MARK P INTERVIEW
"One day I tried to find out where Eno lived"I bumped into Mark Perry whilst out in London on a shopping trip. I'd bought another aeroplane, and he was coming out of a gentleman's outfitters with a new wig. I had a minidisc recorder on me, so I started hassling him for an interview. He looked at me, saw how piteous a creature I was, and agreed to do it. We chatted for several hours, had some coffee and a sarnie, threw a bun at Melvyn Bragg on the South Bank, and went to the Tate Modern and chatted about art like the brainy bastards we are. (Mark's lawyers have asked me to point out that he doesn't wear a wig. Anymore.) What follows is an edited transcription (i.e. I've ignored the salutations and done away with most of my comments). I've decided that some of the stuff was too personal to put into print, and some of it strays quite some considerable way from what most people would call "interesting" - we discussed the merits of our sandwiches at one point, a topic I should imagine won't float many peoples' boats. Mark was a great interviewee: animated and honest, no subject was taboo. He was writing his autobiography at the time and he thought it would help him with that, too. He looks and thinks just like he always has done, and talks in a strong Lahdndan accent, pronouncing "bus" as "bas", "down" as "dahn", "fuck" as "fack", and "see ya" as "so are you gonna get me me bas fare 'ome, then ya cunt?". (He didn't really say that.) When I asked if he'd like a transcript before publication, he said that wasn't necessary, he stood by everything he said, and I could even make up stuff as well if his answers weren't good enough! What a beezer bloke! I've tried to preserve as much of his vernacular as possible, yaknowhattimean, to give you an idea of the wonderful way he talks. And he likes to talk. He's got a very busy, hyperactive brain, which is why his quotes often seem disjointed. He talks in very long sentences and goes off at tangents, but that's part of what makes him so charming. Anyway, I begin by asking him how much longer will people wear Nazi armbands and dye their hair, and how he got into punk. His response is this:
I literally come out of school, at whatever time, yeah, get straight on the number one bus. The number one bus was great, was right outside our school and it would take us right to Charing Cross Road, right into Soho, basically. So you'd take the old school tie off, ya know, [and] within about three-quarters an hour after leaving school we were lookin' at records. This is like in the week, ya know. It was like, ya know, that was our thing, we were into music, people like me, Danny Baker, and our other friend, Steve Micalef - who [as Steve Mick] ended up 'elpin' with Sniffin' Glue as well. And there was this little gang of us, there was about four or five of us, yaknowhattimean, the ones that were into music. And that was great, yaknowhattimean?
I've always liked London for that. There's no excuse in London, it's when you hear this thing about, ya know, ya hear this over-sort-of-liberal type goin' "Poor kids of today, haven't got this and haven't got that". DO SUMMAT! All right, I mean, you can understand someone moaning if they live in some small town and they haven't got anything BUT YER IN LONDON FOR GAWD'S SAKE! There's no excuse, yaknowhattimean? Get on a bus, yaknowhattimean, ya know. We used to do that, yaknowhattimean?, during the holidays we used to do that, we used to get those Red Rovers, ya know, get a Red Rover all week, be all over the place. Me mam'd say, "Where you bin today"
I'd say "We went to North London"
"Where was it?"
"Oh Portobello Road"
Ya know, you go to Portabeller Road when you're about 12-13, an' that, look around.
(He really does talk like this, I'm not making it up.)
One day I tried to find out where Eno lived. I was a big Roxy fan an' it said, I dunno where, the NME or something, it said what street he lived in so I went up Portobello Road this particular Saturday and tried to find Eno's house. I end up finding his house and waiting outside his door for about two hours, knocked at the door, and there was no sign of him, so then I got a Wimpy and went home, like, but, ha ha.
What I'm saying is when I was young I used London in that way an' I guess I wouldn't have found out about punk if it hadn't been for that, really cos it was obviously it was being uptown a lot and knowing a few record shops uptown is when I first, y'know read about the Ramones and started meetin' people like in, as I said they used a have a stall, Rock On, a stall in Soho, Newport Court. There was Roger [Carroll] and Ted [Armstrong] [who also ran Chiswick Records - Gibbon] and they used to have a shop, but they owned the whole thing. But the guys who run the stall in, er, Soho were Stan Brennan and a guy called Phil [Gaston]. Stan and Phil, they later on formed Soho Records that put out Nipple Erectors records. I knew Roger and Ted later but first of all I knew the guys from Soho. I didn't go to Camden much in those days, I later on did, yaknowhattimean, but they were the guys, I said "Look, I've done this fanzine, y'know". I sorta asked about a punk fanzine, they said there isn't a punk fanzine and I said "I've done this fanzine" and they were the first ones who took it, yaknowhattimean, and put it on sale for me.
In conversation I said about, "Is there any magazine?" and they said "there's no punk magazine, you'll have to do one yourself"!in general conversation, it wasn't exactly "do one yourself", "yes I will boss!". But yeah they did, sort of, like, y'know, they probably said as a joke, y'know, "You'll have do one yourself, then, won't you, mate!?" Sniffin' Glue. And that was it, they were really encouraging. I knew them cos I was a bit adventurous, yaknowhattimean, going up there and havin' a look 'round London.
So what records had you bought from them? If any.
