Hi Jane here’s some answers to questions
Let’s start at the beginning, eh? Was there a ”road to Damascus” incident that got you into punk?
Yes it was when I was living in west Wales in the hot summer of 76, I knew something was going on in London. My old mates had started seeing punk bands and were really excited when I rang them up. I then heard New Rose on John Peel and thought, "I gotta go back to London and get into this", which I did. I started going to see The Stranglers loads at the Nashviille, The Red Cow and The Hope And Anchor, as well as The Clash and Boys, The Jam etc. I even saw The Lurkers three weeks before I joined them supporting The Jam at the Roxy Club. I'd been going to gigs since 1969, age 13, but punk was the music that really got to me, in a big big way.
Can you describe the first Lurkers rehearsal session? The first gig? And the first stab at making a record?
Well my first rehearsal was actually my audition. The band practiced under the Beggars Banquet record shop in North End Road, Fulham, SW London, and I used to go in there to buy my records. The manager was called Mike Stone, we got talking about punk and he said he managed The Lurkers. I said I'd seen them at the Roxy and thought they weren't very good. He said they just needed a new bass player and did I play? I'd only strummed a guitar for a few years and never played the bass, but the following Saturday I ended up at their rehearsal. I played one song, 'Then I Kissed Her': they said I had the job, and for the next hour I learnt about 8 songs, then their bass player tuned up and was taken round the pub and dumped, which was very bad of them as he was a mate. His name was Nigel Moore, who later rejoined when I left in November 77.
The first gig I did was at The Hope And Anchor, Islington, about 12 people there and we were all as usual very drunk at the time.
Recording our first single Shadow was great. We went to this studio where Rick Wakeman used to work and we were in and out in about 3 hours. The engineer couldn't believe it. He said that was how long he usually took to get a snare drum sound, but we wanted to get down the pub asap so that's why we bashed it out. In retrospect the sound on the record is crap, but we thought it sounded great at the time, young and naive as we were,
You left the Lurkers very early on. Why?
I was writing stuff which didn't fit what The Lurkers were about. I was writing sort of angst and political songs. Also I wanted to play guitar. Another reason was I was getting fed up with the others' lack of interest in what they were doing, to the point where none of them even turned up when the record company asked them to go to the office to see the art work for the first single. I turned up and said the cover was shit. The others were so lazy and were putting drink before anything else, so I left and formed Pinpoint.
The 2nd Lurkers single: not a shit production, nor a shit cover
How did you feel The Lurkers fit into the scheme of things in 1977?
Well we didn't fit in to any trendy Kings Road middle class poser scene, and because of that we got a really working class following. We were out on a limb really. You only gotta look at the words to some of Pete Stride's songs to realise The Lurkers were oddballs in a scene that was rife with ambitious wannabe's, who would have sold their grandmas for fame. The he second LP was aptly called after the main character in Taxi Driver: The Lurkers were Gods Lonely Men.
And what about hardcore punk – a logical progression or a load of rubbish?
Every music mutates, but the tuneless hard core stuff done nothing for me at all.
Fulham Fallout is rightly regarded as one of the best British punk albums. Does it (and did it) ever bother you that you had nothing to do with it?
It never bothered me one bit about not being on Fulham Fallout. I was glad for the lads who I continued to go and see play and drink with over in their local in Ickenham. As for having nothing to do with it , that's not true. When I joined in May 77 they had only done 5 gigs. Through my connections with Albion agency who managed The Stranglers and 999 etc I got the band loads of gigs at the London venues that Albion ran, so I feel my time in the group had a part to play regarding the early success of the band, which led to that LP doing well. Describe The Roxy, The Vortex, and other similar venues.
The Roxy was tiny and filthy, the atmosphere phenomenal. Only drag was we could never get home easy: no one drove out of our mob and it was always hours on the night bus avoiding soul boy types. The Vortex was really a disco type venue. It didn't have the same feeling as the Roxy, it was really sterile. I preferred pub gigs cos the beer was always cheaper.
Many of the punk bands in the beginning – Penetration, Sham 69 and Crass, for instance – held the (perhaps) naive belief that punk could genuinely bring about real social change. What do you think punks greatest contribution(s) to society was?
At the time to a lot of people punk was a fashion. There were people I knew who wore the clothes for a couple of years then gave up and became even more like their parents than ever, it was mainly a pose, as is any music movement. Most people just cave in and conform; some take a bit longer than others but you got a small percentage whose lives it changes forever, who still love the music. You could say they ain't grown up but what's good about all that responsibility shit? That's what makes you old in the head.
Overall punk never changed anything on a political level. The world is still run by the bankers and the petrochemical industry like it was back in '76- 77, but it's changed a few people's outlook on life, an outlook they've had the balls to stick with and not fucking wimped out and gone into being a robot.
I have so far been unable to track down any recordings by Pinpoint, although I know they made three singles, and possibly an album. Could you tell me about them?
