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'PUNK ROCKER': 30 YEARS BEHIND THE SAFETY-PIN, MAN AND BOY' - STEVE AKA VINCE INCREDIBLE FROM THE SPITTIN' VICARS TALKS TO SHELLEY.

I heard about The Spittin’ Vicars online and was keen to interview their guitarist, a genuinely nice bloke with real punk attitude. He’s written his own fab intro’ so read on to discover gems about the Sunderland punk scene, The Tube (that 80’s TV show), ebay fun & games plus his current musical projects.

 

Erm... um...right...been one of those punk-rocker types since I was a wee bairn back in Sunderland. I lied to a band when I was 15 and told them I could play guitar a bit so they got me in to play bass. I did my first gig with a red face and the use of one string. Currently playing in two bands, The Spittin’ Vicars and The Dog-Ends. Also making what I loosely call, music on my own at home.

 

I came here to the Netherlands one summer with the intention of tip-toeing with tulips for a few months and saving up enough cash for a little 4-track porta-studio.... and maybe getting stoned a lot. Eleven years later, I'm still here, I've finally got a half-decent home studio (shame I dunno how to work the beast, but there y'go), where I write good tunes and then massacre them in the recording process.  I've elbowed the tulips in favour of... well, anything really, postman, warehouseman, token Englishman... oh aye, and I do get stoned a lot.

 

Shelley- How did you get into punk music?

 

Steve- Oh that's a memory that never fades... when I was about 10 or 11 there was a kid a coupla years older who lived in our street. He used to teach us swearing and sometimes we'd see him on his way home from Newcastle clutching a Virgin Records bag... all very exotic to us. One day he played us a few singles in his front room, one of which was Pretty Vacant. Then he played us the flipside, the Pistols' version of No Fun (I'd never even heard of Iggy Pop at that time) and by the time it reached the "a little bit of fuckology" part, I was hooked. That was it. Nothing would ever be the same again. Having said that, if I was a young kid today discovering music for the first time, I don't think I'd go for punk…it's just music these days, which is great, but back then it was just as much about the outrage, attitude and anger.... all that bollix.

 

 

Shelley- What was the Sunderland scene like?

 

Steve- Being a young pup, I missed out on the early days... never even knew there was anything going on, and even if I did I was too young to take part. Things like all ages shows were unheard of back then. However, Sunderland, for some reason, has always had a healthy punk scene. Bands like Disorder, Red London, The Rebels, Angelic Upstarts, The Wall, Red Alert, the Toy Dolls, HDQ, Famous Imposters, Leatherface, Holy Racket and many more have all made their mark to varying degrees. The North side of town had gigs all the time in youth clubs and the like, where bands like Outrage, Formal Warning, Last Call, Uproar, Sadistic Slobs, Propaghanda and Zone 57 (where I cut me teeth) all did their stuff.

 

There was a pub in the city centre, The Old 29 that was as rough as arseholes, carpeted with broken glass and staffed by nasty bouncers. There were always gigs there, such as the Upstarts, Red Alert and Red London. Other pubs had gigs too over the years, but the 29, now demolished, has legendary status. Then the SMC (Sunderland Musicians Collective) really got things going by opening first a practice place and then a venue in the centre of town. The venue was christened The Bunker and played host to most of the anarcho bands of the era, such as Poison Girls, D.I.R.T., Rubella Ballet and Conflict. After a year or two the venue moved to a larger premises, sharing the building with a vegetarian cafe, a gym, an actors workshop, a record shop, a barbers etc, etc. The gigs continued with Steve Ignorant, Flux, Antisect, Chumbawamba et al.

 

When the keyholders got fed-up, for whatever reasons, I and three other lads took over. We continued the anarcho theme and continued to book bands from that camp, as well as other strands of punk like DOA, the Exploited, PTTB, UK Subs, Butthole Surfers. One night we had the Cockney Rejects and The Business. A meeting was held and we were told there was no way the Rejects were playing on account of the fact that some of them had been in a recent TV documentary about football hooligans. The gig went ahead with just The Business and a few arseholes started a few fights... things got smashed. The hall was converted into office units and that was the end of an era. There’s a good series of CDs available called Punk In Sunderland, released by Zat from Holy Racket.

 

Shelley- Favourite gigs from the past?

 

Steve- The Spizzles & Dept. S at the Sunderland Mayfair (my first ever gig)
The Banned at the Bunker (Steve Ignorant & Conflict)
The ‘So What’ tour (The Defects, Chelsea, Chron Gen, ANWL)
DOA at the Bunker
The Damned in Amsterdam about 2001
Iggy Pop ... any time
This year, in Belgium my life was made whole when I finally saw the Pistols, backed up by NY Dolls, Buzzcocks and, Belgiums' finest, The Kids

 

Shelley- I believe you were in the audience for The Tube (80’s music show presented by Paula Yates & Jools Holland)? Do tell us more.

 

Steve-  Give your researcher a bonus... how do you find out these things?!!   ;-)

Back then, loads of us 'pineapple chunks' drank in a student bar, The Langham Towers, cos it was only 50p a pint!! One night, in swanned a bunch of hipster types, squaring their fingers and looking at everyone as though through a camera. They picked out anyone they thought looked interesting and asked us to go to The Tube for an audition??? 

 

When we arrived, the idea was that the best dancers would get a pass to come and be in the audience every week. We just went up to the head hipster and told her we wouldn't be dancing and could we have our pass now so we could go out drinking instead. Jools was a decent bloke and Paula came off as a snobby cow. Saw some great bands though... Pepsi n Shirley, The Communards, Berlin... ahum. One week they had Freddie Macgregor, Yellowman and Sly n Robbie, that was great... oh, and some American feller called Iggy Pop.

