THE SEX PISTOLS EXPERIENCE
The Sex Pistols Experience are The Worlds No1 professional tribute to the most outrageous & controversial band of all time! With a Worldwide reputation built from over 1,000+ performances. Having done extensive tours of the U.S.A (almost 100 U.S.A shows), toured throughout Europe, & Brazil South America, taking in cities from New York to Los Angeles, El Paso to Seattle, Sao Paulo, Rio, & Maringa, Berlin, Barcelona & Bradford(!) & everywhere in-between. So convincing is the live show that the BBC, Sky TV, Channel4, Fox TV (in the u.s) and lately the new movie ‘Who Killed Nancy?’ (out now on DVD) have all hired this band for re-enactments in film & T.V documentaries as the Sex Pistols/Sid & Nancy.
If you’re a Pistols fan, this then this is the only worthwhile alternative – A tribute to be proud of! VLR caught up with the band to find out more…
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You have recently been in the studio reproducing two classic Sex Pistols tracks’Anarchy in the UK’ and ‘Pretty Vacant’. Was it all just about having fun or did you take it seriously in the end and really took a challenge for improving the originals?
We actually never wanted to go in the studio to re-record what are already classic songs – whats the point in trying to re-record any of those songs over again?? It’d be like trying to rerecord the classic Beatles songs, your just asking for crittisism because people will always find fault. If anyone ever asked us "Why don’t we do more recording?" we always just said "Go listen to the original Never mind the bollocks" if thats what you want to listen to. We heard too many other Pistols cover/tribute bands going off spending hundreds of pounds (probably) on studio time to re-do the Bollocks songs, & we never heard any that even came close to the original, vocals usually all wrong, drummmers playing it too fast, whatever – no one ever seemed to really ‘listen’ first to the songs before recording them. So we didn’t see any point in us bothering, & always just preferred to put out live recordings of us doing live shows. A far more accurate representation of what we are capable of as a tribute band. Anyhow, one day we get a phone call, some bloke wants to do a ‘Tribute album to the Sex Pistols & wanted us on the album, & offered to pay the studio time. So we thought about it for a while, & decided if it wasn’t going to cost us anything – then why not? – i think also we were all curious as to how we’d sound properly recorded too, & this was our opportunity to do it ‘free’. Plus we do like doing studio stuff having done plenty in our various other bands prior to the Sex Pistols Experience forming, so figured we’d have a fun couple of days. The thing is, we played these songs literally hundreds, if not thousands of times over the years, at every gig & god knows how many times rehearsing over the years, so we know them inside out & back to front with our eyes shut. We played the songs far more times over 9yrs than the real Sex pistols ever have, or anyone else the World over for that matter, which always helps when it comes to recording songs. Both tracks were captured in two or three takes at the most. Which left us plenty of time to put the guitar overdubs on, & spend extra time doing the backing vocals. But we kind of played them as we would do live – so our versions – although exactly the same running time as the original tracks – are driven with more power, energy & passion than the 1977 versions. We felt that with the right producer, who we found in ‘Matt’ at Axis studio in Doncaster – who we knew was/is a massive Pistols fan with years of experience behind a mixing desk, made for the perfect recipe for Pistols perfection. So we did see it as a challenge, & knew we had some big boots to fill, but more importantly to getting good results in a studio is to have fun at the sessions, but we also found it suprisingly very easy & quick to do, leaving lots of time to drink beer & play pool, while Matt slaved over the production.
Are your versions of the songs very different from the Sex Pistols ones?
The run time of the tracks are exactly the same, 3min 45 seconds or whatever, but we seemed to have played with the same level of energy & passion as we do live, which definately comes accross in the recording. We copied the songs as well as we could play them which after so many live shows is very close anyway. We really do feel we improved on the original for sure, now i’d much rather listen to our versions than the original version of 77. It definately inspired us to want to cover more of their songs because we really feel we can do a better job than anyone else in the World, & after listening to the recent recordings the Sex Pistols did in L.A last year for Guitar hero, we also feel we’re capable of doing it better than them too, which is a big statement to make, but we’re an honest band & speak our mind, you go listen to them – you’ll see.
How many songs did you do and why did you choose those particular ones? We spent a great deal of time in the 2 or 3 weeks prior to going in the studios deciding what songs we should do. We did think it’d be better to do something a little more obscure like ‘Belsen was a gas’ & ‘Whatcha gonna do about it’ – or other Pistols songs or cover versions they played in their live shows, but were never properly recorded back in the 70’s. But the guy paying for the studio time was really urging us to do the show piece of the album – which meant he wanted us to do two of the four Sex pistols singles. So we took the bull by the horns went for the two biggest sellers & most iconic, Anarchy & Pretty Vacant. We had already done ‘God Save the Queen’ years ago for the BBC, so didn’t really want to do that again.
The tracks were recorded for the upcoming Pistols tribute album. Can you tell me something about that release. When is it coming out?
Well the album is actually nothing to do with us, other than we played on two tracks on it. But its called ‘No Future’ & is a tribute to the Pistols, The Clash & The Damned with six tracks dedicated to each band performed by various more recent punk bands. We take care of a couple of the pistols tracks on there. It’s available through through Cadiz Music & we’ve got a few copies to sell on our website & at our live shows too.
What other bands took part in creating that album? Er – well the guy putting it out is based down in Surrey -or South London somewhere, so its bands that are well known down there on the live scene, like ‘The Price’ Steve Drewitt of Newtown Nurotics, Attila the stockbroker, Leatherface amongst others, but us coming from ‘up-north’ we’ve not heard of any of them!? I guess it’ll sell well to those who know.
Obviousely, there have already been quite a few Pistols tribute albums done by various bands, how is this one different?
We have absolutely no idea! As i said, control of the album is out of our hands, all we could do is do the best job we could with the two tracks we had, & leave it in the lap of someone else to make the album as a whole appeal to the fans over any other tribute album thats been before. But at least we can relax in the knowlage that we think we did a decent job on our contribution.
Have you got any other releases planned for the near future?
We have copies of our recent studio tracks, & want go back to do some more soon to put together our own album from bits of stuff we’ve done over the years. We’re keen to get Ed Tenpole in the studio with us, as both he & us are keen to re-do his classic hit song ‘Swords of a Thousand men’ – which alwas blows the roof off when we do it together live, & Ed’ always says we do the best version he’s ever heard, which s cool. We have one or two other ideas up our sleave too, like adding the version of ‘Silly Thing’ we did with Steve Jones over in L.A, some live tracks from tours around the World, plus these new recordings, but studio time is expensive, & we’re not rich, so it might take us some time to compile it all, but we really do want to leave something behind as a legacy & representation of this band, other than just live recorded shows.
What inspired you to establish The Sex Pistols Experience in first place?
All of us coming from a background of being in a veriety of original bands over the years none of us were big fan’s of the idea or concept of ‘tribute bands’, but i’d noticed tribute bands were getting popular through the late 80’s into the 90’s & that no-one was out there doing the Sex Pistols, or rather there was – but just very badly – pub type cover acts with no effort to getting the details right, just wearing jeans & t-shirts & struggling with poor musicianship, no one could do it any justice, at least to my mind – not do it right anyway. It’s one of the hardest band’s to do, because of the look and sound, its not as easy as you’d think to play, or to look like. There are four strong, image laden, iconic, colourful charecters in the Sex Pistols. People said they couldn’t play, but that was just press hype as they certainly could, listen to their album, or live recordings & tell me they couldn’t play? Of course Sid couldn’t play bass too well, but listen to Glen Matlock – brilliant bassist. That one album of theirs has stood the test of time to this day, and is still a major influence on many of today’s new bands. The ‘Never mind the Bollocks’ album in-fact was recently voted the most influential albums of all time, in 2nd place only to the Beatles! And the look of the band, & attitude, was, & still is, original. It’s important that today’s youth see, and recognize, the impact of the sex pistols on music today, they cannot see the ‘real’ band anymore as they were in their prime in 1976/77, so we are the only chance the kids of today will get to see the music done accurately, and played with passion, excitement & the dynamics fully live. And the older generation, who like us remember it all the first time around, are also having a fantastic time, reliving their youth and thoroughly enjoy seeing the Sex Pistols Experience too. There’s hundreds of ‘Who’, ‘Abba’, Led Zepplin, or ‘Beatles’ bands etc out there doing the rounds, but only one Sex Pistols tribute show thats worth anything, we have gained the respect from fan’s and, most importantly – the original band members themselves.
What were the early days of the band playing together like?
We were very nieve, but we ran on adrenalin & a real passion for what we were doing. Looking back we really wern’t all that good although the crowds thought we were, we made all the mistakes any new Pistols tribute make, but we knew there was room for things to improve. Its very important to be self crittical & listen to the fan’s comments, good or bad, listen to the live recordings we’d done, compare & learn from it & improve. Our first live gig in early 2001 was for a friends 40th birthday party who was a big Sex Pistols fan, we put alot of effort into getting things as close as possible right from the start, with the clothing, sound, backing vocals etc. Then at that first gig everyone was so blown away with it all, & it went so well that the venue re-booked us to play again the next month. So even though it was only meant to be a one off event, we had enjoyed ourselves so much we just wanted to do it again. A little while later we entered a local ‘Battle of the tribute bands’ competition arranged by a local entertainment agency looking for new cheap acts to flog around thier network of blue-rinse bingo halls & working men’s clubs. We knew full-well we wouldn’t ever be allowed to win – afterall – what would they do with a Sex Pistols band?? – We’d go down like a ‘fart in a lift’ in those trypes of places. So we did it just for a laugh really, to be the stick in the mud & stir things up a bit, but we also thought it’d make a good launch-pad & prove that good entertainment doesn’t have to be bland, dull, polite & boring Tina Turner/Bon Jovi/Elton John songs, and that a bit of energy & excitement will go a long way. We won the first heats, & came 2nd over all in the final, (2nd to a Shania Twian tribute who’d won – mind you, she did have a nice arse which definately helped with the all male judges) We were then all over the local press the next day – the "underdogs triumph" etc. Then next time we were due to play a gig the word had got out on us, and it was a sold-out show & then we were off & running. We felt at first it was just going to be a short lived bit of fun, but we knew from the first rehearsal that we we’re on to something a little special, Every gig we kept on tweeking bits here & there, learning on experience & trying to make things better all the time. It was four or five years later, four or five years of hard giging in the North of England primerily, before we really felt we’d got it about right, then we handed in our notice to the day- jobs, & started to broaden our horizons, venture overseas, to Europe & the U.S.A etc.
You are touring and playing gigs around Britain constantly, do you still enjoy it after years of playing?
Yes of course, otherwise we’d stop doing it. But y’know there have been one or two times when we’ve been close to giving it up, there have been some real low points, like being desperately skint & the van breaks down in the freezing rain, that type of thing that makes you wonder what the hell your doing, which is nothing really – that just life in a band. But we have had real hard times, like doing a tour & finding out by the end of it all, the money earnt has gone on fuel, hotels, food etc & we go home with nothing but a table full of bills that have to be paid.. The bands first singer ‘Johnny Forgotten’ (2001 – 2006) became a raving alcoholic, it made life incredibly difficult for us all, & was an absolute nightmare for the other three of us. His whole day was driven by where his next drink would come from, & he screwed up too many important gigs for us – which to this day we are still carrying the stigma of once having a poor frontman. But we were driven to absolute dispair by his alcoholic actions, with some totally embarassing episodes. We all wanted to just quit, & the guitarist did, so we recruited a new one with our current ‘Steve Bones’, then ‘Sid’ (Kid Vicious) left through not wanting to perform with the singer anymore, before in the end, for his own good really, we sacked the frontman. That left just me – the drummer & the new guitarist, so i & called on two of our stand-ins to do a tour of Europe that we already had booked. After a bit of a shaky start, that turned out to be the best thing we ever did. With a new frontman & a new guitarist in 2006, that was enough to attract ‘Kid Vicious’ back to the fold & put us back on the map, & rejuvinated the band.
Have there been any particular highlight on the tour recently?
We look forward to getting together every weekend, & really every night is a highlight for us. But i suppose recently would be getting the opportunity to play Longhorns Ballroom in Dallas Texas. Ever since we were kids we’d watch videos of the Sex pistols performing there on their last tour in january 1978. The iconic looking Sid wasted on drug withdrawl. Johnny at his Rotten best performing in a very hostile Texan enviroment made for a great show. We’d driven through Dallas a couple of time whilst on tour in the U.S & called into Longhorns never expecting to be able to play there due ot the sheer size of the place, 3500 capacity. But then i spotted on the internet an up-coming biker festival that was happening in Dallas in March of 2009, the big party night was to be at the Longhorns Ballroom, so i just mailed the organizers & said to them we’d be the perfect band for the festival. Next thing i know we’re on a plane to Dallas.! Great stuff, & an incredible achievement for a Sex Pistols tribute from the north of England. It was definately a box ticked for us. As was Cains Ballroom in Tulsa, another venue the Pistols did on the ill fated 78′ tour, we hit that stage in 2006 – was the biggest box office takings we’ve ever recieved!
What is the funniest or strangest thing that ever happened to you during a gig?
Sid (Kid Vicious) being forced into a big lingering kiss from a big fat hairy biker at a biker festival! The guy stormed the stage & had him held around the back of the head & just planted a big smacker right on Sid! We fell about.! We have lots of laughs along the way, we’re always laughing about something or other, mostly driven by drink but the whole point is to have fun & it never stops for us.
Have you got a favourite venue to play at? And is there a particular place you’d like to play at but you haven’t had a chance yet?
The 100 Club in london was always a favorite. ‘The Damned’ asked us to play with them on their 30th anniversary gig down there – which was cool. But again, its an iconic venue, & one the Pistols fequented often in 76. A bit like a Beatles tribute band would want to play at the Liverpool Cavern Club, same for us & the 100 Club. We did have a list of places we wanted to play – like the 100 club, Cavern club, Longhorns etc, but over the years we can proudly say – we played them all. All thats left for us to do – that we feel we want to do- is play over in Norway & Japan, & we’re working on putting that right.
Do you try to make each gig different from the previous ones or do you wish to keep them all pretty much similar?
We do play around with the set-lists a bit, but over the years we think we’ve figured out the best structure for that, so have worked on the same set list for quite some time now. But that helps to keep things running smooth, & prevents us having to run around the stage looking for a bit of paper to see what we’re playing next.?? Often set-lists get covered in beer, or stolen etc, so its easier to stick to a well formulated plan that we’re familliar with if everything turns chaotic – which it often does. However if we perform somewhere two or more times a year we’ll present a different set & throw in some alternative songs that we didn’t do last time.
Have you ever considered recording a CD consisting of your own original songs?
No, not at all really. Thats not what were about. We have all been in original bands over the years, to varying degrees of sucess, recorded our own stuff, been there, done that, & bought the t-shirts as they say. This band is not about doing original songs. We’re a tribute band to the Sex Pistols – like it or not, we don’t care, thats what we do, & thats all we do. Get used to it. … although that said, recently we figured we are in a pretty good position to perhaps establish ourselves with some original music if we wanted to. We have a good network of ‘myspace frinds’, email adresses, industry contacts, etc, a solid launch-pad that would be the envy of any band trying to ‘make-it’. We could use all that as a launch pad for our own stuff. Problem is, we all four live in four different corners of the u.k now, two of the band had their first born babies in 2009, so the chances ever getting together to write & rehearse original songs is very unlikely now. Not all bands have to exist to write & record original songs & try to change the World – some bands exist purely for entertainment purposes, & we are such a band, alot of people can’t get their heads around that for some reason, & think we should be doing our own songs – well, we don’t want to.
Aren’t you fed up of covering other band’s work, is it exciting enough to still be interesting after years of doing it? Are you still having fun bringing the Sex Pistols experience to the fans?
The day we get fed-up of doing it, is the day we’ll decide to stop doing it. Yes, it is somewhat frustrating to be considered ‘successful’ on the back of someone else’s songs, whatever successful means? But after (personally speaking, & the others have similar stories) having tried for years to get somewhere with original stuff, which in hind-sight was a complete waste of time, largely due to the location i was living in at the time, none of us we’re fortunate (or not?) to have grown up in or around London – the supposed mecca of the music industry, we came from all the corners of the uk & no A&R men ever visited my town, so we’d travel to the towns & cities playing original music to no-one, for nothing, & this was a time befoe computers or the internet, back when we started out it was all phone calls & hand drawn posters.! Then one day i was asked to stand-in for a local cover band & found myself on stage with a big crowd going mental, and i got paid for it! so i figured from there on if im gonna play music i might as well get paid for it & play to packed houses even if it means performing someone else’s stuff. So we may be performing someone elses songs, but we travel the World, we play exciting gigs every weekend, or every night on tours. We spend time out on the beer with our good friends & have an absolute wicked time. Part of the reason for our longevitiy is that we are ‘fans’ of the Sex Pistols & have been for years, so we don’t really tire of performing the songs. We’ve seen many tribute bands who are not fans of their chosen band, & literally have to run through the motions every gig – that must be soul destroying, they do it for the wrong reasons in my book, nothing more than prostituting yourself – musically. As for us, if the fans are loving it -then we’re loving it. Its easy for people to say -"oh your only a fucking tribute band – whats the worth in that etc" Easy answer to that – we don’t have to get up for work at 8am every moring. We dont have to work some crappy 9 to 5 to pay the bills. We play great songs, to great fans, & have a truely brilliant time doing it. We get to sit on Copacabana beach all expenses paid etc. What more could you want.!?? I think people who pose the above sort of questions are only really jealous that they can’t do it themselves, so fuck em!
Do you think you’d be successful as you are now if the Pistols were still doing gigs themselves?
Had the Sex Pistols been performing back when we started – we would of never of started. In 2001 there was no sign of any more Sex Pistols gigs ever happening again, which is where we came in, as the only worthwhile alternative if you wanted to hear those songs live. However when they announced they were about to tour again in 2007 – that was one of the points at which we almost stopped doing it – go see the real deal instead as there is no need for us anymore.. We started to look at the jobs boards then, but as it turned out their tour 7 the promotion for it was the best thing that could of happened for us. We got busier than ever as the Sex Pistols profile was raised once agian, they were no longer a fading memory of a once brilliant band, they were back on the scene, & in the newspapers & on the T.V once agian, which in turn gave us a tremendous boost really.
Have you seen the pistols play live? When was it? What did you think of it?
Like many Pistols fans up until the recent reformation tours we hadn’t seen them live, as we we’re just a bit too young during the bands hey-day in 1977. Thats why we had it nailed early on, because all these fans who’d not been in & around London in 1977 probably missed them live, & so came to see us to get a feel for how it might of been. Then in the later reform tours everyone got a chance to see their hero’s live. We were there with all the other fans going nuts down the front. Saw them all over the place, Brixton several times, Hammersmith, Birmingham, etc. We thought they were great in 1996. Just ‘alright’ in the 2000’s – lacking the old spark, & as the dates went on you could see it was a ‘just for the money tour’ not exciting, none threatening, & somewhat watered down if i’m honest. Given a chance to see then again i’d probably prefer to watch the Winterland gig on video, or some old bootleg show from the 70’s, as thats what the Sex Pistols were about to me, & four 50+yr olds cant fire on all the cylinders like they did when they were in their 20’s.
How much longer do you think you can keep doing it, I mean do you think you’ll still be able to play the Sex Pistols on stage when you’re 60?
