Thanks so much to Mark Pearson for this thorough interview! Ambition Records was one of the best indiepop labels of the late 80s, one of the ones that actually influenced my taste, and who knows, maybe there wouldn’t be Cloudberry if it wasn’t for his passion for indiepop then. I’m not exaggerating.

++ Hello Mark! Thanks so much for being up for the interview. I reckon you live now in Japan? How come?

Hi Roque! Thank you for asking me. It is a pleasure to answer your questions.

How come Japan? Good Question! After Ambition Records folded I decided to distance myself from the Indie Scene and concentrate on study. Then as luck would have it I got made redundant from my factory job in 1993. The redundancy money got me through university, where I studied Philosophy and English at the University College of Saint Mark and Saint John in Plymouth. I graduated in ’97 and got a post-grad diploma in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. After much thought I decided that I couldn’t teach a language if I didn’t know what it was like to learn a one. So, I went to WHSmiths in Southampton and picked the first book that fell off the shelf. It happened to be Japanese for Beginners. I’d practiced Judo when I was a kid, and I’d picked up a bit of Japanese then, so I didn’t find it so difficult to get into. In fact it was fascinating language with an even more fascinating culture. It made me want to go to Japan. So in August of ’98 I came and made a life for myself here. I’ve got a pretty decent job now and I’m married with two kids. Life could not get much better than this.

++ So let’s go back to the late 80s, what made you start Ambition Records? What was your ambition? 😉

Well, you know, I could say that I wanted fame and fortune. I could say that I wanted to create something worthwhile. I could say that I wanted to make a bit extra cash to buy records. But basically I was an eighteen year old music addict who just wanted to escape the tedium of Factory Life. I repaired machine tools eight hours a day for ten years. It was tedious. Ambition was a way to let of steam. It was something to channel my creative energy into. It was a dream.

++ Why the name Ambition Records?

That was down to my guru and friend, David “Hammy” Hamilton. In 1985 I was eighteen. I used to go to Riverside in Southampton on Friday nights where I became friends with Hammy. We used to go back to his flat in Highfield and play records until six in the morning. Hammy introduced me to a load of second division punk bands from the late seventies, among them Vic Goddard and the Subway Sect. I picked up a copy of their 7” single Ambition from Underground Records in St Mary’s Street and after that it never off my HMV record player. I used to drive my parents nuts with it. I took the name from that.

++ Was Ambition Records the first time you supported, hands-on, the indie pop scene?

It was the natural progression from being a DJ. In 1987 I bought a seventies Dansette twin record deck and a couple of burned out speakers for an unspecified sum from Hammy and started up an indie night at the Labour Club in Southampton that remained popular among the indie kids, psychobillies, goths, and grungers up until 1990. We put on local bands and played music—mostly what I liked and what I thought everyone else ought to like. I played things like the Wedding Present, Pop Will Eat Itself, The Shop Assistants, and the Soup Dragons. Among the bands we put on were Accrington Stanley and The Kinky Boot Beasts. The Kinky Boot Beasts were a daft bunch who played shambling feedback guitars with moments of 13th Floor Elevator genius. When the KBB split Martin became one of our doormen and Richard Stark formed Jane Pow. Jane Pow would later blow Sarah Records’ Field Mice off the stage the night they played the Labour Club (They had a tendency to blow any band off the stage in those days). They told me with their usual arrogance that if I knew what was good for me I would sign them to my label. Signing to Ambition was a verbal agreement, so I told them there and then I would finance a 7” single and we went down to Bristol to record Safe/That’s My Girl.

++ The first release was a 7″ by the incredible Mayfields. I’m actually good friends with Mark and Iain, and I’m kind of curious if you have any anecdotes you’d like to share about them!

I was Djing at the Tinderbox—I think it was probably Loop or Pop Will Eat Itself. Iain might correct me. I was playing “On Tape” by the Pooh Sticks and Iain Mayfield handed me his band’s tape. He’d heard that I was thinking of starting a label and thought I should hear his band. The funny thing was I had heard of the Mayfields before. There were a load of Indie Pop Fanzines around at the time and their demo had been mentioned and reviewed in a number of them. I took the tape home and played it. And played it again. I thought it was fantastic. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I was whisked away by the Mayfields and my adventures as an indie pop guru began.

I went down to see the Mayfields rehearse in a church hall in Salisbury. I was hooked. The songs were so polished and tight. The lyrics were incredibly sharp. I wanted them to be AMB001. The only thing that worried me was that there seemed to be some real high tension among the band members. But I’d read the NME and I’d heard this was pretty usual in bands. Tension can make or break a band. In the end the tension in the Mayfields broke them.

Paul the bassist created the cover for the Girl of My Best Friend single.

I used to go down to Mark’s house in the Cotswolds. It was a lot of fun. Once we recorded a bunch of ultra-twee songs under the name of “The Chocolate Anoraks”. One of them was called Winnie the Pooh’s My Hero. It was too twee but a lot of fun. Unfortunately the tape got “LOST” and Iain got an electric shock off his bass.

I remember the last time I saw the Mayfields before they split up was the infamous Pooh Sticks gig at the Labour Club. We put them on as support but there was a lot of tension in the band and they split up not long after that. (Incidently we recorded the Pooh Sticks gig that night and it was released on Fierce Records under the name “Trade Mark of Quality”—ironically named after me)

++ So how did the band signing process work for Ambition Records? What were the requisites?

