15
Dec

Thanks so much to Brian Smedley for getting in touch and answering all my questions for this interview! I wrote about The Sedgemorons some months ago as I love their song “Drop Dead Darling” and was looking for more information about them. Happily a few days ago Brian got in touch and was kind to be up for an interview! And even better he tells the story of the band, his label Sheep Worrying, and even the town of Bridgwater with lots of detail! I love interviews like these! Hope you also enjoy it!

++ Hi Brian! Thanks so much for getting in touch and being up for this interview! How are you? Are you still based in Bridgwater? Still making music?

Ey up. No problem, thanks for the interest. I’m in Bridgwater. In fact I’m in bloody cold freezing wintry Bridgwater today which is very unusual here in the Tropical south west of England. How am I? I’ve got a cold. Still making music -not so much -spend more time touring other bands round -check out NYC band Gangstagrass -I drove them round UK & Europe last year. Played my last gig in April this year with a Jamaican guitarist a Czech bassist and an Italian drummer – that’s International Socialism for you. I sang ‘Car Park Attendant’ a song I debuted in the Sedgemorons.

++ So let’s start from the very beginning, like what was your first instrument and how did you get it? Was it easy for you to learn how to play it?

Instrument? Probably a piano accordion that laid around the house as a kid. My grandad was a captain of sailing ships and brought it back from Nazi Germany in the 30s. Having been liberated from Fascism it featured on and off in bands through the years. I did some session work with John Parish’s band ‘Automatic Dlamini’ (featured PJ Harvey) in the 90s and played it on that. Song called ‘Roland Barthes didn’t do country’ (1992) and again later with a US band called ‘Ensenada Joyride’. You can also hear it on the Red Smed track ‘Partisan Song’ (currently on 374,000 views- that’s more than Uncle Freds Lucky Tandem!!). Anyway – learning that led me to piano and then one day I moved to guitar at about 16 and taught myself that. Never had no lessons nor nothing. Hence shit technique.

++ And what sort of music was listened at home while growing up? When did you know you wanted to be in a band?

My dad was never at home as he worked away at power plants but when he came home he’d sometimes bring comedy records with him – Jake Thackray, 5 Penny Piece, Spike Jones, Blaster Bates, My mum would sing old movie songs around the house. So no help there then! I was a kid in the mid 60s and so the Beatles were the first thing I listened to –  also the Monkees. And it was their TV series that made me want to be in bands. So I formed a garage band aged about 10 when I lived in North Wales (called ‘The Thundermakers’) I sang (and wrote) and we played in the garages on our council estate and invited the neighbourhood kids in to watch us. They paid a penny each then we’d take the cash and spend it on Batman bubblegum cards. Rock n Roll or what!!

++ Had any of you have experience in being in bands before being in The Sedgemorons? If so, which bands were you in?

Just me and Nervo the drummer really. We’d been in punk bands together since the late 70’s (mainly ‘The Dangerous Brothers’).Stuart the bass player had been singer in a punk band called The Market Gardeners, but he was also in the Royal Navy and so didn’t gig too often (apart from Falklands War and the Cod War) (that was a real war about fish against Iceland)(Aggressive little sods) (the fish I mean) Anne, Lianne and Gareth -SMs was their first band and Bazza the sax man had only just learnt his instrument (I think)

++ How did you all know each other to form The Sedgemorons? Was there some sort of recruiting process?

Well, the Dangerous Brothers were the heart of the Bridgwater music scene and we formed an organisation around us called Sheep Worrying -which was not just a record label it was also a fanzine, a theatre company, we put on gigs and so on and it was very DIY indie punk stuff. So all the people in the SMs were an integral part of Sheep Worrying. It was a bit like recruiting the Magnificent Seven. First there was me and Nervo, then Stuart, then Anne, then Lianne, then Gareth then Bazza and then we shot up a Mexican village. There was nothing like ‘auditions’ except maybe me teaching Stuart to play the bass.

++ Where did you usually practice? And how was the creative process for the band?

Sheep Worrying had an ‘office’ on the top floor of the Labour Party headquarters Unity House. We did everything there -wrote the fanzine, rehearsed the plays, etc and so we rehearsed the band there too. The creative process was mainly me writing stuff and bringing it to the band and them adding to it with ideas. Later Anne or Gareth wrote whole lyrics. ‘Girlfriend’ lyric was mainly by Gareth with me putting music to it. Then I’d teach Stu the bass line, then Anne and Lianne would work out some harmonies and then Gareth would fall off a chair or out of a window.

++ The sound of The Sedgemorons is quite unique I think, so I wonder, what would you say were your influences?

In truth we decided to break away from the quirky punky feel that came from the previous bands I’d been in and aimed for more indie pop and more accessible music. We formed the band to raise money (not for ourselves) so we wanted mainstream gigs  and to be a bit cabaret to earn cash-but we very quickly weren’t satisfied with that and kept pushing the boundaries, sending ourselves up and the audiences and so influences were quite eclectic. Personally my guitar influences were always Eddie Cochran, Hank Marvin and Wilko Johnson so that mix is where you get the fast jangly rhythm and the twangy lead sounds. But the underlying influence was punk attitude I’d say.

++ What is the story behind the band’s name?

Well, the district we live in is called Sedgemoor. You can checkout that it’s also the scene of the last battle in England (1685) so it didn’t take much to add ‘morons’ in there.

++ How was Bridgwater back then? Where did you usually hang out? What were the places where you would go out and check bands? Where there any like-minded bands?

Bridgwater was and is a small provincial town but with a radical history. 75% working class but by the 80s that was in decline due to Margaret bloody Thatcher. Unemployment was high and money was scarce. So we were a mix of the fightback against her and trying to create a scene ourselves that was original and local and encouraged all bands to work together and put on stuff together, share gigs, share gear etc. However, we basically took over the local Art Centre (which incidentally was the first art centre in Britain-1946) and put on it’s music programme and our original theatre  and mainly hung out there. So it was us that put on the local gigs 4 bands at a time -and brought down big alternative bands of the day such as Crass, Toy Dolls, Chumbawamba that sort of thing. Bands rarely came to Bridgwater that we didn’t put on so you’d have to go to the nearest city-Bristol to see big gigs. However, Glastonbury is only 10 miles from Bridgwater and there’s that massive music festival there every year which we all went to. We used to help them with the traffic control -these days I supply workers for the bars there.

++ Your first release was a cassette album titled “We’re Bonkers”. I haven’t found much information about it aside that it was recorded live. Is there a tracklist? When was it released? How many copies were made?

’We’re Bonkers’ was the first thing we did yes. It was a mix of a live gig at the Antelope Inn Sherborne where we played with The Chesterfields. Simon Barber recorded us from the PA and in fact his voice is on the album wishing me a happy birthday (it was my birthday) -but we also went into a studio to add maybe 6 more tracks. The album was basically a mix of the ‘cabaret’songs we’d been doing to raise money (‘Sorrow’-The Merseys,’Don’t Get Around much anymore’-Duke Ellington plus our on stage opener ‘Y Viva Espana’-played Shadows Style) then some of the newer originals we were writing including an early version of Drop Dead Darling and some of the ‘poems’ (which I wrote for a stage play and Stuart read). Recorded 22 Sept 1984. Don’t think we made more than 100 copies Track list –1 Y Viva Espana (Trad) 2 Sorrow (trad) 3 Don’t Get around much anymore(trad) 4 Greed (Smedley) 5. Window Box of life (Smedley) 6 Drop Dead Darling (Smedley/Kane) 7 Ethiopia Utopia (Smedley) 8. I walk the line (trad) 9.Twist n shout (trad)

++ Your second 7″ came out in 1985 on the label Sheep Worrying Records. This was your own label, how was the experience running it?

Sheep Worrying’s first release was ‘False Nose’ by the Dangerous Brothers in 1980 and then we did a few others and as it was our umbrella organisation it was natural the SMs would be part of it too. In fact it was our 3rd 7” release -the second was ‘the Sheep Worrying EP’ (1982) which featured me and Nervo + others in a band called Club Whoopee doing a song called ‘You’re sort of ok’ (written by me and horror writer Kim Newman). Running a DIY indie label with no money was a nightmare but so was the 1980s. We were in a massive political struggle and no one involved had any money, few had jobs and gigs were a political statement more than building a career. We also went on demos, actions, protests all that stuff. The establishment hated us. One local newspaper labelled me ‘the most dangerous man in somerset’ at this same time.

++ I read that because the label needed funding to keep going you formed The Sedgemorons to get out of the debt. Is that true?  Did it work out in the end?

Yes that’s true. We built up our fanzine to a ‘Listings’ magazine with 1,500 circulation but it had to be paid for so we used advertising. Sometimes we didn’t get enough to cover it so we just kept letting the debt build up then one day we were staring at a £1,000 debt..so we said ‘let’s form a cabaret band just to pay this off’ -hence the Sedgemorons. After a year we paid it off and by the second year we were gigging for fun and actually gaining a reputation and enjoying it so stuck with it.

++ This 7″ had two songs, “Drop Dead Darling” and “I Need a Girlfriend”. I found a video for the second song, all of you playing it at the Bridgwater Arts Centre when the BBC2 was filming a documentary about it. How was that experience? Was it the only time the band was on TV?

The clip is from I think 1985 and upstairs at the art centre. We’re playing acoustically but I dubbed the single version over the youtube clip.I’m in the white car park attendant coat,Lianne in the bobby socks, Anne with a broken arm, Gareth singing ‘Girlfriend’ Stuart on tea chest bass playing with his motorbike gloves and Nervo and Bazza sat on a window sill, I don’t recall the SMs doing any other TV. We got a fair bit of radio play.

++ I must say that I love the song “Drop Dead Darling”, was wondering if you could tell me in a few sentences what is the story behind it?

Ha! When the SMs formed in 1984 I lived with Debbie (Kane) and we jokingly wrote the song together. Mainly her lyric and directed at me. And then she left me. Reality imitating Art. She also did the design work on the cover which is meant to represent a lipstick message on a mirror! I wrote the music. Actually the original idea came from writer Kim Newman (who I wrote musicals with) and who was trying to write a pastiche of ‘Move Over Darling’ (Doris Day) but when I was trying to put music to that basically me and Debbie just totally re-wrote it and we changed all the words except his title so he asked not to have a credit. I played the new song to the band and it became our most popular song and sort of set the scene for the next 2 years.

++ How was the recording process for these songs?

We recorded them at the Milborne Port studios near Sherborne early 1985. It was an 8 track studio and the producer was Chris Hardcastle. It took us an afternoon and evening I think. We brought in Bazza to do some sax on ‘Girlfriend’ and he also did the ‘whistling’-which he ad-libbed in a jazz style. Bazza was basically Gareths mate who we’d barely met. Gareth wrote the words to ‘Girlfriend’ and sang it and also spontaneously did the scat singing bit (without asking us). Anne sang lead on ‘Drop Dead’ with Lianne doing backing. I over dubbed the lead guitar and then at the end I put in some piano. There’s only one ‘mistake’… during the almost last line of ‘Girlfriend’ Stuart is slightly late on a bass note – and now I’ve told you that you’ll hear it all the time!!

++ Did you appear in any compilations that you remember?

The SMs didn’t. We did ‘We’re Bonkers’ then ‘the single’ and then we went into a studio in Weston Super Mare to record 4 more tracks which we never released. Although the photo that we use on most of our promo stuff was taken that night on the stormy seafront in the town of John Cleeses birth. We only lasted 2 years

++ And so, why weren’t there more releases by the band? Was there any interest by other labels?

When we did ‘We’re Bonkers’ we tested the water with record labels and in fact Cherry Red were really keen and sent us a hilarious fan letter back. This really boosted us and made us take the cabaret band into the more original direction hence the single -which was distributed by Rough Trade and led to good coverage in the music press and some good gigs.

++ Are there more recordings other than the ones mentioned, any unreleased songs by The Sedgemorons?

Just the 4 songs from Weston – 2 Anne lyrics (my music) ‘Small town’ and ‘women only’ and 2 of mine ‘Rock n roll is pretty exciting’ and ‘Trotsky’. Both these songs are on you tube done by my later bands but I might put these original recordings up as now I think of it theres some comical bits there plus me playing a banjo and some backward vocals from Nervo to sound Russian and backward cymbals to sound Pink Floyd. We also played one gig at the Thekla (a boat owned by Bonzo Dog Doodah Band frontman Viv Stanshall) which we recorded and I think there’s an unreleased tape of that somewhere..I’ll have a look!

++ What about gigs? Did you play many? Any particular great ones that you remember and why?

We played lots of gigs mainly in the south and west of England. Best gig was the Moles Club Bath after which we had a review in Sounds (music paper) and then Peel played our single and the next days gig at the Exeter Art Centre was packed with people who’d heard it. The Bristol Thekla gigs were good, lots of obscure pub gigs and of course a lot in Bridgwater and surrounds. Our last gig ever was in St Pauls Bristol at the Tropic Club, but Nervo couldn’t find it so we had to borrow a drummer from the audience

++ I read that you toured a stage musical named “Rock N’ Roll is Pretty Exciting”, how were this musical? What was special about it?

Yes this was a send up of teen rock musicals like ‘Summer Holiday’or more likely ‘the Young Ones’-or maybe check out ‘What a Crazy World’ or ‘Gonks go Beat’. We all wrote lots of sketches based around our songs and then glued them together to make a show. It was about a car park attendant (Rockin Brian) whose car park was going to be closed and turned into a discotheque. So -like Yul Brynner did, but with more hair – I had to get ‘the kids’ to help me save the car park. (oh, that’s ‘parking lot’ in American). We did all the songs and we all acted in it. Then we toured it to a few other places. We considered reviving it recently with my daughter – but then she grew up. For this show we all gained our stage names -I was Rockin Brian-a particularly tedious man with a flat midlands accent (ref Noddy Holder from Slade, Ozzy Osborne or anyone in the cast of ‘Peaky Blinders’), Lianne was Bobby Bland-a rather starry-eyed teeny bopper, Anne was ‘Betty Bonkers’-a hard bitten feminist, Gareth was ‘Bing Beasley’-a twat who fell over a lot , Stuart was the abstract poet ‘Ghenghiz 2-Stroke’ Bazza and Nervo were just themselves really.

++ And where there any bad gigs at all? Any anecdotes you could share?

We didn’t do bad gigs because we made out we were bad and argued with each other on stage so no-one could tell the difference. We played one gig at Cheltenham College where the rugby team tried to disrupt it but couldn’t work out if they had or not so gave up. The ‘legs’ photo on the sleeve is from there. By our last gig at the Tropic club we’d actually fallen out with each other for real so the atmosphere wasn’t good. Our last song played together was an acapella version of ‘Silent Night’. It was excruciating, we just sang the words ‘silent night,silent night’ over and over.

++ Did you get much attention from the press or radio? I see John Peel used to play you. What about fanzines?

Yes Peel liked us and played us a few times as did other radio and we got a fair few reviews here and there. Fanzines -well, we reviewed ourselves and so did a few other ones.

++ When did the band call it a day? And why? What did you all do afterwards? I see you were involved in many bands even covering some Sedgemorons songs!

I’m pretty sure it was late 1985 which now I think of it meant we were only going for a year and a half. We started off as great mates with an aim – to raise money – we did the album then the single -got good reviews-looked like we were on the up and up and then I reckon egos came into it a bit. We sort of split into 2 ‘partner’ factions , me and Lianne against Anne and Gareth with Stuart in the middle. Nervo was always in demand with other bands and was a very good ska-reggae drummer playing with the Alkaloids and another good indie band ‘India’ then I think this reflected in what we all wanted to do next. So when we got to the Christmas 85 gig we in fact formed 2 bands -me and Lianne formed ‘Red Smed and the hot trot smash the system boogie band’(which did the comedy political stuff) while Anne and Gareth formed the ‘Inflatable Ducks’ which were more maybe ‘Smiths meet the Cure’ type of sound. Then people moved on and the band wound up. Anne left music and went into journalism (she was actually the main reporter for the Bridgwater Mercury at the time anyway) but moved to another part of UK and in fact to NYC at one point. She went on to make a name for herself as a producer of current affairs programmes for the BBC radio 4. I met her a coupe of years back in London for the first time in 20 years. She has 2 daughters. Lianne, who I dated at the time, went off to RADA and then became a successful stage manager of largescale childrens theatre productions  around the world. I haven’t seen much of her since she left-but I always get a xmas card. She lives in Coventry. Or possibly Belgrade. Gareth went to Manchester and studied acting-which is what he does now with his one man shows. He’s very good. I met up with him again mid 90s and we produced a Czech-English musical together called ‘Czechomania’. Stuart left the area to study drama and became a teacher. He moved back to Bridgwater mid 90s and I got him playing for the Red Smed band on and off. I hadn’t seen him for 10 years by the way – until today!! Weird or what? He wants to get another band together. Bazza went off to London and did his own thing as an electronic music session player and recently moved back to Bridgwater and I bump into him rarely. Nervo (real name Kevin) played in every band I was subsequently in (Red Smed, the Visitors, the Spanners) but about 10 years ago his doctor told him he couldn’t drum anymore. So he just stopped.(Nervo i mean, not the doctor)

++ Are you all still in touch? What do The Sedgemorons do today? Has there been any band reunions?

We’re not really in touch. I had a go recently to see if I could get a reunion, but it didn’t seem likely. That said Stuart seemed keen today, so you never know….

++ Aside from music, what other hobbies do you have?

Well, in 1990 I got elected to the council as a Labour councillor and have done that for 27 years. Today I’m the Leader of Bridgwater Town Council-which is a strong socialist council and so I’m trying to instil some of that original punk ethos into the local political scene and I think It’s working. I also became very involved with the Czech and Slovak Republics after the collapse of Communism and so spend a lot of my time taking people backwards and forward there – every year organising a rock tour for instance -and lots of other stuff too. Not sure that gives me time for a hobby – football maybe. I’ve organised international football teams and tournaments and only stopped playing myself a couple of years back (with a sensational hat-trick in Hungary against a fat team of Czech factory workers). I like encouraging young bands -especially original ones – and I like driving and touring musicians. One of the last gigs that Clash Frontman Joe Strummer played was here in Bridgwater in 2002-a month before he died (he lived round here and called Bridgwater ‘a Clash Town’) – me and Nervo supported him on stage and from that gig we keep an annual link up with KEXP radio Seattle who do a live link up for their ‘International Clash Day’ (c. Feb 8th). We twinned Bridgwater with Seattle – check out the youtube click of me reading the proclamation.

++ Today how is Bridgwater, Somerset? Has it changed much since The Sedgemorons days? If I, or any reader of this interview, was to visit as a tourist someday, what would you suggest checking out in your area?

