MUDKISS FANZINE

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SPIZZ - SO MUCH ENERGI INTERVIEW BY SHELLEY

Mercurial punk survivor Spizz made his debut at the Birmingham, (UK) club Barbarellas during an all-day music festival held August 27th 1977, performing an improvised set on a borrowed guitar; returning two months later with guitarist Pete Petrol. He now billed the act as Spizz 77, the first of numerous name changes to follow in the years to come. Re-christened Spizz Oil, the duo earned their first significant notice in 1978 opening for Siouxsie and the Banshees, resulting in a John Peel session which itself led to an offer from Rough Trade to record an EP, ‘6000 Crazy’.

The Spizz Oil Photo by spizzenergi.com

The record topped the UK indie charts, as did its follow-up, ‘Cold City 4’; however, Spizz and Petrol parted ways soon after, and with new bassist Jim Solar and keyboardist Mark Coalfield, Spizzenergi was launched in early 1979. Petrol then returned on guitar for the group's stint on the Rough Trade tour; after ‘Soldier, Soldier’ was named Single of the Week in the NME. The follow-up, ‘Where's Captain Kirk?', earned the same honour in Melody Maker, topping the UK indie charts for eight consecutive weeks in 1980.

After the next single ‘No Room’ / ‘Spock's Missing’ notched advance orders totalling over 50,000 copies (the same figure that got the Artic Monkeys to No.1), the group - now touting themselves as Athletico Spizz 80 - signed to A&M and released their much-anticipated full-length top 10 LP debut 'Do a Runner'. Despite endless line-up shuffles, a brief tour of the U.S followed before the band returned home to record their second album ‘Spikey Dream Flowers’, credited to the Spizzles. However, the emergence of the New Romantic movement had altered the prevailing musical climate so severely that the record not only flopped, but after just two more singles, A&M cut the group loose altogether. As Spizzenergi: 2, they returned to Rough Trade for a pair of singles, ‘Mega City: 3’ and ‘Jungle Fever’ but despite the return of Pete Petrol the  group suffered from management problems, and by 1983 Spizz had largely receded from the music scene to focus on painting, resurfacing only for a lone solo show billed as Spizzorwell. A year later, however, he organized a large-scale stage production dubbed The Last Future Show featuring a six-piece female backing group.

By 1985, the show had evolved into a cult-favourite night club attraction, although no record deals were yet forthcoming. A year later, Spizz signed on with members of the band Friends of Gavin, touring under the name Spizzsexual. Splitting with the group in 1987, he recorded a new rendition of ‘Where's Captain Kirk?’ and toured Germany, followed by a new single, ‘Love Me Like a Rocket.’ 1989 saw the emergence of Spizzvision, while in 1990 Spizz and Pete Petrol reunited yet again, this time pursuing a techno-influenced direction under the revived Spizz Oil banner. When Petrol relocated to New Zealand, Spizz again returned to the Spizzenergi moniker, although a 1994 cover of John Lennon's ‘Merry Xmas (War is Over)’ appeared credited to Spizzmas. The original Spizzenergi line-up reunited in 1996 to appear at the Blackpool Holidays In The Sun punk festival. 1997 saw Spizz's new members Matt Broughton and Simon Kinder (from 1991), Jeff Walker on drums and original band mates Jim Solar and Dave Scott enter the studio with producer Martyn Ware to record the Kraftwerk classic ‘The Model’. This and many other Spizz classics can be found on ‘The Very Best Of Spizz’ on Cherry Red Records. Most recent performance was in May 2008 - their first ever gig in Milan headlining a mini punk festival. Line up since 1996 features Simon Kinder on guitar, Matt Broughton on bass and Jeff Walker on drums.
 
How brilliant to be interviewing Spizz, who I first saw live in 1978 (wasn’t quite sure what to make of two strange men in tin hats supporting the Clash). Since then I’ve attended many Spizz shows including several in recent years.

 

 

I really don’t know where he gets his energy from.  Let’s find find out....

Shelley - Your first appearance was 31 years ago at Barbarella’s. Had you been in bands before this and what type of music did young Spizz listen to?

Spizz - In 1975 the final year of school, I formed a band with class mates who had some instruments. I having none, assumed the role of singer and borrowed the school microphone. Permitted to play in the science room at lunchtimes, other classmates gathered to watch and at the end of term disco, a short set was performed. I wanted to call the band 'Blast' but the others preferred 'Black S.W.O.R.D.' after our surname initials: Spizz, Whetton, O'Dowd, Rose and Davies. (O’Dowd later became Pete Petrol).

