WAKE UP No7 INTERVIEW


Interviewed by Dave T .

"the band is not prepared to compromise it's socialist beliefs by getting caught up in the capitalist machinery of a major label situation. We believe that if you make more than £5.50 by being in a band, you're CORRUPT!
Colin: Is that each?
Steve: Ahh, I hadn't really thought about that. Let me get back to you on that one!"

"Lyrics of genius, music of the ages."

Watching an album of Repercussions stature limping up the lower regions of the Indie charts is somewhat akin to discovering Billy Bragg's first demo tape in a record company dustbin marked 'Unsaleable'. The Neurotics sing politics with a capital 'P' for Personal; steering and intuitive course around the crass rhetoric of so many other bands, they state these points with a degree for articulacy, perception and compassion that has rightly garnered comparisons to Bragg in a full band format. Their principle mainstay is that they fashion songs with melodies catchy enough to be infinitely repeatable, while their progression into brass and keyboards complementing the basic rock axis has added dimensions to the sound that render all judgments of the band prior to Repercussions obsolete. I've said it before - the potential of the band's appeal is massive, but in a world where connections count more than talent the Neurotics rank as one of the most severely overlooked bands in the country.

Wake Up: Are the Neurotics Stuck in an Indie Ghetto

Colin: Yes. Well we are on an Indie label and they do not have the push of a major. But I hate that phrase anyway, Indie ghetto. It suggests it's substandard of something. There's a strange kind of inverted snobbery around the last year or two about indie records. There once was a time where you could do no wrong if you were on an Indie label but now the trend in the music press is to go, "They're Indie bands 'cos they're never going to get anywhere, they just haven't got the quality to be signed up by the majors" and everybody knows it's an absolute lie.
Steve: The thing is, you're either in an Indie ghetto or you're in a major ghetto. Why look to the majors for inspiration? All I see on major labels is shit. It's still the Indie labels that come up with the talent. We don't get pushed around. We don't like getting pushed around.

Wake Up: But you would want to get on a major?

Colin: That would be nice. But with quality control.
Simon: If the live LP does really well, which we are hoping it will, then maybe it will give people who haven't had an insight into the Neurotics that little bit of insight that they need to approach us. We'll also be thinking seriously about management as well.

Wake Up: But you've been thinking about management for the last couple of years and nothing's happened.