I don't think I got the first Ramones album from them. There was this other shop we used to go in that used to sell import records, and it was just around the corner from there, I forget where it is now, I used to buy all my import stuff in there. Like cos in those days, I don't think it happens now, but an album would always come out a month in America before it did here. I got the Ramones album from there. I used to buy things like, y'know, the Count Bishops off them and things like that, y'know, the early indie stuff and that, y'know, early Stiff stuff and that type of thing. I used to come out with a lot of obscure stuff, they used to get, like "Who Put The Bomp!" Records, people like Flamin' Groovies and that, bands like that y'know. They was just a general second hand record store, all sorts, not just punk, all sorts, old soul, reggae, blues, all sorts, sixties stuff, yaknowhattimean. A place to hang out and chat really, yaknowhattimean and just talk about music. Little stall more than a shop. They had a good little scene there, y'know? Later on, late in '76, that's when The Jam played a gig there, Soho Market, yeah, and they got the electricity from the stall, y'know. It was a cool little shop that, and I think later on those guys - Phil and Stan - they left Rock On they formed Rocks Off Records and they did the Soho Records label and bought out the first Nipple Erectors.
Did you have any involvement with that?
Let's not get personal here! What you mean? Nips and that? What happened is that, I used to be a great - I mean it's going back again - but what is the first person I met in the punk scene, who became a friend, is Shane MacGowan. I met him actually cos I went to the Ramones at the Roundhouse, that first, like, classic, legendary Ramones gig over here where they were supporting Flamin' Groovies. I went there with my girlfriend, Louise, at the time and I met up with Shane there. I didn't know him, we met him, he was this crazy bloke. We met him in a bar, said hello, started talking. I always knew what he was doing and that, yaknowhattimean, but by the time he was putting out records I think I had already done The Image Has Cracked and that. I remember there was this interview I saw him do once, it was with this Jammin' fanzine - the great Jammin' magazine, which was a great mag - and he said, "I saw Mark P the other day and he'd grown his hair, he looked like an hippie", or something. And I probably said "Yeah, it's about time you changed, you're not still into this punk rock rubbish are you?" I probably said something like that to him.
Where in 1976 everyone was very tight, you know, cos it was like a very small scene, as people started signing up it just grew. I mean we were playing places like the Rainbow suddenly, and touring, and it was a bit...it had become the music scene; all of us gang of whatevers, gang of nutters, yaknowhattimean, into the Ramones, the new music scene, I mean a year and a bit later we were at all the ligs, there was no difference there, that's where things like The Clash doesn't sit in with me, to me The Clash thing was , like a separate thing. I mean by mid-'77 I had a gold card for the Speakeasy Club in the West End, and the Speakeasy Club was, like, the rock establishment club, and you'd be in the Speakeasy sitting there with Mick Jones, Frankie n Miller, Keith Moon, Robert Plant. We weren't trying to spit at them, we liked being part of the rock scene, yaknowhattimean? Enjoyed it. It like was a lig, we didn't refuse to go to ligs, if we'd been so fuckin' against rock music we'd have gone "Oh no, we ain't going to no lig, that's wrong! Free drinks? That's wrong with the music business!" We went "YEAH! Backstage, I'm coming, y'know!"
I mean, I used to take advantage of the Sniffin' Glue thing. I remember the time I met Paul McCartney, I met a Beatle! and I was tellin' people about it for weeks afterwards, yaknowhattimean, cos what happened with me, again in early '77, cos of Sniffin' Glue I used to get asked to write for the magazines cos I could have been!I guess if I worked at it I could have been a proper music biz writer, y'know, cos I got offers to write for Sounds and Melody Maker. I did one review for Melody Maker and I reviewed Iggy Pop, cos Iggy Pop was doin' his tour at the time with David Bowie on keyboards, I think it was at 'The Idiot' tour, around that period. And I slagged him off. I mean I liked the gig but I thought Iggy was too poncey and out of touch so I said something like, they put it as a headline "Wake up Iggy, it's 1977". I did that, but the other one I did was for Sounds and they said they wanted me to review Wings at Wembley. I didn't get it at the time, I must have been so stupid, cos what they wanted was me to slag it off, they wanted the "top punk writer" to have a go at the Beatles, y'know, have a go at Macca? Anyway, I go to this gig and it was fuckin' brilliant! It was Wings and I love Wings, yaknowhattimean? And then they'd do a few Beatles songs - 'Get Back', 'Hey Jude' - it was great, a great evening, yeah? And afterwards we went backstage and got to meet Macca! A year earlier I'm, like, nobody, an' a year later I'm meeting Paul McCartney. Anyway, I got 'ome, wrote the review, I wrote a good review an' Sounds wouldn't print it! What was all that about? Cos they wanted me to slag 'im off.
I think I've been a bit naive really, I've always expected more of people, yaknowhattimean, and when they just try to censor you basically, or they're only trying to use ya. It's like in 1977 you'd get asked to do TV shows, and all these cliches they try to come out with. It's a bit like the Gundy thing, the Pistols, innit, they're trying to prompt them to say something nasty about Beethoven or something really corny. And the interesting thing about that was that they did the same with the Beatles. There's an old Beatles interview - I thought it was brilliant - and they said to Lennon, "What d'ya think of Beethoven?" People forget that The Beatles in '63 were outrageous and they did the same sort of conversation. I mean, they didn't swear. Trying to provoke some sort of naughty reaction, it's pathetic. Alternative TV -
Someone wanted to interview you in a building site, didn't they?
