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JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT THE CLASH WERE THE LAST GANG IN TOWN:Along comes Billy Nowhere and his Devildolls Rock n' Roll Street Gang interviewed by Mel

Billy Nowhere is the lead singer with The Devildolls Rock N Roll Street Gang, based in Cleveland Ohio.
The band once included members of The Yo-Yo's, and their sounds are greatly influenced by the book of punk; chapter 1977.  They are one of the new groups that proudly carry on the torch today!

The current line up is:

Billy Nowhere-Vocals
Eddie Tomecko-Guitar/Vox
Drew Tomecko-Bass/Vox
Joey Cypher-Drums/Vox

Photos of Billy taken for Mudkiss Interview by A/V Works

Hi Billy glad you could join us today for an interview – I guess many people know you as the band that covered the Clash anthem ‘I’m so bored with the US’, then donated to the Strummerville charity. We need to know more….let’s Rock N Roll!!


Mel - Tell me about The Devildolls Rock N Roll Street Gang in 2008. Where did the band name come from?  


Billy - Well ha-ha, way to start off with an easy one (laughs). Well those who don’t know us we’re loosely formed from the ashes of Danny Frye & The Devildolls.

To clear things up though we ARE NOT the same band, just a project that formed from people who worked with Danny prior to him passing away. I guess the name is a dedication of sorts to our ‘fallen’ friend. Nothing more, nothing less.

Mel - Who was Danny Frye?


Billy - I believe he died too young. Danny Frye was a hero to many in this area. He was a great and talented musician who had this larger than life persona about him. Danny worked with several large musicians including Sylvain Sylvain of the New York Dolls. Danny used to play guitar with Syl in his solo project.  

He used to also front the Vacancies, but left them to work with me on the Devildolls project, his album ‘Hellbent’ went over like a storm on both sides of the pond, but unfortunately he was a diabetic, and due to that and his rock n' roll lifestyle not mixing too well he passed away at the age of 30. Again, I'm not taking over anything from him; this project is separate from what he did. We all worked with him in the other band, but this is something completely different, no one could or will ever fill his shoes, he's greatly missed!  


Mel - How would you describe yourself as a band? For people who haven't listened to you, who would you, compare yourselves to?  


Billy - It’s hard for me to say? I mean I write how I write, and the end result is our sound! Many say it’s very ’77 sounding, I say it is what it is. Some say it’s got a very Stiff Little Fingers, Clash, Buzzcocks, Rancid, Street Dogs thing going on which is rightfully so because they’re all somewhat influential to us.


Mel - How long have you been together and how did you all get together?  


Billy - Well we pulled this thing together in early 2006, but didn’t complete the line-up until fairly recent. It started with conversations between myself and Dave Robinson of ‘Not On Your Radio Records’ out of Portsmouth. Dave road managed Danny Frye & The Devildolls back in 2001. He said if we pulled something together he’d put it out! So I began ringing up the old’ crew, and most said yeah lets do something, so here we are today! 


Mel - I believe you played a gig at ‘The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame’ in Ohio, could you tell us more about this?


 Billy - Ah once again a misconception. That was Danny Frye who played that gig. I set it up though; I was doing some work for Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols) at the time. I talked Glen into adding Danny Frye & Justin Sane (Anti-Flag) onto the bill as an add on he agreed and the rest is history.


Mel - Where do you reside Cleveland or London?  


Billy - I reside just outside of Cleveland, Ohio. It's a rough town to live in, it's a very working class town built on factory and manufacturing jobs, a lot of that work is going to China, so those jobs have dried up in this area. I've witnessed a lot of people go from the high life to the low life when jobs dried up. It definitely makes me angry and I use it for song material for sure, these people deserve not to be forgotten, so it's my job to tell the World about it!  


Mel - I believe you took a break from the band to play Ice Hockey in the North American League? I’m curious to know more. 

Billy - Man you really did your homework didn't ya??

Um, yeah like many I like football, but really I'm a hockey nut. I played on and off through my younger days, I was never a great player, but good enough to hold my own.
We came to a bit of a stall in production last winter, so I was approached about playing again. What sounded like a good idea at the time which ended up being a mistake because I took two big injuries that ended my season as soon as it pretty much started. It's sufficed to say that my hockey days are behind me!

Ironically I'm not the only hockey playing punk rocker ya know? Billy Crooked, and Michael James of the Vacancies (Blackheart Records) were also former team-mates!!


