Thanks so much to John Martin for the great interview and the exclusive mp3 for the blog. The Hermit Crabs were a great band that released a split flexi with the 14 Iced Bears and a 12″ on Thunderball Records. Enjoy!
++ Hi John! Thanks so much for doing this interview. So first things first, how come you are both J. Martin & Greg Waverley as you told me on the comments section of my Hermit Crabs post?!
Hi there Roque, the reason for the two names is quite simple: Greg Waverley was the nom de guerre I went under as a Hermit Crab. But when it came down to writing credits I felt it best I use my real name in case we made any money from the songs, which we didn’t!
++ So how did the Hermit Crabs came to life? Who were the members and how did you all met each other?
The members were myself on vocals, Marky Hellings on guitar, Peter Hunt (Malibu Mo) on bass and Steve Perry (Bam Bam Baruso) on drums. We lived in a small town, so you tended to gravitate towards the people who were into the things as you, and with us it was music, so there was a network of people who would hang out. Marky and Mo had played in bands together and Steve had been in a band with another friend of mine. Me and Marky started messing around making music in 1985 with Marky singing and guitar and me on bass. At first we were doing odd soundscapes with echo machines and effects pedals, but the music started to take on more structure and Marky wrote some lyrics to them. We played a gig as The Deckchairs and we got Steve to play drums on the night even though had never rehearsed with us! I remember it as a great gig. We were all big fans of the Velvet Underground, so in my mind it was a beautiful cacophony though the audience may have begged to differ! Anyway, after that, I packed the bass away and we continued to rehearse in Marky’s bedroom and write lyrics together. The songs sounded quite summery and upbeat so we hit on the surf theme and carried it on into the look of the band and that’s what became the Hermit Crabs.
++ Were in the UK were you based by the way?
We all lived in Harlow, Essex, which a town roughly 25 miles from London.
++ What about the band’s name? Why did you choose it?
I think Marky came up with the name. Because of the surf punk thing we were doing, it seemed quite apt, seeing as hermit crabs lived near the beach and were a bit odd, not having there own shell and being a bit scuzzy!
++ Was The Hermit Crabs your first band?
Other than The Deckchairs and a million other bands that were nothing more than a name on a piece of paper, yes!
++ Let’s talk about releases. So Surfin’ Vietnam appeared on the “Let’s Try Another Ideal Guest House” compilation among many other well known bands. How did you end up in this fund-raising release?
Graeme Sinclair, who was affectionately known as Beer Monster used to come to our gigs and after a while we got chatting. He was in the process of putting Thunderball Records together but was also involved in compiling “Let Try Another Ideal Guest House” and he asked us if we had anything to put on it. We had recorded a demo after winning some studio time in a local rock contest and the strongest song was “Surfin Vietnam”, so we gave him that.
++ You seem to have had a close relationship with 14 Iced Bears, releasing the split flexi, and also your 12” on Thunderball Records, being labelmates with them. Were you all friends? How did this relationship happen? did you play gigs together?
The connection was more to do with Graeme as he was friends with Rob (14 Iced Bears). Although we played a few gigs together, we didn’t have anything to do with them socially as they were from Brighton, which was 90 miles away.
++ Talking about gigs, did you gig a lot? Any gigs in particular that you remember?
As far as I can remember we gigged quite a lot! The ones I remember normally ended in chaos. On one occasion we were supporting a band called The Wigs at The Clarendon, which was quite big on the psychobilly scene, so it was always quite edgy to play there. Anyway, one of our fans mysteriously known as the Blue Nosed Crab Crazies decided to set fire to The Wigs backdrop in the middle of our set which neither impressed band or management and we were promptly told we would never play the venue again! And on another similar occasion, an A&R from RCA records organised a gig for us supporting a band made up of all the uninteresting ones from Adam & The Ants. The A&R man was in the audience with a couple of other chaps from the label to check out his new wards with a view to make a smash hit! Also in the audience, however, were the Blue Nosed Crab Crazies, whose only intention was to shower the Hermit Crabs in beer, invade the stage and have a laugh. Being of a similar mindset, we joined in with the Crazies and reciprocated the beer thowing with great gusto. This didn’t go down well with the management and they pulled the plug on us about three songs into our set, creating our own mini riot. We thought this was brilliant and incredibly punk rock, but unfortunately Mr RCA a didn’t share the same view, and decided not to pursue us any longer, a classic case of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory!
