Thanks so much to Martin Boone for the interview!
++ The band was formed from the remnants of The Thin Line, why did you decided it was no longer a good idea to continue with that band but it was better to start a new one? Who were the original lineup of Hookline & SIlverfish and how did you all meet?
The Thin Line were the next step on from the original band The Trees which had recorded a couple of demos and played a few local gigs around Twyford in Berkshire. The Trees were a four piece and the Thin Line had the same personnel with the addition of my sister on backing vocals and violin. The band used to play with a back drop of `there is a thin line behind madness and genius` and end sets with a frantic version of Talking Head’s `psycho killer`!
Song arrangements were becoming a little more sophisticated and poppy and I guess the lead guitarist we had at the time had a pretty fixed `bluesy` style which did not really fit with the direction the band was taking. He had also been a contributor of songs until this point and so we decided that it was time to break off and look for another guitarist and thereby change the name of the band. At this time we also wanted to embellish the sound of the band with the introduction of keyboards.
The original members of Hookline & Silverfish were:
Martin Boone, guitar, vocals
Kevin Martin, bass
Chris Knill, drums
John Kay, keyboards
Susie Boone, backing vocals, violin
Nikki Brock, backing vocals
Brian is credited with much of the guitar work on the `5 Good Deeds` single, however no one has a record of his surname and he left the band shortly after the single was recorded. He was replaced by Jim (James) Carter who became the recognised guitarist in the band and who played guitar on all subsequent recordings. Kevin Martin also left the band mid way through Hookline & Siverfish`s brief history and was replaced on bass first by Will Barker and then Fee Shaw who went on to play in all subsequent reincarnations of the band.
++ What’s the meaning of the name Hookline & Silverfish?
From what any of us can remember of the time, we didn’t want an obvious band name which would give the music away too easily. We liked the idea of hookline and the wordplay around Hook Line and Sinker. I also loved the song `outdoor miner` by Wire which talked about silverfish…….
++ 5 Good Deeds is such a fantastic song! What are people talking at the intro of the song? How did you get inspired to write it?
I guess the song is very English and deals with English themes and images. The conversations in the intro were meant to reflect normal life of teenagers/students of the time, i.e. coming home from the pub, boiling the kettle for a brew and girls slagging off another guys girlfriend….nothing too deep I’m afraid! I loved Orange Juice (still do) and the influence of Edwyn Collins can clearly be heard in the lyrics of the song.
The slamming down of the phone signals the start of verse one. We recorded the intro in the kitchen at Basement studios in Wokingham. Martin Nichols the engineer set up mics and fed it back to the control room two floors up (if my memory serves me right). It was a lot of fun and there was a lot of energy and optimism in the band at the time….
++ Was the creative process easy in a band that had 7 members?
There were many different influences in the band and I have to say at times there were forces pulling us in different directions. Whereas the song writing had been pretty much democratic up until this point, it was obvious that someone had to steer the direction we were taking. I wrote the majority of songs, however John’s classical training and his `perfect pitch` opened up a world of possibilities. Once Jim (James) Carter joined the band officially, he too had a hand in the writing and penned `I believe` which was a live favourite. Normally songs would be presented to the band at rehearsal and developed to suit the band’s live performances. These live workings often ended up in the final recorded versions.
++ What do you remember from the recording session of this single at the Basement Studios in Workingham?
I remember the session like it was yesterday! We had such a great time in the studio and were really developing our sound at this time. Martin our engineer would often come up with little production ideas and normally we would go with them (like the speeded up vocal on verse two….very Prince!). I can’t believe that the session took pace over 20 years ago. We were young, fresh and having fun. From a personal point of view, our various recordings at Basement studio really got me interested in sound and each session became more involved and experimental.
I can remember sitting back after the final mixing session and hearing it played back at volume and thinking we had really progressed. `Hope` was a song I had written many years previously and I felt we had really done it justice! It was to be re-recorded a few days later as part of the `time like these` EP by Applemountain.
We knew we wanted to release a single and these two songs seemed to be the perfect choice.
++ You pressed 500 copies of the single, but only 100 with picture sleeves? Why was that? Did you release anything else on your own Shubbery label?
We were gigging a lot around this time in the local area and were starting to get a bit of a `following`. We struck up an arrangement with a local independent record shop in Maidenhead to sell the single and others were sold at gigs. Most were housed in a box in a house I was renting at the time and when I moved out, it was left behind! Years later the owner of the house and a friend of mine returned the box of unplayed singles to me and they remained in storage; until that is I spotted a copy of the single going for ridiculous money on ebay last year. I then made contact with Uwe at Firestation Records and discovered the interest in the C86 genre of which we were a part.
No other recordings were released on the Shrubbery label, however I intend to release a few `vinyl only` singles on the label in the coming years. This will cover songs recorded by Applemountain (1989), Palava (1995) and possibly two new songs recorded by a temporarily reformed Hookline & Silverfish later this year.
++ Many copies were lost and destroyed, right? How did that happen?!
Many of the singles were missing or were damaged during storage and only 100 sleeves were printed. I really don’t know how many are out there, but certainly it is a rare item. I have sent some of the remaining records to Firestation Records and most of these have picture sleeves. A handful of the original release had a hand painted silver guitar on the label.
++ You played a lot of gigs around the Reading area. Any particular gigs you remember the most? Which other bands were fun to play with in your area?
I remember playing a charity gig at the Majestic in Reading with a host of other local bands including Sometimes Sartre and International Resque (not sure if that is how they spelt it). It was towards the end of Hookline and we were starting to evolve and were playing a few new songs which would later be reworked as S.O.B and then Applemountain. I particularly remember manic version of `Take me to the river` (a hybrid of the Al Green and Talking Heads versions). The event was hosted by Radio 210 and there was a real camaraderie amongst the bands. There was quite a local scene and the place was packed.
The Arts Centre in Windsor was also a favourite haunt of the band and we played many very enjoyable gigs there. Probably the most unusual venue was in the bar of the Fox hotel in Bourne which was famous for being filmed as the exterior of the Fawlty Towers television series! I also vividly remember the Pied Horse in Slough, which was a pub at the wrong end of the high street (I am not sure if it still exists). I remember the band playing there three or four times and entertaining an intimidating crowd of bikers and drunks. Our brand of breezy pop (including our interpretation of `beep beep love` by Gruppo Sportivo) seemed to go down really well!
We often gigged with the Larkins in the early days who were friends of ours. They are fondly remembered for their reworking of the Tom Jones classic `its not unusual`. Occasionally we ventured further afield and once supported a fledgling The Shamen at a venue in Bristol…
++ What was the biggest highlight of Hookline & Silverfish?
We also played a number of gigs at the Nags Head pub in High Wycombe and as a result were offered at least three gigs at the legendary 100 club in London. These were probably the best gigs the band performed and we even bused our support in from the Home Counties. We have a very ropey video of the band performing on one of these dates and though the sound quality is poor, certainly the vibe is exciting and fresh….We put a lot in to our live performances which I think often eclipsed the recorded work. Around this time Hookline & Silverfish was gaining interest from a number of record labels……but nothing ever came of it.
A short set recorded in the foyer of Radio 210 and broadcast live was also a highlight around this time. I think the station is now part of the `Heart` empire….shame!
++ On the upcoming Leamington Spa Vol. 7 Hookline & Silverfish appear with the unreleased Christine! I haven’t heard it yet, but care telling me a bit about this song? Is there more unreleased material from the band?
`Christine` was recorded on three separate occasions and the version appearing on Leamington Spa Vol.7 is the very first one, again recorded at Basement studios in Wokingham. It really sums up the band at that time, fast, jangly pop delivered with a great hookline! A lot of people at the time thought we should release it as a second single, but we never got round to it. It is fantastic that it will now get a new lease of life, thanks to Firestation Records.
There were more songs recorded as demos by the band during 1986 and 1987. None have seen the light of day but recently I `remastered` the original beta mixes and restored them for posterity!
++ Why did you call it a day? What did you do after music wise?
A band will always have a natural shelf life and it always amazes me that so many bands don’t realise or wish to acknowledge when the time is up. We had achieved everything we were likely to achieve given that we were very much a local band. The core of the band was hungry for a wider audience. The arrival of Prince’s `sign of the times` album signalled a new world of possibilities for myself, John and Susie in particular. We went in to a mode of frenzied writing and it was obvious that these new material were not Hookline material. The band split up barely two years after its conception.
S.O.B was then formed and played extensively in and around London and after a Radio one session and a single released on Rough Trade, we became Applemountain. Applemountain had a number of white label e.p`s released on Protocol Records which were critically well received and `yes yes yes` was featured on `Movin` on 2` released on Rumour Records. The band also supported Curtis Mayfield at the Town & Country in Camden before his untimely death.
++ What are you all doing nowadays?
Applemountain `hung up its boots` around 1993. Three songs were recorded under the name of Palava in 1995 by the core of the band (Martin, John, Fee and Susie), but that was the last time we were all in the studio together.
Most of us have other responsibilities these days but still have a great love of music and very fond memories of our musical past. Jim (James) Carter works as children’s poet/guitarist touring primary schools around the UK. John sings in a Chamber choir and heads up a voluntary organisation helping people with learning difficulties. Susie worked as assistant editor for Top of the Pops magazine and was instrumental in the naming of the Spice Girls, posh, sporty etc!!!! She is now editor of a parenting magazine. Fee went on to play `stand up bass` with Bob Geldof and is always waiting for the next reunion gig and works for an airline in her spare time! I am a partner in a travel company for my sins which takes up a great deal of my time but I still have plans to make music (there is so much unrecorded and so little time!).
++ Anything else you’d like to add?
It is great to hear the interest in the music scene in the UK in the mid to end of the eighties. It has really taken us back to a time when music meant more to us than anything. It was a time when you had to practise hard and motivate yourself as there was no easy way to get your music out there (no internet, no mp3 players). We met some great people and shared many dreams……