Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Backstage With Zodiac Mindwarp And The Love Reaction: Idle Chitchat And Fun Photo Ops With Fanzine Journalists

Originally published in Rave-Up #14 (1988)
Interview by Devorah Ostrov & Sara Brinker

Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction
Back cover photo - Tattooed Beat Messiah (Mercury/Phonogram Records) 
Lovable British hooligans Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction recently roared into town in promotion of their new album Tattooed Beat Messiah. Following their boisterous show at the Stone, Mr. Mindwarp (a.k.a. Mark Manning, former art editor at Flexipop! magazine) had some time to kill and we had a tape recorder. So, we engaged in a bit of idle chitchat while Sara posed for an impromptu photo op in her custom-made jacket...

Rave-Up: When did you get your first tattoo?

Sara Brinker poses with Zodiac Mindwarp
Jacket and photo by: Vicki Berndt
https://vickiberndt.com
Zodiac: I was 14 years old. It was a skull and dagger tattoo, and it cost me about 20p. I had it covered up about four or five years ago.

Rave-Up: How did you like tonight's show?

Zodiac: The audience tonight was good. It reminded me of a London audience. London, and England, are crazy!

Rave-Up: You didn't seem too pleased with the stage divers.

Zodiac: They fucked up my microphone. Stay off my stage, fucking wild boys! I always try to give a good show, regardless of what the audience is doing. They pay their money, like everybody else. They paid to see a looney.

Rave-Up: Is that how you see yourself?

Zodiac: Yeah, I'm a dancing bear.

Rave-Up: Are you happy with the level of success that you have at the moment?

Zodiac: I actually want to follow Mötley Crüe and buy myself an island. I want to be bigger than Michael Jackson.

Rave-Up: So, who else do you listen to?
Zodiac Mindwarp on the cover of Kerrang!

Zodiac: I like Bruce Springsteen!

Rave-Up: How do feel about John Cougar Mellencamp?

Zodiac: He's alright. I prefer Bruce, though.

Rave-Up: Did you enjoy New York?

Zodiac: It was filthy and unpleasant, and everyone had a very hostile attitude. They all sound like, "What's your problem?" "You got a problem?" "You talkin' to me?"

Rave-Up: Did you ride on the subway?

Zodiac: No, I've seen Death Wish!

Rave-Up: Did you see much of the Midwest or the Mojave Desert on your way to California?

Zodiac: No, except out the window.

Rave-Up: You guys should have rented some Harleys and gone out into the desert!

Zodiac: With our luck, we probably would've run out of petrol and starved on some desert road.

Advert for the 30th-anniversary tour of
Tattooed Beat Messiah - 2018/2019

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Def Leppard: Two Punk Rock Fanzine Journalists Meet The Guitarist & Get A Peek At Joe Elliott's Naked Bottom!

Originally published in Idol Worship (September 1980)
Interview by: Devorah Ostrov

Def Leppard around the time of this interview - Pete Willis in the center
(publicity photo)
A picture of Def Leppard in an English music magazine caught my attention: they were wearing black leather jackets and sporting eyeliner. I thought they were kind of cute, and somehow convinced not only myself but also Idol Worship photographer Vicki Berndt that we should give this "New Wave of British Heavy Metal" thing a try.

Friends reacted with disdain, and in-the-know record salespeople refused to play me their album. Undeterred, Vicki and I attended the Pat Travers/Def Leppard concert at the Oakland Civic Auditorium — where we instantly encountered a solid wall of 6,000 HM diehards all dressed in jeans and Pat Travers t-shirts.

Me interviewing Pete Willis
Photo: Vicki Berndt (you can see her
in the mirror!)
As if that weren't enough, when we stumbled into the group's dressing room in search of a manager (it was surprisingly easy to get backstage passes, the nice lady at the box office just handed them to us with our tickets — probably because we looked like aliens from outer space; of course, we took it as a sign from God that an interview was preordained), we found Def Leppard's perfectly permed lead singer Joe Elliott with his spandex pants around his ankles.

With our hands over our eyes, we hurried back out to taunting yet fetchingly British-accented shouts of "I haven't got me trousers on! She saw me bare ass!"

Deciding to wait until after the show to inquire about interview possibilities, we spent a rather distressing few minutes mingling with the crowd while Def Leppard pounded out what sounded like the same song three times around. Then we hid in the bathroom until it was over.

Afterwards, I'm happy to report, we found the manager without seeing any other band member's naked bottoms. And after he made sure to tell us that Def Leppard is "hard rock" and NOT "heavy metal" (apparently, they're quite keen about that distinction although I don't imagine anyone actually cares), he introduced us to the group's adorable and polite (and most importantly, pants-wearing) guitarist Pete Willis — who looked to be about 15 years old.

* * *

Q: How would you compare the "hard rock" [notice Idol Worship staffers are quick to catch on] scene in England to that of America?

Pete: It's pretty much the same. All the same bands draw the audiences. You have your trend music, like punk rock [quick glances at me and Vicki], but what draws the crowds is AC/DC and Van Halen, like that.

Twenty-five years later, I ran into Def Leppard's
pantless lead singer again. This time, I was with my hubby Mike
and thankfully I don't think Joe Elliott remembered me!
Photo: Diane Wade
Q: Could you describe the kind of image you're trying to put across?

Pete: I don't think we're trying to put across a different image. We just try to look good to the audience.

Q: Does the audience give you any trouble because of the way you dress? Most of the bands they like just wear jeans.

Pete: What's the point of wearing jeans when you can dress nice and come off well onstage?

Q: How are you being received in America?

Pete: It's alright. We've had really good audiences. You saw it tonight?  [I nod to indicate "sort of."] That's the way it's been on the tour.

Q: What was that wine you guys were gulping between songs?

Promo poster for On Through the Night,
the debut Def Leppard album we didn't bother
to mention during this interview.
Pete: It's only Joe who drinks it. I don't drink till I'm offstage. It messes me up. I just drink Coke. [He smiles innocently and holds up an empty bottle of Blue Nun.]

Q: What do you listen to at home?