Simon: But now we are going to put ads in the Nationals for management. We did once have an offer for management from a Sounds writer (Jack Barron actually - webmaster). He came down, we talked about what we needed, he filled up about five sides of foolscap and went away and then he realised that it's not just a part time job, it's a bloody full-time job, so we never heard from him again. We don't want someone part-time, we want someone who'll take us seriously like we take ourselves seriously.
Steve: And as good managers are few and far between, the best thing to do is not have one rather than go with someone who's grotty. Don't forget - in the past there have been many managers who've sunk groups by the way they've handled them.
Simon: Let's face it, we've got quite far now without a manager. Imagine what we could do with a good manager.
Steve: We have tours. We tour abroad. We bring out records. The records are all planned by us, all the designs are worked out by us, we have total quality control over what we do which we enjoy as part of the whole process. One thing that's true with a major, unless you're extremely lucky, you start getting pushed around by the label itself.
Simon: We'd be reluctant to give up the quality control that we do have - it's something that we enjoy from the conception of the record right through to the producing of the artwork. We're totally involved in all of it. Lots of bands just record the single and give it to the label to do the rest.
Colin: The only major difference between the position we're in at the moment and the position we'd be in if we were on a major label is we'd be earning a little more money. There'd be no change in anything else. The way the records came out and the pleasure we got out of it would stay the same.
Simon: But major labels don't go hand in hand with money. There's this great myth that if you sign to a major you're gonna become wealthy pop stars overnight. It just doesn't happen that way.
Colin: Nine times out of ten they sign up hundreds of bands and just hope that of those hundreds, one of 'em is going to make it.
Simon: Apart from that, there's a major labels signing up bands as tax losses. That happens so much.
Steve: Read through any old issue of Jamming of Zig Zag and you find this endless array of new major label hopefuls singed up and ready for their future success, and you think who are they? Never heard of 'em. Nothing ever happened.
Simon: ADX (formally The Adicts) are a typical example. Signed to Razor, got a deal with Sire Records which is a part of Warner Brothers. So Sire made 'em change their name and then for a year they did absolutely nothing. They did about two singles that flopped completely - they were terrible - so they dropped Sire, changed their name back to The Adicts and signed back to Razor again. They wasted a year of their careers.
Colin: That must have been heartbreaking, that situation where you think you've finally started and then to be pushed back to where you were before. I think in some ways we've been very fortunate. We know what's going on. We know what our positions are.
Steve: We're not in this business to get that deal or whatever, 'cos you're forgetting one thing - we enjoy it. It's fun. So although you might say we're in the same position we were in two years ago, ok fair enough. We've had a fucking good crack out of it. We have international acclaim. It may not be on a vast scale but we do have international acclaim. People love us all over the world. We really enjoy what we are doing. We put out material that we can listen to again and again.
Simon: If we just said, well we're not going anywhere, let's call it a day, why? What's the point?
Colin: I'll tell you why. If we knocked it on the head we'd be crawling up the walls with boredom after a couple of days and wanna start again. It'd be impossible. It's like a drug. Sometimes it can be a real pain in the arse but most of the time it's great.
Steve: We've got a new single and LP out and we've got a TV appearance. That sounds to me like the Neurotics are moving out of the situation in which you talked to us two years ago. We had no TV appearance lined up then.
It's not the quality of the band that has prevented any major success, it's that the flavour of the month has always been something other than us, 'cos we formed at a time when the form in which we worked had had been around for a while. Our form of music is quite aggressive thought provoking rock music. We've had no gimmick. And on top of everything else you can count on the fingers of one hand - half a hand - less than that - how many overtly political groups that are signed to major labels. We've always had trouble getting airplay 'cos of the politics we're involved with. Recently, only one band in particular has done it - the Redskins - and that's all. Now signing up a band with strong political views is normally a non-starter as far as the record industry is concerned and they can only just about push it to have one band like that.
We've been playing political music for as long as we can remember and when the Redskins signed to a major then all of a sudden there was a lot of attention put on us. We were asked to do a Whistle Test interview which never got used in the end. But what we were doing was deemed to be fashionable for a while. but the band is not prepared to compromise it's socialist beliefs by getting caught up in the capitalist machinery of a major label situation. We believe that if you make more than £5.50 by being in a band, you're CORRUPT!
Colin: Is that each?
Steve: Ahh, I hadn't really thought about that. Let me get back to you on that one!

Wake Up: You mention the Redskins as the only overtly political band to be signed up recently. Nonetheless, the last year or two has seen an upsurge in the political content of bands generally.

Steve: Yeah, well a lot of that stuff is what Peter Powell likes to coin as subversive middle of the road, which I think is a load of shit myself. You get access to the media by making a MOR record with lyrics that don't come across strongly enough as to what the record stands for.
Colin: Take for example a band like Simply Red. One of the pushing points in their press interviews when they started was how lefty they all were. They haven't made a career out of that. They've made a career out of putting out love songs. And they do jingles for bloody 'Steve Wright in the Afternoon' of all people. Where's the message in that? Steve: One might ask what sort of political atmosphere was created by the Flying Pickets success.
Simon: None. It made a mockery of flying pickets.
Steve: Take Weller as an example. Weller has climbed the ladder of success on non politics. Once his success had been attained he then became more political. So he came in on a different angle to anyone else.
Colin: Weller's approach was very clever. If you're going to do it, that's one way you've got to do it. Subvert. Get in there, become popular and then you're in a position of power.
Simon: Well there's several different ways of doing it. We're not doing it that way.

Wake Up: What about Red Wedge. There's a lot of acts getting involved in that and that's overtly political.

