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TERMINALLY GROOVY - NEDS ATOMIC DUSTIN INTERVIEW BY CHINNERS

If you were a regular live music follower in the 90's, you may have seen 'Ned's Atomic Dustbin' in concert, along with ‘The Wonder Stuff’ and ‘Pop Will Eat Itself’ they hail from Stourbridge in the West Midlands. The band were unusual for using two bass players in their line up: Alex Griffin played melody lines high up on one bass, and Matt played the regular basslines on the other. This gave the band a tense and highly driven sub-hardcore sound with distorted guitars and complicated drum beats.
Singles such as ‘Kill Your Television’, ‘Happy’ and ‘Trust’ gave them entries into the UK charts, while the band established themselves on the live music circuit with high profile shows at Glastonbury and Reading Festival's with also major headline tours. The band was formed while at sixth form college and they recorded their first album while still teenagers. This led to a strong teenage fan base with a reputation for enjoying crowd surfing and moshing at their gigs.

On Saturday 19th December 2009, Dan, Matt, Alex, Rat and Jonn of Ned’s Atomic Dustbin took to the stage of the O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire and made a room of fans mosh like they were back at Sixth Form College. Playing their classic debut album in its entirety, they’ll also played tracks from the Ingredients EP and a selection of B-sides that nearly twenty years on are still favorites of their devoted army of fans.

Reunion gigs seem to be the in thing at the moment – so we wanted to do something different and give the fans something more than a best of set” states front man Jonn Penney. “We’ll all be going back to ’91 together – these are songs that people have been asking us to play for years and now we have a perfect excuse to make these people happy!”

Lead Singer of Ned’s Atomic Dustbin Jonn Penney took some time out from his current hectic schedule to speak to Mudkiss.

CHINNERS:Firstly Jonn thank you so much for taking the time out to speak to Mudkiss. How does it feel return to the Live circuit with ‘Neds’ again after all these years?

JONN: It’s the best feeling. Alex, Dan and I had been playing a few shows between 2000 – 2007 with a couple of guys standing in for Mat and Rat, which was fun, but having all of the original line-up back together is so much more special.

In a way it feels a lot like the very early days because we’re all doing it just for the fun of it again, so there’s no pressure – just pure pleasure!

NED'S ATOMIC DUSTBIN ON TOP OF THE POPS 1991 'HAPPY'

CHINNERS: Ned Atomic Dustbin, The Wonder Stuff and Pop Will Eat Itself all famously came from Stourbridge what was it about Stourbridge at the time that managed to produce three successful quality bands?

JONN: I guess that PWEI started the ball rolling and us, others kind of hung off their coat tails to start with. It makes a huge impression on you when your standing at the bar of your local pub and someone points out to you that the guy standing next to you, who lives just down the road, was on Top Of the Pops the night before! It makes you realise that anyone with the right amount of drive and talent can leave their mark. PWEI and The Wonder Stuff gave us a few openings and we just made damned sure that we gave it our all and won over an audience all of our own.

I guess all of these bands were quite anxious to see what the world outside of Stourbridge was like – so the town inspired us positively and adversely at the same time.

CHINNERS: Where did the band's name ‘Ned's Atomic Dustin’ came from?

JONN: When I was a child my mother didn’t have a lot of cash to spend on children’s books, so she’d read some of her own books to me. Mother was a fan of The Goon Show (Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers et al) and so she had a book of scripts from the show that she loved to read to me – she could do all of the voices pretty well. Years later, when I was desperate to find a band name that no-one else could possibly think of, I found this book of Goon Show scripts and in it was an episode called Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. I just knew that no-one else would be stupid enough to name their band Ned’s Atomic Dustbin!

'KILL YOUR TELIVISON' - NED'S ATOMIC DUSTBIN

CHINNERS: Neds Atomic Dustbin are well known for selling huge amounts of T-shirts, I remember having the light-blue long-sleeved one with the luminous hand on the back, was this a calculated move by the band to market themselves or did it just happen that way ?

JONN: In the first place merch was a necessity – we needed the extra income to pay for fuel on those support tours. It just so happened that our manager had been the merchandise seller for The Wonder Stuff and he’d seen how popular a good t-shirt can be. We really enjoyed designing new t-shirts, so it just became part and parcel of the whole kingdom of Ned.