That was a show someone was doing, a Birmingham show, and they invited us up to this show and I forget who this fuckin' prat was called -I 'ated this woman who did it, she was like a journalist for The Evening Standard and she was puttin' this show together - and I went up there with me, Danny [Baker] and this girl I was knockin' around with at the time, I forget her name now, but anyway we went up there and there was other people up there, like Don Letts was up there, Ari Upp was up there, and, yeah, they was like, there's this old house, and they'd rented this house for a couple of days for the show and it was like a dump, and they'd done it up like a squat, they'd thrown a mattress on the floor, and I was like, "We're not sittin' in 'ere, we'll go in the garden or something". There was this lovely little rose garden and we sat in the rose garden. We refused to do it, it was nonsense. It's cliches, straight away they're trying to make the audience have an opinion about you before you've even opened your mouth, like so they can go, "Look at them, look at the place they're in". They'll probably try an' make out it's your flat: "We interviewed Mark in his 'ome, in his squat". There's me livin' with me mum and dad in our nice cozy little council flat!
What about the pub rock thing, the Bishops?
It wasn't that all rock bands had turned into dinosaurs, but with the pub rock thing it seem to bring rock back to basics. They were all quite exciting bands and we used to go down to clubs like the Nashville, Hope & Anchor, the Marquee, and it was a really small scene there. And I think without that I don't think punk would have happened, yaknowhattimean? I think they were very limited in what they'd do cos they were R&B based there was only so far they could go and that was it, so they weren't very adventurous musically, but I had some great nights, I mean particularly with Dr Feelgood, superb band live, Eddie & The Hot Rods 'n that, really exciting bands, y'know. A lot of the first punk rock gigs were supporting the so-called pub rock bands, I mean, the Pistols supported Eddie & the Hot Rods, didn't they?
The first time I saw The Damned they were supporting a band called Salt, one of these pub rock/R&B bands that everyone's forgotten, and it was at the Nashville. Well it was quite weird because The Damned went on and did their thing and most people went, "Oh, what's this bloody lot?" and then at the end old Rat Scabies smashed his drum kit up, and they had this big row of course, the blues band accused them of trying to upstage them. It wasn't very difficult to upstage a band like "chuggy-chuggy", "I woke up this morning" with an harmonica!.
There's always been a rivalry, I mean, punk was like that. But without pub, punk wouldn't have had anywhere to play. It was ready, it was primed, cos London at the time, 76, was primed for something to come along, yaknowhattimean? I mean, the venues were there, there were loads of gigs going on. That was a really good year for rock music, in London.
I'd been seeing the Feelgoods from 1975. I always say Dr Feelgood were a pub band, although they got quite big, I guess cos they were the first 'n that, and signed to UA and put out some albums with them. And I used to be into a band called the Kursaal Flyers as well, used to love them. You know our album, Strange Kicks? Well Kursaal Flyers used to have a set like that, they used to have a reggae song, a blues song. And they'd do a rock song, they'd do theme songs. Y'know, for the reggae song Paul Shuttleworth, he used to put a rasta wig on, but it worked. Basically they were a really good band, they used to come on like the Barron Knights of the 70s or something, but it did work because they were such bloody great musicians. Will Birch, superb drummer, really good songwriters, I mean, Will used to write most of their stuff. Good band they were.
But their first LP was the pits.
But a lot of those bands made albums like that, I mean, like the Kilburns, in the studio they were crap, personally, I think they just didn't work. I saw them live only once and I don't remember much about it, I must admit. I'm a person - say it in hushed tones - I've never liked Ian Dury. I've sort of given him the odd nod but I've just found after a while it's so corny, all that. I think New Boots And Panties!! sort of works. I had a row with him once. I said something stupid and he threatened to beat me up or something, in the Roxy.
But you put New Boots And Panties!! in you Top Ten in the Sniffin' Glue book!
My girlfriend made me do it, 'cos he'd just died that year, I think. It's not that I 'ate it, I just don't like it that much.
Once The Stranglers had a go at me cos I went into the dressing room at the Nashville and I had a Gorillas badge on. They said, "What you wearing that for?" and took me badge and kicked me out. Jean-Jacques Burnel was always trying to start fights with people. I think Rattus Norvegicus is a superb album. We used to play that to death: when we were first touring we only had a couple of cassettes in the car, in 1977. The Stranglers hated me, I think, but I liked them. If you look at it it is probably better than the first Clash album, cos, I mean if you look at the first Clash album, it's dreadfully under-produced, which you can understand at the time but [now I think] how can anyone like that album that didn't see 'em live at the time? If you saw The Clash live at the time then you could understand the album cos you can see it in the context of a live show. No wonder they didn't, from CBS' point of view, no wonder they didn't release it in America first of all, cos it wouldn't have made sense.
What was the Roxy like?
The Roxy was always pretty good. I never saw anybody get booed at the Roxy. If people didn't like you they'd just stand around looking bored. None of those bands had massive audiences bouncing around; even ATV! We supported Wayne County down there a couple of times. People were just staring at us.
There was this good bill, with The Adverts, Wayne County, ATV, Johnny Moped, at the Roundhouse. And I got so drunk. These Japanese people turned up, like "We big ATV fans" - God knows how - and this was late 77 - and I got a bottle of whiskey and I think I only had about four swigs out of it but I was gone, yaknowhattimean, and I was all over the place, and Ray Stevenson was there taking some photographs. I picked up me scrapbooks the other day an' I looked through and there's a photo of me sitting there looking really drunk, and Wayne County's on my lap. So funny. And it's in NME and it's got a caption with Wayne saying, shall we talk about the record deal Mark?, and my saying, "No Wayne, let's talk about the first thing that pops up". I remember at the time I was like, oh my god, what have they done!?
