follow.”

What did you want to achieve with the first album and do you think you’ve done it? What I think I love most about is how it sounds like it’s been dragged kicking and screaming from the ’50s/’60s right through the mixing desk – how was the recording process?

“Thanks, that’s a nice way to put it. I really wanted to make sure we didn’t end up with something that was just a mediocre, low budget production. We knew we couldn’t afford beautiful so we went for totally brutal. Brutality has its own graces.”

What are your top five rock ‘n’ roll records of all time?
“’High School Confidential’ – Jerry Lee Lewis
‘Shake Appeal’ – The Stooges
‘Too Much’ – Elvis Presley
‘Ooh My Soul’ – Little Richard
‘Girl Can’t Dance’ – Bunker Hill & Link Wray

Complete the following sentence: The Jim Jones Revue is best enjoyed with…

“ Your best scuffed dancing shoes!”

‘The Jim Jones Revue’ is out now on Punk Rock Blues.


The Jim Jones Revue will release their eagerly anticipated third studio album The Savage Heart through Play It Again Sam/Punk Rock Blues Records on 15th October.

Produced by Jim Sclavunos (of Grinderman / Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds), The Savage Heart’s nine tracks were recorded at The Chapel (Lincolnshire) and West Heath Yard (Edwyn Collins’ London studio) in May 2012.

READ A NEW INTERVIEW WITH THE JIM JONES REVUE IN THE NEXT ISSUE OF VIVE LE ROCK (ISSUE 9), OUT OCT. 11th.

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X

Exene Cervenka first made a name for herself in the late 1970s as the frontwoman for the Los Angeles punk band, X (best known for their aptly-titled first hit, “Los Angeles”). Critics have often credited her involvement as a writer and frontwoman as the defining factor that set X apart from the scene’s other punk bands. Over the years, Cervenka has continued to build on the credits attributed to her name, involving herself in new bands such as the Knitters, Auntie Christ, and the Original Sinners, as well as solo performances, spoken word performances and other art exhibitions.

This past Spring, Cervenka and bandmates John Doe, Billy Zoom and DJ Bonebrake – X’s original lineup – embarked on their “13×31” tour, a name reflecting both their “unlucky thirteen, fuck the world” philosophy (according to an interview with The Village Voice) and the band’s 31st anniversary.

Vive Le Punk caught up with Cervenka to talk about living the punk life, 3 decades in.

K: What’s it like 30 years later, being on tour, still doing this, still playing music, and having a career?
E: It’s the same.

K: What do you mean it’s the same?
E: It’s the same.

K: What’s it like being one of the last surviving bands coming from that era, coming from that LA scene?
E: Well, it’s all very strange, being the last surviving band. And also being representative of LA, because we kind of stood up to LA at a time when everyone laughed at it. It’s very rewarding, to me, to still be doing this.

K: What are your feelings, looking back at the New York scene and the London scene, and the remnants of it? And seeing your peers coming back and playing now, at least the few that are left?

E: I’m feeling pretty positive, for the most part, about just about everything these days…. I’d like to get together and do some spoken word shows with some of the people that are still around. Like, do some kind of thing with Richard Hell or somebody like that.

K: Did you ever try to do something like that before? Bring the different coasts, the different groups, together?
E: Well, I have different projects…. But we all have a lot of stuff going on.

K: Have you ever done anything with the other females, the other rock ‘n’ roll chicks of that era?

E: We’ve done a lunch, yeah.



K: What was it like being one of the few women in the music scene, and in punk rock, in an era when it was really male dominated?

E: Well, it wasn’t male dominated. That’s the good thing about it. There were a lot of women in the scene. There were the The Go-Gos, and The Motels, and The Alley Cats… And some other bands had women in them. It was a pretty mixed scene. And the guys were not sexist at all. It was a pretty magical time as far as all of that stuff….

K: So, you don’t think it was tough to be a woman? You had a lot of peers and you weren’t the only one?
E: No, I don’t think it was tough at all. It’s a lot tougher now.

K: What about the LA scene now? Do you support it, are you a part of it?

E: I wouldn’t know. The scene belongs to the kids. It does not belong to the adults.

K: Why do you not really follow what’s going on now?

E: It’s just too much. There’s just too much to follow…. I try to keep track, but there’s just so much music that I listen to already.

K: How do you tour now? Do you have a van, or a bus?

E: We have a van, and a truck with equipment and merchandise and stuff.

K: Is it ever tolling, being a little bit older and having done this for so long?

E: I’m pretty autophobic, which means you don’t like yourself. I should say car-phobic. I don’t really travel in cars much, but I like touring, if that makes sense. I like being on the road. It’s a fantasy world.

K: Even 30 years later, it’s a fantasy world?

E: It’s a fantasy world with no dishes to wash.

X hit the road again in December to play their remaining “13×31” tour dates in California. Cervenka’s new solo album will be released Spring 2009 via Bloodshot Records.

Words & photos: Kirsten Housel

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GBH Warped Tour report

WORDS AND COPYRIGHT PHOTOS: Diana More Riddle

The picturesque backdrop of the Columbia River Gorge in Washington isn’t typically where’d you expect to see punk bands playing, nor is this years emo heavy line-up of The Vans Warped Tour. No the less that’s where I caught up with punk legends GBH on Aug 9th, half way through their North American tour. They’d spent the last few weeks headlining shows zigzagged across the US and Canada and had just joined the tail end of the tour.

So on their third day playing the much larger commercial festival they were just starting to settle into the circus but pretty well I might add. Despite it still being early afternoon that didn’t stop a good part of the 20,000 Warped punters getting into full swing with one the liveliest pits of the day!

The 30 min set at the all dayer left plenty of free time at the festival. After playing GBH could be found at their merch stall, unlike many of the other bands who disappeared into their tour bus, only to emerge for a brief autograph signing. At their stall they were meet by a constant stream of fans crowding around for photos and autographs. Their time spent hanging at the stall wasn’t all about the fans, it might have had a bit to do with the fact that they didn’t have a tour bus and were travelling around in a not so spacious eight-seater van… the only main stage band not in a tour bus and proud of it.

So that evening, back in the van they got. Another night of driving through the night to meet the early Warped start times. Columbia Meadows, Oregon was in another stunning landscape and again they were incredibly well received. Unluckily it was the last night of scenic venues as the tour moved on to its more familiar car park settings as it hit California.

Fortunately though, with the California shows came the “Old School Stage”! Adding a bit more Punk Rock to the noticeably lacking punk line-up this year had compared to previous years. This added the likes of FEAR, The Dickies, D.I., The Germs, Agent Orange and T.S.O.L to name a few. Each gig in California seemed to top the last. Culminating in a brilliant last show at the Home Depot Centre in Los Angeles. With more bands and bigger pits then any other show and lots of very happy festival goers. Despite early reservation of joining the Warped Tour my bet is you can expect them back.

After a few well-deserved days off in the sunshine of LA, GBH were back to their more familiar turf of late night venues. Aug 21st they played the infamous Keyclub on the Sunset Strip. The sold out show was opened by pre-Warped show tourmate Texas’ Krum Bums and Florida’s Whole Wheat Bread. Both of who went down a treat and got the crowd nicely warmed up. From their first song the spikey LA crowd was going nuts, singing along and stag-diving to all their classics and new material alike. Even Eddie Tatar from D.I. couldn’t help join in and jumping in on bass for a few songs. The night was topped off by closing the show with The Clash’s White Riot.

It was good to see GBH back in their more native environment, playing their full set and the crowd couldn’t have agreed more. It was a great night and just the start of nearly another month back on tour with Whole Wheat and Krum Bums… If you can’t make it over to The US or Canada you can catch up with them back in Blighty on Oct 25th in Brum or Nov 10th in London!

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THE BOYS

TO HELL WITH THE BOYS

It’s a lovely autumnal evening in London’s Oxford Street, and your correspondent is delighted to have the opportunity to renew acquaintances with some of his favourite foot soldiers of the punk wars. The last time I caught The Boys was at the Barfly a couple of years back, and I haven’t seen a better gig since. Of all the class of ’76, they remain, to me, the most under-rated of the lot. Effortlessly canny musicians, great entertainers without drowning in ego and ‘a nice bunch of lads’ (an expression heard more than once in the audience this evening) to boot. If only they’d taken on board a bit of rebel chic, dumbed down or stopped laughing at the absurdity of notions of ‘cool’, they might be better remembered still. For all that, they maintain a fervent fan base, affection for their tight, harmony-flecked pop-punk crossing several continents. At the Barfly show, fans flew in from Argentina, America and Spain (a lovely couple I met who planned their holiday around the event despite being unable to obtain tickets). And there’s a small foreign contingent here too, though this is in effect a private party, to celebrate the 50th birthday of long-standing fan Jim. So, happy birthday Jim.

Backstage in the 100 Club’s impossibly bijou dressing room, I have a full complement of Boys to interrogate. So which of your esteemed membership, after all these years, retains the biggest and best rock ‘n’ roll image? There is laughter before fingers point, inexorably, to guitarist/vocalist Honest John Plain. Well, he does have a bandana head start. “He’s just a love machine”, says drummer Vom, who also bashes skins for Die Toten Hosen and myriad others in his Boys’ downtime. “In all ways, the biggest,” notes bass player/singer Duncan ‘Kid’ Reid. “But he has small feet.” Read into that what you will. And how difficult is to get time off from wives, girlfriends, work and the other distractions of adulthood? “No problem for me,” says John, “she left me years ago!” “It’s moderately difficult,” confirms Duncan, “mainly for me, Matt and Vom, because we have a lot of time commitments elsewhere. But this year has been a busy year. We might even do five gigs. We’ve been working out little socks off!” Presumably though, such limitations keep it fresh and make it more fun? “I like it that way,” Duncan continues, “cos it’s bad enough seeing the rest of them anyway, so five times is plenty.”

Favourite Boys song to play live? “Any one of mine, really,” says Matt (Dangerfield, guitar/vocals), archly. “Whichever one is last,” decides Duncan, doubtless in reference to the creaking joints which must surely follow his gravity-defying stage antics. “That’s ‘Sick On You’, as it happens, which is not a bad one to close on.” The latter, a fabled punk rock document which came to the band via The Hollywood Brats (in which incarnation it was widely posited as ‘the first punk song’), has long been the final encore. “When we played it in Texas recently, it worked out really well,” Duncan continues. “They were asking for that all the way through, so if we’d played it any earlier, they would probably have buggered off.” The Austin gig turned out to be eventful for other reasons, as Duncan describes. “He (Casino ‘Cas’ Steel, former Hollywood Brat, keyboards, and, inevitably, vocals) got arrested in Chicago and sent back to Norway, so there was only four of us there.” Work permit or drugs? “None of us had a work permit,” says Matt. “He was the only one to apply for one – that was his mistake.” Cas’s response is drowned out in an orgy of sympathy. Not. “They came from all over America to see us,” continues Duncan, “so it was great. Brilliant crowds, and they knew every single song.” Ever wonder how those records crossed international borders so readily? “Yes,” says Cas. “That amazed us when we played in Bratislava. We never sold any albums in Bratislava! But they knew all the lyrics!”