My first LP's which I started buying from 1973 included Bowie’s Ziggy, Space Oddity, The Man Who Sold The World, then Roxy Music’s first and For Your Pleasure, Lou Reed’s Transformer and Best of Velvet Underground. 1974 - Billion Dollar Babies (Alice Cooper), Brian Eno’s first with Fripp, No Pussyfooting, Warm Jets & Tiger Mountain. Steve Harley & The Cockney Rebel plus the first four Queen LP’s. I bought the singles of all the above plus those by Sparks & Bachman Turner Overdrive.

I liked records my two elder brothers bought including The Who, Family, Thin Lizzy, Jimi Hendrix, Free, Bad Company, Tamla Motown and Soul compilations. Basically I was attracted to rock and glams ‘Art-rockers’ I didn’t really like Slade, Sweet, Glitter, Mud, Quatro, T-Rex or other commercial chart fodder

Shelley - Were you a regular at the club? Any interesting stories to tell about Brum’s main punk haunt?

Spizz - Yes Barbarellas was great and scary as punks had the small room downstairs at first and ‘straights’ (people with jobs who started fights and were usually football hooligans) had the main bit. When it became obvious to the owners which way the wind was blowing they started booking punk bands. There was a pre-punk Roxy/Bowie posers club (club name escapes me, for the moment) on the Hagley Road.  You met these ‘straight’ people in the toilets and you were subject to provocative slurs. I have some memories and incidents which will fill a chapter of my autobiography which I have started to prepare ahead of meetings I’m having with prospective publishers.

Shelley - The pre punk posers club on Hagley Road may've been the Romulus?

Spizz - Yes that was it.

Shelley - Spizz Oil supported the Clash with Suicide in 1978. How did this occur?

Spizz - After doing a couple of gigs with Model Mania, whose manager Wayne Myers was the DJ at Barbarellas, I became aware of local promoter Dave Corke and somehow he offered me some humping work. Sounds rude but that was the term used for the extra help for roadies at gigs. He needed some more lads and I became a gang master. I found three other lads (Frank, Biffo and Tibs) to hump gear in and out of venues- £4 in, £4 out, £8 each (nice), plus we had access to the roadies beers and got to see the shows. I would pester him for support slots and as he was tour promoter for The Clash… I finally got a chance. I was also involved in the fly postering for the ‘Clash On Parole’ tour and became the unpaid office boy manning the office from 10am until about noon when an Endale Associate  - Mike Barnett, Dave Corke  or whatisname (the other associate whose name escapes me) would come in and take over. Sometimes Corky (Dave Corke) would get me to answer the phone and say he was not in.  Sometimes it was an angry Bernie Rhodes at the other end of the line!

Shelley - Dare I ask- was it distressing when the audience became hostile (although Suicide came off worse)?

Spizz - After my initial victorious first gig I frequently got hostile reactions as did regular headline acts. I took it in my stride, that this was normal and because of my art history studies I took this to be what ‘we creative types’ can expect from ‘the masses’. The people need to be educated,  I was an artist misunderstood in my own time ;-). I came off stage thinking that was a little tough and then Suicide’s singer Alan Vega came and said I was awesome, brave and brilliant (maybe it’s a duo’s thing). I now went to see what sort of show they put on and I thought “fuck me he’s ten times wilder” and therefore they got a terrible reception.

Shelley - Recollections of your first Peel session?

Spizz - Very exciting, huge studio and memories of seeing these places on TV’s Old Grey Whistle Test etc. This was the BBC.

Shelley - Is it true that you were Rough Trade’s debut signing?

Spizz - I think we were the third release by Rough Trade and there was no contract. Our manager and Geoff Travis just agreed to press up some discs and see how it went. In researching for my autobiography I have come across some SPIZZOIL statements of March 1979 (pre SPIZZENERGI) from our manager with all his deductions:

Income since last statement total £887.47
Minus management commission, a £10 fee to Palmolive, rehearsals, strings, restaurant, hotel, Pete’s guitar case etc. = £701.66
Payment to Spizz & Pete £92 each.

Not much for 3-4 months eh?

Shelley - The third time I saw the band (now named Athletico Spizz 80) was at Digbeth Civic Hall. Memories are foggy.  Any idea who supported?

Spizz - It was either Department S or Tenpole Tudor. I can check but it may take some time. My best guess is Department S

Shelley - I read that REM recorded ‘Where’s Captain Kirk’ as a fan club members gift some time ago. Is it very different from the original version?

