Have you got a list of band members and what they played?
Marion (Coutts) – vocals, trumpette, tuba, cowbell, lyrics.
Andy (Moor) – guitar, viola, hippo tube.
Colin (Maclean) – bass, percussion.
Wilf (Plum) – drumkit, percussion, (also a bit of saxophone & guitar).
Martyn (Hampshire) – driver & sound engineer 1986 – 89
Gert-Jan (Polderman) – sound engineer 1990 – 94
And a current website/myspace?
Don’t know who set it up, but it’s at: http://www.myspace.com/thedogfacedhermans
also some French folk have made a page or two at: http://www.pyduc.com/dfh/index.htm
What first got you into music?
I was sent away to a cathedral choir school aged 8. Which on the whole I didn’t like; Much as I enjoyed music, I had no interest in the classical world. Instead I wanted to be in a pop band when I grew up. Something like the Monkees, having adventures and such. But there was no point in saying that to any of my teachers – at the time pop music was definitely regarded as something inferior as compared to ’real’ classical music. I had ’cello lessons from age 8 to 15, (& piano from age 7 to 10) but I never really got the hang of reading music; it was always more natural for me to play by ear. I stopped having lessons when I was 15, because at the school I went to, if you took music lessons you had to play in one of the orchestras. Of which there were three. I had faked my way through that for a couple of years (fortunately there were four ’cellos, so no-one ever noticed me miming the bits I didn’t know) but one day I fell asleep during a rehearsal & got kicked out. By then I’d had enough of trying to play classical music so I bided my time for a bit & the next year I got a cheap bass guitar for my 16th birthday. & suddenly I didn’t have to force myself to practice, all those years of trying to play ’cello came in handy for fingering the notes & 2 two weeks later I joined a band at school.
What was the effect of punk on you?
I was 14 in 1977 & had just started listening to prog rock (Pink Floyd, Genesis etc.) so my initial knee-jerk reaction to punk was to side with the dinosaurs of rock that I had just discovered. It didn’t take too long before I realised that punk was too exciting to ignore & by the summer I bought a box of safety pins and decorated my jacket with them. & of course when I started playing in bands, the punk rock attitude of 3 chords & fuck off to anyone that didn’t like what we were doing certainly made it easy to bypass stage fright & not be too bothered by bum notes.
Which bands did you like?
(in no particular order) The Valves, The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, The Dead Kennedys, The Clash, The Rezillos, The Damned, The Undertones, The Stranglers. Also more ’new wave’ things like Talking Heads, Television, Ian Dury & the Blockheads. & a heavy metal period when I was 15/16; Led Zeppelin, Motorhead, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest. And in fact lots of other stuff.
What groups did you get into in the post punk period?
The Pop Group, Gang of 4, The Birthday Party, B52s, Wire, Throbbing Gristle, Essential Logic, Young Marble Giants, Local Heroes SW9, Pere Ubu, Prince Far I, Augustus Pablo, Lee Perry, Joy Division, ATV, PIL, This Heat, The Fall, Durutti Column, A Certain Ratio, Magazine, Blurt, Au Pairs, The Soft Boys, The Cramps, Can, The Monochrome Set, Echo & the Bunnymen, The League of Gentlemen, Pigbag. Amongst many others.
What was the scene like in your town? good bands, venues characters on the scene?
The scene in Edinburgh seemed pretty lively to me. The Valves, The Rezillos, Josef K, The Fire Engines, The Scars, The Visitors, The Exploited, The Associates, TV21 amongst others and later on a whole explosion of stuff; The Shop Assistants, The Fini Tribe, The Thanes, Jesse Garon & the Desperadoes, The Cateran, We Free Kings, Swamptrash, Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie (with Shirley Manson), The Hook ’n’ Pull Gang, Archbishop Kebab, The Fizzbombs. And Dog Faced Hermans of course.