Cos we used to tour with Wayne County quite a lot and we used to have a right laugh, and seeing Wayne, as he was then, in these Northern Bed & Breakfasts, coming down to breakfast with his fuckin' curlers in, shriekin' out like. He was tough, he could really look after himself, but he always to turn it on a bit, very loud and shrieky. I was in New York last year, funny enough, and she was supposed to be deejaying for us, and when the promoter said - cos apparently she was looking forward to seeing me cos she hadn't seen us for years, and she was excited about deejaying for ATV - and when the promoter couldn't find the fifty dollars she wanted she didn't show up, so she couldn't have been that interested in meeting me again, just cos he could only pay 'er forty instead of fifty dollars.
You gave the Saints LP a bad review...
At least the Ramones were funny, they had a sense of humour. The Saints were a little bit dull. I think the first single was incredible, but, again, it's like a lot of the punk stuff. I don't think The Lurkers ever made a good album, I don't think Eater ever made a good album, Buzzcocks I never thought made a good album, I hated all their albums. Badly produced, although they were probably the best singles band. Another Music In A Different Kitchen? That's got a terrible production, I 'ate it.
I love the production on that album, I think it's great
But you're fackin' weird! I 'ate it. I don't like Never Mind The Bollocks, I think it's awfully over-produced: too many guitars, sounds like Thin Lizzy, and do we really want Thin Lizzy? And when you think of the influence that had, particularly on America, you just think, on things like Metallica and Guns N Roses, you think, "Is that what we really wanted out of punk?"
What about the three labels, Faulty Products etc?
What happened was when Sniffin' Glue by early '77 had become the punk bible, if you like, main rag, I got introduced to Miles Copeland at a gig an' he wanted to know about punk, he wanted some kind of way to work with punk. Before that he'd worked with some dreadful bands, and they were dreadful bands, people like the Climax Blues Band and Renaissance, and they were sort of prog and bluesy and pretty dull, yaknowhattimean, and he wanted to get into the new music. And obviously he spoke to me and he said to me, "Do you want to run a label?" and I was like, "Wow! Run a label?" "Do you wanna be A&R man for a record label? I make records and we wanna do some punk records", and he admitted - he was very honest - "We don't know anything about punk rock". So that was it. I formed Step-Forward. At the time he was managing Squeeze and the idea we'd had was that we'd have a group of labels. I came up with the name Step-Forward, Deptford Fun City was thought of, I think, by Glen [Tilbrook] out of Squeeze, and the idea of Illegal Records was that it was going to be Stewart Copeland's label. They were great. To me it was liking going up and up and up. Whereas to me Sniffin' Glue had got into a certain point of influence and say and my personal career, what I was doing, this was another opportunity to get involved with more stuff, because Miles Copeland had great facilities. He had like an office in West End so he had, like, the phones we could use, he had the faxes we could use, we had the printer. We basically moved Sniffin' Glue into there as well. He had a spare office. So it really changed the way we did Sniffin' Glue an' everything.
What happened with Deptford Fun City was they got bored with it. They did the first Squeeze record but they weren't really interested in doing labels, they signed up to A&M almost straight away, and so Deptford Fun City was kind of floating about. Stewart was more into the Illegal Records thing; he was into dabbling about with different things, and Stewart was very encouraging with the punk thing, he was very into it. It was a great scene, that was, it was all under the [name] Faulty Products, that was the headline we had. And it was great fun, it was a great atmosphere, that office. It was just people doing stuff they loved doing. And just upstairs from us, for the first couple of months anyway, was Glitterbest, the Sex Pistols' office, so we were always runnin' up an' down the stairs. Miles Copeland had the Pistols the gigs in Amsterdam. I remember when they got the test pressing of 'No Future', which later became 'God Save The Queen', I remember the lads saying, "Come up and hear our new single" and we all went upstairs and sat round listening to that. For me, personally, it was another way of me being creative. I wish I had done more with the label, really, but again it's down to me changing all the time, wanting to move forward all the time.
So why was ATV on DFC not Step-Forward?
I wanted to leave Step-Forward as a label of bands that I liked rather than my own music. The reason we were on was because it was like available, and we were from Deptford. It fitted brilliant for us.
We had an office with like three rooms and there was this empty office next door, which was a right tip, it was just a shithole, y'know, and he asked the landlord if we could have the office next door, but could we 'ave it on the cheap, like? And what we did is we run a cable outside the window, so we didn't even have electricity in this office, we run a cable from the office next door and that became the Sniffin' Glue offices. It was cool. We were doin' loads of graffiti an' that, we used to have some great times there cos when we did interviews we always did 'em up there. We did a Blondie interview up there that never got printed, we used to have 'em all up there, get a few beers in, right in the middle of Oxford Street.
We wanted to do The Adverts but then they got chatted up by Stiff and they did their first record with Stiff. Cos we were good friends with Tim and Gaye [we] really got on well with them. But of course then once I got my own band going I was spending so much time with that I had to stop doing Sniffin' Glue cos I was doin' the label and the band. It had lost the plot a bit, I think those last couple of issues ain't so good. Sniffin' Glue #11 was good cos we asked some other people to contribute to it, but Sniffin' Glue #12, I just don't think it was very good. It's awful. I 'ad the row with someone and I said what I said and they said, "Well put in your piece" so I did, and it was something that worked really well at the time. A few years ago Danny said, that piece you wrote was quite sad, it sounded like you were going to pieces, it sounded like you were having problems, yaknowhattimean. Danny described it as self-loathing. I think it was. With regards to Sniffin' Glue, it was the end. It never sold out, it didn't turn into a glossy magazine.
You never sold out, either!