I was nineteen years old without a care in the world apart from which record I would buy next and when the NME was coming out. Neither did I particularly care for the business side of it all. As most of the bands would tell you, to sign to Ambition Records went a bit like this:

Band Member: “You’re Gnome aren’t you?
Gnome: “Yep.”
Band Member: “Well, what did you think of us?”
Gnome: “You blew me away.”
Band Member: “So, are you gonna sign us.”
Gnome: “Sure! Let’s record a single next week.”

++ Then you released Jane Pow. They were the only band that released two records with you. Which were your favourite songs from them?

My favorite Jane Pow song was without a doubt “That’s My Girl.” I insisted that was the track they recorded for their single. But Richard insisted they record a new song for the A side. I agreed; I was all for the band having control of their product. The new song turned out to be “Safe” and I loved that too. From Greg’s notorious stumbling drum intro, through the dropout guitars, Vincent’s classic melody, and Richard’s barely audible lyrics, it is a rollicking pop song that never got the polished production it deserved. I will never forget hearing it over the speakers at Abbey Road Studios as it was being cut. The engineer turned to me and said that it was a damn good song. He was not wrong. As for other tracks I liked, well I still get the shivers when I listen to “Warm Room” and I will never forget their live show at the Labour Club with Rupert and Richard smashing their heads on their guitars in time to “Above Your Head”.

++ The Love Buttons record is a bit hard to find! It’s sought after especially by Japanese fans! How many copies wre pressed? And I’m wondering if you can tell me a bit about this band, as there is not much information.

The Lovebuttons famous in Japan??? Unbelievable! They were a bunch of University student lads fronted by a sweet spicy girl called Jo Bisseker. They used to turn up at all the gigs and one day they approached me with a tape by their band The Buttons. It was classic Indie-Pop and I loved it. Unfortunately by the time they arrived on the scene I was beginning to struggle financially. My turntables had been stolen from the Labour Club, I was in debt because of the money I had put up for Girl of My Best Friend, who had split soon after the release of the single and showed little interest in promoting their record. In addition to that the “Bobby Stokes Salutes the Fall of Manchester” compilation album was costing me more to compile than I had anticipated. But Jo and the boys were insistent that they wanted their single to be on Ambition, so I said sure, go ahead and create it and I’ll give it a catalogue number AMB007. They certainly came up with the goods and even changed their name, dispensing of the twee in favor of something that would reflect the sexiness of the band. Looking back I would have liked to have spent more time with them because they had a lot of passion and energy and they were very sexy. We pressed 500 copies and they sold out almost immediately. We should have pressed more, gone on tour and blown the world apart, but I was starting to feel the pinch. My only regret about those times is that I believe I let the LoveButtons down.

++ The other band I’m very curious on your catalogue is Girl of My Best Friend. First, because I like their name, and second because they made some great songs! But again, not much information about them. Anything you’d like to tell me?

Girl of My best Friend got their name from an Elvis song. They came from Northampton. I discovered them on Chris and Neil’s Corrupt Postman tape. Their song stood out above all the others because of the haunting quality of the singer’s voice contrasted against the jangly guitars. It was different. It was exciting. I went down to La Cave in Bristol to see them. They performed a really spooky set. I think they were supporting The Bachelor Pad. I offered to cut a record with them. They asked me if I was kidding. They came to Southampton to do a gig with Jane Pow. They performed a really spooky set. Not long after that I lost touch with them. I think they split up. I like to think they were a ghost who came to haunt me for a few months before disappearing.

++ Ambition 006 is Colette’s Groovy Badge. So, who is Colette?

A lot of Indie Kids used to write to me in those days to buy the records. Colette was one of them. A sixteen year old girl from Lytham St Annes with a passion for music and writing as intense as Jane Pow and the Mayfields put together. I thought if she were a band I would sign her. So I did. It was a true indie-pop moment. Colette went on to study English at Oxford University and now she is a best selling author.

++ What is the story behind the “Garden Gnome” fanzine? Why that name?

Why the name? Hammy again. It was six o’clock in the morning one Sunday in 1985 or 1986. We’d eaten our chips from Big George in Swaythling. We had emptied a case of lager. We had listened to everything from Scott Fitzgerald’s The Paranoid Ward to John the Postman’s Toothache. We had watched the latest episode of Filthy Rich and Catflap. Then Hammy put on Chance in a Million. You know the old show where Simon Callow played a guy who had unbelievable events happening to him all the time called Tom Chance. He was parking his car when he backed over a Garden Gnome. The head came off of the Gnome and Tom Chance said “Gnome Dead”. Hammy looked at me flaked out on his sofa and repeated it. The name stuck.
After that everyone knew me as gnome. So when I was looking for a name for the fanzine and I just knew it had to have a gnome in it so the brand would be instantly recognizable. There were 3 issues of the Garden Gnome Experience, which I wrote myself, and one issue of the Garden Gnome which I co-wrote with Colette. I wanted to create something disposable, and twee, and in the vein of all the other fanzines around at the time.

++ What was the idea behind the “Bobby Stokes Salutes The Fall Of Manchester” compilation?