As for venues, it was always quite hard to find somewhere small to put on a gig, but there was the Netherbow Theatre, the YMCA (for a while) and later on Wilkie House & The Calton Studios. Of the venues that put on touring bands, The Nite Club (above the Edinburgh Playhouse) existed for a few years & I saw a lot of good gigs there – The Birthday Party, The Fall, Rip Rig & Panic, The Meteors (supporting Theatre of Hate, who weren’t all that great), the Young Marble Giants, Thompson Twins (when they were a 4 piece punk band) & Local Heroes SW9 all on the same bill, the Simple Minds, Durutti Column, Nico backed by The Blue Orchids. There was also Clouds, & later The Hoochie Coochie Club. Not to forget Potterrow Student Union, Moray House Student Union, & The Venue.
And every summer there was the Meadows Festival, where the PA was supplied by Wilf Smarties (who ran Wilf’s Planet Recording Studios). & his West Coast style band called Mowgli & the Donuts usually played. And in the early eighties there was also Rob Scales & his second-hand musical instrument & fishing rod shop, which later moved along the street & was taken over by George from the Science Fiction Bookshop. There was also the Green Tree, a pub in the Cowgate round the corner from the practice rooms in Niddry Street. Lots of bands used to hang out there, I played slide guitar there a few times with the Sanctified Sinners (messy acoustic Country & Western) for free beer. And I remember one of the bar staff was a big Hermans fan, so we used to sometimes get free pints.
Were you in bands before?
I started in 1979 with a band at school. Trotsky’s Airfix Soldiers, abbreviated to TAS. We played ’psychedelic’ punk, (more Hawkwind than 13th Floor Elevators) and our second gig (at the Edinburgh YMCA) we supported the Exploited. We didn’t get much of a reaction, but then the band after us got canned off stage by all the Exploited fans, so I guess we did OK. That lasted for a year and a half & then I didn’t do much except practise the guitar at home until 1983, when I got the use of the Fini Tribe’s practice room which had a drum kit set up. (later on I also played some ’cello on their first 12” single). As I’d always wanted to play the drums, I started to play on my own & after a while I had got to the stage where I could play for three minutes without it all falling apart. I figured that if I could keep it up long enough for a three minute song, then I could do a gig, so I formed a band with some friends called Wee Yellow Rip. My original idea had been more Motown & 1960s R’n’B with a bit of punk thrown in, but the other folk in the band were more into Dub Reggae, so we played that & thus I learned to play the drums. The band carried on for a couple of years with numerous line-up changes (we had getting on for 50 members in total) and finally stopped in 1986.
At the same time I started another band with some pals so I could play guitar, which was the Ink of Infidels. As well as myself playing guitar, on vocals & keyboard there was Harry Horse (later of Swamptrash & a successful illustrator & newspaper cartoonist until he tragically killed himself & his terminally-ill wife in January 2007), Snorky the Thing on drums (really called Simon McGlynn, he was in Fini Tribe & is currently in the reformed TV21). George Baxter on bass (later in Archbishop Kebab, he joined us two weeks after starting to learn the bass), & my sister Rose on saxophone (also later in Archbishop Kebab & L’Orchestre des Elephants in Montréal). Our first gig was at a birthday party for Darren, the drummer of the New York Pig Funkers, in a nightclub in Rose Street (Edinburgh – lots of bars, night clubs etc.) First off the bouncer wouldn’t let me in with army boots, so I had to go in barefoot. Then we had to borrow the drums, amps & keyboard of the other band as McKain, who ran the rehearsal rooms in Niddry St. where we practiced, had changed the lock because one of the bands we shared the room with hadn’t paid the rent. And he wasn’t there with the new key when we went to get our gear. At least I still had my guitar. Then we started to play, and after 4 songs the club DJ cut the power and announced that whoever organised the gig had better go & see the manager right now, as he wasn’t happy with the way the music was going. & people had stopped buying drinks to watch the band. Which was hilarious, punk rock ya cunt, as they used to say in Edinburgh. Although naturally the other band playing were not so pleased that they had to grovel to the club owner before he would allow the gig to continue. & of course they were more ’serious’ musicians, so they were a bit po-faced anyway. On another occasion we played at a Xmas party for agricultural students & they hated it, and even got up a petition to complain about the bad music. Which we all wanted to sign, but they wouldn’t let us. The band stopped for a while after we all started to not get on so well with Harry, & he went off to San Francisco for a bit. Unfortunately he was mugged in the Mission & came back somewhat chastened, and we had another go at the band, this time with Colin on guitar as well. That lasted until the end of 1986, by which time the Hermans were in full swing. I also played slide guitar in a messy country and western band called the Sanctified Sinners in ’87 & 88. (which also included Geoff Pagan from We Free Kings and Duncs and Si from Rip, Strip & Fuck it).
