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MARK LAFF: DE-STRESSING WITH MR LAFF, AS WE DISCUSS PUNK AND BEYOND INTERVIEW BY MELANIE SMITH

 
‘Generation X’ became the chosen soundtrack to my teenage years, way back in 1977, one of my all time favourite punk bands.  For those of you too young to remember, they were a four piece band, fronted by spiky blonde bombshell Billy Idol, bursting with energy, vibrant characters, loud riffs and thunderous drumming from Mark Laff. They were one of the first punk bands to play on Top Of The Pops and they left a legacy of fantastic tunes, receiving attention in the media, from pin up boys in glossy magazines to rave reviews in the music papers. I guess all good things must come to an end and Mark left the band in 1980, along with guitarist Derwood [who I interviewed back in 2009 read here] and the rest of the band continued as Gen X with new members James Stevenson [former Chelsea / Kim Wilde guitarist] and Terry Chimes [ex drummer with The Clash].
 

Mark and Derwood went onto formulate the short lived but highly influential post -punk band ‘Empire’ - undeterred shortly after Mark came up trumps again with his dream band, the black biker leather clad ‘Twenty Flight Rockers’ with their 50’s rock n’roll sound, meshed with punk attitudes. Their first single ‘Black Leather Jacket’ was created, amidst glowing appraisal in the music press. Mark was also a former member of Subway Sect touring with The Clash on the white riot tour, and had stints playing with Johnny Thunders, and various other known reprobates.  Fast forward to present day and Mr Laff now focuses his energy into his holistic business, a more relaxing profession, of which you’ll find out later.

I’d met Mark a couple of times, 30 + years ago during my ‘wild youth’,  so today was going to be quite a nostalgia event for me. Manchester’s ‘Durys Inn’ Hotel is the location for the interview and Mark greets me warmly, in reception, looking very casual and friendly, quickly approving of my Sharks tee shirt – he thinks they are a great band. Mark and I chat for a few minutes before I start to record, he is curious about why he is of interest to Mudkiss readers…..

MEL: When was your last interview?

MARK: Jesus Christ, it was about a year ago on Radio Sussex. I was organising an event in Brighton, it was a bit of publicity, for a holistic fair.

MEL: And that's the business you are in now?

MARK: It's the business that I run yes. I am in Manchester today and was in Glasgow at the NEC recently and we go all over. I like this hotel; it reminds me of the rock n' roll thing. The conference I attended is run by the British Dental Association, they have a show once a year and we work with them.

MEL: I was only thinking the other day; that there are a couple of ex punk rock musicians that have gone into their own business, related to health.

MARK: Terry [Terry 'Tory Crimes' Chimes] he is a Chiropractor, who else....

MEL: Gary Valentine out of Blondie has his own business now.

MARK: Is he, I'll tell you who else...80's group, No 1....[struggles to recall] Martin Fry out of ABC...its another guy out of the group he is a Reiki master. I can't remember his name.

MEL: So how long is it since you've played drums live? I saw a post on facebook that you had brought them out again recent’ish?

MARK: Live, oh geez, well with some friends, lovely guys. One of them is the guitarist out of my last group Twenty Flight Rockers – Ian, he is probably one of the best, if not the best guitarists I have ever played with, and Nigel from what was called The Duellist, with Mick Rossi from Slaughter & The Dogs, a Manchester band and both very good mates of mine. They said come along and do a rehearsal and have some fun and this was because I had a phone call before Christmas saying there is a possibly of a Generation X reunion and I felt I’d better get in shape. So, that was very helpful and that was the last time.

MEL: Is it on the cards then?

MARK: There is talk, unfortunately as probably everybody knows we had very volatile relationships with each other, even though 35 years have passed no body really talks to one another. Obviously everyone knows what Billy is doing and its actually down to Billy, he came forward and said he’d like to do something. “What’s everyone’s feeling?” And as far as I’m aware everyone wants to do it.

MEL: Billy's writing his autobiography at the moment, maybe this is what has sparked it all off?

MARK: I don’t know Mel, his book has to get finished he has deadlines, when there is a gap if you will, then hopefully we can get together.

MEL: Get Bob out of the desert…

MARK: Yea, he wants to do it, Tony really wants to do it, spoken to everybody and yea. I don’t know if it will happen, but he’s come forward, it couldn’t happen without him. We’ve only ever got together once before and that was for an MTV special in 1993.

