Thanks so much to Dave Driscoll for the interview!
++ Where does the name The Aurbisons come from? Is there any meaning behind it? Why were you never sure about the name?
There is no meaning to it. THE AURBISONS was my idea. Many thought it was a play on Roy Orbison & we were sometimes billed as THE ORBISONS. I do have a fondness for the “Ooby Dooby” one but the name came from when I was on holiday in Scotland as a kid. I remember reading in a Scottish “local” paper of some Swiss tourists by the name of Aurbison (I know it doesn’t remotely sound Swiss) got themselves stranded on an island & the editor made the headline “Stranded, the Swiss Family Aurbison” … It just stayed in my head. Stephen wanted us to be called WUBBERY, as in the way the Bugs Bunny character Elma Thud pronounced the word “Lovely”. The idea being that if any body in the bar had missed us play, but would ask “who has played & what were they like!” It gave everybody the chance to say “They were WUBBERY, & they were … WUBBERY!” In retrospect, I think Stephen was right. It would have been cool to come on stage & say “Good evening Ladies & Gentlemen, we are WUBBERY” Personally, I think Stephen was just trying to compound my already pronounced peach impediment.
++ Who were The Aurbisons and how did the band start?
Initially it was me & Stephen Mark Harris, & Tony Jenkins (Tonedef, Jenko67) who I put the cassette compilations “Abigails Birthday Party” & “Uncle Arthurs Pop Parlour” together with. We just scrambled covers together. In fact we actually supported A RIOT OF COLOUR for a couple of gigs which can only be described as “interesting”.. That more or less petted out. Tonedef lived more than two hours away on his motorcycle (which he kept falling off of) & he had by then found a love interest in the form of his (quite gorgeous) Wife.. So his time was limited & we were more than quite disorganised. Thus myself & Stephen started to try & write songs, ably assisted by Andy Bennett on bass & Sean Johnston on drums.
++ You told me that you wanted to play like Josef K, what was are your favourite songs by them? How did the Sound of Young Scotland came into your ears?
I loved JOSEF K to point of pain, that trebly guitar just sent me. You have to remember I was guitarist by definition of the act of actually owning a guitar, not having any remote aptitude or ability to play the thing. The first three chords, well more like the first three strums of JOSEF K’s “Endless Soul” was the first thing I learned to play that sounded remotely like you could recognise it.
The first song I heard by JOSEF K was “Chance Meeting” as played by JOHN PEEL. My favourites are “It’s Kinda Funny” “Missionary” “Sorry for Laughing” & the PEEL session version of Alice Cooper’s late 60’s “Apple Bush” .. It’s funny when I first saw the name of the band before I heard them on PEEL, I remember just from the name, thinking that they were a synth duo.. Wow did I get that wrong!
++ Where any of you involved with any other bands before or after The Aurbisons?
Me & Stephen played together in the dreadfully named (& frankly dreadful sounding) HINDU KUSH..
Stephen previously had formed a group for a Keele University battle of the band night called GIVE US A SONG, CLIFF. Various members would contribute as backing combo to the MULBERRY CEILINGS, Andy did something under the name of COURGETTE SANDWICH & Sean was drumming for THE ROARINGLY SLENDIDS who on occasion could be roaringly splendid. To be honest it is all a bit of a mush in my head. Basically, it was a bunch of friends all doing slightly different things & helping each other out.
++ You only recorded one demo tape, right? Which songs were included in it? How many copies were made? I ask as maybe one day, I hope, it will show up on eBay!
The songs were “Creatin’ A Fuss”, “Holy Cow”, “Debbie Rix” & “Melt”
++ It was recorded at La-Di-Da’s studio, did Grant never offer you to be released on his label? How was your relationship with him and his mum?