But to backtrack slightly, in late 1984 or the very beginning of 1985, I forget which, I was at a Three Johns gig with George from the Infidels, and he introduced me to his pal Andy, whose band was looking for a drummer. I went along to their practice room & met Kathy (Hulme) & Ruth (Robinson, whose brother Neil I knew well). Colin I already knew slightly, although I didn’t know he was a musician. Marion arrived a bit later. Oddly enough, I had been making a poster for a Miner’s Strike benefit gig with the Ink of Infidels and Rip, Strip and Fuck It and the third band were taking ages to decide on a name, and I kept on at George (who knew them) to get them to hurry up and choose something so that I could finish the poster. It turned out to be the band I had just joined. Which ended up being called Volunteer Slavery, after the Roland Kirk song. It was my first experience of playing with people who didn’t write pop/rock songs, and it opened up a whole new world for me. Originally we started out hitting things, with horns and voices. A strange mixture of simple free jazz, weird noise & thudding rhythms. It would start with a tribal drumbeat; Colin and I both played drum kits, & Andy also played toms and hit his guitar with a stick and then Marion & Kathy played & Ruth screamed over the top of it all. We also had oil drums, which we sometimes put in front of the stage for the audience to join in on. It was very unstructured, but the pieces seemed to develop a life of their own and after a while we were able to more or less repeat them at a gig. Usually half the audience would leave, go to the bar etc. after the first ’song’, it was definitely a love-it-or hate-it kind of thing. & we got banned from the Wee Red Bar for being too noisy. Over time Colin & Andy started to play riffs on their guitars and broadly speaking the music we played at that point could be divided into two types, noisy guitar riff tunes and more drumming and percussive horn pieces. Marion and Kathy were often frustrated by not being able to hear themselves over the guitars, and even though there was an idea to spilt the band into two bands, one with horns & drums & one with guitars, in the end it just disintegrated.
What was your first experience of the scene I am writing about in the book?
Once I started hanging out with Colin & Andy, I got to hear bands like Big Flame, Bogshed and The Ex. And they were always listening to John Peel, who as you know provided the only opportunity to hear obscure & interesting bands on the radio.
Which bands did you like/go and see?
Andy got Big Flame to come and play at the Wee Red Bar in the Art College. They were fantastic, I’d never seen anything like it and I was even more impressed after seeing Greg drink about six pints before going on & playing an amazing gig. Andy also got Bogshed to come and play, they too were pure dead brilliant. We also went to see the Fall and the opening act was the Membranes, although I’m ashamed to say I was late and missed them. And later, when we became involved with the Edinburgh Musicians Collective, we got other bands up from England like Death by Milkfloat and AC Temple. Other favourite bands included Jackdaw with Crowbar, Shrug, the Membranes, The Ex, We Free Kings, Nyah Fearties, the mighty StretchHeads, Dawson...
Did it affect your idea of making music?