Steve:Yeah, but a lot to them didn't start off being political. None of those people involved in Red Wedge were made famous by Red Wedge. They were already famous in their own rights to a certain extent.
Simon: What about Martin Kemp for Christ's sake, who's done Queens gala balls and things and then gotten involved in Red Wedge. He hasn't got any real contact with working class people. Never has done. I see people like that getting involved in Red Wedge to ease their political consciences.

Wake Up: Even so, do you see Red Wedge as a healthy sign of politicisation in popular music?

Steve: Yeah, considering that you get no political education in school at all then it's gotta start somewhere. If you're made aware by what Red Wedge is doing, it doesn't mean to say you're sold to Red Wedge - it can create an atmosphere in which you can start developing a political conscience and hopefully you've got a free enough mind and enough of an intellect to make your own decisions from there on. It's better than nothing.
Colin: If you get a thousand people going to a Red Wedge gig to see their favourite pop star and maybe just a dozen or so read the leaflets handed out, listened to the speakers and gone away influenced, then it's got to be a good thing.
Simon: Red Wedge are up against a lot of problems anyway, trying to endorse the Labour Party when it's got someone like Kinnock at the helm. A lot of people don't want to be involved 'cos of him. But what they said was they weren't actually endorsing the Labour Party, they're arguing for people to get involved in it and if they don't like what they're seeing, then try and change it. I don't think it's enough to put your cross on the Labour Party box. You've got to do more. If you're going to get involved with the Labour Party then you've really got to try to change it 'cos there's so much wrong with it at the moment.

Wake Up: The Neurotics as a band have come out strongly in support of the Labour Party in the past. Are you still doing that, bearing in mind there is someone like Kinnock at its head?

Steve: Put it this way, if Thatcher's not removed from office very soon, we'll be beyond the point of no return. We've lost so much over the years and I'm sick to the teeth with the left bickering against itself while the Tories just go careering on. It's time we all pulled together at least for this time. There's millions of instances throughout history of political groups with quite a lot of differences between them pulling together to get rid of one major thing. We can bicker about what to do after that.
Simon: That's the most important thing at the moment, getting rid of Thatcher but Kinnock for some obscure reason decides to start bickering against his own party and while he's doing that he's turning people against the Party. To be honest, the Labour Party is in such a mess at the moment. You've got your Harvey Proctors and your Enoch Powells in the Tory Party, when do you ever see a witch hunt for them? The Tories are much cleverer than that. And the worse thing Kinnock does is say he's trying to save democracy. Democracy in the Labour Party through expelling militants? That's not democracy, How can we have these double standards? If Labour lose the next election there'll only be one person that'll have done it and that's Kinnock.

Wake Up: Besides getting Thatcher out, do you see positive reasons for supporting the Labour Party?

Colin: Yes. They are the ONLY political party which has come out firmly and said when they get into power they're going to remove American nuclear weapons from this country. They are going to remove the British nuclear independent weapons as well. They are going to get rid of the whole fucking lot. On the whole world scale that is so important.
Simon: If they follow that manifesto and do what they say they're going to do then there's a hundred reason why you should vote them in.
Steve: The Idea is, you get them in and you don't just stop there like most people do after they put their crosses down. You get them in and then you start applying pressure and make sure they do what they're meant to be doing. And I would say it is an absolute necessity for Red Wedge to carry on after a Labour Government is installed as a vehicle for using music to carry on political education for the people.
Colin: The hundreds of thousands of people who pay their subs every year, it is their right as members of the Party to make sure they get things done the way they want.
Simon: That should be the way it is but at the moment there's a dictator at the head of the Labour Party.
Colin: You hate him, don't you?
Simon: I do. I hate him. The things that he's done - he's scabbed out on every bloody union, he scabbed out on the miners strike, he's expelled the Militants, he's scabbed out on Wapping. I can't see how that man can claim to represent the working class of this country.
Colin: But if he gets the non-committed voter to vote for the Labour Party 'cos they think he's the Voice of reason he could be playing a great strategy.
Simon: But do you really think he is? I don't think so. Scabbing out on people like he has done over the last year of so, I don't think that's a strategy. That's turning your back on the people that got you there in the first place.
Colin: Well, we'll only find out one way.

