Protex Interview

Protex were one of the great pop-punk bands from Northern Ireland during the first rush of punk/new wave. To me they were just as exciting as the Undertones, SLF, the Outcasts and the brilliant Rudi. Don’t get me wrong,I loved those bands, but I loved Protex just as much. I remember my brother buying me the compilation album, 20 Of Another Kind and playing the Protex track, I Can’t Cope, over and over.

Protex proved that Irish bands could match the best of the new wave across the water (the compilation also included the Jam, the Cure, and Sham 69…but our boys were as good as any of them at that moment). Patrik Fitzgerald and the Xdreamists were also on it and showed the power and variety of the Irish bands of the punk/post-punk era.

Protex were full of passion and energy and great new songs when I saw them wow the punk rockers in Blackpool. I wanted to know more and the band’s Aidan Murtagh was kind enough to answer my questions.

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Were you into music before punk came along?

I grew up listening mostly to Slade, T. Rex , Dr Feelgood and Thin Lizzy and The Beatles. My older brother had a great record collection and in our house we often heard Lou Reed’s Transformer album. Bowies Aladdin Sane and Hendrix.

The films “That ll be the day “and “Stardust” had an impact on me – I got a love for rock n roll , particularly the Everly brothers ,Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. Eventually got to see The Everly Brothers twice and Chuck once.

Where did you get your records?

I bought my records mostly in Sounds Around, owned by Ivan Martin, the DJ, also at Caroline Music and then when punk came, I went mostly to Good Vibrations record shop.

Did anyone encourage you to play music?

My brother and his mates played guitar and I was excited when I first heard an electric guitar being played in our garage. It was my brother who first taught me a few chords.

I’ve been playing and singing in bands from 14 years old – mostly at youth clubs and at the odd disco. At that time we played mostly Dr Feelgood , Thin Lizzy and Status Quo as well as a few 50s songs.

Any outstanding gg memories?

My first gig I attended was Rory Gallagher in the Ulster Hall in The Early 70s – just after The Blueprint album I think. It was at the height of the Troubles and no bands came to Belfast. It was electrifying. Later got to meet him as a fellow musician in London several times.

Equally memorable was seeing the original Dr Feelgood with Wilko playing at Queens University – I saw them twice. That would have been a few years after seeing Rory. Protex played with Wilko and The Solid Senders at The Marquee, Wardour street in summer 1979.

What inspired you to write songs?

Punk came along with a DIY attitude and I wrote my first song – Don’t Ring Me up which was released on Good Vibes. I suppose listening to it today I can hear Everly brothers, Buddy Holly on speed – people used say this in the early days but I didn’t get it – I was hoping they’d say The Buzzcocks or the Clash. I suppose I can now see it’s a rock n roll song.

How hard was it to get the early gigs for Protex?

It was difficult to get gigs in Belfast back then, especially if you were a punk. Belfast wanted cover bands or Blues bands. Terri Hooley put shows on and was good to us. The main venues were The Pound and Harp Bar. We also did The Dark Space 24 hour event in Dublin at The Project Arts Theatre. We played Mc Gonagle’s in Dublin and later The Cork Arcadia with U2. Later we broke away from The Harp bar in Belfast and did our own tour of youth clubs across the divided city. When we got a recording contract we moved to London. We were one of the first Good Vibrations bands and one of the few to get signed.

You toured a lot with the Boomtown Rats. How did that come about, what were those gigs like?

The husband of our American manager was from Dublin and had managed The Boomtown Rats before Fachtna O’Kelly. Protex needed a high-profile act to tour with. We had our minds on the two biggest pop acts at that time – Boomtown Rats and Blondie. We were unsuccessful with Blondie but got on to the Rats tour. They were at their peak with I Don’t Like Mondays at No 1 in the charts.

The tour was good experience for us and developed us in many ways. B.P. Fallon was also on the tour with Protex so we learned a lot from him in terms of the media side of things as well as presentation. It was a bit of a crazy time for us teenagers.

The Rats were all very supportive. They were a few years older and wiser and it was a good opportunity for us to meet press and media and other bands, celebs and be right in the centre of “The Music Business” and to form an opinion of that business.

Geldof, Paula Yeats and all the Rats were all very good to us . We met a lot of Irish bands and players at the time.

You also toured with Adam and the Ants. Any stand-out memories of those gigs?

The Adam and The Ants tour, I don’t have a lot of memories- I recall Adam Ant was a great guy , very much Punk at the time and their audience were maybe too hardcore from the Protex power-pop. We decided to come off that tour after several dates.

In hindsight I believe a tour with the Buzzcocks would have suited us better than any of the above. There was talk at the time about this but it never came off.

We played two tours of North America including some Canadian dates and that was fantastic. When we arrived in New York it was a breath of fresh air for us, as in the UK in the early 80s thing were changing with skinhead ska and then new romantics. In the New York clubs we were surprised at the reaction we got. The scene was very strong at that time and there were so many clubs. We played Hurrahs, Max’s Kansas City, Tier 3, Irving Plaza to name a few – all the punk clubs we had read about . In the audience at theses pubs and clubs were members of The Ramones and in Max’s, Johnny Thunders. I got to hang out in CBGBs but we never gigged there.

It was nice to return to play New York in recent years too with the current version of Protex. We have a great audience there, and it was in Brooklyn that Sing Sing Records released our Strange Obsession album (after 30 years or so). Today most of the Protex interest is outside UK and Ireland. We just appeal to different markets I guess.

Chas Chandler produced your album. What was that like?

Working with Chas Chandler was a great experience – I was a huge Slade fan and had asked our A and R guy at Polydor to get a producer who would make the same noise for us. Chas was a tough Geordie and had loads of stories about how he discovered Hendrix , about the Animals , Slade and about the Beatles and the swinging 60s. He owned the old IBC studios which he renamed Barn Studios- Status Quo, the Animals, the Beatles, the Small Faces, Slade etc all recorded there so that was a special place to be. He made changes to two arrangements of songs. Otherwise he let us fire ahead. To be honest he wasn’t really in touch with the new wave or punk thing – but was seen as one of the great record producers of the time. Back then it didn’t seem a big deal to us. We were a bit pissed off as he worked us from 9am – 5pm! We had been used to working previous to that in RAK studios with recording sessions until 4/5am……However – the Strange Obsession album end result – Protex in 1980 felt at the end of the recording that we could have done better and we weren’t entirely happy at the time.

Did you feel part of a scene at home or when you moved to London?

I think once we had left Belfast we kind of thought we were out on our own. It cut the Good Vibrations tie and still feels like that today. History has now been re- written. I remember it differently.

When we reached England, we were part of the music business and we didn’t really feel part of a punk movement as such- the whole landscape where we were now was new wave /punk bands but it didn’t feel like a “movement” the way it did in Belfast. We just saw ourselves as PROTEX and felt a rock n roll/punk/ power pop band and just wanted to write songs and play gigs. It was always about the music and attitude of playing the music.

The recent performances and the new songs prove that Protex a very much alive and relevant. In fact, as much as I loved the early singles, the new material feels even stronger.

It’s great to get the chance to play and write again. Once I started playing I realized how much I missed playing and how much I get out of it.

Having come through the years and the experiences, it’s now a bit weird being the only original Protex member left, but I’m getting used to it. I’ve got great players even if the attitude and musical back-grounds differ. We are older.

I still write songs as before and remember every song I write is a Protex song – trying to keep to the original sound. The important thing is that we are not simply a nostalgia band, many people we meet ask us about new songs and that’s important. It keeps the creative thing going. We meet many good bands at gigs and festivals.

Do you remember your favourite bands from back then?

Favorite bands from back in the day – I think my fave would be the Undertones. We played with them many times when Feargal was about, always great live. We played many times with SLF in the Pound in Belfast before they left Belfast. Early Rudi were great and their impact in Northern Irish punk is totally under-estimated.

Michael

Russ Bestley Interview. The Art of Punk

Russ Bestley has established a reputation as one of the great historians of popular music. His specific area is punk, post-punk and DIY music. The 2015 book, The Art of Punk which he co-authored with Alex Ogg is one of the best books ever written about popular music. It includes many of the most original and interesting examples of punk art along with text that places these in context.

In addition, Russ is the editor of the Journal of Punk and Post-Punk which features material from fans, academics and musicians. It captures the key, and often over-looked, aspects of punk and post-punk.

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You are best probably known as lecturer/curator/author on punk and DIY, what motivates you to continue your work celebrating and unpacking the history of punk?

My work broadly spans two subjects – graphic design (particularly visual research methods) and punk (its history, especially UK punk between 1976-84, and the art and design of punk artefacts and ephemera – record sleeves, posters, flyers, fanzines etc). I was a teenage punk fan (which I can see is the question coming up, so I’ll say more about that later), before going on to get more actively involved in the scene for many years until I eventually ended up in a dead-end job driving a forklift truck in a warehouse. I was made redundant at the end of the 1980s (thank god) and decided to go back to college to study art and design as a ‘mature student’. That led to a chance meeting with a tutor who was around the same age as me and who had been involved in the local punk scene for as long as I had, though we had never spoken. He inspired me to study graphic design, and we ended up working together for over 20 years, researching design approaches and practice and collaborating with other designers and activists around the world.

One thing that impacted hugely on me when I began studying again was that tutors identified me as a ‘punk’ and suggested I read some academic books explaining the subculture, such as Dick Hebdige’s Subculture: The Meaning of Style. The problem for me was that, while it’s an interesting book, it fails to acknowledge the experiences of myself and thousands of others like me – beyond categorising those of us out in the ‘provinces’ as clumsy imitators of the avant-garde cultural elite in the Kings Road in 1976. The ‘hicks from the sticks’, you might say. I guess that triggered a response in me that led to twenty-odd years (and counting) of ‘academic research’. I wanted to provide a counter-narrative, to tell a broader and more inclusive story that acknowledges the wide variety of experiences of punks across the UK (initially) and then more widely. My PhD, Hitsville UK: Punk and Graphic Design in the Faraway Towns, 1976-84, focussed on the design of UK punk seven-inch single sleeves, along with the notion of the punk diaspora – the evolution of different punk styles (musical, visual, stylistic, ideological) across the UK, in part as a reflection of local identities and in part as a reaction to the stereotyping or commodification of ‘punk’ by the media and the music industry.

So, I guess what ‘motivates’ me is still that desire to research and narrate the bigger stories. I also think the central purpose and benefit of ‘Higher Education’ lies in the idea of criticality – critical reflection and critical thinking. In simple terms, that means viewing information or communication with a sense of objectivity (or even healthy scepticism), weighing up evidence, checking facts and sources, identifying rhetorical bias. That, for me, chimes pretty well with my experience of ‘punk’ – questioning authority, holding truth to power.

