PHIL: You’ve not played together in quite a while. Had you always intended to record again? How did it come about?
NIGEL: The time just felt right. We all had time on our hands, so we thought we’d give it a go. But the idea was to get out and do new stuff. We didn’t want to just reform and just play old Lurkers stuff, because there’s no point in it, really. When we finally decided to get together and start writing. It all happened quite quickly, really. I’d been suggesting for ages that we should do it, and then Esso got convinced, he had a word with Pete, and then the ball started rolling.
PETE: It came out of the blue really. I became interested in playing the guitar again about five years ago and so I was in the right frame of mind for doing it. But it came from Nigel being very keen and wanting to do it, and once Esso joined him in wanting to do it the time was right. So I was up for it. But over the years we’ve always been in touch.
PHIL: And you’re all quite local to one another…
ESSO: And you quite politely left out emotionally in the same place! We haven’t really changed. Pete and me started the Lurkers. I first went round to Pete’s house years ago [before The Lurkers] to, y’know, bang a tambourine- I didn’t have a drumkit. And Pete couldn’t play guitar, but he had a noise. And he perfected that noise I would say, more than being a musician. He articulated a noise. So there’s a bit of that that came back into it, because Nige kept saying “We should get together”, and I said, “No no no”.
But then I thought “Why not?” And also, I was really itching to play the drums. I like playing the drums and I hadn’t played so I asked a couple of cover bands. What I discovered is that these people are more precious than people who’ve got their own groups together. They’re less imaginative and they really are like office workers. And I thought, “Sod this.” And with Pete and Nige, no-one’s watching me, no-one’s telling me what to do, no-one will be saying, “That’s wrong”, or whatever. And Pete is always grateful for any input. We work together very well, so there’s none of those pressures. So I thought, “I will!” And I bought a new drum kit to do it. And I enjoy it! They put up with my peculiar personality…
PHIL: You’re going out as GLM and not the Lurkers, despite you being three of the original Lurkers. Why is that?
NIGEL: Well, number one- Arturo’s using the name The Lurkers [Arturo Bassick, who was a member of The Lurkers briefly back in the day, and who has had his own Lurkers line-up active for a number of years], so there’s no point in us using it, and to go out as Lurkers 2 or something would just cause confusion. So we hunted around for a name and thought we’d use GLM, after God’s Lonely Men which was the second [Lurkers] album.
PETE: If we wanted to be The Lurkers, we could be. There’s not actually a problem about that. But we just feel that it’s been very over-exposed and also devalued…it’s become something that we’re not. I think peoples image of what The Lurkers are now is quite a long way removed from what it was originally; the spirit and soul of the band.
ESSO: I don’t think we’ve got a choice. I think the name has been pushed around too much.
PHIL: In some respects the name God’s Lonely Men fits your ethos better. You were always up for the outsider in society.
PETE: Oh yeah, it all fits in. It’s a continuous thread from the early days and it’s still true to us, definitely. As you say, maybe God’s Lonely Men is a truer thing than the Lurkers. It’s in the same vein.
ESSO: It’s still in the same field, isn’t it? It’s what my writing’s all about [after his original musical career Pete “Esso” Haynes became a successful writer of books and plays. Check out his website here: http://www.petehaynes.co.uk/]. It’s what we’re all about. A lot of people have to do a big conceptual nod to the norm to get by. But the good thing about Pete and Nige and me is that we haven’t. I think by doing that though, you become a bit separated from people, which all three of us are in our own ways. And that hasn’t really changed from when we were younger. I’m very conscious of loneliness in my writing. I see loneliness as a cancer. It kills about as many people as cancer. It says something about the world we live in, where people are lonely. They are lonely from themselves, not just other people. Alienation is a big thing. It’s always evident when I’m thinking about things. I look at Pete’s work; that’s full of alienation. The whole thing is about looking through a screen at other peoples’ lives. I think we all naturally come together around that.
PHIL: GLM rather than God’s Lonely Men?
NIGEL: GLM’s a bit more user friendly. Well, you couldn’t fit God’s Lonely Men on the bass drum so easily, could you?
PETE: GLM [as opposed to God’s Lonely Men] seemed a bit more punchy. And there were at least a couple of other bands going out as God’s Lonely Men. I don’t know if they’re still going.
PHIL: The album, ‘Chemical Landslide’, is now available and has had great reviews. How was it recorded?
NIGEL: It was recorded in my studio. And then we sent it to Pat Collier [originally bassist with punk legends The vibrators, Pat Collier has since amassed a fairly astounding CV as producer, engineer and mixer of many years’ standing] and he mastered it up. I’m really pleased with the sound of it. The reviews we’ve had have all been really positive. We’re really chuffed with the way it’s going.
PHIL: How did the involvement with Pat Collier come about?