++ Alright, let’s not get off the track, back to discography, so the 12”, I’ve never seen it. Care to tell me a bit about it? Which songs appeared there? Any anecdotes about recording it? How did you sign to Thunderball?
The 12” was recorded in 1988 at Electro Rythym Studios in North London. Graeme Sinclair was keen on getting something out on Thunderball as were we, so he paid for the pressing and printing and we paid for the studio time, there was no signing to the label as such. The tracks were Yeah!, Octopus Love, Surfer Girl Metallica, I Think We’re Alone Now and Yeah! (Cake Mix). I can’t remember how we chose what songs to record other than they were the strongest ones from our set, but I remember recording I Think We’re Alone Now had a bit of kitsch value as Tiffany had a version out at about the same time and we thought we might get a bit of airplay! As far as anecdotes are concerned, I remember that we drank quite a lot so by the time it came to mixing, we were off our heads and our audial faculties were’nt up to much. Needless to say the songs sounded terrible and we had to pay for anothers day’s studio time to get them remixed!
++ Did you have any more songs? Maybe you released demo tapes?
There were quite a few more songs all based around the surf genre but I can’t for the life of me remember all the titles and that goes for the other songs on the demo we recorded, which is long lost.
++ And so, what’s with all the Surf references? Surfin’ Vietnam and Surfing Mice?
As I mentioned earlier, it came from the sound of the music we were making, so we took it a stage further and built a whole ethos around the band. It also allowed us to create our own alter egos and write some pretty daft songs without getting too precious about it!
++ How do you remember those days? There were plenty of great bands! Did you feel the scene was very supportive? Any favourite bands or people related to the scene that you liked?
In all honesty, we didn’t feel like part of any scene. The “twee” scene was more Graeme’s thing and although we got associated with it through the label, in our minds, it wasn’t what were doing, we thought we were Rock Gods!
++ In a nutshell, what was the biggest highlight of The Hermit Crabs?
Bringing out the 12” and getting “Single Of The Week” in the N.M.E. which was and still is a very influential music weekly.
++ When and why did you call it a day? Were you involved with music after?
After the 12” came out, we felt we had achieved everything we had wanted to and in all honesty the fun had started to go out of it which was the the only reason we were to doing it in the first place. There was no game plan and we had no ambition other than to have a good time all the time, so we called it quits! As for carrying on with music, Marky, Mo and myself didn’t, but Steve played on in various bands. I never considered myself a musician anyway, I was more of a gobby show-off with access to a microphone!
++ Are you still in touch with the rest of The Hermit Crabs? What are you all up to now?
I am still in contact with Marky who still lives in Harlow and works in accountancy. Mo moved to New Zealand and now makes furniture and I have no idea what Steve does for a living, but I know he is a grandad which makes me feel quite old! I work in advertising now but my alter ego Greg fell in with a bunch of Hell’s Angels whose need for self expression led them to form a traveling circus act which was considered outré, even by Jim Rose standards. Greg’s act was best described as a variant of the trapeze idom. Unfortunately, a diet of mescaline shot straight into the eyeball and absinthe played havoc with his balance and he was last seen shouting at cars from a pimped up bath chair in the South London!
++ Thanks so much John! I think you’ve solved many mysteries now! I’m wondering though how you’d definite The Hermit Crabs? Indiepop? Punkpop? or just pop?
Surfpunk Rock Gods!!
++ One last question, do you know anyone that has a hermit crab as a pet? 😉
Not that I’m aware of!
++ Anything else you’d like to add?
Just to say thanks for helping me recall all the stuff!
The Hermit Crabs – I Think We Are Alone (taken from the radio)