It was 1976. Saints beat Manchester United with Bobby Stokes famous goal. Saints were thrown into the first division and suddenly we were playing in a much bigger field. Of course it was a field which belonged to the big guys, like Manchester United. Just like the music scene always belonged to the big guys up North. Inspiral Carpets, Happy Mondays, The Stone Roses.

Then in early 1989 just before Madchester and the Stone Roses hit the big time their tour manager called me. He said the band was supposed to play in Salisbury, but the promoter had done a bunk. Could the Stone Roses play at the Labour Club on Wednesday night? I said, “The Stone Roses? Who are they?” He told me they were The Next Big Thing. Of course all the bands said that. I said they wouldn’t pull in much of a crowd on a Wednesday night and put the phone down. The following week the NME came through the door and who was on the cover but the Stone Bloody Roses. I could have kicked myself.
Bobby Stokes Salutes the Fall of Manchester was conceived as an ironic tribute to that moment. That was my big “Fall”, but I still remembered the time when Bobby stokes scored that famous goal.
I decided to invite bands that I respected from all over to contribute to Bobby Stokes. I sent them all a small amount of cash to work with. I told them it didn’t have to be too polished. It was supposed to be in the spirit of second division punk, (the punk that Hammy had introduced me to in his flat in Swaythling in 1985) the underdogs of pop paying tribute to the overlords. I loved the Madchester movement with a passion and I wanted to be in on it at all costs. When the songs started coming back I was stunned at the quality and what a mixed bag I had. Strawberry Story did a twee version of Made of Stone, The Cudgels carbon-copied What Do I Get? I even managed to get a track from Thrilled Skinny! But by far the best track on the compilation was Mad Cyril by Jane Pow. They made that song their own.

Unfortunately, Bobby Stokes never made it to vinyl, which I guess was also with the spirit of the times. I made about two hundred cassettes and they were sent out all over the world. I even had a Japanese guy turn up on my doorstep asking for one. He said he’d travelled to England to collect rare records and tapes. Of course I let him have it free of charge.

++ You mostly released bands from Southampton, am I right? Not counting the Bobby Stokes compilation, which was the band lived farther away from you that you released? Did you get to see all the bands you put records out live?

Strawberry Story were from Northallerton. They travelled to Southampton to do a gig at the Labour Club. A band called Aspidistra covered James’ Come Home. They were a bunch of nice friendly chaps from Scotland. And if I remember correctly, Pure were from Glasgow. I got to know them through the Fanzine network.

++ Which other bands from the period would you have loved to release? Was there any band that was Southampton “best kept secret” that never got to be released?

Oh, Yes! I would have loved to have gone back in time and snapped up the Kinky Boot Beasts before they disseminated into Jane Pow. They were funny, trashy, exciting, and everso young. I often tried to get Richard to reform them for a mini-album that was to be called “Bowl Haircuts and Pointy Boots!” But I could never convince him. And then there was the Chocolate Anoraks…

++ So when and why did you call it a day?

It was the day after I pressed 500 EVOL singles and EVOL told me they had decided to split up, thank you very much. I managed to sell about fifty copies of the single. I still boxes of them in my parent’s attic in Southampton—if they haven’t been trashed by now.

++ Do you still follow indie pop? If so, what are your latest crushes?
Indie Pop will always have a place in my heart, Roque. I am a little out of touch these days, though. (I listen to a lot of podcasts about writing. I write science fiction and fantasy stories that are published in small press magazines you can find links to some of the stories at markleepearson.blogspot.com .) The songs on my ipod are all about ten years old. Right now I am listening to Belle and Sebastian’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress. I never gave up on the Wedding Present; I still think George Best is the greatest album ever recorded. I also listen to Sleeper a lot—especially Smart and The It Girl, and I have just read Different For Girls by Louise Wener.

++ Being in Japan, I’m quite curious, what are your favourite dishes there?

The food here is great! Much more of a variety than can be found in the UK. Where do I start? おにぎり、 カレーライス、豚カツ、鯖味噌、秋刀魚、牛丼。。。the list is endless. Just don’t get me on the subject of whale. Someone thought it funny to order in a restaurant without being honest about what it was. When I found out the truth, that someone was soon crossed off my New Years’ card List, I can tell you. And Japanese beer is by far the most refreshing beer in the world. Stop by some time and we’ll share an Asahi Super Dry.

++ Let’s wrap the interview here, anything else you’d like to add?

If you want to be successful at any level of the game you have to work hard to improve yourself. You have to get out there and brand yourself, find out what is different, special about you and shout it from the rooftops. If you are in a band and you are not out there promoting your own stuff, playing the gigs, spreading the word about your product, then you are doing yourselves a disservice. Don’t leave it all to the labels and publishers. Nobody is going to do it for you. Nowadays, nobody is going to come knocking on your door to ask if you have a record they can buy. You can have all the talent in the world, and you could have written the most amazing and original songs ever, but if you don’t do something for yourself, then you ain’t worth a thing. There are so many opportunities around now to be creative and get known. The internet is a wonderful thing. People say that the internet is killing music. I disagree. It is providing us a space in which anyone can be successful if they work hard at it. Success is not limited to the bands on the big labels any more; success if for the ones who work the hardest. Now is the best time to form a band. Now is the best time to start a label. Even if you come away with nothing but an empty pocket at least you can say you tried. And even if you fail, there might be someone in twenty years down the line who will come back and say, what you did back then was pretty cool, you know. Now wouldn’t that be something?