If you or anyone who wasn’t a total fkwt wanted to come to Bridgwater you would be welcomed with open arms. Today it’s a bit of a boom town…yes, we now have 3 nuclear power plants…..and 6 new hotels. A lot of music and a lot of history and all in the beautiful surroundings of the cream and cider drenched West Country. The Bridgwater Art Centre is still going, the Engine Room film and media centre was set up following the Strummer benefit gig and is a great progressive place, and the river has the 2nd highest tide in the world (after somewhere in Canada). Check out the Green Olive meze restaurant, the Blake fish and chip bar, the Cobblestones indie music pub, the Fountain Inn (an old sailors pub..if you like old sailors), Wetherspoons-for the cheapest drinks in town (and Nervo) and my flat in the elegant 18th century Georgian Castle street (a bit like Boston) home of the Swedish Womens Netball Team – well, it would be if they were looking for a home.

++ Looking back, what would you say was the biggest highlight for The Sedgemorons?

1. Getting the fan letter from Cherry Red 2. Getting played on John Peel 3. The early days when we were one big happy family

++ Anything else you’d like to add?

Maybe some web links?

The Sedgemorons – Drop Dead Darling

The Sedgemorons – I Need a Girlfriend

Red Smed

Bridgwater International

Somerset Labour

Bridgwater Westover Web

Clash Day Proclamation by Brian Smedley

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Listen
The Sedgemorons – Drop Dead Darling

06
Dec

Thanks so much to Japs Sergio for the thorough and illustrative interview! I wrote about Daydream Cycle on the blog a couple of months ago, when I was featuring the Philippines, and luckily Japs got in touch with me through Twitter. He was up for answering my many questions and he was even kinder to send scans of different memorabilia from the band. Daydream Cycle released two fantastic dreampop albums which were limited to small runs in their home country. If you have never heard of them, now is a good time to discover them!

++ Hi Japs! Thanks so much for being up for this interview and tell the story of Daydream Cycle! What are you doing these days? Are you still based in Manila? Still involved with music?

Ey, Roque! It is my pleasure. I have no idea how you even found out about Daydream Cycle, but thanks for your taking the time to listen to our younger selves. Yes, I am still in Manila and I’m definitely still involved with the local music scene. In early 2011, a few months after I left my more mainstream band, Rivermaya, I started making songs that was initially intended to be released one at a time online via soundcloud, just for the heck of it, since I was pretty much band-less anyway. It ended up being my debut album as ‘japsuki’ called ‘Monologue Whispers’ that I wrote & recorded for 3-4 weeks in the summer of 2011. It was released later that year and was supposed to be a one-off album… but yeah, right to that one-off thing! Hehe. Making this album was definitely the cure for my depression around that time, so its theme is pretty much a depressed me finding ‘the light’ through the process of musical creation.

Shortly after that, I was on a roll. I was already making a lot of other new stuff, but this time making music in the total opposite direction with a more guitar rock sound, and eventually formed a band called Peso Movement. I like to call our music ‘dirty rock’, and I call it the ‘Mr. Hyde’ to japsuki’s ‘Dr. Jekyll’. We released our album ‘The Gentle Sound of Chaos’ in 2014.

In 2015, I initially planned to do another solo alter-ego that would be my ‘release’ for songs that are more stripped down with more basic arrangements and all in Filipino. I also wrote and recorded it a few weeks in the summer of that year, and at the last minute, I just decided to release it as japsuki. The music definitely has a different style than the first one, so I was a bit wary of that, but the thought of making all these new social media accounts and explaining to people the difference between this and that made it an easy decision to just stick with ‘japsuki’. The album’s theme is about my observations of Filipino pop culture over the years, and it is called ‘Pinoy Pop’.

Last month (October 2017), I released a 3rd japsuki album, and this was a conscious effort to be a sequel to the debut album. I tried to capture a bit of the feel I had during the first album, but since I was not depressed this time around, it kinda messed up my mind a bit, and as much as I loved conquering another challenge, I certainly won’t do that again. Hah! The album is called ‘Stereo Mood Swings’.

*scrolls down the rest of the questions* Goodness, I have already taken up 1 page and it’s only the 1st question hahah

++ This new project of yours going solo under Japsuki, how would you describe it? How similar or different would you say it is to Daydream Cycle?

Japsuki’s mantra is ‘steady’ and it’s just me and my outdated MacBook and I record and mix everything on a Snow Leopard-era GarageBand. I’m the only one silly enough to be releasing albums like that haha! I try not to do the usual stuff I do with DDC – chords, effects, etc., mainly ‘cos I really got tired of it, but for my just-released 3rd album, there are a handful of songs I made that I would have made for DDC, if we made an album this year. I think it has been a decade since I ‘got tired of the usual DDC stuff’, so it’s about time I did it again.

++ Is there a way for people to buy them or listen your new releases?

Yeah, as I mentioned above, I have just released my 3rd baby last October, and all 3 albums (plus Peso Movement) are available in most music streaming sites. Just search for ‘japsuki’ and ‘Peso Movement’.

++ Let’s start from the beginning, what are your first music memories? Like what sort of music did you grow up listening to at home? And what was your first instrument ever?

Oh wow! I am the youngest of 5 kids, so there were a lot of times when I got to hang out with the oldies, mainly ‘cos they couldn’t really ditch me, so I got to listen to their music – anything ‘80s like Spandau Ballet, Shakatak, Kenny G, Michael Jackson, Swing Out Sister, Basia, aaaand I think you get my drift… hah! Around that time, house parties were huge and we had a neighbor that was the usual host for such parties ‘cos they were also a ‘mobile’ – the term for DJs then. I got to listen to a lot of groups that I had no idea who they were at the time, ‘cos of our neighbors and the radio, like The Cure, Depeche Mode, Tears For Fears, Duran Duran, The Smiths, etc. This was my pre-teen years so I wasn’t really THAT into music yet, but it definitely planted the seed. I remember going to another neighbor’s house, and they had this dusty old acoustic guitar that had only 1 string on it. I fooled around with it, as a young kid, trying to play the bass line of “Boys Don’t Cry”, a song that was huge on the radio for years. That was my earliest recollection of playing something on the guitar.

When the late ‘80s-early ‘90s came, it was the time when I was getting into the rock stuff with Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, britpop, the whole Seattle scene, and the like, and was starting to learn the guitar. We had this crappy acoustic guitar that me and my brother Dok (also from Daydream Cycle and other bands) shared, and I pretty much learned it from reading local music magazines that had songs with chords and chord charts.

++ At what time did you find out that you had to be in a band? What was your first band?

I’m pretty sure the release of Nirvana’s Nevermind had a lot to do with wanting to form a band with my school friends. When the idea of forming a band was brought up, everyone wanted to be the guitar player, and by virtue of them being fast enough to have dibs on the stringed instruments, the only instrument left vacant was the drums. My sister was going out with a drummer then, so I just said to myself, “How hard could banging those round things be, right? I could just have him teach me,” plus of course, the fact that I had no choice if I really wanted to be in the band, so I told them I knew how to play the drums, and instantly became the drummer. The next step was to actually learn how to play the drums. I was initially taught the basics, but the problem was the drumset he had was still in the province way up north from Manila, so I had to learn it, initially, using drum sticks and throw pillows, and for some reason, it actually worked. We had our first band gig in December 1991, at a Christmas party of a tennis clubhouse where our vocalist’s parents were members. We were called ‘Crash Course’. Looking back, it was actually a fitting name for a first band, but I just got it from Metallica’s song ‘Crash Course in Brain Surgery’.

++ What other bands aside from Daydream Cycle had you been involved with?

In my school years, as I’ve mentioned, the first one was Crash Course that eventually became Water No-No’s, from the school days. In 2000, after college, Bogs and I started what eventually became Daydream Cycle. After DDC’s 2nd live gig in 2001, I eventually became the bass player for Rivermaya. I left Rivermaya in late 2010 and took a ‘break’ from music making, and then Japsuki happened.

++ And when did Daydream Cycle start as a band? How did you all know each other? Was there a recruiting process? Lineup changes?

Shortly after college, in the summer of 2000, Bogs and I started to fool around with making our own music. He had just bought this BOSS DR-202 drum machine, and being a drummer for pretty much the whole of the ‘90s, I wanted to do something else, so I would bring a Strat-like electric guitar to his room, and we would jam along with songs of Massive Attack, Sneaker Pimps, Portishead, and the like, playing in the background. I eventually borrowed the drum machine and started making guitar riffs playing along with it. Bogs’ computer had a freshly installed loop-based recording software, Acid, so we recorded a couple of instrumental stuff that we were quite pleased with, but knew that it lacked a voice, and listening to pretty much the same stuff, we also knew that we wanted a female voice.

We were schoolmates with Kathy in college and we had mutual friends. She was steady with a hippie vibe, so I thought it was right up our alley, and I knew she wrote poetry, so I asked her if she would be comfortable singing it in a band, and that was it. The first album’s lineup was born.

++ Why the name Daydream Cycle?

In the first few months with the 3 of us, I thought of the name Electric Smooth, but at the time, there was a local band called Electric Kool-Aid, and I thought it was too similar, so that name didn’t really last. I think a handful of other names were thrown after that. The name Daydream Cycle was a product of a recurring dream that I was having at the time, and it was just perfect for our music, too, so yeah, that definitely got everybody’s vote. A few years ago, I found a test print of an idea for an album cover with the name Daydream Cycle and the former name Electric Smooth reassigned as the album title. (Photo attached)

++ How was the scene in Manila, in the Philippines, at that time? It seems there were many like-minded bands, right? Were you friendly with them? Which were your favourites?

In the early 2000s, out here, being an independent band was a no-no. It was like there was this unwritten rule that the only way you would be accepted as being a legit band was when you were signed to a major label, so yeah, we played alongside groups that were mostly underground independent types like us, and it was fun. We met a lot of different people in different fields of art, and we had mutual admiration for each other’s work, and a lot of ‘em are now huge in their fields of art. There were a lot of great bands that I was (and still am) a fan of, from Sonnet LVIII to the Buzz Nite production bands of that time, to that rare dreampop band that was signed to a major label, Sugar Hiccup, to name a few.

++ And what were your usual hangouts in Manila then? What were the venues you used to play or check out bands? Or the record stores to waste time?

A lot of small bars like 6 Underground, Mayric’s, Millenia, Sanctum, and I remember even playing once at this place called Club Sex where our slot was sandwiched in between dark metal bands hah! For some reason, we were also invited to a few metal gig prods, at the time. We were like the calm before the storm, I guess. Haha! And yes, I would spend hours inside Tower Records listening to different stuff. We were also so DIY then that I would go to select Tower Records stores myself to have DDC CDs consigned.

++ How was the creative process for the band? How did that work out?

For majority of the songs, I start with the guitar/bass riffs, and then I go to Bogs’ place and we throw it into his computer, then he puts in the beats and other magical stuff. After having a usual 4-min arrangement, we’d give it to Kathy, who then writes the words + melody, then we record it. We never really jammed out in a room to create a DDC song, especially for the first one. The music always went straight to recording and then just figured things out for live performances later.

++ The first time I heard your music was through the Shelfife Records compilation “You’re Still Young at Heart”. You contributed the song “Lousy Judge of Character” to it. Do you remember how did you end up there?

I think the guys over at Shelflife Records were checking out some bands from our neck of the woods, and we eventually signed with them for a brief time. My memory is not really that good, especially from those ‘daze’ haha, so I don’t exactly remember how we ended up on their radar, but I do remember that Laura Watling from The Autocollants, somehow, got to listen to our stuff and enjoyed it, and she was quoted in an article saying so.

I think the label gave the bands the song to interpret and we ended up with that song from The Shermans. I remember sending an email to one of The Shermans’ members and, being my young and shy self, asking for the song’s chords just to make sure we don’t fuck up their song. They didn’t really send the chords and told me to just have fun with it, so, yeah… I definitely had fun with it. Heheh. Doing our ‘process’, I started out with that guitar riff that drove the music to a totally different direction, and we went on from there. I never found out if The Shermans liked it or hated us for it haha. I do hope they found it interesting, at least.

++ That happened in the year 2000. And your first album came out the next year, in 2001. I read somewhere that this first album was originally going to be released by Shelflife Records. Is that true? If so what happened?

Ah no. Shelflife found out about us after we released our debut album in 2001. The Shelflife ‘You’re Still Young At Heart’ anniversary compilation album was released in 2003, said Google search (definitely not relying on my memory on this one haha). I don’t remember if the 1st album was supposed to be re-released under the label or if we were to do a few new songs for them, but either way, we didn’t really last long enough with them, after the compilation’s release. From what they told us, the label was having financial problems so they had to stick with their main guns, and we were one of the bands that had to be cut loose. It was a fling, but we certainly enjoyed and appreciated the Shelflife experience, especially being an underground band (even in our own country). It also gave our music the opportunity to be heard worldwide, and it’s amazing that, even up to now, more than a decade after, we still get to ‘meet’ people like you from different parts of the world, thanks to social media.

++ As I said your debut self-titled album came out in 2001 and had 12 really strong songs. It was released by your own label Metronome Recordings. How was that experience, doing the label part? Did you enjoy it? Was it hard or easy?

The label was just more of a formality. Having a registered label name was a requirement to be able to release and sell albums. It wasn’t really a legit label that had a roster of bands and all of those things that come with it.

++ What do you remember for the recording sessions of this first record? Any anecdotes you could share?

It was very ‘experimental’… ‘cos we really had no idea what we were doing. It was the first time Bogs and I got to really fool around with a music recording software. We didn’t have real gear back then. We bought a cheap ass imitation mic worth around US$2 (in today’s exchange hah) and used that for all of the vocals. I had an electric guitar and borrowed Dok’s bass guitar. Being a drummer for majority of my music life then, I didn’t even know the importance of having a tuner, but I knew how to tune a guitar, so all of the songs in that album are not really in standard guitar tuning. The tuning would be based on what felt ‘right’ at that moment when the guitar was in Bogs’ room… and it was definitely not standard, and I just tuned the bass following the guitar’s tuning. Haha. I feel sorry for those who tried to fiugure out the guitar bits… and it didn’t help that I used a lot of open chords, too. Hehe. It was literally a bedroom recording with me and Bogs seated on his bed with our heads glued to the computer. A lot of dog barking and passing car sounds also made its way onto the album, and it was all intentional, of course, ‘cos we really wanted to capture the art of noise brought about by things we were clueless of. Hahaha yes, bullshit, I know.

When Kathy hopped on board, as I mentioned earlier, Bogs and I had already made, maybe, around 5 songs, and there was no real & solid plan of releasing a full-length album. We were just genuinenly enjoying the discovery process of creation, so we made an EP’s worth of songs just for us and our friends to enjoy. To be a bit presentable, we printed out an album cover for the CD’s case, and it had a grayish vibe going on, so there is an even more rare DDC CD out there with those earlier versions of some of the songs on that album. (attached photo).

We were already happy with that, actually, but to our surprise, those songs were really enjoyed by our friends, who then passed it on to their other friends, so we decided to make it a full-length album. It was really DIY all the way. I went to a bookstore and really took a long time to pick just the right paper to be used for the CD’s sleeves. I chanced upon this glittery one that was piled under a lot of other usual paper board stuff. It was Dok who made the artwork for the grayish version and the one that ended up as the final version. We used sticker paper for the actual CD’s cover, then we printed it out using that old school dot matrix printer that took a long time to print for just 1 CD. We also just used CDRs and burned them one by one using our desktop PC. A lot of trial and error happened to achieve all of that. Haha.

It was only until after finishing the album that Bogs, Kathy, and I really thought about how the hell we were gonna play the songs live with just the 3 of us. It took some time to figure out the live part, to the point of inviting some of our friends who weren’t really musicians to try and help out in pushing buttons and stuff, and eventually, I got sober enough to realize and eventually ask my brother Dok, who is in a band with Jerome in one of the big rock bands out here called ‘Teeth’ and who happen to like our music, if they were interested in joining the band. Shortly after that, we had our first gig in the early summer of 2001, and the rest is… a lot more dazed and confused but fun times.

++ I read that this album is quite rare, that you don’t even have copies of it. How come? How many copies did you press?

The master files were only saved on zip discs, ‘cos a zip drive was the shit back then, and we just lost ‘em. The CDs weren’t really professionally pressed, as I’ve mentioned earlier, so we just printed out a few by batches before going to a gig. I remember trying out a more professional replication service, but a lot of the CDs they gave us were duds, so we ended up doing the DIY printing and burning. There were times when people wanted to buy the CD, but since they were not available in the conventional record stores, we ended up selling our personal copies, so yeah, we didn’t really get to keep one for ourselves. I have no idea how many total we sold on our own, but I’m sure it was only in the few hundreds range.

++ About your second album, “Underwater Kite“, there is very little information on the web. I don’t even think it is listed on Discogs. When was it released? Where was it recorded?

I had to double check the info at the back of the CD’s case for this one haha. It was released in 2005. This one took a longer time to be released ‘cos I was already busy with my outta nowhere mainstream band life. It was still recorded in Bogs’ room, with pretty much the same process, but with a mildly upgraded gear and a couple of years’ worth of “musical knowledge.”

++ To promote this album two promo videos were made, for “Avenue” and “Roses and Cadillacs“. How was that experience doing videos? And which one do you like best and why?

The main guys in charge of the “Roses…” video, Mark Mendoza & Manny Angeles, were fond of our music, and we had mutual friends in the art scene, so we ended up doing a quickie shoot one night with the green screen, and they just fooled around with it in post-production.

I posted on our yahoogroups looking for young video makers interested in making a music video, and one of the replies I got was from this then-college student, King Palisoc, and we exchanged emails and he ended up doing the music video for “Avenue”. That video became his “gateway drug”, and he is now a director of big films and videos, out here. We even had the chance to work together again in 2014 for my band Peso Movement’s music video for “Bawal Simangot.”
Unlike the first video, this was a half day shoot with a lot of extras in a house we borrowed from one of King’s friends. The idea was to make us become the calm, laidback kind of light in the middle of chaos & darkness, characterized by rave-like dancing.

They are 2 very different videos, in terms of the process and the execution, so I love ‘em both equally. They were also done within the confines of our limited DIY budget, hehe, so we owe a great deal of gratitude to every single one of those involved in those videos.

++ I really like the song “Roses and Cadillacs”, wonder if you could tell me the story behind this song?

I think this was the only song that was born out of a live jam. One day, after rehearsal, Bogs started it out with his then-new gadget, a Roland MC-505 Groovebox, then we both played along with it for what felt like an hour straight, with me on guitars and Bogs fooling around with the Groovebox and a bass guitar. I recorded that jam with a tape recorder, and we eventually arranged it on his computer. Like always, Kath was fully in charge of the words, and I’m not exactly sure what the story behind the song is.

++ There is also a Christmas song, “Christmas is Here”. Was this song released in any way? I could only find it on Youtube.