I think we may have been the very first band to record at La-Di-Da studios. La-Di-Da studios being an old 4 or 8 (I can’t remember which) track desk in Grant’s bedroom. I suspect at that time Grant wasn’t thinking about a label. From what I remember of Grant he was (& probably still is) a lovely guy. His Mum Terri, was great fun inasmuch that she was really supportive of Grant but pushy. Grant was very laid back, & I suspect probably very good at lying on his bed thinking great thoughts, painting great pictures, & imagining great music.. Terri was very much “Grant, you got to make some money out of this!” Not in a nasty way, but in a, we have bills to pay, food to buy, Grant please can you contribute rather than a lie on your bed listening to Astroturf grow, kind of way. We clocked, very early in the day that Terri’s kept offering us tea & coffee so she could charge us for the biscuits. We quickly, decided that if anybody left the house it was their duty to surreptitiously return with biscuits which we would eat when Terri wasn’t around.
++ Why wasn’t there any ambition for releasing a record?
I can’t remember it ever coming into our psyche. I can’t remember having any ambitions whatsoever, which was a bit against the grain at that time, as there was a number of bands local to us you felt had quite an air of desperation to “make it” about them, although I was never sure what constituted making it. For us the main plan was to play & have some fun. Trying to make a record would happen when we got better .. THE AURBISONS didn’t get better! I’m quite happy to go to my grave knowing that we had a song that rhymed; Alzheimer disease, with cars crushed by chimneys & trees, Charlton’s defeat of Leeds & even my violent streak.
++ Which gigs do you remember the most and why? Is it true that your biggest fans were some skinheads?
There are two gigs that immediately spring to mind.
First a gig at Frimley Community Centre where we played with NORTH OF CORNWALLIS & BLUETRAIN. The gig was fine, well as fine as we got. It was getting there, that was the issue. Firstly, we managed to get our friend Jason (Basin, Basin) to help us. I was sat in the front of his car with a bass amp on my lap. When we got to the venue I turned into Douglas Bader. I tried to get out of the car but the bass amp had managed to preclude any blood from circulating in my legs & thus as I tried to get out of the car, I fell flat on my face into the gravel drive, much to the amusement of everybody. When I had gained my composure, I started to lug equipment into the venue only to be confronted with an octogenarian woman with a mop, who (gesticulating quite aggressively, with said mop) shouted “Ere what you doing? Get out! Get out!!” We had managed to find a community centre in Frimley, not the Frimley Community Centre. Frimley is not a big place & certainly doesn’t require an abundance of community centres. We managed to find the right venue just in time.
Secondly, we played with THE HEPBURNS at an Arts Centre in Bracknell. The sound was appalling; something had gone wrong with the bass amp & the vocals were non existent, to the point that Stephen had a strop. The result of which made the rest of us want to play all night! What was funny was Stephen changed the lyrics to more or less, “I can’t hear a f**king thing” to every song … It took the offering of many beer tokens before he would talk to us again. What made it even funnier, is that Jason (Basin, Basin) gave him a lift home & a journey that would normally have taken 40 minutes took 3 hours as he went the wrong way on the M3 & kept missing turnings back from the M25 …. Bless!!
Yes, our biggest fans were a small group of skinheads (we didn’t know them at the time) who would come to our gigs & shout “Woahhhhhhh you’re sh*t!!! Ahhhhhhhhhhh!” after every song. It’s funny, if they weren’t there we kind of missed them. I later found most of them were in a band called DRINK BRITAIN DRY. They were fantastic & ahead of their time. They were funk-punk with white boy rapping over the top, the basic opus of their songs, being the glorification of getting completely munted. At the end of their set the band would throw down their instruments, grab the singer & carry him on their shoulders & lay him on the bar. Genius.
++ What’s the story behind the song Debbie Rix? It does remind me to Brian Rix :p
Stephen wrote most of the songs but this was one of mine. When I first wrote it is was called “Reasons to hate a Saturday night” a reference to a spectacular unsuccessful relationship I had when I just left school. Girlfriend at the time suggested it reminded her of THE BRILLIANT CORNERS “Brian Rix” so Stephen was very quick to dub it “Debbie Rix” … Debbie Rix was an early 1980’s UK television presenter & has nothing to do with the song. On occasion, people would jump & down to this, sometimes with some vigour.
++ You covered The Daintees “Roll On Summertime” occasionally, which other songs you liked to cover? What were your favourite bands at the time?
We would occasionally cover THE LOFT’s “Why does the rain?” which Stephen would sing “Why does THE RAIN, always play the West End Centre!” because they did. My favourite was playing with BLUETRAIN we had a go at their song “Parade” … A great song thoroughly crucified!!