Yes. Dog Faced Hermans came out of the part of Volunteer Slavery that was guitar (riff) based, and Bogshed and Big Flame had both been big inspirations and influences on that. And anyway we fitted right in with the DIY punk rock attitude that was part of the scene; there was no band leader, the music was written collectively through jamming and we definitely had a bit of an ideological agenda as regards the music world. There was also the fact that musically it wasn’t as blinkered and hidebound as some of the other scenes that existed (such as ’traditional’ punk, metal and other narrowly defined musical genres). Which meant we could play on a bill with Jackdaw with Crowbar who played country dub thrash or We Free Kings who played celtabilly or Shrug who played pop music with 2 drummers & metal guitar and all it seemed quite normal. Possibly this was also to do with the fact that what we had in common & thus made it into a scene wasn’t a style of music, but rather a similar approach to the aspects of being in a band that weren’t to do with the music; releasing records independently, co-operating with other bands rather than seeing them as competition & not being part of the mainstream music business/industry.
What was the initial idea for your band?
The initial idea was to carry on from where we left off with the noisy guitar side of Volunteer Slavery. Except faster and more compact. And we wanted a singer, as none of us wanted to do it. We did advertise a bit, & I remember we had one guy who was interested, but it didn’t click. Then Andy said that Marion was interested in playing trumpet and singing (in Volunteer Slavery she only played trumpet), so we gave that a try and it seemed to work fine. We had already used the Dog Faced Hermans name for a short lived cassette label and when we needed to call the new band something, there it was. There was never really a definite idea about what sort of music we should play – the Bogshed/Big Flame influences came out, but as well as that everyone crammed their own tastes into the mix. I was inspired by old Motown and R’n’B drummers so I tried to fit that in, albeit sped up. And for me it was always an interesting weird pop band, playing the pop music I thought should exist to counter the likes of Rick Astley and Stock Aitken & Waterman, and also inspired by noise, punk, free jazz, improvisation and folk music (& ssh, don’t tell anyone but I think there were a few lingering prog rock elements in there as well), but I don’t think Colin and Andy saw it as pop & Marion had a completely different perspective. On the ’muso’ scale of 1 to 10, she was down at zero or possibly even minus 1, with Colin and Andy hovering around 4 or 5 and me at about 8. But that mixture was also what made it interesting and satisfying; we never knew what the next song would turn out to be as we were inspired by/stole bits from all over the place.
Were you into the fanzine culture that was around at the time?
Not in a huge way. I used to read them, and of course the fact that they were mostly home-made and cheap, and not beholden to other interests like the NME and Sounds made them as much a part of the scene as the bands they wrote about. And often the people that made them were in bands anyway. I particularly remember the one put out by Lord Bob Tupelo in Leamington, which had a recipe for home brew with the right Captain Beefheart song to play at each stage of the process. And later on, I contributed a few comic strips to a tabloid fanzine from Portland, Oregon called Snipehunt that had a comics section.
Talk about the records you made
At about the same time as Dog Faced Hermans began, the Edinburgh Musician’s Collective (that we were part of) had started to make contacts with other collectives in England, so after a month of writing new material, we headed off down south and our first shows were in Nottingham (at a performance art festival where I fear we weren’t quite arty enough, fun though it was), Northampton & Lancaster. Right after that we went into a recording studio in Cambridge run by some friends of mine (which kept the cost down) and recorded the whole set with Davy Graham at the controls. Back in Edinburgh, we listened back to the recordings and decided that even though most of it was pretty rough and not so well arranged (having been recorded after only 3 live performances; we tended to polish up the songs for a while live before recording them), there were three tracks we felt we could put onto a 7 inch. We borrowed 500 quid from Thom Dibdin, a friend who had originally offered to loan the money to the Ink of Infidels to put out a single. Alas, the Infidels fell to bits, but when we asked Thom a few months later if he was interested in another band, fortunately he was. We fixed up a distribution deal with Sandy McLean of Fast Forward and off we went with the Demon Radge label. I guess we benefited from the popularity of C86 and the interest it stirred up, so we got our single reviewed in the NME and also got played on Peel, which opened up a wealth of new opportunities to play and meet more like-minded bands.