It was a Christmas giveaway single, released in December 2008, and I eventually just put it up on my bandcamp page japsuki.bandcamp.com. There was never a plan to release a Christmas song. One day, I bought a new bass guitar and I wanted to immediately try it out, so I got home that night and I tried to record a riff, and the first riff that came out was the bass riff for this song. I was happy with it so I ended up recording the rest of the music that night. I think it was late-November or early-December that’s why the music came out Christmas-y. I sent an mp3 to Kath and I didn’t really mention “Christmas”, but when we recorded her vocals, she nailed it, as always. Bogs was not an active member already by this time. Actually, that year, we weren’t really active as a live gig band anymore, it just so happened that I did a lot of music that I wanted it to be for a 3rd album. I was sending them mp3 copies of the music, every time I finsished a song or 2, so we were still in contact with each other, DDC-wise. For this song, Jerome was the designated engineer & co-producer when we recorded the vocals and did the overall mix.

A few years after that, a group of college kids sent me a message wanting to make a video for the song for their school project, and maybe that was the one you saw on YouTube. I think they won some school awards for their project, too, so that’s an added bonus.

++ Did you appear on any compilations?

As far back as I can remember, it was just that Shelflife Records “You’re Still Young at Heart” compilation album, released in 2003.

++ On Facebook it says you recorded a 3rd album. What happened to it? Will it see the day of light someday? Are there any other unreleased songs by the band?

As I mentioned earlier, I was making a lot of music, in 2008, designed for a DDC 3rd album. Somewhere around that year, my laptop crashed and, me being me, I didn’t get to back up my files, so a huge chunk of DDC stuff got eaten up, but I got to salvage a few that was more than enough for a full-length album. We actually managed to record probably around 7-8 (??) songs with Kathy’s vocals already, but we didn’t really get to finalize the mix. I still get to listen to those songs, every time I get friends to listen to them, and being almost a decade old now, if we were to release any of those stuff, I would want to re-record most of ‘em, if not all. Out of the many songs I made for that album, I think at least 4 of ‘em would make it, and everything else would be scrapped. I remember Jerome even telling me, almost 10 years ago now, that a track or 2 sounded like this “Chill Wave” thing starting to heat up then, and I really suck at subgenres, so I had no idea those “…wave” type genres would be as big as it is now.

Listening to them years after its supposed release, some of the music are just too “technical” for me now, with a lot of samples going on, and it doesn’t sound as “fun” to me anymore. I’m pretty sure age had a lot to do with why I did it then, and why I feel this way now. Hehe.

++ And from your whole repertoire, which would be your favourite song and why?

Aah I’m really not the guy to ask for “favorites”, especially if it involves stuff I’m a part of, but just for the heck of answering your question hehe, from the 1st album, I’ve always liked “Slow Return” the most. Last year (2016), I chanced upon this cool video on YouTube with Enigma’s “Return To Innocence” vibe going on with the slow mo reverse thing. It was made on an iPhone and this dude’s travels. I shared it on my facebook, and I got to meet the guy a few months after that when he popped up in one gig. The connecting power of the internet! Phew!

++ What about gigs? Which are the ones you remember fondly? And were there any bad ones?

There were definitely a lot of good and bad ones. There was this annual, end of the year rock awards show out here, courtesy of the now-defunct radio station NU 107.5, and in 2002, we were invited to perform on the main stage. As an independent DIY band, this was a big deal for us, and we were the only indie band to play on the main stage, and this was the era when the Korn-type bands reigned, so you can only imagine how the crowd’s raging hormones reacted to our steady music. We were like hobbits in the land of Mordor. The performance was actually not good, and majority of it was ‘cos of the terrible sound system that, after doing all of the usual sound checking earlier that day, conveniently forgot to play a crucial bit of our intro that heavily depended on a sampled track.

This was also an era when being an independent musician was a big no-no out here, so as much as the performance was not really good, as a band from the underground, unknown, and independent world, it was my most memorable DDC performance and I highly appreciate the recognition given to us by NU. It was a small “win” for us and the independent scene.

++ Did you get much attention from the press or radio?

Not really. From the FM world, it was just NU, RX 93.1, and probably 1 or 2 more who supported us and played our songs, with NU being the one who played it more. As I’ve mentioned earlier, we were active in a time when the independent scene was really underground. We would occasionally end up on some music magazines, music TV shows, and the like, but of course, being part of our other major bands helped out with that, too. Also, we were briefly adopted by a local independent label, Terno Recrodings, shortly after we released Underwater Kite. Toti, the label’s main man, definitely helped us out a lot, too. It is unfortunate that we didn’t get to release an album fully under his label.

++ Then what happened? When and why did you split?

We never disbanded. I guess it’s just the normal perception when a band is inactive. We are just always on hiatus. We created DDC for the pure love of music making, and the experience gave us other opportunities. In my case, I got to be part of one of the most influential bands of our local pop history, shortly after just our 2nd live DDC gig. And in most cases in the art world out here, something built on pure love is not realistically sustainable as the years go by, especially in this new internet era. Some people, back then, have said that we were ahead of our time, and I never really took it seriously then, but looking back, yeah I’d have to agree.

++ There have been a few reunion gigs, right? Will there be more in the near future?

Yeah, a couple, but it was more of just helping out friends’ events. I’m not ruling out anything. Nothing is ever final with this band. I definitely miss DDC that’s why after a decade of intentionally avoiding the DDC style, I finally did some of my usual + old DDC tricks on my latest japsuki album. “So why not just get the band back together?” is the usual question I get asked. Haha. It’s really challenging to get us all in one room, with different schedules and all, and for me, the time and effort to do all of that would be more productive directed elsewhere, as selfish as that may sound. Haha!

++ And what are the other band members doing these days? Still making music?

Kathy is probably the busiest, being a mother to her lovely kids. Dok & Jerome are bandmates in both Teeth and Pupil, and are also doing some album producing, engineering, mixing & mastering for other bands. Bogs is one of the main men in the top music & sound advertising supplier out here.

++ Aside from music, what do you do? Do you have any other hobbies?

Right now, I just finised an album that really drained me, and sticking to the DIY roots from the DDC tree, I have to take care of the usual stuff that comes along with an album release, so it’s mainly music for me, and I’m not complaining. ☺

++ How is Manila today, has it changed much compared to the Daydream Cycle days? If I was to visit, what would you say are the places one shouldn’t miss? And what food one has to try?

In terms of the independent music scene, it has changed tremendously, in a good way! This era is definitely way better for the indie bands, and it’s great how the younger generation can easily access & discover music from literally anywhere, nowadays. I have always been confident that the quality of local music will never dry up, and even with the help of the internet, it’s hard to keep up with the number of great new local acts coming out. I am happy for all of them/us who are still active in the music-making world. I’m not really active in the gigging scene, but do buzz me if you plan on wandering in our neck of the woods, and I’ll help point you to the right people/direction.

++ Looking back in time, what would you say was the biggest highlight for the band?

For me, the 2 albums with all of their embedded stories are basically it. It amazes me that even up to now, there are still some people, from all ages and different parts of the world, who send us messages telling us that they have just discovered our music. I don’t even know how people discover our music now, ‘cos we are not even on the usual streaming sites. That is just one of the things I love about album-making – life will go on, and eventually, as we grow older as music fans & music makers, we realize that life is not 100% about music, but through songs & albums, the music will always live forever.

++ Anything else you’d like to add?

Yes. I would like to thank you, Roque, for this interview. I still have no idea how you even found out about us, but answering these questions definitely brought back a lot of great & precious memories! I truly appreciate your interest not only with DDC but with our local independent music scene. If there’s anything else I can help you with, music-wise, just buzz me anytime. Cheers!

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Listen
Daydream Cycle – Roses and Cadillacs

29
Nov

Thanks so much to Richard for the interview! I wrote about The Holidaymakers some time ago on the blog and was very lucky that the band got in touch and were up to answer my questions! The Holidaymakers were a very fine fine band of jangly guitars that released a 7″ and a 12″ during their time. But aside from that there wasn’t much I knew about them, until now!

++ I know a bit about The Holidaymakers, thanks to doing some research on the web, but of course, there’s little information about you. I guess I want to start from the beginning. Like what sort of music you listened when growing up? What was your first instrument?

I know Adrian was fond of Josef K, Orange Juice, Fire Engines, Postcard-type stuff. We were all listening to the usual stuff: The Smiths, Sonic Youth, Joy Division, New Order, Husker Du, The Byrds.

++ And was The Holidaymakers your first band? Or there were other bands before?

First serious band for all involved, I initially met Adrian through work (a mind-numbing office position).

++ Who came up with the band’s name and what’s the story behind it?

Don’t even remember how we came up with the name, sorry.

++ How was your hometown back then? Were there like-minded bands? Good places to play? Where would you usually hang out?

Edinburgh’s Onion Cellar and The Venue – so many good gigs – Sonic Youth, Television Personalities, Stone Roses, BMX Bandits, Mudhoney, Primal Scream, Spacemen 3.

++ Your first release was the Woosh flexi with the song “Everyday”. It was the start of your relationship with Stephen Joyce from Woosh. How did you end up signing with him? Did you play at his legendary club in Newcastle?

I think we played there first and then he offered to put out some sounds. Played there with The Nivens and My Bloody Valentine if I remember correctly.

++ The single was shared with The Nivens. Were they friends of yours? Did you ever play with them?

Our connection with The Nivens came about as label-mates, think we played together a few times. Actually talk to them now more than we ever did back in 1988 (thanks to Facebook).

++ The next release is possibly the one most people know, the “Cincinnati” 7″ on Woosh. I know it is kind of silly to ask, but I have to, have you ever been to Cincinnati?

Not me, although I live in Canada these days and am about as close as I’ll ever get. Maybe one day.

++ Your sound is classic indiepop, jangly goodness. What bands would you say influenced your sound? And how did the creative process work for the band?

Adrian and Neil were the songwriters, the bassist and drummer just followed their lead (as it should be with the best bands).

++ This record was produced by Angus McPake and engineered by Bob Heatlie. How was working with them? What do you remember from the recording sessions for this single?

Angus was, of course, known to us through his many musical endeavours in Edinburgh (Jesse Garon, Fizzbombs). He was very easy to work with. He also had great hair.

++ You were to come back in 1989 with a new release on a different label, The Gay Cowboy Recording Organisation. Was this a self-release? Why did you leave Woosh? Was there any other labels interested in your music at the time?

Gay Cowboy was our own label. Whoosh was always a one-record deal. The irony of Cherry Red putting out a track on a compilation 25 years later is not lost on us – we’d have sold our mothers to get a deal with them back in 1988.

++ This release was the “Skyrider” 12″. On this record I notice a change in the sound of the band. Less poppier I’d say. What happened? Why the change? Was it because of the times?

Just progressed to a heavier sound I guess. I always thought Skyrider was closest to how I wanted the band to sound.

++ That was your last release. Why didn’t you get to release any other records? Did you leave any unreleased recordings?

The Holidaymakers entire catalogue is out there, nothing else was recorded.

++ From that period I only know that you contributed “Seventh Valley Girl” to the legendary tape compilation “Everlasting”. Do you remember anything on how did you ended up there?

I believe they just put it on there. Not sure permission was asked or even granted. Although it was certainly welcome.

++ What about the press? Did you get much attention? What about the radio?

We’d scour the NME, Melody Maker for a single or live review but I don’t remember anyone knocking down the door to talk to us at the time. John Peel played our first single a few times and Skyrider once (apparently he didn’t like it that much, oh well).

++ What about gigs? Did you play many? What are your favourite gigs that you remember and why? Where was the farthest you played from home?

We played some great gigs with My Bloody Valentine (really nice people), House of Love (again really nice), Ride and Spacemen 3 (not very friendly at all). London was the furthest we played.

++ And then what happened? When and why did you split?

We kind of fizzled out when we moved to London. No big drama and we’re still all in touch. Adrian is still in London and plays with many different bands (Beatpack, The Mirage Men). Mark is a tech wizard and teacher living in Edinburgh. Neil lives in Scotland and builds musical instruments with his own company, Soundtree Harps. I live in Ontario, Canada and am an Advanced Care Paramedic.

++ Looking back, what would you say was the biggest highlight for The Holidaymakers?

For me, first John Peel radio play and supporting The House of Love at The Falcon in London (1988?).

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Listen
The Holidaymakers – Cincinnati

28
Nov

Thanks so much to Chris for the interview! A few weeks ago we talked about his first indiepop project, Pop City Arizona, and now it is time to talk about the band he is more known for, Mary Queen of Scots. The Birmingham band who released a split 7″ with the band Peru and participated in many compilations, is back now releasing new songs on their SoundCloud. We talk about the present, the future and the past, and we hope you enjoy it!

++ Thanks Chris for being up for a second interview, this time about Mary Queen of Scots, the band you formed after Pop City Arizona. Will there be a 3rd interview? Had you been involved in any other indiepop bands after Mary Queen of Scots?

I’m currently in another band called Fly Away Sorrow which is a folk-pop band along with my partner Kim who does most of the singing. We’d be happy to chat about that. Kim also does her Bliss/Aquamarine fanzine. It’s not folk-folk if you get my drift but more taking folk songs and giving them a (slight) pop feel. We’re certainly not proper folkies!

++ So at some point you left behind Pop City Arizona and you started to focus on Mary Queen of Scots. When was that moment? Who were in Mary Queen of Scots and how did you all know each other?

Around 1992 I found the sound I was looking for which was quite minimalist with a lot of reverb and a bit trebly. Some say it sounded like Brighter. I was also a fan of The Carousel who were doing the folky-pop-acoustic thing. Again it was mainly me in the band but around that time I met my friend Ruaraidh at uni who was very much like-minded and into the C86/Byrds scene and so we hung out. He also played and sang on “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” for the Sound Of Music LP/CD and contributed some songs, one of which I unearthed only recently. Alas I seem to have lost the others.

Soon after I met Fergus and Andrea who had a band called Lonely and a label called Garden Of Delights. They also lived in Birmingham and, though not part of my band, were very encouraging.

++ Of course something I’ve been curious for a long time is the name of the band, why did you name it Mary Queen of Scots?

I vaguely knew Jo (from riot grrrl band Huggy Bear) and she told me she knew Elizabeth Price and Amelia Fletcher and that they were doing some project called The Catherines of Arrogance. I misheard it as Catherine of Aragon and I thought hey that’s kind of a nice name for a band, sort of historic and melancholy. Now if only I could find something similar…

++ At the time of Mary Queen of Scots what sort of music were you into? Who would you say were big influences in your sound?

I was into so much music at the time, most of which did not have a direct bearing for MQOS. I really liked a wide range of music, anything from Big Black, punk and grunge to the most obscure twee indie bands. Labels like 4AD, Blast First, Factory and Creation were on my radar. I also liked classical music. Naturally C86 and Sarah were the most obvious influences but, yes, Brighter, Another Sunny Day and The Carousel.

++ How was the creative process for the band?

Generally songs were written quickly, demoed and then possibly made into a proper recording. I didn’t enjoy the recording process much, it was really quite tedious and frustrating. I don’t consider myself a proper musician… I just play instruments… there’s a difference. I’m more of a music-maker and songwriter. And a 4-track cassette recorder is quite constraining by virtue of only have 4 tracks.

++ I see on Discogs that the first release was a self-titled cassette with 10 songs. It has a photo of a detail of Westminster Abbey. What was this tape? A demo? How was it distributed if it was? Where was it recorded? And how many copies were made?

It’s tape of ten songs which was self-released. I did copies as and when they sold, a bit like with the compilation CD today. I personally don’t regard it as a demo as the songs on there were done and dusted as far as I was concerned. It was all recorded on my 4-track. As for sales, I really don’t know, not more than 100 I would have thought.

++ Your only proper release was a split 7″ with the band Peru which I interviewed some years ago. How did this release happen? How did you get in touch with Bring on Bull?

Richard from Bring on Bull was interested in MQOS, he had mentioned the band in one of his fanzines. He then wrote and asked if I would do a single. At the time I was a huge fan of Peru and I thought it would be nice if we could do a split single. I also lent Peru my 4-track for their recordings. It all went remarkably well. Thinking back I’m really pleased with the outcome, not just my songs but also Peru’s, their songs are great on it.

++ And how friendly were you with the band Peru? Did you ever meet them?

I discovered their music on the C92 tape, I think, and we started exchanging letters. I met Brian a few times. My brother was a fan too… I think he liked their songs on the single more than mine!

++ You had three songs on your side of the record, “Another Sunny Day”, “Evensong” and “Dreaming”. Would you mind telling me the story behind these songs?

There was a girl who lived downstairs from me and we planned a day out on the bus. But it never happened and so began an endless outpouring of sad songs. No, not really. But yes “Another Sunny Day” is vaguely about that. “Evensong” is about self-doubt and self-deceit. Some of my songs have religious overtones even though I’m not religious… religion fascinates me. And “Dreaming” is about hope, about being fed up of where you are and the people you’re with… longing to be elsewhere.

++ And what do you remember of the recording session for these songs? Were there more recorded?

I don’t remember much to be honest other than redoing lots of takes to get them right. I kept thinking this is for a single, I’ve got to make it perfect! The vocals were quite problematic as I was very fussy about them. Then the mixing went on for a while as I kept fiddling with EQ levels and so on. My friend Simon had some nice digital effects and the angel voice at the end of “Dreaming” was done at his house. I’m very pleased with how they turned out. There were only 3 songs planned for the single. I think 1000 were pressed and Richard kept half and I got a quarter along with Peru. Shortly after Richard wrote to say he had sold out and can he buy back my share. I believe he did the same with Peru.

++ You appeared on a few compilations, probably the most known one is the one on the Bring On Bull comp, “The Sound of Music”, where you contributed “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”. Why did you choose to cover that song?

The truth is all the good ones were already taken! So Ruaraidh and I decided on that, and I wasn’t confident about tackling the vocals so he had a crack at it. He also played guitar and I did the keyboards. Apparently we were the only band whose song was done on a 4-track and Richard said it didn’t sound like it… well not too much!

++ Then I see that you appeared on the Shiny Sunset compilation “Charming Trip in the World of Dreams”. This label was from Italy! How did you end up there?

I’m afraid I don’t remember much about that one. People wrote and asked and I would usually say yes.

++ There are also a few compilations I’m not very familiar with, like the C92 tape by Rainbow were you contributed “Wonderland” and “Only For You”, the Polythene Star tape where you had “Ascension Day”, the Meet Disco Girl! tape where “”Around the Sound” was included or the Green Oranges tape where you had “Around the Sun” and “Ascension Day”. Who were the people behind these compilations and labels? Do you remember?

C92 was Gerard Mucci… I was only asking Kim about him the other day. That was a great tape. Simon Minter was behind Meet Disco Girl! whom we once invited to Birmingham for a rather boozy night. And the Green Oranges tape was on Kim’s tape label. I can’t recall anything about the Polythene Star tape, sorry.

++ There is also listed on Discogs a CDR compilation titled “Here Comes the End”. When was it released? 1999? And from where are all the recordings that don’t appear on the tape or the split 7″?

