Buzzcocks Interview

The Buzzcocks were the original pop punkers.

They are still the best.

So Rosey went along to talk to them about Bush, boy bands and chips.Here’s what he can remember of their chat (the tape recorder didn’t work)

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

* Here’s a copy of the interview we did with you in 1996...
(Steve Diggle) I can tell it’s an old one by looking at the pictures of him (Pete).
(Pete Shelley) One thing that’s changed since then is that I’m no longer a vegetarian.
* How come?
(P) I like meat too much, I missed it.
(S) What you mean is that you didn’t stick to your principles, you sold out! The rest of us are still all veggies. I’m very stubborn, I am.
(P) Whereas I’m flexible!
* What I was going to say is that there’s not many fanzines that are still going 8 years on, and even less decent rock’n’roll bands that are still going 28 years on, do you feel out of place in an industry which seems to value new trends and transience above everything else?
(P) Who values following latest trends?
* Well, you know, all the boy and girl bands in the charts.
(P) Yes, but not real music fans. Real music fans value what is good and aren’t interested in fads. That’s why we can still tour and pull in the crowds...
(S) Though everyone’s started copying us, even The Stranglers have reformed.
* And The Damned were here the other week turning on the Christmas lights.
(S) That says it all about The Damned!

* So are you touring to promote some ‘product’ or for the love of it?
(P) For the love of it really. Though we will get paid as well. We still love playing live, do you think we’ll get a bigger crowd now that there’s a cinema on the same site as the venue? It could work either way...
* I’ve no idea but there was a queue of punks smashing bottles and things as they waited to get into the gig as I came in just now. Can you tell us a bit about your latest releases, how come you put out two singles with the legendary Damaged Goods label?
(S) Well he (Phil from Damaged Goods) is a local lad and he asked us so we thought ‘why not’? He also does limited edition coloured vinyls which apparently nobody else does [We do! - Ed]. The album we have out (called just Buzzcocks) was released by Cherry Red, but they didn’t want to put out any singles for some reason.
* I read a review somewhere that said it’s one of the finest studio albums you’ve done.
( Phil - the drummer, looking up from his tea!), Yeah, I read that too. And we’re currently working on the next one for release sometime next year. You can buy the current one from Amazon or order it into record shops if they’ve not got it in stock.

* You’ve been involved with Love Music Hate Racism recently, there’s a great Phil Fisk pic of you and The Libertines together in our current issue...
(S) Yeah, here it is!
(P) Yeah we played the original rock against racism gigs in the 70s so it was nice to ask to be involved again, it’s a cause we always like to support. Though of course we wish that it was no longer necessary. It was just nice to be asked really.
* That was a great night, with The Libertines too and our very own Miss Black America. Have you not been tempted to get into doing the sort of production work that Mick Jones has been involved with with The Libertines?
(P) Chance would be a fine thing! Though I have been involved with helping out a band from LA called The Adored, I sang on a couple of the tracks on their ep. [Read about them here]
(S) And don’t forget to mention I’ve got a solo album due for release in February 2005; provisionally titled `The Great Contender’, it will be out on EMI. I also had a book out in April called ‘Harmony in my Head’.
* So do you think that pop and politics is a good mixture?
(S)No, it’s terrible! But having said that a lot of our songs are political if you take them in their widest meaning; ‘Autonomy’ is about the need for independence, ‘Sick City Sometimes’ is political, ‘Boredom’ and ‘I Don’t Know What To Do With My Life’ could both be seen as political... We don’t just write love songs you know!
* And ‘Crystal Night’ is a great anti Nazi song.
- (P) Of course it is, it was used on the Anti Nazi League album Never Again.
* Do you think movements such as Rock Against Bush can have an influence?
- (S) Obviously not enough of an influence to achieve their aims, in the light of the election results.
* Don’t you think a song like Green Day’s ‘American Idiot’ successfully fuses pop and politics in a way that makes people pogo and think at the same time?
- (S) You could say that, or you could say that they just did it because it’s fashionable.

* What was the last CD you bought?
- (P) I don’t buy CDs, I only buy DVDs...
* So what was the last music that you bought?
- (P) I’m not telling you, it’s a private matter!
* Like when you ask Americans if they voted for George Bush!
- (P) Exactly!
- (Phil) The last thing I bought was the British Sea Power album. I’d seen them live and been impressed, I quite like the album but it gets a bit much after the first few tracks.
* Seeing as you’re the only one who listens to new music, would you like this copy of our lovely opaque purple vinyl seven inch single, starring Chris T-T and Cosy Cosy. As heard on the John Peel (RIP) show.
(Phil) Yeah, thanks!