Were you a fan in the first place?

I was a teenage punk fan, then I played in punk bands, worked as a roadie/humper/sound and lighting technician for live gigs, and spent several years working in a record shop. I was fifteen in 1977, which was a pretty good age to be inspired by the punk explosion, at least in a kind of ‘received’ way… by which I mean, I became a passionate fan of ‘punk’ from reading about it in the music press, hearing punk bands on the radio, buying records when I could get them. That was easier said than done at that time – I grew up in Tunbridge Wells, a small town in the middle of Kent, and our main local record outlets were Boots the chemist (for chart records) and the Rediffusion television rental shop (a box of singles on the counter next to the general electrical goods). My Mum and Dad read the Daily Mail and The News of the World, which were a great inspiration to me: lots of shock-horror stories recounting how disgusting this new craze was, which my parents and grandparents were outraged by – what other attraction do you need as a rebellious teenager? Access to gigs at that time was difficult – I remember saving up from my part time job (cleaning operating theatres in the local hospital) and buying tickets for a gig by Siouxsie & the Banshees with support from The Cure in Lewisham… my Mum found the tickets and destroyed them. She had read in the paper that these punks were all mixed up with Nazis, and was worried that I was going off the rails.

How did you get into music?

I guess like many/most kids I had a passing interest in pop music from a fairly early age. That would have been the very commercial end of Glam Rock I think – T Rex, The Sweet, Slade, Suzi Quatro, that kind of stuff – Top of the Pops, basically. I don’t think I was quite old enough to understand (or discover) the supposedly ‘cool’ bands that influenced early punk – Bowie, Roxy Music, Velvet Underground, Stooges, New York Dolls – I guess I discovered most of that stuff once I was already into punk (77-78) and was being told how important they were. My twin brother and his mates at school got into the regular teenage boy ‘proper’ Rock bands – Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Yes, ELO, Deep Purple, that kind of stuff, but it didn’t appeal much to me. I did like Queen – I guess a halfway house back then between the ‘serious’ Rock acts and the Glam Rock pop stars. Early in 1977 – around January or February – I heard the Stranglers on the radio. The song was London Lady – the flip side to their debut single Grip – and I was hooked. I had read about this ‘punk’ thing in the papers over the previous six months or so, but hadn’t had any opportunity to actually hear it. From there on, I began to seek out channels where I could hear more – Stuart Henry’s Street Heat show on Radio Luxembourg, and a little later on John Peel on Radio One. Punk records were also starting to have a commercial impact – meaning I could find them in Boots or Rediffusion – and even in my Mum’s Freemans catalogue, which began selling chart albums alongside the knitwear and household appliances.

Any particularly memorable gigs?

Lots. Once I escaped my Mum’s clutches enough to get to London or Brighton – the nearest big towns/cities where bands played regularly – I got to see the Stranglers (many times), the Ramones, Siouxsie & the Banshees, The Clash, The Damned and quite a few of the bigger punk bands at their commercial peak. I missed out on the Sex Pistols the first time around, which I regretted, but equally as my tastes were maturing and new, smaller punk and post-punk bands were beginning to make their mark, there were lots of opportunities to be there at the start of something new and unique. Early gigs by Killing Joke stand out to me – an incredible experience, an amazing band – 1980-82 was a great time to see them at their creative peak. They are still an incredible live band, I have been following them around for 37 years now. The Stranglers were brilliant back then too – powerful, tight, musical and with a real charisma. The Clash at the Electric Ballroom, Camden, February 1980 – the power kept shutting down as the sound was tripping the decibel meter in the venue, but the gig was a total riot.

Any favourite records?

Again, lots. Hard to pin that question down – I have a pretty big record collection, and a lot of records mean something to me on different levels. Some are just musically or lyrically awe-inspiring, some remind me of people, places and events, some are just slightly ridiculous but manage to make me smile. Still, here’s a few, in no particular order:

Adverts – Crossing the Red Sea (1978)
Alternative TV – How Much Longer (1977), Life (1978)
Rezillos – Can’t Stand the Rezillos (1978)
Killing Joke – Killing Joke (1980), Whats THIS For (1981)
Killing Joke – Nervous System (1979), Wardance (1980)
The Stranglers – Rattus Norvegicus (1977), No More Heroes (1977), Black & White (1978), The Raven (1979)
Flys – Bunch of Five (1977)
Mekons – Where Were You? (1978), The English Dancing Master (1982)
Plastic Bertrand – Ça Plane Pour Moi (1977)
Lurkers – I Don’t Need to Tell Her (1978)
Magazine – Shot By Both Sides (1978)
Wire – Pink Flag (1977)
Stiff Little Fingers – Inflammable Material (1978)
UK Subs – Another Kind of Blues (1978)
Penetration – Moving Targets (1978)
Undertones – Get Over You (1979)
The Wall – New Way (1979)
Zounds – Can’t Cheat Karma (1980), Demystification (1981)
Buzzcocks – Spiral Scratch (1977)
Zounds – The Curse of Zounds (1982)
Gang of Four – Entertainment! (1979)
Dead Kennedys Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables (1981)
Various Artists Streets (1977), The Roxy London WC2 (1977), They Shall Not Pass (1983)
Undertones The Undertones (1979)
Ramones Ramones (1976), Leave Home (1977), Rocket To Russia (1977)
Psychedelic Furs The Psychedelic Furs (1980)
Only Ones Remains (1984)
Hüsker Dü New Day Rising (1985)
The Fall Live At The Witch Trials (1978), Grotesque (1979)
Dr Feelgood Down By The Jetty (1974), Malpractice (1975), Stupidity (1976)

But then there are literally hundreds of others. I’d add classic early singles by Satans Rats, Suburban Studs, Radiators From Space, the Jerks, Blunt Instrument, Nipple Erectors, Desperate Bicycles, Puncture, the Carpettes, the Depressions and loads more as personal ‘favourites’, plus a few later singles by the likes of the Partisans, Demob and Charge, or later still Hüsker Dü, Mega City Four, more Killing Joke, more Mekons etc etc.

Punk history seems to have coalesced around a standard narrative. What are some of the misconceptions about punk? Are any of the ‘great punk stories’ still untold?

Yes, unfortunately I think punk history has coalesced into a standard narrative, as I guess all things do over time. The great shame there is that a lot of the nuance or contradiction, and a lot of what might be called outliers or exceptions to the ‘rule’ get airbrushed out in the process. So punk becomes a ‘London’ thing that involved a small number of highly privileged and/or lucky people who happened to be in the ‘right’ place at the ‘right’ time to get their fifteen minutes of fame or to witness events that could give them some sense of subcultural credibility for years to come. Meanwhile, the vast bulk of punk fans, participants, contributors or whatever you want to call them were not part of that ‘elite’… Their story (our story) often gets lost in the process. To an extent I guess you could say ‘so what?’ – but I think it is important for any kind of ‘history’ of popular culture to try to reflect the diversity (and contradictions) of a period in time, not to stereotype a narrow definition as written by the ‘winners’.

Misconceptions. Where do I start? Firstly, that punk was some kind of coherent or consistent voice of protest – against authority, against capitalism, against racism or sexism, somehow in tune with what might be termed ‘progressive’ politics in more recent terms. Secondly, that there was a close connection between black and white youth cultures (notably reggae and punk) anywhere more widely than the often well-publicised pockets of activity in West London and a couple of other major cities in the UK. Thirdly (to extend point one), that there is a core philosophy or ideology of ‘punk’ – a myth that has been propagated by some very vocal and influential voices in the US, for instance, and it certainly has had an effect, particularly on younger punk participants who have ‘received’ that set of guiding rules unquestioningly. In some ways that ‘effect’ comes from well outside the punk sphere anyway, as a central part of the ‘progressive’ narrative within contemporary media, advertising and education – the liberal orthodoxy. I’m not necessarily arguing against those principles, but I do find the way that some have become ‘naturally’ embedded within ‘punk’ a little troubling.

Untold stories? Well, I have been calling for some time for historians and academics to look at the role of the music industry and commercial operators in relation to (particularly early) punk – promoters, agents, venue managers, technicians, roadies, marketing and promotions departments, designers, journalists, sound engineers, producers, entrepreneurs… I’d love to see the accounts books, the tour itineries, minutes of meetings with A&R departments. It often feels as though the ‘Year Zero’ rhetoric still stands in relation to this aspect of the industry at least. Obviously the histories of punk movements further afield than the UK and US are rich and varied, and deserve to be recounted – there is some great work going on there, both within academia and through dedicated fans and writers around the world. I guess the more difficult (though in my view more appealing and more rewarding) aspect here is for a writer to try to draw the bigger narrative, to fit it all together. Certainly I have found that with my own work on punk in the wider regions of the UK: many fans (and some writers) focus on a kind of catalogue approach – listing groups alphabetically and assiduously documenting band members, recordings, significant events etc – but they seldom try to draw back and review the bigger picture or draw any conclusions about regional similarities, differences or shared experiences.

What is the motivation behind the journal Punk & Post-Punk?

The journal was launched in 2012 following a conference on Post-Punk at Leeds University. The aim was (and remains) to encourage the academic study of punk and post-punk from a wide variety of perspectives and disciplines, and to publish articles that offer new contributions to knowledge. To date, we have published eighteen issues of the journal (it comes out three times per year), and we have covered a wide range of historical and contemporary punk scenes, critical contexts and related ideas – from the impact of post-punk on Japanese underground cinema to the use of laughter as a device within Cuban punk recordings. The last issue was guest edited by Jim Donaghey and is a whole issue dedicated to punk in Indonesia, for instance, and the next issue will take a critical approach to punk and ‘DIY’, historically and contemporaneously. We try to offer a fresh perspective on the subject and to bring in new ideas and approaches that help to expand our knowledge.

What are you working on at the moment?

Lots of different projects, as usual. One core theme I have been exploring over the past two or three years has been the relationship between punk and humour – by which I don’t just mean ‘comedy punk’ records by the Toy Dolls or whatever, but the more complex interaction between punk and ‘comedy’ (mainstream comedians trying to make jokes about punk, usually unsuccessfully, or punk comic performers employing humour for entertainment) and punk and humour (including the use of satire, irony, sarcasm and black humour as a provocative tool). I’ve written a few articles and book chapters on the subject – most recently for a book on ‘Critical Comedy’ where I outlined the particular use of humour by Killing Joke and Dead Kennedys as a counterpoint to the more overt or obvious comedy of the Pork Dukes or Chaotic Dischord.