No, but I tried a couple of times but they didn't let me! We did a demo for EMI. If they'd had signed us up, I woulda done it. Because what had happened, like what happened to a lot of people, I'd done the demo, thought "Oh well, if we get a recording out of it!" and if I'd 've actually seen that contract the Mick Jones part of my brain would have gone: EMI, tours, y'know, same label as the Beatles and Pistols, number one record. I think I woulda done it. And when they said we hated this I said, "We didn't wanna sign anyway". The lucky thing about me was that I knew that I could put records out, it wasn't the end. To some band in the sticks who didn't have the connections, they might have thought "Oh my God, that's our only chance". But with me I thought we'll go and make the records ourselves. Who knows what would've happened then. We could have been like the Buzzcocks or something. Not a bad thing. But better. The Image Has Cracked would have still been The Image Has Cracked but the tracks might have been in a different order. There's no way that they'd have let us start the album with 'Alternatives'. It's good the way that it divides people.
Can we talk about some specific ATV records? "Love Lies Limp", how did they come about?
'Love Lies Limp' was one of the first lyrics I wrote, cos early on, when we first thought of the band!it was early '77 and when I was gonna put together a band I wrote all these lyrics for Alex to put music to, and most of 'em ended up on this thing called The Industrial Sessions we did. They were all the outtakes, all the stuff we didn't end up recording properly. I used to have this thing at the time cos what happened is I knocked around with Caroline Coon, and I tell you what, she ate me an' spat me out, honestly, she was so experienced and she was like my second girlfriend or something. Well actually It was like one of these things, when you're young and going out with an older person, especially like Caroline, who was a very. very determined woman, it's like "Oh I think I love you, and are you my girlfriend?" and she goes, "Fuck off, I'm seeing three other people as well", and you're like, "no, no" So I was a bit like that, I was a bit infatuated with Caroline and I think that a lot of people were. She ended up going out with Paul Simonon for a while, just after me. I really looked up to her, she was really creative, and we worked together, an' she really was encouraging on the Sniffin' Glue thing, but anyway that was when the subject first come up about my sexuality.
I used to hate at the time, I don't know why cos I'm a lot more relaxed about it now, but I used to hate the emphasis put on sex all the time, yaknowhattimean, and it was one of the things wrong with rock music. I wanted to write a song about that sort of thing, that it didn't really matter. You can't get it up? You can't get it up, it don't make you any less of a person, not that I had any real problem with that, I just thought, if you don't wanna do it, why should ya? So I just thought it was an antidote to all these, y'know, rock and roll let's-have-sex sort of songs.
We didn't actually record it as a single cos that was one of the songs we did for EMI as a demo. We did four songs, we did 'Love Lies Limp', 'How Much Longer', 'You Bastard' and 'Life' as as demo. We went in an' did these songs, and 'Love Lies Limp' was about sex and had swearing in it, I think I swore in 'How Much Longer' at the end - "You all don't fucking care" - 'You Bastard' - well, "You bastard", right? - and 'Life' was the only one that was "acceptable". EMI basically said "Look, very interesting, but we think it's too political, it's too controversial" - that's what they said about our music, it was quite funny - but the good thing about the EMI demo was that it was like a free recording for us, so we had these tracks. I dunno I had the idea or someone else had the idea that when it came to the last issue of Sniffin' Glue, cos by that time we'd recorded a different version of 'How Much Longer'/'You Bastard' for the first single but we hadn't put it out yet, and just thought it'd be a nice introduction to the band. The concept idea that you end the fanzine so one thing ends of mine, and the band starts. So that's why. But I don't know why we chose that particular song for the flexidisc. It was good to do something different. Someone also mentioned that cos it was a flexi, cos it was on a floppy disc, y'know 'Love Lies Limp'? I didn't think of that, someone else come up with that. Someone said that in the NME, they said "This is not a conventional record, this is 'Love Lies Limp' on floppy, and they made that connection. I think it was a bit of an inspired idea doing that flexidisc.
I think we spent all our profits on it, which didn't amount to much, but we had load of 'em, cos what happened was we had got 20,000 made of the bloody things. In fact, Harry Furlofski, who was at the time he was doing more of the business side of the fanzine and that, he was at his mum's the other day, well last year or something, and he was looking in the loft and he found a box of 'LLL' flexidiscs, about fifty of 'em. I think we made more than we actually had fanzines to put 'em on, y'know? But it was a good idea, I am proud of that, y'know. It's weird, it's like a real Deptford reggae, like it's reggae, but it's not quite reggae, it's very quite jazzy, it's a weird one that. We still play that in our set, it's one of our most popular songs. It's a funny song, a bit of a comedy song, havin' a larf.
"Splitting In Two" is the song that's lasted longest in our set, it's about me and I'm still like that, I think, y'know, questioning stuff all the time. [we blather a bit about his new girlfriend [God she sounds like a right bitch*]
So what about the second single, why two versions?
What happened was, we did the EMI demo, and we thought that was pretty cool, more rough and ready, and then we re-recorded it for the proper single but after living with the first single for a little bit, not long, I just thought it was over-produced, and I liked the old version better. What we did, when we did a re-press we just thought we'd put that other version out, the EMI session one, so that's what we did. When we did The Image Has Cracked CD we put both versions on. They are quite different. The EMI version is much more what we sounded like live, there's no overdubs, it's just as it is, y'know.
My favourite record I've ever made is, my favourite one track I've ever made, or record even, A-Side and B-Side, is "The Force Is Blind". I'm really proud of that, I don't think we ever bettered that. You know what I'm saying of the poetry and jazz idea, I just think that's where it really comes together on that, yaknowhattimean?
Who's the woman on that?