Nah, we’re probably getting close to the end of the road by now, it’d be nice to see out ten years, which would bring us to 2012 & another Queens Jubilee, so thats gotta be a milestone – & just because its a nice round figure. But we just don’t know what we’d go on to do after this.? And the phone keeps on ringing with gig enquiries, so we keep doing them, & we have too much of a good time to stop just now. But we are all fully aware that we could call a stop to it anytime & we’d be very satisfied with what we’ve managed to achieve up to now if we did, & we will stop when the time is right to do so. Might be next week, next year, or in another ten years – we just don’t know, perhaps as long as the fans want to keep being fans. When things start to dry-up we’ll bow out. We’ve achieved pretty much all we wanted to, ticked all the boxes, done all & far more than any Sex pistols tribute band could ever wish to do, or hope to, we’ve done it all, & have nothing to prove anymore to anyone. We call our own shots, & we’ll stop when we decide to.
Do you still stick to the characters you play on stage after the show, have you ever pretended you were the actual members of Sex Pistols outside a gig and what was peoples reaction to that?
No, never. That’d be asking for ridicule. We know tribute bands who do do that, & they are a laughing stock behind their backs. We do not take ourselves too seriously, we have a laugh with it & are fully aware of what we are, what we do, & where the boundries lie. We do turn it on for photographs, because the fans want a picture of ‘Sid’ with them (for example) & not a photo of Nigel from Doncaster who looks a bit like Sid. There was once a time, well twice actually, when we did feel it was easier to pretend to be them in a situation. Once on our first tour of Ireland we stopped in the middle of nowhere – somehere north of Dublin for our 1st real pint of guinness, & the bar man asked "what band are you??" we said "The Sex Pistols Experience, we’re just about to do a tour of ireland". Lost in his own excitement seeing we were obviously a band on tour, he just didn’t hear the word ‘Experience’ & thought we were the Sex Pistols, before we knew it he’d bought us all our pints of guinness on the house & had us signing his precious guitar that he kept over the bar. We drank-up & made a hasty exit before he got a camera out. Same again in a KFC somewhere in the deep south of America, near El Paso somewhere or other. The counter staff just didn’t hear the word ‘Experience’ again, & before we knew what was happening we’d got our maga-family feast buckets on the house, & had been whipped into a frenzy of autographs. Needless to say – we made a hasty exit.
Have you ever thought to yourselves: we’re the real Sex Pistols. Or: we’re better than they ever were?
No, not at all. We have felt that we know what it must of been like to walk in their shoes though, as it were. Like touring around the u.s.a whilst battling every day with a drug addict – or alcoholic in our case, trying to keep them clean enough to do the show. Just as it was for their 12 days on the road in 1978 with Sid Vicious riddled with herion addiction looking for a fix – except our tour lasted 32 days & we had to avoid liquer stores, then get to the gig & find there’s a fridge full of free beer.! We’ve sank to the depths of depression enough in the past to be in a position to fully appreciate the better times. We have had the adulation – which is nice – but were adult enough to just accept that as a sign of a job well done, & not let it go to our heads, we’re fully aware of who we are & what we do & we keep our feet firmly on the ground. There is no room for such ego’s in this band – ego’s can bring a band to a very sudden halt, & we soon squash any ego’s before they have a chance to manifest.
What do you think is the best thing you’ve achieved as a band?
Being able to say -in between having to have a boring 9to5 job – that at least for a while we were good enough to be professional musicians, earning a living by doing something we love, & being top of our game. We did it, we lived it, enjoyed it, travelled the World, & have the best memories as a result. Hopefully that the fans will remember all the great nights they had with us long after we’ve given up. And also, (so far) there’s two weddings & three little kiddies that came along as a direct result of this band exisiting, for two of us right now – thats the most important thing.
Finally, what are your plans for 2010/11?
More live shows, we’re busy booking them now. We are hopefully going to be doing some more of our new show – a tribute to Lydons other band – Public Image Ltd, called ‘Public Imitation Ltd’. Hopefully we’ll be offered some more good festival appearances, & bit of overseas travel again to more new & exciting places. So more of the same really. Every year brings up new suprises & things we didn’t expect to happen, so thats what we look forward to – the unknown & unexpected, & playing the next gig. Cheers.! (Paul Crook – band drummer, manager, founder member)