We spoke to Andy ‘Tez’ Turner of Dewsbury’s UKHC legends INSTIGATORS for our Where Are They Now? column in the April edition of Vive Le Rock! He had a lot to say for himself, but due to space restrictions we couldn’t fit it all in. Now, in all its glory, you can read the full unexpurgated interview….
In 1980 Britain was a desolate place for a generation of dismayed working class youth, unemployed and angry. As the first wave of punk fell and gave way to the anarcho punk movement of the 80s, a new voice of protest rose.
The Instigators formed in West Yorkshire and influenced by Crass and UK Subs, they played their first show in 1982 and were soon supporting bands like Subhumans and Flux of Pink Indians. Instigators went on to tour Europe and America many times and no doubt made a big impact on the punk scene. Frontman Andy Turner, also formerly of XPOZES, caught up with Vive Le Rock to talk about then and now.
You were brought up in Huddersfield. What was it like growing up there? What school did you go to and what was your first job?
I went to Honley High School and finished there in the summer of 1979. People now call it graduating but there was nothing really to ‘graduate’ to, as through the 70s and 80s there was mass unemployment, not just across West Yorkshire but whole sways of the country. And this meant areas like Huddersfield were choc full of angry young people which made it quite violent times. The only ‘real’ job I ever had was a few months after leaving school at a basketware importers but by then we’d started a band called Xpozez and what I was earning went into getting that off the ground. By 1980 we were up and running and not long after that we had recorded and released the first Xpozez EP, Systems Kill on our own Retaliation Records.
How did you first get into music? What venues and record shops did you go to and name a few bands you got in to?
Like most kids around that time pre-teen it was all about the radio and Top Of The Pops so when I heard / saw bands like Slade, The Sweet, T Rex and Bowie, that blew my tiny mind although it wasn’t until I started reading about punk and pre-punk bands that I started really getting interested and when those bands actually got stuff recorded it was just as I thought it was gonna be and I got into it big time. My second ever gig was The Clash, TRB, X-Ray Spex, Steel Pulse and more at Victoria Park, London (30.04.78 – and in case you wondered the first was Siouxsie & The Banshees at Huddersfield Polytechnic eight days earlier). I bought every single (it was mostly singles back then) I could get my hands on. There were decent shops in town like Bradley’s Records, Woods, Boston Records (for ex jukebox 7”s) plus even Boots, Woolworth’s and WH Smith’s had record sections. Then there were trips to Leeds, Bradford, and Manchester. We also set up a mail order back in the early 80s and started importing a lot of hard-to-get overseas stuff (Dischord Records etc) and got to hook up with loads of good people doing what we were all over the world. Venues came and went as they do now but initially there were loads of bands doing the college circuit so we got to see tons, plus in late ’79 Cleopatra’s reggae club started putting on punk shows starting with Slaughter And The Dogs (I think it was Mick Rossi’s brother who was booking) and besides a few of the first wave that were still around at the start of the 80s, we got to see the second wave like Cockney Rejects, Exploited, Discharge, Crass even. There was only really a couple of pubs (The Albion, West Riding) and one club (Coach House) you’d be safe in back then. Both put bands on too. Later we’d be making trips to places like The F Club in Leeds and various venues in Bradford, especially when Nick Toczek started booking in regular Gory Details, Fatal Shocks and Natural Disasters shows from around 1982-83.
How did you become part of Instigators and what was your first rehearsal and first gig like?
Xpozez put out a bunch of singles and EP’s and did patches of touring until they ground to a halt in 1985. We’d booked Instigators to play in Huddersfield (November 5, 1982 with Flux Of Pink Indians) and they made an impression on us. Between then and when the first album (Nobody Listens Anymore) came out we played quite a few shows together heading out in a big old bread van together. They started rehearsing at our place and not long after they’d released that record their singer quit and they asked me to join. There was lots of gigs coming in including a European tour but two of the others guys decided to bow out which left things up in the air, but (Simon) Mooney – founder and guitarist – was determined to carry on now things were starting to happen so we got Andrew Turnbull (bass) and Steve Curran (drums) in and rehearsed like crazy right up until we set off on tour. I’m not sure if this was the first show but one of the first I did with Instigators was at the 100 Club, London with Urban Dogs.
You were known as an anarcho punk band – what was the scene all about for you – what bands did you admire and how did you become a vegetarian?
Instigators’ initial releases, including the album we came in on PHOENIX (1986), were released on Bluurg Records (Dick Lucas from Subhumans’ label) and prior to that both Instigators and Xpozez had played a load of shows with a load of bands you’d class as anarcho but also a load of other bands and were a constant on compilation tapes and fanzines around at the time. There really was an alternative underground in the 80s and for a while things looked quite positive outside the old-school-tie mainstream. The vegetarian thing started for me in a massive squat in Milan in 1984 when we are on tour with Xpozez. The people there let us stay a few days and said we could do anything we wanted except no meat. I should say thanks to those folks as I’m still not tempted by gourmet burgers or pulled fucking whatever.
What was the peak of the Instigators like? You toured America – what bands did you tour with and how far did you take the band?
From that first jaunt on the continent at the end of 1985 things just snowballed. We were out on tour virtually non-stop over the next few years only taking time off to record. The Hypegopromo 1&2 double CD that’s just come out on Sanctus Propaganda is a snapshot of what we were about between ’85 and ’88. Back in the day we compiled two C60 cassettes that featured live stuff recorded across Europe and the USA and spliced it together with tons of radio stuff like interviews (including one with Tim Yohannan on Maximum Rock N Roll Radio when we were in San Francisco), radio sessions, adverts for shows and DJs who were playing our stuff. I hadn’t heard it in years and it was a great reminder of just a little of what we were up to back then.
How did the band end?
The final tour was in 1992. We ended in Milan in front of one of the biggest crowds we’d played to as a headliner. It was a bit weird knowing that this would be the last time but was also good knowing what we’d achieved not only as a band but also in growing up and experiencing so much. Most of which we all still carry with us today.
What have you been up to since and what are you doing now?
I’ve been lucky that I’ve managed to do stuff involving music since I was 16 years old and I’m still not cynical and jaded. I’m privileged to have learned at the feet of many masters and mistresses in their field and hopefully taken in what they were teaching me and been able to use that in a positive way. My fellow travellers from that period are all doing things they wanted to do – Simon Mooney is a well respected photographer, Steve Curran is drum teching and tour managing around the world and Andrew Turnbull is a man of mystery. He’s always flying off to exotic places under the guise of fixing stuff. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he was a spy!