Ive commented before that being in a tribute band must be an odd existence. By enlarge their members are frustrated musicians who have not had the good fortune (or ability) to have made it in a proper band. However they continue on performing effectively as a doppelgangers for someone else.
However, Ramones tribute band THE SHAMONES are different. This band contains members with a bona fida link to punks past. Not only do they include two of arguably South Wales foremost punk band of the late 70s, Victimize, but also someone who went on to perform with much national and international acclaim in punk legends The Damned.
So I met up recently with the lads to get their recollections of the early punk days, what it was like to taste commercial success, and what prompted them to now form a band.
So in the words of one Joey Ramone Hey, Ho, Lets Go !!!!
1.First up lads, would you mind introducing yourselves and telling
me your roles in the band?
2.How long have the Shamones been going and how did the band come
3.Going back in time, Andy and Bryn I think you started your first punk band, Red Alerts & the Rejects, back in 1977. What first got you into punk?
Yeah, we started out with a 4-piece, Bass Guitar, Vocals and a 15 year old drummer. We recruited a second guitarist on New Years Eve 1977 and played our first gig on Feb 4th 1978, a mates 18th birthday party. We soon moved into the Cardiff pub rock scene. Returning to a 4-piece and a name change to The Victims we played the cellar bar of the Great Western Hotel, The Lions Den. I suppose a friend of ours called Stiff first introduced us to Punk. A regular listener to the John Peel Show, he played us an early version of The Stranglers Hanging Around and some Ramones stuff. He eventually moved to London and worked for an Indie record shop. We would receive a package of new Punk albums on a regular basis. We got to hear a lot of the new stuff early on. Bands like Slaughter and The Dogs, The Jolt, Ramones, Television etc. It was the catalyst for forming our own band. We decided that if they could do it, we could do it which was part of the Punk ethic/culture.
4.At the time was there any kind of punk scene in South Wales?
There was an emerging scene in Cardiff featuring bands like Mad Dog, The Innocents, Rudi & the Russians and poseur punks The Nylonz. Another Punk stronghold was the Grassroots Coffee Bar, a community-run project in Charles Street. We played regular gigs here with the likes of The Riotous Bros., Addiction, French Lettuce and Doc Savage. The Punk scene in Cardiff grew around Grassroots and Top Rank in Queen Street, where you could see all the top bands including The Clash, The Buzzcocks, Stranglers, The Damned etc.
5.By 1978 you had changed your name to Victimize, who I can attest had a pretty hardcore and manic following. I know you supported many of the punk stalwarts of that era. So what are your recollections of being on the same bill as bands like the Damned, Stiff Little Fingers, UK Subs, Lurkers and Skids etc? Were any of them less than kind to you?
The name change to Victimize was forced on us by way of a Scottish band who had already recorded under The Victims. The new name gave us a much harder image, the music was raw anyway! Our following included punks, a hardy skinhead crew and Cardiff City hooligans. As Top Rank went away from putting on Punk bands, our manager made a bid to hire the upstairs concert room above the Prince of Wales cinema. Grannies was born. We were given the opportunity to support the shows. The great thing was, there was no competition. We all had one goal - Punk was just one big scene! We shared dressing rooms, beer, fags and just got on with it. Charlie Harper (Subs) was brilliant as was Richard Jobson who claimed he was nervous about following Victimize on the bill. The Damned were great. Captain Sensible was the complete entertainer on and off the stage.
6.What was it like to hear John Peel playing your single Baby Buyer/High Rising Failure?
Actually, he only played the B side, Hi-Rising Failure about the social failure of tower block housing. Baby Buyer was banned by the BBC for its content the baby buying boom in 70s Mexico. We werent condoning it, just reporting it really. John Peel was a legend and to hear him introduce our single was a brilliant moment.
7.By 1980 things seemed to stall. I think Im right in saying that it was you Andy who left the band first. Was there any particular reason why you jumped ship?
Actually, Andy James left first and I took over vocals. Roman Juggs influence was sending us into a much lighter, poppier direction under a new name The Carburettors. We ended up playing psychedelia at one point. The break-up was more of a natural ending due to Roman joining the Damned, Bryn joining a heavy metal band and I kept playing and writing in a number of local bands.
8.Bryn, you later went off to join another ex-Victimize member, Roman Jugg, in the Damned. How did you get invited to play bass for Captain Sensible and Co?
I left to join The Damned in 1983. I was on the dole, living in a flat in Barry, not really doing much musically. I got a call from Roman saying Paul Gray had been sacked by the Damned and he had suggested me as a replacement. The band agreed to audition me. I had 7 days to learn 30 songs for the upcoming British Tour, followed by a tour of the States. I passed the audition and rest is history, as they say.