MEL: When he had his dreadlocks??

MARK: Yeah, he looked like the predator [laughs]. That was Billy again, he said “look it would be really nice”. We are one of the only bands from that era, who never gave America the chance to see us, and so it would be a fabulous opportunity while everyone is still alive.

MEL: Yea, poor Steve New he only got to do his reunion when he was really ill with cancer.

MARK: Bless him. I know and he was a great guitarist, I only met him a few times. Rich Kids supported Generation X once with Mick Jones in the band early on. Glen is a fantastic player; I was never sure about Midge. Glen actually has a band with my old singer from Twenty Flight Rockers, called ‘The International Swingers’, with Clem from Blondie on drums, James Stevenson on guitar, Gary singing and playing telecaster and Gary is one of my favourite singers. I absolutely love him. James is a fabulous guitarist and I know his wife very well [Elizabeth Westwood] she is incredible.

MEL: Many musicians from the punk era, have written or in the process of writing their memoirs, is this something you have ever considered. I mean James Stevenson kept a diary throughout and still does apparently. Is this something you have ever thought about?

MARK: You know what… people have been asking me to do this for the last 15 years. I would love to do that, I been blessed with some funny stories, not all funny some are sad ya know. [laughs] When I think about it, it makes me laugh, ‘cos if it was written in the right way I know it would put a smile on some peoples faces – but yes, definitely, yes, a big YES to that one. 

MEL: Do you ever miss being on the road and touring with a band?

MARK: Yea, I don’t like being stationary too long, I do get itchy feet. For anybody that doesn’t know I started off with The Clash – The Clash had a camp….Subway Sect. Steve Levine guitarist on the first PIL album, he was the fifth guitarist for The Clash. It was a lovely, incredible scene, you just knew something was gonna happen, it was so buzzing, and the energy was massive. I was there the day Topper auditioned and I didn’t get the job actually.

I owe my career to a guy…. I was 17, my old man wanted me to have a straight job, and he said “just get yourself some money and come to work where I work” which was this publishing company or something. I was only ever gonna mess around but there was a guy there Danny Welsh, a tremendous Guy, he knew the scene which was coming through, with all these groups. I just didn’t do that scene, Eddie & The Hot Rods, The Pistols, The Clash, The Dolls, The Heartbreakers, that were coming through. This was the first Anarchy Tour period, he said you’ve gotta get into this, this is your type of drumming, because I was a big Keith Moon fan. I said yea ok, lets sort it out. He said “look The Clash are looking for a drummer, you’ve gotta come down”. I was like 18 years old and I said you’ve gotta come with me, please! [smiles] Really weird thing is we went to see The Kinks a couple of weeks before the audition and I saw Mick and Topper there talking, which is odd. There are three drummers turn up this day, this long haired Guy, me and Topper and the long haired Guy went first, then I think I went and it was just an incredible experience. I’d never done that sort of audition before. Of course The Clash were a lot older than me at that stage, and Bernie was very pleased that I did go down well, but they chose Topper. Then Bernie rang up and said “we’d like you to join the show, the circus, we are going on tour, get your passport be here on Wednesday”. This was about a week after the audition, and it was an amazing experience, I was then on a coach with The Clash, The Slits, The Buzzcocks, The Jam and we were all in Paris and some other place. My second ever gig was in Paris, playing in this theatre and punk rock was like incredible – The White Riot tour it was called. Then we came back to the UK after everyone had warmed up and it was an amazing experience….just being part of that tour…all the dates as you probably know on the Anarchy tour all got cancelled but this was all opened up to the big theatres – April, May 1977.

MEL: I think you might have been one of the first punk drummers on the scene…and yours is a bit of an unknown story.

MARK: To be fair to a lot of Guys no, ‘cos 1976 was the year those Guys came through and I would have been late 76 -77. So, I did the White Riot tour, and we had a little bit of a break in the middle. I loved Subway Sect for what it was, but I did feel that it was an opportunity that wasn’t gonna last that long for me. During the break, I got invited to Dingwalls one night and I met the Manager of Generation X, who then told me they were looking for a drummer, it then transpired that Mick knew Tony and everything fell into place, like a jigsaw puzzle, and I got talking to Mick seriously about who was happening and doing and all this. He said here is a tape of Generation X, he lent me his stereo, a cassette thing, a big old thing, [laughs] it sounded great though. I though fucking hell, that band sound rockin, it was a demo they did for John Peel, with ‘Your Generation’, ‘Day By Day’, ‘Kleenex’, and one other number, might have been ‘No, No, No’.

