Rorschach, a seminal Bristol indiepop band formed from the ashes of The Harpoons and who will later become Santa Cruz. Have you heard about them? Well, they only released one 7″, “Two Busted Flippers”, which is busting good! So you better pay attention this time around! Last year they reunited for a one-off gig in Bristol, and hopefully there will be some more of those. Thanks so much to Geoff and Steve (Yabbo), for being up for this interview! Also don’t miss this video of the band from last year’s practice before their reunion gig!
++ Hi Geoff! Thanks so much for being up for the interview! How are you doing? When was the last time you picked up your bass?
Geoff: Hi Roque. Sunday night. I recorded a track for my mate Tim Rippington with Tom Adams on drums. More of them later.
++ So let’s talk about Rorschach. The band was formed after The Harpoons, who I hope are a matter of another great interview. How did you all decide to start a new band? Who were the members?
Yabbo: From what I remember Jon Brokenbrow (the Harpoon’s drummer)hadquit and we decided to start a new band with the same line up – but withCris Warren on drums. Geoff and I had become friendly with Cris whileout busking in Bristol. Cris would tag along sometimes and playharmonica.
Geoff: the Harpoons had run their natural course. The new line up and material was a lot fresher and more punchy.
++ How did you know each other? And what inspired you all to have a band?
Yabbo: Geoff is my oldest friend – we met at primary school when wewere little children. I met Pete Stillman when I was about 14 and thethree of us pretty much learnt guitar together – often practising at ourhomes. We had a lot of very poor quality equipment. Because we were alllearning at the same time I think it was easier. Geoff and I met Scottin an old nightclub in Bristol called ‘Yesterdays’. We were looking fora new singer for the Harpoons and we went up to various good lookingblokes and asked them if they could sing – one of them was Scott. I seemto remember that he never got in touch, but then we met him again at aparty and it came together. He was a good front man – handsome andcharismatic – and he could sing.
Geoff: He wasn’t our first choice but he was the right one.
++ Is it true that Rorschach was named like that because of the character of Watchmen?
Yabbo: This is true – Pete, Geoff and I were all big comic fans at thetime and I remember going to conventions and meeting Alan Moore andFrank Miller – amongst others. I thought the character Rorschach inWatchmen was interesting – and I liked his name. There have been severalother bands with the same name.
++ If so, were you all big comic book fans? What other comic books did you like?
Yabbo: Big Spiderman fan – still got hundreds of mags. Also liked manyother Marvel characters – and Yummy Fur.
Geoff: I was big into Spiderman too. Also 2000AD back in the day.
++ Is the name of the EP, “Two Busted Flippers” a nod to Blood Simple by the Cohen brothers?
Yabbo: The name is a direct quote from the film – as you’ll hear at theend of Octopus – where there’s a clip of dialogue. I don’t know why wechose to call the record that – but I’m glad we did.
++ I was wondering if you could tell me a bit about each song on the EP? Like what’s the story behind them or any anecdote about them? Like, if Gabriel a real character?
Yabbo: Geoff wrote Captain Elastic – which is a great song – and Iwrote the other three. Gabriel is a just a love song about wantinganother chance. I called it Gabriel because of the power angelssupposedlyhave. Personally speaking – having written a lot of songs fora lot of bands – it’s one of my favourites. The one point of interest isthe line ‘Get your thoughts on line, there’s only one way and it’smine.’ That was written before the internet (at least I wasn’t aware ofit) and I intended ‘On line’ to simply mean get ‘get yourself together’.Luxury is a very short blast of powerpop. I played the solo on it -usually Pete played solos – but as it’s only one note it wasn’t toohard. Octopus is a song about creativity and doing loads of things
simultaneously. I was doing a lot of painting at that time as well asmusic and other stuff and I felt like I had limbs sticking everywhere.Unfortunately nothing generated any cash.
Geoff: Captain Elastic follows on from the Watchmen idea.It’s from the perspective of a small boy describing his favourite superhero who turns out to bea bit of a let down in reality.
++ What do you remember of the recording sessions?
Yabbo: Not very much – in truth recording usually involves a lot of
hanging about in dull rooms eating sandwiches.
Geoff: It’s so long ago I can’t remember specifics but Steve’s right – neither of us have much patience
for the process of going over mistakes and getting things precisely right.I much prefer getting things down as naturally as possible and moving onto something new.
++ Who were Big Truck Records?
Yabbo: It was our made-up record label. I think Pete chose the namebecause one of the characters on Brookside (the old Channel 4 soap) usedto call people ‘Big Truck’ as a term of endearment.