9.What was it like to be suddenly playing in a commercially successful band and appearing on TV shows like Top of the Pops?
Nerve-racking but exciting. It sounds corny but I was living the dream. It was a lifes ambition. The whole experience shattered my illusion of pop stars. Most of them were down to Earth. Ozzie Osbourne was great, a big hero of mine from my Sabbath loving days.
10.Have you any one particular Damned gig that stands out in your memory?
Yeah. The San Diego Civic in the States in 1986. The Cult had spent thousands the week before on advertising for their gig and drew a poor crowd. We (The Damned) did nothing and 7,000 people turned up. The venue only held 4,000. That was also the first time I met Johnny Rotten .lovely guy!
11.Is it true that you left the Damned when Dave Vanian opted out to form the Phantom Chords? I take it Rat Scabies wasnt best pleased?
No, Dave left to pursue a solo career and a different direction. He asked Roman and I to go with him. Rat was not pleased and his only comment was So Im officially sacked then!
12.Do you keep in contact with any of the Damned now?
Ive met up with Rat and Dave at live shows over the years. I actually joined them on stage, along with Paul Gray at the Point, Cardiff in 2008. We did a version of Neat, Neat, Neat, with 3 Bass players.
13.Andy, when all this was going on what were you up to?
Around 1983, I met up with a couple of new musicians and a singer who was a great poet and resembled a mix of Jagger, Iggy Pop and Jim Morrison. With my Punk and New York influences and his Doors/MCS, Iggy background, we formed The Missing a raw 4-piece with a whole lot of energy and stage presence. We soon found the right drum and bass combination and set out playing the London circuit with a lot of contacts coming by way of Bryn and his newly-acquired status. We managed to open for Hawkwind at Stonehenge in 1984 and were lucky enough to get a few support dates on The Damneds Anything tour in 1986 again thanks to Bryn.
After releasing a single, things turned sour and the band split around 87. After DJ-ing for a while in Indie clubs, I joined a string of cover bands playing mainly Rock and Indie. This kept me active for about 10 years. In 92 I briefly formed BUG with Bryn and the singer from The Missing. It was short-lived and I went back to cover bands while Bryn all but retired. In 2000, I hung up my guitar for a stint in the pub trade but by 2006 I was playing again forming Andy & the Johnsons with my brother Dave a punk/indie cover band which featured 4 Ramones tracks in the set.
14.After both being away from music for a while, what prompted you to get back together and start playing music again?
It was a totally natural thing to do. Bryn was bored and unfocussed, spending too much time drinking and I was rejuvenated and enjoying playing again. We decided, over a coffee at Barry Island, to jam out some Ramones stuff. I asked Dave to stand-in on drums, he had his own band at the time. It was so much fun that we just sort of went for it. We thought about auditioning singers but it was just working so well as a 3-piece, we just didnt want to destroy the chemistry.
15.Dave, whats your musical history and what other bands had
you been in prior to the Shamones?
19.Youve been gigging all over the country, so what has the audience reaction been so far?
Fantastic, really positive. Everyone says the sound is really close to the original. Its nice too, that no one mentions that were only a 3-piece.
20.What do you think of the state of music at present and could you see something as revolutionary as punk rock happening now?
The Indie / Punk scene is quite healthy, though you really have to dig deep to find the best bands. The Charts are just for reality T.V. fodder now and doesnt interest us at all. Despite the current social economic situation, which is similar to the mid-seventies when Punk exploded onto our streets, we dont see a New Revolution happening. The country is too fractured to spawn an uprising of youth, although we hope were wrong. The kids today dont seem desperate enough, theyre too content. The music doesnt say enough its very safe!
21.Have you got any long term goals or are you just enjoying being back in a band and playing live?
No just re-living our youth but this time without the pressure and stress. As they say If only we knew then what we know now!
22.So where do I go if I want to learn more about the band and upcoming gigs? Have you got a website/facebook page?
Weve got plenty of gigs lined up, all across the country, from Carmarthen to Wolverhampton to Ipswich taking in Birmingham, Cannock and Romford. We also play regularly closer to home in Barry & Cardiff. Weve also just been added to the bill at TRIBFEST, Europes largest tribute festival which takes place in August in Hull! You can find out more at www.facebook.com/shamonesuk . Also you can see us in action at www.youtube.com/theshamonesuk and were also on twitter @theshamonesuk. We also have a national agent:- Premier Tributes at www.premiertributes.co.uk . Anyone interested in going to Tribfest can get more info from www.tribfest.co.uk .
23.Last question. Any chance of Victimize reforming?
Cheers lads. And having seen them first hand I can attest to the fact that, if you love the Ramones, then equally you are going to love the THE SHAMONES.