MEL: Who was the original drummer – I always forget about him?

MARK: John Towe. I think his parents were in stationary or newspaper shops?

I thought that is a group I would really like to play with. I knew Billy had this kind of image thing going on. Anyway to bring it back to meeting the Manager, he said “why don’t you come down for an audition”, and I though you know what I don’t mind if I do. So, he set it up, I went down to Beggars Banquet in the something road in Fulham, I’m sure there’s a few roads in Fulham, all going nowhere [laughs] no I’m kidding! And I didn’t hear from them, then I specifically remember I went to join the tour and we ended up in St Albans, Tony turned up and we just started chatted and I said thanks for the audition, shame I didn’t get it. “You got the job, what are you talking about?” he said, Oh wow, ok, so that job was very good that night, and I was pretty blown away, I was 18. It was difficult because my loyalty was towards Vic, Paul and Rob and it was a difficult one to have to say to them, that actually I’ve been to another audition and I am going to leave, and finish the tour. It was uncomfortable, it was only business, it wasn’t personal, ‘cos those Guys are great. Me and Vic we don’t socialise all the time, but I did an album with him a few years ago, he is fabulous. I did some shows with him too and that is how I got the Generation X thing.

MEL: Are you doing anything musically at the moment?

MARK: I had a project going for the last couple of years; its called ‘The Deadly Rivals’. It wasn’t a band; the idea was to have enough material to put out as a record/CD of me with Guys from the day – the punk rock thing and new Guys, and just fusing it altogether, very much inspired by The White Stripes. I love Jack White, and Meg White. Jack White, is a fantastic guitarist, I just love the whole thing, but I was taking references from Megs drumming more than anything. For me The Elephant album, and certainly the first White Stripes album that’s all you need rock n’ roll wise, not everyone would agree with that, but for me that’s all I needed. I thought well you know what two’s good, and I tried it with a couple of Guys and I thought this is great. I am dipping in and out of that, there have been a lot of tracks recorded, some of it has got lost, …..and maybe I will go back to it, its very difficult borrowing favours off Guys who have got studios, its not so much that, it really is begging favours and then you need an engineer.

MEL: Is there any band you would consider worthy of joining, temporary or as a one off?

MARK: Oh Jesus yea, Led Zeppelin, is that job going? [laughs] If this interview was early in the morning I’d be on it ‘cos I am quite tired and I’m trying to think. I’ll have to think about that, keep your finger on that I like that question.

MEL: If you could create a supergroup, who would be in it?

MARK: Oh that’s an easy one, it would definitely be Jimmy Page on guitar out of Led Zeppelin, on vocals Jim Morrison and on bass Sid Vicious…no not Sid, bless him. I’m being clever there, but not very clever, probably Paul McCartney, he’s good, a great bass player or Ronnie Lane, there all good from the 60’s. There are no lame donkeys.

MEL: Talking of Sid, he is a legendary figure now, like James Dean – those who died young ect. Do you have any fond memories of him, did you know him well?

MARK: I met him on a few occasions, he was always quite charming and I thought quite funny really. My only memory of Sid is that he wanted my badge, he had the leather jacket with all the badges on, and I had to inform him that the badge he wanted was the Jethro Tull emblem, which I thought quite ironic [laughs]. He said “I don’t fucking care I love the badge”. It was a badge an Up you badge, the emblem from a ‘Too Old To Rock Too Young To Die’. He liked the motto. That’s my fond memory of Sid. Also seeing Sid live at Uxbridge, which was a treat, and of course Glen is absolutely amazing, what can I say a fantastic song writer, and player.

MEL: What do you think of the state of music today?

MARK: I’m disappointed in the way it has gone, I keep hearing the word corporate, and it does all sound very corporate. I guess it’s the changing of the times, in that people have so much stuff now its so easy to do in your own room, drum machines and program stuff, you don’t need a band.

MEL: Do you try and keep your finger on the pulse with music?

MARK: I try to, I tend to, but there is a lot of stuff there.