PETE: The first couple of songs we were doing were Bad Caroline and Now Is The Winter. We got Now Is The Winter sounding pretty good. Esso made some enquiries and Pat Collier’s name came up and we’d all worked with him before, a long time ago, so we knew he knew what he was doing. So we took it to him, he had a listen and a think and said he’d be able to do it.
We did each song as we went along and he ended up doing the whole album. I think he developed the sound as we went along as well. It became apparent after three or four numbers, the way that it was going- it was becoming heavier all the time. Now Is The Winter was really the breakthrough song. There’s a part of the song about half way through when it stops and there’s a guitar riff that plays. Originally I was just using my old overloaded Marshall type sounds, but I was just trying some sounds and I had a really heavy sound that I had on an old Digitech pedal, and I just started playing it with that. We realised that that was the sound. And that sound of that riff actually became the guitar sound of GLM from then on. The whole thing really did come from that. When we did it we played that riff over and over and when we stopped we were all laughing because we realised that was it- all of a sudden we’d got this breakthrough.
Esso smiles at the memory of working with Pat to get the GLM sound.
He said, “What do you think it sounds like?” And I said “It sounds like Blondie”. He said “What part of Blondie do you think it sounds like?” So I said, “You know, when the drummer is kinda swingy across the tom toms”, and he sort of nodded and said, “and what kind of song comes to your mind?” He was looking at me like an educational psychologist! Later on, Pete said, “Do you remember what he looked like when he asked you that question? He was looking at you like you were a fucking nutter!” But what he did was, because he’s good at his job, he thought, “hang on a minute, these people don’t just want a bass drum like Sham 69. They’re not doing that.” And he knew me, because we’ve worked together before, he knew there was something going on. So fair play to him. We’re really pleased with it.
PHIL: It’s hard to pigeon-hole- it’s not classic punk and it’s not too heavy to be classed as heavy metal…
PETE: No, I don’t want people to be misled and think it is heavy metal ‘cos it’s not. But there is an influence there, definitely. Esso’s always been a fan of Black Sabbath and that sort of stuff so he’s been able to utilise some of that influence in his drumming. Nigel likes a bit of the old heavy stuff so it comes naturally. It’s very comfortable.
PHIL: The songs are credited to Pete Stride. Are there any particular things you, Pete, were influenced by?
PETE: There are more now. When we were first getting the sound I wasn’t listening to any heavy metal, but since then I have started listening to it. Particularly Norwegian black metal. I don’t really like American metalcore which is a bit too polished. Also, with metal music I don’t like the vocals, when they have that demonic detuned stuff, and I don’t like the shouty stuff either. I like to hear the words a bit and a bit of melody. Not too much, but I like a proper song.
PHIL: I think a lot of it is perhaps down to the fact that you haven’t just attempted to rehash the old Lurkers sound.
NIGEL: Exactly. It’s too easy to do that. We could have knocked up a load of Lurkers type songs in under six months, I imagine. But there’s not much point in doing that, because if you don’t move on you’re just stuck on a treadmill like a hamster on a wheel doing the same thing again and again and again. That, in the end, I find soul-destroying.
PHIL: Presumably, you’ve all moved on as people and as musicians since the Lurkers.
NIGEL: Exactly- we’ve all done various things and we’ve all got older. We all have lots of other influences and we bring them all to bear on the recording.
PETE: A big difference is that as the Lurkers we were all still teenagers, just about. And we were a pop group. We were in the mainstream pop magazines and on Top of the Pops and on radio during the day and stuff. So you’re writing then for hit singles. That’s what your record company’s looking for and pushing you towards. Whereas now that doesn’t exist anymore. The idea of us having hit singles, the whole thing doesn’t exist- and not just for us. So you’re not writing for that very tight three minute template to fulfil all the time. On the other hand, personally I do like a tight three and a half minute song occasionally, so I still think we’ll be doing that. I think Chemical Landslide is a pretty perfect single, if you like, so we’ll still be doing songs like that. But hopefully stretch out a bit more on the rest of the material and play more as a band and try and push what we’re capable of all the time.
PHIL: Despite Pete being the main songwriter, is it a collaborative process in working up songs?
NIGEL: Pete invariably comes up with an idea for a tune, and then we collaborate on the music. Pete does all the words.
PHIL: Pete, on the subject of the lyrics, they seem quite reflective, almost wistful in places.
PETE: Yeah, the lyrics are quite personally and emotionally true. What I try to do is write things without thinking about it too much and then once it’s written, then I kind of think what it all means. So I think it’s quite honest.
PHIL: How do the songs come about?
