MUDKISS FANZINE

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MUDKISS GET BUSHELL IN THE BOX! INTERVIEW BY LORRAINE

Born in 1955 in Woolwich, he has become a household name. Love him or hate him he is hard to ignore. Whether satirised, demonised or idolized, he is rarely short of an opinion. From Fleet Street to TV celebrity and everything in between, Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome..... Garry Bushell, Patron Saint of Oi and an' alright geezer!

Lorraine -  Thank you Garry for agreeing to do this interview for Mudkiss and please be gentle with me. When you first agreed to do the interview I thought I had better do some research to extend my knowledge beyond that of the Garry Bushell we used to know back in the days of gigs at the Electric Ballroom and Tilbury skinheads, when we used to rush out to buy Sounds in case 'we' were mentioned in your column. First stop, Wikipedi, where I was seriously overwhelmed by such a prolific assault on the ol' mince pies! I went to sleep that night with images of a homophobic bear in a pink tent. So, to help with my therapy, let's begin with 'Pink Tent'...a band formed at secondary school influenced by Monty Python. How exactly did that come about, what did it entail and why such a camp name? 

 

Garry - Haha. Yeah old Wiki is as reliable as the toilet wall graffiti at a liars’ convention. I’m not homophobic, honest. I could reel off a long list of talented gay stars from Frankie Howerd to Simon Amstell who I’ve praised to high heaven (the top floor in the nightclub?). But people believe what they want to believe. As usual if you step out of line with PC opinion, as I seek to do as often as possible, you get demonised.

Pink Tent started when we were 14/15. It started as a kind of comedy zine; we all wrote sketches, and jokes and put it together. Just for a laugh. Pink Tent the group was born out of that, we wrote our own songs, mostly 12bar blues, although I remember writing at least one drippy ballad. We were extremely leftwing and influenced strongly by Python, Spike Milligan, John Lennon, Trotsky etc. Pink Tent, the first song I wrote, is an adolescent love-song to the female sexual organs – something which at the time we had no practical knowledge of. When punk happened Pink Tent became the Gonads, but in that first incarnation we never played outside of our area, just gigs at parties, one pub (The Lads Of The Village in Charlton) and the alleged “acoustic tour of curry houses” which involved us getting chased out of an Indian restaurant down Lee way by a chef brandishing a meat cleaver. They didn’t mind us busking for bhajis in Charlton Village though.


Lorraine - Kind of a random question here, but between school and polytechnic you worked for the London Fire Brigade, your father being a firefighter. What exactly did you do in their employ as I am guessing you weren't fighting fires?

 

Garry - Yeah I worked in the press office and the photo library up at FB HQ in Lambeth. The pictures were particularly gruesome. My Dad and his mates had to deal with death on a regular basis so they developed a very black sense of humour which rubbed off on me.

I also worked briefly at Shell as a messenger, pushing a trolley. I worked with an old docker who been crushed between two ships and wore a permanent neck brace. Don’t remember much about these years though.


Lorraine - Now let's talk about 'your' Gonads which came to fertility in 1979 and are still keeping us entertained today. In those early days, as punk was imploding, what was the original aim of the band, simply to have fun or did you feel you were on a serious mission? I ask this after watching a late 70's clip of you expressing your views on the state of punk at the time, where I have to say, longer hair and you could have passed for a young Demis Roussos :-)

 

Garry - I’ve seen that clip! Was that a beard or a hedge? What was I thinking? My voice was so high on that it sounded like Roussos was sitting on my actual gonads. Never mind punk imploding, I think my privates had exploded.