At that time it is hard to say how wonderful THE WOLFHOUNDS were live, I also had a huge fondness for CLOSE LOBSTERS, THE JUNE BRIDES, THE HOUSEHUNTERS, STUMP…. THE GO-BETWEENS I remember being really good at this time. To be candid it’s a pretty big list, don’t get me started!
++ Did any of the songs of The Aurbisons appeared on any compilation aside from Holy Cow on the first Leamington Spa?
On various cassette compilations but I couldn’t tell you which ones without digging through boxes of rubbish in the loft.
++ You were quite involved with fanzines, right? Did you made many? What were your favourite ones at the time?
“You were quite involved with fanzines, right?” … Well no. The booklets that came with the compilations were really just that.
I would occasionally write for other peoples projects if they asked. I do remember a lass saying she wouldn’t include an item I did on the “Room At The Top” in her fanzine (& I genuinely can’t remember which one it was) as I made reference to the super powers of THE LEGEND inasmuch as that on the gigs I went to at the Chalk Farm, Enterprise, he would dance in the face of the singer of the support band like a demented big nosed twat, wearing a “Pete & Dud” overcoat, but would go downstairs when the main band were on, but if a review turned up in the NME, there would be no mention of the support band, whom you thought he liked, but praise for the main band.. Mind you I’m sure if they had the windows open upstairs, he could have heard them from downstairs, outside next door’s ice-cream parlour.
The fanzines I liked most back in day were either: passionate beyond belief (Hungry Beat), useful tips…”How to get a subsidised meal at the BBC by pretending to be a band doing a PEEL session (Attack On Bzag) or just plain amusing (Rox).. I think my favourite was TRENDY HENRY. It would have one word reviews. The headline would be ‘THE VIOLENT FEMMES The Venue 17th July (1984)” & the review would be “Raunchy!” or “THE COCTEAU TWINS The University Of London Union, 13th December (1983)” & the review would be “Screechy!” I was at that gig & THE COCTEAU TWINS were indeed screechy.
++ You now run the great Fruitier Than Thou blog. Do you believe that blogs are the fanzines of today? Or do you think both formats are different?
The reason I did my little blog was to keep in touch with friends overseas, as a look see of what I have seen recently & what I have dug out of the loft from the past, nothing more. It is always out of date.
Fanzines are alive & kicking. Even though I’m old, fat & balding, I still go to a lot of gigs & I can assure you that I am often accosted by young girls with far too many pin badges or lads with their trousers hung so low, that the belt required to keep them up will most likely restrict their ability to reproduce in future life, asking me to buy their fanzines.
Internet publishing in the form of blogs, myface or spacebook are great, as you have the opportunity to instantly hear of others with similar interests & can get a response immediately (whether you want it or not). Be honest, we most likely would not be having this correspondence without it
However, I still like the idea of something physical, that somebody has put together, rather than just a digital representation on a screen. I still think there is a lot of joy to be had by postal communication. Also, it is sometimes nice just to read something between bands or on a train home. The odd / amusing ones are the ones I like. A girl sold me a fanzine a month or so ago & I am annoyed because I can’t remember what it was called, or the band she was interviewing other than it was a Japanese punk band. The format was like yours, a list of questions, but the band had sent back all the answers in Japanese hiragana & she had just printed as she received it. I like to think the answers if translated read something like “I don’t understand this, why have you sent me this….” etc.
++ Do you feel there was a scene back then? Most bands said there was none, but some others do say yes, what do you think about it?
I can’t remember any specific scene.. What scene are you referring to? I suppose it depends on how specialised your interest is. I have always had quite an eclectic taste in music so I suppose my scene was “the stuff that I liked” Certainly at the time I was listening to more pop music. I certainly didn’t feel part of any scene, musically or geographically.
++ Why did the band call it quits?
Stephen wanted a bigger band, then a smaller band & he was going to Germany. Just doing different things really, we are still in touch although we are separated by different parts of the world
++ Anything else you’d like to add?
If we didn’t have bad luck… Hey we wouldn’t have had any luck at all!
The Aurbisons – Holy Cow