Thanks again to Richard Farnell for another interview. After being part of The Suncharms in Sheffield, Richard moved to Manchester and eventually joined a band that will become the great Screen Prints. If you’ve never head about them, try to grab the “Perfect City” compilation as it will be a great introduction! While they were around they released on great labels like Earworm or Motorway and left behind a legacy of 20+ songs that I still listen often at home. You can listen to more stuff on their myspace too! Great stuff!
++ I’ve just put on the “Perfect City” compilation. 20 songs on it. But I know from your Myspace that there were more songs. Why weren’t they included here?
The fact was that those tracks were recorded afterwards…the Perfect City compilation was more of a summing up of where we were up to at the time and compiled various singles into one convenient package. The intention was then to keep recording songs for further releases.
++ So you were only around for only 3 years according to this CD? From 98 to 2000?
The use of ‘1998-2000’ in the title of the compilation was in some ways misleading because it implies that the band only existed for that time but in truth we never really broke up – in fact Justin and Declan were recording some basic tracks last weekend!. Sadly fewer songs after 2000 were actually released so 98-2000 was the most prolific period for actual physical releases.
++ How did the band start? How did you all know each other?
Declan and Justin were school friends in Derby who then moved up to Manchester to study psychiatric nursing. I recall them saying they played together in bands in Derby for a while but I can’t recall any names – I think they just played a handful of gigs and then moved on.
At work I noticed an advert asking for band members to join an as yet un-named group influenced by The Pastels, Orange Juice, The Go-Betweens , Teenage Fanclub etc. Given that my last band had split up I decided to give music another go and called the phone number. We then met up at the trainee nurses accommodation which was part of Trafford General Hospital and it was quite surreal walking around hospital grounds with a bass guitar!. They had recorded quite a lot of tracks over a couple of years that formed the bulk of a demo tape, which was given to me at our first rehearsal together. I was really impressed with the quality of the songs and the production was great considering it was all done on a four-track.
Declan and Justin are natural songwriters and they both have the knack of coming up with an idea for a song from a simple idea or hummed melody and then working out guitar parts, vocal harmonies or even orchestral parts.
Screen Prints has never been a ‘band’ in the normal sense – rehearsals, gigs etc but was always more of a D.I.Y studio project focusing on writing and recording songs and using a wide variety of instruments with an ever changing line up of guest musicians or enthusiastic friends.
++ By now you were not in Sheffield anymore but in Manchester. How do you like it there? Better than Sheffield? Were there any other exciting bands in Manchester at the time?
Manchester has been good to me but Sheffield will always feel like home – Manchester has a ‘harder’ feel than Sheffield which is a much more friendly city. Manchester sometimes has that cocky arrogance you might associate with London or New York…however that’s obviously not true of everyone – there’s good and bad in every town. There weren’t many exciting bands in Manchester back then – the big news at the time I suppose was the enormous success of Oasis but that didn’t really excite me much.
++ Oh! And are you a United or a City fan?
I completely and utterly hate football but if I was forced at gunpoint to support a team it would be Sheffield UTD.
++ Let me get back on track! Why the name Screen Prints? Do any of you do screen printing actually?
I did some screen-printing back in art college but that’s just coincidence. We decided upon the name after going through long lists of suggestions and it was one we all liked the sound of.
++ And what about influences? I know you loved C86 kind of stuff, but what about the rest of the band? Was it easy to agree with them?
We generally liked the same sort of stuff – indie mostly – but Declan was also keen on Northern Soul, Psych-folk and 60’s harmony pop and some electronica. Justin liked this stuff too but was equally enthusiastic about food as you can hear in many of his lyrics!
++ How did the creative process work for you all? I see on the liner notes that there was a core band, but there also a lot of other musicians collaborating.
After a while we felt we needed another guitarist so brought in Al who was already a good friend and had been coming to rehearsals and going to the pub with us. In fact pretty much all the later band meetings/rehearsals would end up in the pub and it’s noticeable that the amount of actual finished product began to decline around this time! We would use friends and girlfriends to contribute in doing handclaps, percussion, backing vocals etc and when the CD was pressed they all got a credit.
++ I find very funny that comment on your Myspace were they say that you butchered Donovan’s “Celeste”. How do you feel about that? And how come did you end up on that tribute album?
Well we though it was funny which is why we posted it on the Myspace page.
He does have a point though! – it’s not our best effort but as big Donovan fans we wanted to contribute to the compilation. I just loved his phrase – ‘’my shit list of bands to avoid’’- genius! Darla records had simply emailed and asked if we wanted to be involved so we went for it.
++ Prior to the compilation CD all of your releases were on vinyl. Of course I have to ask, which format do you prefer? And why?
I prefer vinyl on the whole but to be honest I probably play more on CD
++ Most of your releases were on Earworm Records, a label that was eclectic and all but deserves more recognition I’d say, how did you end up signing with them?
Someone Al knew called Dave Skinner was a friend of Dominic at Earworm and he played him an early demo. It seems he was suitably impressed so he got in touch to arrange releasing some singles.
