Has punk lost its energy and direction after 40 years?
Has it become a formula?
Can you combine influences as diverse as Crass, the Damned, Hanoi Rocks and Morrissey?
The new Scottish rockers, Heavy Drapes, combine a punky energy and style with a brash attitude and songs that pack a mighty punch. Live, as I watched them in front of a large crowd from the punk community in Blackpool, I was moved by their great songs, great sound and absolute commitment. I wanted to know more about them, and the band’s singer, De, was decent enough to answer some questions from me. I was impressed with his honesty. He wasn’t trying to be a ‘spokesman for a generation’, he was just trying to make music for his mates. Music with integrity and fire and passion. No compromises. No rock and roll fantasy. And that’s refreshing in 2017.
Michael: What are Heavy Drapes trying to achieve?
De: Short term, to write a set of songs that make people sit up and take notice. To record those songs and deliver an album which is viewed as something special. That’s where we are at the moment, playing the songs live to the people who want to hear them and then recording them.
We’ve achieved all the stuff needed to get us to this point, like grabbing people’s attention by being bloody good at what we do, shouting about it, reminding people that rock music doesn’t need to be dull, it can be dangerous, glamorous and fun.
Long term, as above with some cash behind us and on an international level.
It’s all about the music, nothing will be achieved with a shit album.
What other front-men/women have inspired you?
Very few to be honest. Iggy, Rotten and I’m struggling after that. There’s a number I’m interested in coz they deliver good chat, like Morrisey, Liam Gallagher, Ian Brown. They talk about stuff I can relate to.
I wanted to be a front-man because learning an instrument wasn’t for me but it was an attractive outlet to express myself.
What career highlights so far are you happiest with?
De: That changes week on week. Right now, it’s the success of the Rebellion show, the actual gig and the mountain of good stuff which has come on the back of it. To go from opening for 999 in front of 80 people (which was a great gig) to pulling over 2000 in the Empress Ballroom, all in 18 months with only a 4 track EP under our belt, is astonishing. How did that happen?
Punk was about style and politics as well as music…has style always been important to you personally?
Yes, more so than the politics. I was only a boy when punk grabbed me, it was the visual aspect mixed with high energy rock that got me hooked. Yeah, I was much more interested in a nice pair of trousers than I was with what ‘Anarchy’ actually meant. That wasn’t any different from my mates. We got into punk coz the bands poked fun at the stuff our big brothers liked. We loved the Damned too, the first album. The Clash were never big round my way. No one sounded as dangerous as Sex Pistols or the Damned; I wasn’t aware of Iggy & the Stooges until later.
All said and done. I got well into a bit of Crass; they nailed it visually and musically for me on the Stations of the Cross album.
When did you start going to gigs…..what gigs stand out for you?
Gigs in my early teens happened but when you don’t have your own cash, you need to be choosey. Possibly the most painful moments for me as a teenager were the times I didn’t have the cash for a show or being too young to get in.
The first time seeing the Damned was pretty exciting. It was absolutely believable to me that Vanian could jump off stage and suck my blood. They looked like a bunch of nutters, it was really appealing. These nutters delivered a perfect first album.
Brigandage, Boys Wonder, Sid Presley Experience, Hanoi Rocks, they’re all in my head at the moment, so they must be special. Public Image Limited the first time they toured; buzzing I was. And Oasis back in 1995 when they played Irvine Beach in a circus tent, there was something special happening, you could feel it.
Sex Pistols 1996 Glasgow, they looked and sounded like a big, fuck off rock band. Sex Pistols again at Crystal Palace, Birmingham, Brixton, Loch Lomond and Hammersmith. I’m a sucker for the big tunes.
5 favourite singles
Easy and without hesitation. Anarchy In The UK, God Save The Queen, Pretty Vacant (Sex Pistols), Problem Child (The Damned), Sheena Is A Punk Rocker (Ramones).
5 favourite albums
I only have 3 albums where every single track gives me goosebumps; Never Mind The Bollocks, Damned Damned Damned and [Iggy and the Stooges] Raw Power.
The other 2 would have to be, ummmmm! Ramones 1st and Stooges/Fun House.
Why has punk remained so vital to people?
I don’t have the answer to that. The punk that’s out there at the moment isn’t vital to me, I’d rather listen to nothing. We formed Heavy Drapes to give our mates a band to come and see coz they were moaning about everything being a bit dull. The more shows we did, the more people were telling us the same thing. We’re 4 guys in a rock band who like a bit of early punk rock and we’re stirring things up because we’ve taken the time to think about what we’re actually doing. It’s vital to the people who like us that we do well and don’t self-destruct, they’ve bought into us but that’s not a punk thing, that’s a music thing. Nope, lost with that one.
How are you carrying on the punk ‘tradition’?
By stealing the bits we like and moving forward. I’ve never thought of it as tradition, I just think if you’re going to use bits and pieces from the past to create something fresh then why not the good bits? I’m not going to be inspired by Rancid, then try and sneak a beard into punk. I’d rather have the awareness to know that Stiv Bators with a beard would have been laughed at. It’s like, punk has become so far removed from what it was. It’s like the hippies have taken over. We exist to show that it doesn’t need to be like that, it can have a bit of style and swagger.
So there you have it. Heavy Drapes, a new band with roots in punk. With songs full of sinew and muscle, blood and guts. And if their roots are in punk, they are not just wallowing in nostalgia, looking at the punk past, in fact, they may be the future of punk.
Even better, they have just enlisted Paul Research. Many of remember the brilliant but short-lived band, Scars. In my opinion, Paul was one of the best of the post-punk guitar players, with a distinctive sound, full of electricity and imagination. Scars played a diverse, daring style of New Pop and played a brilliant set in the Dublin’s Project Arts Centre with The Atrix in 1981. A gig that lives in the memory.