Thanks so much to Martin and Keith for the interview! I wrote years ago about the Sugar Glyders on the blog and was lucky to get in touch with them lately. They released only one single, and they seemed a bit obscure online, so it was such a great chance and opportunity to learn more about from this great band from Hemel Hampstead from the mid 80s!
++ Hi! Thanks much for being up for this interview. It’s great to know more about your band, there’s so little about it online. So why don’t we start from the beginning. What are your first music memories as a kid? And how did you end up playing your instruments?
Martin: The Beatles on Royal Variety Show tv show. Prior to that, Adam Faith’s ‘What do you want’ is a strong memory, as it happened to be playing one Xmas morning when I was very little, as I opened the case of my first guitar! My Mum and Dad were both musicians (Dad was lead trumpet with the Ted Heath Orchestra and Mum sang with the Squadronnaires). Music was a passion in our house.
Keith: Grew up in a household with very little music in it, remember being intrigued by the mention of someone releasing ‘an album’ in a radio interview. The smell and sounds of records shops in general did a lot for me. Got the chance to play a drum kit, which I took to straight away, albeit in the simplest way possible. Some things never change.
++ Were you all involved in any other bands before being in the Sugar Glyders? I read some of you were in Spoils? How did they sound? Any releases?
Martin: yes, ‘Born Free’ a cabaret style covers band (functions, weddings, parties etc.)-70s rubbish, before that ‘The Stroll Band’, which toured Holland and Germany, also covers stuff. Later with Brian (keyboards) and Chris (bass) (both surnames long forgotten) in ‘Character’.
Keith: yes, lots of rubbish/ learning type bands that never managed a gig, later Pigs Might Fly which did manage some gigs, but fell apart as too many distractions came along (marriage, work, apathy etc.). Martin Benson was in that band, later to become a Spoils person. Later in a band Hotel, which led to me meeting Martin. Spoils in a bit more detail further on.
++ And then how did the band start? How did you all get to know each other?
Martin, Keith: Hotel and Character were playing the same venue The Arts Centre, Hemel Hempstead, now demolished, not by us. Hotel’s bass player Gary, was a friend of Martin’s. So we met through Gary and music really.
Keith: I seem to recall Martin asking me to sit in with Character as they had no drummer, I declined as the bar was downstairs and I had no idea of any of the songs. I did listen to some of the set though. I liked Martin’s playing, I remember some song about a ‘Silver Highway’ and thought he was a great player.
Martin: I was really impressed with Keith’s playing, hence my asking him to sit in with my band. Plus he was hilarious in person and we hit it off instantly as people.
Martin, Keith: ‘Spoils’ was eventually put together around 1977 from parts of Hotel and Character, Keith knew Martin Benson, who was simply a great chords man, and a great bloke, too. He was earlier in Pigs and not doing much when we grabbed him.
Spoils finally was Martin guitar, Keith drums, Martin Benson (Benny) guitar, Gary Williams, bass. Gary and Benny later both succumbed to marriage, not to each other of course, but that left M & K to return to demo recording to knock up some kind of set, if we ever found another bass player that is. Circa 1981, enter the Portastudio, the famous cassette based recording machine that kept things ticking over, and the ideas flowing.Bass – wise, after several attempts, we found Paul Thomson, (Tommo) who was a bit younger, with different influences, but wanted to play and picked things up quickly.By the time we started to gig again, there was a huge choice of songs to pick from, and all were blueprinted, if you will.
++ Tell me a bit about Hemel Hampstead. That’s where you were based right? Were there any good places to play gigs? Were there any other like minded bands in town?
Martin, Keith: Hemel Hempstead is a New Town (British post war developments to handle the demand for bombed – out Londoners to live in new, green spaces). Usually concrete sprawls, where the kids’ had nothing to do. Other nearby towns had better venues, such as St. Albans, Watford & Hertford, but it was still difficult to get anywhere to see bands or socialise.
Martin, Keith: Like minded bands? No, like minded players? Yes.