I’m still working far too many hours on the journal, and on various design tasks. In the summer I produced a small exhibition on the theme of Punk in the Provinces, to accompany a Punk Weekend event as part of Whitley Bay Film Festival in North East England. Alongside my own graphic display of punk DIY and regional/local records, I produced a large wall print based on pages from Pauline Murray’s scrapbooks of press cuttings from the early days of her band, Penetration. Pauline also has her original hand-made clothes from the mid 1970s, so we displayed them on mannequins alongside photographs of her wearing the same outfits at the Roxy and Reading Festival, and on the cover of NME and Record Mirror. I also designed and wrote a free newspaper entitled Punk in the Provinces: It Was Easy, It Was Cheap, Go and Do It! that was given away at the event. Around the same time I finished designing the third volume in the Tales From the Punkside series of books edited by Greg Bull and Mike Dines, entitled And All Around Was Darkness. I’m just finishing another book chapter on punk and humour, then I will be designing a new book, The Global Punk Reader, edited by Alastair Gordon, Paula Guerra and Mike Dines. Looking ahead, we have a Punk & Post-Punk special issue on the theme of Punk and DIY coming early in 2018, and I am hoping to develop a full book on the theme of Punk Humour.

One theme of your work is that is wasn’t all about London/New York….what has fascinated you about the regional/provincial/global scenes? Anything particularly interesting that you have discovered/learned?

As I said earlier, I guess I’ve always been interested in the regional/provincial scenes in part because of my own history – growing up in Tunbridge Wells (which did in itself eventually produce one punk band that achieved something, the Anti Nowhere League – and more recently Slaves), then moving to Portsmouth in 1980 and getting involved in the punk scene there. I played in one awful band at school in TW, then another band called Doldrums in Portsmouth in the early 80s, whose only notable contribution was to play very loudly and cause as much annoyance as possible in order to get thrown off stage when we played live. I eventually formed a post-punk/hardcore group in 1987 called Watch You Drown. We gigged quite widely in the late 80s and early 90s, and connected with DIY punk scenes in Southampton, along the South Coast to Exeter, across the North from Preston to Bradford, around North Wales and up to Liverpool. We also toured Northern France and traded records and tapes with other bands and labels across Europe and the US – and at that time also the Eastern Bloc, where you couldn’t send any money but could exchange records and fanzines etc. We had a long hiatus when the drummer moved up to Sheffield in the 1990s, but we have been back together again for a few years and we are back recording and gigging, which I really enjoy. So I guess it was quite natural for me to extend my interest in these ‘faraway towns’ when I went back to college and began writing about punk – as a counterpoint to the well-trodden narratives.

You have the eye of a trained artist when it comes to the visual culture of punk… any single/album covers that you find particularly inspiring?

Well, I’m a big fan of Jamie Reid’s work, obviously – to me, the two buses (Boredom/Nowhere) encapsulate everything there is to know about ‘punk’ design. I also love Mike Coles’ work for Killing Joke and the Malicious Damage label – the stark simplicity and bluntness of the KJ Wardance single sleeve and the debut album – and obviously Winston Smith’s work for Dead Kennedys and Gee Vaucher’s stunning illustrations for Crass. I didn’t really understand some of Malcolm Garrett’s work for Buzzcocks at the time, but now I see there is a real intelligence and wit behind the sleeves for What Do I Get? and I Don’t Mind. The early Vibrators singles had great covers, alongside George ‘God’ Snow’s single sleeves for 999 and Barney Bubbles’ work for Stiff and Radar Records. But then I also like a lot of low key and obscure punk sleeves – Terri Hooley’s instant graphics for the debut Victim single, the childish simplicity of the first Toy Dolls EP, Alternative TV’s How Much Longer sleeve, Mekons’ Never Been in a Riot sleeve by Bob Last, Spizzoil’s 6,000 Crazy… Like my favourite records above, it’s hard to pick a shortlist!

Michael

The Winter Passing – interview

I’ve been listening to The Winter Passing for a couple of years now, ever since they played We Shall Overcome night in 2015. Their hardcore pop tunes have hooks, tunes and resilience. Imagine if your friends were in a band and when you went to see them it was a gathering of your tribe. That’s what it feels like being at a Winter Passing gig. They released an EP this year and have a gig coming up in November in the Hut before they tour the UK. I sent Rob off a few questions and got the following comprehensive replies back.

1) You grew up in rural Ireland, how important was music to you growing up? At what stage did you say yep I can be in one of these bands? What gave you the spark to be in a band?

Yes, I grew up in a small town in Tipperary called Roscrea. Music for me was always very important, even from an early age. I come from a very music orientated background. My Dad is a musician and his brothers are too! I was about 7 or 8 years old when a pop band called Hanson started to blow up around the world, their videos were always on TV and the songs were on the radio. There was something very intriguing about that band for me at the time. They played instruments, they dressed really cool and weren’t much older than me which was all very influencing on me. I remember my Mother bought me a Hanson ‘Live in Concert’ VHS when I finished the school year one summer and I would watch it literally every single day of the week for months on end, I was really interested in the drums so my parents bought me my first drum set that Christmas and I began to learn an instrument for the first time. I spent years of my early childhood playing drums in the spare room of our home in Tipperary.
I hold my interest and obsession in that band as the spark I needed to fuel a life in music.

2) Had you left home before starting the band? Is it a lot more difficult for a band coming from rural Ireland than a big city?

So through finding my love of playing drums, it stemmed my musical growth for a few more years, I was always interested in sub culture without even knowing what sub culture was at the time. Around the time I was 10 years old I would visit my local record store in Roscrea and see Iron Maiden CD’s on the shelf and wanted to buy them purely based on how the CD covers looked! I also became interested in Skateboarding & pro Wrestling at that time so it led me to believe the type of music I enjoyed the most was Rock music, I would hear songs on Tony Hawk Pro Skate games on my Playstation & hear songs while watching Wrestling shows which expanded my knowledge of bands and then fuelled my interest in learning the guitar so I began doing that around 11 years old. I started doing shitty cover bands with my friends & younger sister Kate around the time I was 12. When I was in first year on Secondary school, I met a bunch of new friends who also had interest in similar musical backgrounds to me and we would form bands and rehearse in a shed that my parents built me in the back yard of our home. It became a thing for many of my friends, we use to book a local community hall and put on shows there with 4 or 5 local Roscrea cover ‘Rock’ bands, sometimes I played Drums in the band & sometimes I played guitar or bass. That was my first experience of being in a band. So I’ve been in bands since the beginning of my teenage life.

3) How important is community to the band? Do you feel part of a music community?

It is so important, it is the main fundamental to what makes a band progress I feel. If I didn’t grow up in the community I did, my life may have turned out much different to how it is now. Without knowing it, I had surrounded myself with very creative & artistic people at the beginning of secondary school. I gained a lot of new music & artistic direction from my friends back home before it was ever time to move away for College. A big turning point for me was witnessing a Hardcore Punk show in Dublin City for the first time at 17 years old, I was totally intrigued by it all, it reminded me of videos I’d watched online of punk shows in America and such. Since the first time I attended one of those shows in the capital, I always knew I wanted to be involved and that I wanted to be more than just a punter attending the gigs. I guess I do feel part of a music community now yeah and it’s a humbling feeling for me. I always take heavy influence from those around me in the community.

4) Do you feel like you’re a punk band? Does punk rock mean anything to you?

Yeah I feel like we are a punk band. Not necessarily from the sound of our music but more from the ethical point of view. We write slightly more indie rock driven tunes but have operated the band since day one as any classic punk rock band would. In the beginning nobody gave a shit about us, we just wanted to be the band ourselves. So we would record all our tunes ourselves, book our own tours and promote our band from the DIY ethos. Nowadays we have slightly more help from the team we work with in promoting and extending the longevity of the band which is nice also. Punk Rock means so much to me, its shaped & educated me into the human I am today currently!

5) Your songs at times are a coming of age, I’ve seen it written that it is a catahrtic experience writing them? Is it painful to keep going back over them at gigs or in rehearsals?

Sometimes yeah, haha. I’m sure many other musicians think the same about their earliest material unless you’re Metallica or something!!!
There’s definitely one or two of the old songs I still love and some are really fun to play, but like all musicians and song writers, you progress with each release. Some of the songs we’ve written at this point are almost outdated to us now as artists and our feelings on certain topics have changed. The dynamic of the band has changed also in recent years. We’re more focused on writing new music now and changing our sound sonically into the type of sound we always envisioned it would be, we’re not there yet but we’re working on it!

6) How come the connection with 6131 records? How did that come about?

We had been approached first by a UK label called FITA, they said they wanted to release an album for us. Once that became a thing we could do, we began working on an album with our friend Aiden in Tullamore. We were on the verge of releasing the first single for the album when we got an email from 6131, they said they liked the record a lot and wanted to release it but didn’t like the original artwork or the track listings!! We consider the people at 6131 very close friends to us at this point but when it first came up I remember freaking out over how cool the whole thing was because 6131 are a label that have put out some of my favorite bands and I was nothing but humbled & honored to be part of it along with the rest of the gang!

7) The last album was recorded in Tullamore and the last EP with J Robbins in Baltimore. How different were the 2 experiences?

Very different actually, our debut album was recorded over a 6 month period of time on a part time basis. We would go to the studio whenever we could afford to do a day really. We weren’t all the best/most confident musicians at the time too, we were lucky enough to have our friend Aiden involved with recording the piece for us, he thought us a lot about music during that time. We were also very broke during that time as some of the band were still at university and we always wondered if we’d ever actually finish the bloody thing! Recording the EP was a big contrast from everything in the past really, we went into the studio for a week straight after a weekend of pre production. It was a total dream come through to be totally honest and a wonderful experience. There was a lot of history in the studio we were at, J. Robbins is a legend himself and we also had some American friends play the rhythm section of the record with us. We lived tracked all the music on the record which was a method we had never experimented with before but for us was the most organic way to make the record. It was a major learning curve for us all. I remember listening to the first mix on our way out of Baltimore back to Richmond, Virginia a week later and feeling more proud of myself than ever before in my life. I guess that’s the type of shit that its really about!!

8) You do a fair few gigs around Ireland and elsewhere, how hard is it to balance having a job and trying to play in a band? The thoughts of going to the UK for a week is pretty exciting but the reality is still that bills and accommodation need to be paid for while you’re away, does that prove a struggle?