Anno? She's the singer in Here & Now, the Gong offshoot. She was a French girl. Later on I ended up, we got together; we got a son, me and Anno. Anno was the lead singer in Here & Now and we really hit it off, cos we toured with them, we toured with Here & Now, the What You See Is What You Are tour. Me and Anno really hit it off and later on we got together, we were together for quite a few years, really. We got a son, he's sixteen years now, Sebastian, and he lives with his mum in France, cos she's French. We split up, it didn't work out, y'know. Great kid, like. I like that record cos that is, it's one of those records you hear and you don't know what era it comes from, it just happens, it's just there, y'know? That's to me what punk should be about, that type of thing, just experimental, yaknowhattimean, just being bold. And yet the other side is quite edgy, 'Lost In Room', more of a punky new wave thing, innit? I'm really proud of that release, it's a really great record, that.
How was that recorded?
What we did with that was I didn't tell the musicians at all what was gonna happen in the studio cos I used to play a lot of games, I used to play a hell of a lot of games with musicians in the band. I had the songs written. With 'Force is Blind' I had a bass line written and just the lyrics, and then 'Lost in Room' I had the chords and the lyrics, like. This sounds really pretentious but I used to say "Look Dennis, you know when you play" - I used to get them into the vibe of it - "You're all light, this is a festival, there's lots of free food about, y'know, it's all cool, the kiddies are playing, it's a beautiful day and then, like, someone comes in to spoil it and smashes it up, yaknowhattimean, like the police" or whatever, or it could be some other thing. Apart from the bass line everything's improvised; they'd just do their thing. I was playing the drums on that, but I thought Anno did brilliantly on that, cos Anno had such a childlike voice and she did all these weird things, like she'd do a note and then she'd change it while she was singing it, she'd sort of bend it, yaknowhattimean?
Was Anno ever in Gong?
Gong became Planet Gong, by then it was Daevid Allen, and Here & Now were basically his backing band under this Planet Gong/Mother Gong thing. When David Allen left and Here & Now kept on going. She did a bit of work with me, she did some of Snappy Turns; she played violin on that. I'll tell what she does sing on is 'Boy Eats Girl' for Peep Show, she was on that. But it was great, the Here & Now was really important for us. I mean, again, going back to '78, where everything was getting a bit samey and a bit stereotyped, y'know, and The Clash were off on CBS and you had the Oi! thing was just starting, and the more sort of "working class" punk thing was just getting going, and y'know, I actually thought, "Where are we gonna go from here? What are we gonna do next, y'know?" And a couple of people from Here & Now actually approached me at a gig, it was Kif Kif who used to play drums and Anno turned up at a 100 Club gig and said "Look, we're in this band, y'know, we do these free tours, we do like these free gigs", and I was like "Free gigs?" and they said "Yeah, we just play around and we just get money from selling food and from havin' whip-rounds and I just thought, like, fuckin'!you just can't get more punk than that, really, and that's why I got in there, and I got slagged off so much for that. "What are you playin' with these hippies for?" "But they're playing for nuthin', that's what WE should be doin'. We shouldn't be playin', y'know, shitty venues like the fuckin' Rainbow an' that". Well it's good to play 'em once, y'know, so we could say we played the Rainbow - tick - but, y'know, c'mon, let's do something different, that's what punk's about. Again, when they were actually given a chance, a lot of punk bands wouldn't do things like that, yaknowhattimean? They wouldn't just get out there and play to the people, yaknowhattimean, unless they had the right haircuts or something. It's bollocks! That's what I hated about it, I got to loathe punk; by '79, I loathed it. It was just what it represented. To me it suddenly represented something I'd loved so much and freed me as a person, y'know, to become an artist and a creative person, it seemed to be wanting to put everything into a box and label everything suddenly. It was awful.
And that Here & Now tour was a great eye-opener for me. I mean, they used to laugh at us, the Here & Now people cos we'd go to these places like the Stonehenge festival and turn up in our van and we'd go, "Right, where do we sleep?" And they'd go "Have you bought a tent?" "No. Ain't we got B&B's?" "No". It was so funny, so that was when we ended up sleeping in the bus, like, they used to have this big bus, sort of hippie bus. Of course you'd get into it after a while. In the morning I'd get up and say to Anno, "Where's the showers?" and she went, "Showers?!", rolling around the floor laughing at me. "What ya mean?" "We go to the local pub and use their toilets".
"What? To have a wash? What about the toilets, then?"
"No toilets, just go behind the bush and that". I dreaded it. It really showed me how bloody, y'know, naive I was about the world cos people like Here & Now were out there doin' if for nuthin', yaknowhattimean. Everyone was huffin' an' puffin' about changing' things, an' being anti-establishment and they were anti-establishment, yaknowhattimean, without even trying, y'know?
Mad it was, some of the gigs they did. I dunno what it's like nowadays but it was still then, and which fueled a lot of the reasons why I think that the 70s was great in the UK, was that there was great gigs in colleges and Uni's, weren't there?, and everywhere you'd go you'd play the college or the Uni, and they were great gigs cos it wasn't commercially driven. Y'know, a lot of the Here & Now stuff were at Uni's, like Warwick, Stoke, we'd go to Canterbury, play on a day like today [sunny], outside, fantastic gigs they were, really, really good. You'd have a whip-around afterwards, and people'd put you up and that and bring food, and people would say "Bloody hippies", but they were nice people.