All the best with Cloudberry Records, Roque. It was a pleasure talking with you.


The Mayfields – World of Your Own
(From Ambition 001)


It was only the start of Anders winning streak.

Midday at the Hasenheide park in Berlin at a mini golf course that didn’t stock Diet Coke. Sunny day, thirsty me, and contrary to popular belief, they didn’t have beer either. Just regular Coke. We decided to divide in two groups, one would start from the first hole, the second from the last, eventually meeting up at the middle, or so we thought. Our group was taller, older, and probably better looking. We were four and they were five. The competition was on, indiepop camaraderie was off.

I can’t stop stressing that the mini golf course was terrible. Sounds like an excuse to why I came in last, but let me stick to the facts. First of all, this mini golf is an eternite course. I’m used to the felt courses, where there is some sort of friction between the ball and the surface. Here the ball would just go so fast, bounce so fast, as it was pinball. Secondly, the areas around the hole were warped. So accuracy wasn’t really needed to win. Many times you’d bounce the ball off the sides, and suddenly by magic, the ball would keep rolling and fall into the hole. Luck was very much needed to win. Nevermind talent. No wonder why the world record  on one round of minigolf of 18 strokes on 18 holes has been achieved only on eternite. More than a thousand players have officially achieved this score. On other playing systems a perfect round of 18 holes-in-one is extremely rare, and has never been scored in an official tournament.

In any case, I achieved some hole-in-ones, I missed many shots, shot my ball out of bounds, threw the towel, and challenged my opponents. Around 70 hits for an 18 hole course. Gone were the days that at Boomers in Fort Lauderdale I would smash my opponents on the felt course. I was last now. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t the “home” team, but the “away” team. I felt the pressure of the opposing team, the different ground, the climate, the enraged atmosphere of the German hooligans spitting hefe beer, the lack of diet coke, the long commute from my town to theirs, or any of all the other mathematical possibilities that can be thought of. On the other hand, Anders, already settled in Berlin for many months, cruised the mini golf course. Showing skill and fortune, and a clinical knowledge of each hole, he finished first, just over 40 hits.

Second came Kat, third came Dirk. The other team was slower than us, they must have spent 30 more minutes to finish the course. When they did we averaged our scores, and our team was the victorious one. But that was just a consolation prize for me. I was expecting to win.

It did open our appetite though, and half of us, the winning team went to a German restaurant to savor the delicacies of schnitzels, sausages and roasted kartoffel. The rest, the losing team, faithful to their destiny, just went for plain bagels.

Later that day Indie Pop Days festival was raising it’s curtain and Anders was going to win it all in table football.


Ultrasport – Ballgames


Thanks so much to Mathias Hill for the great interview! You can check more about Die Busfahrer on their myspace. Now time to discover one of the strangest and most creative bands from the late 80s and early 90s in Germany.

++ Tell us a bit of the early days. Who were Die Busfahrer? How and when did you start a band? How did you all knew each other?

Die Busfahrer were, in the very beginning, two friends, me (Mathias Hill – voc. and melodica) and Tobias Usula (voc.), living in a small town called Bad Soden-Salmünster, in Hessen/Germany. We were friends from kindergarden age on and in 1986, at the age of 14, we decided to start a band. we called the band “DIE PENTECHOS” and as we didn’t have any musical basis at all, it was quite terrible.

So in early 1987 we asked Magnus G. Schmerfeld, a guy we just got to know, if he would like to play the Casiotone. He did. So we recorded our first proper song “Mofa fahrn”. After a while, it got played on the radio by our hero Klaus Walter – he is some kind of a hessian John Peel. He compared our music to Andreas Dorau and so we got into listening to his stuff as well as (a bit later) Die Merricks. And we loved it.

Meanwhile, in 1988 we found a friend from school as a guitarrist, Volker Hagemann, but after putting together a Pentechos tape with approx. 12 songs, we dissolved the band. The Pentechos were just home recording with a cassette recorder, never playing a single gig, basically just a reason to tell school mates that “we’re in a band”…

We didn’t manage to get a good reputation because we weren’t punk rock, we didn’t have a drum set or electric guitars, and i guess Magnus, who is a real good keyboarder, was a bit pissed off that his friends were mocking about him – being a Pentecho wasn’t really cool.

But I insisted to re-form the band with the same members, but a different name: DIE BUSFAHRER. the plan was: we wanted to record a tape of the busfahrer without any information about the band, so people would ask themselves: “Who are these cool guys..?”

Magnus said: “Okay, i’m in, but only if we don’t play any live gigs”. We wrote some songs like “LKW Führerschein” (“truck driving license”), “Rasenmähn” (lawn mowing) and “Cowboy Horst” and we didn’t play live until 1990.

Then came Rocko Schamoni, a nice guy from Hamburg, and asked us to take part in his tour. He was on the edge of becoming famous at that time, he had a major record deal and his album was produced by Bela B. of “Die Ärzte”, one of our favourite bands of all time!

So we played our very first gig at Batschkapp/Frankfurt in front of 500 people. Schamoni did some kind of a casting show with his support bands, and as we were quite drunk and quite charming, we won the hearts of the audience. I guess this evening was the real birth of DIE BUSFAHRER.