Mel - Which Football and Hockey Team do you support?  


Billy - Well, hahaha, being that you’re from Manchester maybe I need to say Manchester United, or Man City or this interview will be over hahaha! But the truth is I'm a Newcastle fan!!!  Um in the states I like the Columbus Crew, but watching proper football isn't the easiest thing to do here, though it's starting to get a lot more coverage here than in the past! As far as hockey, that's easy. I'm a Columbus Blue Jackets fan, yeah they suck, but I watch um anyway hahaha!!


Mel - What did you do prior to 2006 musically - what were you doing in 1977 when Punk broke in the UK?


Billy - Well between 2002 and 2006 I took a hiatus from music. I got married and started a family and had a bitter taste in my mouth over the way the music business was heading. Prior to that I worked in production, and had the opportunity to work with some amazing and talented musicians, and prior to that I played in two bands that had moderate success. The later of which was signed to a major label (not mentioning any names) under a development deal, and it was shameful that they didn't do much with/for us!  

In 1977 three of us were of school age, and two of us weren't born...ha-ha!! But speaking for myself the effects trickled down on me a few years later, and since I heard those few opening chords of ‘Anarchy In the UK’ pump out of my friend Jason’s older brothers hi-fi my life changed, and I never looked back! 


Mel – It’s really hard to make it in the music business without having a “day jobs” these days – do you?


Billy - Yeah I mean we all work day gigs, I was in production for several years and worked some big projects, but always had a fall back in my families business, so it’s always been an easy transition for me in and out of projects, I couldn’t imagine if I didn’t have that luxury, though I love music so much I imagine I would have made it happen one way or another?


Mel - Is it true that ‘Kris Needsy’ inspired you to pen the ‘Radio London’ single after reading in his book that Joe Strummer liked to listen to John Peel Radio London show?


Billy - Yeah totally true, I love Needsy, and his writing. I just put down his Strummer book after reading about how Joe used to tune into Peels show on Radio London broadcast from the good old’ Galaxy. I couldn’t find anything around the house to write on so I picked up an envelope that I found lying around and penned the song in about 5 minutes.


Mel - Did Needsy give your song a good review?


Billy - Yeah, Needsy gave a very positive review of the single, and I don't believe he'll be at all disappointed in the full length either!


Mel - Did you ever meet any of The Clash in their heyday? Fond memories?


Billy - Unfortunately no, though I know several of their friends, and people who were around them on a regular basis. I’ve heard the good, the bad, and the ugly on them. Every note that the Clash has ever produced from their instruments is a fond memory to me!


Mel - Strummercamp Festivals have been taking place in Manchester every year, have you been asked to appear?


Billy - We talked to them a couple years ago, unfortunately at the time we couldn't make it out, so the next best thing happened, Ray Gange went there, and worked the Strummerville single. He's a great guy, can't thank him enough for his support!


Mel - Yea I met Ray there, how did you manage to find Ray and get him involved with your single and video he acted in? Mark Helfond had a part to play in that as I recall when I was in London for the weekend we were asked to partake in it walking down Camden high street. So how did you hook up with Mark, was it through Glenn Matlock?


Billy - Well long story short, we know Ray through mutual friends, but when we did the Strummerville single I contacted him about being in the video which was supposed to originally be 'Radio London'. Ray agreed.  

It was shot by Mark Allen this young director, and besides Ray it also had Suicide Girls model Bonnie Suicide, Mark Helfond, and Tom Spencer; ex-Yo-Yo's, and current Loyalties front man. Ironically the video ended up not being completed, and we went on to shoot another treatment for 'Radio London'. Mark Allen did a rough edit and used our song 'Do Me No Right' over it. There is a version floating around on You Tube, and also on our MySpace page. 

As for how we know Mark Helfond, your right, I know him through Glen Matlock. A handful of years back I was doing some independent events at ‘The Rock n ‘Roll Hall of Fame & Museum’ and I brought Matlock over for a gig. Mark Helfond was in tow and we all hit it off and became mates. So when we wanted to use a lot of the original Clash stomping grounds as a backdrop to the video, and we knew that Mark was one of the characters at the root of the original scene, I asked him to be an advisor on the video, and as you know he also made an appearance! 


Mel - Besides the Strummerville are there any good causes you sign up to or recommend? 


Billy - Well yeah Strummerville is great, wish I could do more for um!! But I think everyone needs to sign on to help the environment. Look for clean energy, green power, recycle ect. Otherwise we're going to be living in a giant waste bin, and we need to save this earth for future generations!!