And why the 100 Club tonight? “Jim is the vicar of Great Ormond Street hospital,” says Duncan, “a great lad, and it’s his 50th birthday, he asked us and we said yes. We decided to do a public gig as well (the following evening at ULU). But that was only because we were doing this one. It’s mainly Jim’s friends, so we’re expecting a bishop or two tonight.” Will he mind his language in front of a man of the cloth? “No! There’s a few hardcore Boys fans, too. The chat site, Backstage Passes, they all know about it.” Indeed, it’s like an all-in fan club gig this evening. They’re, well, worshipful.

This time last year was the 30th anniversary of punk hoopla (all right, I admit, some of us have been quietly trying to keep it going). Was that overblown? “I didn’t notice it!” says Duncan. “The Barfly gig was our 30th two years ago.” “It started in ’76, anyway, not 77,” offers Matt, who once ran the recording studio where Mick Jones, Tony James, Bryan James, Rat Scabies and Billy Idol made their first ‘moves’, while simultaneously chasing Sid and Nancy out of his toilet, so he should know. Cas: “I just got off the tube, and I saw this big fucking poster of Johnny Rotten advertising butter!” There’s a question, would you advertise domestic consumables for money? “Oh, we’d do anything for money,” says Cas, emphatically.

So what advice would you give to any young guns getting into the music industry. “Don’t,” says Cas, “work on the railways”. “Get a good job,” says John, “with a decent fucking pension and a missus.” Actually, that might have been ‘a pension and a decent fucking missus’, it isn’t entirely clear from the transcription. “Don’t apply for a visa if you’re going to America,” says Vom, to Cas’s evident embarrassment. And what plans have you from here? “We’re playing some German shows, and we have offers for Spain and Italy,” says Duncan. “We just get offers and do them.” Any chance of a new studio album? “Not a whole album, we’ve chatted about doing the odd track, but we’re spread all over Europe, which is the problem.” And do you all carry on writing songs when you’re apart? “John and Cas have the Last Rock ‘n’ Roll Band,” says Duncan. “And they write together for that. You’re on your 500th album, aren’t you?” Cas has obviously been counting. “72nd, actually.” “I’m on my 52nd,” interjects John, not to be outdone. “That’s 130 albums between us.” And not a hit single to be seen, it’s a doggone injustice.

Speaking of ‘product’, The Boys have recently released a new anthology on Anagram. Pleased with it? Matt: “I’m always pleased when things are properly digitally remastered. It’s really interesting listening to some of that stuff we did really early on.” Indeed, they’ve managed to pull a few unreleased gems out of dusty cupboards. But buy it anyway as it includes all their finest moments – ‘Soda Pressing’, ‘Terminal Love’, ‘First Time’, ‘Weekend’, ‘I Don’t Care’, ‘Brickfield Nights’; diamonds one and all.

And in conclusion, what has being a member of the Boys meant to you down the years?
“A lot of fucking grief” sayeth John.
Any advance on a lot of fucking grief?
“I think that says it all,” says Duncan.
“Seeing a lot of places and having a lot of fun”, states Cas, slightly more optimistically.
“Lending John a lot of money?” offers Matt.
“I’ve never paid it back, either” confirms John.

What about Vom, the baby of the band having served only a modest decade since replacing band card shark Jack Black as the stickster?
“Flies by!” he confirms. Does he ever pull any of his high-profile, handsomely remunerated gigs to answer the call of The Boys? “He tries to,” says Duncan, “we won’t let him.” How do they manage that, skeletons in the closet? What have you got on him? “We’ve got photos of him in Japan, being chased naked around a restaurant by a bunch of waiters,” says Duncan. Aha! “With an olive in his knob,” qualifies John. “They don’t have olives in Japan,” says Vom, unconvincingly. “Sushi, then,” corrects John. “It’s probably still there.”

The Boys Anthology is out now on Anagram.

Words: Alex Ogg.

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MAD FUCKERS

Mad, Hard and Wild Bastards of Rock N Roll. Part One.

Jerry Lee Lewis

Jerry Lee Lewis, a renowned hell raiser, is famed for turning up at Elvis Presley’s house in 1976 wielding a loaded pistol and demanding to see him. He never got to the King of Rock N Roll but a year later he was dead anyway so at least saved on bullets, not that we condone the actions. This incident was just one of a host in the life of Jerry Lee Lewis aka The Ferriday Fireball aka The Killer. Arguably the wildest of all Sun Records performers on and off the stage, he was almost too hot for anyone to handle. The UK didn’t want him, thrown out in 1958 for bringing along his 14 year old wife cousin on tour. Sam Phillips, Sun head honcho, couldn’t handle him, in fact nobody could handle him but the fans loved it. The Killer was a million-seller and had an ego to match. One infamous tale at a show in New York in 1958 it was decided that Chuck Berry would headline over our hero, Jerry Lee was not best pleased but went along with it. As his incendiary set was coming to an end he produced a can of petrol, poured it over his piano and set fire to it while bursting into an insane rendition of ‘Great Balls Of Fire’, the place went wild as he played the song to its climax while the piano burned. As he left the stage, piano still ablaze, it’s said that as he passed the stunned Chuck Berry he spat the infamous words, “Follow that Nigger!”

Sonny Burgess

Sonny Burgess has gone down in rocking lore as the Arkansas wild man who dyed his hair flame red to match his red suit and Fender to make his mentalist stage show even more mental. The first Rockabilly Punk? Well the story is true, Albuquerque never knew what hit them as Sonny Burgess, head to toe in red and his group The Pacers opened a show for a youthful Roy Orbison in 1956. The story behind the story isn’t quite as wild as Sonny Burgess told me himself back in 1984. He wanted to go blonde, his wife took on the bleaching duties, messed it up and his hair turned flame red by accident. There was no time to try and fix it out so out came the red suit for maximum effect. It obviously worked because 52 years later it’s still a legend. The story may not have been so wild but Sonny Burgess’ records certainly were. Check out ‘We Wanna Boogie’ and ‘Red Headed Woman’ on the Sun label, total mayhem with note-bending guitar, rasping trumpet and pumping piano pounding the pace behind Burgess’s howling vocals make for two of the all-time wildest tracks ever. He reckons the Sun recordings don’t capture the wildness of the band live, if that’s true, fuck me it must have been crazy.

Tooter Boatman

By all accounts Tooter Boatman was a lover and a scrapper, he liked a fight and a shag but it’s not certain in what order. He looks like a hard bastard in the photos that survive of him. Inked up, surely one of the first tattooed rockers, and looks so mean you can believe stories of him giving bulls a kicking and having running off in fear and taking on three big blokes in bar at the same time and giving them a whooping. He is also said to have had ‘more girlfriends than Elvis had gold records’, had a girl in every town and was even married, but just for the day. Tooter Boatman and his band The Chapperals released a rip roaring slab of scream laden, snare jangling, piano mudering, slap bass rockabilly in the shape of ‘Thunder and Lightning’ and ‘The Will Of Love’ which you really need to hear before you die. Hard as he may have been Tooter was killed by a hit and run driver in 1964 aged 28, that’s the only way they’d have had him.

Billy Taylor

Very little is known about Billy Taylor, there appears to be a good reason for that. He recorded a loopy little track entitled ‘Wombie Zombie’ for Felco Records then apparently decided to celebrate by carrying out an armed robbery, a career move that proved as short lived as his Rockabilly one. He was caught and sentenced to a long real life version of Jailhouse Rock. True or not, you gotta love him.

Simon Nott

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PUNK LEGENDS PARTY AT STRAY CATS!

At the recent Stray Cats Brixton Academy after show party, a gang of true punk legends partied back stage.Having a beer and a chat were the Clash’s Mick Jones, The Damned’s Captain Sensible, Charlie Harper of the U.K Subs, The Sex Pistols Glen Matlock, plus Stray Cats Slim Jim Phantom and Brian Setzer.They were also joined by Stray Cats original producer Dave Edmunds. The night was slightly spoiled when it was revealed Slim Jim had broken his arm in a fall from the stage prompting the cancellation of the rest of their tour. Vive Le Punk!! Photos by Tina Korhohen

 

 

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RANCID

Ahead of modern street punk heroes RANCID‘s highly anticipated November UK tour and upcoming as-yet untitled seventh studio album (and first with new drummer Branden Steineckert), VLP brings you the facts about the Bay Area boys.

1) ‘B Sides and C Sides’ is the band’s first release since ‘Indestructible’ in 2003 and their hiatus from 2004 to 2006.

2) Lars Frederiksen has worked as producer for many bands, including the Dropkick Murphys, Agnostic Front and The Business. Recently he produced and wrote on The Masons new album ‘We Rule The World’, which features punk legends John Robb, Charlie Harper and Steve Ignorant. London’s ‘70s punk heroes Cock Sparrer brought in Frederiksen to co-mix their 2007 album ‘Here We Stand’, their strongest album for years.

3) While Rancid were writing ‘Let’s Go’ as a three-piece (Armstrong, Freeman and Reed), their friend and Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong co-wrote the fan favourite ‘Radio’ and played a gig with the band. Tim Armstrong asked Billie Joe to join Rancid but he stuck with Green Day. Lars Frederiksen left the UK Subs to become Rancid’s second guitarist in 1993 and play on ‘Let’s Go’.

4) In 2002 the three original members of Rancid formed the psychobilly side project called Devil’s Brigade, and released two 12-inch vinyls – one with the songs ‘Stalingrad’ and ‘Psychos All Around Me’ and the other with ‘Vampire Girl’, ‘Ride Harley Ride’ and ‘What Have You Done Lately’. Hunt them down Rancid fans!

5) Over the years Rancid have collaborated with a wide range of artists, including reggae artists Buju Banton and Stubborn All-Stars, Iggy Pop and Pink! Tim Armstrong also contributed guitar and backing vocals to the Cypress Hill single ‘What’s Your Number?’ in 2004.

6) Tim Armstrong’s record label, Hellcat Records, released a full-length movie in 2006, titled ‘Live Freaky! Die Freaky!’ The film used string puppets, was produced by Armstrong and had an insane plot. It involved Charles Manson’s story being misinterpreted by a nomad in a post-apocalyptic world (obviously) and included voice acting from members of Rancid, Green Day, The Transplants, AFI, Tiger Army. Oh and Kelly Osbourne.