The CD came out in 1999 – the later songs on the CD after the single and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” were really demos. I tried to get Richard interested in another single but it didn’t happen. I toyed with the idea of a 10″ release. In hindsight I should have done at least another release even if self-financed, but that’s easy to say now.

++ There are 24 songs on it, but I still wonder if there are any more unreleased tracks by the band?

Yes, there are but most are probably not fit for release unless tidied up. I will revisit my old tapes at some point.

++ And this year you came back with a new song on SoundCloud, “Lyle Lovett On The Radio”. What made you come back and record again? Are there more songs coming up?

I had always wanted a banjo. As a teenager I listened to REM’s “Wendell Gee” and I thought the banjo on it sounded great… sad and poignant. So having put it off for years I finally bought one in 2016. It’s an openback banjo which has that mellow, ole-time feel. Kim and I sat around singing old folk tunes and Kim’s voice just worked really well with those kind of songs. When she sang “Little Birdie” it was so moving. So we thought we had to have a go at recording some songs, just for fun if nothing else. One thing I knew for sure was that I did not want to go near my 4-track again, it would have to be recorded on the computer. So we finally got some folk songs out under the name of Fly Away Sorrow and I began to think the unthinkable… I still had an old song rattling round my head from 20 years ago. I had to record it, if only to get it out of my system. So “Lyle Lovett On The Radio” was the result and I feel a little more relaxed about life now.

Back in 1998 I did a demo of 8 new songs. One of those eight songs, “Edgbaston Rag”, has already been recorded by Fly Away Sorrow. Another three, “Dateline International”, “Grow Your Hair”, “You Or Nothing” have just gone up on Soundcloud. There are plans next year to record another three together, and the remaining one may end up as a Pop City Arizona song. There are also tentative plans to bring out a CD (a proper, factory-pressed release) of the recent 4 songs plus some new ones plus some rarities next autumn 2018. It would be nice to find a label to do this otherwise we may bring it out ourselves.

++ Four new songs have appeared on Soundcloud this year, can you tell me about them?

I’m not entirely sure what “Lyle Lovett On The Radio” is about… perhaps loss or even death, or death of an emotional kind. Around the time I wrote that I was discovering country music, in particular Hank Williams and The Carter Family. If Hank Williams scanned better I would have used him rather than Lyle. There used to be a dating service called Dateline International. As well as being a love song it has some religious overtones. Perhaps it’s a song about understanding what one’s genuine needs are, be they emotional or spiritual. Again I’m not sure about “Grow Your Hair”, the second verse and outro are a mystery to me… perhaps it’s about being a hippy! I like the idea of writing abstract lyrics which create an atmosphere without actually saying anything specific. “You Or Nothing” is another love-gone-wrong song so I tried to make a nice pop song out of it. As for the title “Beachy Head Here I Come”, it’s just a gentle dig at myself and my songs, and not a comment on anything else.

++ And from all your songs by Mary Queen of Scots, which would be your favourite and why?

Wow, that’s a good question. I like the 3 songs on the single a lot, and “Kimberley” is very personal. But I’m very fond of “Tomorrow Never Comes” which is a very old song that pre-dates MQOS so it’s like an old friend, and has been recorded a few times, so I say that one.

++ Why weren’t there more releases by the band? Was there any interest from any labels to release anything else by you?

After the single I should have tried harder to get something happening. But there wasn’t a lot of interest and to be fair my mind was starting to drift elsewhere. After the compilation CD came out in 1999 I really thought it was the end… the desire to write and record was gone.

++ I suppose that with Mary Queen of Scots you did play live. Did you play many though?

No, MQOS never played live. It’s not something that ever interested me much. And to be honest I don’t think I would have had the nerve. Ruaraidh was playing live in other bands.

++ You told me Pop City Arizona didn’t get much attention from the press or radio, but what about Mary Queen of Scots? And what about on fanzines?

I think MQOS certainly got interest from tape labels and fanzines. “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” was played on BBC local radio.

++ Speaking of fanzines, during those days there was an explosion of guitar pop bands, did you ever feel part of a scene at all?

Yes, most definitely, something very special was happening, and it was a huge part of my life at the time. Life revolved around Sarah releases! Apart from the songs I was inspired to write my own fanzine “Scholarship Is The Enemy Of Romance” which lasted three issues (the title is from a Billy Bragg song). Through that I met Kim who was busy starting her fanzine and label at the time.

++ When and why did you split?

There was no real split… it all petered out. I found the recording process with the 4-track difficult and tedious. Computer recording today is so much easier and productive. Now once you’ve recorded a track you can edit it in endless ways and combine it with other takes with no loss of sound quality. It’s easy to double track and add effects, and correct mistakes. You’re only limited by your imagination.

++ What would you say was the biggest highlights for the band?

The single and the “Sound Of Music” song. Bringing out the “Here Comes The End” CD was a big thing too, quite a lengthy project as all the songs were remixed from the 4-track tapes to computer rather than from the master tapes to improve sound quality. But I think “Lyle Lovett On The Radio” is a important step forward in the MQOS journey, a continuation of the past but created in a completely different way.

++ Has Birmingham changed much since those days? I’ve never been there, but wonder if I was to go, what would you suggest someone doing in your town? Maybe the sights not to be missed, the traditional food or drinks?

I arrived in the city in 1986 and I remember thinking it was all a bit grim… the old Bull Ring wasn’t the greatest and all those underpasses everywhere. But it had great music venues as I mentioned in the previous interview. Today (as with most major cities) it’s a completely different place, it’s quite beautiful. The Symphony Hall, the new Bull Ring, the new New St train station, the new Central Library and the regeneration around Broad Street have all helped to make Birmingham a much nicer place.

I’m not sure if there are any must-sees in Brum… perhaps the rusty Iron:Man in Victoria Square… it’s a sculpture by Antony Gormley who’s better known for The Angel of the North. No, forget that… they’ve apparently moved it into storage to make way for a tramline. But there’s always the Museum and Art Gallery (a place I used to frequent habitually) and the new Bull Ring shopping centre. As for traditional Brummie food and drink, well, there’s groaty dick… washed down with a pint of mild. Kim suggests sheep’s brain on toast, bostin!

++ Thanks for everything Chris! Anything else you’d like to add?

You’re welcome. Thanks for the opportunity to chat about the past, it’s been fun! There will be more stuff happening in 2018 so watch out 🙂

https://soundcloud.com/mary_queen_of_scots
https://www.facebook.com/mqosband

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Listen
Mary Queen of Scots – Another Sunny Day

09
Nov

Thanks so much to Alistair Wilson for the interview! Some time ago I interviewed Ali about his band The Legendary Hearts and now it is time to talk about the band that came before, Watch With Mother!! With this band he released only one 7″ and made a promo video. That 7″ by the Edinburgh based band is still on my wishlist, hasn’t been easy to track down. On this interview Ali talks about his new projects, Edinburgh in the mid 80s and more. Hope you enjoy it!

++ Hi Ali! Thanks so much for being up for another interview after the one we did about The Legendary Hearts! Let’s start with the present before we talk about the past. I noticed The Legendary Hearts are back and there are new songs on your SoundCloud and Youtube. When did this comeback happen and what can you tell me about these songs?

I had lost interest in songwriting some years ago, but my interest was rekindled in 2014-15 when I spent 18 months working with a great Scottish songwriter, now based it Brooklyn, NYC, named Freddie Stevenson. He has several albums available and also co-writes with Mike Scott of The Waterboys. Shortly after Freddie headed back Stateside, I wrote 4 new tracks and decided to record them and release them on 2 CD singles, as well as downloads and streams. The first one “Make A Home / Rescue” was released in October of 2016, receiving worldwide radio play and some decent reviews. The second, “Faded By The Sun / Oceans And Small Streams” , released in February 2017, performed similarly well. The songs were influenced by my three children, the area of Scotland where I live and also by the curtains in my kitchen, which had been “Faded By The Sun”…although, at the end of the day, the song isn’t actually about curtains! We also released a “soundscape” entitled “Coney Island Rain” a couple of months ago. Basically its a piece of music rather than an actual song. Videos for three of the tracks are available on YouTube. Search “The Legendary Hearts – Scotland”. Be aware that there are 3 or 4 bands all named The Legendary Hearts! We’re the Scottish ones. The original and best! 🙂

++ And are there any releases coming in the future? Perhaps a Legendary Hearts album?

I hope so. I’ve been talking about doing an album since 1987, but I want to release something I’m 100% happy with, so it may take another 10 years!

++ Aside from The Legendary Hearts, are you being involved in any other music adventures at the moment?

I make my somewhat meagre living from teaching drums and playing drums with various bar bands and function bands. I hope to work with Freddie Stevenson again in the future. I recently played two gigs on drums for New York based, maverick, raconteur and troubadour, rock’n’roller, Willie Nile, in Edinburgh and London. That was a lot of fun!

++ So let’s go back now, because we talked about The Legendary Hearts in detail last time, but before there was The Legendary Hearts there was Watch With Mother in the mid 80s. At that time you were living in Edinburgh, before that you had been in Stirling with the band The Curious Reign, is that correct? But where in Scotland were you originally from?

I’m from Edinburgh but spent 6 years living in Stirling, where I played with my High School band “Graven Image” and then, aged 19, I joined “The Curious Reign”.

++ And another curious question that springs from the previous one is about The Curious Reign. Never heard about them, but did you release anything? Were there any recordings? And music-wise how did you sound?

There are videos and songs on YouTube posted by Brian Robinson, the old Curious Reign guitarist, now based in Canada. Search under his “silverscot 11” channel. I don’t think anything was ever released, but we were invited to support “The Thompson Twins”, before they became a successful chart trio, on a UK tour…at which point our singer left and the band and the tour never happened. We also supported “Orange Juice” once in Stirling and also “Those French Girls” who were also from Stirling and had a deal with Safari Records.
“The Curious Reign” were influenced by The Stranglers, Magazine, Bauhaus and Van Morrison. We had prominent keyboards on all tracks…but we were not synth-pop!

++ So Watch With Mother, how did the band happen? Who were the members and how did you meet each other?

The band formed in 1985 in the small coal mining village of Rosewell, 10 miles south-east of Edinburgh. Most of the 7 members lived there or in the surrounding countryside. A couple were Edinburgh based. They gigged mainly in the Edinburgh area, through the latter half of 1985, and I answered an advert for the drumming job in March ’86, after their original drummer left. The line up in 1986 was Ged Hanley (vocals and guitar), Annette Haig (vocals), Patricia Patterson (vocals), Lawrie Ball (keyboards), Maurice Dudley (bass), Alex Weir (saxophone) and myself on drums.

++ Where does the name of the band come from?

The name came from BBC Television. In the 1960s, they broadcast a kind of “Children’s Hour” strand entitled “Watch With Mother” and featuring shows with characters such as “Andy Pandy” and “Looby Loo”. Kids’ TV for the under 5s basically!

++ How did the creative process work for the band? Was it similar as in The Legendary Hearts?

Ged Hanley wrote most of the material, although we all submitted songs at various times. We took them to our rehearsal room and knocked them into shape rapidly, as we were always gigging and were keen to get new material out there fast.

++ And which bands would you say influenced the sound of Watch With Mother?

Quite honestly, everything we’d ever heard. From Killing Joke to Neil Diamond. From Half Man Half Biscuit to Simon & Garfunkel.

++ The 7″ was released by the label “Surfin’ Pict” which was your own and we talked a bit about it last time, but this time I was wondering who came up with the awesome logo for the label?

I designed that label whilst working as a city planning assistant in Edinburgh and drew it whilst sitting at my desk instead of working!

++ The 7″ had 2 songs, “Suzanne” and “Something So Wonderful”. Was wondering if you could tell me the story behind these songs? Was Suzanne a real person perhaps?

You’d need to ask Ged wherever he is. He wrote them and I guess there’s a little bit of fact and fiction contained within each. “Suzanne” was meant to be the B-side but was flipped around at the last minute.

++ The two songs on the single were recorded at Frontline Studio by Paddy O’Connel. What do you remember from the recording session? Any anecdotes that you could share?

Paddy had had a hit with “17” by The Regents. I cant remember if he produced the song or was in the band. Later, he wound up a few miles east of Edinburgh and set up a studio there. I remember little about the recording session aside from the very early Roland electronic drums I was forced to use which, due to vibrations, made sounds randomly when other parts of the kit were being played. I think they call it “cross-talk”. Really annoying. I wish I’d been able to use an acoustic kit. I think Paddy, Ged and Maurice did most of the production, although we were all credited. It was all so long ago!

++ The record sleeve has a very cool photograph that was taken by Louise McKay. Do you happen to know where is the location of that place?

Yes. The photo was taken outside The Usher Hall, a beautiful concert venue, on Edinburgh’s Lothian Road.

++ What is very cool is that a promo video for “Suzanne” was made. How did that go? Was it aired a lot on TV? And how was the experience of making it?

It was a fun video to make, although I don’t recall it ever being aired on TV. I remember we tied a double bed to the roof of our van to use on the video shoot. When we got to the studio, the bed was gone. We turned the van around and found the bed a quarter of a mile away, in the middle of a road in central Edinburgh, obstructing the traffic!

++ I see on Discogs that a song called “Sleeping” by Watch With Mother appeared on a 1981 compilation titled “In Colour/Music By Numbers”. I’m guessing this is a different band with the same name, do you know what is this about?

No, that was not us.

++ And was there any compilation appearances by the band or not?

Not that I can recall. We gigged hard, but didn’t do loads of recording. I recall a few sessions, at one of which we recorded about 10 songs in a day. The results were not great.

++ You were telling me that in 2008 you went to the local recycling facility and gave away 100 copies of the single to be destroyed. What made you take that decision!? And how many copies from the pressing are left now?

Yes!…I was moving house and getting rid of stuff and I had a box of 100, possibly even more, original, unplayed, copies of “Suzanne”. I decided that after 22 years they were going to be of no use to anyone, so dumped them in a bin at my local recycling facility. Two weeks later I discovered a used copy selling for $80 on eBay. So technically, I threw away over $8,000 worth of records. Now I only have one left. Thanks for reminding me!!!

++ And how come there were no more releases by the band?

The band started to fragment in late 1986. Ged left, followed by Maurice. We continued for a couple of months with a new bass player and Annette and Patricia took over lead vocals, but my heart wasn’t in it, so I then left and immediately recorded a demo of my own songs under the name “The Legendary Hearts” with Maurice and Lawrie from WWM.

++ Were there any other recordings by the band?

A second single, the name of which escapes me, was recorded for release on Paddy O’Connel’s “Big Noise” record label, but never was released. In fact I don’t think it was even completed. Altogether there are about 20 tracks recorded by Watch With Mother in demo form.

++ What about gigs, did you play many? What were your favourites and why?

I played well over 100 gigs with WWM in the year I was with them. We did one short British tour in mid-1986. “The Jailhouse” in Edinburgh was a favourite, as was “The Cunzie Neuk” in Fife and “The Front Page” in Carlisle, England.

++ Were there any bad gigs?

The gigs were always rowdy and a bit mad. we played a biker bar in West Bromwich, England…Thankfully they quite enjoyed the show…and the fact that there were two ladies in the band helped!

++ Did you get much attention from radio or press?

We got a great, short and sweet review from a gig we did at Liberty’s in Derby, England. It was written by a fella named Patrick Weir and it appeared in the hallowed *NME* in October of 1986. Otherwise we had some local stuff printed and won a Battle Of The Bands competition in Fife.

++ Then what happened? When and why did you call it a day?

The band started to fragment in late 1986. I think it had simply run its course. It was a bit like being in the middle of a firework display. Lots of bangs and crashes for a short while…and then it’s all over.

++ Are you still in touch with the band members? Did any of them continue making music like you did?

I still see a couple of them now and again. As far as I know, all members are still performing and making music and are still based in or around Edinburgh.

++ Lastly, what would you say was the biggest highlight for Watch With Mother?

The NME review…plus a brief reformation to support The Waterboys and We Free Kings at “Pict Aid” at Letham Village Hall in 1987.

++ Thanks Ali! Anything else you’d like to add?

Not really. It’s all in the distant past now…and I need to lie down now, having been reminded about all the records I threw away!

Thanks Roque…until the next time. Slainte!

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Listen
Watch With Mother – Suzanne

04
Nov

Thanks so much to Christopher for the interview! I was aware of Mary Queen of Scots but I had no clue about three recordings that appeared on Youtube all of a sudden not too long ago under the name Pop City Arizona. This was a bedroom project before he started Mary Queen of Scots and I was curious enough to ask him about these songs!  You can now check these songs on SoundCloud too. And yes, very soon a Mary Queen of Scots interview, I just thought it would be the right thing to go chronologically!

++ Hi Christopher! Originally we decided to do a Mary Queen of Scots interview but thought that maybe it would be interesting and go in order, do two interviews and start with the one that came before, Pop City Arizona. Would that be alright? I was very surprised when those recordings surfaced on the internet and shared with Melotron Recordings. Will they be releasing these songs perhaps in a way or another? I noticed they were only mixed this year?

I revisited some old recordings recently and found these songs which were recorded around 1990-1. I thought it would be fun to tidy them up and remix them, and put them on the web. I’ve not heard them for over 20 years. I’m a bit surprised they’re getting this amount of attention! Kostas (Melotron) asked if he could share them on his Youtube page. If someone wants to release them then I would be glad to chat.

++ There is absolutely no information about this band on the web so you’ll have to tell us everything now! But first let’s do some background. You were based in Birmingham is that right? How was it in the eighties and early 90s? Where would you usually hang out? Where did you go check out bands? Were there any local bands that you followed?

I was a uni student in Birmingham. The music scene in Brum was incredible, it had big venues but also tiny ones like The Barrel Organ, Edwards No. 8 and Burberries. You could see practically anything there and for years all I did was go to gigs. I’ve been to so many I sometimes have to think really hard whether I saw someone or not. The Barrel Organ was pretty special, there was a rundown feel about the place but I loved it. It was nice to see Matt and Clare of Sarah there one night with The Field Mice (I think). The Sea Urchins were there a lot, James and Robert were friendly and we used to chat a bit. As for bands from Brum I like, well, there are so many but I must mention Dexys, ELO and Fuzzbox. My most memorable gig was seeing The Stone Roses at the Irish Centre, just before they hit the big time. The Pixies and Throwing Muses at Burberries was also very special.

++ Was Pop City Arizona your first band? Or had you been involved with music before that? Who were Pop City Arizona? Who were the members? Or was it just yourself?

Well, the 3 songs were originally done under the banner of “Red Ochre” and were the first songs I felt confident about. As there is now another band called Red Ochre on Soundcloud I put them out under the name “Pop City Arizona” which I much prefer anyway. It really wasn’t a band as such, just me in my bedroom doodling, nothing was released and I didn’t gig. Having said that my friend Ruaraidh and I did do some rehearsals with the intention of gigging but nothing became of that.

++ And even before the bands, what are your first musical memories? Like what sort of music did you grow up listening at home? What was your first instrument and how did you get it? Do you remember?