Wake Up: The attitude of several people in Red Wedge I've spoken to is that they consider there to be a lot of corruption rife in Militant.

Colin: That's probably quite true. There's corruption in all walks of life.
Simon: But Hatton had such an overwhelming majority in Liverpool in the election on May 8th. How can you get rid of him? He's got massive public support. If the Labour Party is to remain democratic, then Militant should stay in.
Colin: You've only got to look at what happened in Lambeth - "These terrible lefties that are destroying the Party blah, blah, blah, we'll get rid of them". What happened in the election? An overwhelming result in favour of them carrying on the policies that the people of Lambeth want to see. I think this is why local elections are probably a truer representation of peoples political thoughts than national elections, 'cos you're voting more on the grass roots level that affects the area you live in. I would personally like to see a situation when politics is decentralised and you get a broad spectrum throughout the country with the local issues being the mainstay, not what happens in Whitehall.

Wake Up: But that's not going to happen through the Labour Party.

Colin: No, course it's not. But that's what I'd like to see.
Simon: The political system in this country needs totally restructuring, but having said that, while the Tories still exist in this country then things are going to continue to go downhill. Labour aren't going to do everything right. We know that. But at least with a Labour Party in, we can bring some kind of change. It's a start.
Colin: We're talking about something that would take 20, 30, 40 years to establish.
Steve: Let's put it another way. After all the arguing's done what's the choice? We're given no choice. I'm not prepared to bicker endlessly on deeper political issues and refuse to vote for Labour while I see people dying 'cos they can't get into hospital. You go and ask those people whether you should vote Labour or stick to the SWP (Socialist Workers Party - webmaster) for a more ideological struggle.
Simon: The crux of the matter is you have to live in the real world. You can talk all you like about the workers rising to power and smashing the bosses but it's a DREAM. It's a lovely dream, breaking down capitalism, but it's not going to happen.
Steve: There are certain people around who would rather Thatcher stayed in 'cos they'd rather she dragged the country down to such an extent that people would have to rise up in armed struggle against the state. That's the only way you'll get a revolution, when people are trodden down for so long that something has to snap. But my god, that's a hell of a long time from now before anyone will get up in England.

Wake Up: Simon you've spent time on the Picket line at Wapping. What're your experiences of what's actually going on there and what's been reported in the media?

Simon: Well obviously the bias in the press and TV is absolutely disgusting - totally biased towards the police. What I saw there were totally unprovoked attacks on men, women and children. I know it's cliché but it's true and you don't actually realise till you go down there. They just run in - they've got four waves: The bobby who stands there and starts a provocation and as soon as someone retaliates you've got the riot police with they're batons, they come in and start clubbing people. Then you get the other police with the big screens and then you get a cavalry charge after that. I was standing on one side of the road after they'd separated us and there were people standing on the other side. And the police just ran straight in, you just see loads of batons flying, then they backed off in their squads and there was a bloke lying on the deck. So we ran over to help him and we turned him over and his whole face was just covered in blood. Totally unprovoked.
Also, I was standing next to this camera crew and the police walked up and smashed the camera and said, "you're not bloody filming this mate". Brenda Dean said while we were standing there that the ITN camera crew and the BBC had been beaten up and STILL the bloody media made a bias towards the police. And they turned the pictures round as well. They said it happened during the miners strike - you get a cavalry charge first but on TV the show the hail of bricks coming over first and THEN they show you the cavalry coming in afterwards. It doesn't happen that way. They swap it round. It's unbelievable.
Steve: Just using the methods they learned and perfected during the miners strike. The Wapping plant was built especially with this confrontation in mind anyway.
Simon: The rank and file down there just aren't organised. The stewards do their best but with 15,000 people it is pretty hard. The police are so organised and they have it planned meticulously beforehand. They know exactly how to start the trouble.