7) In the five years since the release of ‘Indestructible’ the members of Rancid have been busy with solo projects. In 2004 Lars Frederiksen released his second solo album, ‘Viking’ and 2005 saw the second album, ‘Haunted Cities’ from Tim Armstrong’s now on hiatus side project The Transplants. Last year saw Armstrong return with his first solo album, the reggae/dub flavoured ‘A Poet’s Life’. Bassist Matt Freeman played on the Transplants album and tour as well as touring with punk legends Social Distortion. No wonder it’s been five years!

8) According to the liner notes of the ‘BYO Split Series Vol.3’ split album, on which Rancid covered NOFX and vice versa, after Operation Ivy split and before they formed Rancid, Tim Armstrong (vocals/guitar) and Matt Freeman (bass) started a short-lived hardcore punk band called Generator.

9) In January Rancid entered the studio with long-time friend, producer and Epitaph president Brett Gurewitz to record the highly anticipated follow-up to 2003’s ‘Indestructible’. Gurewitz has worked with the band on virtually every record in Rancid’s career. The album was written in new drummer Branden Steineckert’s Unknown Studios in Utah and is being recorded in California.

Rancid’s as-yet untitled seventh studio album is due to be released later this year on Epitaph.

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THE ADICTS

ADICTED FOR LIFE!

Having formed way back in 1975 as the Pinz, THE ADICTS are the longest surviving punk band in the world with their original lineup. They are touring the U.K right now and I had a quick chat with singer Monkey.

VLP: I just saw you in the Punks Not Dead film, and you are the worlds longest serving punk band with original members. How did that happen?
Monkey: Nobody died yet and we don’t have anything better to do.

VLP: You have been going since 1976-and must have seen various waves of punk come and go.
M.I wasn’t paying attention… Did I miss anything good?

VLP: You seem to be pretty big in the U.S. Why did the band move to America?

M.Half of us came for the girls, the others stayed in Suffolk for the sheep.

VLP: Why did you choose to be a more of a theatrical/humorous punk band?

M.Why not, who doesn’t like a bit of theatre and a laugh.

VLP: What are The Adicts plans for the next album?

M.It’s done! It will probably be out in few months so grab it quick before it washes down the drain of obscurity.

VLP: And finally, what can we expect on your Sept U.K tour?

M.Fun, colour and music mess.

The Adicts classic album ‘Songs of Praise is re-released this month on People Like You records.

The Adicts – Chinese Takeaway- Facts and Fiction

– The Adicts were formed in either 75 or 76, no one is sure which.

– They were originally called Afterbirth and The Pinz.

– The band boast that they are the longest surviving punk band with the original line-up still in tact.

– The core original line-up consists of Keith ‘Monkey’ Warren – Vocals, Mel Ellis – Bass, Pete Dee Davison – Guitar, Michael ‘Kid’ Dee – Drums.

– They have added John ‘Scruff’ Ellis – Guitar (Mel’s brother), and Dan ‘Fiddle Dan’ Graziani – Violin, Piano, and Mandolin.

– The band has always used diverse instruments on their records making them distinct from most punk. These include the violin, gongs, and a carousel organ.

– At their first gig – when they were still known as Afterbirth — they had just a motorbike as a lighting rig.

– The band’s manic energy on stage is enhanced with lots of confetti, streamers, joker cards, and glitter going into the audience.

– Their trademark band image made them notorious among their contemporaries. It included Monkey’s flamboyant clothes and near glam makeup along with the rest of the band in ‘droog’ style clothes (all white and bowler hats) based on the film ‘Clockwork Orange’.

– They are best remembered today for their song ‘Viva La Revolution’ which has featured on E! Channel commercials and in the video game ‘Tony Hawk’s Underground’.

– They appeared on the children’s TV programme ‘Cheggers plays pop’ in a child friendly guise as The Fun Adicts.

– They changed their name again, apparently under record company pressure, to ADX because of the negative connotations of Adicts.

– Despite the New Wave heavy ‘Fifth Avenue’ album they insist that they have always been a punk band.

– Their highest charting album is 1982’s ‘Sound of Music’ (Razor Records) which reach #2 on the indie charts, and entered into the national charts at #99.

– The band agree that their lowest period was around the 1984 single ‘Tokyo’ released as ADX. It was produced by ex-Vapors front man Dave Fenton.

– The return to form album ‘27’ included a board game where players could recreate the band’s favourite things to do on tour, including rolling a spliff and eating vindaloo.

– It was to be almost a decade before the band released any new studio material. This was 2002’s ‘Rise and Shine’. Their latest collection to date is 2005’s ‘Rollercoaster’.

– Their 6 studio albums and 2 live albums have been extensively reissued and are now available on iTunes.

– They are working on a new studio album, tentatively titled ‘Life Goes On’.

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XTC

THE AGONY AND THE XTC

Riding in high on the coat tails of punk with raging stabs of Elictricity like ‘Science Friction’ and ‘Life Begins at the Hop’ XTC were the greatest new wave band in the world in 1981. Then it all kind of went pear shaped. Heres the facts….

• A New Wave band from the bright lights of Swindon, they formed in 1972.

• They started out as The Helium Kidz with Andy Partridge (guitars, vocals) and Colin Moulding (bass, vocals) playing glam-rock with homemade costumes.

• Terry Chambers (drums) and Barry Andrews (keyboards) joined in 1976, and they changed the name of the band to XTC while deciding on a hyperactice pop-punk style.

• They toyed with the name The Dukes of Stratosphear, but dismissed it because it was too psychedelic(they later released an album under this name too!).

• Lead single ‘Statue of Liberty’ from their first LP White Music was banned by the BBC for making lewd references to the statue – i.e. “in my fantasies I sail beneath your skirt.”

• Andy Partridge (guitars and vocals) has a lifelong obsession with comic books, particularly by Steve Ditko.

• LP Go 2 was released in 1978, and shortly afterwards Andrews was replaced by new keyboardist Dave Gregory.

• In their 1980 video for ‘Generals and Majors’ Sir Richard Branson makes a cameo as one of the majors. He was their record label boss at Virgin.

• In 1981 XTC toured the US, supported by some small local band called REM that you may have heard of…

• Partridge suffered a mental breakdown on stage in one of the first concerts of XTC’s tour in Paris, on March 18th 1982, reportedly because his wife threw away his Valium supply.

• Partridge then called a halt to the touring, which royally pissed off the Virgin execs. He responded by saying "Why should I work at something I don’t enjoy? If I’m going to do that, I might as well shovel shit for a living."

• The band then moved into the studio and stopped touring, which many thought was commercial suicide – particularly the folk at Virgin.

• Chambers had enough of the studio called it quits during the recording of Mummer in 1983 and moved to Australia. Since then six different drummers have played on XTC’s subsequent album releases.

• In late 1984 they began a side project. Dressing themselves in paisley shirts they recorded a mini album called 25 O’clock under the name The Dukes of Stratosphear. It was a success.

• Things still weren’t so peachy with Virgin so the band went on strike, playing and producing for other bands. They set up their own label Idea Records in 1997.

• Partridge formed his own label, APE, under which he has released his own demos and tracks underneath the nameplate of Fuzzy Warbles.

• While XTC have not announced a formal break-up, in 2006 Partridge announced that the only other remaining member of XTC, Colin Moulding, was no longer interested in writing, performing or recording music.

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THE LORDS OF ALTAMONT

LORDS OF SIN

Right, let’s remember our rock history. Altamont free festival marked the death of the 60s and it was pretty violent stuff. Goodbye psychedelic hippy jams, and hello to the hardness and disillusion of the 70s. With a name like THE LORDS OF ALTAMONT it’s not surprising the band sound like everything good and heavy that came out of the post 60s. But they also manage to reconcile the two opposing eras of legendary rock by playing a hybrid of hard rock, garage, punk, and that little bit of psychedelic to show they’re not being discriminative. The band is rock n roll at its rawest and sleaziest. Think the Stooges, think Them, think Sex Pistols, think the Doors, think anyone who you think rocks and put them all on choppers and in leather jackets and you get the idea. It’s retro at its best, but the kind of retro we’re in desperate need of in our ipod and protools safe age.

The band is hitting the UK to promote the hotly anticipated full length ‘Altamont Sin’ and will be playing London’s Tufnell Park Dirty Water Club on September 18th, with special guests Teasing Lulu. Expect Jake Cavaliere on vocals and 60s style organ to command the stage (they call him ‘The Preacher’ for a reason) and fiery guitar from fellow The Bomboras band mate Johnny "Stiggs" DeVilla. Shawn Medina joins DeVilla on guitar adding extra sonic distortion. The rhythm section boasts the drumming assault of Max ‘Sicko’ Edison and bassist Michael Davis, dubbed the ‘Mad Dog’, of MC5 fame. We had a chat with Jake ‘The Preacher’ to find out more about their brand of punk rock.

VLP: What can the U.K look forward to from the Lords of Altamont in Sept?
J: We need to bring back the party into music. Rock n roll is too serious. Everyone is trying to get a message across. Our message is fuck and have fun, don’t look back. The lords aren’t capable of showing England anything they haven’t seen before. You have the best music, the best clothes and the British invasion over us. We have 2pac and Britney… Don’t we?

VLP: What is it about the 60s that you guys are so in love with?
J: The music is great for starters. The Look is great. Mod fashion, the clothes, movie culture, the drugs, the discovery in new sound in music. All the killer musical instruments, the colours, the lack of baggy sagging jeans, NO HIP HOP, The Fuzz box, song writing, the shoes and the way girls looked and dressed.

VLP: Do you have a favourite biker B-movie?
J: My favourite movie is Wild Angels hands down. Peter Fonda and Nancy Sinatra, Bruce Dern, bikers, fights, drugs, Davie Allen soundtrack. You can’t go wrong.

VLP: How did you hook up with Michael from the MC5?
J: Mike and I met at a music store in Hollywood about seven years ago and hit it off. It doesn’t hurt that he’s in one of the most important rock n roll bands of all time. Angela Davis (Mike’s wife) took a liking to the Lords and has been managing the band for about four years now.

VLP: Finally-your top 5 bands/acts of all time…
J: Wow, tough. This changes depending on mood, but in no particular order: Rolling Stones, Love, Back Rebel Motorcycle Club, 13th Floor Elevators and Spacemen 3. Do I have to stop?



The Altamont Sin is out now on Easy Action records.

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THE DAMNED

YOU’RE SO VANIAN!

Back in 2002, to coincide with the release of THE DAMNED’s ‘Smash It Up’ retrospective, Dave Vanian took a stroll down memory lane with Hugh Gulland.