Pete: UFO, Thin Lizzy, AC/DC... I also like jazz-rock, like Stanley Clark and Styx. It's really involved, not just party-time music.

The guys gathered up their stuff and wandered off to see Eddie Money, who was playing elsewhere. Meanwhile, we raided the dressing room for remnants of cold cuts, stale bread and cheese. Fun fact: Hard rock groups eat lots more than punk bands, leaving less food for hungry fanzine journalists!

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Spandau Ballet: Martin Kemp Talks While I Mostly Just Stare In Awe At His Stunning Beauty!

Originally published in Rave-Up #3 (Spring 1982)
Interview by Devorah Ostrov

Spandau Ballet (publicity photo - Martin Kemp on the right)
Snobby, arrogant, pompous, vain, elitist socialites... Are these the adjectives that spring to mind when you think about Spandau Ballet? Well, you're WRONG! "It's not very true at all," responds bassist Martin Kemp to the above charges. We're sitting in Rumors (his favorite Covent Garden pub), sipping cokes while he talks (and I mostly just stare in mute awe at his stunning beauty) about why the negative publicity surrounding the band's image is entirely unfounded.

"All that press came about when we were just doing the odd shows here and there. We weren't advertising in the music press or different magazines which every group used, obviously because they couldn't get enough people into their shows to fill them up."

Martin on the cover of The Face - March 1981
"We had quite a lot of friends anyway," Martin continues. "We didn't have to advertise because with all our friends coming to see us, the places that we played were packed out anyway. If we had advertised, there would have been too many people and they wouldn't have been able to get in." 

In fact, British music papers still seem unsure whether to love Spandau Ballet or condemn them. For the most part, the writers appear somewhat perplexed about the band and the vibrant New Romantic scene which has sprung up around them.

"When they saw the kind of people we were..." Martin flashes a flawless smile as he trails off. Luckily, he quickly picks up where he left off because he really is so drop-dead gorgeous, I need to check that my jaw hasn't fallen open. "At first, there was a big thing about how all we did was go to champagne parties and things like that. They were guessing what type of background we came from. It's rubbish!"

Now that Martin's on a roll, I'm momentarily saved from having to make any sort of coherent comment and can return to simply staring at him. "They thought it was all a joke. They didn't think the music would turn out to be any good. When we brought out the first single everyone said, 'It won't last. They won't be able to write another one.' We brought out the next one, they said, 'Well, it won't last for long anyway.' Brought out another record, 'Well, it's not bad...'"

You would not believe the commotion this publicity 
photo caused when it arrived at Rave-Up HQ!
I somehow manage to nod appropriately at this point and at the same time display my fabulous wit by mumbling "Uh-huh." At any rate, Martin is encouraged to carry on.

"When we started turning out the records, we knew what the opinion would be. If we turned out a slightly bad record they would write, 'RUBBISH! Chuck it out the window!' So, we make sure that everything we put out is perfect, a really good record. That way, they can't just slag it off."

Although Spandau Ballet's live debut took place in November 1979 (when they played to an invited audience at a private rehearsal studio, only days before their official first show at the Blitz), tales are told of a teenage power pop outfit which included Gary Kemp (Martin's older brother) and Steve Norman.

However, Martin maintains that other members of the group had no prior musical experience. "The first thing I played was bass for Spandau Ballet," he states. "I learned the lines half by heart and then I just worked things out in my head. The first thing Tony [Hadley] ever really sang was 'To Cut a Long Story Short.'"

He also doesn't deny that Spandau's look took shape before its sound. Which doesn't mean the music isn't important to them, merely that their style-conscious stance wasn't invented for the first photo session.

Spandau Ballet (publicity photo)
L-R: John Keeble, Gary Kemp, Tony Hadley, Martin Kemp & Steve Norman
"It's never been contrived," Martin asserts. "Before we ever dreamed of getting a group together, we use to go to clubs every night. If you're mixing with those sorts of people, obviously the main thing in life is to get your clothes right. If your clothes aren't right you can't mix with the people in the clubs, can you?" I shake my head to indicate "No, of course not!" His eyes are the most incredible shade of blue.

"There are loads of people that have been dressing in a similar way," he resumes. "It was just us who got the look together. Plus, when we got the group together, we knew we weren't going to dress like everybody else in leather jackets and jeans. We just stuck to the same thing we've done since we were 14 — dressing up and having fun. But now we played music."

Martin & Gary Kemp on the cover of
 Smash Hits - 1982
Where do the Spandau boys get their clothes? It's my first articulate question!

"It depends... I might pick something up at the jumble sale which is just as good as having something made. You can get a shirt for 50p or you can get a shirt for £50. It's exactly the same. If you can wear clothes well, it doesn't matter how much you paid for it or where you got it from. It will look good once you put it on."

So, how responsible is Spandau Ballet for setting the New Romantic fashion trends?

"Not at all in London; not with the people that we mix with. There isn't one person who sets the clothing trends and everyone else follows. But outside London... People who are my age have got the initiative to dress in their own style. They follow Spandau, but not in the sense that they copy us piece-for-piece. They all dress differently. When we go up north, we can see the differences, and that's good. That's the way it should be! The kids that are buying our records, like 14-year-olds, obviously they haven't really sussed it yet. They copy us, but that's all right."

Spandau Ballet recently issued the soul-infused single "Chant No. 1 (I Don't Need This Pressure On)" ahead of their forthcoming second album (due to be released in early 1982). The song peaked at #3 in the charts, and the band undertook a handful of live dates. But according to Martin, no full-scale tour is currently planned.

Spandau Ballet (publicity photo)
"We haven't played in ages," Martin observes. "We hardly ever play, but when we do, we try to make it special. The last time we played, we did Ibiza. A lot of English kids go to Ibiza for their holidays and we thought by doing that, it would be pretty special. We played a great club and went on just as the sun was coming up. It was terrific!"

Martin won't divulge too many details about the new LP. But he does tell me, "The next album is going to be completely different from Journeys to Glory because we're doing a lot more in the studio. We had the material for the first album a year previous to recording it because we were playing the songs at gigs. It only took us about six weeks to record it. We tried to capture the sort of atmosphere we had at the live shows — like the HMS Belfast — and put it on the album. It's a timepiece."