I’m always down to tour and play shows, being on tour for me is a very safe place to be. I think a lot easier whilst on tour and stress about little so the idea of tour is always good for me but it is hard to make everything work though. Like this year specifically we’ve had to turn down more tours/shows than we’ve played because we couldn’t make it work. I guess we’ve matured a lot with this band over the years and its helped shape our personal lives also, so everyone is doing cool stuff in their personal lives too and we had to take some time away from constant touring to leave ourselves in better financial situations and to also focus on the sound of The Winter Passing. We’re always busy, even when you don’t hear much from TWP, we’re still busy. It is hard to manage band life & real life but we do our best to make it all work. The support and encouragement from people makes you feel like you have to do it all!!

9) You made it to Florida to play at the Fest, how was that? How did you get on it?

Yeah we did, Fest is amazing. This is the first year in 3 years that I wont be at The Fest which sucks but that’s life. They basically take over the town of Gainesville in North Florida for the weekend and punks from every corner of the world come to it. I’ve made some many friends exclusively at Fest, I’ve seen bands I never thought I’d see live play. Dillinger Four did a reunion at it last year, wild!! For me, the big highlight of Fest every year is going to Volta Coffee in downtown Gainesville multiple times daily for coffee. I’ve been there so much that I arrived back last year, walked through the doors and the girl goes ‘’no way, it’s Rob Flynn from Ireland, Soya Iced latte?” haha!

10) You’ve been given the chance to get few bands together to play the fest and bring it to Ireland. Who would you have on the bill and why?

That’s a deadly question! I’m gonna compile a mixture of older bands & more current bands for Fest Ireland, just so all the OG punks can come out and the hipster youth punks will come too. I’d most definitely have Jawbreaker be the weekend closing headliner! I’d also love to have Ceremony, Dinosaur JR & Brand New as main attractions, it was in Ireland surely we could get My Bloody Valentine to dust off the cobweb??!! And then some party bands like The Menzingers, Pup, Fidlar, Craft Spells, Yuck, Cloud Nothings, Joyce Manor, The Story So Far, Skegss & more!! Wouldn’t mind playing that line up myself!

niallhope

Spoilers – interview

I saw spoilers play a couple of years ago and their punk pop blast caught my attention straight away.  Their stay afloat album is a gem, capturing that punk rock community feel down to a tee.  Their singer Dan keeps looking to try and get the band over to Dublin to play a gig and hopefully one day we can them here.  I sent him on some questions and here are the results.

1) spoilers were a punk band in California in 1978, they are a punky band from London and are a band of diy punks from Canterbury
Which one are? do you ever get confused?

We are Spoilers from Canterbury, Kent. We sometimes get accidently tagged on Facebook events and confused for the London based Spoilers. So from time to time I get an email from one of the boy’s freaking out ‘Have we got a gig tonight!!!??’ Also I’m told the singer uses the same Gordon Smith Guitar that I do. Maybe we should do a gig together.

But no, generally people know who we are. The other Spoilers are much better looking.

2) Who is in the band these days. ?

Dan Goatham – Guitar + Vocals
Leon Packer – Drums
Stu Randall – Bass + Shouts
Ben Davis – Guitar + Vocals

Occasionally Stew ‘ The Gusher’ Gush fills in on guitar if Ben is away working.

3) When you started it all off did you consciously say this is the way it’s going to sound or did it evolve over a few rehearsals?

It evolved really. Some of the songs existed from a previous project and demo from a few years back. We kind of wanted to carry that on from where it left off. I always liked the idea that we would have melodic punk songs and then also throw in some hardcore.

Who are you listening to these days?

The Kimberely Steaks, Face To Face, Slade, Leatherface, Consumed, T-rex, Lifetime, Kid Dynamite, Snuff, Medictation, Tiltwheel, The GetGone, The Foamers, Pizza Tramp, The Sainte Catherines, Iron Chic, Midway Still, Senseless Things, The No Marks, Billy No Mates, Dealing With Damage.

4) I have a split record and an album. Is that all your releases?

So far yes. We’re currently working on an album and possibly another split.

You work with some cool record labels, how did the relationships with these develop?

Aston and I have known each other for quite a few years now. I’ve been buying Boss Tuneage Records stuff for many years. I used to run into him a lot in Cambridge at DS Wilsher’s gigs. He has put out many of my favourite records. It was actually Dec Kelly (Southport) that suggested we send stuff over to Aston. He’s been great to work with and I hope we keep on working with him.

We sent stuff to Scott mclauchlan at Brassneck records on a suggestion from Mark Murphy (No Marks, Crocodile God). I’d never met him before. He came back to us immediately to say that he was over budget for his releases that year but that he would give it a listen and maybe some suggestions. I awoke the next morning to an email from him saying ‘I’m in, what’s the plan?’ Scott has become a good friend of ours. He likes a beer and a chip barm, so we get on well.

Have I heard a rumour of a new record coming out?

We are working on it at the moment. We started recording at the beginning of the year and we’re booked in the studio in November to finish up. Fingers crossed that it will be released spring 2018.

5) So Canterbury votes for Brexit, what did you make of it? I know it was close, why do think people of Canterbury wish to the UK to leave the EU?

It was very close. I don’t think people took it seriously enough at the time. I’ll include myself in that. I never thought that would be the result.

They then elect a labour mp? Will Canterbury be leading the way in the revolution

I voted for Rosie Duffield (labour MP) and was very glad to see the back of Julien Brazier. I was shocked when I read how long Canterbury had been Tory. I’m actually originally from Sittingbourne which is a few towns away. That was and is sadly still Tory. Our bass player Stu is actually banned from Gordon Henderson’s (Local Tory MP) facebook page, but that’s a whole other story. The election 2017 was also close and Rosie only won by 187 votes, she seemed more shocked than anyone that she actually won.

If you had been at Canterbury pride the weekend following her victory then you would’ve thought the revolution had started.

6) What’s it really like being in a band, leaving work and having to travel long distances to play 30 minutes to a few people.

Sometimes those gigs you do to a few people can be the best ones. No real feeling of pressure and if you have people in the room that are up for a good laugh then it can keep you laughing all the way home. I remember a gig in Basingstoke (I think!?) that we had the whole room singing the theme to Only Fools And Horses at the tops of their voices between every song.

After a long day at work (as I’m in the car working all day working) it can be hard to get going I guess but I think we all just enjoy playing together. The long drive can be irrelevant.

7) I know you’ve been asked before but can you tell me a bit about punks don’t die. I love the way I can associate it with friends I knew from punk rock. Did you mean it that way

That song was written with a friend in mind that had very recently passed away. My closest and certainly my oldest friend. Davee Wild grew up around the corner from me in Sittingbourne and we both got into punk rock around the same time. We used to show each other a lot of bands and lend each other new releases. We would go to local gigs around Swale and Medway in Kent. Davee was a bit older than me and when he started college in Canterbury he stumbled across this amazing venue called ‘The Cardinals Cap’. I think for around the next year we spent every Friday and Saturday night there and saw some incredible bands. It sadly closed in 2001, but it was soon after this Davee Realised the only way all the bands that played there would ever come back to Kent was by us all getting together and putting them on at any venue we could find. He promoted shows at the Oast House in Rainham, and later found a regular venue at The Maidens Head in Canterbury. DIY shows that somehow he managed to keep free entry.

I just wrote and thought about all the memories of going to gigs together, putting on shows in our local scene, lending each other records and the fact that we basically wouldn’t have a music scene in and around Canterbury if it wasn’t for Davee. I miss him a lot.

8) What does punk rock mean to you?

Being yourself.

9) You seem to play a fair few gigs, how do you get on so many bills?

If I’m honest I feel we are very lucky. We have no booking agent and most of the gigs that we do we are invited to play. Myself and Ben have been playing in bands for around 20 years and toured the UK many times as well as Europe. We’re lucky that we have made a lot of friends along the way that put us on when we first started out. Over the last couple of years this has grown and we’ve been invited to play a lot more shows and made a lot of new friends. The punk scene in England is the best it has ever been at the moment and I hope this continues. Bands are finding it easier to stay DIY

niallhope

Knocking Shop – interview

Dublin based band the Knocking Shop are back playing sporadic gigs after 20 years. They had a place in an emerging independent scene in Dublin that wore guitars on heart. They have been described as a punk Leonard Cohen or the Fall wrestling with Go Betweens. They will be bringing their understated yet underestimated style to the Grand Social on November 3 when they will be playing with Mik Artistik. I sent the singer, Seamus Duggan, a few questions and results are as follows

1. How did it all come together?
It was 1992. I was 25, too old for rock music (or so I thought) and working in the Irish Film Centre. I had been managing Luggage and had really enjoyed watching songs come together and Barry would have been very encouraging of the possibility of me being in a band. Dave Connolly had been a friend since we were in primary school together and we had even toyed with writing songs many years before. Dave had gone on to play with The Sulphate Bambinos, who played mostly speeded up rockabilly / garage and I, having seen Dave’s immediate facility with the guitar, parked any dreams I had of being a guitar hero.
However, I was still a music obsessive and when the idea of forming a band started to come into focus I started trying to learn the bass. I soon passed the instrument onto another friend who had a similar facility for bass playing. Another friend and work colleague, John Healy, was a drummer and he knew Derek who wasn’t playing with anyone since the implosion of The Subterraneans. The first time the four of us were in a room together it just all seemed to come together. I think we wrote Schoolyard Star at that rehearsal. It felt like a band.

Rehearsals and more songs and gigs followed. In September 1993 we went into Sonic Studios and recorded and mixed fourteen tracks in seven hours (from which we culled Half-Orphan), mostly with Paddy Brady, also ex-Subterraneans, as a co-conspirator.

2. How did all fall apart?
It was more of a case of limping into the night. By 1997 we were on our third iteration of the band, and were called The Phantom Jets, with Eoin ‘Skins’ Hanna on drums and it felt like we were getting better and better. We had played a gig in The Attic on New Year’s Day, which we filled to overflow. Considering that the venue had rang me to ask if we wanted to cancel because nobody went to gigs on New Year’s Day it felt like things were building nicely. However the next gig we were set to play, I was hanging posters when I heard that The Attic had been knocked down. This was just a minor setback but it was getting harder to organize our lives around the band. Dave had a job in Derry and had to travel a long way for rehearsals and gigs. I had a daughter and was working full time. It was hard to see any money coming in and then one of the band’s partners got cancer and it seemed that we would just have to park the band. Life’s complications kept us in the garage for a long time.