* Last question is the same as last time, what’s best - chips or cream buns?
- (P) Well I said chips last time so I’ll say buns this time!
- (S) Rubbish, you’re just being difficult for the sake of it. We’re a chips band. That’s the good thing about going back home to Manchester, you can get great chips, peas and gravy.
* Yes, good chips do seem to be a northern thing, Cambridge is more of a chelsea bun place!
- (S) Yes, it’s definitely chips for us!
- (P) But right now I’d prefer a cream bun.
- (S) That’s just now, overall you’d prefer chips.
- ( P, digging in) No, buns!
* What about you Phil, dare you take sides?
- (Phil) Chips!

With that most important question settled, it was time to bid adieu. Thanks to the band for interrupting their mostly vegetarian and completely chip’n’bun free tea to talk to us. Look out for solo projects from Pete and Steve,and a new Buzzcocks studio album sometime this year. Thanks also to tour manager Nigel and PR Gold Star Nita for making it all possible.

Find out about new Buzzcocks releases here


Buzzcocks live at Cambridge Junction, 6.12.04

75 minutes, 25 songs, no nonsense, pure perfection.

Without taking time to breath, The Buzzcocks showed how this rock’n’roll thing should be done. Despite the usual messy sound of The Junction, the very mixed crowd were treated to a fantastic concoction of loud guitars, sweet harmonies, barbed hooks and 6000 gallons of sweet soaked energy. Barely pausing, The Buzzcocks poured forth a captivating mix of new and old songs, reducing the crowd to a moshing mass of flailing limbs and happy reminiscences. If there’s a better way to spend a cold Monday evening in Cambridge, I haven’t found it.

Noise annoys? Not tonight it didn’t

Buzzcocks : Buzzcocks (Cherry Red)

If the term "punk-rock veterans" often seems like a troubling oxymoron, the Buzzcocks have found a way to neatly sidestep any qualms about their status as one of the Class of 1977's most influential band of dino punks. Simply remove yourself from the constraints of time frame. But if sticking to their roots and original vision has worked surprisingly well in a live context since their 1989 reformation, their oft-unfocused 1990s studio albums usually didn't reflect their strengths. Gratifyingly, this chapter of their unlikely career resurgence finally seems to have put all the pieces back together. Informed by taut pop-punk song structures, tough, driving performances, and the return of band cofounder Howard DeVoto to the fold (if only as cowriter with mainstay Pete Shelley on the tough "Stars" and blistering "Lester Sands"), the 'cocks have arguably turned out an album worthy of comparison to their late 70s prime. And if the subject matter here concedes they're not lads anymore, their performances belie it with potent doses of the band's original hooks-and-snot spirit. --Jerry McCulley


wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looking forward to it. (Laughs). It's difficult to say because the last few months have felt strange, it's felt like going down a plughole. I've got a real sense of vertigo at the moment. So I can't tell you that I'm looking forward to it. I will get through it and find where I land after that. That's what will happen.

Lucy: 'Taxidermy' and 'Drink Me' are quite drastically different in their musical styles, so what kind of sound can we expect from the 3rd album?
KJG: We don't know yet. We're playing a lot of new material tonight so you'll be able to judge that for yourself. When I'm this close up to it, it's really difficult to tell. I'm on a bit of a negative slant today, but usually with our music I can only hear the bits that have gone wrong rather
than anything that went right. When you reflect back on something it's very difficult to give an objective opinion, and I don't believe in objectivity anyway, I think everything's subjective. I just throw a deck of cards and
wherever they land, that's where she finds herself. I'm not really the one to explain my part in it, you must do that as the observer really, and of course that will reflect your part in the grand scheme of things.

Lucy: Do you enjoy playing live more than the creative process in the studio?
KJG: (Laughs) I don't enjoy any of it. It comes and it goes, ok? There's nothing like when you're writing and you manage to catch something by its
tail; when you're looking for those things underground that are skittering out of sight just when you're about to catch them. And when you catch them it is worth it, but it's a momentary pleasure. I've got so much noise upstairs, and I can hear things in my head that to me are absolutely devastatingly beautiful. I'm always trying to download them and get them
here, but they never get here in the right state, they're always very disabled and they don't even begin to imitate what I can hear in my head.
It's a frustrating process in the main.

Lucy: Your lyrics are simultaneously emotionally expressive and cryptic. Are you looking to be understood by your audience?
KJG: I'm always trying to understand myself, but it's like there's a point in the centre of the room, and there's a hundred windows to look at the same point from. All I can do is give you different angles on the same thing. God, you know, if I could find one conclusive thing in anything I would probably have something to put an anchor down on. But I cant, and I haven't met anyone that can. You can pick out anything you like in my lyrics, I don't seek to be cryptic. I love words for the sake of words, for me they're kind of free standing, and they don't really need to be explained. I think every word has its own character and colour and picture and the result you get with lyrics just depends how you put them together. You could just do it in a William Burroughs esque way, or throw the deck of cards, and you'd probably still find something that our tiny little minds would latch on to in order to gain some kind of emotional understanding. I don't think there's a constant, the only constant that there is for me is that there is no constant. I use myself as my canvas, I gut myself and fillet myself the whole fucking time, I'm always hooking myself out of the water, I'm always cutting my own head off and disembowelling myself, and as you can probably tell I'm quite angry about it at the moment. I'm very tired of it all, of my
process and how I find life, because it always seems to be about living and dying all in one breath. I'm getting pretty fucking tired of that.

