Interview with Steve Drewett on May Day 2006
For people who do now know Newtown Neurotics have got back together to play a handful of gigs to support a couple of recent release. Was it a hard decision to bring the band back together, and who is playing with the band these days?
It was a hard decision as I had been of a mind to never play in the Neurotics again especially after all those years, I just couldn't see how the band could be anywhere as good. What began to change the situation was a double CD release a guy was putting together of music in Harlow in the Eighties called the Stortbeat Collective (see http://www.neurotics.org.uk/mailordr.htm#stortbeat),we had contributed two rare recordings and we then found that a idea was being floated that some of the Harlow Bands of twenty years ago were thinking of reforming to do one gig to launch the CD. It was only a matter of time before we were asked,
I resisted because it would take a hell of a lot of rehearsing to get the band back into decent form and it wasn't worth it for one gig.
It was then suggested that a lot of the bands were going to play without much, if any rehearsals and it didn't matter if it was a bit rough because that's how the music sounded in the early eighties in Harlow . All the bands were struggling to play their instruments then so it tended to sound shambolic, this re-union gig will therefore be in the spirit of those original times.
It then began to appeal to me, the spirit of punk rock as it were. So I agreed to do it. The next problem though was who was to play bass?
Colin our original bass player was ill at the time, he had suffered from ill health for some time and hadn't played bass for twenty years. Simon our drummer had been playing in various bands since the Eighties so he was still played in. I hadn't played hardly at all over those years but the songs were mine so I could get myself together pretty quickly by going through the songs at home.
Spirit of Punk rock aside, I needed to have a band that had half a chance to pull this off so Simon and I agreed to use another bass player who could pick the songs up pretty quickly and then we'd invite Colin on stage to play a guest spot performing the Ramones 'Blitzkreig Bop' and our song 'Hypocrite as they were both easy to remember and play for him.
Simon had played with a guy called Don for quite a while and recommended him for the job so that was it, Don was to play bass! He listened to all the tracks we were to play on CD and the first time I met him was when we stood on stage together for a 15 minute sound check before playing the gig. We did a half an hour set, Colin came up and joined us and the whole thing was fantastic (and only a little rusty, listen to the performance as an MP3 here http://www.neurotics.org.uk/mp3/index.htm) we went down a storm and it was this experience that made me think that it might be worth doing it again but with a little more practice.
That then became reality when we found out that Jungle was interested in re-releasing our 'Kick Starting A Backfiring Nation album on CD and Cherry Red wanted to release our final gig video 'The Long Goodbye' on DVD and we decided to do some gigs to promote them.
You say on your website you have not permanently reformed, is there anything which will alter this decision? Did you all stay involved in music whilst the band split?
I practically didn't play my guitar for ten years, I had retired from music altogether. The reformation is not permanent because we have families that we do not want to spend too much time away from and so we just want to do a few gigs for fun, how long that will last for I do not know.
What has been the high point and lowest point of the bands history? Would you do anything different?
The highest point of the band's history was for me was definitely the gig at the Harlow Square last year, we played the best gig we have ever done to a sold out venue after 17 years away from the scene, I couldn't have wished for more, we were like returning hero's. The lowest point was recording our first album 'Beggars Can Be Choosers' in mid-summer in an oven of a studio and falling ill for a week with exhaustion as soon as we had finished it. I suffered for my art :-)
What's done is done, we don't worry about if we would do anything differently now.
You dropped ' Newtown ' from the band name at one stage, why was that and why use it again now?
Couple of reasons, everyone called us The Neurotics so it seemed to make sense to shorten it and later on it seemed to be irrelevant as the suffix ' Newtown ' had been dropped from our town Harlow. In hindsight it was a mistake as there have been numerous dedicated fans around the world who adore the band and have made contact through our website saying 'Did you only make one album' and 'are you the same band as The Neurotics'. This confusion exists to this day so we thought it would be good to go back to the original name.
