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

Primetime – Going Places 7″

primetimeCatchy post punk sound from London based 4 piece Primetime. This is their second 7″ but the band are new to me. I’m sure they haven’t taken their name from the RTE current affairs programme and their sound is a post punk barrage that Kleenex would have been proud of. Angular Gang of four type guitar with basic catchy punk rock rhythm that.

Deadly

My Favourite Gig by Beki Bondage

beki1This is the third in a series all taken from the Fanzine Hope *.2. The fanzine sees a collection of 70 contributors from the punk rock world.  All asked the same question What is Your Favourite Gig. The zine is €5 including postage to anywhere  It is a benefit for Pikpa Refugee Centre, Lesvos   Pay by paypal, here

Beki Bondage, Vice Squad –
Altavoz Festival
Colombia 2012

I don’t actually have a favourite gig of all time but one of the most memorable ones I played was the Altavoz Festival in Medellin, Colombia.

Our guitarist Lumpy doesn’t like flying so he got some Diazepam from the doctor to calm his nerves but the doctor didn’t warn him that you’re not supposed to mix alcohol with Diazepam. On the day of the flight we got to the airport about 7am and Lumpy was in the bar having a drink by 8am. We boarded a couple of hours later for a 7 hour flight to Miami where we were to get a connecting flight to Medellin. By the time the plane was ready to land in Miami there were 13 small empty red wine bottles in the pouch in front of Lumpy’s seat, and he was most insistent that he didn’t need to fill in an immigration form to pass through US customs.

The bassist, drummer and me all filled in customs forms and after queueing for about 40 minutes passed through US immigration and got ready to catch our connecting flight. Of course, after queuing for some time Lumpy had been turned away by a Customs Officer and told to fill in the form but was confounded by the fact that it was written in Spanish and being off his head he didn’t think to turn the page over to the English side! We were panicking as there was no sign of him and we had to catch our connecting flight so we went through security and asked the flight attendant on the Medellin flight to delay the plane because one of the band members was missing.

At this point we didn’t even know if Lumpy was still in the airport as he was in such a state we expected US Customs to refuse him entry and send him back to the UK. I thought we’d be doing the gig as a 3 piece and that I’d be practising very heavily for the next few days as I’d be playing lead guitar!

Eventually a staggering Lumpy appeared and he boarded the plane, berating the rest of us for not bringing his bag through security (you can’t bring someone else’s bag through airport security but try explaining that to a Yorkshireman who’s mixed a large quantity of wine, lager and spirits with Diazepam at high altitude). The flight to Medellin lasted about 3 hours and when we landed we were filmed coming through the gates by Colombian TV.

We were taken to a 5 star hotel and for the next four days we were wined , dined and expected to promote the show, which was fine except for the fact that Lumpy’s bag hadn’t turned up so he was wearing the same clothes for 5 days!!!! A local tattoo artist took pity on him and gave him a t-shirt, but apart from that everything he wore was 5 days old and Medellin is very humid so he was somewhat ‘ripe’.

We did various interviews for TV which was quite weird as we were used to being ignored in the UK so found the Colombians’ interest in us rather strange but very flattering.  We did a secret press conference and were escorted by police with hand guns into the theatre and we were amazed that it was packed full of people wanting to see us. It was like a surreal version of a chat show with the audience made up of Punks. There were more people at the press conference than at some of the gigs we played in England.

The people we met were awesome and it was very,very humbling to learn that our first album had inspired so many of them to get into Punk, some had even built their own guitars, now that’s DIY!!!! There is a lot of poverty in Colombia so Punk is a lifeline for many people, you couldn’t over estimate its importance. Every day a great guy called Roman would collect us from the hotel and take us out for lunch followed by promo. Roman had won the Colombian version of ‘Big Brother’ so he was a bit of a celebrity and a real character.