Pinpoint were formed by me and an old mate called Dave Allen. Our drummer Hugh Griffiths was from Carmarthen, Wales. We got signed up to Albion pretty quick, cos as I've gone on about earlier I knew them from being a big Stranglers fan. Anyway, we got loads of gigs with The Stranglers, 999, Hazel O'Connor, done a 30 date tour with The Members in 79, and made a great single called In Richmond, produced by Vic Maile. It got Record Of The Week in Sounds, reviewed by Tom Robinson. He said it was a savage updating of The Kinks classic Dedicated Follower Of Fashion. Well we should have done our album with Vic but Albion insisted we do it with Martin Rushent, who'd done a good job for Buzzcocks, Gen X, 999 etc, but I hated him. He was a bullying asshole who I should have decked right away. He was splitting up with his wife when we made our LP and his studio was only a quarter finished, and he had all this horrible micro composer machinery which had just come out. Well he used us as guinea pigs for his next project which was the Human League's Dare album, which sold millions. I hated what he was doing but the bass player saw that if he got in with brown-nosing Rushent he could become his engineer and that's exactly what happened.
As far as I was concerned Albion and Rushent ruined a really good band. In fact we only played two gigs after making that album. Also, 12 years later I met one of the Albion bosses who admitted to me when asked, that we had only been signed as a tax loss to offset how much they'd made from The Stranglers. That book about sharks in the music industry that came out a few years ago, Albion have a whole chapter of their own and what they done to Hazel O'Connor.
Anyway, Pinpoint were a bit quirky but also quite poppy, too.
Can you tell me about the Blubbery Hellbellies? They made an album, (Flabbergasted), and a mini-album (At Large), both on Workers Playtime, that much I know. Would you describe them as cowpunk, rockabilly, or what? Did you have much to do with other Upright bands, like Snuff and Serious Drinking? And what was your opinion of UK punk during the 80’s?
The Blubbery Hellbellies started out as a one off gig, supporting The Boothill Footappers at The Hope And Anchor. We got offered 4 gigs from that gig so we just rolled on in one form or another for five years. We played hillbilly rock and roll cowboy ballads, ska metal, Osmonds, anything we wanted and supported The Pogues, The Men They Couldn't Hang, and Toten Hosen in Germany. That's how I met Campino.
Also I knew Serious Drinking really well. They got Bill Gillium down to see us and we made those records with him, also another LP with Virgin in Germany. We done 1,000 gigs in 5 years and I became an alkie and nearly died, so I gave it up for health reasons, lost 6 and half stone and started The Lurkers up again in 1987. UK punk was almost over then , only the Subs, G.B.H., Vibrators and Exploited were still around, I remember some really depressing nights down the Marquee Club and the100 Club around that time. You get loads more people at the gigs now than you did then.
Did it take much to convince you when Campino first suggested reforming The Lurkers?
No not at all but I wanted to just play bass, but Pete Stride didn't want Howard back so we got Nigel in and I sang, with a guy who everyone thought was Esso on drums called Dan Tozer. ‘Wild Times Again’ is the one Lurkers album I am unable sit through. It sounds like it was recorded on a tiny budget… It was, but when I say I find the production weak and samey people in general say it's fine. You can't win on this sort of thing, everyone has their own view.
I for one was surprised and delighted by You Us It! [recorded by Arturo's "other" band, 999]. What do you think made that record so damn good?
Good songs and good production. Sometimes it just all comes together right
There was quite a bit of bad blood when Pete Stride left The Lurkers, wasn't there?
We’d just done a 30 date tour of Germany and the next week I'd signed contracts to play in Spain. Pete said he was too tired and wouldn't go, he said I couldn't without him, as it would have been me who would have been sued. I said, "Well I'm going without you", which I did. From then on he wouldn't play live again and hasn't done with anyone and that's 12 years ago. I asked him to write some songs for the 1995 album Ripped And Torn which he did, but bad blood is the wrong word. He just didn't like gigging much anyway, and he obviously hasn't gone on to do anything musically again.
According to the official website, you have little contact with the original Lurkers members? Why don’t you give ‘em a bell, say hello?
I see Esso all the time in fact he's been staying here recently , he doesn't play at all anymore. Pete doesn't go anywhere except his local pub once a week and no one has seen Howard for 20 years, and we don't know where he is; it's better that way. You're obviously suggesting some kind of reunion. Well it will never, repeat never, happen.
Tell me about the new album, and what’s it like working for Mark Brennan?
Mark is fine to work with, really on the case and a good bloke to. The new album is called 26 Years and has 13 new songs and a version of In Richmond and Mass Media Believer on it, which I wrote as the B-Side of the second Lurkers single, Freak Show. The other songs are all new and written by me, with a collaboration with Esso who wrote the lyrics to one song. It's the usual mixture of subject matter: mental illness, revenge, love songs, hate songs, drinking songs, conspiracy theory songs, all with great poppy melodies. If that's how you like it, get it now.
Is punk these days a complete waste of time?
No it's not, its' as valid as any style of music that's been around for years. If people still wanna hear it, why not?
John Lydon on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here is still subverting the system from within. Discuss.
No, he’s not, he is the system. He's a good clown, and as Establishment as the Queen herself. Bless him. Not her.