goldblade interview
(january 2007)

Ten years ago when Robots was just a printed circuit and some bits of old wire we interviewed a band of old stagers going by the name of Goldblade. Sure, they'd been round the block a few times already (check out the Membranes) but they were kickin' out a fresh soul punk rattatat with the enthusiasm and energy of the band who've just found that magical third chord for the first time.

With their years came wisdom and a sense of humour about interviews with two-bit zines and with a leader like John Robb came an endless supply of gobshite discourse on pretty much any topic. Plus ca change.

Goldblade today are John Robb, Keith Curtis, Johny Skullknuckles, Rob Haynes and Pete Brychmore.

You were one of the first bands we interviewed ten years ago. You'd all been around a bit even then. Don't you think you're getting a bit old for this Rock 'n' Roll lark?

JSK: Yes far too old and we are all old enough to know better now, but we keep leaping like young Gazelles. We are The Middle Aged Busted and proud of it!

PB: You can tell this is a British mag can't you!! No other country would think anything of our ages!

RH: We may be getting old young fellow, but not too old to rock. Don't forget that we're operating in a genre where all the groups who inspired us to join bands in the first place are still going strong: The Stranglers, The Damned, UK Subs, Motorhead, Killing Joke etc are still touring and recording and are still inspirational. Oh, and happy anniversary


JOHN ROBB IN ACTIONJR: Who's supplying the age limit? It's about feel and we got the feel, and we certainly got the energy. I feel more crazed and energised and burning with wild ideas than I ever did. Of course rock 'n' roll is littered with casualties, too many people who lost the hunger and plodded on but then there are equally many people in their teens who never had it in the first place. Rock 'n' roll now belongs to anyone who wants it, it's more about a counter culture than a youth culture; if you are creating constantly, why lie? Why cheat yourself? Why should you kick back and watch Big Brother when you could be on the road?

The type of music we play is loved equally by the 14 plus (in fact we have some fans under 10 years old!) and the over fifties. We are extremely valid to these people and that's what counts. The other thing which I always find amusing is that the age of bands always seems to be a problem to commentators who are over 40! Tom Waits and Iggy still burn, The Killers are really dull. The age thing doesn't affect that simple but brutally true fact.

10 years ago, Soul Power was just out and the band was Wayne, Jay, Keef, Rob and John. What's changed in the band since then?

RH: Goldblade has evolved quite naturally over time. No-one's ever been thrown out - Wayne and Jay just wanted to do other things after several years in the band and left amicably. Our two guitarists, Pete and Johny, have been in the band a few years but feel like they've been in forever.

JSK: Pete and Johny's twin guitar assault is full throttle, full power Rock 'n' Roll - never looked back Goldblade really ROCK now!!

JR: Jay left to run a venue in Manchester full time and to do his band, Bone-Box. Wayne left because he wanted to concentrate on his photography (which is great - he's putting together an avante garde book of photos of myself which looks fab - like computer generated graffiti art with yours truly poncing about in the middle of it all). They were replaced by the demon twin guitar attack of Johny Skullknuckles and Pete Gorgeous. Goldblade is an idea and ideas cannot be destroyed! We are punk rock, we are the revolution!

And what's changed in the music?

JSK: On the whole, pound for pound it's a damn sight better!!

RH: It has toughened up, got more focused and direct. Oh, and noisier. Faster, louder, harder. We had lots of different influences at first. James Brown and Tom Waits loomed fairly large on the first couple of albums, I think, but although we've never stopped listening to stuff like that, we came to realise that we just preferred playing full-on rock and roll. It's just about the physical excitement and the reaction of the crowd at gigs.

JR: Its got wilder, more anthemic, more about the connection with the audience, that's probably why the band is a lot bigger these days. We went underground and got bigger, a strange contradiction in terms. We are in a bizarre position of staring down the barrel of our fifth album and seeing that it could be our breakthrough record worldwide. It's like having a rock n roll career in reverse!

Live, the band sound is a lot more powerful and the gigs have got a lot crazier. That can only be a good thing! The songs are better, the songs are bigger, they are big fuck off punk rock guitar anthems but they still have soul power tattooed right down the middle of them, they are also big pop songs. Populist anthems.

And the lyrics. Is there more of a (political) message these days than there was at the start?

RH: Certainly in the last album, Rebel Songs. Our punk roots have gotten stronger the longer we've gone on, and we wanted to tip the hat a little to the likes of Crass, Dead Kennedys etc. Besides, Goldblade have always been about celebrating life, but there's no ignoring things like the Iraq war and continuing Government dishonesty.

PB: Yes. John, off you go mate.

JR: There's always some kind of message going on, sometimes it pretty overt like on the last album with (War) Not In My Name which was about the Iraq war and our experiences of going on the anti war marches. My favorite was the school-kids one in Manchester. You should have seen the cops faces when the kids attempted to storm the BBC!

Some of the song are a bit more obtuse, a bit more, poetic. Sort of wonky, out of sorts trips through the dark side of Britain, the melancholic rotting Victorian edifice of our town centres in Fighting In The Dancehall. The medieval ages never ended strokes of Psycho. The environmental disaster that is Everything Is Porn. The F.U.C.K. fuck that is Out Of Control.

