Thanks so much to Jon Clay for the interview. Check out “Tunes for Saturday Boys” compilation CD on Firestation Records!
++ Your website enunciates, ‘The Ferrymen play Northern Pop’. What is Northern Pop?
Northern Pop is a name or genre that we made up ourselves. In a similar way that Northern Soul was so called because it was first played in the UK in clubs around the North of England, Northern Pop is guitar based pop music that was first played in the North of England!
++ How did the band start? How did you know each other?
The band started in late 1990 when Wayne decided to form a new band after his previous band split up. The early band went through a few line-up changes and I joined in 1992. Wayne’s girlfriend at the time was my cousin, so between her and a school-friend of mine I got persuaded to audition for the job of bass player.
++ More than ten people have played either live or when recording with The Ferrymen. Why did you have such a big cast of players in the band? Was it easier to work this way?
The simple answer is that many of the “extra” players didn’t really want to be in the band full time as they couldn’t commit the amount of time that was needed. So, we used a lot of people for recording, but only a few of those ever played live. Throughout the life of the band we only ever had 2 keyboard players that actually played live, and only 1 trumpet player. WE played 1 gig with a trumpet player and sax player together… the gig sounded great but unfortunately the sax player didn’t want to join the band full time.
++ Why do you say it’s not cool to come from Doncaster? I’ve never been there, but I totally be interested to visit, maybe you can tell me what are the sights?
Ha ha…. Doncaster doen’t really have any sights! Doncaster is a very large industrial town in the North of England, and it’s nearest major cities are Sheffield and Leeds. Doncaster used to be a large coal mining town, but the majority of the “pits” closed in and around 1984, and the town sort of died along with the coal industry. This led to massive unemployment and deprivation which is still felt in some parts of the town today. In terms of the music industry, people just didn’t want to know if you came from Doncaster as it wasn’t considered a cool place to be. Lots of famous bands have come from Sheffield, and for a while it was a cool place to be in the 1990s (Pulp etc), but that never filtered through to Doncaster. Also, living in a city can be quite cosmopolitan due to the different mix of people that live there, but Doncaster didn’t really have that back then. Many people led their lives with closed minds and little imagination unfortunately.
++ How do you feel about all The Housemartins comparisons? Were you big fans of Paul Heaton’s band?
Well, it was obvious that we would get compared to The Housemartins as we did sound very much like them, although we tried to throw in a bit of influence from The Redskins too! We were (and still are) all big fans of The Housemartins and even the first couple of Beautiful South albums, but we also had many other varied likes and influences.
++ Whole World was your first and only 7″, right? Who released it? Which songs did it include? Any anecdotes about this fantastic record?
Yes, Whole World was our first and only 7″ single which came out on the German Black Pearl label. The 7″ contained “Whole World” , “The Story Is Always The Same” and *******************
++ You also released a couple of demos which got great reviews, why didn’t these tracks end up on vinyl?
In total I think we released 4 demos. The tracks didn’t end up on vinyl as we simply didn’t have the opportunity to release them. That has always been a real bugbear of mine, having never released an album. That’s why I was really happy when Firestation Records asked if they could put out the compilation that I’d been planning!
++ You were around a time were the jangle pop acts weren’t getting any press compared to the late 80s. On the other hand you got to tour Germany and Spain which a few bands do. What were the highlights of The Ferrymen career?
The obvious highlights of our career were the Spanish and German tours, but we also had lots of great gigs in England too. My personal highlight was getting the “Whole World” 7″ released because it was my first ever record. Another highlight of mine was playing at the legendary 100 Club in London…. it was after that gig that everything fell into place for us. Also, one of our stickers appeared very briefly in the well known film The Full Monty, so that was another highlight!
++ Were any of you involved with bands before or after The Ferrymen?
Yes, most of us got together shortly after The Ferrymen split to form a band called Barny. We were only together a short while and we played, I think, only about 10 gigs. Most of the gigs were in London but we also played in Brighton and Leeds a few times. By that time I had moved to live in London and the rest of the band were still in Doncaster and Leeds, so things didn’t really work out. After that I stopped playing and became a live sound engineer for other bands and began working in and around London. Wayne and Mat continued in various other bands for a while, but only myself and Wayne are still playing now. I am currently in a band called The Platers with a friend of mine, as well as recording with various other projects.
++ Why did you do the “There’s Only One F In Ferrymen” fanzine? What did you write in them? Was it a team project or how did it work?
We made the fanzine because we felt that it was something we could give to our friends and fans to make them remember us! Of course, all this was in the days before Myspace, Facebook etc. so it was a lot harder for bands to get people to come to shows. The fanzine included topical cartoons about what we had been doing along with copies of press cuttings, gig dates, stories and photographs. It was really a team effort but all the printing was done by me on the quiet at work
++ Why did the band call it a day?
This is quite a difficult question to be honest, because you will get a different answer depending on who you ask! The fact is several members of the band were not happy about certain aspects of the German tour, and this caused tensions between the band and the promoter. During the tour the band split up and we drove back to England with 2 gigs remaining. I don’t really want to say more than that, as I don’t want to dig up old problems / opinions.
++ You just released a fantastic retrospective CD on Firestation Records called “Tunes for Saturday Boys”, what can the first time listeners expect on this album?
Listeners can expect most of the old tracks from the Black Pearl and Plastic Disc releases along with some tracks from the first ever demo and lots of live tracks…. 20 tracks in all! The songs have all been remastered to make them as good as possible, so it’s well worth getting hold of a copy!
++ Was it an easy decision to release this album after all these years? I really recommend it, right now my favourite song is Many Times, what is your favourite Ferrymen song?
Well, it was always something that I wished we had done but due to circumstances an album release never happened. I was considering releasing one myself, but Firestation Records asked to do it and so I jumped at the chance! A label such as Firestation Records has far better contacts and distribution than me, and they have done a fantastic job. My favourite song…. wow, that’s a difficult one….. probably One Saturday, We’d Take You In Our Sleep or So Angry…. I can’t decide!!!
++ Anything else you’d like to tell the pop fans out there?
I’d just like to thank everyone involved in the release of this CD and to say thanks to all those people who have bought copies or are going to buy a copy…. support the independent record labels! So, if you liked The Housemartins, The Redskins and early-Beautiful South then this album is for you!