VLP: To begin at the beginning, how did the four members of the original lineup first meet?
D: Captain and Rat worked together, they cleaned toilets in the Fairfield Halls in Croydon, I first met Rat, I was in a band that never actually played a show, it was Chrissie Hynde on guitar, Rat was on drums and I was introduced to him by Malcolm Maclaren funnily enough. And it was like Malcolm overseeing it, there was another singer who I only know as Dave, it might have been Dave Zero, and he had perfectly white hair, so we looked like a couple of dominoes! We did a whole pile of sixties garagey numbers, but it never went any further, and basically Rat wanted me to meet Brian (James, original Damned founder), and Brian’s words were to Rat, I believe, ‘He looks like a singer, we’ll try him out!’. So I auditioned for the Damned, and the other guy who was asked never actually turned up, I was the only one, so whether they actually liked me…!

Brian had all these songs he’d been working on and wanted to fulfil this dream of getting an album together, and he was looking for the right people to work with, with the same attitudes. Till that time he’d never found anyone, but in Rat he found the perfect drummer, and I guess in me he found the perfect singer who’d give vent to his songs, and immediately I saw him play guitar I wanted to work with him. He was an amazing guitarist, there’s only so many guitarists who don’t sound like anyone else, immediately they play you know who they are, and I’d always been a big fan of Johnny Thunders. He reminded me in a way, he had the same kind of attitude, I liked that and I liked what he did. Of all the band, I imagine I had the least experience, Rat had been in several bands. And Brian was a little bit older than the rest of us, he’d been in bands previously, and Captain had been in bands with Johnny Moped. So I literally just lied my way into the business, I lied that I’d been in a couple of local bands out of town. I knew I could hold a tune ‘cause I could sing along to a record, at least I thought so!

VLP: The Damned were famously booted off the Sex Pistols ‘Anarchy’ tour in late 1976, what was the story there?
D: When we were put on the bill by Malcolm, the Pistols had never really played anywhere, they’d played gigs in London and maybe one or two outside, but generally they pulled in 30/40 people. We’d been on tour quite a while, we had a big following by then, we were put on that bill to get people into the venues. Malcolm wasn’t taking any chances, he got the Clash, the Heartbreakers, he had a good bill. The day before the first show, they were on the Bill Grundy show, after the Bill Grundy show they were front page news, everyone was talking about the Sex Pistols and councils were banning them at the venues. Tickets had been on sale and I remember saying at the time, well, we can still play. ‘Cause I was thinking, these poor kids who’ve bought tickets, they’ll want their money back, this kind of thing. This was after the Pistols had swanned back in in their limousines, I might add, like ‘you can fuck off now, we don’t need you anymore’. And it was a case of, we’re ‘traitors’, ‘cause we still want to play, but Malcolm was looking for an excuse to dump us anyway, ‘cause he’d never wanted us on there, it was just a question of he couldn’t get the bums in seats. And then of course the whole thing fell apart anyway, only 3 of the shows were ever done and we all went home!

VLP: You had the first record release of the UK punk movement with ‘New Rose’, you must have worked very quickly with the earlier material?
D: The album was made within a week, just because that was the way it was, we were on the tightest budget you could imagine, we didn’t even have a brand new tape, we taped over someone else’s stuff. But it was brilliantly captured, the raw vibrant thing, they did a fantastic job, and Jake Riviera, of Stiff (records), realised what he had on his hands, it was all him really, and he realised if he got that stuff out quickly… we were just, ‘wow, we’re making a record’, a couple of years later we’re ‘wow, we’ve got no money!’ The same old story!

VLP: You seemed to arrive as these four distinct personae, you were like this gravedigger character and so on…
D: We were already… it was just sheer accident, not by design, that we all ended up in the same group. I think that’s what set us apart. Basically bands were all like-minded individuals and consequently looked the same, like the Clash, the Jam… but we were all extremely different from each other in every way, but where we came together was our love of music. In fact it’s still the same now, Captain and I like each other but we really don’t have that much in common. But when it comes to music it’s a magical thing, it’s a weird thing, and I think it’s the very differences that make the Damned work. And that’s why the music was pulled in all different directions too, it was quite a democratic process, there’s very rarely any arguing, it’s like what sounds good rather than who wrote what.

VLP: But how democratic was it in the early Damned with Brian?

D: He didn’t let anybody write anything! But you’ve gotta remember when we all got together, it was his band. But the thing was, when the second album came, there were reasons, we were rushed, various things, Brian somehow lost a bit of magic, he consequently said, ‘I’ll split the band up’. For a period of a month or so we wandered around wondering what the hell are we going to do next? We realised, perhaps we should try writing ourselves, putting something together. The Captain was pretty prolific, he had tapes he’d been doing in his bedroom for years. He was a guitarist to begin with, he played bass because he so much wanted to be in a band. So we tried it out, and surprise, surprise, it worked, it went on from strength to strength. I think it could have been the end of the band if we hadn’t all been writers without knowing it!



VLP: Yeah, because the third album Machine Gun Etiquette was quite a remarkable comeback…

D: I think the reason that happened is, the first album’s great, but it’s Brian only. I think if we’d all written, the first album would have been a lot different. I think that was good because the potential of the band hadn’t been reached, it was just one member. When everybody pitched in, it suddenly became, ‘wow there’s a lot more to this’, we hadn’t used up all our ideas straight away. Very often a group’s first album is the best thing they’ll ever do. Of our stuff, people like different stuff from different periods, but there’s always something that comes up on another album somewhere that surprises people, that’s what makes it worthwhile for me.

VLP: Yeah, the variety over the two CDs is remarkable…
D: Well, it surprises me! I took a trip down memory lane a while back cause we were gonna do some old numbers and I was surprised at how good the production was, how we’d edged it with things no one else would have done. There was no criteria that got in the way. There was none of this politics, doing it for any reason other than music-motivated. We never lied and said we didn’t want money, we’d have loved some money, but we’d never have sacrificed the music for it. Playing some of the albums, I’ve realised why we’re still broke, our integrity’s intact. I can look back and I’m proud of what I’ve done and that means a lot I think, I’d hate to sort of look back and think ‘Jesus why did I do that?’

VLP: There’s a certain psychedelic influence in there, particularly from the third album onwards…

D: Certainly for Captain and myself, that’s another meeting point. He likes stuff I wouldn’t like, but at the same time, he’s like me, he loves the wonderful ineptitude of a fantastic fuzz guitar, the feel of it’s just fantastic. It’s not necessarily played tremendously well, but everything’s in there, it’s got soul to it. Psychedelic music is always going to filter into the band.



VLP: Also in places you can hear the influence of that orchestral kind of sixties pop, like Scott Walker…

D: I was always a big Scott Walker fan, he had such a great voice. That was why I did ‘Eloise’, because all those grandiose melodramatic sixties songs, I loved all those, and I thought it was a shame no one was doing those anymore. And my main influences have also been film music, it’s something I have more of than anything else, and it tends to filter in, because I tend to think of moods and music as different ways of writing the three minute pop song. Things like John Barry, even Morricone, and things like John Carpenter, it’s endless.

VLP: Have you always found your audiences open to this? At first glance it’s quite a long way from what’s expected of a punk rock band!
D: With us, it’s always the case of Expect the Unexpected, and we always stressed anyone who was a Damned fan, or came to a Damned show, should come with open ears. It’s about having a wide musical spectrum and not being pigeonholed. I used to get annoyed with the punk thing because I thought that restricted what we were. I don’t give a damn now, but at the time I thought that’s wrong. What the name became known as, when ‘Punk’ was first coined, it was a diverse group of bands, who didn’t sound the same, the Adverts, the Jam, the Pistols, the Clash, none of them sounded the same, and the second wave of punk was all the same three-chord bands, and that was depressing. And then people thought that’s what it was, it became a fashion statement and I didn’t like that. The one thing we used to say about Punk, the rule about Punk was that there was no rules, that was what it always meant to me. There were no cultural divides, it didn’t matter what colour you were, and musically it didn’t matter what you did, it was the attitude that counted, how you did it. So I like to think that when we put orchestral pieces in with our music, it was never supposed to be pompous.



VLP: It’s odd that, although there’s always been a lot of fondness for the band, there always seemed to be a bit of bitchiness directed at you, not only from the press but from the ‘hipper’ circles of the punk movement…

D: We were the outsiders, it was kind of strange. We thought it was stupid, when someone talks to you, saying ‘what do you want?’ we’d say, ’well, we want money’, you want to have everything you want to have. Other people saying ‘we wanna change the world’ when they really didn’t want to, and people believed it. By being the most honest, we were also the most put down. And Captain’s buffooned image overshadowed his brilliant guitar playing and song writing. I’ve never understood why they can’t take Captain seriously as a great guitarist, when you’ve got Angus Young dressed as a schoolboy!
Maybe this anthology will redress that a little!
Well at least it’s well done and anyone who wants to know what it’s about, it’s there!

Many thanks to David Vanian and to Penny Brignell.

Hugh Gulland


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THE WOLFMEN

THE HOWLING

With

Former Ants-men Marco Pirroni and Chris Constantinou – or THE WOLFMEN – are set to play a Vive Le Rock sponsored album launch show (for new album ‘Married To The Eiffel Tower’ – out Aug. 22nd via Howl Recprds) at London’s famous 100 Club on Thursday 14th July, with Silvery in support and DJ sets from Paul-Ronney Angel (Urban Voodoo Machine/Gypsy Hotel) and Hugh Gadgit (Vive Le Rock).

In this classic Vive Le Rock interview, the duo take time out from their current creative frenzy to chat with us. Hugh Gulland enters THE WOLFMEN’s lair…

‘There’s a lot of stuff going on‘, considers Wolfmen bassist and lead vocalist Chris Constantinou, ‘but it’s fun, and it’s a lot better fun than just being in a band… that’d be really boring, it’s great that we’ve got our band, but, we have all these other things that we do as well…’

‘Projects which force you to do things that you’d never ever do off your own back!’ adds Marco Pirroni, a man whose already considerable CV seemingly expands daily what with the Wolfmen’s own output and the multiplicity of pies the pair have their collective fingers in. With their first album, a masterwork of punked-out glam rock entitled ‘Modernity Killed Every Night’ out in August, and a collaboration with Indian singing star Delar Mendhi hot on its heels, Marco and Chris are on one serious creative roll.

VLP: So how did the Wolfmen partnership begin? I gather you were initially working on each other’s solo projects…

M: Yeah, that’s exactly what happened… but I had the better name!

C: We didn’t have one actually! What happened, I had my own project, Jackie Onassid, which was going along, we were sort of trying to find someone who plays like… Marco! ‘Do you know anybody who plays like you?’

M: I don’t know what it is, either they don’t really want me or are just too scared to ask me!

C: I hadn’t been in touch with Marco for a while, I kind of always, just presumed he was so busy he can’t do this sort of thing…

M: I wasn’t busy at all!