++ It was 1984 when you released your single. What were you listening to at that time? What were your favourite bands?
Martin, Keith: mostly 70s era, in no order of preference, Dan, Zappa, Blockheads, Pirates, Who, Beatles, Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, Boz Scaggs, Joni Mitchell80s stuff was broadly already heavily electronic, so not much of that.
++ This single you released included two songs, “Revenge” and “Free Your Heart”. Care telling me the story behind these two songs?
Martin: Revenge was a vitriolic breakup song. Heart was more of a group effort at an accessible song’
++ And what do you remember from the recording sessions for this record? Any anecdotes to share?
Martin, Keith: Revenge and Heart were from two different sessions at Vroom Studio, Watford, with Bob Morledge (his high vocals are in backing vox on Heart)K: We had to finance sessions ourselves, so we were always pushed for time, 8 hours, that was your lot.
++ Tell me about the art for the single sleeve. It looks like a detective to me. What is it about?
Martin, Keith: The subject matter of ‘Revenge’ was a bit dark and the idea I had was to have a sort of film noir style detective, settling a score with gun in hand. Sketched by Martin then finished off by Keith, in a drawing office, while still pretending to do proper work.
++ This record was released on Lost Moment Records. Who were they and how did you end up releasing your record with this label?
Martin: Steve Carter launched Lost Moment records based in Hemel and I heard about label via Nick from The Rattlers, another local band, while I working in a music shop. Nick suggested we submit a demo. Steve liked it and we released the single, 1984.
++ You also appeared on the compilation “Colours of the Bastard Art!” with the song “Jericho”. How did that happen? Did you have any other compilation appearances?
Martin, Keith: Jericho was actually recorded by Spoils! Probably late 1979. We had nothing else suitable to give Steve, he jumped at this and named it SGs. Jericho was recorded at Quest Studio in Luton, engineered by Dave Cook and paid for as ever, by the band.
Keith: I would think that the band name chosen on Colours, ie not Spoils, was not our choice, I doubt we would have done that through choice.
++ Did you record any other songs? Were there any demo tapes perhaps?
Martin, Keith: there’s some stuff on reels somewhere. Masters, such as they were, did not age well, some disintegrated. Original 2 inch reels were re-used in studios as a matter of routine sadly, so what we left with after 8 hours was it.7.5ips copies of these may be about.
++ How come you didn’t get to release any other records?
Martin: Label folded, found deserted premises with empty LP sleeve on the floor. Had to work hard to get our tapes back, which we did eventually do.
++ Was there any interest from the big labels?
Martin, Keith: No
++ What about gigs? Did you play many? Which was the best and the worst and why?
Martin, Keith: played quite a few gigs, but not enough. One or two great ones at small local venues. Bad ones could occupy a whole page and are best forgotten!
++ How was the music press with the Sugar Glyders? Helpful?
Martin: won ‘Demo of the Week’ in Musicians Only magazine. Still have a photocopy of that. Band was chuffed with that. The band was Spoils though.
Keith: Otherwise the doors remained firmly closed.
++ Oh! And where does the name of the band come from?
Martin, Keith: heard the name on a cheap charity record.
++ When and why did you split? Were you involved with music after?
Martin, Keith: never officially split -BOOK US NOW! But seriously folks, we are all still in touch with each other, so that’s nice.
++ What are you up to these days? Any other hobbies aside from music that you enjoy doing?
Martin, Keith: All 3 of us are active in some way, as time and life pressures allow. We’ll all probably play till we drop. I think all three are still music crazed individuals . . . .
++ Looking back, what would you say was the highlight of the Sugar Glyders?
Martin, Keith: Almost certainly having a single in our hands, despite the final lack of response to it, what a moment.
++ So let’s wrap it here, just out of curiosity, if one was to visit your town, your area, what would you suggest checking out, eat or drink?
Martin, Keith: stay away, go somewhere pleasant and green.
++ Anything else you’d like to add?
Martin, Keith: thanks to all for their interest, trying to recall events has raised quite a few memories all round.