The next recording we did was a Peel session, at the BBC studio in Maida Vale. We’d never been in a ’proper’ studio before and it was produced by Dale Griffin, erstwhile drummer for Mott the Hoople, and a rather grumpy man who I felt would have preferred to spend his Sunday afternoon mowing the lawn, rather than recording an inexperienced band. & things weren’t helped when one of the assistant engineers spilt a cup of coffee onto the mixing desk. Although being the BBC, someone went off to a storeroom and came back with a replacement channel to install. But I don’t think we did a very good job of translating our sound onto tape, and we also had to change a couple of the song titles: ’Shat On By Angels’ was deemed too crude & became ’Shore Up The Enemy’ & ’Malcolm Rifkind’s Privy’ was sweetened to ’Malcolm Plays Housey-Housey’. (This last because there was an election campaign at the time and politician’s names were only allowed to be mentioned on the News or Party Political Broadcasts).
A few months after that we recorded ’Shat On By Angels’ again for an anti-censorship compilation, at Colin Blakey’s studio in his flat in Bruntsfield. We also recorded Balloon Girl for the Fridge Freezer EP, given away free with the fanzine But That’s Downbeat And Ridiculous Sharon. It also featured The Turncoats, the Sperm Wails and the Membranes.
The band was gradually becoming a bit better known and later in 1987 we had an offer from Jerry (The Legend) & his pal Jamie to put out a Dog Faced Hermans LP on Calculus Records. This was recorded at Wilf’s Planet in Edinburgh by John Vick (of the Fini Tribe). By now we had a better idea of how to record things and managed to produce half an hour’s worth of music. Including an acoustic number by Andy & Marion with buses going by recorded outside the studio in Broughton Street. Originally the record was going to be called ’Humans Fly But They Can’t Be Civil’, which I thought was a great title, another cracker from Marion, but the others felt it was too long so it was truncated to ’Humans Fly’.
We also recorded a single for Calculus, again at Planet with John Vick. ’Bella Ciao’, an Italian partisan song and ’Miss O’Grady’. That seemed to be doing quite well and even had a little airplay on a Radio One show other than John Peel (I forget which) but a dispute between the pressing plant & Fast Forward led a to delay in re-pressing, so by the time we got the new batch the momentum had petered out. Not that we had any idea of a hit or anything, but a few more sales always came in handy for buying strings, fixing amps etc. After this we also had an opportunity to release Humans Fly in Germany on Philip Boa’s label Constrictor (thanks to John Robb), so we added the tracks from the single to make it full LP length. We thought that seeing as it was a German release, it should have a German title, so we re-christened it ’Menschen Fliegen’ but we heard later on that folk in Germany didn’t really appreciate that & would have preferred the English title. So much for trying to be clever. Also there was a bit of a mix-up with the colours on the sleeve, the original UK pressing was black & white and Constrictor said ’you can have one colour’ to us. We said either red or black, but somehow it came back from the printer a mixture of both colours & was a rather unattractive shade of brown.
The next LP, ’Every Day Timebomb’, was recorded at Chamber Studio in Edinburgh with Jamie Watson, and was released on John Robb’s Vinyl Drip label. The music had evolved beyond being driven by (mostly fast) on- or off-beats and we had started to range ever wider for inspiration. We also did a version of an old American folk song, ’John Henry’, with Neil MacArthur from Swamptrash on fiddle.
We later recorded two more tracks to add to ’Every Day Timebomb’ for a possible Greek release, again thanks to John Robb’s enormous network of contacts, but in the end it never went ahead as the guy wanted the tracks to be exclusive and we thought that they should come out in the UK as a single. (In the end it came out a year and a half later on Konkurrel, just after we moved to Holland. And subsequently also on Project A Bomb from Minneapolis). We also released a live cassette, ’Live Action and Increasing’, with contributions from Nyah Fearties.