C: So I kind of phoned up, ‘do you wanna come in’ and got together, and one of those things that wasn’t Marco coming in and playing obvious stuff… you could see it just needed to get together in a different way, start from scratch, and then we started writing some tracks together and I think one of the first we wrote was Kama Sutra, which is…

M: It was our ‘Metal Urbain’ period, do you remember them?

VLP: Sort of Parisian post-punk…?

M: Yeah, they weren’t post-punk, they were right in there.

C: So that’s where it started. You know, you sort of have periods, ‘this week I want to be Metal Urbain’! Next week, New York Dolls, Velvet Underground…

M: This week we are Roxy Music!

VLP: I was gonna say, listening, it struck me a lot of influences were that area of glam, that doesn’t get so much credit being a punk influence, like Roxy Music…

M: T Rex!

VLP: Berlin period Iggy maybe…

M: Yeah, that stuff was up, and… I don’t know if Chris goes as far as my total obsession with it, I’m psychotically obsessed with it!

C: Marco’s more… even I, with the band I was in, Drill, we supported Slade, and were signed to Chas Chandler who ended up producing us, and I didn’t quite get the whole glam thing as much as Marco, but I love… I saw Roxy on the Old Grey Whistle Test doing Ladytron, it just blew my mind, just amazing… the whole period of that band, T Rex, Jimi Hendrix, that sort of era for me was fantastic, all that stuff mixed together. But Marco was into a sort of different thing, a lot more glam stuff.

VLP: So that’s the sort of stuff, if you’d been sitting around in, say, Louise’s, (punk hangout lesbian club circa 1976) that’s what had fired you over the last…

M: No, before I went there, I think it was ‘76…

VLP: Well up to that period…

M: Oh yeah…

VLP: So it’s working its way through what you’re doing now

M: Yeah, it’s always in my mind!

C: I suppose the Tamla influence came in as well, ‘cause, the second period of getting together, we started listening to a lot of Tamla Motown, Northern Soul, I don’t think that comes out very much, it’s not obvious to anyone, but… just one of those things, you get an idea, ‘I want it to sound like something’ and it comes out completely different. It’s sort of our interpretation of it!

VLP: Judging by the biog, when you first got together, you started on a lot of soundtrack stuff?

M: Yeah, we haven’t had time to concentrate on it because we’ve been so busy, being ‘a band’, that’s the sort of field you really have to be in all the time, you can’t dabble in it, you have to do that and nothing else, so…’

C: It’s weird really, I don’t know if you saw those black and white fetish films from the 1918-20 period?

M: It was for the ICA, we got commissioned to the soundtrack for some silent movies

C: That was really interesting to do, and we’ve got a track in this film Dogging, we’ve got a cameo in it as well, that’s coming out later this year now, so we will get back into it, it’s just a case of time, we’re finishing the album, that’s coming out, and we’ve got the Daler Mendhi project, we’re really busy doing lots of different stuff, but the soundtrack stuff we really want to get into.

VLP: So what are these fetish films?

C: They weren’t really fetish films, they were just black and white, arty films…

M: I don’t think they were arty at the time!

C: No I guess they weren’t, I guess they were pornographic at the time, but they’re now perceived as… they were part of ‘Fashion and Film’, showing in New York and London, and one of them was 15 minutes long…

M: Which if you think about it is really long! A silent movie is silent, there’s no break, it’s all silence, so we had to compose a piece of 15 minutes, I’d never done anything that long!

C: We thought it was going to be easy, we started doing it… it was all just feet! You get this person shifting their feet from left to right…

VLP: It’s a foot fetish film then?

C: It’s a shoe fetish film, 1918-ish! We’ll get copies for you!

VLP: Yeah, I need to see that!

C: Yeah, we want to get back into that but prioritizing what we’re doing

VLP: The thing with Daler Mendhi, was that a bit of a cultural shock?

M: Not really… yeah, there are different scales (in Indian music), but we didn’t know that!

C: We didn’t really think about it in a logical way, it sounded like an interesting project, and ‘well, what are we gonna do with this?’

M: We did get approached, we get sent kind of projects, publishers send projects out every week, ‘our latest girl singer hasn’t got any songs’, that’s fine and everything, but not very interesting!

C: Yeah, we did some other projects, we were thrown some girl singers, one of them was particularly interesting, but couldn’t carry on doing it forever, it ran its course.

M: It would become this sort of toss and turny thing, ‘what possible angle can we do on this, what can we do that someone else wouldn’t do’, it’s not inspiring, I’ve got no problem making commercial music, that’s what I wanna make, but… there’s so many restrictions to aiming for the charts these days, it’s got to be this, it’s got to be exactly this… there’s a lot of pop idol sort of stuff!

C: We just started doing Silver Machine by Hawkwind, thought we’d play it at the gig, it was a massive hit! A massive worldwide hit, you listen to it, and you think, ‘what is this???’

M: That’s the sort of thing wouldn’t even get on BBC6 these days it’s so out-there!

VLP: There’s that video they show on VH1 sometimes with Stacia (Hawkwind’s ‘dancer’)…

C: She’s get her tits out, I went to see them when I was about 13, the only reason we went was Stacia, she’d get her tits out, we were just waiting, she had massive tits! And the strobe was going… and she same out on Silver Machine, so…

M: A lot of people who later became punks would’ve liked it, not necessarily liked Hawkwind, but would have liked that. It was the same time as Virginia Plain, the sort of rock n roll and synthesizer…

C: I also think it’s to do with the actual drumming, if you listen to it, it’s not ‘rock’, it’s laid back, not hard rock, it’s kind of really sloppy, just like the whole punk thing, if you listen to the guy from the Sex Pistols, he doesn’t hit the drums like a rock drummer, he’s got a sort of, dare I say it, I’ll probably get beaten up for saying this, but he’s got a Tamla, R&B feel to his drumming…

M: Having said that, Silver Machine is not a huge influence in my life, it’s probably the first time I’ve ever talked to anyone about it!

C: Are you embarrassed about me bringing that up!!! You’re the one that said we should do it!

M: I thought, what could we do as a cover that they won’t like much!

VLP: So you’re back to live work now then, gigging regularly…

C: I’m pausing on purpose to make Marco squirm! Marco loves playing live!!!

M: That’s not true Chris. I hate it! I held off from it as long as I can!

C: I had to bribe him with drugs, money, Kate Moss, had to introduce him to Kate Moss!

M: I hadn’t played live for 15 years, people would go ‘why not’, why the fuck do you think!!!

C: Since we started to play live, recording has become so much easier, when we started out we weren’t recording as a band, it was me and Marco, and machines, getting session drummers in, it was a very piecemeal sound…

M: I’ve always worked that way, but I think that’s because I liked making model tanks when I was a kid… yeah, Tamiya, they came in a plastic bag…

C: I was into airplanes, not tanks.

M: But we had our art director, we were always talking about the cover art to ‘that panzer, that tank’… it’s a shame to make those Tamiya kits because they’re packed really nicely!

VLP: I got all self conscious about making those in my teens, because, I thought at the time, getting into music, you can’t be into punk and…

C: You’re not gonna get girls, ‘wanna come back to my place and see my tank’! The end for me was when I persuaded my parents to buy me a Spitfire, one of those things you fly on a line, beautiful! Went out, started it up, it went up in the air, went around a few times, nose-dived into the ground, smashed to bits, and that was the end of my Spitfire! So I picked up the bass guitar, after that, a substitute! The only way to get a girlfriend!

VLP: Similar thing with trains really, but they named one after Strummer!

M: I never understood this adulation of The Clash… never understood it!

C: You didn’t turn up with the T-shirt, so you’re alright!

M: I used to like them before they released an album! But I never understood the whole ‘we are the victims, we are men of the people’… wasn’t them so much, it was the people who bought into it all! A Clash fan is sort of one cut up from a Jam fan isn’t it!

C: Yeah, the Daler Mendhi thing, anyway! We’re seven songs in, we’ve got three more songs to do, we fly back to India for two weeks to finish the album and then we’ve been asked to play in Canada, the festivals, do the Daler Mendhi tour of India, but we’ve also got our album coming out in August, and we’ve also got this Tibetan thing going on. (A lot of projects) would never come to the surface if you didn’t have the Wolfmen. The fact is if two guys like me and Marco were just sitting in our studios thinking ‘oh can we get this’, it wouldn’t come in, the fact that we have the Wolfmen, doing stuff, all this stuff comes to us, it’s more interesting, it’s good to have that across the board sort of thing.

M: It does make it a lot more interesting, I don’t know if I could stick to just the band, it’s not that interesting! (laughter)

VLP: You’re meant to be selling it!

M: It’s just not that interesting for ME, you know!

C: I think what it is, is just doing one thing, for instance, if we were to do our album, go on tour, come back, do another one and so on, it’s not enough, at our stage of our career it’s not enough, we need a lot of other stimuli which feeds the Wolfmen! I don’t think Marco’s putting it down…

M: I’m just saying, you need more!

C: And also to survive you need more financially, you can’t make enough money selling records… even if we’re selling…

M: Even top ten…

C: You need to do other things so the money we’d be getting from working on our project with Daler Mendhi will go into another project, feeds what we’re doing, our next album, but the great thing is we have the bedrock which is the Wolfmen, and without that we’d have nothing.

VLP: So everything can spring outwards from it and feed back…

C: And that’s the way we always wanted it!

VLP: Maybe that’s a model of what bands have to be now…

C: I don’t know, I guess you can’t make that much money…

M: It depends on how successful the band are and what they’re doing, if they’re touring all the time they don’t have time to do anything else… there’s huge outgoings, I keep hearing live is where you make money these days, well I don’t see any increase in ticket prices and I’d like to see the figures on that…

C: I think what it is, is that record sales are down…

M: They’re still making money live but they don’t make any MORE money live!

C: Fortunately for us so far, we have been involved in projects we’ve enjoyed doing, I don’t think unless it was for five million we’d be tempted to do some shit project I’d take two days to do…

M: For five million pounds, I don’t mind doing two days!

C: At this stage of the game it’s just… it’s quite good in some ways, a lot of younger bands say to us ‘it’s quite refreshing to see your attitude’!

M: I do feel bad meeting other bands because they seem so… happy! (Laughter)

C: We soon sort that out!

M: What are they happy about? Do they think this is going to get any better? ‘We‘ve won an award…’ wonderful! Do you think that’s the…

C: Miserable bastard!

M: No, but it’s like, winning some award, it doesn’t mean anything does it?

VLP: Your association with Adam… as people coming from the punk underground and becoming this huge phenomenon, did you feel at all conflicted?