MEL: Nick Cave lives in Brighton, do you like him?

MARK: I don’t know much of his stuff, I saw him once on Joolz Holland, it was ok, it was just him on piano and a drummer, just one song, can’t remember which one, and that was very good.

I love the Arctic Monkeys, I went to see them recently, at the 02 and they were phenomenal, and that drummer is to die for - Matt Helders - Jesus, and the singer/songwriter Alex is incredible, his voice ain’t gonna tickle everybody’s fancy, but the lyrics are fabulous and the delivery of the whole band is great. It was a great show, and… they started the show with my favourite number of the last album which starts off really low key, and goes bang.

MEL: Which track?

MARK: I knew you were gonna ask me that, [laughs] oh I can tell you it was erm erm…..[mark sings] Don’t look down cos I moved your chair…fucking hell and when it kicked in the whole place just went booom, it was like being part of a mob.

MEL: I’m not that keen on big arena gigs, I much prefer smaller venues. What’s the biggest gig you ever played? The biggest band you ever supported?

MARK: Wembley that was the biggest, I played. Oh my god, I suppose the biggest crowd I ever played to was when I was helping out some Guys in the 80’s called The London Cowboys, do you remember them with Steve Dior? I did a festival with them in France, it was like 20, 000 people. I think Simple Minds were topping the bill, 1985 that was.

MEL: What do you think about all the bands that are still going strong and reforming again from the 70’s and 80’s?

MARK: Big fan of Killing Joke. Jaz, I like him a lot. That band for me has a lot, in terms of guitar sound and playing superb, the drumming is so there and obviously they have Youth back and Jaz has always been a one off unique situation – which you either like it or hate it I guess, but I certainly like it.

MEL: When did you start to play drums?

MARK: Jesus, I’ll answer this quickly ‘cos I’ll probably bore myself. My best mate when I was about 12 years old, his neighbour moved and the Guy that moved in next door was a guitarist. My mate had a brother that was three years older, so we are kind of like talking, and he said I’m having guitar lessons with my neighbour, I said that’s great, can I have some and he went NO! That night I went home and I saw The Who on Top Of The Pops and I saw this Guy playing drums I just thought “Fucking hell, that’s amazing, what’s is that all about, it was just like a show all by itself, and I thought ok I’ll do that, I’ll have some of that “ [laughs] and of course probably the hardest job in my life has been sort of trying to tame that influence, ‘cos unless your in The Who there’s not many bands that can tackle that kind of drumming. 

MEL: Is it easy for you to just pick up drumming again, like riding a bike would you say?

MARK: Sort of, …there is a lot of technical stuff, like unless you keep your wrists in shape, you need time to pull that back into gear. The hardest thing when you get older is the volume of the drums, and if you’re a hard hitter and to be honest with you, and its not a great thing for me to say but I don’t know anyone who hits them as hard as me, ya know its too fucking loud..ahhh geezz yea!!

MEL: Is it true you were chosen over 50 drummers for Generation X or is that a wiki myth.?

MARK: I don’t know, I know they were in search for a very long time, I am sure they regretted choosing me, but they waited a long time, they wanted somebody to come in with their own angle, rather than plonk someone in there.

MEL: Ray Mayhew [Sigue Sigue Sputnik] told me in an interview that you gave him his first drumming lesson and lent him a kit, do you remember this?

MARK: Did I? I can’t remember…if he says that’s true, its true, he is a lovely Guy Ray.

MEL: I know you said those times were hazy for you but what is one everlasting memory of those days?

MARK: One fantastic memory was in 1977, because I’m from North London, one of the places I used to go to see all the bands was called The Rainbow Theatre, have you heard of it? That’s where we did the white riot show in ’77 we had a New Years Eve and New Years day gig, supporting The Ramones. That was just a fantastic experience, and what a fantastic end to the year. The Ramones were so unbelievable, I remember you could work under the stage and I remember going under the stage when they were playing and it was like being under a train, such a powerful experience and they were tight, fast and that was power, that was moving – that was one of them!

MEL: What was the worst memory? I am guessing a bad experience for you was during the Japan tour with Generation X, when it was all coming to an end?

MARK: I suppose it was….I wasn’t getting fed up, but at the end it was quite clear the group had split in half in terms of …

MEL: Was it was due to the fact you and Bob wanted to move into different directions – go more on the heavy side?