At this point (September 1989) we stopped and Marion went to Poland to further her art studies and career, Andy moved to Amsterdam to play in the Ex and Colin stayed in Edinburgh (I don’t think he played much music, but he had a tape label which released Treat, a split live cassette with the Ex). I moved to Leamington & played in Jackdaw with Crowbar. Which as well as Fergus & Tim, also had Tris King from Bogshed on guitar & drums. And Wak and later Andy on bass. I also went to Amsterdam for two weeks to record the double LP ’Joggers & Smoggers’ with the Ex. When Marion was finished with her work in Poland, we all met up in Amsterdam and decided to continue with the band, except it made more sense (for a number of reasons) to base ourselves in Amsterdam, so we all moved there in the autumn of 1990.
One of the first things we did was record an acoustic version of ’Lied der Steinklopfer’ with the Ex that was the B-side of their ’Stonestamper’s Song’ 7”. And re-release the first two LPs & singles as a CD on Konkurrel. After a couple of months of getting used to being in another country and writing new songs, we started playing gigs again in February 1991. We recorded the next LP/CD. ’Mental Blocks For All Ages’, at the Koeienverhuurbedrijf based in a squat in Amsterdam, with Dolf Planteijdt. It was released in Europe by Konkurrel and in the US by Project A Bomb. Not playing together for a year seemed to have allowed a backlog of ideas to build up, so that when we started to write music together again, there was a whole new depth of variety to what we came up with. We started to experiment more with different rhythms (and occasionally time signatures) and I even used a double bass-drum pedal on a few songs (ultimately discontinued with as it tended to clutter up the low end of the music). Finally, we had too much material for an LP, so we dropped a couple of songs that were less well regarded. (We used one of them, ’New Year’, for a benefit compilation for Yugoslavian war victims that came out a few years later). It was also the last time we collectively mixed a record. It was a case of too many cooks, and I remember Colin especially being frustrated by what he felt was a patchy record. After that Andy & Colin did the mixing. (And Colin recently re-mastered it for an American re-release and he was much happier with the result).
We also played with the Ex at the BIMhuis which was recorded & came out as part of their ’6’ singles series and also released a cassette ’Live at the Ancienne Chocolaterie’ (in Neuchâtel, Switzerland). There was also a live version of The Running Man (which they entitled Draw the curtain) on a German compilation LP, ‘Es gibt ein leben vor dem tod’ from Köln.
We didn’t do much recording in 1992; we were busy with gigs, and Andy also had a pretty busy life touring and recording with the Ex as well, and it wasn’t until January 1993 that we recorded the next LP, ’Hum of Life’, for which we went back to Chamber Studios in Edinburgh, with Jamie Watson again. ’Jan 9’ had a drumbeat derived from the paradiddle Kat Ex played on the Ex classic ’Meanwhile at McDonna’s’ and a guitar line inspired by Public Enemy. ’How We Connect’ had a bit in the middle that sounded like African pop music. ’White Indians’ was a studio piece, we never really played it live, (alas) and we also slowed the tape down (suggested by Jamie) which gave it a much better groove. Marion’s lyrics continued to amaze and inspire with their unpretentious directness, Andy had started to use his electric viola as well as play guitar and Colin’s bass lines were as solid and interesting as ever. & the drum beats still seemed to be working. We also did a couple of cover versions, ’Love Split With Blood’ by 8-Eyed Spy and ’Peace Warriors’ from Ornette Coleman. The record was released on LP and CD in Europe by Konkurrel and in the US by Project A-Bomb.