++ Why did you call the band The Bus Drivers?

Well, that’s easy: Didn’t you know that this was the profession of George Harrison’s father?

++ Where does the unique style of Die Busfahrer comes from? I hear some influence from maybe Die Dorau und Die Marinas? Could that be? What else was an influence to your music?

As told above, we were compared to Dorau before we really got to know his music. Of course, we knew his song “Fred vom Jupiter” because it was a massive hit (to this day, i guess almost every pop interested person in germany knows this song), but we weren’t aware of how he carried on. After being compared with him, i bought his early records and we all really liked it.

But in the beginning, we were really heavily influenced by Die Ärzte (the doctors), some kind of a fun punk/pop band with a unique sound, but to be honest: I guess you won’t hear similarities to the bus driver sound.

But we got in touch quite early with Frischluft Tonträger, a nice P!O!P!-label from Friedberg and we managed Krischan, the label manager. So the bands from this label, Honigritter, Fahrraddiebe, Der Wind in den Weiden and first of all Die Merricks became a major influence for us.

To this day, the only Frischluft long playing album (“Mit Sonnenschirmen fingen wir den Blütenzauber”) and the first two Merricks album have some kind of a holy status for us.

++ You come from a small town in Hessen, was that some kind of handicap to make your band more known? Was it easy for you to get gigs around?

It definitely was. But even if we would have been from Hamburg (were most of the really influential stuff came from in those days), we wouldn’t have made our way as we were too naive in those days. But we never complained, we made friends with Marc Liebscher from Blickpunkt Pop, with The Merricks, with I,Ludicrous, one of our favourite bands from England, and so we managed to play in Munich, Hamburg, London, Reading.

++ You toured London and Reading! How did you end up going to England? How was this experience? How different was the crowd compared to the one in Germany? Any anecdotes you can share ?! 😀

Lots of anecdotes – I was a pen pal to Will Hung from I,Ludicrous since 1988. I’ve heard of them via Klaus Walter, he played quite a few of their songs, and they’ve also been favorites of John Peel. After a while, in 1992, I decided that they needed to do a tour in Germany, So I organised a little tour for them, it was a bit chaotic, but everyone who saw it still talks about it today.

And so Will thought that the bus drivers should play in England. He put together the two gigs (in 1993 or 94?) and we drove to England with an old VW van. As we slept in the van, we didn’t need a hotel. Especially the gig in London was very good as we’ve spent a wild evening with the opening band, they were called Psychopussy and they were really nice and funny people.

The crowds really liked our stuff, especially as it was quite exotic for them that we were singing in german. (BTW: Will wrote a review of the gig, it can be found in the BUSFAHRERSTORY)

++ You released two EPs: “im Elektroland” and “in der Walpurgisnacht”! What do you remember from the recording sessions?

We recorded the first EP live on one sunday afternoon in 1991 in my bedroom. In “LKW-Führerschein” you can hear a live crowd roaring during the keyboard solo. This was a crowd we recorded on tape after a busfahrer gig and we just turned up the stereo during the solo, that’s all. No mixing, no overdubs.

(On a second sunday afternoon, we glued the covers together)

“Walpurgisnacht” was recorded by Thilo Päch/Tapp Production in a small but proper 8 track studio in Schlüchtern. The studio was above some kind of a farm and during the recordings a little girl came in and asked about the cars in the backyard – we didn’t quite know what she wanted until it turned out that one of the horses had slid and fell on Tobias’ car. Quite weird…

Thilo is still a good friend of ours and he recorded two albums of Magnus’ and my new band, Rockformation Diskokugel, which is still going –> www.rockformation-diskokugel.de www.myspace.com/rockfo

++ Which is your favourite Die Busfahrer song and why? Are there any more recordings from Die Busfahrer that are still unreleased?

I still like most of the songs. They have a certain innocence and naivity to them and that’s what i like about them.

Some of the unreleased songs:

“Mofa fahrn” – Our first song, recorded on tape and played on the radio – but we never managed to get a proper studio recording and we never played it live- perhaps i should make an MP3 of it.

“Rasenmähn” – Always a great live favorite, we did a studio version and it can be found on a tape compilation on Steinpilz Tonträger.

“Statist bei Stefan Derrick” – A song about being a bit part actor in the german crime TV series “Derrick”. We recorded it in the very last days of Die Busfahrer and the busfahrer version is still unreleased. But we re-recorded it with ROCKFORMATION DISKOKUGEL and it can be found on our first album (“La Bola Privada”, Apricot Records / Blickpunkt Pop).

“Primitive Busfahrer” – A cover version of the Felt song “Primitive Painters” with german lyrics about the band, some kind of a “Ballad of the Busdrivers”… Magnus and me have always been huge Felt fans and there’s even a Busfahrer version of “Voyage to Illumination”. This one (Primitive B.) is the last song the bus drivers ever recorded. It can be found on our myspace-site.

(Unfortunately, we never heard from Lawrence, I guess he doesn’t have an e-mail-account..)

++ These two EPs were released on the Eiswürfel Tonträger label. It was your own label, right? How was the experience of running a label? What’s the complete catalogue? I haven’t found much info about it online!