MARK: Not strictly true, I didn’t wanna go tacky, so I was leaning heavily on what I thought was credible stuff, even though it might have been perceived that it may have been outdated. I was a big David Bowie fan, Slade, I liked Marc Bolan. I wasn’t particularly mad on Gary Glitter, Billy loves the glam rock, the drumming thing.

It was also difficult to have your efforts recognised as well, because on a record you either get credit recognised to one or two or three or four or whatever. The Pistols had all four. The Who for example Pete Townsend generally gets the whole deal, but when you listen to the demos that he brought in you can understand why, but when your asked to make long roads into arrangements and drum this and drum that and bring your own thing in and that’s hey ya know I was happy to move on. When you’re that young your changing that quickly and Guys with testosterone and egos of course. I got fed up ‘cos we wouldn’t go to America.

[Photo: by Vanessa - Mark, Mel and Derwood backstage @ Erics, Liverpool 1978] 

MEL: And then Billy has ended up going there …

MARK: Yea, exactly! He is fabulous, I saw him on the TV the other night with his band, I saw over here.

MEL: What was it like being a teenage pin up, and does that now seem like a million light years away?

MARK: I still think I am a teenage pin up Mel…[laughs] Noooo. I dunno times a strange thing. Part of the problem is that we were perceived in the rankings of punk rock as a pretty boy thing, which pissed a lot of other bands. We were getting a lot of girls and the other bands were getting the Guys who wanted to razor somebody or big spots ya know.

MEL: There must have been some crazy mad times on the road , so I’m gonna put you on the spot and ask…what rock n roll story would you care to share with me –one you might like online [laughs]

MARK: Oh wow, some are so bad, I’ll have to think about who I am going to upset or not upset, or even upset myself. There are too many, they are all so good, I don’t know its one of those what’s your favourite record. Keith Moon turning up at a rehearsal that was a great one. There are lots, I wouldn’t know where to start with that one Mel.

MEL: Ok, what was it like meeting Bolan, when you played on the Marc Bolan Show?

MARK: Fantastic, you get an idea of someone’s height [laughs] He was such a little fellow, he was great, he was under a lot of pressure, and the new guard was coming through. His career was definitely waning, but I’m very sure he didn’t know which way he wanted to go and I think just by the mere fact he was doing that type of TV show was an indication how loose his thoughts were as to where he should be going. Whether it was going to be as a TV personality or try and continue as a rock star. I think perhaps he had lost touch about who he was. He was fantastic he lent the guitarist his guitar and he made it clear that anything we wanted would be available, and he really liked the idea that we were on the show. He was very complimentary towards Billy, with his announcement. He was charming, and on that show was David Bowie.

MEL: I was going to ask did you meet Bowie, as I remembered he was on the same show, I still have it on VHS in my loft.

MARK: I did yea, I was just walking down the hallway and a door opened and there he was and it was just like wow.

MEL: Was he your hero?

MARK: Not really, no, but I really, really like him a lot and I suppose he is more that hero type person now, because I think his music has really lasted well and his imagination and concept of things. He’s probably underestimated really. [Mel: he’s a good looking bugger still] He is a good looking bugger, and a nice new set of teeth too. [Mel: actually I prefer the others, he looks too perfect now] laughs

MEL: And what was it like working with the legendary Ian Hunter on Generation X second album ‘Valley of the Dolls’?

MARK: What was that like errr, …..it was an experience; I haven’t got much to say about that really.

MEL: Who was your most famous fan back in the day?

MARK: I have no idea; I think John Mill’s Daughter liked us – Hayley Mills.

MEL: I know you told me you are still in touch with Billy [Idol]….

MARK: I’ll be honest with you I haven’t been in touch with Billy for a couple of years. I saw him in Nottingham, and we had a conversation and it was all ok, he had just done his show. Its never easy after you’ve done that much of a work out.

 MEL: So how have you been contacted regarding the reunion?

MARK: Tony [James] got in touch with me, he said how do you feel about it, I said well it might be difficult because of relationships…. and that’s crazy isn’t it? You’d think people in this age, when you reach a certain age you can….

MEL: I bet you’d sell out the venues.

MARK: I don’t know Mel? I think probably Europe or the UK is the last in line to be considered, simply because I don’t know if people would come out. I’m not sure? Billy does well when he comes over here. I saw him at Rock City, maybe on the same tour as you.

