Interviewed by Stuart.
"The Miners and their families, ordinary people, young, middle aged, old, male and female without a @ sign (an A in a circle) or a mohican in sight took on the might of the most vicious and powerful governments England had known for a long time and resisted for over a year. Any bands that called themselves Punk in those days and didn't do Miners benefits may as well have been Country and Western artists."
The Newtown Neurotics are a band who I know very, very little about. I could name you a handful of songs, but probably not album titles. I could hum a tune or two, but not know what they were titled. What I do know however, was they were a band who felt very passionately about what they did and sung about. To me at least The Neurotics were a band you either loved or were totally indifferent to: or in the case of the people who their songs were aimed at; hated!!
1997, and along comes an Anagram singles collection from the band, complete with sleeve notes from vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Steve Drewett and a contact address. Hey presto! A few questions rattled off, sent down the phone line and a few weeks later a reply from the man telling us everything we ever wanted to know about the Neurotics, and some.
Kontrol:So Steve, the NN's were a bit of a political animal of a band - not in a preaching way, but in an angry way. It seems only fair to open the proceedings with a political question: How do you feel about 'New Britain' and what are the changes that the Labour Party are going to shake up the country with?
Steve: "It all depends on how you view it, after 18 years of the most vicious and corrupt government Britain has ever had, election after election bringing more misery, the Labour Party getting in is like the end of the longest and darkest night ever.
I think the idea (implied in your question) that the Labour Party wouldn't make much difference and it would be the Tories part 2 is a manifestation of these long years, it's as though we started to believe that change would never be possible again.
I don't know the people you interview but everyone I knew was cautious about how much it would change. I think the amount of change will be huge but whether it will be good change or not, we will have to wait and see. It certainly wont be all to my liking but it will certainly be better than if the Tories had returned. Had this happened we could have kissed whatever democracy we had goodbye, we would have been like a rabbit transfixed by a cars headlights just waiting to get run over, we would have been living in an elected dictatorship!"
Kontrol:So how does it feel to have a song come into fruition after 15+ years: I'm talking of-course about 'Kick Out The Tories'? All those years and suddenly a song goes out of date?
Steve: I'm still overjoyed at the election outcome and the fact that 'Kick Out The Tories' is now out of date. It was a very strange feeling seeing all those Labour people walking into number ten and now I actually feel as though I'm not being attacked every night on the news. The approach is completely different and I love the constant thought of all those Tories without that power and prestige anymore. I'm also glad we finally got rid of the bastard Tory who represented Harlow, the new Labour MP for Harlow, Bill Rammell is a good man and I wish him the best of luck."
Kontrol:Did you vote? And can we ask who for?
Steve:"Yes I voted, I think you can guess what I voted.
I do predict a lot of change in this country in the coming years. We are on the verge of an Information Revolution that will fundamentally change the world in the same way as the Industrial Revolution did. It will be both good and bad and the Labour movement will have to fight hard again for workers rights, and in different way, as the type of work will have changed.
We're also heading for a new millennium, this may not be apparent at the moment to appear to be bringing change with it but I believe the peoples mind sets are changing in anticipation. A year or two in and the late nineties will look very quaint."
Kontrol:So tell us how the Anagram 'Punk Singles Collection come about and how honestly, did you feel about it when you were contacted?
Steve:"The Anagram Punk Singles Collection puzzled me, I couldn't understand why they would be interested in doing something that was much the same as the '45 Revolutions Per Minute CD of only at most a year before. I was unsure about it at first but a few things swayed it for me."
Kontrol:What would they be then?
Steve:"One was that they asked me to do the sleeve notes for it and that was the first time anyone had asked me to do that. I thought it would be nice to put down my thoughts on each song now, in retrospect. On top of all that, I'd get paid for it too.
The other thing was it would be the first release that carried the address of the Neurotics website and my email address. For many people buying our stuff, it is the first time around and they would like to know all about the band and what they were all about in the Eighties.
And it's all there on the website, lots of old interviews, discography, lyrics etc.. and news of any re-releases on CD
The last reason is, that in the end I am still so proud of all the stuff we released and I want as many people as possible to enjoy them."
Kontrol:I think the last reason is quite enough on it's own. Why deny yourself the chance of letting new people hear your work purely because you may upset a few people who have bad attitudes towards CD's and /or collections. But the proof of the pudding (and may it not be Xmas pudding) is the fans reactions.
What kind of feedback and response have you had?
Steve:"The response has been amazing, especially via the Internet where I get email from all over the world from people who are fans of the band and as I said earlier a lot of them are new. For instance, tonight I've got to email a list of what I still have for sale to a guy in Peru. I have also got emails from older fans that have just got on-line. I've been very surprised that there are so many Neurotics fans in the US who never put pen to paper in the Eighties but are writing now because they are on-line and it is so much easier to send a quick email.
It's quicker and simpler to send a message off from the Neurotics website than directing an ordinary letter across the Atlantic and then through a record company, by the time that's been forwarded, months have passed. It's also been a surprise that there are people in the States who have only just come across the Neurotics music. They are now learning what the band were all about by catching up on all the old Neurotics features in the music press and fanzines of the time and downloading the lyrics."
Kontrol:OK, so Harlow - where the band came from - was a 'Newtown'. Can you tell us what you see as the point in all the new towns that sprung up, and were they as ridiculously boring as everybody portrays them?
Steve:"Harlow Newtown was set up to move people out of London to enable businesses to re-locate to an area where land was cheaper and so that the damaged and decaying slums of pre-war London could be demolished. The problem was, that although the working classes that moved gained better housing, the spirit of the close East End communities evaporated in the wide open, green spaces/open plan design of the Newtowns.