Perhaps not surprisingly, Spandau's sound is more influenced by club-going rather than listening to records by other bands. "I'm usually more aware of records in clubs," notes Martin, "like when I'm talking to people and records are playing in the background. That's where I hear records."

Martin Kemp (publicity photo)
Also, probably not surprisingly, Spandau Ballet doesn't feel like they're in competition with other New Romantic-type bands.

"It's not really a competition because, for us, it's fun! There's groups like Duran Duran... There's no competition because what we're doing is pretty much in front of what they're doing. It's like watching ourselves in the mirror; they're just copying everything that we did three months back. It doesn't worry us."

Bitchiness? Perish the thought! Spandau has no reason for such pettiness.

"In England, we sell more 12-inch singles than any other group," Martin remarks. Have I mentioned that his eyes are the most amazing shade of blue? I think I probably have.

Oh dear, I've lost my focus (again). When I come back down to earth, Martin's still talking about their sales figures or sound or something. I'm sure they've unnecessarily turned up the heat in this pub.

"With our experience in clubs, we know what a good club sound is, whereas other groups don't. They're more interested in their live performance, and they make their records like that. For us to make 12-inch singles is easy! It's no trouble. We know what people want to hear at clubs and we just do it."

I feel a teeny bit guilty for not holding up my end of this conversation, so before Martin hurries off to his next appointment, I ask about the band's recent (May 1981) New York show at the Underground Club, Spandau's only Stateside appearance to date.

Chrysalis Records advert for Journeys to Glory
"New York was great!" he enthuses. "The best thing I've ever seen! Everyone was dressed up. I popped out about five minutes before we went on, and there were 600 people dressed up over the top. It was a really big place, and there were still people queuing up to get in. It's the same as it is over here. People are ready to slag us off, bury us — but our records are so good they can't put it out of their heads, so they have to take notice of it. There's no way we're going to stop making good records. So, they'll just have to keep on listening!"

Sigh... He's so dreamy.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Motörhead: We Talked To Lemmy About "March Ör Die" & Got The Scoop On New Drummer Mikkey Dee For AMP #1

Originally published in American Music Press #1 (October 1992)
Interview by Devorah Ostrov & Schneider

Motörhead at the time of this interview
L-R: Lemmy, Würzel, Mikkey Dee, and Phil Campbell
March ör Die (WTG/Epic) is Motörhead's latest offering, but it comes with a new drummer.

Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor has been officially replaced by mighty skins-basher Mikkey Dee, whose claims to fame include stints with King Diamond and Don Dokken.

Although Philthy parted ways with the group once before (to work on a project with Brian Robertson; he returned a couple of years later), this time his departure looks to be more permanent and not without some turmoil.

Philthy seems to have left/been sacked early on in the recording process, as he only appears on one track: "I Ain't No Nice Guy" (which also features Slash on lead guitar and guest vocalist Ozzy Osbourne). Tommy Aldridge — previously with Black Oak Arkansas, Pat Travers, and Whitesnake among others — plays drums on everything else except "Hellraiser" which features Mikkey. To get the scoop, we spoke with Mikkey and iconic Motörhead frontman Lemmy.

Back row L-R: Phil Campbell, Mikkey Dee & Würzel
Lemmy front and center!
AMP: Mikkey, what's the first thing you did when you found out you were Motörhead's new drummer?

Mikkey: I gathered my thoughts and thought about how I was going to approach the whole thing. I had to sit down and kick back for a while and think about it.

AMP: You didn't shout "Whoopee!" and get drunk?

Mikkey: Oh, I probably did — but it wasn't just because of being in Motörhead. I get drunk all the time! I was happy, don't get me wrong. I was super happy! But work comes first. After I got my shit together, of course, we went out and shot down a couple of tequilas... and fifteen beers!

AMP: How did you originally meet Lemmy and the guys?

Mikkey: I've known these guys for years! King Diamond opened for Motörhead in Europe in 1987. Lemmy actually asked me at that time if I wanted to join the band, but I turned him down.

AMP: Was this when Philthy had quit before?

Mikkey: No, this was when Phil was back in the band again!

AMP: What?! Phil was in the band and Lemmy asked you to join? This sounds like a big scandal!

Mikkey: Not really. They had problems with him. It's no secret. Not personal, but playing-wise. As Lem says himself [in someone else's interview], when Philthy came back it didn't sound as good as it used to, and he didn't seem to have that much fun. When they toured with King Diamond, they kind of fell in love with my drumming, and we got along good. We were talking about it, you know, and we always kept in contact over the years.

AMP: Lemmy, tell us about the new album, March ör Die. Does it reflect your state of mind at the moment?

The classic three-piece Motörhead lineup (circa "Ace of Spades")
L-R: Lemmy, Philthy, Fast Eddie Clarke
Lemmy: It's not completely autobiographical. If it was, I'd be baring my soul to the nation — and I do that all the time! Basically, what I'm saying is that we're all fucking doomed, so there's no need to lay down and whimper about it.

AMP: "Cat Scratch Fever" was a cool choice for a cover song. Has Ted Nugent heard your version?

Lemmy: Yeah, he doesn't like it. Probably because it's better than the original!

AMP: Motörhead's last album, 1916, was killer! But if you weren't already a Motörhead fan, you weren't likely to hear about it. What happened?

Lemmy: No promotion. Our record company's got no budget. They're the low man on the totem pole. We're with WTG, which is a subsidiary of Epic, which is a subsidiary of Sony, etc., etc. We've got no chance.

AMP: Oh no! Does that mean March ör Die won't get any promotion either?

Lemmy at the Omni in Oakland - 1988
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Lemmy: We got a billboard on top of the Rainbow, but I haven't seen anything in the papers. I don't think Tommy Mottola [head of Sony Music Entertainment] is very interested in Motörhead. We've done a video this time, though. A real video — for the song "Hellraiser" with Pinhead!

AMP: Do you think MTV will show the video, other than on Headbanger's Ball?