++ One of your 7″s, “Her Name I Don’t Remember”, is one of my favourite songs of yours. Care to tell me the story behind it?
This is a Justin scenario! – Him and Declan many years before had been out in Derby and met a red headed Irish girl whom Justin took a shine to. In the taxi back home Justin swapped details with the girl and some time later sent her a mix tape – the classic courtship ritual of the lovesick indie kid!.
Unfortunately Justin then heard she had a fiance who had promptly glassed some poor bloke-also called Justin-in a local nightclub!
At the time I’m sure he was upset but as the song suggests – he couldn’t even remember her name!. Lucky escape if you ask me.
++ Another 7″ came out but this time on Track & Field Records: “Same Time Next Year”. I really love the B side on this one, “Missed”. How did you end up releasing with them? How was your relationship with them? They become quite big after, right?
Once again Track and Field had heard a demo and got in touch and we were always happy to say yes if it meant releasing another 7” single. I too am a fan of ‘’Missed’’ and it possibly has the most painfully loud cymbal crash of any record I can think of! – listen with caution if on headphones!
++ Then there was the 7″ on one of my favourite labels, Motorway Records from Japan. How did you end up releasing a record so far away?
The Motorway Records connection came through Dominic Earworm so I guess it was mostly arranged by him.
++ Also who is Tony Race from the song “Ballad of Tony Race”? Is it based on a real person?
Tony Race was Felt’s first drummer and was sacked by Lawrence for ‘having curly hair’. Many years later I had the good fortune to meet my musical hero Lawrence and I told him about our track and asked him if this story was true – he said he only hired him in the first place because he looked like Billy Ficca of Television but on second thoughts decided he looked more like Kevin Keegan!..his days were numbered.
We felt that the song had a similar feel to some of the Felt instrumentals so we called the song after this obscure tale as a nod to one of our favourite bands.
++ Then a 10″! How cool is that. You were only missing a 12″ release, huh? But maybe you didn’t consider yourselves an album band? Do you think there are any advantages in releasing in “smaller” formats?
It would have been great to release a 12” or an album but we slowed down in productivity so much over the last few years that it might be a long time coming! I wouldn’t say there’s an advantage to releasing in smaller formats but when in a band you tend to want to release as many things as possible whenever the opportunity arises.
++ And then back to the compilation CD. Why do it that soon? Most bands wait like 10, 20 years to put all their stuff together? Nothing wrong with it, just curious 🙂
We thought it would be good to look back at the stuff we’d recorded and put it all together before moving on to other things. Maybe we had in mind that it was easier for fans to get hold of older stuff on a CD compilation instead of tracking down individual singles. Something like The Smiths ‘Hatful Of Hollow’ or The Wedding Present’s ‘Tommy’ compilations.
++ So, 2 London labels, and 1 Chiba (Japan) label, no Manchester labels interested in releasing your stuff?
I don’t recall any Manchester labels sniffing around but there was not really a healthy indie scene here at the time.
++ What about gigs? Did you play a lot live? How were your gigs by the way, you don’t seem to be too loud…
Our big regret is that we never played one gig…not even a one-off.
We were once offered a chance to play in Denmark at an indie festival but just didn’t get organised in time and the opportunity passed us by. It’s a shame but the fact is that in many ways we were never a proper ‘band’ in that we were more of a recording project – using various additional musicians to record parts as needed. To play live we’d have had a logistical nightmare to recreate the sound. However what we should have done is a short stripped down set of the songs that we could have played as a four-piece.
++ So what happened? When did you split and why?
We’ve all been busy with other things –having babies, buying and running a record shop and working in psychiatric hospitals..which as I’m sure you can imagine is all either quite stressful or time consuming!
However we’ve never actually split up just been semi-active…well if it’s good enough for Kevin Shields!
++ Having a glance to the past, what would you say were the best moments of being in Screen Prints?
There were many good times – some things that spring to mind are being played by John Peel – twice! , renting a cottage in North Yorkshire to record tracks –( though actually more time was spent watching Declan set up microphones and plug in cables!), Justin getting up at 4am to drive across fields in search of a Viking burial site – only Justin would do this.
We were all at a gig at The Roadhouse and the DJ played ‘’Missed’’ which was nice to hear over the club sound system.
A lot of time spent drinking in ‘The Bar’ or ‘The Trevor’ pub in Chorlton Manchester…actually much more time doing this than making music if truth be told!
++ I was in Manchester just a couple of months ago, had a really nice good time there but didn’t get to see much aside from the Northern Quarter and some good record shops. What would you recommend me to see there next time?
I would recommend that you come and buy lots of records from Vinyl Exchange!
++ And is there any sort of Manchester dish? I was wondering about that and a friend told me about some deep fried egg?
Deep fried egg? ?– that’s news to me. Maybe they meant fried egg as found in a good old English breakfast?. Either way I’m not sure about a Manchester dish – probably best to stick with the Yorkshire puddings and stay loyal to the right side of the Pennines!
++ Thanks again Richard! Anything else you’d like to add?
If I think of something I’ll let you know and if you do come to Manchester again do get in touch.
Screen Prints – Missed