My earliest memory of pop music as a child was watching the Bay City Rollers on TV who were at No.1 with Bye Bye Baby. It has a great tune. As a teenager I liked all sorts including The Cure, New Order, Joy Division, early Peter Gabriel, REM (I could go on…). I did share some common taste in music with my brother who liked folk such as Joni Mitchell whom I became a big fan of. My sister played The Carpenters and “Seasons In The Sun” which I’m pretty sure had a (good) effect on me.

++ And what would you say inspired you to start and be in a band?

Back in the 80’s I was very much impressed with people like Elvis Costello, Billy Bragg, The Smiths and Suzanne Vega. Perhaps the very first instrument was a recorder when I was about 9, not sure how I obtained it. My sister had a classical guitar which we found in the shed but no-one knew how to tune it – nevertheless it got me and my brother interested. One day a friend of a friend was selling an electric guitar and that was the start. I bought the Billy Bragg song book, it came with a flexi showing how to play all his riffs, it was great fun. I would never be able to play like Johnny Marr but I could vaguely sound like Billy. I wrote to Billy and he was nice enough to respond with some useful advice. I had no mad urge to be in a band… it was more about expressing myself and songwriting seemed the way. Again a friend of a friend played me some of his songs on his Tascam 4-track recorder and I thought that’s the way to go.

++ What’s the story behind the band’s name?

Well, there was a British TV programme called “The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin” and in it was a catchphrase “so-and-so City Arizona” to emphasise something really good. So if you were having a nice pizza you may say “Pizza City Arizona!!”. It was funny. You had to have been there.

++ Who would you say were influences for the sound of the band?

Would you be surprised if I said Sarah and C86? As for the 3 songs, I guess Brighter’s “Next Summer” flexi did, perhaps, in some small way, have a influence. I also loved The Carousel from whom I pinched some words for the end of “The Girl With Mousy Hair”.

++ How was the creative process for the Pop City Arizona?

Well, it was a lot of doodling really… an idea pops into my head, a lyric or a melody and I think ok that’s interesting, where can I go with that? If it works, the song is written quickly. If it takes longer it probably means it wasn’t any good.

++ I know of the three recordings and I wonder if they were released in any way back in the day? Perhaps as a demo tape that you gave around to fanzines or labels?

I did send a tape of those songs to Pillar Box Red (I think it was them) who promptly sent it back! To be fair the remixes do sound better than the originals. I wouldn’t have put those songs on the web in their original form.

++ The songs I’ve heard are: “Girl With Mousy Hair”, “Seaside” and “Bluebell”. Was there an order to them? And if you don’t mind, perhaps in a sentence or two, would you tell what each song is about?

The running order (to be pedantic) is “Seaside”, “Bluebell”, “The Girl With Mousy Hair”. What are they about… mmm… they’re stories (not necessarily about me) about being overwhelmed with a particular emotion at a particular time, be it love, envy or sorrow. Bottling the moment, so to speak. The listener can decide for themselves.

++ Are there any other Pop City Arizona recordings?

I’m going to have another look at my old tapes, maybe something worthwhile will turn up. There are also plans to record a new song before too long.

++ Did the band get any attention from the press, radio or fanzines?

No, nothing much happened with those songs. Maybe I should I have tried harder. But by then (~1992) I had started Mary Queen Of Scots, so that was taking up all my attention. I forgot about those songs until now.

++ I must ask even if it is a silly question, have you ever been to Arizona? Probably not much of a pop place!

No, but the nearest I’ve been is San Francisco which is quite near Arizona? Anyway I hear it’s warm there!

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Listen
Pop City Arizona – Bluebell

02
Nov

Thanks so much to Paul Sullivan and Kevin Lagan for the interview. I wrote about The Chairs not so long ago on the blog and Paul and Kevin were kind enough to get in touch and answer all my questions! I discovered The Chairs with the Leamington Spa series and after I’ve been collecting their 4 records on their own Pink Halo Records, which I recommend them all. If you are not familiar with them, or if you are a fan, I’m sure you will enjoy this great interview! (Edit: This interview was published first on Sept. 15, 2017 with Kevin answers. Today, November 2nd it is re-published with Paul’s answers).

++ Thanks for being up for this interview! How are you? Whereabouts in the UK are you? Essex?

Kevin: Yep, I live in a small town near a river. Its called Maldon and its very old and a very nice place to live.

Paul: I have been living in Worthing on the South Coast since 1998, after having lived in London
for 18 years.

++ And do you continue making music to this day? Are you all still in touch?

Paul: We have been back in touch fairly recently. It’s unusual to find all of us on the same
continent these days, so when we met a couple of years ago it was a rare thing, but a lovely
day.

Kevin: Only make music now for my own pleasure. My son Tom completed a degree in Music and is a Bach of Jazz and can play so wonderfully – I get more enjoyment from seeing home and other amazingly talented young people play. I still listen to a whole lot of music and it’s an important part of my life.

++ Let’s go back in time then, but even way before The Chairs. Like, what are your first music memories? When did you know you wanted to play in bands? Were your parents supportive perhaps?

Kevin: My late mum and my dad (who is still here ) were fantastically supportive of me playing music. So much so, I had a toy drum set at about 5 and then around 13, I purchased a small Pearls 4 piece and played that to death! It fitted in my room at home and mum and dad still live in the same house. You can see the cracks in the ceiling still I caused form all the vibrations! They were / are great parents.

I didn’t know I wanted to be in a band until I started following the Accidents (which I later played in). I really wanted to be in this band, and one day that actually happened!

Paul: My Dad couldn’t have been more horrified. My Mum was quietly supportive as she’d always fancied being on the stage. She was always singing round the house, and I’m sure she was behind us getting a record player. We had something called a Radiogram, which was a combination radio and gramophone, and it fascinated me from the moment it arrived. It came with a small collection of records which, when I consider them now, were fundamental in forming my taste in music. If my memory serves me well they were:
A Hard Day’s Night EP the first one with I Should Have Known Better, If I Fell, Tell Me Why, and And I Love Her.
Kinksize Session EP featuring I Gotta Go Now and Louie Louie. For some reason I didn’t like either of the tracks on the other side and never played them.
Barbra Streisand Second Hand Rose / People. I liked this I thought the words were clever and it was a funny tune altogether. I can’t describe how much I disliked the b side, because I heard it once and avoided it thereafter.
Remember (Walkin in the Sand) / Leader of the Pack by the immortal Shangri La’s. Sound effects, drama and damsels in distress. A potent combination for a seven year old.
Lastly, No Particular Place to Go / Memphis, Tennessee by, of course, Chuck Berry.
There may have been others, but these are the ones I agreed to like.
I suppose that it would have to be The Beatles that made me think of being in a band. They were unbelievably cool, irreverent and hilariously funny and badly behaved in a way that no one my age could resist. My mum took me and my brother to see the film (HDN) and it completely turned my head. We used to mime along to the record with the obligatory tennis rackets and a banjo that unaccountably appeared in our house around this time.

++ What was your first instrument? how did you get it?

Kevin: Drum kit forma small shop in Colchester called ‘Keddies’. It was a kids set but at 5, didn’t need more! I also play the guitar and have had these since around 13.

Paul: My first instrument was a reed organ from Woolworth’s. I really wanted a guitar, and that appeared later on that year for my birthday. It had nylon strings which I swiftly exchanged for steel ones, without altering the action. I had bleeding fingers for a few months until I discovered I could tune it down a half step and use a capo. It was still hard to play but sounded great with a microphone taped inside it and a cassette recorder used as an amplifier / fuzz box.
The keyboard taught me, or helped me to learn, about chords, harmony and music theory. I never took lessons, and I don’t regret it at all.

++ Was your first band The Accidents? Or had you been involved in any other bands previously?

Kevin: No, the Accidents was the first band and I loved the music. When they split and Paul went off to join the Americans, Terry and Mark recruited 2 new members – Max on drums and Simon on Bass. They were ok , but never had the feel that the original line p had. When Paul and Terry came together and formed the Accidents again, I sat in and as I learned all the songs years back, it was easy. I was never the best drummer but we sounded like the accidents. Paul was back playing guitar not drums, and Mark Robins (one of the planets best guitarists) and Terry, well , it had to happen. Trevor Richardson came in after Nick Fisher and we had that sound back. It was great to be involved.

Paul: The Accidents was the first band I joined. I’d played with friends at college, had gigged and done some amateur recording, but when the Sex Pistols thing happened I was desperate to get into a band. I was encouraged to audition for The Accidents as a drummer by a mutual friend, Veronica Peyton, and broke two sticks in the first two songs. I wasn’t a drummer – I just sort of knew how to play. It didn’t take long before I started coming up with ideas for songs, and chipping in with backing vocals.

++ After The Accidents you were in The Gene Tryp and only after in The Chairs. Had you been involved in any other bands?

Kevin: I did record an album I Austal with a 17 year old singer called ‘Charlotte Emily’ and did some gigs which was great. I was able to play in a band with my son Tom who played bass and then drums ion the songs that needed refinement rather than me banging out a rhythm! I enjoyed it, but it was not a long term thing.

Paul: I left The Accidents in 1980 after I moved to London. The whole band was meant to move, but only myself and Nick Smith (bass) actually did.
After a few months of struggling along, Nick and I met Mick Frangou, a drummer, and we decided to form a new band, with me singing and playing guitar. Nick and I began to write songs, sometimes together but mostly separately. That band was The Americans, and we re;eased a single in 1981 called Disney World.

++ What about the sound of each band? How different were they? And how did you end up evolving into The Chairs?

Kevin: Now there’s a great question. The Accidents were very melodic and I felt told naive songs about love and disappointment. Very well crafted songs, wonderful sound and harmonies. ‘Trigger happy’ has one of the best guitar solos in my option! The Tryp was more a wall of sound – cleaver songs, great guitar solos, but feedback and speed and power. Lots of leather and image was important. The chairs were , well, the Chairs”! Early on, lots of jangly 12 string but we got rockier as we evolved. Paul really came into his element with his song writing and penned great songs ofr us. Each band was unique I feel. Love them all.

After the Accidents morphed in to the Tryp, Paul wanted to do more on his own as the front man, and I went along with him as did Trevor. It didn’t mean we didn’t want Mark or Terry but that sound had been and gone. It was time for something fresh.

Paul: The Accidents had started as a kind of cartoon punk band – very much in the mould of The Ramones or even Blondie. We didn’t really do the whole Clash / Pistols/ Jam social comment thing. When I joined we had a few peculiar songs like I’ve Finished With Finland, Life Oh Yeah, and In The Shower which was basically a song about Terry having a shower. It was enormous fun and a bit of a send up. I loved the whole sixties vibe and when I began writing songs for the band with Terry it became much more like beat or pop music. As we evolved as musicians so did the band’s music, becoming eventually much more of a rock band. In 1979 we were wearing sixties gear, sta prest, shirts and ties and we had started recording in earnest. We scraped together some money, from Terry’s dad and from a local guy who owned a farm (Simon MacCready?) and went to Cambridge to record our first single at Spaceward, which was the studio used by The Soft Boys at that time. By this stage we had added a second guitarist, Mark Robins, who forced us all to up our game a little, and Nick Smith had joined as bass player / vocalist.
The Americans continued in the same vein as The Accidents, although, without a guitarist of the caliber of Mark, there were fewer guitar solos and snappier songs. Our listening encompassed Elvis Costello, Squeeze, and newer bands like The Police, as well as the independent guitar pop that was coming out of America at that time: The dB’s, GameTheory and, to a certain extent, Cheap Trick. We also loved Louis Jordan and The Tympani Five.
It was power pop, harmonious, energetic and inventive.
The Gene Tryp was without question a Rock and Roll band. Loud, drenched in feedback and referencing everything from Psychedelia to The Jesus and Mary Chain, stopping off at The Stooges and The Flamin’ Groovies. We also loved Big Star, who I have up til now failed to mention, and who are hands down my favourite band ever. Apart from The Beatles, who are more than a band anyway.

++ I believe throughout these bands you shared the same members mostly. How did you all know each other? How did you meet?

Paul: In order of appearance, Nick Smith I met at school in 1965, Will Kemp, Terry and shortly after Mark, I met when I moved to Colchester in Essex to study Art.
Kevin and Trevor I met in Maldon, and after that I was introduced to Dave Read.

Kevin: Terry, Mark and Paul had been in bands together for years. I lived on the same road as Mark and very closer to Terry. I went drinking in the same pubs (The Queens Head and The Carpenters Arms) and we became friends. Im 5 years younger so a bit of underage consumption was undertaken!

++ What sort of music were you listening at the time you started The Chairs? Who would you say were your influences?

Kevin: Elvis Costello, XTC, Elvis Presley, Blondie , Pistols, Madness, the Jam and the Accidents! All played a big part in my musical evolution. I listen still to all these guys and more!

Paul: I would agree with Kevin – I was very keen on Elvis Costello, but also loved The Prisoners, The dB’s, anything that sounded remotely like The Beatles, anything from the sixties, specifically beat / psych groups from the UK like The Yardbirds, Tomorrow, The Who, Syd era Pink Floyd, The Records, but still also hanging onto my teenage fondness for Roxy Music, Jethro Tull and Yes, little of which was reflected in the music we were making.
I had a fling with Husker Du and The Smiths, loved The Pretty Things, The Small Faces and The Kinks.

++ And who came up with the name of the band? Firstly you were called The Domesday Chairs, right? What’s the story behind it?

Kevin: No idea! That’s a Paul thing. I can only remember us being the Chairs. Its the quote from Lennon, and Paul is the Beatles fan and we liked it!

Paul: Saw a picture in a Sunday magazine and it got me thinking about chairs. I knew it had to be a name that would have traction – that people would find themselves saying three of four times a day. Lennon once said of The Beatles “We could have been called The Shoes” which was the exact mentality I was after, but of course someone had already snapped up that name.
It would have been 1986 which was exactly 900 years after The Domesday Book, so I was tickled by the idea that you could buy this chair to commemorate it.

++ How was Essex then? Or where you in London by then? Where did you usually hang out? Were there any good venues to catch bands you liked? And were there any like-minded bands around?

Kevin: I lived in Essex in the early 80’s and spend time at the students union at Essex Uni SU. Saw heaps of bands, REM, The Icicle Works, Cherry Bois, Aztec Camera, XTC, U2 (at the Lyceum in 1982/3) and on and on – heaps of great bands. In those days , pubs had bands playing and all my mates were in bands. It was a great time to play toilet venues!

Paul: I was firmly entrenched in London, married and working but still devoting all my spare time to music. We would go to see bands at The Bull and Gate in Kentish Town, played there frequently, bigger bands would play at The Town and Country Club, there was The Borderline, Mean Fiddler and The Garage at Highbury.
We weren’t great ones for making friends with other bands, but we did hit it off with a band called The Dilemmas, and I frequently went to see The Prisoners (although they were none too friendly either ha ha), and later The Prime Movers. Last year I got to play with Fay Hallam from The PM’s which was a thrill.
There were a lot of bands playing similar music to ours, and more as it became a bit of a fad. I suppose I would say The Mighty Lemon Drops, Cud, Wonder Stuff and maybe The Screaming Blue Messiahs. We would run into these guys on the circuit until one by one they were snapped up by the major labels. I think we felt slightly aggrieved since our record label was genuinely independent, and what we could see was major labels adopting the trappings of a band like ours but essentially producing a boutique record label for their new signings.
It was an accepted marketing ploy, and a clever one, too.

++ Your first record was “The Likes of You” who you recorded with G. Chambers. I was wondering how was that experience? I noticed he has worked with mainstream names like Robbie Williams. What did he add to your music?

Kevin: George was friend of Paul’s and he was just a pleasure to be around. He smoked a lot too so the sessions were sometimes ‘relaxed’! I was young then and just happy to be in the band and in the studio. He made sure that the recordings captured the essence of the band and he did a great job with what technology we had back then. He added his experience but without stifling how we really sounded. Good bloke.

Paul: George I had met through a mutual friend, and we were drug buddies. We would get together and smoke tons of grass. He worked at the time for Paul Weller and was an experienced sound engineer and all round good egg. We had recorded some demos with George quite early on, so it was an obvious move to use him for our first release.
There is a story about the recording session. We went to a cheap studio in Brixton which turned out to be run by a local gangster. He kept a baseball bat and a saw (!) for protection, as he was of the opinion that the West Indian community were intent on robbing him. I won’t repeat what he called them.
We were booked in for two days. The first morning was wasted as the mixing desk wasn’t working. The reason the desk wasn’t working was because there was a dead rat inside it.
After completing the first day, the proprietor demanded payment, which we didn’t have. We said
“we’ll pay you tomorrow”
He said “No you fucking won’t”
and impounded all our gear. He eventually agreed to take payment on completion of the session, but we had to leave the studio with all our gear in his possession.
George had also arranged for us to do some recording at a studio owned and run by Rick Buckler, formerly of The Jam, which predated this. We recorded a bunch of staff that never made it onto record, like It’s the Only Way to Fly, one of the first songs written for the band, and an early version of Pink Halo, again never recorded properly or released.

++ By the way, how did the creative process work for The Chairs? Where did you usually practice?

Kevin: Paul would write and demo his songs on a 4 track. In the early days we rehearsed in Holloway Road London, and then as we needed more professional sets up, we went to Hackney Road. We always rehearsed all together for 4 hours on a Saturday and then when n we had big gigs, we would often do a Wednesday evening too. We would go to each other’s house and work stuff. We all had an input, but it was really Paul’s band so he led us – and led us well.

Paul: Kevin was pretty succinct in his answer. We used a studio call 313 run by Peter Sellers’ son, and would rehearse a new song every week. Some of them were garbage and didn’t make the cut, but I felt like I had to come up with new stuff so we wouldn’t get bored. Occasionally Dave would present something for our perusal, which was usually shot down by Kevin. He was terrible for that. Dave once presented a song which Kevin immediately described as sounding like the current McDonald’s jingle.
One of our early songs 1862, was outed by Kevin as a rewrite of “There’s a hole in my bucket”. I soldiered on with it regardless and it stayed in the set for years.
I would use a 4 track to record and develop ideas, and many Chairs songs began in this way. The fun part was hearing what the band would do with my scratchy ideas, and I hope I was encouraging. I know I could be extremely precious about my writing.
I still have hundreds of demos of songs I wrote for the Chairs. One of my favourites was a song called The Golden Mile which I later rewrote and used for The Liberty Takers.
Beware, though, a lot of it is crap.

++ This first record had a cool drawing as the artwork and it is credited to the band. I wonder who was the illustrator, the designer, within the band?

Kevin: Paul and Dave for sure. I can’t draw a pair of curtains! Trevor was creative too and his then girlfriend (Claire) was arty.