M: In no way at all conflicted! What against my punk ideals? No, I didn’t feel in any way, because I didn’t know what punk ideals were! I’d never heard, I didn’t know what they were. Suddenly, a year later, there’s a bunch of rules, I wasn’t there that day when they gave out the rules! But obviously a lot of people were. Punk was actually started by The Sun! It wasn’t started by the Pistols or Malcolm. When The Sun put ‘how to be a punk’, with a picture of a punk, that’s what started it, and suddenly that’s how you would be a punk, and everyone else is reading saying ‘what the fuck is this? Bollocks!’ But the rest of the country, that’s what started punk!

VLP: So as far as time with The Ants is concerned you were doing your thing and going with it?

M: It wasn’t going with it, it was a calculated decision by myself and Adam, when he’d lost the (original) band, and I wasn’t doing anything with my band, it was like ‘we’ve got to get out of this ridiculous ghetto, or die trying!’ Or it’s not worth doing.

VLP: The received wisdom at the time was Malcolm Maclaren took The Ants over…

M: He got the band to get rid of Adam, he wouldn’t have done it himself!

VLP: So before you got together with Adam, you’d started with the Banshees?

M: Yeah, just for one show. We were never supposed to be together for 20 minutes!

VLP: But that was your fist gig?

M: Yeah, first gig I ever did

VLP: So from a very random beginning point…

M: Yeah, it was all like ‘what you doing tomorrow?’ really

C: A bit how it is today! It’s weird though, I ended up playing with Annabelle (Lu Win, ex-Bow Wow Wow, formed from original Ants line-up under Maclaren) as well after playing with you…

VLP: I presume no bad feeling with her about any of it…

C: Oh yeah, she was like totally…

M: She wouldn’t have had any bad feeling towards me and Adam, we didn’t know her, never met her!

C: No, towards Malcolm! I think everyone that’s worked with Malcolm, Adam… I can’t speak for Adam, but…

M: I don’t think Adam, why would Adam have any bad feelings towards Malcolm, he gave him the best break he’s ever…

C: I mean, I don’t know, I think Adam kind of got…

M: I actually met Malcolm with Adam, years later with The Ants, he came into the restaurant, Adam held his hand out, he shook my hand but he blanked Adam, Adam was like, ’what’s with him? I should be pissed off!’ I said ’well don’t you get it? You fucked him right over didn’t you!’

C: ‘Cause you’d made a mega success out of it, but I think with Annabella… I think she was young, and she also had a lot of… she felt like she was very manipulated by him, this barrage, so I think she felt quite bad towards him, the only things I’ve heard about him are pretty bad really…

M: He did do some brilliant things as well!

C: From everyone, apart from Marco! But I don’t know Malcolm personally, so I can’t really say anything about him…

M: Malcolm did some brilliant things, without which I wouldn’t be sitting here! They weren‘t particularly musical things, but that was the interesting thing about him!

VLP: The two of you did Live Aid, what do you remember about that?

M: The traffic light! We couldn’t see, someone said, ‘there’s a traffic light, and when it goes green you start playing!’ So we get on stage, we’re going ‘where the fuck’s this traffic light?’ Couldn’t see it!

C: I think I remember the night before, I think we stayed in a hotel the night before … I remember being there the night before, oh that was it, the biggest memory I’ve got is Marco telling me we were doing this gig, I’ve got my little diary still, it’s falling to bits, I’ve got ‘Benefit gig!’ I said ‘what’s this fucking gig we’re doing?’ And Marco said ‘it’s some charity gig’! So I put benefit gig in. You know how when you’re young, people tell you things like ‘it’s a charity gig’, that means Charity Gig! ‘specially when you’re a bass player! I kind of thought ok, fine, charity gig, turned up thinking nothing, so we did Live Aid, sound checked, I didn’t even think this is anything big or flash, we did the gig, still didn’t think anything, then a few days later realized we’d played one of the biggest gigs ever! It was a real sort of, switch on…

M: We had done big gigs before! We didn’t go from little clubs to Wembley stadium, we’d gone from well, large arenas to Wembley Stadium!

C: So I didn’t feel nervous at all, it wasn’t like nerves or any big deal, it was just another gig sort of thing, except we weren’t getting paid!

VLP: How long did you continue with Adam after that?

C: We did a tour, then it was all over… 85?

M: We kind of did that tour and it was at that point… I’d just been working five or six years nonstop, it was like, let’s take a break, I don’t know what I’m doing any more!

VLP: How was Adam with that? Because obviously there’s been a lot of publicity since about his illness…

M: At that time he was doing fine.

VLP: Are you in touch now?

M: No, haven’t spoken to him in a long time, I think he’s moved into the country, and I think he’s really doing what he has to do, to… you know, he’s been very seriously ill. A lot worse than people realise, and it’s not flu! It’s not like ‘all better now’! I knew nothing about it to be honest, and I’ve said all those stupid things, people said, ‘when’s he going to be alright, how long is this going to last? I’m sure he’ll be over this in a couple of weeks…’ sort of thing.

VLP: Has he been active musically lately?

M: Not at all, I can’t remember the last thing he did. But he doesn’t have to be active musically, he owes it to himself to do what’s right for him.

VLP: So Chris, you were involved with Chas Chandler as a manager, what was the story with him?

C: The story with Chas is, basically, my biggest memory of Chas Chandler, he used to come in… he was, as you know, Slade, Jimi Hendrix, all that stuff, and I don’t know how we ended up working for him, but we did, and Slade loved us, so we ended up supporting Slade forever!

VLP: What sort of period was that?

C: 1976, ‘75, something like that, I think it would have been before they went to the States, so what, ‘75? What were Slade doing then? It was after the film Flame. So Chas produced this band The Drill that I was in, and then he used to turn up, we went into the studio, Slade and Jimi Hendrix and that lot had recorded there, he used to turn up, order two sausage sandwiches, one with brown sauce, one with red, get The Sun, put his feet up on the desk and go ‘get on with it lads!’ And we’d sort of, you know, when you’re first in the studio, you think the producer will tell you what to do! And then he said, ‘look, it may seem like I’m not doing anything‘, but my theory is, as you can imagine from working with Jimi Hendrix – which he wasn’t! And I don’t know about Slade, but, he probably didn’t have to do that much! So he just thought, ‘just get on with it, if something disturbs me with my sandwiches, reading the paper, I’ll know it’s wrong!’

M: Having been a producer, I know if you’re not paying attention, if you’re just reading the paper while the band are playing, you’re not listening to it!

C: What’s really funny, after two or three years, when I joined up with Adam and Marco, I was hanging around in the clubs, and I met him again, he was with this beautiful Swedish girl, he was talking to me, and it was so weird seeing him on a different level to being how it was when you‘re young in a band for years, and it was just weird really. He died I think after that…

VLP: So you got to tour with Slade a bit…

C: Oh, that was amazing, yeah, that was fantastic! It was interesting because they used to have the same set every night! Exactly the same, same lines, say the same things, it was a show!

VLP: So this was before, they hit this real trough in the late 70s…

C: It was before that… they were massive. It was quite a big thing for us really. I remember that guitarist coming out and they used to take the piss out of him! Our guitarist was better than him, and he had one of those Watkins 30 watt amps, used to mike it up, and all of Slade used to get… Dave Hill had them going ‘look at this bloke! He’s better than you!’ and take the piss out of him, it was terrible! They said he had the worst taste ever, they showed us his suitcase, his suitcase was embarrassing when he used to go on tour… he was a lovely bloke! I tell you, all of them were really lovely, the drummer especially, you know, he had a car accident so, and they had to just rehearse numbers a lot for him in order to learn them… they were really good, great guys!

VLP: And I hear Marco now owns Dave Hill’s Superyob guitar?

M: Yeah, I still have that, I’ve given it to, they’ve started a big British rock n roll hall of fame thing at the Millennium Dome, I’ve lent it to them, ‘cause otherwise it’s just sat at home. I was playing, Adam and the Ants were doing six to seven nights, I was so bored I went for a walk one morning, it was hanging in this guitar shop window, and I went in there and I said how much is Superyob, they said ‘you can’t afford it’, I said ‘listen, I can afford it!’ ‘Listen sonny, go away, go away’, I said ‘listen, how much you want?’ They went ‘alright, 500 quid’, I said ‘done, let me have it!’ That was shit actually, they were bastards. I paid for it and sent them over for it, and when they came back, they said ‘oh we know who that was now, we didn’t know who he was!’ I said ‘what difference does that make? What, I was a wanker when I walked in and now I’m not?’

C: That was the other thing with Slade, I remember one of the roadies used to treat us like shit, I remember when I first started playing with Marco, the support band had the same roadie, and so, being in the main band, everything changes… ‘Oh!’ and he was sort of shitting himself. And as soon as we got into, I was the main band, and it’s funny, you always, want to get them back, but you don’t!

M: What’s weird about that, they forget don’t they? It’s like, coming from the club scene in London, this completely snide, fashion-y scene, and people, people in other bands, used to blank me. And two months later, ‘Hello!’ I was thinking, ‘but you blanked me six weeks ago, I don’t understand what’s changed now! What’s different about me, now I’m alright, now I’m your friend, but I was a wanker six weeks ago!’ Guess who’s the wanker now!

VLP: When you look about you now, what do you think has happened to that punk spirit of throwing people together, like with the Banshees, throwing people together to play the 100 club and doing that thing…

M: I’ve no idea if that exists in other bands, in what’s happening on the scene, ‘cause I don’t really think about it. I don’t think the punk spirit really applies anymore! It is now 32 years! It’s like, I can’t possibly have the same attitude to things I had when I was 16, I’d be an idiot! It doesn’t apply, it’s a different world! I’m now 49, and I don’t think like when I was 16! It doesn’t apply any more… it’s like the spirit of ragtime or the spirit of disco! Why doesn’t anyone talk about the spirit of disco, or the spirit of ragtime jazz, or the spirit of waltz!!! You can’t keep living your life like you’re 17!

C: It’s like saying, something that happened yesterday, you can’t do today, you can’t recreate what you did, you know, years ago, and I think that is the spirit of punk!

M: I think it’s like that White Stripes album, they made on 8 track, I kind of know what they’re trying to do, recreate the spirit of garage rock, old sixties records, I think that was a great thing to do and that was a great album and I thought ‘let’s try that’, but thought ‘no, because it doesn’t work’. Those great old garage punk records and sixties records which I love were made by people who only had one take, they didn’t have any more money. The White Stripes can go in and go ‘this doesn’t work, we can scrap the whole album and start again’, when they went to make Louie Louie and the singer comes in wrong, they didn’t think that’s great, no, they didn’t have the money to do it again!

C: Also there’s too much thinking going into, hopefully not in what we’re doing, it’s pretty much as it comes, we’re so old now we can do it instinctively and it’s more fun, it’s just great, it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes, who gives a shit!

M: The problem is, I don’t make mistakes! I can’t play with the frantic energy I had when I was 16 because I didn’t know what was gonna happen next, but I can’t do that anymore!