PETE: At the moment we’re trying to be quite riff-based. A good riff trumps everything. I’m not really writing “strummy” songs, if you like. I’m never sitting with an acoustic guitar, strumming a song. It’s always, get the riff and the drums and the rhythm and put the melody and the lyrics over the top, rather than starting with the melody and fitting the music around it. The good thing with working this way, over the riffs, is that you never know what you’re gonna get. If you’re sitting strumming a guitar, then you always get a very regular 4/4 rhythm and it’s a bit safe, a bit boring maybe. But working on top of the riffs you get more jagged edges.
ESSO: I play a very basic rhythm, but I’m a solid drummer and it’s easy for a guitarist to play with. So if I lay a feel down that hasn’t even got a melody, on three or four of those tracks Pete took a bit of drumming and made a song round it. It’s quite rhythmical, and it isn’t really rock either, It’s quite swingy, a shuffle beat played on the bass and the snare. And Pete’s guitar fits round it. It’s exactly the same with the Who, Generation and Pictures of Lilly and whatever else.
PHIL: It’s quite diverse. I like the fact that bits jump out at you- there’s a Spanish sounding guitar in one of the tracks…
NIGEL: Yeah, that’s one of my favourite bits. It’s a nice sounding guitar part as well. It’s one thing to play it, but it’s another thing to get it to sound right. Which is often the art of playing the guitar.
PHIL: Yes, you’ve managed to break away perhaps from a generic “punk” guitar sound.
NIGEL: It takes a long time to get the actual sound you want. It’s more a case of, song after song after song it gets better and better. Until eventually, you get the sound you want. And that’s the sound for all the instruments. You finally get them sounding and blending properly, just the way you want them. And we’ve managed to do this, fortunately.
PHIL: Was it a drawn out process?
PETE: Some songs came out quickly, others we laboured over. The thing is we didn’t rush doing it. Number one, we didn’t have to rush doing it. We weren’t under any contractual obligation to finish within six months or anything. So we took our time recording it just the way we wanted to do it instead of having compromise in places.
PHIL: What next?
NIGEL: We’re starting recording again next week. We’re doing some videos as well to put up on Youtube and such like.
PETE: Yeah, we’re gonna have a GLM you tube channel. There are already videos for “Bad Caroline” and “Chemical Landslide”. The one we’re doing now is for “Surviving”. That should be good. [
PHIL: I think that’s an interesting twist on the normal way of doing things- although you’ve not played live yet, you’ve done the album and there are a few videos there for people to look at (check ‘em out at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvK9SbC6URE)
PETE: I think we should do some more of that. Because we’re not doing the live thing at the moment, I think we’re gonna make an effort and consistently have new videos coming out, if we can get the ideas. We’re not spending a lot of money on it but you can do quite a lot just with good ideas.
PHIL: Do changes in the music industry allow you to operate in this way?
NIGEL: Well, yes, because the industry is fragmented you can do what you want. You’re no longer tied down to a record company and what the record company dictates.
The important thing for us is that we wanted to do new material that was somewhat different to the Lurkers stuff but that had a Lurkers vibe about it. It’s good that we’re not tied to a record company. And it’s always better- I don’t like working with the big boys. Anything to do with big industry and big companies, I hate ‘em. They restrict you in everything you wanna do. They try and shove you in a little bracket and keep you in there because they think that’s the way they’ll make money out of you.
PHIL: What can we expect from future GLM recordings?
PETE: Hopefully it’s going to go up another notch in the heavy fierceness stakes. I’d like to try and make it a little wilder. I’d like to get a bit more wildness out of it, in some way. Also I’d like to get some different guitar sounds in there, add a bit more texture maybe.
And, tantalisingly, that is where we leave GLM world. Our evening together stretches further and even more entertainingly as we are joined by Leigh Heggarty of Ruts DC/ TV Smith/ The Price fame for a few more drinks. The conversation veers wildly from meeting Peter Cook, to the presentation of the working classes in contemporary media, to the nation’s current obsession with celebrity and virtually all points in between. An evening with GLM is a smorgasbord of opinion and anecdote which is enough to make you miss the bus home.
It’s apparent from our conversation that this is a band a bit different to the norm. There are plenty of old-skool punk bands out there who are still tolerating one another in order to continue tread the boards and make a few quid. You can in no way lump GLM into the same category. They have come back together as friends of however many years, with the intention of making something new. Although I detect a degree of disappointment that the Lurkers’ name is now perhaps more associated with the punk survivors’ chicken-in-a-basket brigade than with its original champion-of-the-outsider status (of the current Lurkers, Nigel sighs, “it cheapens the name a bit”), they are phlegmatic and matter of fact in their decision to find a new (better?) band name and identity.
After that, they have got on with the job in hand and hit a rich vein of form with some of their finest songs, garnering some of the best reviews they have ever had. A refreshing approach, coupled with a determinedly individual way of working, this band have hit the ground running with the obvious intention of maintaining their forward momentum. I, for one, can’t wait to hear what comes next.
Interview by Phil Thompson