Lemmy: Probably not, but I hope they do. It's a shame to make a video and have no one see it. The only thing that I can promise you, is that this band delivers and always has delivered!

AMP: Mikkey, are you worried about the fan reaction to your replacing Philthy?

Mikkey: No, not at all. I know they're gonna be skeptical. They're gonna watch me. But I'll tell you, they're not gonna be disappointed.

AMP: Do you get to change any of Phil's drum parts when Motörhead play live?

Mikkey: I get to do whatever I want. Philthy did some cool shit and he did some goofy shit. There's drum fills, like in "Ace of Spades" — that little break. I could do something incredible in there. But I don't wanna do that. I wanna keep it as simple as he did because that's the way the kids wanna hear it. Certain trademarks have to be there. Actually, what I might do is add more drums. I don't think Philthy really built up to some of the choruses. I think a song should lift, and that's where I think his weakness was. He was pretty monotone over the songs. I wanna make it more exciting! Give it a kick in the ass!

AMP: What are the similarities and differences in playing with King Diamond and Dokken, as opposed to Motörhead?

Lemmy and Pinhead from the video for the "Hellraiser" single. 
The song was also featured in the film Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth.
Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com
Mikkey: They're all very, very nice guys. But musically, there are no similarities. Being in Dokken, I entered a different kind of music scene than what I was used to in King Diamond. I was suddenly up against Slaughter, Warrant, Poison...

AMP: The MTV hit-making machines!

Mikkey: Exactly! MTV, money — the business, crap, bullshit! And that was a very big difference. That's what I like about Lem and Wurz [Würzel, guitarist] and Phil [Campbell, guitarist]. By playing with Motörhead, it was suddenly fun again. I'm back with a really heavy band, and that's where I belong. I realized that playing with Dokken.

AMP: Lemmy, do you listen to your own records?

Lemmy: I listen to 1916 quite often. I hadn't listened to any of the others for years, but when they were reissued on CD, they sent me a box and I listened to 'em. They were really good!

Lemmy & Würzel (with Philthy on drums) at the Omni - 1988
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
AMP: Mikkey, do you have a favorite Motörhead song?

Mikkey: I've got tons of 'em! "Ace of Spades," of course... "Killed by Death," "Traitor," "Metropolis"... The whole new album is a smash to me! I wouldn't have joined the band if I didn't like what they were coming out with today.

AMP: Were you guys in LA during the riots?

Lemmy: We were right in the middle of recording "Hellraiser."

Mikkey: We were in the studio while Wurz was putting down the guitars. We had to get out of there because we were just a couple of blocks away from where Reginald Denny got beat up — where it all started. We were seeing people on the street with fucking baseball bats, and pickup trucks with 15 guys in the back. I had my new Corvette parked right out front, and I said, "I'm outta here!"

AMP: With the political climate at the moment, we're wondering which presidential candidate you might vote for — Bush or Clinton?

L-R: Würzel, Lemmy, Phil Campbell & Mikkey Dee
Lemmy: I wouldn't vote for either of those mealy-mouthed bastards! Tipper Gore [wife of Clinton's running mate Al Gore, and founder of the P.M.R.C.] has ruined the last chance for anything good. And I can't believe Ross Perot has dropped out. He probably got a phone call in the middle of the night with someone saying, "It's your ass." And the next day, he dropped out.

AMP: One final question, Lemmy... Motörhead is supporting Ozzy Osbourne on what will probably be his last concert tour. Do you have any retirement plans yourself?

Lemmy: No plans yet. You fuckers stick with me. You'll get what you deserve!

* You can find my 1989 interview with guitarist Phil Campbell here: devorahostrov.blogspot.com/2019/02/Motorhead-Phil Campbell

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

The Groovie Ghoulies Reflect On Their Low-To-Mid-Profile In This 1997 Interview With Teenage Kicks

Originally published in Teenage Kicks #2 (Fall 1997)
Interview by Devorah Ostrov

Groovie Ghoulies/The Donna's split single (1998)
Teenage Kicks' photographer Sara Brinker took this fab
photo during our interview! 
Every time I see the Groovie Ghoulies, I'm knocked out by how much FUN they are!

Lead singer/bassist Kepi is a non-stop bundle of pogoing energy. Guitarist Roach looks beautiful while tossing candy and toys to the crowd. And new drummer Panic (a Chicago native, he was formerly with the Queers, the Riverdales, and Screeching Weasel; he replaced Wendy earlier this year) keeps a fast 'n' furious beat with a big smile on his face!

Formed by Kepi nearly a decade ago, the Sacramento-based band named after a Saturday morning cartoon has developed a fanatical (and in large part teenage!) following. Their hyper poppy/punk tunes owe an obvious debt to the Ramones musically, while Kepi's hook-filled lyrics are populated by horror show heroes like Bigfoot, Pumpkinhead, King Kong, killer computers, a Beast with Five Hands, and Graveyard Girlfriends.

Poster for The Muffs/Chixdiggit/Groovie Ghoulies
show at The Middle East - July 23, 1997
Lookout Records signed the Groovie Ghoulies last year and released the super entertaining World Contact Day LP. The label has also reissued the group's first two albums: Appetite for Adrenochrome (1989) and Born in the Basement (1994).

Their latest offering, Re-Animation Festival, is due to hit record stores in September. But before all that...

An opening slot on the Muffs/ Chixdiggit tour brought them to the Fillmore where we gave Kepi an adorable toy tambourine, met temporary fourth Ghoulie B-Face (who can usually be found with the Queers), and interviewed the band.

Kepi: B-Face joined us on tour...

Teenage Kicks: He just got onstage and wouldn't go away?

Kepi: Yeah, in Boston. He got onstage and we couldn't get him off.

Teenage Kicks: Since B-Face is playing bass, are you just singing tonight?

Kepi: Yeah... and playing tambourine!

Teenage Kicks: I'd like to go over the group's history. Other interviewers haven't really gotten into it.

Re-Animation Festival (Lookout Records - 1997)
Kepi: Because it's too messy; there are too many ex-Ghoulies.

Teenage Kicks: Were you living in Sacramento when you started the band?