Mel - What about your image? I believe Soo Catwomans daughter Dion is designing some clothes for you? Do you know Soo ?


Billy - Yeah I know Soo and Dion, they're lovely ladies! Dion is definitely a chip of the old block so to speak. She's very artistic. She's an amazing photographer, artist, and singer! Dion was doing hand painted shirts for a time and selling them on Ebay under the name Dion October clothing.  She’s done some stuff for me yeah...hand painted shirts. Soo and I also chat on occasion yeah, she’s such a sweet woman, and amazingly humble despite her being a major influence on rock n' roll fashion. What’s really cool is that now Soo is venturing into clothing working alongside Dion in creating shirts & such with original prints of Soo on them. I've already requested some custom work ;-)


Mel - Who do the band listen to and who are your major musical influences? (Apart from the obvious Clash references)


Billy - Well, we’re all children of the late 60’ and early 70’s (now I’m dating us).

I think most of the music that came out of that era influences us. It was the most inventive era in music; it really made music to what it is today. Speaking for myself I was lucky to have parents who were music fans, and had a GREAT record collection for me to dig through when I was young. My mother used to dance on American Band Stand so she always had new and hip stuff to listen too, my fathers taste consisted of the Beatles, the Beatles, oh, and more Beatles, haha.  My personal music tastes were shaped by, The Sex Pistols, Clash, Buzzcocks, Wire, Chelsea, Generation X, The Boys, The Damned, the list could go on & on! You know most of the first wave noise!!


Mel - Where do you find influences for your songs? What inspires you, what do you write about? Who writes the lyrics?


Billy - That’s easy, I write about what’s affecting me, or people around me. Most of my songs are from personal first hand accounts of my own life. I write all the lyrics, the music is a joint effort between all of us!

Mel - Do you do any cover songs live? If not what might you do and how would you make it your own?


Billy - Well I’ve been tossing around doing “City of The Dead”. What’s ironic as the economy in the World  slips songs that were originally written dealing with the issues of the 1970’s are starting to have relevance once again in the modern World. Kid wake up and start listening to your elders’…hahaha!


Mel - Who would you love to perform or record with, past or present?


Billy - Oh I’d love to work with any of the Clash in any aspect, performing or recording. I’m keen on Rancid, would like to work with Tim Armstrong on a song or two, I mean the list is really long.  If they’re saying something smart, and looking’ to turn the system on it’s ear, I’d love to work with um!


Mel - What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?


Billy - See that’s the problem, my creative switch is always stuck in the on position. I mean great music, art, film, poetry, fashion; it’s all a turn on in my life. It all is meant to create a stir of emotion inside, and I take notice in all, good and bad. 

Mel - Are you gigging/any plans? 


Billy - We got something very loosely in the works, but priority one is to get finished with the record!!


Mel - What should people expect from a Devil Dolls Gig?


Billy - Loud in your face punk rock the way it was meant to be. It’s not fancy, it’s not always pretty, but it’s real! The material has all been written from the heart, and that shines through!


Mel - What's your favourite song you enjoy performing live?


Billy - My favourite song is ‘Your Enemy My Hero’. It's loosely based on a friend of mine who's a skinhead, who also is very much a wide boy type, gets by on his underhanded dealings...ha-ha. He means well though! Anyway, the song has great energy, and I like it!

Mel - What are you working on at the moment?  What’s happening with ‘Anthems of The Lost and Forgotten’?


Billy - We’ll we’re about 99% done with Anthems; we’re finishing up the last couple tracks now, should be wrapped by November. Not sure of any release date yet this point in the game.

I’m so bad as far as continuing to bring material to the table. The guys have finally cut me off. It could be 50 songs long if it were up to me, hahaha. I write and write and write, and as soon as we think we’ve gotten the last one done, I bring something else in to work on. Well apparently the fella’s said that’s enough. We’re not doing anything else with exception of wrapping up what we’ve already tracked, then it’s a mater of taking 12-14 songs we all agree on to put out as the record….hahaha, wish us luck!!!


Mel - What are the plans for the future?


Billy - Our future remains unwritten. We live for the day, and we will continue to do this as long as it feels right, and we have important to say, so listen up World. The Devildolls Rock n’ Roll Street Gang is here!!  


Wanna be in my gang my gang…well check Billy and his crew


http://www. strummerville. com

http://www. strummerville. com


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