What do you get if you cross a DIY film-maker, and
a renegade journalist? Only some of the best music videos of the '90s
- that's what.
When Nick Small and NME writer Steven Wells (or Swells, as he's sometimes
better known) teamed up to produce a promo for the Manics' 'Little Baby
Nothing' single in 1992, GOB TV was born. Their in-house style was characterised
by extreme visuals, rapid edits, political agenda, and plenty of humour.
Having worked with a ton of cool bands - including, The Wildhearts,
Senseless Things, Pop Will Eat Itself, and Skunk Anansie - the parnership
ended in the later part of the decade. Sadly, Swells died of cancer
in June 2009, leaving a legacy of poetry, video, and un-apologetic journalism;
plus much much more. Nick Small spoke to me about the genius of GOB
Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking
forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans
Thanks for doing this Nick, firstly I'd like to pass on my condolences
for the loss of Swells. I guess there's even greater reason to celebrate
the work you did together.
Steven Wells' death was a huge personal loss to me but, more importantly,
the world has lost an indispensable thinker and agitator. It's
almost 13 years since we last made videos together as GobTV, but it
all seems relatively fresh at the moment as I've been wading through
a lot of the material for various memorials and celebrations of Swells'
Can you tell us a bit about how you got into making music videos.
Was it something you'd always been interested in?
I was always heading for a writing career, but then I got into photography
and film as a teenager, and decided that making World in Action, or
Panorama would be the ideal job. When I left Birmingham University in
1984, I tried (unsuccessfully) to get a position as researcher with
various TV companies. To be honest, I was too young and daft, and I
didn't really like the people I met very much. I thought "fuck
it". I wanted to be a director, so I went out and bought a good
Super 8 camera, and started monkeying about with it. I was heavily
into music, so I guessed that music videos would be a good option. As
luck would have it, I bumped into Robert Lloyd (of punk legends The
Prefects and the Nightingales) in the corner shop. I knew he ran Vindaloo
Records, a decent independent label, so I just said "I've got a
camera. I can make videos me, giz a job". Fortune must have been
smiling on me, because he'd just recorded the first single with We've
Got a Fuzzbox and We're Gonna Use It. He basically gave me a fifty quid
budget and said "get on with it". Being cheeky young dayglow
punkettes, they were an absolute gift for any film maker, so even though
I hadn't got a fucking clue what I was doing, and my camera was a bit
shagged, we managed to shoot something, then when the record started
to do well, I got more money to edit it. Straight away it got played
on the ITV Chart Show, and was enormously successful. So that was
it...a combination of being pushy and good luck.
How did GOB TV come about?
After the Fuzzbox video, I thought I was made, but in fact during the
following 5 years, I probably only made about 8 videos, for bands like
The Go Betweens and New Model Army. I started to work on TV programme
ideas. One was called "GobTV", which was basically going to
be a rant show to be presented by Swells. I'd been following his career
since the late 70s when I read about him in The Leveller (a lefty magazine)
whilst sat on the bog. He and Attila came to stay at Vindaloo HQ one
night and we'd become friends. The TV show didn't make it off the piece
of paper, but some way down the line, Swells thought he could persuade
the Manics to let him direct a promo, as he'd been their champion from
the get go. The thing was, he didn't have a clue how to go about it,
so he called me and asked if I fancied teaming up with him. The Manics
said yes, after some persuasion, so did Sony...so GobTV was born. Our
first video was for "Little Baby Nothing". For various reasons,
some of them my fault, it's not very good....but it got us started.
What about the name?
Well, Swells was from Bradford, and I grew up in Middlesbrough, and
we were both punks. We had a kind of agenda from the outset, and that
was to be in your face, Northern punk rock style video makers out to
disrupt the rather dull, Southern poncey world of Julians and Hilarys
that popvideoland had become. GobTV said everything we wanted it to....we
were loud, gobby and punk (spittle being an essential part of the punk
The Wildhearts meet Jason Ringenberg in Bilbao
on October the 18th 2008 by Gob TV
You've worked with lots of cool bands over the years, what have been
your best and worst experiences?