Paul: We used a lot of comic art, pulp comics mostly, both for artwork and posters etc. The original singles never had picture sleeves. We spent all the budget on the label! The picture sleeves were concocted much later, in the 90’s when we were trying to raise the profile of the band. That’s also when the idea was mooted that we should compile an album (Al Green Was My Valet), which collected all our singles and b sides and some later demo’s. I have I believe the only actual copy. I put together picture sleeves for all four singles but I haven’t seen them for years.

++ You ran your own label, Pink Halo, to release your records. How was that? Was it easy to get distribution? Dealing with the pressing plants? Did you like that part of it?

Kevin: Not really. I enjoyed the live work but didn’t enjoy recording and all the stuff that goes with it” Jim Wallace did most of the other stuff. I just t wasn’t really interested. Jim is owed a lot of credit.

Paul: There was no easy way to get things done in those days – there was a lot of phone calls and leg work. No email, no internet, and The Cartel only came in later. Jim Wallace would shop around for the best deal. We had the first single pressed by Chip Hawkes formerly of The Tremeloes. That was quite a moment for me.

++ And why did you name your label Pink Halo? And what about that design that became your trademark for the labels?

Kevin: Pink Halo was names after a certain part of a woman’s anatomy” nuff said. We wanted a simple but stand out label – always a different colour for each record. We knocked around the art work and all liked the one we used. We all played a part.

Paul: Pink labels meant Island in the sixties, Immediate and Pye records. My original idea was they would all be pink. I’m not sure where Kevin got the idea about the meaning of the name. We had a song called Pink Halo which we were all very enthused about, and it may have been a contender for a single. I know we recorded it a couple of times, once for certain at the Fulham Greyhound, and I’m thinking at the BBC session also. Then we came up with Size 10 Girlfriend and it got forgotten. The first pressing was a cock up. They ran the machinery too hot and the labels got burned. They came out a sort of salmon pink and cream instead of hot pink and white. Many people, Jim included, tried to convince me there was nothing wrong, but at the time I was very disappointed. Anyway, after that we started using different colours to make them sort of collectable.

++ “Size 10 Girlfriend” was your second release and I love this song! Was wondering if in a few lines you could tell me the story behind it?

Kevin: Its about a train journey from Liverpool street to Southend where Paul saw a really hot girl and tells a story of that and many journeys. I liked playing that but it was always one that knackered me as I hit my drums very, very hard!

Paul: It’s social comment. It wasn’t about a girl, so much as the idea that there is a male ideal that dictates what sort of girl is attractive. The idea that you might choose somebody based on their physical characteristics, rather than their, you know, personality. The narrator is an idiot who has misread what sort of girl he is dealing with. We had one or two complaints from people who misunderstood it, so maybe I should have been clearer. Obviously the band didn’t understand it!

++ This time you worked with Howard Turner, who worked with more indie bands at the time. Was it much different than the first time around at the recording studio?

Paul: Howard was a lovely guy, and the experience of recording at a residential place was great for us as a band. There were no dead rats, and fewer blunt instruments. I recall recording a vocal outside in the field. The band was really playing well at this point and we nailed both songs pretty quickly. Cut and Dried remains a favourite song of mine.

Kevin: Yep, he has a very nice place and it was very civilised. It was in Norfolk were we recorded Honey, and we stayed in the cottage surrounded by fields. He had very good facilities only I wasn’t allowed to play my Gretch Kit as it was too lively. I played a silver sparkly thing from memory! Every engineer we worked with were great – all different but great.

++ Your third release, “Honey I Need a Girl of a Different Stripe”, was perhaps the one you had higher hopes with? I ask this because I notice you released it in both 7″ and 12″ formats.

Kevin: Hell yes. We had started to get attention after the likes of you, and then Size Ten. Honey was a bigger sound and people were interested. We decided to fund the12’ and 7’ with picture sleeve. The shirt was one Paul wore a lot and sort of became our image focus. When we were on Radio 1 and Elvis loved it – we thought – we have done it.

Paul: We had received some attention by this point, Steve Lamacq being a staunch supporter, and we had had a number of good reviews, and some airplay here and there. We definitely hoped that this single would make a difference – the difference being we would get some financial support, either through a record deal or a publishing deal. It wasn’t to be, however, and we saw the boat sailing off without us. Elvis was very kind to us and his patronage opened a few doors, but as I say, things were about to change.

++ Your last release, “Crestfallen”, didn’t get proper art, how come?

Kevin: No money unfortunately. I think interest had gone at that point.

Paul: It was orange. What more do you want? We recorded that one with Lance Phillips, who at that time was a sound engineer at AIR studios, then based in Oxford Circus. It was the beginning of a fruitful relationship that continued after The Chairs had thrown in the towel.

++ On the web I could find a couple of mentions saying you were really looking to sign with a bigger label. Was that true? Did you get close to it?

Paul: We talked to EMI, Chrysalis, Arista, Virgin and BMG. They came to see us, we had meetings, Chrysalis gave us some studio time, the A&R people were all keen, but just couldn’t force the issue. I remember The Wonder Stuff being signed at the same time we were in talks with their label. They had a brash image and we were sort of polite and serious. You can see why decisions were made in hindsight. Chrysalis told Jim I was not attractive enough. Makes me laugh now, but at the time it was the death knell for the band.

Kevin: It was our dream to be signed to a major. Paul may say different but that’s the truth of it. We wanted to bring what we had to the millions. I still do – I think the later stuff is greater than the earlier and stands up today. Pink Halo was ours but it was only supposed to be a stepping stone.

++ Why do you think you didn’t get the chance to release an album? Uwe from Firestation Records told me that you had an unreleased one titled “Al Green is My Valet”, what’s that about?

Paul: Being truly independent in those days meant forking out for everything from our own pockets. Petrol money, posters, record production, hiring press agents, stamps and phone bills. We would gig and make no money, so we were all working jobs as well. Getting back from Leeds at three in the morning and then having to drag yourself into work at 8.30 was no joke. I mean, we did joke about it, but it could only go on for so long.

Kevin: We just never had the money to be honest. We paid for the singles ourselves and funded from within. Jim was great and did get some outside cash for demos etc., but we never had enough. I really wish we did have as we would have made one hell of a record.

++ And are there any other unreleased songs by The Chairs?

Kevin: Shit yes! One on the best is Half way up a hill – absolutely Top song. Sycamore ridge was another. I have recording of rehearsals and gigs and a couple of live sets are great. Paul’s song writing pedigree is still top notch. There are loads.

Paul: There are many demos. Don’t Throw it in my Face, Halfway Up a Hill, 1862, Up on Psycamore Ridge, Neck of the Woods, Shakespeare’s Motorbike. There are more I’m sure, but those are ones we played live.

++ From all that repertoire of songs, which would be your favourite and why?

Paul: Either Cut and Dried or Sometimes it Takes a Hammer. Cut and Dried was for me the ultimate conflation of all the things we liked, The Smiths, Costello, Squeeze – it’s a near perfect pop song, clever and a but heartbreaking. Hammer is a song that I literally wrote and completed in a day, and I have no idea where it came from. It’s a political song but it’s not polemical – it’s how I felt about everything at that time in a nutshell.

Kevin: Halfway Up Hill; – because its rocky, powerful, has great licks and interesting drumming. Size Ten, Honey and Daze are close to it though, as is the likes of you.

++ I read that there’s a tape of your first ever gig at the Blue Boar in Southend. Who recorded it? Were copies sold? And what songs did you play? Did you have a big repertoire then or you played songs from your previous bands too?

Kevin: Paul didn’t like playing back catalogue stuff but we dd a few. He was writing for the Chairs so we did new stuff and old. I have a recording of that gig somewhere – its pretty awful I remember!

Paul: We were a three piece to start with – Dave didn’t join straight away, so it would have been pretty raw. I remember we did Neck of the Woods, Only Way to Fly and probably 1862. The rest I can’t recall.

++ What about other gigs? Are there any that you remember in particular? Any fun anecdotes to share?

Paul: I remember playing in Gloucester. That was a good one. It’s funny, I don’t remember the good gigs, only the terrible ones and the associated hardships. We once drove to Leeds for a mid week gig at some pub or other and the publican didn’t know we were coming. He said we could play if we liked. So we had a pint of Guinness and went back to London. We played at The University of West Sussex, and the headline band didn’t show up, so we had their dry ice machine. It was hilarious. We played at The Princess Charlotte in Leicester, and some rough boys in the crowd didn’t like Dave. Dave told them what he thought of them, and they were waiting for us outside afterwards. That led to us carrying a cricket bat to every gig after that. I still have it. Kevin decorated it with pictures of the band.
Kevin was very much the joker. We stopped at one of a string of awful overpriced motorway service stations, and no one had any money. So we all bought tea and toast and sat down to enjoy our food. Kevin came to the table and asked if anyone fancied a sausage, opening his jacket to reveal his inside pocket was full of them.

Kevin: What goes on tour , stays on tour. We did get beaten up in Leicester which was horrible but also quite funny looking back!

++ And what bands did you like that you played with?

Paul: I didn’t like most of them. I did like The Icicle Works, but Ian McNabb was a miserable bastard. The other guys were much nicer. Shirley Manson was in a band we supported called Goodbye Mr McKenzie. I liked their record, and Shirley was lovely, so was Big John from The Exploited.
We liked The Dilemmas, and, as Gene Tryp we had the pleasure of playing with husker Du. They were great to us.
I once met Slade on a staircase, and urinated next to Elvis Costello at the Marquee.

Kevin: The Icicle Works were really great. I liked all the bands really but I preferred the small unsigned ones. Neil Robert Herd was also a great guy.

++ On Facebook, a The Chairs page was created, it seems, mostly to promote a reunion gig, but it never happened. How come? Has there been any other reunion gigs by the band?

Kevin: We realised that we would all be in the UK in August 2015. Paul put up the page but hadn’t asked us if we wanted to play together again. Part of me wanted to , but I and Trev decided that its not going to happen. For me, the memories of the Chairs are precious and were a moment in time. Im never going to play with the guys again – not because I don’t love them, but because time moves on and we are not those people now. Paul lives in Worthing, Tex in NZ, Dave in the Stares, and I lives in Australia until a few years ago.

Paul: That was a bit of mischief. I had enjoyed a reunion with The Liberty Takers the year before, and it tickled me to consider playing with The Chairs. The truth is, Trevor and Dave have virtually given up playing, and certainly didn’t feel confident enough to get up in public. I haven’t stopped so I suppose it was a little selfish to expect it. Nonetheless, we had a great afternoon together and I also met up with Trevor before he returned to New Zealand.

++ You did a radio session for Simon Mayo. How did that invitation happen? How was that experience? Which songs did you play?

Kevin: There is a tape of it – ill find it and send it to you. We recorded in the Holy Grail at Maida Vale studios west London. We stood where the Beatles, Stones and all the greats have been – it was awesome. The engineer completely flattened our sound and I’ve never been keen on the end result. We were so close to breaking onto the mainstream and Radio was interested. I loved being there , but as I said never really enjoyed recording. I think we played, Boys form Slumberland, Shakespeare’s Motorbike, Neck of The Woods – I can’t remember the other (I’m getting old!)

Paul: It was meant to be Janice Long, but I think she left to have a baby. By the time the session was aired, Simon Mayo was doing her slot. Kevin has all the songs right – we also played an early version of Honey INAGOADS. The BBC was a most peculiar place – riddled with nepotism and the old boy network. Kevin and I pinched a teapot from the canteen, and I still have a BBC paper cup. Our producer was supposed to be Dale Griffin, formerly of Mott the Hoople, but I swear we never saw him. There were men in brown coats, and a distinct air of ineptitude. Still, a great experience. The session came about I think through a guy who was doing our press – a scouser whose name escapes me for a moment, who obviously knew Janice and pulled a few strings. That’s how we got single of the week in the NME. Just string pulling. And that’s how we got on Radio One.

++ Did you get much attention from the music press? What about radio?

Paul: “We were bloody awesome when we were on fire” and when we didn’t get signed we were rather put out.
We did interviews on local radio, we got a write up from Steve Lamacq in NME, most of our London gigs were reviewed favourably, we knew who was doing the review and never got slagged. It was a hard slog, and the competition was fierce.
What some people don’t realize is that the old adage is true – it’s not what you know, but who you know. more specifically, it’s not who you know, but how well you know them.
We were fortunate in that we had some good connections through our manager – he had spent time in Liverpool, and through him we got to play with The Icicle Works, and that put us in touch with a number of other people. We were very close to a number of people in the business, but none were able to hook us up with a deal.

Kevin: We had a plugger and also were featured in loads of music process and radio plays. To this day, ill never understand why we were not signed. We were bloody awesome when we were on fire.

++ You did get some good promotion by Elvis Costello, he praised your music. Do you know how did he end up hearing your tunes? Did you ever meet him?

Kevin: Honey was on a Radio Show playlist called ‘Round Table’ where new releases were provide and talked about . We were played on it and he loved it. We thought that was it – here we come, but…………………………………….

Never met him but still love what he does.

Paul: I never met him properly, just to say Hi to. His seal of approval meant the world to me, as I revered him as a writer and a performer, and his words of praise proved to me that I’d got it right.

++ What’s the story about Tim Burgess from The Charlatans stealing Dave Reade’s suede jacket? When and how did that happen?!

Kevin: I think he just picked it up and walked off with it when we were on stage in Islington,. They were not the most welcoming of bands at the time.

Paul: The Charlatans were definitely on different drugs. Their guitar player was nice, and the organist, Rob took the time to talk to us. I thought their show was amazing, and although Dave lost his jacket, it was a lesson to us how far behind we were, in terms of image and fanbase. They left us standing.

++ In the end what happened? When and why did you call it a day?

Kevin: Dave Hubbard our friend ad roadie, stepped away, and I didn’t want to be in the band anymore. I needed to move on. The others did play a bit together after with the great Mick Frangu on drums. Just sort of had enough of it an knew we had missed the boat.

Paul: The legend is that Dave Hubbard decided he’d had enough. We had been round all the record labels and publishers twice and we just had to realize that we were no longer the new kids in town. The Stone Roses had heralded a sea change in how people consumed and reacted to music, and we simply got lost in the shuffle. Literally. We considered for about two seconds that we should wear flares and buy some maracas, but that would have been somehow wronger than giving up.
Personally it was a tough period for me. I had placed so much faith in us succeeding as a band, I had actually neglected most other things in my life. My first marriage came to an end around this time, and for a long time I couldn’t even look at the music press.
I have a memory of going for a kind of farewell drink with Dave and Neil Herd who had both road managed the band, and we watched a Queen tribute band called It’s a Kinda Magic playing in a pub in Stoke Newington, while an elderly lady with learning difficulties danced alone on the floor in front of them.

++ What did you do after? You were involved in The Liberty Takers I think?

Kevin: No, I stopped playing for a short while and then joined a local band called ‘The Falling’. We played one gig in a pub, and I thought, nope, don’t want this anymore. I sold my drums, brought a pram for my new borne and started life a s a dad – it’s a fantastic life. My wife , son and Daughter are my life.

Paul: I never stopped. I felt compelled to carry on, and I began recording with Lance who had engineered the last sessions with the band. I did a few solo shows, but the best part of it was getting to record at AIR studios. Lance would call me up and together we started what was to become The Liberty Takers.
Because he worked at AIR, he was allowed to use the studio when it was “dark” so to speak. At this time, AIR was the studio of choice for people like Elton John, Costello, McCartney, Dire Straits and other jetset pop luminaries. Dire Straits had block booked Studio Two, but hated each other so much they all went home at 5 o’clock every night. Lance would call me, and I would jump on the bus and off we would go. We worked on a series of recordings, elaborate and intricate, that later formed the bulk of the first Liberty Takers album. The main thing was the clock was not running, so we were literally just goofing off and doing whatever we felt like. There was no thought of these things being released at that time, mainly because we shouldn’t have really been there.
Lance once, jokingly, prepared an invoice on AIR stationery, charging me for all the studio time we had used. I think it came to £50,000.
Trevor and Dave were both involved in these recordings, and later I joined forces with a band called The Crowd Scene, and performed initially as The Laugh In, and later as The Liberty Takers. In 1991 I went to Boston USA, and made a lot of friends, including Big Dipper The Gigolo Aunts and The Jigsaws. It was a rejuvenating experience, and I came back ready to take on the world. I released an album “Barbershop Raga” and did a number of shows with an expanded line up. Eventually The Liberty Takers regrouped and we produced what I consider to be the best thing we ever did, “The Heyday of Tony Stone”.

++ And what about today? What are you up to? Any other hobbies aside of music that you have?

Paul: I had always dabbled in writing, short stories, poetry and so on. I have now written two books of verse, and have performed some of these. I have continued to play live, in duos, trios and covers bands, most successfully as The Daytrippers, paying tribute to the greatest thing that ever happened The Beatles. We don’t wear wigs.
I love to read, I love painting, mostly other people’s, and I can now enjoy watching bands as I’m no longer fighting to get to the front.

Kevin: I like listening to music and walking, cycling and jogging. I’m a big lad but enjoy a peaceful life. I love the sky and the country side. I went back to uni in Australia at the age of 44 and obtained a Post Grad Dip in OHS , which was the area of specialism that I moved into years ago. Being in the Chairs and reflecting on how we could have been better managed (from a business perspective) actually helped m, as I studied Business and Commercial management and qualified in that field and then OHS. I travel all over the work and have been to so many countries, its opened my eyes up to how some people are forced to live. We have it good over here.

++ Looking back in time, what would say was the biggest highlight of being in The Chairs?

Kevin: Just being one of 4 who made a difference in the world of music. I know what we were and how good it could be. Playing at the Old and New Marquee Club and the Town and Country Club stand out, but in closing, I’m so grateful and proud to have been the Drummer in the Chairs., so many great memories that will also be with me.

Paul: The highlight was being part of a close unit, that no matter what happened we would share the highs and the lows. It’s like belonging to a gang. No other band has felt quite like that since, and I am so glad I got to have those experiences.
As a band I would probably say our finest moment was one of our last – We played support to The Smithereens, who we all liked, and who were all nice to us. We played a belting gig to a sold out house and we kicked ass. I can promise you, it wasn’t always like that.
There is a theory about greyhounds. They stop chasing the electric hare when they get fast enough to get close, and realize it’s not real. I’ll just leave you with that philosophical metaphor.

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Listen
The Chairs – Size 10 Girlfriend

13
Oct

Thanks so much to Bernd for the interview! I’m very happy to learn more about this seminal German indiepop label, that released many classic records in the early 90s when they were based in Seeheim. Among their releases they put out 7″s by The Haywains, They Go Boom! and Merricks and more! On this interview Bernd talks a bit about each of his releases, clears some doubts about the catalog and shares with us his memories of those fantastic years of German indiepop. I hope next time we get to hear from him on an interview about his band, the great Die Blinzelbeeren!

