(25th March 1999)
are a 5-piece guitar band from Newcastle. Possibly not the sexiest way
to introduce them, but then they'll, to coin a cliche, let their music
do the talking for them. After a spread of singles across various labels,
the most recent release, and the one with which their co-headline tour
with Milky Wimpshake coincides, is "These people," a 7" for Stupid Cat
(2.50 to R. Jones, 3 Downhills Park Rd, London, N17 6PE), where dreamy
angularity is defined by a combination of saccharine girl vocals, Sonic
Youth guitar tunings and big drums. "Citrus bitumen" is the album, recorded
with a different line-up to the one on tour, and released last year on
Ferric Mordant to muted acclaim. We
said: "scuzzy languid US guitarstuff...the spirits of Seam, Sebadoh
and Dinosaur Jr look contentendly down from above, sipping their cider
and black" and that's pretty well what you get: unashamed harking-back
to the days when independent meant just that and footwear was
the subject of much fascination. But just what does the album title mean?
Steve (main man and songwriter,guitar): "We had a brain-storming session
and it just came up. It sounded Brass Eye-esque and that was
it, just stupid words lumped together. We got the band name and most of
the song titles that way too." Phil (owner of Ferric Mordant records,
guitar): "It was going to be called Cock Piss Spraydog", Steve
again: "John Peel actually read that out, which was mint, the best thing
that's ever happened to this band, actually."
from this interview of course, eventually conducted after the Curse Of
The Soundcheck---one of the perks of running a zine---when myself and
the 'dog repaired to the bar in the Portland Arms, Cambridge, for a session
with the Lazy Journalist machine. It's been a while since the interview
automator last saw the light of day so for new readers here's the skinny:
it's a Magic Robot board game doctored so that instead of giving the answers
to selected questions, it generates questions from the unrelated words
chosen by each band member. Some questions are purloined from Smash Hits,
some are (tenuously) related to Clint Eastwood (because the robot looks
a little like the rogue cowboy) and some have been generously donated
by bands who've been interviewed by the board previously. I (Jim) take
only a minimal role in the proceedings, the real stars being the LJ (of
course), Steve , Phil, James (Toon shirt, bass), Chris (PhD, drums) and
Annika (bus anecdotes, sings).
How did you get together, then?
Steve: The current line-up has only been going for about 9 months. Basically,
me, Phil and Chris were all in the band before; James joined to do the
Kenickie tour because our previous bassist had just started a new job---it
was a real shame, we basically had to lose him---but James managed to
play about 15 songs in 2 week's worth of training, so he's a hero. And
Annika answered an advert after Hannah left to study birds on an island
in Greece. Annika was the first person we saw and don't you love it when
everything works out? The band itself was just spawned from the punk scene
in Newcastle, following bands like Delicate Vomit and Kenickie and The
Jim: How did your tour with Kenickie go?
S: It was really good fun.
Jim: Did you go down well? cos I think of the Kenickie audience as a bit...erm...
All: [much laughter]
Chris: 14 year old girls! But the great thing about the tour was that
I got to watch my favourite band play every night
Jim: And then they split up.
C: Yeah, but we knew that was going to happen.
Jim: Do you think you'd change if you had as much money and success as
C: I don't think it changed them...
S: Oh, it did
C:...'cos me and Steve knew them before. Well, it didn't change Pete and
Lauren that much...
S: It depends what you do with your money, if you're snorting loads of
coke every night it's bound to change you, y'know....Erm, I'm not saying
that's what they did...
Jim: But is that what you'd do?
S: Hopefully not. I like to think I've got enough sense..I'd just buy
a solid gold house...
James: ...A rocket-powered car...
What do you think of the current drug laws?
Jim: Kind of apt, after the Kenickie thing...
Phil: Don't take currants
J: The come-down from currants is a bastard...I think they shouldn't be
legalised 'cos then the government'd get all the money from tax.
Jim: So you'd rather the money went to Columbian drug barons then?
S: I think I would, in a way
P: Think of all the hard work they put in...they should get an award,
S: Can you imagine if the state sold drugs to its workers? We'd all be
workaday drones and that...[He takes a large and unintentionally ironic
swig of his pint. James raises his eyebrows] Ah, good point.
C: On the other hand, as most Chief Constables would say, you'd immediately
eliminate most organised crime, criminality would fall and a lot of estates
would be sorted out straight away...
P: Make drugs really square, so it'd become like stamp collecting.
C:...but I don't expect anything to change 'cos Jack Straw's a prat. I'm
a Labour Party member, I'll probably get expelled now.
S: Slagging off people you've never met again, Chris.
C: Well, he's a fucking prick isn't he?
J: I wouldn't call Howard Marks a criminal
Jim: But you just said you'd keep all drugs illegal.
J: But I was just saying about Chris's point about the criminality around
drugs. Well, Howard Marks isn't a gun-toting...
C: Well, he isn't but if you go to Pennywell [Sunderland] and see the
drug dealers who've got control of it, it's well....
Jim: It's getting a bit heavy now...
C: Well I am a politics student...
Would you appear on kid's TV on a Saturday morning?
A: I would, it'd be mint.
C: The trouble is that our music is really adult...
C: ...it's about things kids wouldn't get though: fractured relationships,
politics, you name it.