Prior to last years gig, when had you all last performed together? How did the gig go? How did the audience differ to when you first started out?
Prior to last year, the only performance we did was the Stortbeat gig mentioned at the beginning of this interview. The audience on this occasion was very different to past audiences as we had people from Japan , Germany , USA and Belgium , all had travelled over especially for the gig. We have also found that many of our fans are new, they have got into the band in the years since the split. They just couldn't believe their luck when they heard that they would have a chance to see the band they loved so much but thought they would never see the group having split in 1988.
What did you do to prepare for the gig?
Nothing, well not for the Stortbeat gig, I ran through the songs at home and Don the bass player listened to our CD's and then we played three of the numbers in our sound check and then played a short set live later on in the day. When we decided to play a series of gigs the following year we rehearsed three or four times with a couple of six hour sessions and the rest three hours.
You had a couple of releases out last year, please tell the readers about them? How do you feel about internet and music downloads?
It was the releases last year that brought us out of hibernation. Jungle decided to re-release our 'Kickstarting A Backfiring Nation live album on CD with extra tracks. Cherry Red released a DVD of the final gig the Newtown Neurotics (See our mail order section http://www.neurotics.org.uk/mailordr.htm ) did in Oct 1988 at the Fulham Greyhound called 'The Long Goodbye', this is in fact our first DVD.
I believe that we have tracks available for download on some music download sites (Napster has definately http://www.napster.co.uk/search_music.html)and there are a couple of Neurotics MP3's available http://www.neurotics.org.uk/mp3/index.htm these files have been online for a while, I will be putting more on sometime soon but I just need to find time to go through our archives.
I'm all for downloading music to listen to on the move but I prefer cd's when I'm listening at home as I like playing whole albums then.
Which Newtown Neurotics track are you most proud of and why? Which is most important the music, or the lyrics?
I am fortunate in that I love all of our songs, my most favourite changes everyday, at the moment it's Mindless Violence and You Must Be Mad. I think the music and lyrics are equally important, the music should be good enough to move you and make you want to listen to it again and again and the lyrics should enable you to identify with the song. The two together when done well helps to create an emotional attachment to the music.
Newtown Neurotics always came across as a very passionate band in terms of beliefs, how have your beliefs changed over the years?
Our beliefs haven't changed at all although we wouldn't now touch the Labour Party with a barge pole with Tony Blair as PM and it's unlikely we could persuaded differently in the near future under Gordon Brown. We haven't changed but the party we used to support has beyond recognition. We shall see. At the end of the 'The Long Goodbye' DVD as I was saying goodbye to our audience after playing our final number I said that 'One day when there is a decent political system in this country (the UK, and we were referring to the end of the Tories at that point ) the band, if still alive will be back to celebrate that. Well we didn't reform when Tony Blair came to power and we got fed up waiting for a government we could believe in so we came back in the end anyway.
If you were to write new Newtown Neurotics lyrics what social / political situation today would warrant your attention? Do you think the youth still have the will and amount of things to be angry as you did?
I think there is plenty of anger in today's youth, enough to drown in it in fact. The important point is how to channel that anger into something that will bring about change. Doing nothing is not the answer because if you convince yourself you are powerless then powerless is what you become. I still believe that Socialism is the way for people to live peacefully and happily together because it reaches out to everyone and harnesses the best in us all and through equality live a decent life. Just got to work towards that the best we can because the Labour party are the new Tories.
Tony Blair took this country into an illegal war against the wishes of the people, he appears to take no notice of the electorate, parliament or his own party and as a result has presided over the greatest foreign policy disaster in living memory costing billions of pounds and the death of hundreds of British soldiers and not to forget that the Iraq war has so far caused the death of between 34512 (min) and 36661 (max) Iraqi's (see http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ ) the vast majority innocent people. All this to support George Bush and his oil rich industrial friends robbing Iraq of it's sovereignty and resources.
George and Tony invaded Afghanistan to close down Al-Qaeda training camps then invaded Iraq that had no connections with Al-Qaeda and ended up creating an even bigger training ground for terrorists. Attention and resources was taken away from finding Bin Laden for this occupation therefore letting him off the hook.
I also resent the fact that Tony Blair has 24 hour protection whilst we sit nervously on buses, trains and tubes wondering if we are about to pay the price for following the US neocons foreign policy.
I feel very worried when two of the western world's most powerful leaders both say that they are taking orders from voices in their heads. Every murderer that has every had to account for what he has done would have loved to have got away with it by saying that god made me do it!I think young people should be very worried about the way Tony Blair is taking away our civil liberties and that in a few years time we will have to carry identification about our selves at all times via the ID card as though we are all common criminals. These cards will not help prevent terrorism as this has not been the case in countries that have had them for years but it will give the police the excuse to stop and question and potentially harass anyone on the basis of checking their identity card.
The bottom line is you want a better future, then you've got to fight for it, do it now or they will simply take away your right to protest altogether under the excuse of The Prevention of Terrorism Act. You may laugh but it's already begun to happen to people taking part in legitimate peaceful process.
Yeah, there's a lot to get angry and write about, do I need to make a list?
What are your favourite lyrics that someone else has written?
At the moment it's the lyrics to Stars of 'CCTV' by Hard-Fi
"We're the stars of CCTV
We're making movies out on the street
Flashing blue lights, camera action
Once in my life, I'm the main attraction
We're the stars of CCTV
Can't you see the camera loves me"
I love this lyric because it's the first song I know of that depicts living in a British surveillance society.
John Peel was a fan - how did he get to hear you in the first place? What did his support mean to you? Have you heard you have any other high profile fans?
Yeah John Peel was a big fan, he first got to hear about us when we sent him our first single 'Hypocrite' and then knocked us out by playing it on his show three days later and then the following day and other occasions later.
After that he played every single we released and eventually invited us to do a session for his show. I met him a few times too and found him to be a really nice guy, always so self enfacing. After we did the session the immediate difference was we had a load of offers from record companies to make an album and support tours started coming our way so it was a turning point for us and we were really knocked out and honoured to do a session for him. It's one of our most proudest moments.
Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys is an avid Neurotics fan and has all of our releases. He once told me that his favourite Neurotics song was 'When The Oil Runs Out' and said he might even do a version of it one day.
Henry Rollins of Black Flag became a big fan after we played with the band in Leeds , he considers our first album Beggars Can Be Choosers as one of the most underrated classic punk albumsof all time. Joey Ramone became a big fan after we did a cover of their 'Blitzkreig Bop' and of-course Billy Bragg who we played with on many occasions including a tour of East Germany
What is the strangest rumour you have heard about the band?
The strangest rumour about the band was that John Lydon had wanted the Neurotics to support PIL in the early days but didn't know how to get hold of us. This originated from a source close to Lydon and was repeated another two times from two other sources over a period of some years.
14. Have you heard many bands cover Newtown Neurotics? What is your favourite you have heard, and what bands can you hear your influence in?
There are quite a few bands out there that have covered songs of ours, the greatest is by a Swedish band called Small Town http://www.smalltownsweden.com/ who released a version of 'When The Oil Runs Out' as a 'b' side to their vinyl single 'Years, Months'. This is a rare occasion when the cover is better than the original, when the Neurotics first heard it, it made our jaws drop, we couldn't believe how brilliant it was and we said,"It's better than our version!". You've got to hear it, it's dynamite!
The US band the Beltones covered Suzi is a Heartbreaker, US band Cranked Up Really High covered 'Hypocrite' US band Neon Maniacs covered Hypocrite, Japanese band Minority Blues Band covered 'My Death', Bianco Rosso from Italy covered 'Living With Unemployment', that's from memory, sorry to any bands I've forgotton.
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