 Yeah I reformed the band as a wind-up. I used to drop the name in conversation to catch out bullshitters. People who claimed to have seen them were instantly revealed as liars. But I was still writing songs and when I got chummy with Steve Kent from the Business we decided to reinvent the band as a studio only enterprises, which resulted in Tuckers Ruckers on Carry On Oi – clearly a piss-take of the football-anthem obsession of the time.  Incredibly (to me), that song inspired The Press to form in New York, who were America’s first ever Oi band. After Tuckers, me and Steve wrote the Pure Punk For Row People ep, which had Sandra Bigg (Really Big), Got Any Wrigleys John, Annie Auldiron and a couple more, and we kept up the mystery. I appeared on the sleeve with the backing singers wearing a mask (a vast improvement). A bit later me and Steve formed Prole too, as a melodic socialist oi band. Steve sang – I just wrote the lyrics.

1979 was a tremendous year. I’d started on Sounds in 78 and the NME had already said punk was dead. But I was going out every night seeing bands like the Ruts, the Skids and the UK Subs who were tremendously exciting. Later when the Upstarts and the Cockney Rejects came through it was obviously the start of something harder and realer. That was Oi which as you know became Street punk and still stalks the world in various guises.

The odd thing for me is seeing the Street Dogs’ album and seeing them sitting around in flat caps, wearing combat jackets and drinking stout. That could have been us in the White Lion in 1980. But it’s Boston now. Good luck to them. I like loads of those bands, especially Rancid who have cleverly repackaged the Clash and sold them back to us.

The Gonads gig all the time now. Just for a laugh. No illusions, no ambitions, just for the crack.

 

Lorraine - Regarding the homophobic label, I believe this in part due to your strong objection to a particularly sexually explicit comment/joke made by Julian Clary at the 1993 Comedy Awards? Let's face it, had a heterosexual male made similar reference to a female there would have been a mass cry for 'Bobbiting'! This brings me to the subject of political correctness, which you freely confess to 'seeking to step out of line with as often as possible'. After braving such chat forum names as 'Ma Pa', 'Welsh-lad' and 'Alrightmate', I was surprised to see just how much your views on political correctness irk people. Firstly, why have you adopted such an anti pc stance and secondly, why do you think it causes discomfort to many? 'Bigot' seems to be the popular compliment.

Garry - Chat forum names…I wonder how many of them have actually read anything I’ve written recently, or ever. Clary’s gag didn’t offend me, but the context for it was wrong. This was a live ITV show at a time when comedians were bound by strict rules. Stan Boardman was banned from ITV for his much funnier Fokka Wolfe gag; the Grumbleweeds were axed permanently for a throwaway remark made in private. Why should there be one law for hip, middle class comedians and another for popular working class ones?

Political correctness is a way of controlling free speech and free thought, of curtailing open debate and ultimately criminalising views that don’t conform to the liberal consensus. The only thing I’m bigoted against is morons who try and stifle argument and impose their views by calling other people names. Question the EU and you’re a xenophobe, question immigration, you’re a racist etc etc

Lorraine - I have to confess that I do not read any newspapers but had quite a giggle catching up on some of your work as a TV critic. One of my favourite lines had to be, when referring to the new Richard and Judy show... "If it wasn't for Judy's hands, it'd be no great shakes!” It struck me that you have the guts and honesty to say that which most of us just think, plus with a wicked sense of humour. (The whisper is of-course that she is a raging alcoholic.)  Have you ever felt regret that you may have gone too far with any personal comments and profoundly affected some-one? Indeed, has anyone ever upset you to any great degree?

 

Garry - I think I was far too nice to Jo Brand, the odd thing is people in television tend to have ginormous egos. So they remember the put-downs far more than I do. You often hear nitwits banging on about things being “offensive”. Well, I think certain people deserve to be offended, especially people in power who are cocking things up.

I don’t think anyone ever upset me, but the Mail really pissed me off when it told lies about me and Alan Lewis back in 1981 and probably set the whole “right-wing bigot” thing in motion


Lorraine - Out of the controversy and public eye what is the real Garry Bushell like? How would your best mate describe you?

Garry - Ask him. Get Barack on the phone right now. I don’t know. I’d like to think I was a loyal friend. But I don’t want to blow my own trumpet.