S: I wouldn't mind going on Run the Risk
P: Tiswas used to have Motorhead on and that was by far the best kid's
pop music programme ever
C: I'd like to be the Agony Uncle. I think I'm quite a fount of wisdom.
S: I don't think you are, Chris.
Jim: Do you not all religiously watch Ant and Dec on a Saturday
All: No...never seen them (etc etc)
C: They do get seen around Newcastle.
S: I've met Ant, I was really drunk and I tried to get his autograph.
He gets loads of stick though, I mean, when he was in the pub there was
loads of lads coming up to him and putting his records on the jukebox
and saying "Haa, that's your record" but he deserves it.
C: They've got a reputation as OK people though.
Who is Unforgiven?
S: I can't forgive Kenny Dalglish for the way he made Newcastle a very
poor side. But at the same time he took us to the FA Cup Final, so maybe
I can forgive him. Maybe the real thing is, I don't think the media can
Jim: Media? I AM the Media
S: Well, err, the grass-roots media's alright...
A: The Sun's headline today is Clobber Slobber. That's not forgiveable.
S: I think you can forgive anyone if you can find enough love in your
All: [collapse laughing]
Jim: That sounds like a Wedding Present song title..Do you see
yourself as a David Gedge character? The songwriter in a changing line-up?
Will you be doing this in 10 years with yourself and 4 session people?
P: It's like that now!
S: Nah, I don't look like David Gedge at all. I think it's kind of, you
do get bands who change line-ups, like Lemonheads and Dinosaur Jr, maybe
it' s because I'm a bit of an asshole and nobody wants to stay in my band...Nah,
hopefully we're settled the way we are.
What is Clint Eastwood's greatest film?
S: The Outlaw Josie Wales.
C: Is it as good as Twin Town?
S: I don't recall Clint Eastwood being in Twin Town.
C: He's not, but I just wanted to say that Twin Town's such a smart film
Jim: It's like a free-form interview, this, say whatever you like.
S: Star Wars!
Jim: He was good in Star Wars.
S: You could market this [interview board]...you'd make a million
Jim: What, out of fanzine writers?
Name the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
S: Milky Wimpshake are good, Billie is bad and...
P: ...Spraydog are Ugly.
S: Nah, Jimmy Nail is Ugly.
Jim: Back to the band though, Phil told me that only 3 out of 9 people
on the tour are geordies...
C: We're all geordies by arrival though.
Jim: Well, that's what I was going to say, seeing as one of your
best songs is "To the north," how did you all come to be in Newcastle?
A: I moved there when I was seven.
P: I made a big mistake: Teeside Poly.
C: The thing about Newcastle is that seeing as it's the last place in
England, it's the kind of place that people fetch up...
Jim: So you're all the flotsam and jetsom of the music world, washed onto
the barren wasteland of the north?
C: In one way it is barren, there's no money there, there's not enough
bands, there's a lot of shit bands...but, cos we're a long way from London,
and because there's no scene like in Glasgow, people are very individual
in what they do. Take a place like Cardiff, right, they're quite central
and they don't have an independent scene...
Jim: ...Twin Town was a good film though...
C:...whereas we've had to learn to do it all for ourselves.
now turn to the board constructed by bands themselves. It's only half-finished,
so there's no words for the band to choose from---they have to make that
bit up themselves and write it on as they play. All the questions have
come from other bands.
LJ: What's your best bus anecdote? (from Julie of John Sims)
A: When I was 16 my bus got hijacked...
All: [astonished silence]
A: my mom said I had to be home every Friday night by half-eleven so I'd
always get the bus at 25-to-twelve. We got on the bus one night and it
was really late, the last bus coming home from Newcastle and loads of
people were just streaming on and the bus driver got so sick of it that
he said "Ah, fuck this" and just walked off the bus leaving the keys in
the ignition. These two lads said "We'll take you home" and no-one knew
what was going on but the bus started slowly moving and went the wrong
way round the roundabout and hit the underpass wall. Anyway, I got home
really late and my mom was walking the streets looking for me. She said
"where the hell have you been?" so I said "I'm sorry but the bus was hijacked"
and she went "I've never heard such filth in all my life!"
S: Chris thinks he's got a shag lined up there or something...
LJ: Describe your best groupie incident (from Attica Blues)
J: The question's the same as the answer!
C: We played in Blackwoods with Kenickie and, well...
A: You got a shag.
C: ...I got a shag and made a very big friend in my life...
S: Go on, describe it in gory detail.
C: And she came up to Newcastle for a bit and we were getting on really
well, but then it turned out she had a boyfriend. But if she's reading
this, she's a really inspirational person and I love Cardiff and everyone
in South Wales...
Jim: It's not the Oscars...Right, last question.
LJ: What finger would you use to wipe someone else's bum? (from
Richie of Cable)
J: A fish finger!
there, as Barry Norman would say, you have it. In an industry where scratching
other people's arses is practically an occupation, Spraydog possess the
attitude to make it through relatively unscathed: keep a sense of humour,
don't take yourselves too seriously, make music that makes you happy and
be sure to have an unhealthy fascination with Cardiff. Ferric Mordant,
44 Malcolm Street, Heaton, Newcastle, NE6 5PL.