We toured the US in March and April of 1993 and recorded a lot of the gigs on a 4-track cassette machine, the fruits of which (plus a few European gigs) were released in 1994 as a live LP & CD, ’Bump & Swing’ (Europe: Konkurrel. US: Alternative Tentacles). And I hope you’ll forgive me if I drop in an anecdote at this point: thus far I’ve tried to keep it as factual as possible but there was one incident with the 4-track that I feel I must share with the rest of the world. It summed up for me the cynical and grasping music business mentality that we had always tried to combat by proving that there were other ways to operate that weren’t driven by profit, greed and exploitation. And it took place in that temple of early punk rock CBGBs. To be honest the place was a bit of a hole and pretty grotty. Then again that wasn’t so different from loads of other places that we had played in, German squats with rats spring to mind. But unlike German squats, we got a couple of tickets for half-price beer rather than a whole crate. Fair enough, we were in the land where there was no such thing as a free lunch and we weren’t expecting European levels of refreshment provision.
We set up the gear, & the 4-track as well, aided by the house engineer. Did the soundcheck, and later played the show, packed up the gear and then had to keep an eye on it as the backstage was none too safe. We were followed by Trenchmouth, a great band from Chicago who ended up once again playing last in CBGBs to a diminishing crowd. We had asked the club if we could swop places with them, but the running order was fixed so that was that. The show ended and as we were getting ready to load the van and Gert-Jan our sound man was putting the 4-track back in its case, the house engineer came up to Gert, pointed to a small piece of paper pasted to the wall up above eye level and read out what it said. “Four track recording – twenty five dollars.” I should mention at this point that the walls were completely covered in posters, flyers and bits of paper, so their notice didn’t exactly stand out. Gert tried to explain to the guy and another bloke from the club management that we hadn’t used their equipment, other than two cables from the desk into our machine and anyway we had our own sound man, so what had they done to get 25 bucks? Nevertheless that’s what they wanted, or the tape that we’d recorded. Andy joined in to try and point out that we wouldn’t have bothered recording it if we’d known beforehand that we would have to pay. The house guy had been around when we were setting up our machine & microphones and never said a word, & in any case the sign was tiny and in fact only really legible when the house lights came up at the end of the night. And then only if you were looking for it.
“Don’t gimme any of your limey logic,” retorted the club guy, at which point Andy said “Well that’s the end of the discussion then.” He’d already passed the tape to someone else in our group, which consisted of us, Trenchmouth, Geoffrey Trelstad the large Viking (who was our driver, tour manager and record label guy) and various members of God is my Co-Pilot. The club guy was still demanding the tape, or that we unspool it in front of him if we didn’t cough up the cash (fortunately Geoffrey had got the gig money before any of this started) and the bouncers were shifting about a bit, and I thought “How absurd, their insistence on making money wherever possible has led to what seems to be folk squaring up for a fight.” Possibly an over-reaction on my part, but Edinburgh late at night can sometimes instil that particular brand of paranoia. Well anyway, there was a weird Mexican stand-off for about ten minutes where nothing much happened beyond an extended round of foot-shuffling and blank stares, and then the CBGBs guy played his trump card. “OK, if you don’t give us the tape, you’re never playing here again.” We were so overwhelmed by the tragic implications of this dire threat that we had barely time to load out our gear before bursting out laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, not to mention the large grins engendered by being banned from the birthplace of punk. And I should mention that on the whole, we met a lot of Americans who didn’t live up to their country’s bad name and only a few real assholes.
But to return to the records, after we decided in February 1994 to stop the band, we still wanted to do another studio LP. As Project A Bomb was suffering from the collapse of their manufacturing & distribution deal, We had to look around for another label in the US. ”Why not try Alternative Tentacles?” we thought, so we called them up and were a little surprised when they agreed. The first thing they put out was the live LP, ’Bump & Swing’ and we went to Suite 16 in Rochdale (which had previously been Cargo Studios, the home of many a cracking tune) and recorded ’Those Deep Buds’ with Guy Fixsen engineering. The music was still interesting and challenging to play & Guy did a good job of recording and mixed it along with Andy and Colin. The one song that I mixed with Guy, which Andy & Colin had given up as no good, still didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped (H tribe), I just couldn’t get the Bollywood drum sound I wanted out of my drumming. Also, I’m not exactly Phil Spector. The rest of the record came out pretty well though, Colin’s crisp bassline for Volkswagen & Andy’s layers of guitars on ’Virginia Fur’. Marion’s singing was getting better and better and I managed to play some decent beats as well.