++ I also read that the EP received nice words from the NME and also from John Peel himself! And I bet you got more great press. What was the favourite thing they ever said about your band?
Yabbo: I’m sorry I don’t remember any press comments
Geoff: Me neither. Do you have any evidence?
++ Was this all you released? Why didn’t you get a chance to release more records underRorschach? And by the way, did you have any more songs? If so, I’d dream about a retrospective CD!
Yabbo: We did release a few cassettes – in limited numbers – includingthe Summer Palace which I’m very proud of. Sadly some of the originalrecordings have now gone missing. We never had much money, otherwise wewould have recorded and released much more. We never had any recordcompany funding – we paid for everything ourselves.
Geoff: We had little grasp of how to get involved with people who couldmake these things happen for us back then. It may sound a bit of a cliche butwe were never part of a ‘movement’ or a clique. Bristol was at the hub of Indiepop with Subway and Sarah records but we never fell into the right categories forthese or made the right friends.
Having said that we did release another EP as Rorschach in 1991 on the local Popgod label.It’s called the ‘New Kids’ EP. This was after Steve and Cris had left the band andmusically it’s quite different from Flippers. You may detect a certain ’summer of love’ influence.
++ I was in Bristol earlier this year, and likedthe city. It has a nice small town feeling, and I liked the hilly streets. Has it changed much from the Rorschach days? What were your favourite spots to hang out there then? Do you still live there?
Yabbo: We all still live in Bristol. The place has changed a lot – it’s much more difficult to park these days in the centre. Most of the places we used to perform like The Bristol Bridge Inn, The Western Star Domino Club and The Granary have long gone.
Geoff: ‘More difficult to park?’ You sound like John Shuttleworth!Bristol is a small city. It’s quite green with plenty of parks and the harbour in the centre of town makes it feel quite unique and can be quite beautiful. The downside to being a smallcity is that big projects are delayed or never happen at all. We often miss outcompared to Cardiff for example. For me, the worst change has been the building of massive expensivehousing developments on old industrial land on the harbourside.
++ What about gigs? Which venues were your favourite to play? And which gigs do you remember the most?
Yabbo: I always enjoyed playing live, although it was a hassle movingthe gear in and out. Playing the Bierkeller was fun – and Plymouth Poly.We probably only played about 25 gigs. I do remember that the very firstone was in a house in Fishponds in Bristol – on the same day as LiveAid.
Geoff: Was that Scott’s first gig? I think I got asked to leave that one.I remember playing in a church hall in Bishopston. That was a cracking night.
++ Bristol had quite a nice amount of exciting bands in the late 80s, from The Brilliant Corners to the Groove Farm. Who were your favourites in your town?
Yabbo: I liked the Corners – we played with them a few times. Most ofthe other acts seemed much more serious than us and they had betterequipment.
Geoff: The Coltraines were around then aswell. We also played some early gigs with Automatic D’lamini
who were very impressive and lovely people. John Parish went on to work with Polly Harvey.
++ You reformed for a one off gig at the Louisiana on 12th October 2009 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the EP release. How was that experience? Any differences from your heyday 20 years ago?
Yabbo: The gig was great – and we actually made some money. I think aswe were older we were all much more polite to each other.
Geoff: It’s funny how much more fun it is when you’re not trying to make it big.
++ I read that there is a full documentary about the band in the process of being made. When will this be out? What can we expect from it?
Yabbo: I shall be astonished if that ever gets made
Geoff: We made a video of us rehearsing which is/was up on youtube. Cris was talking aboutmaking an elaborate documentary detailing the history of the band using a complicatedmathematical formula. I think he’s still doing the maths.
++ When and why did you call it a day? What did you all do after?
Yabbo: We fell apart when Cris went to college in Hull. I went off andformed Quinton, the others carried on as Rorschach for a while, beforereforming as Santa Cruz.
Geoff: Most recently I joined the Beatnik Filmstars when they reformed aboutthree years ago. That was a lot of fun. At the moment I’m diddling around with aneight-track trying not to watch the football.
++ So what are you all doing nowadays? Any plans to do a another Rorschach gig maybe?
Yabbo: I currently present the daily lunchtime show on BBC RadioBristol
Geoff: We talked about doing another gig. Then we stopped talking. We may talksome more about it when we can think of something useful to say…
++ One last question, who do you think will win the World Cup? Any opinions about the English team?
Yabbo: Don’t remind me – but why not check out my England song:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7gkb1PtkE_c
Geoff: I told him to record a Dutch version but he wouldn’t listen…