3. Can I have a list of the bands that you’ve all been in
Me – The Knocking Shop
Derek Barter – The Subterraneans; The Knocking Shop
Dave Connolly – The Sulphate Bambinos; The Knocking Shop
Eoin Hanna – Lord John White; The Knocking Shop

4. So you are based in this little island and have a tape only release. Where does Record Collector fit into all this? How did the launch go last year? Was it your first time outside the country?
I had always felt quite proud of what the band produced, and of what we could have produced. We all remained friends, although living in different places etc. One day I saw an ad looking for people to submit demo recordings recorded between the mid-eighties and the mid-nineties. I sent off a link to the title song of our self-released album Half-Orphan and they got back on to me after a while enthused about the song and saying they wanted to put it on their compilation. Ian Shirley from Record Collector was very enthusiastic and when he listened to the DAT tape, which I had sent over, was saying he couldn’t believe we hadn’t been signed. Then he asked us to play the launch night and so I sent off three emails to see if anyone fancied reforming. All were enthusiastic and so we got together for a few rehearsals, managed to remember a few of our songs and headed off for our first gig abroad!
It was a great experience, with a hugely positive response from the audience. We also had enjoyed each other’s company (I think!) and felt that we should try to play in Dublin as well, as there might be a few people who would like to see it..

5. What gives you the buzz to feel that people want to listen to songs you wrote. Is it hard now to get gigs?
I guess that songs mean so much to me in my life, and although I know there are very few people for whom our songs are part of their lives I feel proud of them and that they stand up. And there are a few people for whom these songs have some meaning. I also have a sense that we were/are a lot better than we were given credit for. We were not really the best self-publicists, nor did we have any real sense of a ‘career’. We did it for love of music and writing songs. It gives me a buzz to watch the band, and I’m still a little bewildered that they are happy to let me on stage with them. It’s been strange, and pleasing, to have people in their twenties come up to me after gigs to say they enjoyed it.

As far as getting gigs now, the difficulty is all managing to get to Dublin for rehearsals and having time to play gigs. We have been very lucky to have been invited to play The Grand Social on a few occasions now, and our gig on November 3rd with Mik Artistik’s Ego Trip will be our fourth appearance there (I think..). The gig with Mik Artistik in January was great because they are a pretty special live experience.

6. Any idea what the difference is between the music scene in Dublin in 1993 and 2017?
Not really. I am about as far removed from the music scene as I could be, living in Portarlington and making the odd trip to Dublin, usually for rehearsals or gigs. I don’t really get to see much of the new breed.. Or even explore the venues. I miss it, but life gets in the way. Even in 1993, I’m not quite sure how much I knew about the ‘music scene’. There were a number of bands we hung out with/played with/watched, we would have been particularly close to Luggage and Female Hercules. There was great music being made but the public attention was elsewhere. None of us seemed to be the ‘next big thing’ although Luggage had their moment after doing a John Peel session. We didn’t make it to the National Stadium, or The SFX. We always had places to play, but there was no money in it and very little media attention of any sort. My awareness of what things are like now comes from the fact that I can go and see someone like Jim White play to fifty or sixty people in an intimate venue in Kilkenny. Gigging and releasing music has become very much a professional hobby for many who would seem to me to be in the ‘big league’ of independent artists. I would like to have got to that league once, if just to have had the opportunity to make more music and have the time to concentrate on it. Now, that money just isn’t there. On the other side technology has made it possible to create and distribute music without a big upfront investment. DIY music making is now more attainable than ever.

However, in 1993 you were able to find cheap accommodation and get by for long periods on very little money. That is a lot harder today and I sense that a lot of creativity is being squashed out of people by the necessity to work to pay their rent. It still feels important to me that people who want to create should have the space to do so. I feel that if I believe this for others I should really apply the same rules to myself. I guess you’ve got to find whatever space is available and try to inhabit it. That hasn’t changed.

7. Looking through the, minimal enough, amount of information on the net the word punk keeps coming up. A punk Leonard Cohen is an interesting comparison. What does punk rock mean to you?
I guess what punk means to me is the idea that the band and the audience are the same. It was an attempt to break down barriers. We certainly haven’t become separated from the audience by money or celebrity – maybe that makes us truly punk? It also valued self-expression rather than consumption and celebrity. In many ways it was a victim of it’s own success but the idea still inspires. You don’t have to be a classically trained singer to use your voice. It’s more important to want to say something. Or just want to make people listen..

Musically the punk / new wave era would be when I became aware of music and it still resonates with me more than any other era.

8. Half Orphan is about the death of your Mam when you were a young boy. Is it a cathartic experience writing such a song? How about playing it on stage? It must be very emotional?
It’s a strange one. On occasion it can feel like being mugged, the emotions just spring up from nowhere. Other times it’s just a song. The song seemed to write itself, as sometimes happens. One minute I was just singing whatever came into my mind over the music, the next minute I had a song.

9. Should lyrics in songs have sentiment to the singer?
For me I always seek out music that seems somehow emotionally connected to the performers. I think it is easier to make that connection if the lyrics connect to the singer in some way but there are other ways to connect with music. I admire lyricists who can create worlds that exaggerate and twist reality, like Nick Cave, Kate Bush or Tom Waits, but leave you feeling that there is a connection to their emotional world.
However I also like the unadorned and plain, and love writers like Ray Davies or Hank Williams who can write songs that seem almost mundane but contain the world too. I’m not really answering this question – I guess the sentiments have to feel real to me. When I’m singing a song, I have to feel a connection. Sometimes singing a song feels like time travel, as feelings and thoughts come back across the years with a startling clarity.

10. So it’s a cold winters night, you’re at home on your own and have 5 records to play before bedlam sets in -what would they be?
They would be different every day! But here goes. I have some time tonight and this is my planned listening. First I’ll pick a couple of current favourites:
I’ve been listening to a lot of Jackie Leven recently. He’s someone I only knew from a few songs on compilation albums but I’ve recently bought six or seven of his albums, which is only a start – there are a lot. He had a life which is crying out for a biography, from recording his debut album as a teenager circa 1970, fronting the great Scottish band Doll by Doll during the punk/new wave era. He then got mugged while recording his debut album, was strangled and lost his voice for a couple of years. He became a junkie but turned his life around and set up the charity CORE which uses holistic methods to help addicts recover. He then restarted his recording career after some encouragement from Princess Diana (I kid you not) and released somewhere upwards of twenty albums before his death in 2011. I regret never seeing him live. I tuned in to him too late. He is part Van Morrison, part Begbie; a Celtic Soul Brother who must be the only person to collaborate with both Ralph McTell and Pere Ubu’s David Thomas. My choice at the moment would be Fairy Tales for Hard Men, an exploration of toxic masculinity full of moving, mysterious, overblown and grittily realistic songs.

My most recent purchase only arrived today so I’m playing that. And it’s perfect for the moments before bedlam sets in as it’s an album based Milton’s Paradise Lost. No, it’s not a prog epic but The Argument, the last album from Grant Hart whose songs with Hüsker Dü shine bright in my personal constellation. His recent passing was a shock. What I’m hearing I like – echoes of Bowie’s Diamond Dogs (which started out as a musical version of Orwell’s 1984). Writers have to find different ways to tap into their creativity. Sometimes it will work, sometimes not. You can’t let the fear of failure cripple you.

Another album I’ve been listening to a lot recently is T-Rex’s Electric Warrior. It’s an album that plugs back into my four year old brain but also is still capable of surprising me today. I still like to get the odd dose of glam rock – it was one of the tributaries that fed into punk and it will forever be a reminder to me of a time when colours were as primary as school and music was simple, sing along joy.

Then I pick up Ray Charles’ Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music just to wonder at how close it comes to being perfect. It’s also, despite its musicianship, tenderness and fragility, as boundary smashing as any punk rock record. And, as I listen again, it’s an object lesson in how to find the heart of a song.

For the final album – Big Star’s Sister Lovers / Third – my Desert Island Disc. The box set, if only for the demo version of Kanga Roo – Like St Joan, which I find extraordinary and also because playing the whole box set will give me a little more time before the bedlam strikes… I got my first copy of this album in 1988, my interest inspired by The Stars of Heaven and must have listened to it almost daily for years. The demos show that the album really is a Chilton solo album in all but name, the peeled nerve beauty already all present and correct in the roughly recorded demos.

Not a very punk selection tonight but it would probably be very different tomorrow…

 

niallhope

Steve Mack Interview. Stag, That Petrol Emotion and the US punk scene.

 

 

 

 

This was a particularly exciting interview for me. That Petrol Emotion were one of the greatest live acts of all time, and their records captured their musicality, originality, fun, ambition, enthusiasm and ability to construct amazing unique songs.

When I mentioned to one of the stalwarts of Ireland’s independent rock scene, Michael Connerty, that I had just interviewed one of my musical heroes, Steve Mack, I recalled how the Irish rock scene has never produced “another band like That Petrol Emotion”. Michael smiled, and said, no scene anywhere in the world has produced another band like them.

Simply put, That Petrol Emotion, were one of the greatest. In my Top Ten greatest bands for sure. Three of the band, Reamann O’Gormain, Ciaran McLaughlin, Damian O’Neill are now in the outstanding, The Everlasting Yeah!, and were good enough to write brilliant pieces for our book, Favourite Gigs of Ireland’s Music Community. And they say you should ‘never meet your heroes’. It turns out that some of the greatest heroes of Ireland’s DIY and punk scene are also thoroughly decent human beings too!

I won’t go on, but I remember a particularly memorably night when I was lucky enough to finally see one of the all-time-greats, Iggy Pop. The gig was in Birmingham and he was superb, yet the opening band on the night, That Petrol Emotion, were even better. That takes some doing.

The Petrols’ singer, Steve Mack also has a new band, Stag. They make effervescent pop music underpinned by 40 years of men, and women, in platform boots and glitter, stomping their way into the hearts of many pop and rock lovers, and the charts of many countries.

Stag play next Monday night in the Workman’s Club. The decent thing to do would be for legions of music fans to turn up and enjoy a truly spectacular night.

 

Michael: You are best remembered, and most loved, here in Ireland for your dynamic antics with the incomparable, That Petrol Emotion…..how did you get into music in the first place?

Steve Mack: Hah! Well, I was brought up in a relatively musical family. My grandfather wrote musicals, and my dad had a great stereo. I grew up playing the usual assortment of instruments in school – drums, clarinet, sax – and eventually bought and taught myself how to play guitar. I put together a punk rock band for our high school talent show, where we blew folks away, and I was kinda hooked, though being a professional musician didn’t really seem like a viable option.

Did you get any encouragement from friends, family, teachers etc?

Steve: Yes and no – it always came relatively easy for me, but I never practiced so wasn’t very good to be honest. But one night at a college party my friend forgot the lyrics to a Monkees song and asked me to fill in. I did and he told me I should be a singer. I was blown away – no one had ever complimented my musical ability before.