Lucy: Do you think drugs stimulate or hinder creativity?
KJG: Well that depends on the drug, because I think most things arrive in the form of a drug really. I know in myself that if anything I am, much to my greater expense, an adrenalin junkie. My synapses don't work well enough to put pills in my mouth, I can't do that, despite popular opinion. I don't need any help breaking down, put it that way. There's not much holding it
together. If there was a drug that could put aline between two polar opposites and make them in to one thing I'm sure I would have it
intravenous, but I haven't found it. I think drugscan be a bit of a lazy way for creativity anyway, you're better off in the cold light of day in the mirror.

Lucy: As a band, you are distinguished by the extreme physicality of your live performances. Do you consciously make an effort to put on a show or do your performances just naturally come to you, and whatever happens, happens?
KJG: It's a bit of both, because you see, I think taking the stage is one of the most unnatural things anyone can do. In a way, just walking on stage actually creates an altered state - its not right, no one's meant to do that, unless you're a priest or a magician, or something like that. To put somebody who's very incapable in many ways in to that position creates a combustion reaction inside me. I know that, and I take the stage knowing that. Obviously there's all the usual things that affect my performance; if I'm on my 45th day of a tour I'm probably gonna be pretty fucking tired, so I'll be dictated by that. If I'm doing new material like tonight I don't
know what's going to happen, because we haven't built the train tracks yet. The beauty of playing live is when my drummer goes in to 5th gear or in to 10th gear, and for some reason there's something that hits me in the base of the spine and I'm gone, and that's Halleluiah for me. During the last few months a lot of strange things have been happening onstage, I think the process is changing. I don't know what's going to happen tonight, I've been having quite a tough time on stage, I feel like something's pulling me under, as if something's got me.

Lucy: So does the crowd influence your performances on stage?
KJG: Yes they do. I'm unkind enough to be pretty impersonal about how I do it, so I use them for me to kick against in effect, or to surf on, (I don't
mean physically surf). If you're in an empty roomand there's a couple of people at the back, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll have a bad show -
they might get the show of their lives. And then again when something's really heaving and going off, I get quite a distorted view of it, because I
can feel quite overwhelmed lose my sense of place in the situation. I lose control of myself. I don't know, I probably wasn't meant to do this, I
wasn't built for this. It wasn't a career option, I didn't start there and go there, I didn't pick up the things on the way. I've sort of gone round
and round.

Lucy: As the lead singer of the band, most media interest is focused on you. Do you feel pressurised by your position or do you enjoy being the centre of attention?
KJG: I've been here on this wheel long enough,(and I say this with a little bit of trepidation because I think you have to be really careful with this kind of thing, because the motivation to do it in itself I think is usually pretty corrupt) I'm not doing it for anyone else, I need a cheque through the door like anybody else does, you have to keep eating, you have to keep living. I'm looking for some sense of going home on my own terms, and people's critique of me is not relevant, whether it's positive of negative.
I do need a cheque through the door though, otherwise I'll have to go and be a butcher or something.

Lucy: What is the religious meaning behind the song "For I am the way"?
KJG: If you use the word religion in its truest sense, all it means is communion, it hasn't got any of the attachments to any written word. My
understanding of the word communion is loss of the sense. Another way of looking at it is you've got to get in to get out, and the only thing that I
know to be true is me, is this tiny little dot in the centre of the universe. It's the only thing that I know feels pain; I can see other people's pain and I can feel it in an emotional way, but not in a physical way. I find myself in the unfortunate position of feeling like I am the
centre of the universe and that everything is a projection, made by me - i.e. you two don't exist, you're something that I created. I don't wish that
sense upon anybody because it's not a good one. Through 'For I am the way' I'm saying that you've got to get in, because the only thing one knows to be true is oneself. And on a good day, if you stand on top of a mountain or go to the desert or stand in the ocean, and become completely inconsequential, linear time stops and you become everything and nothing. That for me is
communion, that's how I define religion. I thinkthere's a line in there which goes "Today the only bridge I have I burn" which sums it up really, because it is about cutting all lines of communication in order to really truly commune.

Lucy: Do you think that in the future your creativity will move from the sphere of music in to literature for example?
KJG: It's real hard to say. In a way, that sounds like a much easier life. But for all I know I'm deluding myself. I'm looking for someone to help me frame something at the moment, and someone is actually, someone's being really good to me. I would love to write, but I don't know if I'm good
enough to do it.