Spizz - It sounds like they copied the ‘URGH! A music War’ movie version and its more like a rehearsal thrash with a little Star Trek samples dubbed over the beginning and the end.

You can listen to it here: http://mp3shake.com/en/album/R_E_M_/Rare_Frequencies-14321/

Scroll down to the bottom and click the left play symbol

Shelley - The current Spizzenergi have been together since the 90’s. How did you meet the others?

Spizz - My partner Judi managed a Xerox copy center St. Pauls (right opposite the Cathedral- now demolished) and the sales team were to become my bassist and guitarist. Judi, Matt and Simon skived off the afternoon and we sat around viewing my old videos and shared a bottle Jack Daniels. They said if I could find a drummer they’d learn the stuff. We struggled for a while and then in 1996 with the first Cherry Red CD compilation ‘Spizz Not Dead Shock’ my original bassist Jim Solar suggested the Gutter Brothers drummer Jeff Walker (pictured right) http://www.gutterbrothers.co.uk/images/history/gb_87.jpg

Shelley - Any thoughts about releasing a new LP?

Spizz - I would love to make an LP with the new songs I have continued to write but I do not have any funds. There is no queue of financial backers beating a path to my door (or MySpace).

Shelley - There are more gigs planned for London (October 16th) and Brighton in November. How did the latter come about? 

Spizz - I was at the fabulous Carbon/Silicon gigs at the Inn on the Green (3-5 Thorpe Close London W10 5XL myspace.com/innonthegreen  www.iotg.co.uk) and chatting to Will who books the Prince Albert’s gigs. I said “why not” and we swapped telephone numbers, found a day in our diaries and away we go!

Shelley - You have boundless energy both onstage and off.  Is it difficult to find time for maintaining websites, artwork, an Ebay shop, etc.

Spizz - Yes it is difficult. I only have the time when my children are at school.

Shelley - Does anyone assist with these projects?

Spizz - Well you can count my partner Judi who provides the roof over our head and the food in our fridge. The band for being my band and people like Paul Hallam and anyone who has bought my records, t-shirt, paintings and especially the regular attendees of my gigs (sorry they are mostly London-centric but again its down to funds).

Shelley - Please tell us about the art exhibition in Milan (November 8th).

Spizz- I’m expecting a call today but have not received it so I can’t elaborate on that yet.

Shelley - You’re currently presenting on Cherry Red TV, how did this materialise?

Spizz - Spizz presents SPIZZENERGI 

I am the obvious choice - ahem ;-) Plus I do have some previous experience

 
 

 
Shelley - Ever thought about becoming an actor or been asked to take part in a reality TV show?

Spizz - Yes I was in Breaking Glass with Hazel O’Connor. Athletico Spizz 80 members Jim Solar, Mark Coalfield and myself play her first band that she fires, filmed at the Hope & Anchor North London, followed by a fight that became a real punch up. I managed to sink nine pints to get into the part of drummer. No I have not been approached by Endemol.

Shelley - I know an autobiography is in the pipeline. Do you plan to pen this yourself?

Spizz - I am currently preparing some sample pages and a friend who designed my first website is helping and editing etc. I've got some meetings with publishers scheduled.

Shelley - Any personal music recommendations for Mudkiss readers?

Spizz - My daughter has brought my attention to My Chemical Romance and I love them too.

Shelley - Finally, will there be more gigs after the Brighton show? What does 2009 hold for Spizzenergi?

Spizz - I have a meeting with an agent and I hope this leads to spots in some festivals in 2009.

Thanks so much to Spizz for sharing some very amusing stories. For more info check out:

Spizz’s website- a fantastic resource http://www.spizzenergi.com/

Spizzenergi on MySpace http://www.myspace.com/442okcom

Spizz’s page http://www.myspace.com/spizzenergi

Upcoming gigs:

INDIE CASINO @ INN ON THE GREEN, THURS 16th OCTOBER + SPECIAL GUESTS: THE PRISCILLAS (on stage 9pm myspace.com/thepriscillas SPIZZENERGI (on stage 10:10pm). Inn on the Green, 3-5 Thorpe Close. London W10 5XL myspace.com/innonthegreen 

SPIZZENERGI + DATES, Brighton Sat Nov 15th (£10) @ PRINCE ALBERT, 48 Trafalgar St, Brighton, BN1 4ED myspace.com/theprincealbert  wegottickets.com/location/649 

Currently working on Spizz the Autobiography (any Spizz stories and title suggestions seriously considered). 

Photo’s from Filthy Macnastys by Shelley and Phil Guild