We looked round a toy shop in a shopping centre and all the staff knew who we were because we’d been on TV, so we had to pose for photos. We also did the ’sightseeing tour’, you have to do it because the mayor arranges it specially for the visiting bands, so there we were at the back of the bus with a Polish metal band  like naughty school kids.. We visited the university and met some of the students and the whole day was filmed and televised, we were even filmed when we were eating. We’d never done so much promo before and were relieved to get back to the hotel thinking we would get a break from the cameras, but there was another TV presenter with cameras waiting for us in reception!!!

Like I said before, we’re accustomed to being ignored so all the attention and media interest was quite overwhelming. The gig itself was amazing, we played in a stadium to an audience of 30,000 people and the show was televised live.

I’m used to having the audience up close and not having much space but the stage was huge and I had to cover a lot of ground to get to the front to commune with the crowd.
We were the most tired we’d ever been after the show, partly because of the altitude and partly from having been on the piss for 5 days, but being typical musos Lumpy, Wayne (bass) and me went out to a bar after the show rather than doing the sensible thing and going back to the hotel for a kip.
The return journey was quite arduous as the connecting flight from Miami to London was delayed so we hung round the airport bar for about 5 hours and were pretty out of it by the time we caught the London flight.

A day later we were back in the UK playing some small club gigs up north, business as usual!

Beki Bondage

Label Of The Week- TNS Records

TNS Records are based in Manchester, England.  They aim to support great underground punk and ska.  That is their mission statement but it’s all too simplistic.

It’s not just a label, home to Wonk Unit, Revenge of the Psychotronic Man, Mighty Midgets and lots more. It is a fanzine, a gig promoter, home to many great all-dayers in Manchester and the Dirty Festival.

A label based in diy and community the latest realease is the Mighty Midgets from Denmark

In 2010 the label were sent a copy of ‘Raising Ruins For the Future’ by Mighty Midgets which started a bond. The combination of ferocious speed, combined with unforgettable melodies was absolutely spot on. It was a game changer. TNS fanzine carried a superlative filled review and promptly ordered some copies to sell in the distro and to spread the word about a fantastic band.

I will let the label take it from there
“It turned out that the guys ran their own label in Denmark; the fantastic 5 Feet Under Records. It was so cool to find a group of people with such similar ideas and ethos to ourselves, who also played such brilliant music. We decided to work together on some projects, the most notable being an International Split, which featured Mighty Midgets, Revenge of the Psychotronic Man, Fist of the North Star (USA) and Broken Aris (Sweden), which was collectively released by TNS, 5 Feet Under and Stikman Records (USA). It’s amazing what can be done when people work together.

This was the start of TNS working outside of the UK and it has continued over the last few years, with UK bands getting released/playing in Scandinavia and Scandinavian acts coming over here. It is an absolute pleasure to continue to work with 5 Feet Under, they are a big part of the TNS family. Mighty Midgets stopped gigging a few years back and we were always disappointed that Raising Ruins was never released on vinyl, so when the guys came to us and said they wanted to rerelease it on 12 inch we were absolutely delighted.”

Similar in vein are anti fascist skate core punks Chewed Up whose split lp with Aggressive punk band Casual Nausea came out late last year

One band getting a lot of attention in the UK punk scene are Wonk unit. I’m still in two minds but their brat punk London style is going down a treat with informed audiences. TNS have released two albums


Speed punks Revenge of the Psychotronic Man have been linked to the label since their inception.

It reminds me of an anarcho related Fat Records, many varied releases all done in a diy style.

Listen to the sampler below

– TNS are dedicated to supporting exciting music at grass roots level.

– We believe in the music ‘scene’ working together as a community making every aspect better for all, discriminating against none.

– TNS is run on a not-for-profit basis. We generally just about cover costs, anything else funds future releases.

– ‘TNS’ bands should be actively involved in supporting other bands and helping them to play in their towns, working as hard as possible to get underground music out to genuine fans.

– TNS oppose pay-to-play gigs, music competitions and money grabbing promotors. Music should never be about competing.

– We believe that music can be a positive force politically, socially and morally, but also that everyone involved should have lots of fun!

If you want to get involved, or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

niallhope