Let me think about it:


Die Busfahrer – Im Elektroland
7″, Eiswürfel Tonträger (1991), 500 copies


· Cowboy horst

· Alles klar

· Elektroland

· Lkw-führerschein

Some of the records have silly writings on the cover-inside.


wegweiser durch’s eiswürfelland
c-60-cassette, 20 tracks, eiswürfel tonträger (1992), lots of copies

labelsampler feat. die merricks, schade schokolade, busfahrern, blinzelbeeren, prinz eugen, im zerrspiegel des mutantenzirkus, married minds, rosecoloured pinholeburns, sofa head, dancing chromosomes, kitchen cynics,…

As far as i know all the songs are exclusive. the song “grundsuppe” by prinz eugen ist censored.
There are two different versions of the tape with two different covers and two different kitchen cynics songs on them.


i, ludicrous – we stand around
7″ep, eiswürfel tonträger (collaboration with roman carbage vinyl) (1992), 660 copies (and 6 testpressings)


· We stand around

· Quite extraordinary (live)

· Oh really

· Spock’s brain (live)

Football anthem which was voted “gloomy but optimistic single of the week” by new order in the n.m.e. in 1992.


Married Minds – Bewahret einander vor herzeleid
7″ ep, Eiswürfel Tonträger (1993), 550 copies.


· Toysoldier song

· Oedipus rex

· Kurz ist die zeit

· Gefall’ner engel

· Come again and we will see

Magnus’ solo project, quite dark , but very nice. There are two different versions with two different backcovers. this was the last time christian hauke designed the labels.


Friends Ahoj – Grandstand Girls
one-sided 7″, Eiswürfel Tonträger (1993), 550 copies.


· Grandstand Girls

· Have you seen that Girl?

Some of the records include a stamp out of g. gottschling’s collection and a pack of ahoj-brause. Some kind of an off-shoot from the Merricks, with Günter Gottschling singing, quite charming, very 60s-pop.


Die Busfahrer – In Der Walpurgisnacht
7″, Eiswürfel Tonträger (1994), 550 copies.


· Beliebt

· Walpurgisnacht

· Roy Black (Popstars in der Arbeitswelt, teil 1)

· Ein mann ist keine maus.

Some of the record labels have pictures of the band members sticked on them.


Various – Die Schönste Platte der Welt
cd, 19 tracks, Eiswürfel Tonträger (1994), 1000 copies. Our only CD; a compilation with Eiswürfel-related bands covering each other; with Merricks, Friends Ahoj, Schade Schokolade, Die Busfahrer, Kitchen Cynics and many more


· Schade Schokolade – Sommerlied

· I, Ludicrous – Kick into his face

· Die Busfahrer – Liebe aus der dose

· Sirken Sikora – Die krawatte. konzert für den wellenbahnhof. satz iv (frech, geschwind!)

· Married Minds – Die ersten tage des frühlings

· Die Merricks – Johnny der held

· Schade Schokolade – Tomatensuppe

· Die Moosblüten – Allein zuhaus, so ist das leben

· Sirken Sikora – Partymädchen

· I, Ludicrous – Hats off to Eldorado

· Friends Ahoj – We Might be Giants

· Kitchen Cynics – feel the hope

· Der Profi – Mona Lisa in 3-d

· Married Minds – Mistakes

· Friends Ahoj – The man who sold Manhattan (for a dime)

· Der Profi – Cheer up

· Die Busfahrer – der getarnte macho

· Die Merricks – Brian, bitte bahai

· Kitchen Cynics – It’s your own fault if you’re feeling lonely


Die Busfahrer – in: absolut klassische meisterwerke?
cd-r, cassette, eiswürfel tonträger (forthcoming, 200?). Still Unreleased.

best-of-Busfahrer, featuring live and cellar versions of the classic single tracks as well as unreleased gems such as “Rasenmähn” or “Hagemann”. If their lawyers don’t do anything about it, it will also feature guest appearances of The Merricks, I,Ludicrous and Klaus Walter.

++ What was the biggest highlight?

The whole time being in the band was a highlight!

++ Why and when did you call it a day? You did reunite after for some gigs, right? How was that experience?

We did reunite for a one off in 1997 which was also the first gig of Rockformation Diskokugel. Very strange.

And then we played on a festival in our hometown in 2006 which was very nice.

++ What are Die Busfahrer members doing nowadays?

We all have proper jobs.

Hagemann is a business man, Tobias is a craftsman, Magnus is a music teacher and me, I’m a school teacher.

And then there is Kick, a punk rocker who replaced Hagemann on guitar in 1991. He’s still a punk rocker.

++ Now just out of curiosity, what’s the typical dish of your area? and your favourite beer? and…. what team would you like to win Bundesliga next year?

dish 1 – Handkäs mit Musik – hard to explain, vegetarian, cheese, very strong.

dish 2 – Rippche mit Kraut – pork with sauerkraut, very meaty, very strong.

beer – Augustiner hell

Bundesliga – I don’t have a special bundesliga team but I’m always happy it any other team but Bayern München manages to become champion.

++ Anything else you’d like to add?

Yes, I’d like to send you some photographs of the band members, as soon as i found them.!