Kepi: I had a Groovie Ghoulies in Sacramento, but it was very short-lived, and it goes way back. The band was pretty much formed in Los Angeles, and Roy McDonald [former drummer for Redd Kross, now with the Muffs] played the first show. It's been going pretty steady since the first album came out, and the singles just prior to that.

Teenage Kicks: What brought you back to Sacramento from Los Angeles?

Kepi: I started going out with Roach. We went to high school together. We were graduates of Roseville High School! And then we started dating again later.

Teenage Kicks: When did you get married?

Kepi & Roach: 1990...

The Groovie Ghoulies at Sin City Swingers Club (perhaps in Norway?)
Teenage Kicks: Roach, did you play guitar before you joined the band?

Roach: I used to play as a kid. Then I didn't play for about five years. The first time I played electric guitar was with the Ghoulies.

Kepi (to Roach): You rock!

Teenage Kicks: There was a big span of time between Appetite for Adrenochrome and Born in the Basement...

The Cramps & Groovie Ghoulies at the
Fillmore in SF - Halloween 1996
Kepi: Five years... There were some singles, something almost every year — a Ramones' tribute ["Pet Semetary"], a Troggs' tribute ["Girl in Black"], and a couple 7" singles. But y'know, it was real low-profile. It's less low-profile now. We're low-to-mid-profile now!

Teenage Kicks: How did your signing with Lookout Records come about? It seems like the perfect label for you guys to be on.

Kepi: All their bands put in a word for us — the Queers, the Smugglers, Pansy Division... They all said, "Sign these guys!" And they did. It's good, they take care of us.

Teenage Kicks: What's the story behind Wendy's departure?

Kepi: We went on tour with the Queers in February or March, and she couldn't do the tour. While we were on that tour, we met Panic. We were trying to plan the rest of our year as far as touring and recording, and she couldn't tour.

Teenage Kicks: Why not?

Kepi: She has a good job; she has a house and a car.

Teenage Kicks: She's a grown-up!

Groovie Ghoulies circa mid-1997 
(publicity photo)
Panic: I don't own any of those things.

Kepi: He was a homeless pedestrian. So we said, "You're in!"

Teenage Kicks: Panic, you used to be in Screeching Weasel and the Riverdales...

Panic: Yeah, but I just became really disgruntled not touring.

B-Face: But now he's gruntled!

Panic: I am really happy to get back on the touring circuit again!

Teenage Kicks: I saw your Halloween show last year with the Cramps...

Roach: That was fun!

Teenage Kicks: I think Lux is from Sacramento.

Kepi: Yeah, he has a degree from Sac State. When we played with them, he said, "Did you know there's a Groovie Ghoulies in LA?" I said, "Yeah, that's me!"

Kepi Ghoulie and Roach (with Wendy in the background)
Photos: Devorah Ostrov
Teenage Kicks: Is Halloween always a big night for you guys?

Kepi: This year we're playing in Holland. It's the start of our European tour. We're playing with the Smugglers and Mr. T Experience.

Teenage Kicks: It's a Lookout package tour!

Kepi: We're touring with Mr. T, and the Smugglers are either just starting a tour or finishing one up. It just so happens we're all in Holland that night. It'll be one big party!

Appetite for Adrenochrome 
(Crimson Corpse Records - 1989)
Teenage Kicks: Where else are you playing in Europe?

Kepi: All I know is Italy.

Teenage Kicks: Is the band well-known in Europe?

Kepi: We're low-to-mid-profile in Europe. The first record sold more over there than it did here. And we have a German single out, and we're going to do an Italian single. So, there's people who know of us.

Teenage Kicks: Out of curiosity, how have you avoided being sued over the group's name?

Kepi: I think we give the cartoon more fame than it had on its own in the last 20 years! And we spell it differently.

Panic: On this tour, some promoters have used their own creativity. We've been called the Groovie Goodies, and just Groovie.

Kepi: If they can't figure out how it's spelled, they can't sue us. "We're the Groovie Goodies! Why are you suing us?"

Lookout tour poster for The Mr. T Experience
and The Groovie Ghoulies
Teenage Kicks: I want to talk about some of the songs you cover — like "Singing the Blues." Black Oak Arkansas and Dave Edmunds both cover it...

Kepi: I know Marty Robbins, but I don't know who else did it.

Teenage Kicks: And you cover Herman Hermits!

Kepi: They're just catchy.

Teenage Kicks: And Neil Diamond, and the Partridge Family, and "She Hangs Out" by the Monkees...

Kepi: Yeah, people ask for that and "Singing the Blues." I hope we can turn them onto some songs, like the Cramps do. Like 14-year-olds who are just discovering punk rock — if you can turn them onto the Stones or Neil Diamond or the 13th Floor Elevators...

Teenage Kicks: At least you guys pick songs that are fairly easily tracked down. With the Cramps, you have to do some major research!

Kepi: Yeah, you have to get into the R&B history of some one-armed blues guy who plays in a cardboard box, or something.

Panic: I had a big argument with someone who said covers were a waste of time, the songs had already been done and bands should just write all original material. But it's like, if people didn't cover songs, I wouldn't have found out about anyone really.

World Contact Day
 (Lookout Records - 1996)
Teenage Kicks: Or if someone you like talks about other bands they like in interviews... That's how I found out about a lot of groups.

Kepi: The Stones did that! The Stones turned me on to a million blues bands.

Teenage Kicks: Mass from Squirt Gun produced your new album, Re-Animation Festival.  Did you know him before that?

Kepi: We'd met him once or twice. Panic knew him. Panic and B-Face have recorded multiple albums with him. He just told Lookout that he wanted to work with us.

Panic: What I like about Mass is, he's real patient with people. And he'll get the best performance that he thinks he can out of you.

Teenage Kicks: I love your cover of Daniel Johnston's "To Go Home" on Re-Animation Festival. I'm not familiar with the original version, but I'll take a wild guess that it doesn't sound like something the Ramones wrote.

Kepi: No, it's shockingly different!

Advert for the 2016 remaster of Born in the Basement
Teenage Kicks: And you do a song called "Maze Effect" by Daniel Janish. Who's that?