Your doing well Mel, am I boring you yet [smiles]

MEL: No, I am interested [smiles] So lets test your memory further…I believe you might have a tale or two about playing with Johnny Thunders?

MARK: Ahhh [sharp intake of breath] I loved John he was one of the most dynamite, unique players and he had such bad press. What a lovely Guy, looked fantastic, immaculately dressed, not the greatest voice in the world, but certainly a voice which was very passionate and sensitive. I was thinking about him the other day, as I think it was the anniversary of his death, he was fabulous.

I thought playing with John was such a buzz and we only ever played abroad, South of France, and Paris. I remember the first time walking to the stage, he was such a character ‘cos we had the set worked out, and as we were walking to the stage he said [Mark adopts American accent] “hey Mark, do you know Wipeout”, - you know ‘Wipeout’ the song? I said course I do, “lets open with that”. Of course the others didn’t know anything about it [laughs] and we opened with Wipeout, which was great.

Yes he had his issues with medication, but absolutely fantastic, probably went over the top with the medication, but in his day he had a monster guitar sound.

I did one show in the UK, I think at Club Foot in Soho, when Jerry refused to leave the dressing room and I happened to be going to the show, and Christopher the Manager said Jerry’s not turning up, can you do the show? I said Of course! But Jerry was a great drummer.

MEL: I have been reliably informed that you have a funny Townsend tale?

MARK: Not a funny one! I’m a big Who fan and I met Pete just before we were gonna do an impromptu show at a club in Wardour Street, and …it didn’t go well. I’ll leave it with that, it wasn’t a pleasant experience, but he did apologise years later, which was very nice but all the same.

MEL: Subway Sect were managed by Bernie Rhodes [The Clash manager] he was known as being notoriously difficult, how did you get along with him?

MARK: He is a visionary Bernie, all about ideas, dramatic change. He was very supportive, had an ideal of what it took to get where you wanted to go, he came up with an awful lot, there is no taking it away from Bernie. I asked him to manage my group Twenty Flight Rockers which he did. He had very radical ideas of where that would go; in essence broke the group up, but that wasn’t really what broke the group up. I thought Bernie was fantastic, a little bit of a demon, in that it was his way or no way at all, and fantastic, two sides of the coin really, brilliant and sometimes difficult.

MEL: Do you have any tales of Joe Strummer which have never seen the light of day – that you’d care to share?

MARK: Oh my goodness, I have got to be careful here haven’t I because he has left such an impact on such a lot of people. A mate of mine texted me the other night …Joe Strummer had a great voice, which is a strange thing – how did he want me to answer that. Joe Strummer didn’t have a great voice, he had a unique voice, which was the voice of The Clash and if that was great for you thenthat was fantastic. I liked Joes voice, Joe was a fabulous front man. The Clash was very kind to me on that tour. I did have a run in with Joe, [laughs] he accused me of something which was preposterous, and I hadn’t done it. There was a fire in a hotel and he thought I might have done that.

MEL: There was a lot of high jinks on that tour…

MARK: Yes, there was! The Clash on that first tour were electric, Topper had just joined, they were on fire, they had something to prove, they had their first album to promote and the songs were tremendous, and it was pure punk rock -‘Janie Jones’, ‘Protex Blue’, ‘White Riot’, my goodness, it was electrifying. And they looked tremendous, and the energy, Joe looked fabulous, very skinny Guys, Paul took the David Bowie thing and made it punk.

MEL: Off the top of my head, can you remember from any of the bands you toured with, what did you have on your rider? What sort of things did you request, anything bizarre, extreme?

MARK: Jesus! I’ve gotta be honest with ya, in Generation X I was such a young kid, I didn’t really drink a lot. I definitely didn’t do drugs, probably to many peoples disappointment from the way I acted in those days. I was just high on adrenaline really. I was just that type of kid; it wasn’t till after that, that all that stuff came into its momentum. I remember it being just beer, vodka and cigarettes… yeah – Silk cut and Embassy was on the rider. I used to smoke a lot of cigarettes. [Mel: do you still smoke] Nooo, I gave up a long, long time ago!

MEL: What part of your life would you say you have been the happiest, the most creative, production? The peak of your life?