Wake Up: There's stories of the lorries coming out with no number plates so the can't be traced if they're involved in accidents. Doing 100 MPH down the motorways and not getting stopped by the police. The traffic lights being synchronised for 3 miles around the Wapping plant and decoy lorries coming outů

Simon: Oh yeah. The week before I first went down they had 4 white newspaper vans come out and they stopped. So loads of pickets ran over to them and the doors opened and out came armed policemen. There are loads of stories like that. It's terrible.
After I got home I turned on the telly and the first report I heard was that 143 policemen had been injured. So I turned to CEEFAX which tends to give a little better representation and it said 43 policemen had been injured. How can you have such a vast discrepancy between those sort of numbers? It was probably, "Oh Sarge, I've hurt my little finger". "Right, that's another injury". It's ridiculous. The injuries I saw on the pickets - a woman walked past me with blood POURING from her face, going, "Help me, help me". I think that was shown on TV actually. I've never seen anything like it in my life. I came home and I was shaking. You heard it was happening during the miners strike but it's completely different to actually be there.
While I was there the ambulances were coming to and fro all the time. And incidentally, the police actually asked the ambulance men to help injured police before they helped any pickets and the ambulancemen refused, they said they'd help whoever they felt needed it.

Wake Up: What do you see as the importance of the dispute?

Steve: We talked about this during the miners strike. This strike is happening as a direct result of the failure of the miners strike.
Simon: It's so important that SOGAT wins this. People like Murdoch, if they crush SOGAT they'll walk through and crush everybody else.
Colin: I think it's not the nature of the dispute that's so important, it's the fact that people are still willing to get up and show solidarity.
Simon: Exactly. The solidarity down in Wapping is enormous. The first time I went down was March 3rd, the big one. We missed the main march so we were standing at the picket lines with 3 or 400 people. I thought that's not very many people and then suddenly marchers came from both sides of the road.
The police said it was 7,000. I would have said it was more like 15,000 and it was such a brilliant feeling of solidarity. I'm quite chuffed that people are prepared to put themselves out and put their bollocks on the line even after the defeat of the miners.
Steve: One of the good things about it is that the media think they can drag down Brenda Dean like they did Arthur Scargill but they can't 'cos she's a different kettle of fish altogether. She comes across as a very sensible and moderate type of person and people just aren't going to believe any slander they try to heap on her. Plus the fact that she's female as well. But she also doesn't come across like Thatcher. She's not arrogant or belligerent. She's very level headed.
The other thing about the Wapping dispute following on from the miners strike, is that the miners themselves are joining the picket line. They're out supporting people who never supported them during them during the miners strike - they learned their lesson.

image of  Photo: John Mortimer
Simon Lomond on stage in Blois France
Simon: Kent NUM some down quite regularly on Wednesday and Saturday nights to support 'em. They've shown enormous solidarity. They're not going to get the 6,000 jobs back let's face it. But the most important thing about it now is to get everybody out of Wapping and stop those fucking lorries coming out.
The Trade Union movement at the moment is not exactly one of unity, with the EEPT scabbing and so on. By rights, the whole lot should have been straight out on strike right away, then there would have been no dispute. Same with the miners, if the Dockers had come out when they said they were going to. But if this dispute is going to make some people militant who weren't before, then it's all for the better.
Steve: It's interesting 'cos the people who worked in the press needed this sort of thing to force the reality on them and not the fiction of the stuff they've been printing. Now they are coming face to face with things, now they've lost their jobs and they're seeing just what the police are like and it's opened their eyes. It needed them to have a good kick up the arse before they realised it.
Building on the album title - 'Kickstarting a Back Firing Nation' - and what it says on the back- once Labour are in , then there needs to be pressure to make some serious changes.
The idea of raising the level of political consciousness in this country is to put pressure on ANY government that comes in. Just as the miners lean towards Labour but they won't support a Labour government if it's not giving them a good deal. They'll come out on strike against a Labour government. And that should apply to anyone in this country - if they don't feel the government is doing what is should be doing, then they should be out on the streets and putting pressure wherever they can on the government to change.

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