Kepi: He's a friend of ours in LA. And we do "If You Need Me"...

Teenage Kicks: The Stones!

Kepi: Yeah... Robert Bateman and Wilson Pickett wrote it. But it's pretty much the Stones' version.

Poster for a Groovie Ghoulies show in Spain
Teenage Kicks: Yet you make everything sound like a Groovie Ghoulies' song!

Panic: When I first heard Born in the Basement, I didn't think about which songs were covers. They really put their own spin on them, which makes it more interesting than just copying a song. It really impressed me.

Teenage Kicks: Are you guys ever gonna run out of monsters to write songs about?

Kepi: No! We have "Chupacabra" on the new record. As long as they keep spotting new monsters...

Teenage Kicks: What is a Chupacabra?

Kepi: It's a Puerto Rican, blood-sucking alien. It attacks goats and other farm animals.

Teenage Kicks: Have you ever seen a monster?

Kepi: I've seen one flying thing, a very fast object in the daytime. It was weird. But we don't have time to look for monsters, unless they happen upon the freeway while we're driving. Actually, there was a Bigfoot sighting in Florida last week and it ran right into the middle of the road. So... if we're lucky!

Teenage Kicks: I heard that "Graveyard Girlfriend" is gonna be the first single off Re-Animation Festival. That's such a great pop song!

"Graveyard Girlfriend" b/w "Trick or Treat"
and "Devil Town" (Lookout Records - 1997)
Kepi: Thank you. I try to write songs that I want to hear. And y'know, if you do something you like, you play it forever! Like "Beast with Five Hands"... People ask me, "Aren't you getting sick of that?" No! There's no song we do that I'm sick of. If you write a song, you should be prepared to be stuck with it. So, when I write a song, I try to remember: This song's gonna haunt me and I better like it!

Teenage Kicks: I want to ask about the song "Punk Pt. II" [from World Contact Day]. Are you addressing it to Sid Vicious or someone else in particular?

Kepi: For me, it was actually Johnny Thunders and Stiv Bators, but it could be for whoever you miss. That's one of the few songs I've written that's reality-based. I was watching the Swinging Udders and thinking about how many great bands there are now. And I was wishing that these people could still be around to see... If they just could have seen the scene blow up — Rancid and Green Day, y'know. And it's just sad that all my heroes are fucked up or dead.

★ ★ ★

Click here to listen to the Groovie Ghoulies cover of "To Go Home"
from the Re-Animation Festival album.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Inspiral Carpets: In My Second Interview With Clint Boon, The Keyboardist Reveals The Stories Behind "Devil Hopping"

Originally published in American Music Press (April 1994)
By Devorah Ostrov

Inspiral Carpets - photo from the video for "Saturn Five"
Follow this link to watch the full video:/www.youtube.com/saturn-five
I got into the hotel elevator with Inspiral Carpet's keyboardist Clint Boon. His signature bowl haircut was gone, as was his trademark crazy-colored shirt. Both hairstyle and clothing were now more contemporary verging on low-key. Still, I knew it was him. But he didn't know it was me (or rather, he didn't know that I was on my way to interview him, or perhaps someone else from his band — at that point, it was potluck who I would get).

I wondered if I should say something, but worried about saying something stupid. Then we got off on the same floor and took the same turn down the wrong hallway. Two more hallways and we finally consulted on the room number we were both looking for. I mentioned that we'd talked on the phone two years ago, when the Inspirals were promoting Revenge of the Goldfish. He seemed strangely relieved and said he'd thought I was going to mug him. By the time the record company rep opened the door we were chatting like old friends.

Devil Hopping (Elektra/Mute Records - 1994)
"Oh, I see you've already met," said the rep. He sounded a tiny bit peeved as he sent another journalist in the direction of vocalist Tom Hingley.

The guys were in town to publicize their new CD, Devil Hopping (Elektra/Mute Records). Produced by Pascal Gabriel (whose Belgian-accented pronunciation of "developing" inspired the weird title), the band's latest release has already generated two hit singles in their native UK.

The trippy "Saturn 5" entered the British Top 20 and stayed there for six weeks. Meanwhile, a remix of the album's opening track, "I Want You" (featuring guest vocals by the Fall's Mark E. Smith; Melody Maker amusingly called it "psychedelic optimism meets psychedelic miserabilism"), shifted 20,000 copies before the video had even aired. There's a different schedule in the US, where the pristine pop tune "Party in the Sky" will be the first single.

Taking a seat on the bed, Boon explains that's because "Saturn 5" is a "very Inspirally song. As soon as the organ starts you know it's the Inspirals. And the record company thought it was a better idea to promote something a bit more..." He runs through assorted ways to end this sentence in his head, before eventually settling on "unusual."

While I'm not convinced that a vast majority of Americans would be annoyed with an "Inspirally sounding song" (or even know what that means), they trusted the label's decision. "We said, 'Okay, you know America better than we do. Do what you want.'"

Clint Boon is at the wheel in this pic from the "Saturn 5" video.
Originally formed in Oldham, Greater Manchester, the Inspiral Carpets' current lineup came together in 1986/ 1987.

Over the course of a handful of EPs, a 4-track Peel Sessions recording, and their first two major-label releases (1990's Life and '91s The Beast Inside), the group acquired a reputation for its retro-psychedelic/ pop-infused songs.

This was fuelled in large part by Boon's hair and vintage Farfisa organ. "When we started out, we wanted to sound like the Seeds and ? and the Mysterians," he confessed in our previous interview.

They have an enormous and devoted UK following, and their singles — described variously as "the Doors meet the Electric Prunes" ("Directing Traffic"), "a colorful revisit to San Francisco acid rock" ("Commercial Rain"), and "sturdily melodic" ("This Is How It Feels") — consistently top Britain's independent charts.

Planet of Sound flyer for a "Devil Hoppings"
 promotion at Mad in Athens, Greece. 
The Inspirals finally broke through in the US with 1992's Revenge of the Goldfish. But the band that we discovered was one that had become increasingly enamored with studio technology to create its sound.

Commenting on a particularly feedback-frenzied track from that LP, Boon observes, "When we were playing 'Generations' live last year, I had to think, how did I get that sound? It was created by a machine in a studio."