Die Busfahrer – Roy Black


The green buses of Malmö are coming through washed by a soft drizzle. The cobbled streets and the falling autumn leaves breeze a shade of melancholy in me. The gray skies, the wet grass and the wet sand paths in the park, and the brown brick buildings around Kyrkogatan have definitely made me feel to be in the right place. The weather reminds me of my hometown. Anna plays me Los Saicos in her little lovely flat, reminiscing that day when we sang their songs in a playground in Chinatown, NYC. I just arrived to the city of diversity, meetings and possibilities, crossing the Oresund sound. I could have done it faster if I crossed swimming. Delays in Copenhagen. We walked to her place and made the same old joke about “peruker” stores: “oh! look, a Peruvian store!”

Anna smokes a cigarette first. Then we can plan. I won’t be able to make it for dinner at Debaser Malmö. I’ve been invited by Daniel to DJ there at his So Tough So Cute club. Anna plans going for a kebab. There is a kebab joint in Amiralsgatan. The clerk is not very friendly or perhaps he doesn’t speak any English at all. I thought all Swedes did. The fries are very good though and that makes up for his behavior. They have some special seasoning. The kebab is alright, I ordered schwarma kebab with tahini sauce, but it seems tahini is not known in Malmö. To drink, a diet coke, or a cola light, as it’s called here.

The walk to Debaser takes around ten minutes. We pass by Folketspark and a Kommun store. I will visit these two places the next day. From outside Debaser looks like a house, a regular one story house. Inside it is a really nice club. Very spacious, which means not that friendly to indiepop, unless, you are Camera Obscura or some other band that has crossed the line between being and indiepop band and making indiepop music for the masses. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Just keep your values right.

There are two bands playing tonight too. The support band is from Denmark and they play some catchy pop punk. I don’t know the headliner, but it’s American, so I assume it is a hipster band. The singer has a peculiar haircut. I don’t get to see much of any.

Most of the time at Debaser I spend it outside, in a nice biergarden/patio. There are a couple of egg ball chairs around. You can see some couples giving them a very good use. There are some other cleaner sofas around. Some tables, some chairs, and a very friendly atmosphere. I’m sitting there with Albulenë, Anna and Maja. I talk to them in my broken Swedish. I’m told I speak like a Finnish. “Jag är finsk och jag äter fisk” I answer. They laugh.

I meet Toby from Girl Alliance. What a nice guy he is. I tell him he has to play London Popfest, or Indietracks. I ask him about the gig he did in Hamburg, on the Heidi boat. He says he is working in new songs. I look very much forward to them.

Jennifer is taking care of the DJ deck. She keeps playing good stuff. Sometimes Daniel comes in and plays some sixties songs. The crowd seems more pleased with sixties than with indiepop. Clearly there needs to be a revolution in Malmö. I could give it a shot. I’d love to give it a shot. I play perhaps 4 or 5 songs. At this moment I don’t remember what I played.

My friend Hanna arrives too. She is the sweetest, she’s made me the nicest mix CD ever. I don’t receive many of them. When I ask for one, people love answering a very polite: “but you’ll know everything I’ll put on it”. That is not true at all. See, Hanna put me some Robyn for example. It’s fantastic!

I also see Rebecca sipping some fruity liquor. She tells us all about her latest flame. She is so passionate about it, and she is looking forward to him cooking pasta on Sunday for her. Hope it went well. She keeps going on that he was raised catholic.

There’s a very young Rebecka in the crowd too. Her god is Woody Allen. She impresses me immediately by talking to me about Mario Vargas Llosa, Peru’s most known writer and intellectual. She has read “La Casa Verde” and “La Tía Julia y el Escribidor”. Then we talk about movies. And she knows and likes Whit Stillman’s work. She runs into the dancefloor when “Lola” starts playing.

At 3am we decide to go home. We are invited to an after-party but I prefer resting to be fresh the next day and go sightseeing. I wanted to walk with her home, but she prefers going to the after-party. It is too late to retract, Rebecca has given away the three umbrellas she had.

We walked fast down the pouring rain. Brainy Rebecka, Sam and me end up in a telephone booth. She gives me directions on how to get to where I’m crashing the night. I really didn’t need it. I know this town by heart. It’s just the beginning.


Girl Alliance – Straight to my heart (Så Tuff Så Söt)


Thanks so much to Johnny Busby for the interview! The Clergy were a fab guitar pop band from Rockhampton, Australia. Also I would love to thank Hugh Owens from the Summer Cats who introduced me and found the “Pieces” 7″ for me 🙂 You can check Johnny’s new band Halfway on their website, myspace and even on facebook!

++ Hello Johnny! Thanks so much for being up for an interview of your old band but I know you have a band going on right now called Halfway, care to tell me a bit about it?

It’s an 8pce rock band with some trad/country elements like pedal steel, banjo etc. We’ve made 3LPs to date & the most recent was produced by Robert Forster.

++ Okay let’s go back in time now. Were you involved in any bands before The Clergy? What were you doing just before starting the band?

No, The Clergy was my first band. Started it after I left school. I was 17 with my sister & a couple of friends. Based in Rockhampton, Central Queensland.

++ How did the band start? How did you all knew each other? How was the recruiting process?