Lorraine - Growing up in South East London you must have witnessed a lot of changes. Personally, I do not think there has ever been such a time of confusion over national identity as is evident in our current social climate. I know that you actively pursue the recognition and preservation of our English Heritage including standing for the English Democrats Party. This seems to be a strongly emerging trend. Sadly, the vastly differing concepts of patriotism and racism seem to be so easily and commonly confused. What would you say to those who mistakenly regard you as a right wing racist and to those who view patriotism as a dirty word?

 

Garry - Well, I’ve never been a racist in my life. Am I right-wing? I don’t think so. Right and Left are fairly meaningless terms when the elite share the same views on every major issue. For years I said I was a disillusioned socialist. Now I’d describe myself as a patriotic anarchist. I’m for the people. The Labour Party has created the confusion over national identity with devolution, open-door immigration policies and multiculturalism.

I think our rulers, and the liberal middle classes, are infected with a disdain for everything English that runs as deep as one of our many derelict coal mines. George Orwell saw it back in the 1930s when he wrote that “England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their nationality.” But the English have far less to be ashamed of than other European nations. We aren’t as militaristic as the Germans or as xenophobic as the French. The Royal Navy sank the slave trade after all, and the British Empire is remembered with a degree of affection everywhere it touched. When it comes to patriotism, the standard response of the urban intellectual is the mocking sneer. This is true of many on the Right as well as the Left, but it’s the self-loathing of the left-wing intellectuals that irritates me most. These sniggering fools don't even know the roots of their own radicalism. For every Francis Drake in English history there was a Wat Tyler. For every Wellington there was a Captain Swing. Military achievement shaped our self image. But England gave the world parliamentary democracy and the trade unions too. Every child should learn the story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, but teachers are probably too busy teaching five year olds about felching

 

Lorraine - Rock journalist, TV critic, politician, musician, manager, script writer, radio host, biographer, 'patriotic anarchist' even, the list goes on. You are clearly an ambitious man! What is it that drives you and who/what has been the biggest influences on your life? Which is the greater passion, music or writing?

Garry - There’s also a saying: Jack of all trades, master of none…

I love writing. If I could make a living from writing books alone I’d do that, but I still enjoy the pressure of a weekly column and the pressure of keeping it punchy and funny. The band I do as relaxation; some people play golf, I Gonad. To be honest, I prefer writing songs to performing them, but we do have a laugh when we go out live.

I’ve got no illusions about the other stuff. I know I’m not a great radio broadcaster, I know I’m not an orator. I stood in the General Election simply to try and make a point about how badly the English have done out of devolution. I have no desire to spend the next five years wrapped around the weasels of Westminster.

Biggest influences over the years are a mixed bag: definitely Python and Milligan, Joe Strummer, Weller, George Orwell, Galton & Simpson, Smoky Robinson, Mod, Skinhead, Arthur Daley…

For crime writing, my favourites are still Chandler and Mickey Spillane, but I love discovering authors: James Crumley was the last great, gritty crime writer I stumbled upon in the States. Michael Chabon is terrific.


Lorraine - Returning to music, I have been asked if you can help clear up the mystery of how the name 'OI' came into being. One version is that it was first used by a female journalist at Sounds, then as 'OYE. ?

Garry - Oi as a descriptive term originated in the 1930s. A lot of East End comics, like Flanagan and Allen, were known as the Oi Comedians. Later Cockney comic Jimmy Wheeler had the catchphrase “Oi oi that’s yer lot”, which I used for the fourth Oi compilation. Ian Dury used Oi in its street shout sense, and of course Jeff ‘Stinky’ Turner would shout “Oi!” at the start of songs in place of 1,2,3,4. Carol Clerk on Melody Maker mentioned that in her live review of the Rejects but she wasn’t the first to notice it. Back in 1979/80, it was clear to me that there was something new and different happening beyond the eyes of the music press. I toyed with the name of New Punk and Real Punk before settling on Oi, compiling the first Oi album and launching Oi the column in Sounds.


Lorraine - As an original veteran of the scene, how do you view the current reignited interest in old school punk, along with new emerging talent such as 'Guns On The Roof'?  Truly the future of punk?