With Devil Hopping, they were determined to recapture the energetic feel of their early releases. "We wanted to sound like a band excited about what we're doing," asserts Boon. "In the past, we've gone into the studio individually, done whatever we had to do, and gone home. That's how we did Revenge of the Goldfish. It's a brilliant album to listen to, but my memories of making it are driving 40 miles from my house to the studio, doing a few hours work, looking at my watch... This time I said, 'Let's all get together in the studio and stay there.' We brought our wives and kids to the studio, and it was really relaxed."

And instead of letting machines fix any gaffes ("Y'know, you play a half-decent organ solo, but a few of the notes are wrong so you move them on the tape."), the guys prepared the old-fashioned way. "This time we put a lot more concentration into the rehearsal period before the recording session," states Boon. "That meant we could spend less time actually recording and be more spontaneous." As an added bonus, Boon can unwind onstage. "Now that we're playing these songs live, it's very easy because I know what I did," he says.

Inspiral Carpets 
(Mute Records publicity photo)
Traditionally, all Inspiral Carpets material is credited to the group as a whole. However, when asked, Boon is delighted to point out exactly which tracks he wrote. The enigmatic "Plutoman," inspired by his infant daughter Harley Luv, is one of them. "I'll go through the lyrics for you," he offers. As he pulls out the lyric sheet, he reassures me that he's "not gonna start writing loads of songs about babies."

You know what they say about the lady who talks with the fishes
They say she will always have at least a billion, billion friends...

"There's this little person who's so innocent she's talking to the fish on the wallpaper. She's not got any of the prejudices that will come later on in life. But the other character is the Plutoman..."

2014 advert for the 10th-anniversary 
celebration of Manchester's Mint Lounge, 
featuring a DJ set by Clint Boon. 
Even out here where he sits
Drowning in isolation
He's stacking his bricks high
 And slowly walling out the world...

"He's the person we've all got inside us. He wants to isolate himself. So he not only moves to Pluto, he builds a wall around himself."

She's sending him flowers and sunshine
But he doesn't notice
On the stem of a rose she writes
"Have a nice day, Plutoman"...

"And she's sending him messages on the stems of roses." He chuckles. "Er… as you do."

Two other Boon compositions, "Just Wednesday" and "The Way the Light Falls," take a disillusioned look at the music business and the detrimental effect it can have on a relationship.

"Just Wednesday," he reveals, "is about this guy whose girl or wife has left him because of the business. It's taken over his life."

Maybe it was my fault all along
'Cos I'm constantly talking in pictures and song...

"Which is what I do. I talk in terms of music — lyrics and songs. In conversation, something somebody says will remind me of a song. It's an occupational hazard."

And for anyone else this would be
The best days of his lifetime...

Inspiral Carpets - publicity photo
Clint Boon with his signature bowl haircut
in the center.
"Which it should be, being in a pop group and doing all this stuff. At the moment I have a really good relationship, but basically, it's my fear of what might happen if it all gets out of control."

But not for me 
It's just Wednesday
Or some other day...

"Like today, it took me a long time to figure out what day it was. I used to think that people like that were pretentious wankers, but it happens to you. You don't have weekends, you don't know what day it is, and sometimes you have to think about what month it is."

"The Way the Light Falls" echoes the same theme (here Boon refers to the music business as "the monster"), but one line pays tribute to a pop star hero of the keyboardist:

See the smile on the new music pages, now his face is all of the rages
Hey pretty satellite sing me a tune, the one I love is the man on the moon...

"That's my favorite R.E.M. song," he blushes.

Boon also wrote "Saturn 5," and the verses (which contain references to his American-born wife's family) hold a huge amount of personal significance.

Lady take a ride on a Zeke 64...

"My mother-in-law first met her husband when he offered her a ride in his Ford Mustang. The license plate was Zeke 64, which was his nickname and his football jersey number."

"Saturn 5" (US CD/maxi-single)
Jerry wants to be a rockette...

"Jerry is my wife's auntie. She always wanted to be a Radio City Rockette, and now she is one! The song's about optimism and ambition."

There's a popular misconception 
Says we haven't seen anything yet...

"I'm saying: You might think it's alright, but things are gonna get even better."

Laying down the lifeless corpse of President 35
The lady crying by his side is the most beautiful woman alive...

"That's John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy."

Saturn 5, you really were the greatest sight
Stretching out on a summer's day, Houston is calling me back to her...

"What really inspired the song was seeing the rocket. Saturn 5 is a space rocket, the rocket that launched all the Apollo missions. Last year I went to see it in Houston. It was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen. And on the way home, I wrote the song."

An eagle lands...

"That's a reference to the Eagle landing on the moon."

Promo postcard for the "Uniform"/"Paranoid" single/2-CD set
(Mute 1994)
And a planet full of people raises its hands
All hail the men who walk up in heaven today...

"Obviously, the people cheering while they watch the astronauts walk in space."

Monochrome TV...

"Black and white telly."

All the things you ever represented to me
Take me once more, take me to heaven again...

Comic take on the "Madchester" scene featuring
the Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets & James
Boon places his hand reverently on the hotel room's television as if he's going to testify on a Bible.

"Seeing the rocket reminded me of being a kid and watching this stuff on the telly, seeing Kennedy on the telly, and Elvis, and the Empire State Building. When I was growing up, America was this little box!"

He's positively beaming with pride. "Good, innit?" It sounds like a question, but it's actually a statement and Boon isn't waiting for an answer.

"I think it would be great to have a separate sheet with the album that explains what the lyrics are about," he continues. "People don't do that, do they?" This time it is a question. I shake my head to indicate they do not, and he makes a mental note to discuss this with someone.

While the lyric sheet is out, I ask Boon to clarify some of his bandmate's more cryptic stanzas. "We never ask each other what the songs are about," he argues. But he agrees to take a stab at "Half Way There."

"Tom wrote that song," he remarks. "I think it's about..." There's a long pause during which Boon glances over at Hingley to see if he's eavesdropping (he isn't). Boon leans in, and dramatically hisses "SEX!"