++ Hi Bernd! Whereabouts in Germany are you nowadays? Will you celebrate Oktoberfest? 🙂

Hi Roque, I’m living in Darmstadt, a city located in the southern part of the Rhine-Main-Area, a centre of the Art Nouveau movement and also home to the football club SV Darmstadt 98. It’s a really good place to live!
Haha, Oktoberfest… oh no, not my cup of tea, I spend each October in Brittany, France.

++ How and when did Blam-A-Bit Records start? What was the main reason to start the label?

I think in 1988 I get the first time the idea to do something for myself, writing a fanzine, playing in a band or doing a record label. Releasing a compilation tape was the easiest part so I started with the label, had no idea what will happened later.

++ Would you say any other label influenced your label?

As a Wimp-POP-Kid in the late 80s I was really in love with Sarah Records, 53rd&3rd or Subway, many interesting labels like Creation, Woosh or Bi-Joopiter and of course Frischluft in Germany. I think all of them were important for my musical socialization and have some influences.
Ah, and of course some of the compilation tapes of that time like „Are you ready?” or “Something’s burning in Paradise“

++ And was it just yourself running it? Did you get any help from anyone else?

No I didn´t get any help, it was only me. The label was only a hobby and not my profession, I was still at school during that time.

++ What does the name Blam-A-Bit means? Why did you choose this name?

To be honest, there is no meaning of the name. I went to a wedding present gig and I got the “Invasion of The Wedding Present fanzine. I can’t remember exactly, but there was something written like „…a-bit“ and some beers later the label “Blam-a-bit” was born. I think the word „Blam“ was a bow to one of my favourite band „Biff Bang Pow“

++ And who took care of the art direction of the label? Did you print and fold your sleeves yourself like many labels back in the day?

Well, I did all the work for the label, artwork, distribution, but at some releases the bands did the artwork. Paul from the Haywains made the sleeve for the freshen up EP and this was the only cover with more than one printed color ,-) I had two co-releases with Frischluft where Krischan did the artwork.

But it was great to spend hours in printing shops, fold the sleeves or cutting some flyers. Later I decided to press only white-label records and colored them for myself with watercolors or potato-stamps. I really loved to „produce“ each release, sitting at my parents dining table coloring the labels or cutting-out the sheep for my second compilation tape.

++ How many releases were there? Twee.net lists from 001 to 014, but doesn’t show 012. Was there a 012 on the label? Or is this all that was released?

Twee.net is right, there were only 13 releases, blam 012 should be „Ein warmer Sommermorgen“ 7“, but it was never released.

++ Your first release was a tape called “Instant of Pleasures” which included all-time favourites like The Field Mice and St. Christopher and obscure gems like that Aurbisons track. What inspired you to make a tape? Did you know this was going to be the seed to starting a label? Was it easy getting so many bands from UK in a German label? Seems like a tough job with no internet!

As mentioned, after such great tapes like „Are you ready?“ or „Something’s burning in Paradise“ I think a compilation tape is a good way to start a label. I have no idea what will happen next. Some of the bands I asked at gigs if they like to be contributed on the tape, I remember a Field Mice gig and I just asked Robert and gave him my address. Some weeks later I found their song in my letter box. I was still at school during the time of the label, and it was always a pleasure to come home and finding some new tapes. I think it was not even more difficult than it is today getting in touch with bands, even the answer takes some more time ,-)

++ Any cool anecdotes about this tape? Like… why the name? or how many copies of it were made? which kind of tape was used? Who send songs too late that didn’t get in the tape?

I made about 200 copies at a pressing plant in Berlin.

I did not want to just make a tape, it should also be something special with the 7 “cover or with all the inserts. The best compliment about the tape came from Olaf Zocher (Firestation Rec), who described the tape as an important step in his Indie-Pop socialation. And I always had instants of pleasure listening to jingle jangle pop.

++ Then you release your first 7″, the “Freshen Up EP” by the Haywains! How was the move from tape to vinyl? What was the feeling of receiving a box full of records fresh out from the pressing plant for the first time?

It was so amazing!! 7“ singles are still the perfect medium for music! If I could had afford it I would have produced 7“singles much earlier. „the freshen up EP“ was a cooperation with the band, we pressed about 500 copies and both of us get 250 copies to sell. I was absolutely happy with the songs and I still like them!

++ Okay! now I’m very curious about this tape: “Hat das Schaf die Blume gefressen oder nicht?”. Why that title?

This is a phrase from The Little Prince („Did the sheep eat the flower or not?“) and I thought it’s a good name for my second compilation. This is probably the release with the most passion on it.
I made about 200 copies, copying tapes each night for a couple of weeks, cutting-out 200 paper-sheeps, making a small fanzine and put a lollipop in each tape set. The tapes were fixed at the cardboard sheeps and I colored each of them by hand. I remember I got an order from a mail-order in Germany of 50 copies and I had not produced enough. So I had to get up all 30min to turn over the tape to deliver the order.

++ I notice you released a bunch of tapes and also 7″s. I wonder what would your favorite format would be and why?

7“s are still my favorite format and I still collecting them. I think it’s an inexpensive, personal format, I like the idea of hand-assembled packages.

++ Also, what is BLAM 006, Das Kuchenrezept?

It is an ordinary recipe of a marble cake and was only a joke. Unfortunately I get some orders from UK and they send me 3 or 4 GBP for a cooking recipe written in german and I felt uncomfortable with it to keep the money. But marble cake is so delicious!

++ You released Die Blinzelbeeren which was your own band. I just wrote a piece about the band and I hope to interview you about the band. But I want to ask, how come there is no music like this coming out from Germany anymore?

Because the current bands know playing their instruments,-) the sound wasn’t nearly so important as the spirit of it; we didn’t know how to play our instruments well, nor having a great singing voice. But I think there are still some bands keeping the D.I.Y. idea alive, like Woog Riots or Zimt from Augsburg. And I’m not sure if there ever was a big Indiepop scene in Germany. I think it was a small but well-connected scene, without internet.

++ Also you released a Merricks 7″! That was the sound of young Munich, right? How do you remember those early nineties with that explosion of German pop bands? Was there any other German band that you wish you could have released?

The Merricks are still one of my favorite Bands from Germany and it was a honor releasing a record with them (together with Frischluft and Roman Cabbage). At that time I haven’t got any ideas about the Sound of Munich, and still have none about their significance. I phoned quit often with Bernd from Merricks, but we basiclly talked about football.

Hmm, I think it would have been brilliant to release a propper 7“ with The Fluffy Pillows (now known as Space Kelly) .

++ And of course there’s the 7″s by the FANTASTIC They Go Boom! that you put out. How did these releases happened? They didn’t have to send you a demo, did they?

I first heard the song „I Think I’m Falling“ and immediately I felt in love with it! So I wrote a letter to Mike and so it takes it course and we released a 7“ and the Split-flexi with the Cudgels. Mike is really friendly person and once I visited him at his flat in Margate spent some days there. I think he introduced „The Cudgels“ to me

++ That Brighter flexi you put out… it was distributed on fanzines as well right? Tell me a bit about it. I still have to find it. I have the other ‘German’ flexi by them, the Sturm und Drang one, but yet to find yours! Was it cool and easy to work with a Sarah band back then?

I think it was distributed with the Smuf fanzine (Olaf from Firestation rec) and he got about 200 copies. And a fanzine in UK, which I can’t remember anymore. I have no idea how, but I got 1100 copies and I nearly sold them all. It was brilliant to release a flexi with a Sarah Band and much easier than expected. Both, Alison and Keris were so lovely people, and it was cool to meet them once in Brighton. I still remember our first meeting at their flat, a crate of german beer as souvenir, met “The spinning wheels” later and listen to a lot of great music.

++ There’s two other bands still to talk about, The Cudgels and Besotted. Why did The Cudgels joyful pop is so underrated? Do you understand this? I think they wrote some wonderful tunes that could have been pop hymns! And the Besotted? They are quite mysterious, who were they? It’s one of The Golden Dawn guys right and his girlfriend, right?

Good question, i can’t understand it too. In my opinion The Cudgels are one of the underrated bands that area and in a perfect world, this would be on the radio I saw them once playing live in their practice room and it was a blast! Unfortunately their wasn’t a proper 7“ of them on Blam-a-bit, I think Sunday Records could pay them more 😉

It’s a bit similar with The Besottted. It was absolute stunning to release a 7“ with them, as I’ve been a big fan of The golden Dawn. But for whatever reason it was the worst selling release on the label.

++ Did you get to see any of your Blam-A-Bit bands live?

Regarding of band releasing a song/record on Blam-a-Bit I saw a couple of times The Merricks, Die Fünf Freunde or Painting by Numbers. Die Blinzelbeeren played their first song live as a support for St. Christopher.
Unfortunately I haven’t seen The Haywains playing live, but this could still happened.

++ And did the label get much attention from the music press or radio? What about fanzines?

Their first attention from the press I got for the „Hat das Schaf die Blume Gefressen, oder Nicht? Tape at the german Musicmagasine Spex. That was amazing for me. There were some attentions in fanzines too, I remember a label story in a French fanzine from Rennes. There was a really good Indiepop Radioshow in Belgium where some of the releases has been played.

++ When did you call it a day? Why did you stop releasing records with Blam-A-Bit?

In 1992 I get more and more interested in 60s music and for a short spell I was bored in the current Indiepop Music that time. So I decide to call it a day.

++ Where you involved with music after? What do you do nowadays?

Well, music is still a big part of my life. I used to play in several Bands releasing records on different labels.
I’m still a record collector, and used to DJ a lot.
Nowadays I live with my wife and daughter in Darmstadt and I work as a pharmacist. But I still have a regular Single-Day in a Winebar in Darmstadt once a month, were I only spinning soul 7“s on one record player. And that’s a lot of fun.
I started a new label, calling „Laughing Seven records“ some years ago with 2 7“s so far. and I hope to to revitalize it soon.

++ What would you say was the biggest highlight of the label? And what was the biggest challenge?

I think the biggest highlight was the chance to meet so many great people in the vein of Indie Pop and with some of them I’m still keeping contact.
The biggest challenge was to satisfy the unexpected request of the second tape, it was the fasten selling out release.

++ One last question, what would you say indiepop means to you?

I get my musical age in the mid-80s, growing up for example with The Smiths, so Indiepop was my very own punk! It was exciting, vibrant, welcoming, and it was me. I loved my anorak with a strawberry at the hood and it was more than just music for me. We were exchanging letters, fanzines, tapes or records and meeting each other at gigs.
Nowadays i have an open-minded taste of music, but indiepop is still a big part of life and there are still exciting new bands to discover.

++ Thanks so much for the interview. Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks a lot for the interest in Blam-a-Bit and many apologies for the delay in answering.

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Listen
Merricks – Der Schönste Tag Im Jahr ‎

06
Oct

Thanks so much to Michel and Marjolijn for the interview! I wrote about Formica some weeks ago when I thought it was a good time to feature a Dutch band on the blog and was lucky to get in touch with both of them and even better, they were up to answer my questions! They also clear some doubts I had, made some corrections of my previous post and tell the whole picture of Formica! The band released just 2 singles and they were truly great, if you haven’t heard them yet, this is a good time to discover them! Oh! And they shared with me this exclusive cool photo of the band which was taken by Kathalijne van Zutphen.

++ Hi Michel and Marjolijn! Thanks so much for being up for this interview. How are you doing? Are you still making music?

Michel: I’m well, thanks. Not doing much music anymore, although I have an ‘internet band’ called Transatlantic Bunnies. So far I’ve put out one 7” on the Australian Insipid Vinyl label. The A-side (“Formula One Generation”, a song written by Steve Gregory for the Pooh Sticks) was sung by Lauren Rocket from L.A. band Rocket and the B-side (“Girl’s Going Crazy For The La La La”, written by Steve and me for International Language) has Sara Johnston from Canadian band Bran Van 3000 singing. I still haven’t met Lauren, but I did meet Sara in 2015, not long after the single was released. She was on tour with Evan Dando and they played a gig in Utrecht, so we finally met and did that song as part of her set, which was a like a dream come true for me.

Marjolijn: I’m not making any music anymore, just listening to music.

++ And are you still based in Utrecht? How was Utrecht back in the mid 90s? What were your usual hangouts? The venues you used to go to?

Michel: I’m still living in Utrecht, Marjolijn is living close to Utrecht and Noortje moved to Amsterdam.

Marjolijn: We used to go to places like Tivoli (Utrecht) and the Melkweg (Amsterdam), to see bands…

Michel: …like Blur, Pulp, Oasis and even Kula Shaker.

++ As I was saying on my blog post there is very little information about your band on the web so this is for sure a great opportunity to learn more about you. Also I must say when it comes to indiepop, not much is known about The Netherlands either. So maybe you can recommend some bands?

Michel: As far as we know, there weren’t many indiepop bands in the Netherlands. If there were any, we didn’t know them.

++ Going back, when you were kids, what sort of music did you grow up listening to? What was your first instrument? and how did you get it?

Michel: 70’s rock: the Stones, Alice Cooper, the Sweet, Slade, Status Quo… And then punk happened. I could never choose between guitar and drums, but my parents gave me an acoustic guitar when I was 11, or so. Years later, when I joined a band as a drummer, I bought a drumkit.

Marjolijn: Noortje and I were listening most of the time to Britpop, Elastica, Blur and also bands like the Ramones and the Kinks. I started playing clarinet and after that I started playing guitar.

++ Let’s talk about Formica, or was it Formica 2000 (!?)? What’s the story of the name of the band?

Michel: A friend of ours came up with the name Formica, because it sounded a bit like Elastica! We thought that was funny.

Marjolijn: We have no idea why we added 2000.

++ Had you been involved in any other bands? I know Michel was in a few, what about the girls?

Marjolijn: Just Formica. Noortje too.

++ How did Formica start as a band? How did you all know each other? How did you meet?

Marjolijn: Noortje, Edske and I knew each other from school. We started playing music together. We met Michel at DaCapo. And he became the drummer.

++ What would you say influenced the sound of Formica?

Michel: Britpop, punk rock and Phil Spector.

++ Marjolijn, you took the photos for the sleeve art. Nowadays you are a photographer. Were you a photographer already then?

Marjolijn: It was just a hobby at the time. I studied architecture. But two years ago I started taking photography more seriously, and I just finished my study photography.

++ How did the relationship with Steve Gregory from Fierce Recordings and The Pooh Sticks start? And how come he was not part of the band, only credited for the lyrics?

Michel: This is a long story. The Pooh Sticks “Alan McGee” CD boxset came with a little booklet in which it read: “Are you in a band? Everybody should be in a band. Let us know about it.” Or something like that. Just for fun I sent a cassette with recordings of some of my bands. One of them was Beatle Hans. I then got a letter from Steve/Fierce asking if anyone was releasing the Beatle Hans stuff. If not, Fierce Recordings was up for it. And by the way, would the band (minus singer Hans) be interested in recording the next Pooh Sticks album, which became “Great White Wonder”. Me and bass player Hard Cor (Cor van Ingen) played on two more Pooh Sticks albums: “Millionseller” and “Optimistic Fool”. After that Steve and I released a 7” and a CD on Sympathy For The Record Industry as International Language. (By the way: “Rodney’s English Disco” by Helen Love is not the International Language tune.) We enjoyed writing songs together, so we also wrote a couple for Formica. But Formica was always just the girls and me. Oh, and the 3 Formica girls’ first recording experience was doing some backing vocals on the International Language tune “Christmas Will Be Magic Again”, which first appeared on a christmas CD on Sympathy For The Record Industry.

++ And who was the bassist for Formica? I see on the first record Edske is credited, while on the second it has Hard Cor, Ron and Hanneke. Why was there never a proper bassist in the band?

Michel: Edske left the band after the first 7”. On the “Gameboy” EP we had Cor on two songs, my brother Ron on one, and Marjolijn’s younger sister Hanneke on the fourth song. For the gigs we had Ron on bass.

++ How did the creative process work for the band?

Marjolijn: Michel and Steve wrote the songs. We rehearsed at home. Instead of rehearsing we sometimes played our Gameboys. That’s why we wrote the Gameboy song.

Michel: I asked the girls to write lyrics for a song called “Look At Your Game, Boy”, which has nothing to do with “Look At Your Game, Girl” by Charles Manson. Marjolijn’s sister Hanneke added some lines too, so that’s why two Hoelens are credited on the label.

++ Your first 7″  was released on Spirit of ’86 who were also connected to The Pooh Sticks. On this single the brilliant “Johnny & Anita” was included. I must ask, who were Johnny and Anita? What’s the story behind this song?

Michel: Johnny’s and Anita’s were annoying (Dutch) youths on scooters who liked house music and had crappy haircuts.

++ Your second 7″ came out on the fab Damaged Good label How did you end up releasing with them? And I must ask, how come two English labels for your releases, and no Dutch ones? Why was that?

Michel: In 1995 Hue Pooh Stick had his Spirit Of ’86 label. I told him I wanted to join the girls’ band and he said that if I did he would release whatever we’d record. I’d already offered my services as a drummer, but the girls told me I was too old. Fair enough. I was twice their age. But when I told them they could make a record if they had me on drums they agreed to give it a try. Spirit Of ’86 was distributed through Damaged Goods/Shellshock, so after that first single Ian from Damaged Goods asked if we could do one for his label too.

++ You worked on the recordings with Hans Blieb twice, what did he add to the band in the recording studio?

Michel: Nothing really. He owned an affordable studio and was the engineer. I did production and mixing.

++ Then there were no more releases by the band, why? No compilation appearances? Are there any unreleased songs by the band?

Michel: There is one song we wrote but never recorded properly. For the gigs we chose a couple of covers by bands we liked, like “Time Bomb” by the Ramones and Josie Cotton’s “Johnny Are You Queer”.

++ And from all of the Formica songs, which one is your favourite and why?

Michel: I like “Wire” and “Cross My Mind”, ‘cause they’re slightly Spector-esque.

Marjolijn: “Johnny and Anita”.

++ Did you play many gigs? Maybe any in the UK? Are there any in particular that you remember? What were your best ones?

Michel: We only did two gigs, both of them in Utrecht in 1998. But we almost played our debut gig in London as part of some MTV thing. Unfortunately the Fierce Panda label, like Damaged Goods also related to Shellshock distribution, had one of their acts play there instead. I think our first gig was the best one, opening for the Donnas. A great night.

++ And were there any bad ones?

Marjolijn: The second one was not as good as the first one. Haha!

++ Did you get much attention by the music press? What about radio?

Michel: I don’t think I ever saw a review and I definitely never heard us on the radio.

++ When and why did you split? What did you all do afterwards? Did you continue making music?

Michel: Like Abba, we never really split up.

Marjolijn: Noortje moved to England to study. It became too much hassle at the time. We just kept in touch but didn’t make any music anymore. Nowadays Michel and I meet up in town to take pictures sometimes. Our new hobby.

++ I must ask, where do you think you had more support, in the UK or in The Netherlands?

Michel: We did an interview with a local music magazine. I don’t think anybody outside Utrecht knew about us, except some friends and a couple of girls from Rotterdam who had a Britpop fanzine.

