I first caught The Gasoline Queens around two years ago at the 12 Bar when my pal Dave Renegade was then guitarist with the band. The question on mine and everyone’s lips that night…”Who is that young kid? He’s amazing”. Watching this young man was reminiscent of early Clash gigs and Strummer or Jones’ stage presence. What we didn’t realise was that the young man ‘guesting’ with the band that night was Jack Heaslewood, aka Jack ‘Flash’, the son of the bands front man, singer/guitarist Nigel ‘Trashkid’ Heaselwood. Inspired by the likes of Johnny Thunders, The New York Dolls, Social Distortion, The Stooges and The Faces, Nigel formed the band in late 2005 to early 2006. In 2007 after a great support slot at The Peel, in Kingston Upon Thames, the boys were asked by Tyla (Dogs D'amour) to play with him as his backing band solo & later as Tyla & The Dogs D'amour. They toured throughout 2007 and 2008. After a short break and some line up changes the current line up sees Thomas Watson-Lightfoot on drums, Zig Criscuolo (Witchdoktors) on bass and with Dave leaving the band this year to pursue other projects, Jack joins his father and the band permanently.
So what was going to be so special about this particular gig in Camden? This was the night guitarist and freelance rock journalist Chris Rockson, with a career spanning 35 years, had made the journey from Manchester to London to join the band for his last ever live performance….. and he wasn’t coming empty handed!
It was time to don the new frock and Gucci heels and teeter off up Camden Road. The walk seemed to go on forever. Finally… familiar faces, time for a few ‘hellos’, a visit to the bar and The Gasoline Queens took to the stage kicking off with ‘Get Back to Go’. What the Gasoline Queens serve up is pure, honest, no nonsense good ol’ rock n roll. Nigel’s husky voice flows like a mellow whisky over tracks such as ‘Rockin’ Horse Blues’ and ‘Gypsy Girl’. Watching Jack Flash play is a joy. There’s whoops and cheers from an appreciative crowd as their own songs easily stand their ground alongside covers such as The Stones’ ‘Dead Flowers’. There’s an air of excitement as the band rip through the set and we wait for Chris to join them. First there’s time for ‘Tip of my Tongue’ which features on the Paul Fox tribute album.
A leather jacketed Chris thanks everyone for coming down along with “You’re probably sick of fucking Mancs, but you’ve got another one here tonight” before a three guitar rendition of Social Distortions ‘Bad Bad Luck’. Describing himself as “an old mothertfucker” Chris tells us how happy he is at being able to pass something on to “the new generation of rock and roll”. There’s cheers as most of us know what’s about to happen. Jack is beaming as Chris hands over a guitar that Jack has always wanted, a white Les Paul Junior… “Chris is one of the best blokes I’ve ever met, he’s a genuine fellow”. But not only does Chris hand over one guitar from his collection, but another for Nigel, a Steve Jones fan, a Les Paul Custom. Nigel kisses it. So what else next…but a “Steve Jones song” as they belt into The Professionals 1-2-3. Right there, in Camden’s Unicorn, not Wembley or the 02, but in that little venue we witnessed a piece of rock and roll history. Next up, my favourite Gasoline Queens track, ‘Baby Moonrider’ . The night finished on a true rock and roll high with a frenetic dose of ‘Pills’ (Bi Diddley/New York dolls) where Damon Deville of The Vivians and Timo Kaltio’s new band Fierce People took to the stage….and the drum kit….and everywhere really.
After such a great night where shots were downed, bottoms were grabbed and I crawled home at dawn after an altercation on Holloway Road I had to catch up with Chris and Jack and have a chat.
LORRAINE: You were obviously impressed by young Jack Flash, how did you meet, when did you first see him play and what was your first impression?