MARK: I guess it would have to be my group which was ‘Twenty Flight Rockers’ – that was just massive for me. That would have been “83 to “88 - “89. There is a fantastic live CD out there which is immense as far as I am concerned. It was tremendous to know what you wanted, be able to find it and actually put it in the same shopping basket and go home and make it up, put it all together – it was great. I was still quite young and I had my favourite guitar player, my favourite singer, and everyone just hanged together wonderfully, not in every aspect because that’s an impossible dream but it was just my most creative and I was just allowed because of the cooperative nature of the other guys in the band, to be able to flourish. I wrote some of the lyrics as well, Gary [Twinn] wrote an awful lot, Ian [McKean] came in with some and Jeff [Vine] came in with some. Everybody had a very creative part. It was a proper group, and that would be my favourite thing – I even named the band. So there you go!


MEL: So, at what point did you decide that the music business as a career was finished for you?

MARK: I kind of fell off the edge in Los Angeles in 1998, and realised that I needed a long time to recover. We were signed to Epic Records out there and it was just crazy, I just slipped off the edge, gone too far and fortunately I am here to tell the tale were as a lot of other Guys they moved onto other planets or dimensions or whatever you perceive that to be [laughs] . It took about 5 years to recover.

MEL: So was the holistic thing you got into from then?

MARK: It was yes, it was something I really wanted to explore. I had always wanted to explore some esoteric pathways and fortunately the mere mention of that it’s a big block up for a lot of people, but probably because of their ignorance towards the beast so to speak, forgive the pun. It was something I always wanted to go down and when I was more aware of how things were happening I went down that road and came up with some interesting stuff. It was kind of a cleansing, getting back to the real situation.

MEL: What is it that you actually do now?

MARK: I am part of a company that has kind of gone through the mill and back. I had to learn a lot of disciplines within holistic, various types of massage, reflexology, a fantastic diagnostic therapy, its all good, but you have a quick burn out within that and I now do something that is associated with that field, but very much within the conference and events industry. Its really very dull and boring, I provide relaxation areas for event organisers that are at shows. I occasionally do hands on, but private for people that have been with me for a very long time.

MEL: I’m laughing at the though of an old Generation X fan turning up in Brighton for a reflexology appointment with you.

MARK: Well hey that ain’t such a crazy thing, a few years ago I did have a few enquiries, I knew that they just wanted to come and see.

MEL: Who are you still in touch with from the punk days?

Oh wow, ok, quite a few actually – Mick [Rossi] from Slaughter & The Dogs, we’ve just got back in contact which is fantastic. All my Guys out of Twenty Flight Rockers I speak to, which I guess isn’t the punk rock thing. Phil out of Eater, Dee out of Eater, they came from similar areas, most of Eater actually [laughs]. In fact all of Eater, name some bands – Chris [Musto – The Philistines] I always say hello to, we are mates on facebook, Captain [Sensible] I’ve seen on a couple of occasions, interesting enough Brian [James] lives around the corner from me – Vic [Godard]. When you get to a certain age you don’t really hang out.

MEL: Finally one last question…if you could do it all again is there anything you would do differently?

MARK: From then till now? I’ve gotta be careful, what I say here, what might I have done, what should I have done. [smiles]. I suppose….[long pause] I’ll leave that one hanging because you get to where you are and if’s and maybes don’t matter its what you do now and tomorrow that is important. I’ll just say that my dreams came true in terms of wanting to be in fantastic rock n roll bands and I did and lots of people think they wanna do that and never actually get to do it.

I am just about to move to Brittany in France, setting up a thing over there, which is very exciting, I like it over there. I don’t think I am dying just yet [smiles] but its all good, and your glass is either half full or half empty.

MEL: So maybe we will see you at the Generation X reunion then?

MARK: Maybe, it will happen? I’d like to see it, maybe it will just end up as a photograph of everybody as they are now, which might be a bit dull but….I know a lot of people would like to see it, a lot of people’s favourite group. I know America and Japan would like to see it, as I say Billy has come forward and said “what does everybody want to do”. As far as I can see everyone is up for doing it, its just the timing and I don’t know how it will all work. When we did the one off thing for MTV the band was alright, they played much better than back in the day, so I guess …watch this space!

Interview by Melanie Smith
Photo of Mark 2012 by Mel
Photo of Twenty Flight Rockers by Jane Simon