++ Michel, I must ask even though it is not strictly Formica related, but the single “Go Eliza” by The Nightblooms is truly brilliant, and you produced it! How was that experience?

Michel: I didn’t really produce “Go Eliza”, but I was there during the recordings (and played a twangy guitar part in the choruses). Studio engineer Ward, who would also work on the first two Pooh Sticks albums that we recorded in Utrecht, asked me to come to the studio for the first Nightblooms session there, ‘cause he thought I would understand their kind of music better than he did at the time. That was about a year before “Go Eliza”. That first session remains unreleased, although I have a cassette of it somewhere. The Nightblooms are nice people and we got along really well, so I was there again for the “Go Eliza” session. I don’t think I was present for any Nightblooms sessions after that, although I went to England with them in 1990, as a guitar roadie and to play some guitar on their John Peel session. I also played guitar on one song on their first album and I was their manager for a while.

++ And today, what do you do? Any hobbies that you have aside from music?

Michel: I like analogue photography, shooting portraits mainly.

Marjolijn: Photography

++ There was a comment on my blog post saying that one of you guys worked at Da Capo Records. Is that right? How is Da Capo Records? I’ve been told many times that it is a fantastic record shop!

Michel: I worked at Da Capo for 22 years. That’s where I met the Formica girls. I stopped working there in 2008. Three years later the owner died and on December 31st 2011 the shop closed. A sad day. It was a vinyl collector’s shop and probably the best one in Holland.

++ One last question, I’ve never been to Utrecht so I’m quite curious, what would you recommend not missing out? Sights? Traditional food? Bands?

Marjolijn: We recommend going up the Dom tower. Beautiful view.

Michel: Food! Broodje Mario and Vocking worst.

++ Thanks again! Anything else you’d like to add?

Marjolijn: In your article you mentioned a Noortje in Switzerland. That’s another Noortje. Noortje from Formica is a fashion accessories designer and she lives in Amsterdam.

Michel: We appreciate your research and love for the music.

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Listen
Formica – Johnny & Anita

04
Oct

Thanks so much to Paschalis Plissis for the interview!! I wrote a few weeks back about The Jaywalkers on the blog and thanks to Ian Skiadas I was able to get in touch with Paschalis, founding members of one of the most legendary bands from Greece!! There has always been little information about the band, and their one and only record is very rare (I’m still looking for a copy!), so there was no better chance to learn the story behind this classic band! Hope you enjoy it!

++ Thanks so much Paschalis for getting in touch! Very happy to know the story of The Jaywalkers. But how are you today? Are you still involved in music?
The Jaywalkers today are George Mouchtaridis who is the manager of radio ”Pepper”96.6 a.k.a.”sergeant Pepper” having a morning show Greek time 10-12 you can listen on line, has already curated 4 ”The bright side of the road” compilations and is preparing another one. So he is very much immersed in music.

Yiannis Divolis works and works some more but still has occasional gigs as a folk-”laikos dimotikos” musician playing and also singing and used to manage night clubs with Greek folk music.
His younger brother Vassilis has a permanent job as a percussionist in the Athens municipal band the ”Filarmoniki” and has collaborated over the years with various artists i.e.Kristi Stasinopoulou, Avaton et al.
As for myself I’ve been a professional oboe player for nearly 30 years playing in various orchestras and I now hold the first chair in the Greek national radiotelevision’s Contemporary orchestra.

Unfortunately the youngest member of The Jaywalkers Giorgos Manos is sadly gone many years ago and is always fondly remembered through his bass playing. A great talent.

++ Whereabouts in Greece did you grow up? Did you have any bands prior to The Jaywalkers? I know you were in Migraine, right?

We all grew up in the greater Athens area. Gio Mou and I were friends from school and the same neighborhood and I went to Athens conservatory with Yiannis Divolis who introduced us to his brother and Giorgos Manos so The Jaywalkers were formed from the ashes of our first group Migraine.

++ What sort of music were you into while growing up?  What was your first guitar do you remember? How did you get it?

As we grew up we listened to various types of music. Gio’s older brother Paschalis (same name!) was our musical mentor making us tapes of artists like Van Morrison, Bowie, Springsteen, Peter Hammil, and of course we listened to all the sixties big names.In 1977 I went to England and returned with a bi-polar musical taste for classical and punk-new wave which I sort of inflicted to the gang through parties and communal vinyl auditions.Great days indeed!

First guitar I still have was a Yamaha G55 classical which my late father bought me cause my grades were good I guess. I used to throw a mic in her belly and feedback for hours till I got my first electric a secondhand hardtail 74 Fender Strat for which I worked for 2 months to be able to afford. It was and still is The Jaywalkers guitar.

++ And how did your music evolve from a punk band like Migraine to a jingle jangly guitar pop band like The Jaywalkers?

The evolution of our style from Migraine to Jaywalkers wasn’t all that big, considering we always aimed to be eclectic in both our use of influences and choice of musical directions.Those years in the first half of the eighties were one of the most exciting in music and we felt a part of it all with overflowing creativity and joy of life in all aspects.Of course one can argue that this is often the case with what one does in the younger years but in retrospect it was objectively a great era. Migraine was named after a Gang of Four lyric(this heaven gives me migraine off Natural’sNot In It from Entertainment LP.So Migraine was not a punk band per se more of New Wave and when we introduced a sax in the rock format we got to sounding like James Chance and the Contortions, while we even covered songs by the Zounds or The Sound.We sort of carried all the spectrum to The Jaywalkers with the addition of our new found kinship with the paisley underground and of course with the gigantic R.E.M.We got to play live with a host of bands that we liked and they liked us right back! What glorious moments!Dream Syndicate,Green on Red, Fleshtones, The Chills from NZ,The Triffids from Australia and Watermelon Men from Sweden.So a whole tapestry of great groups popped(sic) up in our sound which of course was firmly based on the Beatles legacy.Hence the name Jaywalkers as we felt we were Jaywalking in music’s avenues jumping from lane to lane of sonic variety.

++ How were those early days of the band? Where did you practice? Where in Athens did you usually hang out? Were there any good bands at the time that you followed?

Early to last days of both Migraine and The Jaywalkers were happening rehearsal like in a derelict two-room pre world war  2 house in Byron municipal district of Athens. We shared this dumb with two great bands of the times Yell-o-Yell and the Headleaders. Our greatest fear was not to have our equipment stolen an unfortunate event that thankfully didn’t happen.Creativity and rock n’roll spirit was dripping all over the walls as the place’s sole window never opened not once in the near six years we spent there.To be young and sweaty…and breathless!
Well the Greek scene of the early eighties was full of interesting groups with most of them we have played together and were friends. Cpt. Nefos and their follow up Low noise ,Villa21,Yell-o-Yell South of no North, the punk veterans MagicDeSpell, the garage kings Last Drive the passionate Anti Troppau Council the northern psychedelics The Mushrooms, the greek singing top group  from Thessaloniki Treepes (holes),Blue Light, and more.We used to move around the live night spots of Athens either performing or jamming or supporting one another.Quite wonderful times!

++ And how did the creative process work for the band? Who wrote the songs?

The songs were written by George Mou and myself in the very loud solitude of our rooms as far as the music was concerned and just about anywhere as far as lyrics would go.We would introduce the new babies to the rest of the band and either be ridiculed on the spot or proceed to birth and grooming to be introduced to the live set or potential material for recording in the future as not every song was deemed ”live”material.Everyone had a lot of input and ideas flew all over the room as it was obvious that we were all very opinionated music-wise due to conservatorial backgrounds and strong personalities.The end result was to everybody’s satisfaction though.

++ Did you ever consider writing songs in Greek?

Writing songs in Greek always seemed awkward as it seemed anytime a greek lyric would turn up something very un rock ‘n roll melodically would surface basically diametrically opposite from our core repertoire! So we carried on with international intentions! Ha ha ha!

++ How did you end up signing to a big label, to Virgin?

We knew the guys from Virgin Hellas which by that time was run by the guru Yiannis Petridis and we had them listen to our demo tape.They found it quite good and the rest is history.

++ The songs were recorded at Recording Studios by Manolis Vlachos. How was that experience? Was it your first time at a proper studio?

Working with Manolis Vlachos was for us a once in a lifetime experience.He was extremely kind with us greenies was enthusiastic with our songs, softspoken good-humored and he used to work in the U.S. which guaranteed another level of production.We seldom had a chance to record in a proper professional studio so it was not a surprise when some of us declared they wanted to move there!

++ Who is the boy on the cover photo of the record?

Our sadly deceased friend Sotiris Terzidis was working as a teacher in the esteemed Panagiotopoulos school.He used to take photos of the kids during the intervals while they were playing and mocking about .We happened to look at some of these photos at his place and were immediately smitten with the particular one that became the cover of our mini-l.p.Turns out it was the son of the Mikis Theodorakis’ famous singer Petros Pandis called, as I found years later, Dimitris.

++ I’ve played and danced many times to “(You Can’t Be) Happy all the Time”. I have to ask, how did this song come to be? What’s the story behind such a hit?

“You can’t be…” What a song. Always makes me feel goosebumps yet i’m quite conscious of having written it and proud of the result of the band’s collaboration and all out enthusiastic disposition which carried this song so well through all these years.The story goes like this;Our friends started a promotion company and we all participated one way or other and the first group to be invited for a concert was the Watermelon Men from Sweden.We hang out with them, became good friends appreciated their songs and bittersweet approach to life showed them around even played beach soccer with them.There was definite feedback and the result I suppose was this also bittersweet song that talks about lost friends lost innocence and has a quirkiness about it that belies the world weariness of the lyrics. And to conclude I confess I was trying to sing in the style of Eric Illes their singer a Swedish brother to me. To the day I remember singing the song with my acoustic guitar on my then country house-now permanent residence-balcony to a group of friends and I’d like to believe that their enthusiastic first listen to ”You can’t be (Happy all the time) led to their helping us in financing the recording of our demo tape that led to the making of our mini L.P.

++ On the 12″ there’s a cover of The Beatles. Who made that choice? Were they a big influence on you? Is “Tomorrow Never Knows” your favourite song by theirs?

All of us absolutely adore the Beatles.We’ve played some of their songs in various concert situations but for  an official recording it had to be something special.In my opinion A Day In The Life and Tomorrow Never Knows are the most ambitious songs they ever recorded and present a real challenge for anyone to try and cover them.So we figured lets take our chance since we aimed for a result representing our possibilities as a group away from the typical rock format employing as it were the Divolis’ bros  experience with Greek folk music.Hopefully we managed to re-invent a masterpiece while staying true to its spirit.Really proud of the result actually!

++ Which other bands would you say were big influences to The Jaywalkers? Any Greek bands?

Influences?Too many actually.As stated before that era was boiling with great music freshly made to top an already huge heritage of the past three decades. Gio Mou and I were at the time working as journalists and record critics in prestigious magazines therefore being exposed to the best new music that was released at the time, discovering kindred artists from the U.S. and U.K. that were off the radar for the general public.Boy we were lucky!But I won’t shy away from naming some; Beatles, Stones, Kinks, Who, always obvious suspects,also Beach Boys Byrds and of course Dylan.Forward to The Jam,The Clash, The CureThe Ramones Talking Heads also The Smiths ,R.E.M.,Dream Syndicate Long Ryders Green on Red and less obvious choices like Gun Club,Robyn Hitchcock, Elvis Costello  Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.The Greek bands of the time were friends and colleagues more than influences but of course there was feedback and healthy antagonism with the likes of The Last Drive, Anti Troppau Council The Mushrooms,Blue Light or Low Noise.

++ And if you were to record another cover, what would be your top choices?

To record another cover it would have to be something special again as we aim to add some of our own views on the matter.I maintain that a cover should be a tip of the hat to the original and also to shed a new light on a song we obviously love and got inspiration from.Having said that there just so many choices to pick from and pointless to name some but in the course of our live shows we covered songs by Elvis,R.E.M.,The Sound,The Beatles The Box Tops or Bobby Darin so the diversity shows  what we might choose.

++ I read that The Jaywalkers 12″ was a commercial failure. Is that story true? What happened?

Commercial failure could take  its toll on the very existence of groups ,but it is a reality one must face at some point as an unfortunate but unavoidable possibility.Well the”market” for groups and english singing at that-in Greece is very limited and that’s understating it.Virgin Greece went out on a limp releasing the record so the  commercial failure didn’t sit comfortably with any future plans to make a follow up so no follow up was produced.

++ The only compilation appearance I know that The Jaywalkers had was on the tape “Straight to Hellas” where you contributed the song “Pale Blue Eyes”. It sounds much different to the 12″. Was this an earlier song perhaps? How did you end up in this compilation?

The inclusion of Pale blue eyes in that compilation was our last-and not that good I must admit-hurrah.We sort of faded after that amidst obligations with the army, families formatting, and job obligations.We remained close but not so much in the music playing way.Life happens and in George’s Manos case an untimely death happened most unfortunately.

++ Are there any other compilation appearances from back in the day?

To my knowledge we had no other compilation appearances apart from possible live bootlegs but I think it’s most unlikely.

++ Are there any other recordings, unreleased songs, by the band?

Songs over the live years and after have accumulated waiting for their hopeful outing and some of them are recorded not in a fully professional manner mind but as a future plan they could turn up.

++ And from the whole Jaywalkers repertoire, what would you say was your favourite song and why?

Favourite songs vary depending on mood  snd season but the ones included in the mini-l.p. are always topping.Having said that there are also other favourites like the obvious live stalwarts River and The sun’s not gonna wake me tomorrow.

++ What about gigs? Did you play many? What were the good venues back then? And are there any particular gigs you remember fondly?

There were some clubs that every group gigged in as the were part of the scene.In the Migraine days there was the legendary ”Pegasus” home of the new wave, Kyttaro club, Hima (were even Nick Cave &the Bad Seeds performed, the former Mad club renamed Cat’s Meow and the largest of all the Club 22 where acts like Green on Red,Nick Cave, The Wipers or Nico appeared alongside supports from local groups like The Jaywalkers.The most legendary and successful club of course was ”Rodon live ”where every artist of note performed and I’m proud to say that The Jaywalkers were the first group to perform there as a support to the Triffids, a fact unfortunately not stated in the book about ”Rodon” that was published after the club’s termination and eventual change into a-alas-super market.
We remember fondly the gigs we played support to great artists like Green on Red in club 22 ,the aforementioned Rodon gig with the Triffids and a summer festival in Veakeion theater in Peiraius where the headliners were The Dream Syndicate. Having said that gigs were scarce therefore every time we got the chance to play live we relished the moment as you can understand!

++ Aside from Athens, did you play any other cities?

We played in a club in Patras and that final gig in a summer festival in Preveza where ”Pale Blue Eyes” was recorded for that compilation, and that was about it.It was just unfortunate that we didn’t play in Thessaloniki-a rock city with a big music scene.

++ Did you get much attention from the music press or radio?
The radio at the time was not that friendly for english speaking Greek groups although we got played by certain indie shows  that aired in those early days of non-state radio.
As for the press there existed an awkward situation as I mention earlier G. Mouctarides and I were journalist for the esteemed ”Sound and hi-fi” magazine therefore we were considered to be ”parts of the system”.That led to negative reviews or lack of reviews altogether ignoring good moments of the band, maybe it was jealousy or some kind of complex ,but it sure held the progress of the group media-wise.Years after it was confessed that the true value of The Jaywalkers was unjustly overlooked but of course as the saying goes the damage was done. Oh well water under the bridge…

++ And was there an important fanzine culture in Greece at the time? Did you get featured in them?

The fanzine culture of the times consisted mainly of one-off editions which sometimes were the vehicle for releasing some tapes of live shows.The notable exception was the ”Rollin Under” fanzine.To be honest I am not aware of any feature of The Jaywalkers but that could have eluded us as the circulation of these fanzines was very limited.

++ Then what happened to the band? When and why did you split? Did you continue making music afterwards?

he festival in Preveza in the summer 1988 was as I mentioned earlier the last live moment of the group. After that there were a few rehearsals but no more gigs due to army obligations and new families changing the whole picture. After that we certainly never gave up on music both as a job or a hobby. You might want to check out a group myself and some local friends set up called The Mercy Run.Had some gigs but no proper releases  exist only some studio recordings of songs I wrote with our singer Bob Crossley.

++ I think a lot of people, me included, were introduced to your music thanks to the compilation “Try a Little Sunshine”. This compilation became very important as it gave a new light to Greek guitar pop. What would you say are your favourite Greek indiepop bands?

There was a lot of potential in the early 80’s greek indie rock scene and talents sprung out all over.Some of our favourite bands were Cpt Nefos, Blue Light, The Mushrooms, Yell-oYell, Femmes Fatales, Anti-Troppau Council and Last Drive.

++ Also in the last decade or so you have played some reunion gigs. Is there any more gigs planned for the near future? And is there a chance for new Jaywalkers songs some day?

These last years in Greece haven’t being particularly good for indie groups due to the financial crisis.Although clubs like s.i.x. d.o.g.g.s. and fuzz are making a name for the ”underground” scene in Athens it is quite difficult for groups to be consistent in their live performances.As for reunion gigs we really enjoyed the ones we had and we certainly keep our hopes up for new material to be recorded and released but the difficulties seem at times unbeatable.Songs do exist though and they will eventually surface!

++ This year I see you will also participate in a new compilation named “A Sparkle From the Past” that will be released by Make Me Happy. Care telling me a bit about this new record?

This latest compilation will apparently include various Greek groups of the 80’s and early 90’s which didn’t quite fall in the general public’s radar and The Jaywalkers will participate with the -in my opinion-superb demo version of ”Good Day Sunshine”. From what I know this compilation is being released by a group of that era’s fans very keen on making a party of it all as it involves a live event for this release.

++ And today, what are you up to? Do you still make songs? Any other hobbies that you have?

As for songwriting it happens sparingly but with the aid of the current technology it is easier to record and keep in the archives for future use. As you’ve already seen I try to find some creative comfort in sketching and drawing and even-ambitiously enough-plan to participate in the Inktober challenge! Wish me luck.My true hobbies though is driving my two adolescent daughters around to various lessons and activities.Interestingly enough Gio Mou invited me to play guitar for his younger daughter’s recording of her song “Thieving Star” which will appear in the next ”Bright Side Of The Road” compilation, so you could say there is a continuation of the group through our children!

++ One last question, if one was to visit Athens, where should one go check out bands? And aside from the Acropolis what should one visit?

Well it’s been a marathon nine days Interview but a lot of fun nonetheless as it was a big trip down memory lane and a huge privilege to be able to share all these moments and thoughts with people across the globe! I’ll be very happy to show you around Athens sights and spots and invite you to taste some of the wonderful dishes my wife Dinah cooks. So till we meet in person it’s been an honour answering your questions  and thank you Roque for everything!

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Listen
The Jaywalkers – (You Can’t Be) Happy all the Time