 

Shelley- How did you get together with the other Spittin’ Vicars and how long have the band been going?

 

Steve- We started August 2003. I hadn't lived in Eindhoven long, but was already frustrated trying to find people for a new band. I mentioned this in an e-mail to Dicky Hammond, with whom I'd been in HDQ some 20 years previously. He's an enthusiastic bugger, is Dicky, and immediately suggested he come over with a small studio so we could do something together. Another old pal of ours, henceforth known as John Codger, got on board as well. Then Dicky had a death in the family and had to pull out. John suggested we just book a studio anyway, and he'd ask his mate, Vom, to come over from Germany to drum. That all fell into place nicely...

 

Monday- John turned up here and we wrote the basics of two songs, ‘Babylon’ and ‘Oddball’. Tuesday- Vom came and off we all went for a rehearsal.... that lasted about an hour before we went to get hammered together. Wednesday- with a full hours' rehearsal under our belts we went into the studio and recorded the two songs, which ended up being our first single, on Radioblast Records, thanks to a publishing deal via Die Toten Hosen, one of Voms many other bands. We only had two songs but when they offered to fund the recording of an album we jumped at it .."yeah, we've got tons more songs"!! All of a sudden we had a real band... we roped in a second guitarist, Tommy Snide, and a bassist, Pascal Briggs, and with the five of us we started gigging.

 

Shelley- Any memorable shows or interesting stories while gigging?

 

Steve- I like to think they're all memorable... we each put our heart 'n' soul into making it a good gig, there's no weak links in the Vicars, you get 5 wild men, rather successfully nailing every punk cliché in the book for 60 - 75 minutes. Erm... but we've had our off-days!!

 

We were booked for a festival once which ended up cancelled when the promoter disappeared. Rather than have a day off, we advertised ourselves on e-bay. The winning bidder, Tim, who is now a good friend of ours, knocked down loads of walls in his house, put a new floor in and had us play in what was left of his living room. People came from all over Germany and he made sure they all had food, drink and somewhere to crash. Now he has shows in his living room all the time, but he tells every band that he did the demolition job especially for them hehehe. His wonderful foto-diary of the whole event can be seen at http://www.rhein91.de

 

Shelley- When were the Dog-Ends formed?

 

Steve- Around the start of 2007, I think... formed from the ashes of two good Dutch bands, The Shaggable Sluts and Last To Go... but we still haven't started gigging though!! The set's just about ready but we lost our rehearsal space recently... hopefully we'll be treading the boards from spring ’09 and it'll be worth the wait.... if you happen to like Oi! tinted, Clash-inspired, sing-along punk.

 

Shelley- You also make your own music under the name of Redhead Virgo- care to elaborate on that?

 

Steve- Yeah, it's badly recorded hahaha...but if you can get past that, it's basically me messing about on speed.  When I first got into using a computer for recording I'd no idea how to go about it. A complete mystery, so I'd get pepped up, switch it all on and put together a drumbeat in the pc... next I'd jam over it with the bass, then spend hours experimenting with different ways of recording guitars. Everything was 100% organic. I never knew how the end result was gonna sound.

 

Eventually, I had a few recordings that weren't too bad and I put them on a MySpace page.Redhead Virgo is actually nothing more than that and it's probably never going to evolve into an actual band.

That's ok though... at least I'm the boss!! Future wee projects... I've got a few acoustic songs, some reggae stuff, plus a handful of covers that I wanna do punk versions of (Squeeze, The Waterboys, Joan Jett).

 

Shelley- Can you tell us more about your home studio (sorry, I’m clueless about equipment myself)?

 

Steve- Oh, I could talk all day about it ;-) I spent the last 8 months hoarding gear and learning the basics. Started doing a few test recordings in August and now, November, I'm finally able to produce some decent sounding results so I'm looking forward to starting some serious recording. Learning it was a daunting task, and I fear, a never ending one... but I'm totally bitten by the bug... have been since the first time I pushed record. Much to the chagrin of the missus, who is fed up of hearing about compressors, mics, gates, EQs and the like.

 

Shelley- Do you get to many gigs these days? What’s the current music scene like in Holland?

 

Steve- No, I'm always too skint. I think the recent surge in the popularity of punk might be on the wane.... the venues in my neck of the woods are turning more and more to metal and rockabilly. Holland's funny too... there's always plenty of bands from every compass-point of punk, but people just don't dance. Go to Belgium, or Germany, and they're mental for it... the audience in Holland is too blasè sometimes. Some good 'clogpunk' from recent years would be The Shaggable Sluts, Beans, LTG, The Pruttles, Citizens Patrol, Disturbance.... anyone wanting to check out what's happening here should look at http://www.punx.nl

 

 

Shelley- Finally, any plans to bring The Spittin’ Vicars to the UK in the future?

 

Steve- We'd love to.... you don't know how much we'd love to!! Going home and playing for all our mates would be class. The thing is, we haven't done anything for almost two years... thankfully, we start gigging again in Feb, first show in our adopted hometown of Dusseldorf. Can't fucking wait!!  If we don't make it, there's another Spittin' Vicars playing 70s punk covers up in the north east... check em out, for they are surely our spiritual brethren.

 

Oh, are we finished? I was enjoying that!!

Thanks for taking an interest in my ramblings.... gizza hug  ;-)

 

Many thanks to YOU Steve- what a brilliant story teller!

 

Check out The Spittin’ Vicars/Redhead Virgo here:

 

http://vicars.nu-1.com/notp.html

 

http://www.myspace.com/thespittinvicars

 

http://www.myspace.com/redheadvirgo

 

All photo’s courtesy of the sites above.

 

Interview by Shelley Guild 13/11/08