I guess you could say all human life is in there. The funny thing is the American Strictly Come Dancing programme has been playing Do You Believe In The Power Of Rock 'n' Roll? in it. How the fuck that fits in with their show is baffling but it also makes complete sense.

Most people stop really liking music when they get to a certain age and just listen to whatever they already know or what's on the supermarket racks. How have you avoided that? And how can we give the rest of them a kick up the arse?

RH: Well, I still love all the bands I grew up loving too. I've never grown bored of listening to Rattus Norvegicus or Machine Gun Etiquette or Another Kind of Blues, and I doubt I ever will. But I also love relatively newer bands like Clutch, Rammstein, and Opeth and by touring a lot we get to see a lot of great new unsigned bands too. I'm not sure why other people might stop listening to new stuff, it's not like there's a shortage of good new music out there - but whatever makes people happy is fine.

JR: We are in a privileged position because we are always touring, we get free records, we go to lots of gigs and we listen, there are no glorious eras in music, there's always greats stuff around, wake up! Your youth was not the best ever time! Of course we are indented to you, the punk rock era informed me; but I'm restless I've got to keep moving. There are plenty of 'older' people who do still keep checking stuff out though.

PB: You don't get into making music for a fad do you? A healthy and continued appreciation of it can't be lost if you spend so much time creating it. We all tend to broaden our tastes anyway the older we get. There's so much good music out there and not enough time to find it all. Glad it's easier these days with everything being a click or two away.

You can't make people diversify, not everyone has the same relationship with music that we do; some feel comfortable with background sounds or specific genres, some get obsessive. I wouldn't wanna be the lunatic collector who has mint copies of everything a band does but never plays them!

JSK: Music is some people's life and to others it's just a soundtrack to their lives. I live and breath Rock 'n' Roll and am always searching for new exciting bands. To some it's natural, to others its not.

Has your audience changed over the last ten years?

JR: There seems to be a lot more of them! Playing the punk festivals has been great it connected us with a whole massive bunch of people who really liked what we are doing; we play punk festivals worldwide now.

RH: Yes, the audience we get now has predominantly come along on the back of our numerous appearances in punk festivals and from supporting the likes of Stranglers and SLF, which has been in the last four or five years. Most of them had never even heard of us before, or they thought we were some flavour of the month indie-schmindie band - perhaps because when we started out we got a lot of coverage in the trendier music press.

There was nothing wrong with that, but it can inadvertently tie you in with a passing trend. The punk scene is pretty much immune to fashion, and people like what they like with a fierce loyalty. We feel very at home here, and I think it suits us.

PB: There's more of it! More punks I guess and they bring their kids. We have a real healthy spread of ages at the gigs. No-one really gives a fuck about the age thing.

JSK: yeah - they all got a lot older, then all of a sudden they bring their kids and the audience gets younger - it's great - the kids (when they get a chance) love us

In that first interview, talking about indie bands, you said: "People have no self-belief.. I went to see Cable last night, a great band, but when they play on stage, the way they stand; it's really apologetic, which is wrong 'cos they're kicking out some great sounds." Do you see any change there? And RIP Cable, sadly missed here.

RH: I don't think bands need to run around to be good, but if you're playing exciting rock music then you'd hope that the musicians were as excited by playing it as the audience would be to listen to it. One of the best live bands I've ever seen is Amen - now there's a band that's consumed by their music. And yes, Cable were great. Too many good bands never last.

JR: That sounds meaner than it was meant to! I wanted those bands to take the world, Cable were a great band, really amazing; I should know, I produced their first album! Also I have always been into firebrand music, music that really delivers its gospel live, whether that's by performance or by the vocals or by anything and sometimes 'indie' music doesn't do that, its a bit too knowing a bit to cerebral, a bit too ironic. A very English middle class smugness can sometimes taint its invention and imagination.

I guess the best bands of that genre manage to combine the firebrand with the cerebral. Often, though, it can be music to show off about, almost like a "look how smart I am listening to this!" It can remind me a lot of the prog rock era when listening to crap like Yes was seen as being far more intellectual than being into Slade! Saying that though the Cable record does stand the test of time.

PB: Yeah, Cable were excellent weren't they. I see a lot of young Punk influenced bands that exude energy and I see a lot that don't. It's hard to generalise about Indie bands cos I see so few. Some of em seem to think the disinterested stage persona equals cool, well, to do that you need charisma and I think that charisma is the single lacking factor in most of what is thrust at us.

JSK: Indie bands were very good at "Shoe Gazing", but all genres' of music have good performers and dull performers. Indie just seemed to have more of its fair share.

Also in that first interview we said: "This is a punked-up, straight-edged, soul-powered sermon to the masses." Were you ever, and are you still preaching from that gospel?

RH: That still sounds pretty accurate. We usually end out gigs by playing Do You Believe In The Power of Rock and Roll? which has a big US evangelist-style segment of John laying on hands with the audience and people testifying.