CHRIS: I was asked to play with a few bands throughout 2010 onwards, some here in the UK and some over in the States. I went to play in New York with Dead Cowboys, featuring Johnny Rao [David Johansen Band, Helen Schneider, Micheal Monroe], Jay Napolitano [Boyfriends, Cherry Vanilla Band], Bob Levy [Trash Mavericks] and the best fucking rock n roll drummer out there, Frankie Dell [Dead Cowboys] back end of 2011, but was in contact with Nigel Heaselwood from the London based Gasoline Queens, who was asking me to play a few songs with them. I got back from the states and was in the studio putting some more guitar tracks down for the Pyratz album when Nigel called and asked if I wanted to ‘guest’ with the band in London as support to Rat Scabies and Brian James. It was like…’oh yeah!!, Brian fuckin’ James!!!’ Sign me up right now!!! So, when I got to London, I soundchecked with the band and young Jack just blew me away…here was a seventeen year old kid, with more rock n roll than the rest of us put together, including old boys James n Scabies!! He just knew the parts, and delivered them in his own style….and that was the deciding thing for me….it’s very easy to ‘copy’ someone else’s style, look, sound etc, but to make it your ‘own’ at such a tender age is what sets him apart from the rest….I was blown away!
LORRAINE: Did he remind you of yourself at that age?
CHRIS: Completely!!! Only…he had more ability than I did….I was a bass player when I was 13 years old, and right through to me being about 22, always played bass. When I moved to guitar around 1985, I knew my limitations as a player. Back then, I had just toured with Jayne County and had played in various UK based bands. The times were bad, it was ‘hair metal’ from LA and it fucking sucked ass!! We tried to do something different to combat the seemingly endless dross that was being over-hyped….we played very much in the style of Motorhead and TANK, the Damned, Heartbreakers and The Godfathers, my favourite band. It was pretty much, ‘going against the grain’ at the time, as everyone seemed to look like David Lee Roth, or a slightly cheap and nasty version of him….the exception to that rule was of course, Hanoi Rocks…..they were miles ahead of their time!!
LORRAINE: Tell us a bit about the guitars you handed over to Jack and Nigel and what influenced your decision?
CHRIS: Well…..Back when I was starting out, 1977, I couldn’t afford a decent guitar, nor could my parents. We were from Salford….it’s a city right next door to Manchester, in the north of England. A tougher place, you could not imagine….The Bronx??? You’re kiddin’, right? Anyway, I guess what I was doing was giving a young kid a break…a helping hand in this shitty industry….imagine, if someone gave you a fucking great pen, you’d write THE best story ever, right? Well, it was the same with me…I grew up in a loving, family environment, but we had nothing, not a pot to piss in….my dad worked his arse off to get our family out of the hell-hole that we lived in and he did it!!! I was eleven years old and had never seen a real-life cow or sheep…..can you imagine that?
We moved out to the ‘sticks’ and I was never happier in my life…however, I had grown up in real poverty and respected anything and everything I was ever bought or given. To have been given something, even a pair of third hand trainers was fucking awesome to me….I had no ‘peer pressure’ like they have today, ‘cos back then…NONE of us had anything!!!! So, to answer your question, I handed over a couple of my guitars that I have collected throughout the last 30 odd years to some really nice people that I know will appreciate them and make them sing!!! A couple of Tokai guitars, a Junior for Jack and my white Les Paul Custom for Nigel. He is a BIG Steve Jones fan, so now he has the guitar to boot!
LORRAINE: How did it feel that night?
CHRIS: You know what? I was the most anxious person in the entire city that night! I had travelled down to London with my son, Liam, who kept on telling me ‘you will do more shows Dad!’ all the fucking way down to London….blah blah blah….I had to tell him to shut the fuck up at one point, ‘cos he wasn’t aware of ‘why’ this was my last show until we arrived at the hotel. It was at that point that I had to tell him WHY this was a special night and WHY it was gonna be my last show…..
LORRAINE: You have stated that night was the last time we'd see you on a stage playing, what has brought you to that decision?