I've worked with a lot of uncool bands too, it has to be said. I suppose
the best fun was probably making "Caffeine Bomb" with The
Wildhearts. Both Swells and I loved them to bits, and they were the
one band who just egged us on to do dafter and dafter things. It was
a fucking riot, and the video is loopy. The worst, well there have
been some shockers...Sean Maguire in LA was pretty awful for all kinds
of reasons. The most disastrous was for a band called Gigantic (who
used to be Flesh For Lulu)....the script called for the band to play
in a white cube room, into which we would introduce 5,000 flies. Because
the band would be coated in sugar water, they would have flies crawling
into their eyes, up their nose etc etc. We had to get in Steven Spielberg's
fly wrangler. I knew we were in trouble when he brought the flies from
his van in a container about the size of a catering can of baked beans.
I questioned whether there really were 5,000 flies inside and he said
"Wanna count 'em?" So the moment arrives when the flies are
introduced to the room....and right on cue, they fellin a heap onto
the floor and started to go for a walk. After about 30 seconds of rigorous
band performance, about 4 flies were buzzing around the room, the other
4,996 were just fly paste. Fucking funny in retrospect, but not at the
I read the article that Swells wrote about making the
Manics video. Were you just pitching crazy ideas to record companies,
and they gave you money - or not. Is that how it works?
The way it usually works is that the record company sends the song out
to 5 to 10 directors that they think would be suitable. We'd get loads,
and to begin with, we were very picky about who we'd work with. Swells
and I would sit at his computer, get smashed out of our heads, and basically
make each other laugh until we had something on the page that we could
present. Very often, our scripts were brilliant, but completely un-filmable
on the budget.
I gotta ask you about...
The Wildhearts 'Caffeine Bomb' video (in my opinion
one of the best ever made), where did all the ideas come from? Particularly
the vomiting scene?
Oh God...so many ideas in that video. Basically, we followed our usual
procedure of getting ripped off our tits and listening to the track
over and over again. We decided that Ginger should be strapped into
a huge Espresso machine by a bunch of cyber-goths with coffee being
pumped into his veins. The band performance in the car was just our
take on....if the Wildhearts were to do the pop video cliche of driving
down the road in a convertible car, how fucking mental would the car
be? In fact, they wouldn't even be on a road, they'd be flying through
hyperspace with zebras and sharks etc. Oh, and we must impale a baby
seal on the bonnet, and have a pig's head in it...Ginger added the ping
pong balls in the eyes (genius)...basically we all just went for it.
I'm not sure where the baked beans scene came from...Swells had a thing
about the Gold Blend adverts. CJ and the clown make-up...no idea where
that came from. We just wanted to make the whole thing as deranged as
possible. The vomit thing was obviously prompted by the "think
I'm gonna throw" line in the song. Collectively, myself, Swells,
Ginger and Cj just thought it would be fucking funny if they vomited
in each other's faces....the ultimate face-off. Working with the
Wildhearts, even though it was East West's money, there was no pressure
to make something MTV friendly...quite the opposite. You have to love
The Wildhearts: still the best band in the world.
Which of your videos are you most proud of?
Personally, the video I made for Primitive Radio Gods "Standing
Outside a Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand" was my favourite
artistically.... [look here]
just a great song, and the video works completely seamlessly with it.
The GobTV videos I'm most proud of are probably Pop Will Eat Itself
"Auslander" and Senseless Things "Homophobic Asshole",
for effective delivery of a political agenda....and of course, Caffeine
Bomb, which still gives me a thrill even now.
Is GOB TV and video making something that your still
involved in, or has it taken a back seat now days?
I still make a video now and again. I work with the Wildhearts quite
a bit (promos, video diaries, documentary stuff), because I love them.
I did one for Serena Maneesh "Saphyre Eyes" a couple of years
ago, which I really like a lot, and I help out the odd local band, like
Vib Gyor, a great bunch of lads from Leeds. Mostly I work in TV now....I'm
hoping to make a film about European Brown Bears next year if I can
raise the finance. The GobTV name is retired, since Swells died, though
it will remain as my youtube Channel.
How do think, or want, GOB TV will be remembered?
I would be astonished if we are remembered at all.