Are there any particular highlights of the Petrols’ days that you look back at with most joy?

Steve: Oh jeez – so many good times. The Feile was one of the highlights, and I’m not just saying that. We were at our peak, and it felt so good. Playing to 80,000 folks in Estonia was mind-bending. Recording our first album, Manic Pop Thrill. Playing in venues in the US where I’d seen my heroes play. Honestly it was such a great, cherished time in my life.

We’re obsessed with punk at this ‘zine…..what did punk mean to you? Did you have any particular favourite records or memories of gigs?

Steve: And well you should be! Punk changed my life. Seriously – I was a suburban new-wave loser, frustrated with life and the political situation in the US, which was dire at the time, though in retrospect Reagan seems almost lovable at this point. And then you hear the Dead Kennedys – and everything changes. You hear Minor Threat. You hear Black Flag. Gang of Four. The Buzzcocks. And you meet people at parties and at gigs in Seattle, and you realize you’ve found your tribe. My tribe, being the folks who went on to be the godfathers of grunge. We all grew up together, partied together, played together.

The thing that drove grunge was that there weren’t that many acts who came through Seattle at the time, so the ones that did we went absolutely bat-shit crazy over. DOA and the Subhumans from Vancouver – great. Black Flag, of course. I was actually hired to be security at a gig that turned into a riot. Me! All nine stone of me at the time. Hilarious. Iggy Pop at the Showbox where the drums caught on fire – epic. The Dead Kennedys. The Damned. PiL. 999. All of these bands were seminal influences on all of us.

Then in 1982 I went and spent a summer in DC, working for a government agency. The drinking age was 19, so I could drink legally! And since it was east coast, so many more bands played there! Killing Joke. The Dickies. Gang of Four. X. Bad Brains (!!!). Government Issue. The Necros. Man, those DC punks were HARD. In Seattle, we stage dived like crazy, but people always caught you, and helped you if you fell down. In DC, guys were literally trying to beat the shit out of you. I guess they were pissed off because they weren’t drinking.

Stag has a swagger and energy that summons up the past as well as the present, you have always seemed alert to how deeply music can affect people. Were there any acts or genres or even scenes that inspired you in particular?

Steve: All of us in Stag have been in a bunch of bands, and have deep record collections. We decided with Stag that we just wanted to make a big, joyous noise – if we ended up wearing some of our influences on our sleeves, who gives a f**k? Besides, the influences we think are obvious people don’t even remember! So we just go with our instincts and make it big, make it rock, and make it hummable. Obviously we love the Beatles, the Kinks, the Who, and 70s acts like Cheap Trick and Badfinger, as well as glam bands like T-Rex and the Sweet, hell, even Mud if pushed to admit it. But then there’s a modern edge that recalls Guided by Voices, maybe some Spoon – it’s all a great stew of goodness.

What can Irish music fans expect from Stag?

Steve: We will rock. We will crush. We will jump up and down a lot. And tell really stupid jokes. And drinking. Plenty of that. All good fun, right?

Is the process of making music with Stag different from with the Petrols, if so, in what ways?

Steve: Oh yeah. Though, in fairness, a lot of it probably has to do with age and maturity. Ben London, our lead guitarist, comes up with all the song ideas, but we arrange them as a band. Sometimes I fine-tune the lyrics. The most important thing is that it’s a collaborative process where all ideas are allowed a shot. And Ben is great about letting some songs rise to the top, and others fall by the wayside. We’ve more or less taken the ego out of the process, which makes it a lot of fun.

What would you dream festival line-up be……apart from yourself, what other 5 acts (living or dead) would you include?

Steve: Oh lord – you’ll get a different answer from me every day on this. But for today, let’s make it a Detroit-based festival. So that would be the original line up of the Stooges, the MC5, and Funkadelic. Throw Aladdin Sane-era Bowie as an honorary Detroit member. And of course Stevie Wonder. How about that for a great night?

 

https://www.facebook.com/StagSeattle/

Michael

 

Relitics – Interview

Durham punk band Relitics came to my attention earlier this year with the song Anti Fascist. I like bands that proclaim their politics through their lyrics and Relitics are one of these. There’s no fences to sit on with these. I sent singer Carol Nichol on a few questions and here’s the results.

1. Can you tell us a bit about the band and releases.  Any previous bands?
3 releases which includes Vinyl Anti Fascist Do Something and Paying, vinyl split with Australian punk band Myrtle Place. The Relitics formed in 2015 by guitarist Mick Hall who is the main songwriter he had been part of the punk scene in bands such as the nothing which amounted to nothing at the time one member went on to play with Uproar and red london some band members deceased, he also played in other punk bands The horrid lads 79 80 young boys,and ended up with The Kicks for years up until 2015 until he decided he wanted to form an original political band being inspired to write born out of anger and frustration and current state of the country.  Myself I started age 14 original bands first being band Gerbils in Red wine was my first band and we would rehearse at Durhams,fowlers yard home to Toy Dolls and Prefab Sprout we where more post punk inspired by punk post punk, I was big fan of Iggy pop Ian dury, The Damned Bowie etc, I was and  still am a lover of visual front people as  you go to see a band as well, because of my diversity in music I played with many styles of bands but my heart was with making a statement in the music and punk inspired me to join a band at a young age. Our drummer Vince Ward another kid in 1970s into punk attending early gigs  he played with band Mid life crisis up until 2014 a Durham punk band, Vince  hates religion and came up with the name The Relitics meaning Religion/Politics. Our Bass player left after a year I think our vinyl release finished him off liaising with Australian band and the hard work getting it out, he also was a lover of American hardcore and we where more melodic punk.  We where spotted by Steve Hoggart who saw us play The Hop 2016 wknd of rebellion and liked what he heard so joined the band he was inspired by early SLF gig to get into bands and play bass. We have supported many established bands in the two yrs including Uk subs, Chelsea, drongos for Europe, The Vibrators, Gimpfist, 999, MDC and many more also doing charity gigs to raise money for minors memorial for Hetton le Hole home to Bob Paisley Liverpool manager.
2. When did punk rock rock start meaning something to you and what is that meaning?
For me Never mind the bollocks album and New boots and panties album the image appeal first and then the controversy around the queens jubilee my sister painted our tortoise with album cover im afraid my dad was upset with posters going up in box rooms as they where royalists in the 1970s and we wanted to rebel with society. I saw Killing joke The Tube and wanted to be a front singer writing to rebel  to make a statement about how unfair life was in our society young I suppose but exciting times for music, our generation. Mick our  guitarist was jam fan his first live band was boomtown rats who got all bands banned from Sunderland empire as it was destroyed.
3. Does D.I.Y. mean something to you? why/why not?
DIY
All inspired to write, play an instrument, arrange gigs,self release,self promote,no management, we all work DIY is what we are.
4. You “combine political lyrics with driving guitars” How important are lyrics?
Mick writes the lyrics wat he feels what is from his heart, put together with strong hooky arrangements. Lyrics can have different meanings to different people, painting a picture with words, sometimes powerful statements sometimes mystery.
5. You’ve played some decent gigs, What has it been like in the quest for getting to play live?
Played some great gigs with great bands we are not oi oi band and not easy to put us in a box. Played NSleazy last yr when I was called a fucking hippy by two girls who didnt know me and know I was getting up next in band, must been flowers in my hair these two girls where very punk in image and preferred to go and see a tribute band.living in Durham is not great for original bands but all the struggling original venues like us to play I say struggling as venues do struggle. We would like to go further a field with gigs. We playing with lurkers next yr waterloo bar Blackpool. Rebellion was great for us but again its sometimes down to who’s more punk in image who screams the most. We try to be different in creating different styles of punk dont want to be in an obvious box.
6. When i saw you play I was very impressed by your anti fascist band statement.  What gives you the fuel to write such a song and make. e such a statement
 
Mick wrote AF so people know in no uncertain terms where we coming from as there are so many levels in punk scene. I’m not a racist you hear so many times with bands playing with dodgy right wing members.
7. You are from Durham which voted extensively for britain to leave the EU.  Why do you think it voted that way?
there are lots of reasons peolpe voted out of the eu, many are intelligent peolpe who are tired of being ignored and governed by archaic laws from europe. many for the wrong racist  reasons , immigration was obviously an issue for many . The nhs would collapse without its foreign workforce, the leisure industry etc but that seems to be overlooked. thinks its all been said now . the end result is now the tory party has no brakes and are effectively free to cause more suffering / impose or remove laws which are there to protect. .. our song short changed was written about brexit. to be recorded shortly.
8. What is your opinion on the aftermath of the vote?  is it as you were expecting?
A bono fide  shambles the British people systematically lied to again
9.  What would have been your ideal outcome to this years british election?
Labour All the band Corbyn has won many people over especially the young, he has his weaknesses but as the rich get richer, press more manipulated, divide continues to grow. A rich country with food banks used by public service’s, no alternative.
10. Durham is also home of the annual Durham Miners Gala. Do you think trade unions have an important part to play in todays society?
Trade Unions have an important role to play  in today’s society weakened by the defeat of the minors,strike mrs Thatchers the milk snatchers hand the truth is coming out. Unison/Unite to protect from the big businesses tearing the working class to bits what with 0 hour contact s, terms and conditions decimated. HS ignored. Our Bass player is a trade unionist branch Secretary for a college of a 1000 staff. So yes very valid today trade unions.
11. Can you tell me a bit about lo-fi? Why the need to do something completely different to relitics?
Music is my life wrote my first song age 14 after being inspired by live bands I have always performed as a front person and wrote music.  I love music  I love music history, as it goes way back, lyrics can be powerful in all ways.  I have always been diverse in what I listen to and watch. A lover of front people visual, individuality. I  am dyslexic and struggled at school wasn’t the support for visual people back then. Can sometimes be criticised for not just listening to punk but I love to go back to see artists who set the spark. Lo Fi is a project I do at home record produce arrange all styles of songs no style in particular. I work with offenders and have  helped alot of people in life but I would love to write for a living as I am so creative that being in a job that isn’t creative can sometimes destroy you as a person. I dont watch much tv but got inspired to write around the character s of peaky blinders I’m a big nick cave fan and so stated writing the album Pow, however I struggle with the mainstream music industry today I find it bland mundane and shallow.  I go to see bands all the time the smaller the venue the better for me. Lo fi is getting into an occupation I would love to be in as a,songwriter for tv film will probably never happen but I love what I do, and the Relitics is also something I love to do feeling passionate about the band and what it stands for.

niallhope

Pete Holidai Interview


It is important for irish punk to be championed with all the other anniversaries this year. It is 40 years since the release of Ireland’s first punk record, on chiswick records, tv tube heart, The radiators from space were our trailblazers back then.  Chiswick imprint Ace records has just re-released that debut album so I sent guitarist Pete Holidai a few questions.  Pete is now in Trouble Pilgrims who will have a new album out soon.

pic by Paula Geraghty

You went to school in London? When did you come to ireland and how did you get over all the bodies heading in the other direction? How did you all meet and form the Radiators?