[Later on that's what Crass did] they did the collective thing an' all that, basically, that was seen as a hippie thing to do, wasn't it, it was "noooo, we don't like hippies". We've been told we're not supposed to like 'ippies. Kill a hippie or something. Y'know, that's brainwashing, punk seems to brainwash people, y'know. A shame, that is. I mean, after that tour, that's when I went to make Vibing, cos I'd been talking to people with different ideas about how to make music, and all the opportunities were suddenly all there. Cos of that a lot of people probably thought , "Why'd he have to go on that bloody tour?" I mean, Miles Copeland - our manager - 'ated it. He's never been a breadhead, Miles, cos he comes from a rich family an' that - his father was head of the CIA an' all that, wasn't he, big American, rich family - but he don't like throwin' money away, yaknowhattimean, so when we said, "Well, we're doin' this tour" he said, "Right, how much you getting, what's the deal?", we were going, "Oh, it's free".
"Yeah, but what's the deal?"
"No, it's free, Miles, there's no!people come in for nuthin'"
"And how will we make money out of that?"
"It's not about making money, Miles, we're out there!"
"Hey, you guys, you tryin' to freak me out or something?!!"
But it used to be funny with Miles, Miles liked it. When he went to the gigs he said, "It's a good scene"
There was indie records before punk, of course there was, in the sense that there were records put out not by the big companies, but punk definitely! I mean what happened was that you ha
d all these bands suddenly formed so people could get a bit of music and then it sort of died off a bit - the big labels had the bands they wanted, didn't they? - and suddenly there was a lot of bands thought, "Oh we'd better start making records now". I mean, was it the Desperate Bicycles were one of the first ones? I remember Scritti Politti doing an early thing, and my mate I ended up working with like Door & The Window at NB Records. Rough Trade had started up by this time. That was a good scene that was, worthwhile, but again nothing to do with real punk. Punk helped that come in but musically it was a lot more diverse than punk ever was.
Here & Now started Fuck Off Records. Kif Kif from Here & Now started that. People like the Astronauts an' all that, The Door & The Window, who I was playing drums for, we were on that. Here & Now used to have a great scene over in, um, West London, that was their place - a place called Brownlea Road - and it was a great scene over there, a bit near where Rough Trade were based, off the Ladbroke Grove an'all that, and they had all these squats an' that, y'know. A bit of an eye-opener for me cos although I was into punk I'd always had a very comfortable home life. I was an only child, very comfortable flat an' that, y'know, I wasn't like a rough guttersnipey type yobbo, I was a very quiet child. They had a load of rehearsal space an' all that. Later on they started the Street Level studios. Grant Showbiz, he was the sound guy for Here & Now, an' he went on to produce like The Fall and later on worked with Billy Bragg, produced the Smiths for a little while. He did the Dragnet album for The Fall. I think The Fall were one of the only other bands to play - on our level - that actually played with Here & Now. A lot of the other bands just didn't wanna know.
Although Here & Now were interested in having punk bands play, let's face it, I think if Sham 69 had played , then you'd have got all their audience along, and they'd have just duffed up the 'ippies. It's like when Sham 69 played Reading, innit, they took over the stage an' all that. Just some fucking idiots.
By that time, late 78, the punk scene was just dead as far as I was concerned, cos you had all that lot going over that way, and the mob I was interested in, like Here & Now and the Pop Group - we toured with them quite a bit - people that actually thought about the music they were making, like the Fall. Rough Trade got a lot of bands like the Raincoats, we used to know them, Scritti Politti we used to play gigs with Scritti Politti. What was called by Record Collector once, "avant-punk", which I quite like. Throbbing Gristle, people trying to do different stuff, Prag Vec, Essential Logic. I suppose people like Gang of Four, people like the Mekons.
He goes on about Kif Kif for a while, then his phone goes and we get hassled by yet another scrounger. I notice I've been taping over the interview (the player is on a loop). So what was "lost"? He moaned a bit about the panning the press gave the second ATV album, Vibing Up The Senile Man, and we talked about the third LP, Strange Kicks. 'There Goes My Date With Doug' was simply a song he'd written based on an episode of the Brady Bunch, believe it or not.
He could a good pop song, could Alex Fergusson.
RIGHT: Alex Ferguson, 1981.
Were Rough Trade trying to push their Socialist beliefs through records?
The way Rough Trade was run, in comparison to the other main two indie labels - Stiff and Chiswick - they were both run by people that were very rock & roll. Cos like Jake, he'd worked with various people as road manager an' that, and Ted and Roger had been in the business a while as well. Geoff was just totally different, he wasn't rock n roll definitely, he was a very quiet, very intelligent guy an' all that, bit of a leftie. Just a very gentle sort of approach. And I think that was reflected in the way he went about his business, yaknowhattimean. I think he had to get real later on, cos that's what brought Rough Trade down in the end, they were making too many records with too many bands, it was just ridiculous. When The Door & The Window made a record you used to be able to go up to Rough Trade and say "Look, I've made this album I wanna put out" and they'd pay for all the manufacturing and distribution, and they did that for loads of bands, hundreds of bands. So it wasn't on their label, they'd do it for ya, but the money they must have spent on that, for records that really weren't selling that much, yaknowhattimean?
People say to me, Mark, if you hadn't have done Vibing straight away but done another The Image Has Cracked with those ideas, you'd have been big, you could have had big audiences for a longer time, toured America. But it didn't happen. We could have been a Buzzcocks, on that level. We could have played big halls.
We were very sophisticated. Let's face it, the sort of stuff ATV was doing on The Image Has Cracked, things like 'Nasty Little Lonely', I think that'd have gone down well if our album had been promoted in the States an' we went out with that show we were doing then, in the States, I think we'd have gone down really well cos we had that musical angle that a lot of other bands didn't have. We actually sounded like we could play, even though I couldn't play very well. We sounded like we were trying new things. When you hear that song!I look back and think, "bloody hell, that was good, sounds great, the opening sounds like Pink Floyd - the piano bit - sounds like a real sophisticated bit of music, it's not bad that, there weren't many other bands doing that sort of thing at the time. On that we actually got accused of sounding like Black Sabbath - not a bad thing to sound like if you wanna be rich.