Garry - Today’s punk is a different animal. I don’t think it is seen as particularly threatening or radical any more. But there are a lot of great young bands about who are clearly influenced by our generation of bands. Guns On The Roof are good; I like the Vigilantes, Krakatoa, Liberty Hayes and The Fallen. For me, the Yank bands are making the sweetest racket. I love Rancid, the Bouncing Souls, the Dropkick Murphys, the Briggs, Everybody Out, the Unseen, the Casualties; loads of red-hot bands out there…

 


Lorraine - Getting back to your own band, The Gonads (I really enjoyed the last set at the BH2 by the way and am looking forward to next one Dec 6th) you have a new album out 'Live Free, Die Free'. From what I've seen and heard so far I'm impressed. However, for the poor souls still living in ignorance out there, can you enlighten them with some info and a bit of a sales pitch :-)

 

Garry - Ta Lorraine. We wanted to make the new album punkier. I think ‘Hey You’ is one of the strongest songs we’ve ever written, and I love ‘Cemetery of Lost Souls.’ ‘Frankenskin’ which will be an extra track on the US vinyl album is a belter too.  There’s sixteen tracks on the CD – fifteen good songs and a bonus track in the style of the old stuff we used to do at the end of Oi albums. Guest singers include Jennie from the Bellestars, Liberty Hayes and Leah McCaffrey, who sings ‘Attack Of The Zombie Skinheads’. It ain’t Green Day, but it works for me.

We’ll be bringing out a Greatest Hits package next year.

PS We’re not playing at the launch party – Buster Shuffle are, but I will be playing the entire new album there

Lorraine - I have to ask, what’s your favourite beer and curry?


Garry - Beer changes with the seasons; I’m on Harvey’s ale at the moment, but when it’s hot, I’ll be on Stella or Red Stripe.

I like a Bhar Chicken – chicken with minced lamb – cooked Madras hot.

Lorraine - Finally, for no other reason than my interest in strong, outspoken characters, all sexual innuendo aside, what do you think would happen if you were locked up with Peter Tatchel and Ann Widdecombe for 24 hours?

 

Garry - What kind of final question is that? Why can’t I be stuck in a lift with Beki Bondage and Brody Dalle? Me, Peter, and Ann…just as well there’d be no chance of any off-spring. You wouldn’t want the pick of that litter. I have met them both. I think we’d have a good ding-dong, a fair and frank exchange of views; but no exchange of telephone numbers. Can’t we swap Tatchell for Simon Amstel and Widdy for Sarah Palin?

Lorraine - I am afraid not Garry, it's the sadistic streak in me! Thank you once again for taking the time out for Mudkiss and I will leave the last words in your hands, literally! Garry Bushell, over to you to promote, demote, antagonize, simplify, idolize, rant insanely, wax lyrical, just splatter Mudkiss with a veritable cornucopia of words of your choosing........

Garry - Can't we talk more about your sadistic streak and my masochistic one? I'm obviously a masochist, I've watched EastEnders for 23 years, OK, I guess not.

Well, The World According To Garry Bushell is out now, so instead of people judging me by what they think I believe in, they can actually find out what I really believe in, which conveniently boils down to Live Free, Die Free - the title of the new Gonads album.
We enjoy a healthy degree of freedom, democracy and individual liberties in this
country. Don't stand by and watch it all get flushed down the toilet of history.
Take responsibility for your own lives. Question authority, beat back the state,
bugger the bureaucrats. Free yourself from this, individuals rule.

 

If you were one of the many people who have ordered The World According to Garry Bushell from Amazon, you will have been surprised to receive an email from the company cancelling your order. This was due to “a communication error.” The book is imminent; finished copies will be with Amazon by the weekend. You will still be able to order it from them.
 
Merry Christmas
 
Garry

 

Check out more about Garry on the links below:

 

www.myspace.com/thegonads

and band site www.the-gonads.co.uk 

 

Interview by Lorraine - 11/11/08