Clint Boon - photo from the "Saturn 5" video
Though I'll never see you again
It only makes me wanna do it some more...

"He knows that this is the one and only time he's going to do anything with this person. And he's got no respect for her."

Would I lie to you? 
Yes, I probably 
would...

"I know Tom's not promiscuous," insists Boon, defending his buddy. "If I wrote a song like that, my wife would kill me."

Is Tom married?

"Yes!" exclaims Boon. "And he's got four kids!"

★ ★ ★

Carpet Burns - My Life with Inspiral Carpets
Hardback cover of Tom Hingley's memoir
Q: Is there a way to tell which Inspiral's songs are yours? Any tell-tale clues to your writing style?

Boon: There are certain things I do that the others don't. One thing, I'm very sentimental when I write, and I don't try to hide it. Like when I wrote, "This is how it feels to be lonely/This is how it feels to be small/When your world means nothing at all." It's very blunt. I'm not trying to hide my feelings. And I like to make sure there's no superfluous syllables. If the syllables don't quite fit on the beat, it bothers me until I get it right. Then I ponder over the lyrics for ages, thinking: What's a nice way to describe Michael Stipe out of R.E.M. without saying, "Michael Stipe out of R.E.M.?" So, "Hey pretty satellite sing me a tune." I spend a lot of time on things like that.

Q: Tell me about Mark E. Smith and how he came to collaborate on the remix of "I Want You." 

Boon: We came up with this idea to do some collaborations for the B-sides, just to make the singles more interesting and more sellable in England. And Mark is someone we respect a lot. As you can imagine, he's an icon! He's a god to a lot of people! I'm the biggest Fall fan in the band, so I was appointed the job of ringing him up. I was thinking, he's gonna tell me to fuck off. I mean, people like U2 and Sonic Youth would probably be glad to work with this guy if they had the chance. And he says he's been asked to work with people too big to mention, but he's always turned down the idea of a collaboration. So I phoned him up, put the idea to him, and he was really into it. He jumped into a taxi and came down to the studio; made a video with us a couple of weeks later; did a photo session; an interview with the Melody Maker. He's gone headlong into the project!

Q: Did you know he was a big Inspiral Carpets fan?

Clint Boon - recent publicity photo
Boon: He never let it be known that he was a fan. But he never slagged us off, either. Mark doesn't say nice things about a lot of other bands, so by process of elimination... I always had a suspicion that he thought we were a bit cool. When we did the interview with Melody Maker, the guy asked Mark why he was doing this. It was the first chance we'd had to hear his explanation. He said that the Inspirals is the greatest pop band of this generation, and that pop music is what he's always loved. He went on to compare us to the Seeds and the 13th Floor Elevators — which is his ideal pop era. Briefly, he said he loves his band, but the Fall can't do the pop music that we do. So, for him, it was a chance to become a pop singer.

Q:
Will the track be released over here?

Inspiral Carpets - publicity photo
Boon: We're not planning for it to come out in America, but we've got a few tracks in the can for B-sides which are too brilliant not to release over here. We also just did two tracks with Peter Ork from New Order. We got Orky to produce the Inspirals doing a cover of [Black Sabbath's] "Paranoid," and he played some bass on it as well. The other track doesn't have a proper title yet; we just made it up in the studio. It's a very ambient... It's like a collage where things keep coming in and going out, things that don't suit each other; there's a bit of African-like singing and some synth noises. It goes on for like six minutes, and Ork plays bass over it — you can spot his bass a mile off! It was so spontaneous, and it's one of the most beautiful things we've done.

Q: I've heard about your cover of "Paranoid," but I thought it involved a rap group.

Boon: Collapsed Lung! They'd expressed an interest in doing something with my organ on it, so we sent them a multitrack of "Paranoid" and said, "Do what you want with it. Preferably rap over it and leave some of us on it." It's a really good track! In fact, the version with Collapsed Lung is so good, we have to remix our conventional version to make it sound better. But again, it's all B-sides.

Q: Maybe you could do an EP of B-sides for your American fans...

Inspiral Carpets with Mark E. Smith 
performing "I Want You" on Top of the Pops
Follow this link to watch the full video: 
Boon: I'm thinking about an LP of B-sides! I'm pushing for the next album to be as loose and spontaneous as these experimental sessions. The compromise might be a double album: one pop album and one over-indulgent, progressive rock — whatever you want to call it.

Q: You guys cover great tunes, but don't include them on your albums. Why is that?

Boon: We're a bit precious about the albums. Those are the definitive Inspiral's records that people will listen to, and we feel it's important that they know they're our songs. Plus, covers date what you do in some ways. Like when we first started, we used to do [the Seeds'] "Can't Seem to Make You Mine," and [the Velvet Underground's] "What Goes On," and [? and the Mysterians'] "96 Tears." If we'd put those songs on our first album, it would've made us look even more retro than people suggested we were. And "Paranoid" is a good example. If we'd put that on Devil Hopping... This is the year that progressive music is big again, innit? Pearl Jam, Blind Melon — they're all dropping names like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. So, the last thing we want to do is put a track like that on an album.

Follow Clint Boon on Facebook:
Q: I've heard that you and Tom have been doing some acoustic radio sets while you've been over here. Any chance the group will go in that direction?

Boon: No! But I am thinking of busking in Manchester. Y'know, me and Tom on a street corner. The Clash did it in Manchester and Bob Dylan did it in London. People would be like, "It can't be the Inspirals! They're a Top 20 band!" Ha!

Q: Finally, I just want to say how amazing it is that your label flew you and Tom over here just to chat with some journalists. They must be really supportive of the group.

Boon: It's a sign that the company is giving us a good push! Somebody said to me last night, "You're really going for it with all this promotion." And I said, "Not really." I'm very happy to exist at the level we're at. If we get any bigger, great! If we don't get any bigger, no problem. I'm very comfortable and very happy with it.

* R.I.P. Inspiral Carpets drummer Craig Gill who died on November 20, 2016

* To read my first interview with Clint Boon, go here: devorahostrov.blogspot.com/inspiral carpets/revenge of the goldfish