I suppose it [punk] was a lot more amateurish [in the early days], the naivety of the Ramones and the early Clash, the Pistols, without all that strutting around rock and roll, and then you had the art school influences with people like Wire and Subway Sect an' Siouxsie & The Banshees when they did their brilliant performance at the 100 Club. So that to me was what was good about that early punk thing and later on, to me, that seemed to get lost yaknowhattimean?
[In the early days] we didn't seem to care what happened because, on one level there wasn't any money involved. Most of the people working in the early months of punk, I don't think they were particularly thinking, "Ooh, we can make a good career out of this, right, let's do this properly". It was like, "Wow, this is really exciting, I can have a go", and they're having a go. It's like the Subway Sect when they played at the first punk festival only knew four songs, didn't they? And Vic Godard, you see 'im on stage and he's got like his key around his neck, he's a latch-key kid, and he's standing up there, "Do I look at the audience?", he's really nervous, he's still at school. And to me that was the spirit of that, but of course a couple of months later when everyone's getting signed up it suddenly becomes, there's a bit of money in this, people talking about ten, twenty, thirty, forty grand on the table. The same bands that just were like, "We're just doing it for a crack and for just like getting up there and having a go in the spirit of punk" are standing there thinking, "Oh right, there's money in this", and you start organizing things, you gotta hire vans and you gotta hire studios. And the natural thing what happens is that people don't wanna take chances anymore cos they don't wanna blow their deals. What happened to me was, because I was in like a unique position in that I had my own labels an' that, that's why I could take the chances I did. So I could do anything, literally, so I did Vibing. There was no other band, probably, in our position, that could have done Vibing. About the only band, ever, that come close to doing something like Vibing was Public Image Ltd.
I thought Vibing at the time was in the spirit of punk, and what I mean by that is those early punk years, because people didn't have those pressures of like "We don't wanna blow our deals", people were just doing it for the right reasons, including the R&B bands, the pub rock bands.
Joe Strummer was the least commercial aspect of The Clash. Cos halfway through gigs he couldn't sing. Urrggggghhhh cough! He's a nutter, y'know? It was more Mick Jones going, "Keep it nice, Joe, don't blow it". I met Mick Jones backstage at an Ian Hunter gig cos he was signed to CBS then. An' I got this 'phone call from CBS. "We're doing Ian Hunter at the moment and do you want to come along and interview Ian Hunter?". And I was like, "No, why?" And they said, "Well, he wants to talk to a punk fanzine". They were basically trying to sell Ian Hunter, which was cool, cos we were all into Mott the Hoople, but they wanted to sell him as some like, godfather of punk. So I said, "Yeah I'll come and see Ian Hunter".
Well backstage at the Hammersmith Odeon was Mick Jones; of course, Mick Jones was on the same label, and also supporting were Japan. This night was a good night, an interesting night. First of all, it was the first time I saw Mick Jones after I'd had a go at The Clash. I'd come out with my statement, "Punk died the day The Clash signed to CBS". He said, "You'd better be careful what you say, you might find yourself at the bottom of the river with concrete boots on". I'm like, "Whaaaaat? What are you talkin' about? What is this, the Mafia?" Nonsense! But also, in this same situation Japan were there, early Japan, and the bloke from Japan come over to Mick Jones and said "Oh Mick, can we have our photo taken with ya?" And Mick's goin', "Oh, all right then", all miserable.
Me and Mick, we started talking so it cooled down a bit. But interestingly we went to the aftershow party and it was at this club in Fulham Road, and the money they spent on it, and we got to meet Ian Hunter together. And it was incredible because it really made an impression on me how important punk had become. Cos meeting Ian Hunter we were like, "We're meeting Ian Hunter! Don't panic! Don't panic!" We were all excited, we were like kids. And Ian did this sort of speech, she said to us "You guys, people like me don't matter anymore" And he was probably only 30 for God's sake! "We're just lucky to be around still". It was bizarre, it was quite moving. Those older musicians guys - and they really weren't all that old - they really felt that they were old news. [talks about how ELP were suddenly being pressured into doing short songs] That's the effect punk had. Made everyone go mad, and they literally started questioning what they were doing. But it seemed to me like chucking the baby out with the bathwater. Sure, we wanted to destroy rock, but not everything that was interesting about rock. We didn't wanna stop people being experimental for fuck's sake.
Here's a picture actually taken that night (4th May 1977), grabbed from the official ATV site
Talking of The Clash, what did you think of Give 'Em Enough Rope?
I was into the Blue Oyster Cult but I don't want The Clash produced by the Blue Oyster Cult producer! I admire Sandy Pearlman, he made some great records, but not with The Clash. I 'ated that album, it stinks! London Calling was superb. Punk's over now, The Clash are a great rock band, they make a great rock album.
What about stuff like Crass?
[rambles on a bit about Crass and Oi not being sexy, Rock Against Racism, art being impartial, spots Chris Carter of Throbbing Gristle and looks blank for a moment while trying to pick up the thread.
The thing with me is that I'm a bit more of a Mick Jones than a Steve Ignorant. I wanted change an' all that but I've always loved rock too much. Although the rhetoric in Sniffin' Glue does sound politically motivated I'm, not sure it would be much use come the revolution yaknowhattimean?
* only joking!