I was born in dublin a stone’s throw from Santry where Philip Chevron was born and raised, my family moved to London when I was four years old. I remained there throughout the 60s until the family returned to ireland in 1972. Not long after I returned I met Steve who work in a record shop in liffey street, he approached me when i went into the shop and he asked me if i wanted to be in a band…a few years later in ’75 [ i had returned to london on my own for a few years] we got serious about forming a high energy band and after we met philip, jimmy and mark the band got up and running

The band  moved to London after a couple of years, what was the motivation behind that?

Eamon carr and Jackie Hayden paid for some demoes that were pitched to chiswick records in london, they came over and saw us live and offered us a singles deal with the option of and album which they proceeded with. We went to London to promote the release of tv tube heart [tv screen and enemies had already been released in the uk] we stayed there for five years!!!

How did the first reunion come about? I was at that Hawkins House gig and it was a special event. Do you remember much about it ?

We were approached by gha [gay health action] an aids awareness group and were asked to reform for one night only to raise awareness and funds for the group. the supporting cast included the Real Wild West and Gavin Friday, it was a sold out event. A ltd edition cassette (Dollar for your dreams) was also released by Comet Records

Had you any idea how important and relevant to many people under Clery’s clock was? Or was it just a great song for you?

I think I quickly realised how personal the song was to Philip, so it was a rare occasion he was willing reveal deeper feelings to the public, I always thought of it as a most beautiful love song that just happened to be about same sex relationships. It is a timeless masterpiece [as are most of our songs lol]

So 40 years ago what would young pete holidai make of a band rereleasing an album from 1937?

No problems with that if the content has retained some relevance, in fact I’m a big fan of the great writers from that era such as George Gershwin, Irving Berlin et al, plus being turned on to Brecht and Weill by phil.

How did it all come about? Any chance of a radiators gig to celebrate its release?

Roger armstrong [who produced tvth] is a director at ace, who evolved from chiswick in the eighties, decided he would like to release an expanded 40th ed of the album, steve and i contributed in terms of the artwork and final selection of the additional tracks. There is no chance of a radiators gig without philip [or steve or me]

What’s happening with Trouble Pilgrims? Gig wise and releases?

Trouble pilgrims have just finished recording their debut album “dark shadows and rust” we are currently discussing and negotiating a worldwide manufacturing and distribution deal

After the electric picnic we will be looking towards a high profile launch gig -watch this space-

What’s happening with Loom records? What’s the plan for it?

I will be producing a series of releases over the next few months featuring emerging talent, the plan is to record and album in a day unplugged and solo!!!

You still talk about music daily, play it and are involved. What gives you that inspiration?

It’s such an integral part of my life and I feel I still have things to say and do, I’m writing the best songs of my life at the moment…I’m driven by the world around me life produces a huge range of emotions that fuels inspiration

You can organise your own talk at electric picnic  what 5 people would you ask and why?

Paul McGuinness, Roddy Doyle, Eamon Carr, Abner Brown AND Steve Rapid

SUBJECT: DIGITAL WAS THE DEATH OF REAL MUSIC DISCUSS

niallhope

GRIT interview

pic by David Pujol

Dublin Oi Punk DIY band Grit have been doing the rounds for over a year now.  Their fast snappy tunes almost coming across like an Oi X Ray Spex at times have seen the light of day on vinyl a couple of times on Distro-y-records.  They are a feature of the DIY scene throughout Ireland and have toured Europe too.  I sent their lead singer Clodagh a few questions and here are her words.

Can you give me some history of the band?

The five of us know each other from the Dublin punk scene and have played in bands together before.  Byrneos (bassist), Eric (guitarist) and John (drums) always wanted to do an Oi! style band but it took some years before they got into a room together with instruments in their hands instead of pint glasses!  They had a few casual jams and decided the tunes were worth making public.  Seán came on board with a second guitar and then myself on vocals.  We had our first practise as a 5 piece in June 2016, our first gig on the 1st July in the Grangegorman Squat complex.  Since then we have been busy: released two 7”s and gigged in Ireland, UK, France, Basque Country and Spain with more gigs in U.K. and Germany to come in 2017.

What gives you the fuel to keep wanting to sing and play songs?

The fuel and drive is that I’m still excited about the punk scene and live music.  I want to participate in the Irish scene, I also enjoy travelling and seeing how the punks do things abroad.

I wanted to be in this band because I am partial to the oi! genre – current bands like Bishops Green, Rude Pride, The Jollars, Syndrome 81,  as well as older staples such as Runnin’ Riot and Camera Silens.  In the early days of GRIT there wasn’t any Irish oi!-punk bands playing the particular French-inspired type of music that we do and none with a vocal viewpoint coming from someone other than, ahem, a cis white male, so that was the stimulus that drove me to approach the lads about doing vocals in GRIT – no-one else doing what I was interested in listening to.

(R.A.Z.O.R. with a more uk-inspired sound formed around the same time as us and are worth checking out!)

You’re the front person. Does singing songs give a sense of confidence that otherwise just wouldn’t be there? Why do you think that is?

For me, feeling comfortable or confident in myself was something that instead came with age and learning not to undermine myself with negative thoughts.  If I give the impression that I’m confident on stage it’s because I am at ease with the lads and enjoying myself.

Who writes the words? What are you trying to portray with your lyrics?

Mostly myself and/or Eric, however, Back up Loader is all the boot-iful poetry of John.

Our songs’ subject matter reflects that of the traditional punk and oi! canon but portrayed or interpreted through our individual experiences of living in Ireland.  Some of the topics we have tackled are: austerity politics, class struggle, the decline of the Irish small town, dysfunctional relationships, mental health, friendship.

We try to have a defiant tone, I hope that although some of the subject matter may be bleak you will still feel optimistic about the future when you listen.

Do you think there is a class struggle in the western world?  What do you think the term working class represents in Ireland?

Yeah, I believe there is a class struggle and there will be as long as capitalism exists.  Top-down stuff like austerity politics, zero-hour contracts, gentrification* and bottom-up movements like people mobilising against water charges, going out on strike. *Earlier this Summer on tour with the band, almost everywhere we visited had a version of the scenario… this venue/this neighbourhood/my home won’t be here much longer.

It’s a tricky term to define … the working class doesn’t look the same way as it did, for example, forty years ago because of the changing landscape of employment.  Experiences vary depending on the environment (i.e. city versus rural communities).  A lot of traditional working class people are now long term unemployed or the working poor.  There’s also the consideration of what is economically versus culturally working class, who is middle-class aspirational and who has class consciousness.  I don’t have the terms to answer adequately … it’s more a gut feeling.

GRIT are a lot different in sound to your last band (Burnchurch). Did you purposely set out to form such a band? Any reason?

It was most definitely a conscious decision.  The other members and I have played in heavy bands before and wanted to try our hand at a different style.

All the band have deep roots in the DIY scene and have been for over 20 years. Has this DIY scene achieved much?  Is it a different space now compared to the mid to late 90s?

Although I don’t live there any more, I am still connected mostly to the Dublin DIY scene.  I think it has achieved lots and evolved over time.  The younger generations always seem to improve on what they have inherited,  I am continuously impressed by them.  Two achievements that stand out for me are:

The Karate Club – in existence ten years is a punk run practise space.  I know there are others like it in Dublin too.  A dedicated space enables more and more bands to form and creates a very healthy scene.

Tenterhooks –  were a formidable collective that rented a city centre space, kitted it out for concerts and put on regular events which was a refreshing alternative to pub venues.  It shut it’s doors in 2016.

In international terms,  cheap flights and the Internet has widened the web of the Irish punk scene as bands can hop on a plane and do a weekend tour anywhere in the EU quite easily.  The exchange of ideas and new links formed are a positive influence on us all.

It’s definitely a different space… some changes that jump out at me

– everyone has their own gear, so you don’t have to keep asking the one band who own a backline to play your gig! This can empower more folk to put on their own gigs: all they need is a room.

– as i recall Dublin in the 90s there were two scenes that sometimes merged… now there are several different diy punk scenes.

– more active women, openly queer folks, immigrant punks add diversity

One thing that hasn’t changed much is the price of gigs, some people appear to want to maintain door prices at mid to late 90s rates.  I’m not a bread head and no-one is ever going to be rich from playing punk gigs but a decent door price (e.g. €10 or more) would ensure no-one has to take a hit.

You’re driving a group of 10 year olds to their dance class and they ask you about music. What 5 songs do you play to give them an introduction to your world?

You drop them at dance class and have the deck to you and you only.  What 5 songs do you throw on?

Ha ha!! That’s an hilarious premise! And the answer could change daily.

I’m gonna just give you five dance-able punk songs instead.

I actually made a mix CD for my niece of a similar age and put some accessible punk tracks on it.  These were:

  1. Aggressors BC, Tone of the Times – punky ska/dirty reggae with social commentary
  2. Buzzcocks, Ever fallen in love? – bittersweet power-poppy punk
  3. Le Tigre, Let’s Run – positive lyrics about not being afraid to risk failure set to a dance track

To those three I would add:

  1. Hexen, Shame on us – melodic oi from Bilbao, I would cough over the cursing of course. I like the lyrics that warn of “false friendship, false rebellion” which are wise words for the younger generation coming up in ubiquitous social media.
  2. G.L.O.S.S. Outcast Stomp – after the other four songs i think the chisslers will be able to handle something kinda heavy and this is an absolute banger.

You’ve an interview coming up for a blog: What question do you hope you’re going to be asked and why? What question do you dread and why?

I always hope I will be asked questions that can help me promote the good things happening in the scene here because neither I nor GRIT exist in a vacuum.  I like when I’m asked for veggie recipes too because I’m wholesome.

I dread being asked “what’s it like being a woman in punk”.  Yawn.  Punk interviewers are way too intelligent and original to ask that though.

You played GGI festival (not your first time). What is so special about this festival?  Why should people go to it next year?

GGI is the Glasgow Groningen Ireland festival (established 2004), a rotating annual DIY fest that celebrates the friendships and connections between those scenes. This year had a great mix of approximately 40 bands: crust, d-beat, hardcore, kraut-space-punk, noise, ska, etc,. etc., playing over two days drawn from the above mentioned places (and beyond).