Around the same time we also recorded a version of ’Calley’ at a studio in Groningen, using a drum machine for the only time, so I played hi-hat & percussive guitar. It was for a benefit compilation for rape victims of the Yugoslavian war.
Why did the band end?
A variety of reasons. For a start, there had always been the possibility of Marion suddenly going off to pursue her art. And then we had done a rather gruelling 5 week European tour in November and December 1993, with often poor conditions exacerbated by wintry weather, and after a break for the festive season we got together again to rehearse for the next set of shows we had lined up. Something was bothering Colin and by about the third rehearsal, he finally said that the last tour had done it for him, what with the winter, and worrying if the van was going to last and various other stresses, and he wasn’ really enjoying it any more, so he’d decided to quit. This came as a bit of a blow, to say the least, but anyway he said he didn’t want to cause any hassle so we went ahead and played the shows. After which he said that in fact it wasn’t so bad after all, but by that time, Marion decided that she would rather move back to Britain and continue with her art career, which was of course hampered by frequent touring and other band commitments. Andy was also feeling the strain of playing in Dog Faced Hermans as well as the Ex; he would no sooner come back from an Ex tour than he would be off again with the Hermans and vice-versa. Gert-Jan our sound man had also had enough, which only left me who didn’t want to stop. Which made me extremely sad, both at the time and in fact for quite some years afterwards, (not that that was anyone’s intention). Of course I had to respect what the others wanted, and just live with it. And there was no question of carrying on and finding another singer if Marion left, it had always been an unspoken rule that if one person left then that would be that, the thing being as it was a product of the four of us, all or nothing.
The decision to stop having been made, we decided to continue until the end of the year and try to play in all the places we wanted to revisit (as far as possible), finish the live record and do another studio record. All of which we managed to do, and the last tour was in the US and Canada and finished at the Chameleon in San Francisco on November 15 1994. After which we had a cake someone had made with Goodbye Hermans in icing. And a bottle of tequila was passed round, of which I swigged a little too freely on an empty stomach. This had the unfortunate result of turning me into a zombie nursing a cup of black coffee & unable to speak while the others tucked in to a hearty Mexican dinner with Jello Biafra. And that was the end of that. Despite me being sad that it came to an end, we did stop at a high point rather than petering out or exploding into acrimony, and more importantly, we had managed to make 6 LPs, a few singles and play 446 gigs on our own terms, without betraying the ideals that were part of the scene we came from. And we’re still warmly remembered in some circles.
If you’ll forgive the presumption, I’ll append a question you (perhaps, perhaps not) neglected to ask:
What have you done since?
To try and keep it in a hazel- rather than a coco-nutshell, an incomplete list:
Played with Rhythm Activism (from Montreal), De Kift (Holland), Hendrick-Jan de Stuntman (Outdoor theatre group, Amsterdam), Donkey (Holland), Runt (with Jer Reid from Dawson and sometimes Craig Flanagin from God-Co), Liana Flu Winks (Rotterdam), Two Pin Din (a guitar duo with Andy Kerr from NomeansNo), The Bent Moustache (Donkey, with a name-change), the Ex Orchestra (Holland), & was The Human Ex-Jukebox (at their 20th and 25th Birthday Parties) Also was in The Spinshots, The West Hell 3+2, Johnny Distance and the Wasp Riders, She-Devil and the Bad Ones (all Amsterdam). Currently living in Belgium, and still playing in Two Pin Din. Also bass in Lem, & drums in Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp.