Interviewed by Dave T .
"Wake Up: Another thing you've ditched is the 'punk' label. Why's that?
Colin: It fell off.
Steve: Didn't know we had one."
While New Model Army and The Redskins have rocketed to success over the past year, the same commercial acclaim has yet to befall the Neurotics, which is not so much a shame as a downright crime. Of all the bands I've met in the course of Wake Up, the Neurotics remain the most intelligent, sussed and honest of the lot, to say nothing of producing some of the best music around. In the face of those who whine about society's problems without ever offering solutions, The Neurotics offer a realistic approach, insight, a positive outlook (and indeed humour) and a committed attitude that is displayed by an endless stream of benefit gigs (which were unabated even at a time when the were desperately in need of money them-selves to put out 'Suzi' on their own label). As their set of new material shows, the Neurotics are now at their most mature and powerful so far and if you want music with good tunes and intelligent lyrics, then this is the band to blow away the posers, the cults and the mindless clones of the popcharts.
Wake Up: The Redskins and New Model Army have enjoyed great success recently, you've been slogging away for some years without the commercial success due to you. Why's that?
Steve: New Model Army have Nigel Morton in the centre of the business. He was an agent and he knew all the connections for securing television spots plus record deals. When New Model Army went out on their first tour, the audiences were so small that actually the promoters were losing money on each gig they did. That was the beginning of their career. But getting a record out, hassling people of airplay, and importantly, hassling for the Tube, through the contacts that Nigel Morton has got, secured them TV and helped their records sell. Then the major labels turn up because you've sold a lot, and you get on a major label.
As for the Redskins, Chris Moore is a music journalist for the NME, he's right in the centre of the music business, the hub of everything. Only a little while after forming, the Redskins appeared on Channel 4's 'Whatever You Want' supporting the Dead Kennedy's. Channel 4 wanted X Moore from the NME to talk about Trade Unionism, because he was a journalist, and he said 'If you're doing live gigs from The Ace, Brixton, how about putting my band on as well', which they did. That is a prime example of being in the right place at the right time.
Coming round to the Neurotics...I'm a gardener. We live in Harlow. It's not the hub of the music business. You don't normally see record company executives hanging around in the Willow Beauty (a Harlow pub - webmaster). None of us can afford to hang around hassling people and we've not had a manager. There are 150 billion groups in this country and they are all fighting for a slot, a TV appearance, a Peel session or whatever. Unfortunately, if you haven't got someone wheeling and dealing for you, then you don't get it.
Colin: When you consider how far we actually have come, considering that we have no manager and no direct links with the press, we're mega!
Simon: Which is brilliant, lets face it. (laughter).
Colin: It is only down to the quality of what we do that has put us where we are. If we were a mediocre band, the we would be completely nowhere. It's just our material that has got us this far basically, and our endurance. We know we're damn good, so we're perfectly prepared to accept our level at the moment.
Wake Up: But you've been going for so many years with pretty good press coverage, has no one approached you for management?
Simon: Yeah, there was one. We put an advert in the paper and a management company rang up and said "We think you're good but you're going to have to change your style of guitar, get rid of your bassist, change your vocal lines, drop the politics and we'll consider it". It was pointless.
Steve: The fact is the band is so head strong and do so much for themselves anyway that you'd have to have a pretty damn good manager to be worth it. We've got to have someone who is really good or not bother. We've yet to meet anybody we can trust that much.. But this year is gonna see the Neurotics as being not the band that everyone thought we were, everyone who hasn't bought our records that is.
Colin: And there's a lot of them.
Steve: A lot of people would think it's very unusual that a really 'orrible noisy shitty tuneless punk band would be supporting Billy Bragg, and then they'll find out that the Neurotics have never been that.
Simon: This year, the potential of the Neurotics will be realised and we shall take the world by storm. We'll become mega famous and get lots of sandwiches and crates of beer at our gigs.
Wake Up: You've now dropped the 'Newtown' prefix from your name. Why?
Steve: At one time, it was like "Hey, we're from Harlow!" when we first started getting press. Now it's tedious. When we started playing abroad, a lot of people didn't realise what a Newtown was. We've probably got more fans around the world than we have in England, but the humour in 'Newtown Neurotics' is lost as soon as you cross the Channel. People kept calling us the Newton Neurotics and we got fed up with being asked why we were named after the guy who thought up the laws of physics!
Colin: I hope that we're in a position now where enough people know the Neurotics that the abbreviation won't be misconstrued and bracketed with those awful gumbie bands like The Condemned, The Aborted etc,etc.
Wake Up: Why have you dropped 'Kick Out The Tories' from the set?
Steve: Fed up playing it. 'cos we played it for years.
Colin: It does come about if it's crucial. We did a gig the other week, a Young Socialists rally, so we included it then. Maybe preaching to the converted, but it was right for the time.
Steve: People know our stance. It's like going on and on about the Newtown thing, it gets boring after a while. We've played it for so long now that it could do with a break. We've got lots of new material coming up. If you put 'Kick Out The Tories' in the set, it means the new material will be sacrificed for it.
Simon: And the new material is just as relevant as 'Kick Out The Tories'.
Steve: The new material also musically bears very little relation to it. We're becoming a sort of schizophrenic group. Half the stuff in mature rock music and the other half is loud shouting punk. The metamorphosis of the group into being a more mature band needs to have the new material coming in, otherwise we'll just be doing the same thing all the time. I know that a lot people would love to hear 'Kick Out The Tories' because of compilations, it's probably our best known number but the fact is that a lot of people who come and see the Neurotics don't even bother listening to the rest of the set or even dancing until we do 'Kick Out The Tories' at the end. There's no real reason for us to hang on to that type of fan.
Colin: It's like the kind of person who'll go and see the UK subs and wait all the way through the set until they start doing CID or Warhead. I'd rather somebody shouted out for something we haven't yet put down on vinyl, 'cos at least it shows they're listening.
Steve: Last week we premiered 'Strike Action'. That's going to be used live, so now I see that as taking the place of 'Kick Out The Tories'. That's our Chris Moore spot of the evening.
Simon: That's also where we slag down Bob Geldof and put a few 'Huuurghs' in.
Wake Up: So what progression is there with the new material?
Simon: It's better played.
Colin: It's still punk, it you accept that attitude. But there is absolutely no point In continually playing songs that have just got 3 chords in, just for the sake of it. Limiting yourself like that is a kind of inverse snobbery. We know we're capable of doing better and know that our audience, the kind of people we reach out for, are intelligent enough to expect and demand more from us than 3 cord thrash, and that's what we're going to try and provide. But it's not techno rock by any means.
Steve: In the 70's, for a band to try to get in the press and try to influence people to buy their records, they wouldn't actually attempt it until the stage we are at now. But because punk said get up and do it, our career up to now was actually getting to grips with what we're doing. So we've created some basic but honest music until now. Now we're technically better at what we play, but still with that basic rock core to it. So basically, we're exactly the same as when we started but we've got more ideas on how to present it, rather than being pretentious or self-indulgent. The funny thing about it is when you can't play very well, you play all the time and when you start becoming more skilled at your instrument, you play less, because you start using the spaces. So now we're confident enough to play less . We feel we can drop out and let the melody flow forward without having the guitar going all the time, a bit less frantic.
Simon: It makes the music a lot more accessible that it was before.
Colin: I now play in a completely different style to what I did 5 years ago. Completely different.
Wake Up:Is there a different approach of the lyrics as well?
Steve: There is a bit of a shift of emphasis. On 'Beggars', there was a mish mash of different writing styles, each song had a different theme to it. With this one, it's more concerned with social ills but most of them aren't apparent from first listening, and that's deliberately so. I've done my stint of being obvious, now I'm doing a stint of not being so obvious. For instance, Creatures From Another World could be a science fiction song. I like the idea of people thinking that it is to begin with and then reading the lyrics and going 'oh, it something completely different , that's a good angle'. A lot of people I've admired have been like that. I like the pleasure of thing that something's one thing and then finding out that it's not. It feels like I've been let into something. It raised a very nice smile on me about 'Turning Japanese' by the Vapours. That was a terrific song 'cos it was the only wanking song to get to the top of the charts. It's based on a joke - why do the Japanese have slant eyes. (Steve squints his eyes and makes masturbatory gestures). I thought that was brilliant . It wasn't going to bring down the government but it was subversive in a fun sense.
Wake Up: Is there a danger though that with a less direct approach, the message will get diluted or even lost to some people?
Steve: There is, but if I were saying "Fuck off you cunts" -
Simon: Don't beat about the bush Steve say what you mean.
Steve: I've been quite direct for the past year and it still went past a lot of people.
Wake Up: Another thing you've ditched is the 'punk' label. Why's that?
Colin: It fell off.
Steve: Didn't know we had one.
Colin: Any rock band that started when we did was automatically a punk band because the alternative was boring shit like Genesis.
Steve: We're talking about now. And 99% of punk now is shit. So therefore there's no reason for us to call ourselves a punk band anymore, because we're not we're not shit. The label is getting a little bit worn out. Punk has dug itself into its own hole, it's buried itself, because by proclaiming 'We are a punk band and we can't play and we're making a noise', they've eradicated any commercial viability and interest from any level. Unfortunately, there is a trendy side which thinks that noise is good, ie: Birthday Party and The Fall, which is just as stupid, just as bad as a lot of the punk bands. If I wanted to listen to anything like that, I'd go and put my head in a spindrier. Basically, musical culture now is so bankrupt that people are looking for anything different that comes over the horizon 'cos they're fed up with everything else. It just shows how music now is so facile. It's video orientated pap and when you've got so much pap then people go to the opposite extreme, to absolute noise. That's what's happened in the States at the moment. These 500 mph hardcore bands are valid in America because the alternative is racist MTV or really, really bland FM radio rock.
Wake Up:Getting on to the subject of the Miners Strike, for which you have done a string of benefit gigs - The strike's highlighted a lack of solidarity between Unions and the TUC's(Trade Union Congress - webmaster) failure to support the Miners. What's gone wrong?
Steve: It's mass unemployment, that's your answer. People are scared to strike because if they lose their jobs they won't ever have another one again. Ever.
Simon: I think the Miners Strike has brought home to certain extent the power which workers have it they unite. If NACODS had gone out when they said they would, the strike wouldn't have lasted a couple of months. But it didn't. It brought out a lot of divisions in Trade Unions.
Colin: The media in this country is acting like a Fifth Columnist. Because the entire media is against them , continually pushing this self-doubt to the miners, telling them they're not going to win, a few people are going to start believing that. It's only human nature if people keep battering you like that.
Steve: but the Tories had already drawn up a plan to defeat the miners long before they got to power. They took the lessons from the defeat the miners gave to Heath, and highlighted by the words 'Enemy Within', that's the words she's used. That's a very fascist statement. It could almost come out of the mouth of Hitler. Other than government and the people who are directly linked with the Tory party, everyone else is the enemy within. No-one escapes that, even if they don't support the miners. The enemy within is a word to talk about people to be shoved around, ie: the nation.
Wake Up: What implication for civil liberties has the miners strike brought to light?
Steve: The police have been breaking civil liberties, they've been breaking more laws then they've ever made during the miners strike. It's been kept quiet. There has been a police state set up in villages throughout the coalfields.
Simon: We were coming back in the van from a gig up north in Yorkshire, and we got stopped by the police. They said, "Where are you going, what have you got in the van?" We said we were a band and we were going home and he said "That's alright then off you go. It's just that we stop every van going through in case you're striking miners driving to picket lines. And if you go that way, you're liable to be stopped at least a good few times more, but if you go this way, you'll be ok" In other words, they're saying where you can and cannot go. That is absolutely disgusting.
Steve: For many years the police have been trying to get more powers pushed through Parliament. Parliament has always been against it, most of the members don't want a police state overall. What the police do in situations like this, with the aid of the media, is that they create the violence, get it reported on TV, constant reports, and a lot of them are a load of lies about picket violence. Someone gets a brick through their taxi window, gets killed and everyone goes into a shocked state; "Right, quick, we need extra powers for the police." The fact is they'd already been using extra powers before they'd been ok'ed legally and that had caused the violence. So in the end , the act of them doing that brings an official confirmation that they can do it now. That's how you lose civil liberties.
Colin: One of the most incredible things I've read lately is about a miner who went back to work, actually putting ammonia on his face, scarring himself and then going on TV saying "This was done to me by striking miners, I won't be defeated, blah blah, I want the right to work". It was then found out after a massive police investigation that he had done it to himself for the publicity. Somebody had given him a backhander, and there was absolutely no coverage of that at all.
Wake Up: Is the cutting off of social security to strikers another front for the Tories to attack them on?
Steve: They're in dodgy waters. Once they seized the NUM's funds, how could they claim that the strikers were getting paid £15 pounds a week by the union. That's hypocrisy.
Colin: It's also illegal, and nobody's said a thing about it. It's a fundamental right in this country that you are entitled to a certain amount of money just to live on. They were getting under basic supplementary income. That is against the law. They could take this government to court, but then, British justice is the best that money can buy. Where are they going to get the money to take the government to court in the first place.
Wake Up: What do you think of the way Labour's handled the strike?
Colin: The Labour movement's been great, but the shadow cabinet's been weak.
Steve: The only people that contributed most during the strike are the support groups and musicians and everyone who's been donating money. Kinnock has just been "Lovely, lovely votes". He knows which side his bread is buttered on and he knows that if he supports the miners, he's going to get a lot of people that won't vote for him.
Colin: He doesn't want to do anything which might upset Labour's chance of getting in at the next election, despite the fact that it's 3 years away. He is a lunatic, a jellyfish , an utter waste of time.
Wake Up:Bearing that in mind, would you still align yourselves with the Labour Party?
Colin: The Labour movement , yes. Let's face it, there's nothing wrong with the grass roots of the Labour Party. It is a strong organised socialist movement. But the fact is that the people that represent them in Parliament, with one or two exceptions, are not doing their job. That is why the re-selection issue is so big at the moment, 'cos a lot of the grass roots members of the Labour Party are really pissed off with the people that are supposed to be their representatives.
Steve: When you've got someone like Thatcher who really pushes her personality and beliefs, you need someone of similar strength as leader of the opposition. Ken Livingstone would be a far better Labour leader than Neil Kinnock.
Colin: I've a sneaking respect for her, because she may be a hard bastard but at least people know it and if she says she's going to do something, she does it. Ken is the same. People on the right may not like his politics but they can appreciate the fact that if he says he's going to stick to something, he does.
Steve: Thatcher doesn't stick to her promises at elections. She's just a very arrogant person whereas Ken Livingstone is not arrogant, which is the difference. That is why even on basic terms, forgetting about personalities and politics, but just by acts, Livingstone outshines Thatcher by a million miles. Kinnock is just someone who's been picked as a safe bet to catch Sun and Daily Mirror readers, not to change the fabric of society. A Labour government headed by Kinnock would be better than a Tory government but it would still have a lot wrong with it, 'cos it wouldn't change anything. It's like tinkering with the mechanics of an engine when it has broken down, rather than getting the broken parts straight out and putting something new in. As a bloke said up at the Town Hall the other day, he's actually known Conservative parties that have been better, more liberal, than this Labour Party. So we're talking about shit street. But even a wimpy Labour government, which wouldn't be the answer to everything, would still be conceivable before we lose all our civil liberties, before we become a police state.
Wake Up: Is Labour Therefore the only credible means to actually getting Thatcher out?
Steve: For the moment yeah. If we allow Thatcher to carry on, there'll be no opposition parties. They've already started trying to cut the Labour Party's funds off, by saying that unions must have a ballot before they can say whether there's going to be a political fund made to the Labour Party.
Colin: And they'll be so clever, the way they say it. "You don't have to give your money to the Labour Party. Support your right not to give money if you don't want to".
Steve: They'll stop people giving their money to a political fund, and considering that a lot of trade unions are becoming right wing because they won't support the miners, you can see how things will go.
Colin: A hundred years from now, people will look back in the history books at the way it actually happened. They're going to realise it's been one of the most incredibly well thought out Machiavellian plans to destroy the working movement. This is all planned. It's been worked out for years in advance ever since Heath got taken by surprise. They've spent ten years getting this whole act together.
Steve: Even considering VAT on publishing books and papers. You could say "I don't read books, I don't read papers, I don't care". Then you realise what's behind it all. What it means is stopping knowledge from getting to the working class, 'cos they won't be able to afford to broaden their minds. Not only can they not get education in schools, but you can't educate yourself when you leave school which is something I did. I didn't learn very much at school, but once I left school, I read. But if you cannot afford books. There was a teachers strike on and they were discussing it on LBC (London Broadcasting Company - a radio station - webmaster). The press always takes the side that teachers are heartless because they are stopping the children's education. No one says how can the Tories be so cruel and heartless when they're cutting down education and slashing it. The future of this country is in it's future generations, but they're not educating anybody. Nobody say's the teachers are working probably ten, twelve hours a day, and when they go home they have to mark homework. Nothing's mentioned of the fact that they have to earn a living and buy food as well. Almost as though the attitude was "why don't you just accept no money, 'cos you've got a responsibility to teach".
Colin: The Tories don't want educated factory fodder. That breeds rebellion if people start thinking.
Steve: Yeah, they want the working class to be ignorant so they can be manipulated easily. The only people they want to be educated well are the people of their own class. Apart from all that, the Tory government has ridden out an 11 month old miners strike, which is the worst thing a government can ever have, so that gives you an indication of what's going to happen as far as any other trade union trying to get a decent deal for their members is concerned. It means that nobody, no strike is going to work if the miners fail.
Wake Up: Clive Pontin, the civil servant who leaked out the details about the sinking of the Belgrano during the Falklands war, was recently acquitted of breaking the Official Secrets Act. Do you think the trial did any good in alerting peoples attention to what really happened during the war?
Steve: Another example of the right wing atmosphere no was that the judge said that civil servants should be completely loyal to the government of the day and not to the country. That means that everyone who was tried in Nuremberg, all the Nazis, should be set free, because they said "I was only doing my job". But the Nuremberg Trial said that wasn't good enough, there was a moral imperative to say no to people being slaughtered. What this judge was saying was that as a civil servant, you should pass document s through your office and say nothing, regardless of what it is. So of you're being passed documents on Jews being slaughtered in gas chambers, you should say nothing. It was absolutely sickening. Brilliantly the jury saw through that. Like Ponting said, despite all the media, they saw the common sense that what the judge was saying was so horrific that they had to make Ponting go free. The government is deceiving the people. We elect them and then they turn round and shit on us, and that is very wrong. They shouldn't be lying to the people of the country, they should be honest. The Belgrano is obviously something - there is something lying there which could bring down the Tory government, and never have I heard Thatcher going through the fucking ringer as much as recently. It was really good listening to everyone having a go at her and I hope she feels damned harassed.
Colin: Have you noticed that she is now so used to hearing 'Yes, Prime Minister' all the time because she's got these lackeys, that when she's actually confronted by something, she goes to pieces. She starts shouting and screaming and she slips back into her Midlands accent. The loony side of her comes out.
Steve: She is actually sowing the seed for own destruction. It'll get to the stage where she'll make a completely wrong move. It's historically a fact that a government that's brought in by an overwhelming landslide majority eventually oversteps the mark and brings themselves down. That's what's going to happen to her.
Wake Up:Cliché Question time. To what extent do you think that being in a band and getting up on stage and singing songs is going to change things?
Colin: Let me say, foremostly we are in the music business. We are a rock band. None of us are politicians. If we were, we wouldn't be getting up on stage and doing what we do. We know what's going on in the world, we think and we care about what's going on in the world, but what we do, for fun, pleasure, profit , career, or whatever, is make music. That is the fundamental thing.
Steve: What we have done, if it wasn't for people such as us and a lot of other bands, the miners wouldn't have lasted on strike. The support units have collected money from people like the Neurotics to people like Test Department to Style Council to Action Pact, even to things like plays, as well as donations. Money taken from the car park in the Town Centre here is given to the miners. So money goes to the support units, the support units keep the miners on strike, the miners are a thorn in Thatcher's side, therefore what we are doing has got a direct thread to trying to bring down this government. So we are effective.
live in Southhampton
Wake Up:To wind things up, any message?
Steve: I have sex nearly every night. Nearly on Monday, nearly on Tuesday, nearly on Wednesday.
Colin: Victory to the miners. Simple as that.
Steve: I want to open a chain of hairdressers
Simon and Colin in unison: Not again!
Steve: Apart from the album, we'll be playing a bit and doing other things. We intend to get on television this year, but no-one wants us. But we still intend to get on TV.
Simon: We're not easily rejected.
Steve: We intend to get so big that when we turn up at gigs, we'll get so many sandwiches we can't eat them all.
Simon: NO! - That's not possible.
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