The frustration of Harlow's youth in the Eighties was that the town was only 25 miles from London and the excitement of the Punk scene and all the trappings of a major city were there to be sampled but there wasn't enough money around to get fully involved. Travel cost money but even if you had money, the last train left Liverpool Street ridiculously early so it was the streets or you crashed around somebody's house.
If you had no money you were forced to spend the weekend in town and in the early days there wasn't any venues for a local music scene to develop so things were really boring.
None of the familiar big names in entertainment, restaurants, record stores etc.. was to be found in Harlow, it was then still as it was when the town was first built in the late Fifties.
The Neurotics found it impossible to play in their own town, in fact we were playing our first gigs in Europe and still hadn't made our Harlow debut!!"
Kontrol:How do you, after all these years describe your music?
Steve:"The Neurotics music was Rock 'n' Roll pure and simple. It was the Fifties Rock 'n' Roll monster - let loose with a Seventies/Eighties twist to it.
Kontrol:Come on, it had more to say than any '50's Rock 'n' Rollers. Doesn't angry spring to mind?
Steve:"It was angry, but it was intelligent at the same time and was never seen out without wearing a good tune.
Kontrol:So there are still bored teenagers in old Cities and Newtowns all over the country. But few seem that interested in music or forming a band and those who do, have virtually no chance of getting a foot up and are left to play to the converted few in a crumbling old pub.
Could you see yourself getting anywhere if you were starting in 1988?
Steve:"I should imagine it is really hard to get a foot up in this country, there are too many bands with their eye on the big one and there are so many forms of entertainment nowadays that demand the scant financial resources of the nation's youth.
People just don't just don't buy as many records as they did in the Seventies and Eighties, less record sales mean less recording deals and there isn't such a thriving indie scene as in 1977."
Kontrol:Well although a little contrived in places, there is a lot angry young bands out there who are ignored and left by the way side only to be covered by the Zine scene, who like them because…err. They like them not because it's gonna earn us a huge amount of money.
What do you see when looking at new bands of the 90's?
Steve:"Well, I don't know about the punk scene that much as I'm not involved. But generally 'New' bands are just entertainment, there is not a lot of anger around and yet there is so much to be angry about. I've got this little re-working of that Supergrass hit that runs through my head from time to time "We are young, but we're old - we just do what we are told" and that's what everyone is just doing, doing what they are told."
Kontrol:Wasn't that what Punk was supposed to be about - not doing what you're told?
Steve:"Punk was a musical movement from the late Seventies/Eighties, which reflected the political atmosphere of the times. Punk in the Nineties seems either a variation or a revival."
Kontrol:But it's attitude, surely, must have been picked up on by thousands of bands who wouldn't instantly get called 'Punk'. Did Punk actually have as much influence as people claim?
Steve:"Punk was an enormous influence on everything one way or another. It reflected the cynicism around in the country and this cynicism was absorbed and amplified by Thatcher and her Tory cronies. But Punk went on to change the way people thought, to fight back, it created great music, great art, great writers and film makers but a negative affect blew the guts out of it's energy and political polemic. The Miners lost the great strike of 1984, Thatcher became an even bigger monster and the country gave up!"
Kontrol:So what effects did Punk have on you personally?
Steve:"Personally, I would have not become the person I am today if it had not been for Punk! It blew my innocence away and gave me the impetus to form a band, create music, see the world and get lots of girls. I also became a lot more politically aware and learnt a lot about myself and the world. I discovered just what can be achieved if you put your mind to it. I hate to think what sort of person I would have ended up like if it hadn't happened."
Kontrol:You were quite a politically aware band, and Punk should be politically aware - but also a laugh. How do you find the right measure and not become either a joke or too boring?
Steve:"Good question. It is very difficult to get that balance right and I spent a hell of a lot of thought on everything we did, every decision we had to make: To make sure we didn't come across as a joke band or as a straight faced, humourless political band.
In the end I think we got the balance as we liked it - but we walked it as we talked it, so we were a bit too political for the charts."
Kontrol:Do you think that the various different (almost) political factions that Punk split into was to blame for it losing it's impact?
Steve:"I find all this stuff a little tiring, as far as I was concerned at the time - and I feel no different now - was that, if these people weren't involved in Miners Benefits then they playing up their own arses. All that anti-establishment, anti-government and Anarchy this and down with that, and it was real people who had taken on the system and putting their lives and livelihoods a stake.
The Miners and their families, ordinary people, young, middle aged, old, male and female without a @ sign (an A in a circle) or a mohican in sight took on the might of the most vicious and powerful governments England had known for a long time and resisted for over a year. Any bands that called themselves Punk in those days and didn't do Miners benefits may as well have been Country and Western artists.
Kontrol:Interesting, a lot of the reformed bands seem to fit the bill. Have you any plans to reform and go out gigging?
Steve:"No, can't imagine doing it. Music is like food, it's best when it's fresh, leave it a bit too long and the effect is very unsatisfying.
Kontrol:What do you feel about the older Punk bands who reform?
Steve:"The old men of Punk will cash in its historical value and be known as "Living (just) Legends". They will play songs about teenage angst well into retirement age like Chuck Berry did with his songs about American youth culture. I don't blame them to a degree, after all there is no pension in Rock 'n' Roll. I myself hope to be somewhere else discovering the joys of something completely new (whatever that my be)…"
Kontrol:Talking of which… what the fuck are you into these days?
Steve:"I am involved in the Internet now. I write webpages and I'm involved in bringing the Information Revolution to as many people as possible though public access terminals. I want to work to avoid an Information rich/information poor divide in society because, as I've pointed out before, "Knowledge is Power"
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The Neurotics on stage in Utrecht, Holland
Copyright: No Wonder Communications