C: I equate it to saying to Miles Davis, do you think you can make a mistake! Because any note that he plays is wrong! So I guess, it’s the same thing with punk, is anyone gonna know! I think, it sounds like an excuse!

M: So if I play a wrong note, I can make it sound right!

The Wolfmen’s ‘Modernity Killed Every Night’ is out now on Damaged Good Records.

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TV SMITH

Former Adverts mainman TV SMITH, the hardest gigging man in punk rock showbiz, has just released his new ‘solo’ album ‘In The Arms Of My Enemy’. TV kindly found time while (inevitably) on tour to respond to Vive Le Punk’s questions.



VLP: Just in general terms, how would you compare ‘In The Arms Of My Enemy’ with ‘Misinformation Overload’?

“I think they both share a very strong selection of songs but have quite a different approach musically. ‘Arms’ is less reliant on electric rock guitar. On ‘Misinformation’ I played all the guitars myself, and it was a fairly straightforward rock sound, but on the new album I wanted to broaden the musical spectrum and integrate some more interesting instruments while still keeping the power and energy of the last album.

VLP: Haven’t you made a rod for your own back here? Just in terms of your prolific work as a solo performer, how on earth are you going to recreate some of those cross-current guitar lines on stage, or will you have to simplify them for performance? I’m presuming a lot of the lead lines are played by Tim Renwick (I have to say, stuff like ‘Open Up Your Heart’ (especially), ‘My Trojan Horse’ and ‘In The Arms Of My Enemy’ reminds me of Jimmy Wilsey’s work with Chris Isaak. There’s a definite country influence too. That should shock the punk nostalgics!

“Basically I don’t try and recreate my albums on stage. In fact it’s the other way round: I write the songs on acoustic guitar, then go out and road test them at gigs solo. By the time I come to record the songs I have a good idea of the way I want them to sound and I try and aim for that. I like having a full band on the records because I think you get more out of repeated listenings that way, whereas a solo record is not something I’d personally listen to very often. Luckily over the years I’ve built up a collection of musicians and friends who I can call on when I want to make a record, depending on the sound I’m after – people like Tim Renwick who I know understands my songs and can put them across with his playing. The guy is a genius and I think he’s played some of his best ever guitar on this album.”

VLP: I noticed the unmistakable aroma of self-doubt on ‘I Wish I Could See Clearly’. I’ve always thought one of your songwriting strengths, going back through Adverts days and beyond, was in your ability to express confusion as much as certainty. You’re no stranger to phrasing a line of a lyric as an interrogative, are you?

“Well, if you’re going to be honest in your lyrics you have to take on board the fact that you basically don’t know what the fuck is going on. Anything else is just arrogance or self-deception.”


TV Smith in the Adverts days

VLP: Okay, other themes. ‘Get It Now’ – defiant, dance while your knees will still support you kind of thing – the album’s most optimistic song and a very different take on ‘consumption’ to that expressed in, say, ‘Clone Town’.

“Yeah, I’ve writtten a few songs around this theme and I have to keep coming back to it to make slight adjustments. I think this one fits in with songs like ‘The Future Used To Be Better’ from ‘Not A Bad Day’ and The Adverts’ ‘We Who Wait’, among others. The idea of the song is: consumerism as a lifestyle is clearly destructive, but you have to remember to enjoy your own life while you have it. Most people want more all the time and forget to enjoy what they already have, so they wouldn’t actually be capable of appreciating ‘more’ if they had it. I often find myself coming back to the same subjects when I’m writing songs. It’s a bit like hammering down a plank – you get to one end and find the first nails have popped up so you have to go back and have another swing at them.”

VLP: ‘It’s Warming Up’ – it’s about that old Egyptian river de nile ain’t it? Was very pleased you just stuck to the line of taking the piss and not sneaking in some silly homily at the end.

“Heh heh! I just decided, for a joke, to make a blatant statement that I didn’t actually believe myself: that mankind isn’t responsible for global warming. There have been a few theories like that going around, and when one of them gets made public you can almost hear the collective sigh of relief – back in the gas guzzler, no need to bother with any more recycling! Life would be so much easier if we didn’t have to be responsible so if someone tells us we’re not responsible we’re desperate to believe them.

VLP: ‘Backstage Bob’ – so how many of these phrases were genuine quotations? Because you’re a very warm performer, I would guess people see you as approachable offstage. But it sounds like you feel uncomfortable with unadulterated flattery as well as the falseness of the whole ‘backstage’ premise.

“This might shock you, but ‘Backstage Bob’ is actually totally sincere. It’s about a fan who was a great friend and willing to help me out at gigs, give me lifts in his car, even researched publishers for my ‘Tour Diaries’ book because I didn’t have time and would probably have never got round to doing it. He never wanted any thanks for it, he just said it was the least he could do to repay me for what my music gave him. When he died from a brain tumour a little over a year ago I decided to write a song for him. The only irony in it is that he would never have tried to “get backstage” – he just wasn’t that kind of pushy type of person – and his name wasn’t really Bob.”

VLP: Have you ever written a more musically complex song than ‘In The Arms Of My Enemy’? Some observations, which may of course be hugely wide of the mark – the lyric here reminded me of Justin’s early New Model Army work (he was very good at painting pictures of the slow death/suffocation of the individual), but also, to an extent, Mike Scott of the Waterboys (probably cos you’ve got all epic, like). I do think it works terrifically well though. I presume you do as well, hence making it the album’s title.

“I often get compared with Justin and Mike, I think it’s fair to say we’re fellow travellers. As for ‘most complicated song’, I think ‘I Looked At The Sun’ on the Adverts second album, and some of those Explorers songs must be in the running! The structure of ‘Arms’ isn’t all that complex but the arrangement and musicianship on it is, and the lyrics are pretty devious. It’s nice every now and then to stretch out a bit and not feel you have to get a song over with in three minutes.

VLP: And your voice sounds uncannily like Vi Subversa’s on ‘Open Up Your Heart’, strangely enough.

“Good lord!”

VLP: Are you, in terms of spirit and intent, the trojan horse of the title of the last track – is this what you do, effectively?

“Yes. Obviously when you’re over fifty years old and still out there playing music with no particular mass appreciation of what you do there’s a certain feeling that you’re slipping your ideas into the culture undercover. Over the last few years I’ve been getting more and more people to gigs and selling more records than ever before but it’s purely through word-of-mouth – there’s no media push, no big business backing. Another reason that Trojan Horse is important to me is that it’s a song I originally wrote and recorded with Tim Cross and Tim Renwick as a demo in the mid-‘80s, at a time when no one was interested in what I was doing and I’d pretty much slipped off the musical map, kicked out of the music business by the charlatans who run it. I always thought, one day I’ll get this song our there and people will hear it…and now, my audience has found me again and it’s the right time. To me, that song is a symbol of survival.

‘In the Arms of My Enemy’ is out now on Boss Tuneage.

Alex Ogg

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UK SUBS

BORN A ROCKER, DIE A ROCKER

The undeniable godfather of British punk, Charlie Harper and his UK SUBS have set the benchmark for every home grown band that’s followed in their wake…

"We were playing the sold out Rainbow theatre, five thousand people there and we nicked this ladder and had it up to the dressing room, getting everyone in for free" says Charlie Harper, man of the people, punk rock legend and singer for the UK Subs for the last twenty nine years. We are in a Holloway Road pub talking to the man who is widely regarded as the grandfather of punk rock. A man who has played in nearly every country around the world, to literally hundreds of thousands of fans. He’s had his songs covered by Guns N’Roses and shortly after our interview will head off on tour to Russia to play a festival with Kiss! And the great fact about all this is that when I saw the band recently Charlie and the Subs played with more fire than most kids half his age (he’s sixty two!). From his early days in pub rock bands in London in the ’70s with people like Thin Lizzy’s Scott Gorham, Charlie has remained one of the most approachable, genuine and friendly guys on the scene. So just how did he get started?

"I wasn’t just playing what’s called punk rock, one year I was in five different bands. I was in a band with horns, I was also in a kind of Irish folk band. I love it all, there’s just good music and bad music, that’s all there is. I love ’50s stuff, there’s a great ’50s revival right now."

VLP: So how did you get into punk? The Subs were pretty much right there at the start.
CH: "It was a complete accident, really. My heroes at the time were people like Wilko Johnson and Doctor Feelgood, but no one really coined the word punk in those days. I was a big Wilko Johnson fan. He’d break a string and get a string pack out of his top pocket of his old mohair suit while he was still playing and singing and change the string while he was still playing and singing. And then there was the Kursaal Flyers and the bass player just kinda stood there staring at someone in the crowd like they were a real oddity. And then suddenly you’ve got the Sex Pistols and word went round ‘Have you seen this band?’ They kinda dressed really stupid, ’cause you know we used to go down to the Old Piccadilly Market and buy suits for fifty pence and put a couple of safety pins in the lapel, otherwise the suit was solid you know. And the Sex Pistols used to go for real sassy ten pence suits. They were the kind of characters which we don’t get now, there’s no real characters in bands."


UK Subs – classic second line-up

VLP: Today punk seems a bit faceless with kids doing it for a career almost…
CH: "I really try and encourage any kid I see with a bit of talent and say, ‘I’ve had a great life, I’ve toured just about every country in the world’, but to make a great band there’s got to be some great characteristics about the band and when The Clash came out for instance, they didn’t know a lot about politics, but the people around them were giving them all these ideas about the political situation and everything. So the young ‘uns have got to wake up – maybe they haven’t got it as hard as we had it.
When we played the Rainbow theatre, we had good line-up, and the place was full up, but in those days it was a strange kind of business music. We were pop stars, rock stars and we were poor as hell at the time. After that show I stayed at this party at a pub and next morning I had to get my ass up to Brent Cross and start hitching to Manchester while on a sold-out tour!"

VLP: You have had a lot of success, and music’s kind of taken you all over the world…
CH: "Yeah, there’s always ups and downs in every kind of career, life, whatever, but I wouldn’t change it for the world-it’s been brilliant. Yeah, we continue to go round the world and looking back it’s all worth it. We played a really big show in Poland, when no one had ever been there before. That’s when it was closed. I think we were invited because the government said if we didn’t go there’d be a revolution or a civil war! They listened to all our songs, but they didn’t really want us to play ‘Warhead’ -they thought that was too rebel rousing. We weren’t allowed to wear our solidarity shirts, but when we went on stage our drummer kind of snuck one on cause these were huge gigs with ten or twenty thousand people .It caused a few arguments because it was a kind of dangerous situation. Our drummer Kim Wylie insisted on wearing one. He lives in France now in a big farmhouse with a few acres and at the end of his drive he has a bit of old rotted bark nailed to a tree, and it’s got carved in it ‘Punk Cottage’. Born a rocker, die a rocker!"