JR: Mmm I am, Rob the drummer is, but the rest of the band are not exactly straight edge, although I'm not sure if I ever called myself straight edge, I'm not one for joining other people's clubs! I don't drink etc but that's because I find it really dull and boring, it dulls the senses and shuts the mind down, I like having a psychedelic mind, I don't need to tamper with it any more! Live; yeah, the band is still a punked up soul powered sermon being delivered to the masses. I'm still delivering, in fact more intensely and to more people than ever, there is still a rock n roll war going on out here!

PB: Still singing from that hymn sheet, in fact we're probably more evangelical than ever.

JSK: I was not there at the start of Goldblade - I saw an early gig and it was very difficult to tell what they were preaching about - now, Goldblade have genuine direction and really rock out! I don't preach, it's patronising, I leave that people who feel the need to patronise others. There are plenty of them about!! Goldblade gigs are like a big party that everyone can join in with

Do you still get a big kick out of playing a sweaty club?

RH: God, yes. I love that kind of gig more than any other. If we ever get so big that we could only play big theatres or arenas - unlikely I know, but bear with me - then I think we'd lose an important physical connection with the crowd, who are absolutely essential to a good gig.

JR: Of course, the sweatier the better, the wilder the better, and after July 1st the more smoke free the better!

PB: Yeah, more so than big arenas, though playing to 20,000 screaming Russians is also a good feeling. I personally love being near the crowd.

JSK: Huge stadiums and festivals to small sweaty gigs every gig is a buzz. playing live is the best thing in the whole universe - and I know - I have travelled the universe is search of fun - gigging is where it's at - it's when I am happiest!

Who wrote your Wikipedia entry? I like this bit: "The Membranes released several albums that were critically acclaimed by minor publications like the NME, Melody Maker, the Guardian, and Rolling Stone etc." Minor publications. Ha ha! What's your relationship with the music press like these days?

RH: We don't really seem to register with the mainstream press these days. We'd be happy to talk, but we'll carry on regardless anyway

JR: The Wikipedia entry just appeared and then grew and grew. I get on well with the music press, I write for some of them! We don't get covered that much because I guess there is a mistaken belief that you get your start then you are left to get on with it, it doesn't really affect our audience, word of mouth/myspace/the internet takes care of that end of things, its nice to get a printed pat on the back but its not the be all and end all.

Many bands get acres of good reviews and no-one ever checks them out, at least we have the luxury of having an audience and an audience that's on the move! Every now and then the press notice something going on. My punk book was in the NME's best books of 2006 list; Big Cheese constantly give us good write ups, and Keraang still gives us good reviews...Alternative Press in America gave us a two page spread.

PB: What relationship with the music press?

Last time, John said: "I don't like crisps; they're there to destroy your will-power and weaken your resolve. Every time you play a gig, they always give you six packets of crisps on the rider, y'know, and then they expect you to play an intense show... but they slow you down, but that's like all the trash that hangs around Rock'n'Roll." Are you still anti-crisp? Do any other savoury snacks get your goat?

RH: Personally I like crisps, but it certainly isn't what I'd choose to eat before playing a gig, and you'd be surprised how often we play venues where that's pretty much all we get offered. Promoters please note: some bread, some cheese, some hummus and some apples will do just nicely, thank you. And water instead of beer.

JR: Rock 'n' roll is about burgers and crisps, that's why it sometimes sounds so soggy and listless, I was saying all that stuff then and I sounded mad, now you get TV programmers going on about it. There's one punk festival we play and the promoter gives you a giant bag of crisps with thirty packets of crisps in it, you look at and feel sick!

I bring my own food to gigs! I don't want to be watered down, weakened by the trappings of crap Britain, why settle for Jade Goody when you can have anything you want? All snacks are for the soggy, savoury snacks pumped full of chemicals are the food equivalent of Busted. It's your choice brother!

PB: Not a big crisp fan and they're still get served up. Bowls of salted nuts are crap too, unsalted however would be nice!!

JSK: Crisps are OK - most of the band will eat crisps - I like Walkers Sensations Sweet Chilli flavour at the moment.

Where are Goldblade going? Will there be another 10 years? Are you the punk Rolling Stones?

RH: We're going on tour again, for another ten years or so. Probably longer. I'm not sure what being 'the punk Rolling Stones' entails, but if I can be the punk Charlie Watts then I'm happy with that.

JR: The Rolling Stones still deliver live! Longevity is cool; living in a disposable society is nothing to be proud of. The cult of youth is dull, it was dull when I was 16, it will be dull when I'm 87, to be the punk Rolling Stones would be an honour. As long as we make better records than they make these days!

PB: We're going forever, more touring, more album, more countries, more fans. And we've been beaten to the punk Rolling Stones title by the UK Subs anyway. Charlie Harper is 62 so we've still got a long way to go.

JSK: Indeed, where are Goldblade going? Good question. We are going to Derby and Stockport then Europe if that's any help? I will be gigging in another 10 years as long as I still enjoy it. Who are the Rolling Stones?

Goldblade's Rebel Songs is out now on Captain Oi.


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