Thanks so much to Philip Suggars for the great interview! Hope you enjoy!
++ When, why and where did the band start? You were in the polytechnic, right? What were you all studying?
Yes, Warren (Waz) and I met at Brighton Polytechnic in 1984. He was studying illustration and has gone on to become something of a whizz in the comics world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_Pleece). I was studying Computing and Vicki Ross was on the same course as me which is where I met her.
Like all 80’s bands the reason we got started was because of someone’s haircut. A mutual friend pointed out that since I had a guitar and a lot of New Order records I might want to meet up with Warren who had a Bernard Sumner-style short back and sides haircut and a bass guitar. I think pretty much my first words to him were “I play bad New Order guitar. I hear you play bad New Order bass. Do you want to start a band?”
++ It was you and Warren at the beginning, when did Vicky Ross came on board?
Waz and I just started as two piece and played our first gig with a female vocalist who subsequently left. At that point I took over singing and Vicki came on board as a second guitarist/keyboard player after about six months. Here’s a photo of the first gig. At the Basement club in Brighton.
++ On the liner notes of Leamington Spa Vol. 6 you say you were a “cucumber sandwich band”, what do you mean by that?
When we first started writing songs a lot of our material was a bit fey. It wasn’t a conscious effort on our part, our songs just came out that way. What was a conscious decision was that we didn’t want to be a “rock” band. At that time everything about mainstream rock just seemed so naff and manufactured. Our way of reacting against that (along with a lot of our Brighton contemporaries e.g 14 Iced Bears & Ten Million Quentins ) was that we wanted to be a pop group.
No rock posing. No guitar solos. No leather pants. No exceptions.
As a consequence one of my friends pointed out that our music was about as rock and roll as a cucumber sandwich and that stuck as a bit of a private label/joke for all of the twee bands from Brighton at that time.
++ What does the Candie Maids name mean?
I do remember very specifically wanting a name that had a female collective noun in it though given that every flippin’ indie band between 1984 and 1987 had a name that referenced sweets/candy I kind of regret that part of the name now. (Interestingly, I think you can read that whole ’sweetie’ fixation in indie bands as a collective attempt to reject adulthood in the Thatcherite 80s and escape into a sort of infantile secret garden)
++ Were you involved with bands before the Candie Maids or was this your first adventure in music?
They were my first band. Though Waz and I carried on as a song writing team in two or three other bands.
++ You wrote songs about kitchen utensils, heartbreak and pop-stars you hated! Which popstars did you hate? !
Oh god. We hated everyone. Anything that seemed to buy into ‘rock’. So U2, Simple Minds, Queen, Phil Collins. (Mind you. I do still hate all of those ‘artists’.) Oddly enough Primal Scream had moved to Brighton at that time and were they were a target too. Musical politics, eh?
++ I also read that the lineup changed quite a lot, why was that? Why was the tambourine player controversial?
The lineup changed a lot because a) I had the tendency to rope whoever I was going out with into the band. b) While I quite liked having a drum machine Waz hankered for a drummer so we had drummers rotate in and out of the line up a lot.
One of our lineups featured a tambourine player who made a few cheeky comments about a local promoter during a radio interview. This fellow also happened to be mates with McGee at Creation which made us unpopular and gigs hard to come by. Hence “the unmentionable” epithet on this gig poster.
++ Your only release, the Sexy Flexi came together with the Especially Yellow zine. How did this happen? Were The Candie Maids involved with fanzines? did you ever do one?
We weren’t involved in the fanzine scene. I lived in the same house as Gordon & Karen, the lovely people that ran Playroom records (Gordon also used to deejay at the Sunshine Playroom a seminal indie night in Brighton) I think it was probably through them that it ended up in the fanzine. Though it’s all a bit fuzzy now.
++ You shared this flexi with Cumbersome whose song is really good as well! Who were they? Were they friends of yours? Why did you made a shared flexi?
Cumbersome were friends of ours and we sort of morphed into a collective for a bit where we shared members and even played joint gigs, I think. In Cumbersome Waz and I played as bassist and guitarist though we didn’t write their material. More than anything though Paul Griffin, the lovely man who fronted the money for the pressing, liked both bands and wanted us to be on the same flexi. The Cumbersome track on the EP did get played on John Peel, incidentally. Here’s picture of a Cumbersome gig.
++ “Threadbare” is a fantastic song, one of the best of the Leamington Spa #6! Did you record any more songs on that recording session in the “Blue Box” studio? What do you remember of the session?
Thanks I’m glad you enjoyed it. Vicki’s dad coughed up the money for the session (so thanks Mr Ross.) and we recorded three tracks there. Threadbare, Nashville and Cut Up Rough. The only things I can remember about the session was that a) I had a terrible cold which actually was good cos it meant I was a bit more in tune than usual and also my voice had more of a bass register to it. b) The engineer kept moaning about why we didn’t want all our amps turned up to 11. c) But he also kept winking at us going “Uh, yeah, man. I think you’ll definitely get a deal out this.”
Based on the demo we had quite a bit of interest from Go-Discs and later on Sony, but nothing ever materialized from that. Our live gigs were always a bit shambolic and I think that put off the few talent scouts that did come to see us.
++ This song was going to be released by Playroom, but, what happened? Why didn’t it come out?!
Just money I think. Gordon and Karen put a lot of time and energy into the Morrison’s release and that took them a lot longer to get out than they expected. By the time that was done I think we were moving on musically, Vicki had left the band and we had another guitarist.
++ How was the scene in Brighton during those years? Any favourite bands? Did you also visit Grant La Di Da’s kitchen?
I vaguely knew Grant but I don’t think I ever visited the Kitchen. Club-wise I saw a lot of our contemporaries at a night called the Big Twang in Brighton (The Bodines, The June Brides, The Jasmine Minks etc etc). My favourite local bands were probably Whirl, The Milksisters and Cumbersome (Yes I know I played in them but I didn’t write the material!)
++ Why did you call it a day? Are you still in touch with the band members? What are you doing now?
We soldiered on in various guises for about 10 years, ultimately as CC Baxter (with Hayley from the Doris Days) but Waz moved to London and so we played one last gig in about 1995. By that point the whole Brit-Pop thing seemed to make us a bit redundant musically and manifesto-wise. I was quite into house music at that point and so started doing solo electronic work. After a while I realised that I enjoyed writing more than I’d ever enjoyed making music and so have been focusing on that ever since. We’re all still in touch and get on well. Oddly, I suppose. I don’t miss being in a band at all.
++ Anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for getting in contact and for your interest. I haven’t thought about a lot of this stuff for a long time and Its been fun to dig the photos and posters out of the attic.