Just boredom really. We were getting into good music through mail order catalogues like Au-Go-Go & we just got it going. I wasn’t sure what to do after school. None of us could really play. So we just learnt to play & write songs at the same time. It was a group effort between myself, Steve Sutherland & Mick Baker & my sister Cherri Busby. I met Steve just through having similar tastes in music.

++ Why the name The Clergy?

Not sure really. Classic bad first band name? I think we thought it fit the band well & would instantly make us different to the other bands in Rocky. We didn’t want to be mistaken for a cover band & the name did that job very well.

++ There were many great pop bands in Australia during the late 80s, did you have any favourites? What influenced you into making guitar pop music and say, not metal or punk?

The Stems, The Hummingbirds, The Go-Betweens, The Mad Turks, The Lime Spiders, The Triffids, loved them all & I still do. I love melody & song craft so punk never appealed to me that much. Though I think there is a lot of punk rock in the bands I’ve mentioned. I like the attitude but I like songs to have melody, most local punk bands were just about noise. I love Radio Birdman, the Stooges, the Saints & Husker Du but they all have melody on their side.

++ I have always wondered about this, how big, how important, is the influence of The Go-Betweens in Australian guitar pop bands? Do you think the influence is bigger now or was bigger before, in the 80s? And by the way, do you have a favourite? Grant McLennan or Robert Forster?

Well they still have a huge influence on us now, even after all this time. I live in Brisbane & they have just had a bridge named after them! They are becoming part of popular culture. It’s an amazing effort for such incredible outsiders. They are a national treasure.

I only knew Grant briefly before he passed away. Chris Dale & I were fortunate enough to win the Grant Mclennan Fellowship in 2008. Which is an award for songwriting chosen by the ex Go-Betweens members. Which gave us the opportunity to meet Grants family & get to know the band. Since then we’ve also worked with Robert on our own record. They are/were both really intelligent & very generous people.

++ I only have the Pieces/Sebastian 7″ which I enjoy a  lot. I was wondering if you could tell me what each song is about? Maybe Sebastian was based in a real character?

Pieces was an early attempt for me at writing a song just right off the top of your head. A few cool parts & just feel really. No real focus or purpose. Just letting the song write its self.

Sebastian is based around the story of St. Sebastion. The guy that the Romans couldn’t kill.

++ Then you also released a 7″ single for the song Rosethorn. You were telling me it did very well in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. Was it easy then to distribute and promote your records? Who were the most enthusiastic with your releases?

Rosethorn was our first 7”single. It was all DIY. Send the 7” in the post or take a trip to bris & drop the records off at Rockinghorse, Kent & Skinnys (local indie stores at the time). 4ZZZ in Brisbane were really great to us back then as well.

++ And also you released an album that came out only on tape. I did notice that a lot of Australian bands released their stuff on tape. Do you have a clue why was that? Can you tell me a bit about this album? Like what was the tracklist and how many copies were made? If there was any changes in the lineup? etc?

There were only a couple of pressing plants & it was very expensive to get a 12” pressed. So a lot of bands opted for tape. In hindsight it’s a regret but we’ve just had the new Halfway LP released in vinyl so that’s made up for it a little.
We did 250 tapes all up. They sold out pretty quick.

++ What about gigs? Did you gig a lot? Which were your favourite gigs overall?

We played under my house. $2 to get up the driveway 3 bands & free cask wine.
As for actual venues… We played mostly at a pub in rocky called The Grosvenor & a place called The Blue Stein.

++ What are your favourite moments of The Clergy? You can share any anecdotes 🙂

Probably just playing shows under the house were the best times we had. It was always a good mix of bands, lots of fun, punk bands country bands whatever really. Cops dropping in over noise complaints. That sort of thing.
Also some road trips to stock our records in Brisbane were cool as well. We were 650km from the capital, so it was a big effort.

++ I know there was a big scene of guitar pop in Perth during those times and a  bit in Melbourne. How was the scene in Brisbane? What were the venues you used to like? And what about other like-minded bands?

The Clergy never played Brisbane. Just Rocky. There were plenty of great bands around though. The Madmen from Townsville were a real stand out.

++ And talking about Brisbane, what’s the best it has to offer to visitors?

Brisbane has The Troubadour in Fortitude Valley. It’s the best live venue in the country. Only holds about 200 but it looks great & its run by great people. Also the Junk Bar in Ashgrove. GOMA, the gallery of modern art in Brisbane is brilliant. Rockinghorse Records in the city in an institution.

++ So why and when did  you decide to call it a day? What did you all do after?

Steve moved over seas to London & things eventually fell apart. Mick Baker left eventually as well. I started another band called St Jude with my sister Cherri.
Unfortunately Cherri was tragically killed in a car accident in 94. I left for Brisbane & met up again with some other Rocky friends Chris Dale & Elwin Hawtin. We kept going with St Jude for a while & eventually got Halfway together in 2000.
Steve Sutherland & I are still good friends. We work together in north Brisbane.
Haven’t seen Mick in years but the last time I saw him he was living in Brisbane as well. But we’ve lost contact.

++ And one last question, what does John Busby likes to do when he is not making music?

Hanging out with my wife Shannon at our apartment in Brisbane. Reading, watching St. George play rugby league, listening to music, particularly vinyl, watching old tapes of Roberto Duran.

++ Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for the interview. Been a while since I’ve talked about this stuff. It was a good time.
Cheers John


The Clergy – Pieces