CHINNERS: The last time I was lucky enough to see you play was at the ‘Four For Wiz’ concert at the Islington Academy in 2007, that was a really great emotional night with bands such as The Senseless Things, Carter Usm, Midway Still, Therapy? and Mega City Four. The gig was played as a tribute to ‘Wiz’ from Mega City Four who sadly died. Do you have any fond memories of Wiz from the days when you toured together?

JONN: Wiz was a gentleman. He was one of the first people to sing our praises to music journalists, agents and promoters. He put his money where his mouth was too by giving us a bunch of support slots. My fondest memory was the two nights we played at London ULU, where we flip-flopped the headline with MC4 and played together in the encores. I had the job of playing the toy keyboard when we covered PWEI’s ‘Sweet Sweet Pie’ – I remember Wiz glancing sideways at me on stage, trying desperately not to laugh when the bloody keyboard stopped working and he was trying to sing through the laughter!

CHINNERS: When the band split up, how did you fill your time? Did you stay within the music business or did you follow another path?

JONN: I meandered a bit after my second band Groundswell didn’t really work out. I got a degree in Multi-Media Communication, just so that I had a piece of paper to back me up when I told people I was capable of more than just yawping down a mic and jumping around like a monkey! The degree helped to convince bosses at my favourite venue, Wolves Civic Hall, that I’d make a good Media Officer – still there for my sins!

CHINNERS: What made you want to start playing together again, did you get approached to do it by a promoter or was it a decision as a band?

JONN: We got approached by an Australian fan, which had migrated to London and become an agent. Marnie persuaded us to give it a go and got The Astoria on board. It’s so much better when someone comes to you with a firm belief – it would have been a very nervous decision to make without knowing that there was some demand for us. 

CHINNERS: During all those many gigs that the Ned's Played over the years were there any "Spinal Tap" moments you’d like to share with our readers?

JONN: We got lost backstage very frequently – thanks to Spinal Tap, we’d never get bothered by it – we’d just keep shouting ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ and ‘hello Cleveland’ at each other! It’s great to have those Spinal Tap quotes up your sleeve, so that when you are being interviewed on a tour that hasn’t sold quite as well as the last one you can just say ‘well our audience has grown more selective’ – you can just laugh about it all. 

CHINNERS: Of all the gigs that you played such as the Reading Festival, Glastonbury and Supporting the Cult at Finsbury Park is there one gig that sticks in your mind as being a favourite and why?

JONN: Glastonbury 1993 was the stand-out for me. We headlined the NME stage. I couldn’t see where the crowd ended and when we kicked in to our first song the whole lot of them started to bounce in unison – it was an absolutely incredible thing to see. I struggled to sing a couple of the songs because I had such a lump in my throat when I was hearing 50,000 people singing my words back at me – these are words I’d written in the bath or on a bus or at the breakfast table or in the middle of the night in bed, it was such a humbling experience to see how my life had leaked into so many other lives.

I didn’t walk off stage that night – I flew! 

CHINNERS: There were many bands over the years that supported you such as Power of Dreams, Drop, Doughboys and Kinky Machine to name a few, did you have any Favourites?

JONN: I do think on reflection, that Drop was highly underrated – they could have been a really big band. Drop were great fun to be with too. I remember celebrating our first Top 20 with them – Pete the bass player vomited his false teeth into the Humber!

CHINNERS: What does the future hold for the band, would you ever consider making another album together?

JONN: We will probably have a try at writing some new songs, just for fun. If they turn our well people will probably get to hear them. Don’t expect an album though – Neds are notoriously slow at writing because we work as a 5-way collaboration, so that everyone needs to be involved and everyone needs to be keen on the idea. This is a great quality control, but means that it takes a while to find an idea that we all like.

I think the album is (sadly) heading toward redundancy in any case, so we’d probably release singles. We’re keenly aware that much of the Neds faithful would still want to hear all of their favourites at our shows, so we’d struggle to air a whole album’s worth of new material at our shows anyway.

www.nedsatomicdustbin.com
www.myspace.com/nedsatomicdustbin

Interview by Chinners 25/01/10

Photos: Carl Beebee/Chinners