CHRIS: Well, I have played in bands since the age of 14, on and off, mostly ON….with that, comes a certain ‘lifestyle’ that some people choose to take. I did it all….then, I suddenly got a reminder of how precious life can be, as I was diagnosed with a liver complaint, that resulted in endless visits to hospitals for blood tests and biopsies and things down my throat….I’ll not leave that to your readers imaginations, I was suddenly facing the realisation that I had Gen 1B Hepatitis C and Cirrhosis of the liver…..to put it bluntly, I was told I had five years before things will get ‘really’ bad…..So, I had to do the right thing for my lady, Lynnie, who has been my pillar throughout our 14 year relationship. I am a recovering drug and alcoholic, I say recovering, because I don’t think you ever recover from those things….sure, you can stop drinking and stop shooting up, but you ain’t ever the same person…so, here I am, faced with yet another challenge, addicted once again to opiates, this time, prescription variety, and I have five years left…..so, what are ya gonna do? Well, first thing is, I’m gonna do a show in London, to see my career out on a high, and then I’m gonna get as straight as I can before October……why October? Well, Lynnie has always been there for me, picking me up when I fucked up…..every girl has that dream of a wedding dress, so I am gonna do the right thing….she never once asked me for anything, yet always gave….so now, it’s payback time baby! The show I planned, was originally to be in NYC, but the cost of a wedding these days, and my failing health, meant that it was better to stay more local…..so, I chose London!
LORRAINE: What are your future plans with regard to music?
CHRIS: I want to finish recording an album that I started back in 2010 with The Pyratz, my band from 1985. We got back together after a meeting with my friend Steve Conte, from New York. Steve is one of the most genuine guys that I have ever met in this industry and talented beyond belief….in fact, his whole family are….so, anyway, Steve was playing Liverpool with the New York Dolls and I had arranged to meet up and take him shopping during the daytime. We did all of that, and went for beers at the Cavern, and then over lunch, he asked why I wasn’t playing in a band anymore….my original guitarist, and best mate Kram [Mark] was with us, and we just kinda said ‘yeah….why don’t we get back together again?’…so, we did!! But, times change and people’s priorities change….the band personnel had their own lives to lead and it didn’t quite fit with how I like to be ‘in a band’……I don’t fuck around, it’s gotta be done right, or not at all!!! So, we never quite finished the recording of the album I had written….which is a shame, as the only recordings we did make were a covers album of our favourite punk tracks, and a single of original material. So, my next thing is to finish that fucking record!!! I have asked lot’s of old friends to play on it, and some new ones too. It will be KILLER!!!! I have only two covers on it, one is ‘She’s the One’ and I wanna get Choking Susan’s Colleen Caffeine to sing on that one…..and then I wanna do ‘Penetration’ by Iggy, with Texas Terri on vocals….as far as musicians go, I’ve yet to ask everyone that I want….but if you’re asked….I won’t go away until you’re in the studio!!!!! OK???
LORRAINE: How old were you when you first started playing guitar?
JACK: I was 10 years old when I first started playing guitar, think I’ve played the thing every single day since. I can’t remember a day that I haven’t played.
LORRAINE: How much of an influence has your dad been?
JACK: My dad has been a huge influence on me I can’t think of a time that he hasn't been. I mean he showed me everything I know from guitar's to general life skills
LORRAINE: Who would you say was your greatest influence?
JACK: My three top influences have to be dad, Billie Joe Armstrong and Chris himself. I mean it meant the world to me when Chris handed me the Les Paul Junior. I haven’t let it out my sight since he really is a top dollar bloke and am extremely grateful for everything he has done for me
LORRAINE: Are you going to stay playing with The Gasoline Queens, I see by your facebook you have plans for other bands?
JACK: Yes, I have no plans to leave the gasoline queens EVER! But I am also starting up a new soft pop punk band and also half way through my solo e.p!
LORRAINE: Where would you like to be in 10 years time?
JACK: I would love to see my self in ten years time just on the road touring and gigging every single minute of my life and just really taking every chance I get to play my music and would love to influence some one to play one day as much as dad has influenced me.Review/interview by Lorraine Reeves