VLP: So who is the most punk rock person you’ve ever met?
CH: "Well I’ve always said Wattie (singer from The Exploited) because they just took it a stage further than the Sex Pistols, the next batch was meaner and that’s what happened to punk. You’ve got bands like Discharge and Broken Bones with Terry Bones-far more dangerous people, and it went on and on from there."

VLP: Green Day, My Chemical Romance- its all termed punk but kind of different- what do you think of punk now?
CH: "I think it’s good you know ’cause you can’t go along the same old cranked up guitar level. I love it. I think punk is like a wild animal, you know stripped down-music stripped to the bone. I look at it like a tame domestic cat to a wild cat- and that’s punk rock. And the wild cat is far more beautiful cause it’s just stripped down, basic."

VLP: Have you ever played the Warped Tour in America?
CH: "Oh no, that’s commercial shit. Horrible commercial shit, probably sponsored by McDonalds and KFC. MTV for sure. That’s the music business that’s above us, and what we hate, but we are going on a big American tour with the Misfits and the Adicts soon. We’re very excited about it-this will be the biggest thing we’ve done since we went on tour in Europe with the Ramones."

VLP: So you’ve done thirty five US tours and this will be the last?
CH: "No, no. A couple of years ago I said that’s it, we’re finished, but then someone comes up with a good idea. We’ve been going over there every year since ’79 and we said we just wouldn’t go anymore. Then someone offered this Misfits, Adicts and Subs tour… It’s gonna be a great tour."

VLP: Any chance of you slowing down?
CH: "No not this year, and next year is the thirtieth anniversary of the UK Subs and we wanna do an album and a tour. If it all dies down after that we don’t care. You know I’ve gotta slow down a little bit."

VLP: How many gigs a year do you do?
CH: "I wear out a few wheelchairs, I’ll tell you that! We’re a band, we love gigging. It’s the most simple thing to us to be performing, whether its two to three hundred or a thousand. We’re always looking for ways to make our music more exciting. In our attitude towards music, it’s got to be exciting."

VLP: You’ve taken quite a few people under your wing in the band…
CH: "There’s a film coming out called ‘Punk’s Not Dead’-it’s about history through punk and there’s Alan and Ryan from the Subs in it and they’re counting who was in the UK Subs – ‘Oh after Nicky, Captain Scarlet, and that guy who died but he didn’t really die,’ and they come back and read off another ten people. It’s a really funny bit. Lars from Rancid is doing well and he was with us for a while too."

VLP: What does punk mean to you these days?
CH: "They always said if you want a job done proper do it yourself, and the whole DIY idea I love. We’re kind of doing our records ourselves now with Jett, our guitarist, and his tiny little record label-so it’s all gonna be like DIY-isn’t that what punk music’s all about. Forget the middle man, the middle man just runs off with all the money."

And with that Charlie is off down Holloway Road. There are more gigs to play and more fans to meet and you just know that as long as there’s a good band on he will be there, checking them out. Because punk’s in Charlie’s blood.

‘Warhead’ is out now on Jet13.
The UK Subs play this year’s Rebellion festival.

Eugene Big Cheese

UK SUBS FACTS

Formed 1977 in London.

‘Crash Course’ was their biggest selling album reaching No 8 in U.K charts.

Seven singles made the UK Charts, with ‘Stranglehold’ having the highest position at 26 (1979).

Charlie Harper was born David Charles Perez on April 25th 1944

Prior to forming the UK Subs, Harper was in five other bands, including R&B band The Marauders.

Two punk legends in their own right explain what Charlie’s contribution to punk means to them…

"The first record of an English punk band I ever heard was the UK Subs’
‘Another Kind Of Blues’. Little did I know that, at the age of nineteen, years later I would be playing guitar right beside one of my all time heroes Charlie Harper.
Charlie is one of the most humble people you can ever come across. He is the first guy at the party to greet you and normally the last one to leave. We have stumbled home many a late night together so I know this from my own experience. I’ve learned so much from him over the years and I hold him in high regard. I feel that he has helped me become the man that I am today – don’t know if that’s saying much! He is more of a father to me than anyone has been in my life, to the point where people have stopped us in the street and asked if he was me dad…Is there something I should know Charlie? You lived in Campbell in the early ’70s…
For that I will always love and respect him. His voice is unique and parallel to none. He has a style that has been often imitated, but never duplicated. In my opinion, his stage presence has made him the most exciting singer to watch in all of punk rock, much less in all of rock ‘n’ roll. I don’t know anyone who can do it with such consistency and still keep the audience at the edge of their seats night after night after night. He’s the Dean Martin of punk, only better.
For those of us who have been graced by his presence, you will know they don’t make ’em like that anymore, but that’s fine. I’m sure we wouldn’t want it any other way. Because there’s only one Charlie Harper!"
RANCID’s Lars Frederiksen

"Charlie Harper is a living legend who defined the punk experience. He was one of the first guys to put the audience on an equal footing and reject the stardust approach of being aloft and removed. He gets down there in the mosh pit and shares in the blood, sweat and cheers of Joe Public. That is the way to do it. If there is anyone from the old school I’d model myself after, then it would be Charlie Harper."
THE MASONS’/Former BUSINESS guitarist Steve Whale

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THE SEX PISTOLS

Four singles and an album. That’s all it took for THE SEX PISTOLS to become the most infamous punk band of all-time. Vive Le Punk takes a closer look at those defining moments in the Pistols story.

‘ANARCHY IN THE UK’

The Sex Pistols’ debut single was released in November 1976 on EMI and was a clarion call all for a generation. It was actually the second proper punk single to get released (a week later than The Damned classic ‘New Rose’) but that didn’t lessen its impact one iota. From Rotten’s manic cackle over the intro and Steve Jones’ huge guitar sound, ‘Anarchy’ sounded like no record ever before. Sure, there were touches of The Who or the New York Dolls in its raunch but this was another level.

Lyrically it was spot on. It was a mangle of ‘70s political confusion, with the singer looking for total personal freedom, “I wanna be anarchy” he sneered in the songs white heat meltdown. Few debut singles have ever been this good or had this much impact. Within a few weeks the band had been banned from most venues on their tour, record label EMI dumped them in a total panic and they lost a member when in February 1977 Glen Matlock was out of the band. Matlock was replaced by Rotten’s mate Sid Vicious, who couldn’t play bass but was the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll icon. After ‘Anarchy’ things were never going to be the same again. The Pistols’ Steve Jones has always maintained that after Bill Grundy they stopped being a band and became a freak show- he’s right of course but for one brief year it was the best ‘freak show’ in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.

‘GOD SAVE THE QUEEN’

For many this is the best ever single in pop history. It ticks every single box – fiercely exciting, brilliant production, a neat line in psychosis and a brilliant tune to boot. Add to this a great guitar sound and raw power and what else do you need? On a new label, Virgin, the band were stoking the fires of controversy releasing this anti-royal diatribe and nihilistic take on the rubbish state of Britain one week before the Queen’s silver jubilee. Whilst most people in the UK had tatty street parties and celebrated the rubbish German family that get away with sitting on top of the pile there were many dissenters. The Pistols was the rallying call for all those that didn’t agree with the decadence of the royals and they gleefully sent it to number one.

A psychotic rush of sound with some of the greatest guitar riffs ever, the Sex Pistols were firing on all cylinders for this single, which is a concise and deadly explosion. It’s hard to think of another number one that sounded so dangerous. Hardly any rock music sounds this powerful and intense. The record was kept at number 2 by the terrified authorities whilst everyone else knew that by far it was the number one selling record. A perfect pop moment.


‘PRETTY VACANT’



The closest the Sex Pistols came to pure pop was the anthemic ‘Pretty Vacant’. With words and lyrics by the ousted Glen Matlock it intros with that fantastic guitar arpeggio – the one that everyone learns on their guitars and then crashes into a deceptively simple four chord churning verse half-inched bizarrely off Abba’s ‘Knowing Me Knowing You’. The chorus is sublime. It’s a classic football terrace sing-along. ‘Pretty Vacant’ may not have been as immense as ‘God Save The Queen’ but it was still a delicious, nihilistic anthem for a generation fed up with crap Britain.

‘NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS… HERE’S THE SEX PISTOLS’

The best album title of all time was coined by guitarist Steve Jones as a joke. It was the perfect title for the autumn 1977 album from the band who, by now, were dangerously surrounded by the bollocks of the media and the states attempts to crush them. The album was greeted with mixed reviews on release as the notoriously snooty music press was trying to push the band aside, but the record, which they had spent the summer working on, was a fantastically executed work. Again Jones’ guitars (and bass – as Sid was not very busy on the sessions) and Paul Cook’s great drums provided a perfect platform for Rotten’s sneering vocals). There’s a terror and neurosis in his singing that no-one has got close to since. The Sex Pistols were not a direct political band – this was the sound of a supremely intelligent, sharp individual with a chaotic and terrifying imagination. The songs are powerful, personal tirades and they were easily identified with that particularity weird and wonderful generation of psychotic mid-‘70s youth. Never has pop music sounded this vital and dangerous.

‘HOLIDAYS IN THE SUN’

Weeks after the album came the Sex Pistols’ proper last single. Yeah, we all know about the later cash-in albums but they are the work of a different band. Quite literally as they had already imploded by early ‘78 and the Pistols existed in name only for the next album, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle’ – a footnote to manager Malcolm Maclaren’s situationist showbiz theories. There were to be great moments after ‘Holidays’ but this was the real Sex Pistols in action for one last time. The fourth and last single release came in the autumn of 1977. Ostensibly a ranting jackboot stomp about a trip to Berlin that year it could also be about the traps of the band’s image and reputation that Rotten felt especially after getting slashed by royalist thugs that summer. This is the singer at his most paranoiac and the ad-libbed “looking over the Berlin wall” vocal at the end is almost terrifying – and bizarre for a top ten hit. The song is many people’s favourite Pistols song from the mighty intro to the song’s chanting, churning psychodrama. Forget all the bullshit, the Sex Pistols were a genius rock ‘n’ roll band. Few bands have ever matched them for their intensity or had their influence.

The Sex Pistols have oddly become a classic British band sitting alongside the Beatles, Pink Floyd and the Stones – the very groups they set out to destroy. History still can’t make its mind up about them, the mythology sometimes drowns up the truth – people will still tell you that the band had no talent and couldn’t play but listen to ‘…Bollocks’ and you are listening to one of the best hard rock albums aver made – a powerful mix of guitar action with one of the greats vocalists of all time.

They existed for two short years but they packed more incident and controversy into that time than every other band does in a whole career. Luckily they could back it up with their music.

John Robb

For the story of the Sex Pistols from 1975-1978, check out the Vive Le Punk mini-mag that’s free with the new issue of Big Cheese! (out July 24th)

 

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