“Hello is that Kev?”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I must have the wrong number. I’m so sorry”. The line goes dead before I have the chance to explain what’s happened.
It’s seven AM in the UK and I’ve just inadvertently rung Eighties synthpop King Howard Jones, having gotten confused with my British phone numbers. He wasn’t pleased, but it’s the chance you take when you give out your number to incompetent ‘journalists’. But I’m game if nothing else, so I ring the next number down on the list, hoping against hope that it belongs to Kev Nixon, drummer of UK punk veterans Anti-Pasti and possessor of a fine, fine, new album, Rise Up. It does. The connection is made, and he’s amused by my tale of hapless foolishness. The ice broken, we plough on with the interview.
You were very pleased with the review our very own Michael Stronge did for Rise Up? Have you been generally pleased with response to the album thus far? “What struck me was that your review was factually accurate. I’ve just read a review in another magazine, which gave the album six out of ten. The reviewer is a contemporary of ours, and he basically gave a history of the band and then said ‘this is not how Anti-Pasti should sound’. He didn’t critique the album, he just sounded like he resented us, or that we should still sound like we did in 1981. Which was a bit of a smack in the mouth for us. Luckily the PR guy at our label sent it to us otherwise we’d all have been out buying copies of their magazine. But your guy, he praised the album but he also knew what he was talking about”.
But generally it’s been a good response to the record? “There was one other online review that basically said we should go to the Great British Alternative Festival and listen to this band, or that band, and that we shouldn’t sound like we do, but other than that, whether the review is from Belgium, from Australia, from Germany, they’ve been very pleasing. It’s been received very well by punk rockers and reviewers alike; but it would be great if we could make some sort of rock n’roll crossover with fans of other types of rock music. Some people’s view of punk might be Discharge, that wall of noise; and in the eighties I didn’t appreciate those bands like Discharge or GBH, what I considered to be punk rock was The Clash or the Sex Pistols – the Pistols made one album that sounds as good today as it did then, and I really loved the progression that the Clash made, both musically and stylistically, that got me hooked… but punk rockers these days won’t necessarily be an Anti-Pasti fan and a Discharge fan, or an Exploited fan, or a Killing Joke fan. Some people like the whole umbrella, some like the Gothic side, some just like Discharge and GBH. And now, since we’ve got back together I can stand at the side of the stage and look at these bands and appreciate how good they are, but really I was, and still am more of a punk n’roll person, are you with me? We tend to display our rock n’roll credentials in a punky way”.
We go off piste a little at this point, but during that little chat Kev mentions that he writes most of the lyrics on the new album as well as some of the music, and this interests me. Obviously the message that you’re trying to put across is an important part of the band’s make-up – is that why it’s so important to keep writing new music, to make sure that the message continues to be relevant? The response is blunt. “What would be the point of not doing new material?”
Well, there are plenty of bands of your vintage who are happy to play the songs their fans want to hear from their teenaged years. “No, no, no. When we first talked of reforming four or five years ago we said ‘we must write new music’. Even in the first rehearsals, and at our first warm-up gig, even at the Rebellion Festival when we supported Social Distortion in front of 4,000 people we shoved two new songs into that set. We played I See Red, which is about anger, and Viva Che. Although I’m a big fan of Che Guevara, it’s not so much about him, because one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. So, not in a Nationalistic way, he’s saying ‘I don’t like what’s going on in my country’ and he’s doing something about it. Whether he was right or wrong I don’t know, because Cuba has been in poverty for the last fifty years, but what I’m saying is there are a lot of people sitting in their armchairs complaining about this that and the other, watching daytime TV and grumbling. ‘Put on your boots and find your feet’ is the first line of the song. It is important to write new stuff like this. We like to think we’re socially aware, but we’re not saying we’ve got all of the answers – or any of the answers – and some of the problems are the same as they were thirty years ago. Threat of war… one of the lines in Rise Up I’m particularly proud of goes ‘displaced in search of food and water, fleeing from the Soviet Syrian slaughter’”.
Very now, very up-to-date. “Yes, but the song is about global injustice, and it goes around and right back from Tiananmen Square, through the treatment of Aboriginals”…
And maybe that message needs to be amplified today as more and more people, and especially young people, seem to be happy to be subsumed by pop culture and the cult of celebrity. “That’s right. And that’s how people think music is made today – you get on the X-Factor. Years ago, people like the Clash or the Pistols thought you had to go to art college if you wanted to get in a band; nowadays people don’t think you learn your trade by treading the boards, and they don’t think so much like musicians as celebrities. It’s funny. If I’m singing in the garden, somebody might walk past and say ‘ooh – you should go on the X-Factor’. No I fucking shouldn’t”.
But that’s the nub of it isn’t it. People want celebrity. “They do, they want celebrity status. Don’t get me wrong, so would I if it meant I could sell a million records and give up my job, but I don’t want to be a celebrity and not have the record sales, if you see what I mean”.
Since the album was recorded you’ve actually parted ways with the guy who sang on it, GeZ Addictive. How is that going to impact on how you support the album, tour-wise? “We don’t tour much anyway; In the last couple of years we’ve done a small tour of the Czech Republic, a small tour of Germany which took in a French date on the way home, we’re doing dates in Belgium and France soon which Martin (Roper, the band’s original vocalist) is coming back to do. He’s possibly coming to Chile with us and we’ve got a one-off date in Los Angeles which isn’t finalised yet; However Martin only really knows four of the new songs, and we were playing eight in the set with the last vocalist, and as we always say we look to the future and we want to make music for now. We know people want to hear Another Dead Soldier, and it’s nice to play some of the old stuff, but we want to display that we’re a modern punk n’roll band. We’ve got another album in us! I write all the time, Ben (Hanson) the bassist is a great songwriter, Ollie (Hoon) is a great guitarist, I play guitar as well. We’ve got three guitarists in the band! So we’ve invited a couple of people to come and try out. But there are selection criteria. Anybody who wants to try out is generally in another band, so they’ll have to jack that in, they need to put us first. And anyway your other band isn’t going anywhere or else you wouldn’t be interested in coming with us!”
So can people who might be interested in trying out for the gig get in contact with you? “Yes, my email address is on the website, or you can message us on facebook. It’s not a closed shop because Martin has come back. The thing is Martin doesn’t like rehearsing, he’s not very musical”.
So no shows in Australia then? “We’d love to play in Australia, in Australasia – it’s just a matter of someone getting us down there. Last time Martin left the band we had to cancel ten dates in America, People don’t want to put stuff together for you when those things happen. You look unstable. However, and I mean no disrespect to the people of Northern England, would I rather be playing a couple of shows up there in February or a couple of shows in Australia? We’d love to play Japan, India… part of being in a band is seeing the world, especially if you don’t have to pay the plane fares! It’s down to some kind of promoter to get us down there and get some bums on seats!”
Kev’s parting shot with regard to this situation is a simple “Let’s make it happen somehow!””
Promoters – you heard the man!