It’s unique because it has a completely different character every year depending on the location and the crew involved but always maintaining a DIY punk ethos.

In a sense, the festival’s impetus was a nostalgic one but it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy and now is a permanent fixture on many Irish punk’s calendar.  This year I was pleased to see the demographic widening – alongside the (supervised) toddlers who were pottering about during the afternoon, there were teenagers all the way up to folks in their 60s in attendance ( with bands of all ages too).

It will be in Groningen in 2018, the crew there run a well-organised festival in excellent venues and great after parties in the Crow Bar run by Esther (Fleas & Lice).  You can rent a bike and enjoy the flat bike routes of the city and whatever Dutch specialities you enjoy in the afternoon before the gigs – little beers with big heads and falafel would be mine.

niallhope

 

 

 

 

Bear Trade Interview

 

Anybody who has followed this blog will know of my respect and admiration for uk band Bear Trade. Last week I described as “think Leatherface, the replacements and wedding present getting together to write some songs with northern sensibility” for Thursday Tunes. Or when I reviewed their excellent new album, Silent Unspeakable and described them as “I know none of bear Trade but the beauty of music makes me feel like they are in my community and we all look out for each other. Along the way they are providing part of the soundtrack and it’s such a good one it would be a real shame if you missed out.” In 2014 I described them as my “new favourite band” and nobody has overtaken them since. I thought it only proper, in a blog that documents what is good in diy, that Bear Trade get their deserved space and sent the bass player Lloyd some questions.

For the benefit of people reading can you give me a breakdown of band members and maybe a feel of some of the bands you have been in or indeed still are.

Greg was in 46 Itchy, The Mercury League, Former Cell Mates, Broken Few and also most recently toured with Medictation
Peter was the drummer in Leeds fast punks The Mingers
Callum played in Writhe and with Pure Graft
Lloyd played in Blocko, Ruin You!, Southport and Spines

Greg, Peter and I have known each other for years from our previous bands, and Callum was friends with Greg…when none of us had a band and we all lived relatively close to each other, we were naturally drawn to each other as we are pretty much on the same page musically and personally..

What’s the relationship with Japanese record labels? Have you tried to get the band on any particular label?

I knew Kazu at Waterslide since back when Blocko toured in Japan which was booked by Yoichi at Snuffy Smile who put out our split with Minority Blues Band there to coincide. Kazu had a tie in as a sister label with Boss Tuneage (who Blocko released records with, and Waterslide distributed), so that helped me and Southport get records out there too and a chance to tour. He does a great job and is a great person with a wonderful family, and so it was a no brainer to ask him if he wanted to help out when Bear Trade were recording. He actually helped remix/master our first CDEP there, “Whiskey On A Bluebird” before release. It also worked well in as much as Waterslide do primarily CD only releases, so in terms of formats that ticked that specific box.

My feeling of a bear trade practice or gig is a gang of mates getting together (probably in a bar) and having a chat about life and a sing song. Is that an accurate description

Yeah, pretty much spot on mate! Hahahaha! I guess our band output is a continuation of our collective personalities and likes/dislikes. Three of us are married with children now too, so it gives us a chance to recharge our batteries and simply be mates out together sharing – what we believe is – our special bond.

You’ve a few videos on YouTube, who does them for you? Why the need for this?

Greg pretty much made them all. “Spielgerg” can go a bit left field sometimes, but as he has access to the gear and the skills to mould the visuals around a song we all play a willing part. There is no real “need” I guess, solely provides a fun and different medium for presenting a song and ourselves I guess, and again I would like to believe that these captured the essence of what we are about. My kids star in a couple for example.

Words, are they important to a song?

Very – words and dialect and meaning, and how they can elicit a feeling or emotion in a listener. In my opinion it is certainly a skill that Greg has honed and a lot of people find that they can relate to them, either specifically or in capturing a reflected view of their own daily challenges and struggles in life.

My life is in its fiftieth year so I can relate to many of the words on offer. For those those who haven’t read up on the band can you tell us what you sing about? Death is a reoccurring theme, any reason for this?

The songs are very much around the day to day occurrences in life that getting older throws up, about our relationships with people, with animals, with alcohol…as we get older death becomes more and more a part of living, and so how we deal with those losses is brought more into focus more often. On the flipside, family life is also about nurturing our relationships with our partners, and also creating new life, and how that in turn changes your perception and outlook on the past, present and future. “Sad punk for happy drunks” Drew Millward labelled us. Pretty apt I guess.

I have to talk football. Are you a season ticket holder? What is the ultimate aim for a Bromley fan like yourself?

I was a season ticket holder for a couple of years, but living near York meant for a long while the closest Bromley games in the regionalised south east centric leagues for me were still around the M25. I made the trip a few times a season, but their amazing title win in 2014/15 and elevation to the Conference National (now just The National League) opened up a whole range of games much nearer or more accessible to home. Funnily enough it often takes me longer to get to some of these games than my friends from the South East, but there are a few northern exiles who get together and travel to these, meeting fellow fans there. I would recommend reading Home And Away, by Dave Roberts, which is a best selling tale of that first season in the big boys league and which I feature on the cover and also in some pages. Bear Trade get a mention too, as Dave is a fan and sees us when we play in Leeds.

The ultimate aim in the 2015/16 season was to not get relegated. Most of the people I go to the match with I have known for approaching 30 years, and there were times when if it wasn’t for that kinship there would have been little reason to go. The club was on its backside, and very nearly slid into oblivion. So those old school heads remain realistic and grateful for what we are currently enjoying. Lot of us have sons now so we’re passing the bug on to them! Going forwards, the club has a phenomenal owner (and ex player) who saved us…we now have sensible investors and are building the infrastructure including a new stand with facilities, developing a huge Academy system and we now have a 3G pitch which is a valuable asset, along with our 3G training facilities. The aim is to try and build a club where the finance is self generated from not only match days, but throughout the week, with a core of youngsters brought through from a child to the ultimate aim of the 1st team. So I’m just enjoying the ride just now J

I often wonder for fans of teams in the conference as it seems like they are the “real” football fans. If their team gets promoted to the football league do they loose their grip on reality? What is it with football and it’s completely incredible sums of money? I find it so difficult to even read about it these days as huge businesses take over clubs and community seems to be less of a thing.

Yeah, I fell out of love with football like that 30 years ago, mainly because football fans were solely treated as a commodity and the police seemed solely interested in making your day as sterile and controlled as possible. Funnily enough, there has always been a similar pecking order in non league circles, and currently Billericay Town are making national headlines as they have a new testosteroned to the max Essex millionaire pumping insane amounts of money in and signing ex league players (e.g. Jamie O’Hara, Jermaine Pennant), as well as deciding he will be the manager too. He is trying to play the “community” card here but you can’t pay for that, only attract sycophants and hangers on and glory hunters. Of course, it would be naïve to not accept that money will always have an influence, but what is happening there is being done in a manner which is both vulgar and classless…two words which describe much of the Sky Sports/Premier League/Champions League world of today.

Water slide ask you to put together lloydfest with an unlimited budget as they have unearthed a footballer with unlimited talent. They give you free reign on 6 bands to ask who would they be?

The Wedding Present (George Best era line up)
Broccoli
Hot Water Music
Jawbreaker
Strike Anywhere
The Cure

You’re on the guestlist Niall


You’re a family man, what gives you the urge to leave the family and go play a gig 200 miles away to 50 people?

I have always felt drawn to music and the feeling that music evokes in me. It has also provided me with the opportunity to travel a lot around the world, and being able to bump into friends and visit old haunts, as well as discovering new acquaintances in towns and cities I’ve never visited is a big part of my life. In the last couple of years I have been fortunate enough to tour with Strike Anywhere around Europe again, and the camaraderie which I have always shared with them is something I treasure and hold dear. When it comes to playing – and it may seem like a cliché – but when I was first in a band I always thought that if you play to a people, there may be just one person who hasn’t heard you who might have just had their ears opened to something new, and every time I play, I think of that one person that I might be connecting with. Also, I find Bear Trade are a part of my family, and when we are together and away we are feeding off each other, making us better people, happier people. Without that, I truly believe that as an individual I would not have what I have to offer to my family at home, to share the experiences and energy and passion that I have that money or TV or Facebook can’t buy. To show my children who their dad really is.

All the band have “form” in the diy, independent music scene. Is that by design or chance and why?

I first started watching bands regularly in 1987 and then worked for bands from 1990. The independent music scene has always been in my blood and always will be. I feel strongly that whatever you put in, you will get back, either directly or indirectly. We looked after our own then, and still do now to a certain degree. To me, it has always revolved around people, and (especially in the early days) the trust and confidence that you have in individuals you have probably never met or even spoken to. I remember going on European tours with a piece of paper with an address and the promoters home phone number on and you rolled up 400 miles from home and that was all you had! You and I are probably a good example of this, having first met in 1991 (I think!) in Dublin when I travelled over with Drive and slept on top of the bass cab in their van for a fiver a day. I try to explain to people who ask that it worked just like Facebook in many ways, except with real people and real places and real situations. But I guess that would just make me old, right?

I’ve got to ask about Brexit as it’s referenced in one of your songs. Do you know anyone who voted for it and what is their reason? I ask because I can see the virtue in splitting the European Union but amn’t sure that’s why Brexit was so popular.

My parents voted for Brexit. We had a bit of a bust up last time I stayed with them after a few drinks. The suggestion was that they did it for their grandchildren…did what exactly, I’m unsure. It is very much indicative of the small town England mentality which still prevails, but this gave it a voice. The greatest despair is that people are so ignorant that they completely bypassed the realities of what Brexit would actually mean and simply voted out…as you say, the vote was not based on the pros and cons of leaving the EU, but more about our insecurities as a nation and an opportunity to sing Rule Brittania whilst waving a flag. I live in a small village in East Yorkshire now, and there were posters put up spreading the unsubstantiated claims and the underlying (at best) xenophobia and at worst straight up racism which this vote has given a voice to is depressing and worrying in equal measure. Humanity and compassion go out of the window, and it is the “foreigner” blamed for the failings of the very Government that these ignorant masses have continued to vote in. If I could emigrate I would seriously consider it.

Do you get a chance to play many gigs? Any chance you can get over to Ireland at some stage?

No. But yes.

No – because we all have family and responsibilities and sometimes these take priority for a period of time until we can work it all out.

Yes – because we all have family and responsibilities and sometimes we need to take priority for a period of time before we need to return to them.

niallhope