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The Men They Couldn’t Hang, formed in the early 80’s, their first album was "Night Of A Thousand Candles", in 1985 they blasted high into the UK indie charts with ‘Green Fields Of France’. They are a mixture of alternative folk, punk & rock, often compared to The Pogues. They are now celebrating 25 years in the music business, albeit a few breaks from the band inbetween doing other projects. 
I took the opportunity to take in another gig of theirs (I first saw them at Strummercamp in 2007). So, after a bit of cyber chatting to Swill we managed to come up with a plan and we arrived at Liverpool Academy on Saturday 15th May. I made a few calls to Tom Spencer, not only is he the tour manager, he is playing banjo tonight for the band, plus the singer of The Loyalties, and we arranged to meet up outside the loading area.

After soundcheck, we meet Tom; he introduces us to Swill, Tom smiles and says they are a bit drunk, having been in the pub all afternoon. Swill happily sorts our triple A passes and takes us on a journey backstage. We followed Swill (who is a little merry, but happy) into the labyrinth of the Academy. We get lost along the way, eventually we arrive in the dressing room, a few of the guys are hanging out, equally as happy and merry, waiting to go on stage.We're offered a drink by Swill and introduced ourselves to the other members, and go forth with the interview.

It would prove to be silly, funny, a drunken, frolicking affair, with so much laughter and general noise and chatter that it’s hard to hear back on the tape but a good time was had by all (the best part was when the recorder was switched off, so there’s a lesson learnt) so here goes:

Mel - Right, here we are with The Men They Couldn’t Hang, would you like to introduce yourself.

Cush - Yes, I’m Stephan Cush I’m King of folk, pop, rock, and I’m the rock n roll dinosaur, and that’s Paul Simmons.
Paul - Otherwise known as Possum Wayne.
Cush - And that’s Phillip Odgers
Swill - This is Tom Spencer
Tom - I’m Spencer, banjo player, and stained glass tattooist

Photo: by Vanessa Cush interviewed by Mel

Mel - So I believe your celebrating 25 years in the business, did you think it would last this long?

Cush - Swill, sit down
Swill - No, I prefer to stand

Vanessa directed me to sit down and promptly picked up the camera and started snapping away.

Mel - Don’t argue about who is sitting where hahahaha

Swill - Yes, 25 years. It seems just like yesterday

Mel - Did you think it would last this long?

Paul - Didn’t think it would last any more than 10 months really!

Lots of laughter……

Swill - It wasn’t meant to last

Mel - How do you think you got from 1984 to 2009?

Cush - Endeavour, hardship, belligerence, attitude, service to the devil, hatred of all the things that you read in the Daily Mail and self belief, in a nutshell.
Swill - Alcohol (laughter)

Mel - Any pitfalls, made along the journey?

Swill - So many!
Cush -Yea, that I’m still alive (laughter in the background) 


Mel - Talk us through some happy times, one’s that really have fabulous memories since you started out.

Swill - Cush do you wanna to answer that?
Paul - Twenty five year old condom how about that - loud laughter reined from the room
Swill - Playing on a beach in Alexandra, Egypt, he didn’t do it (Cush) he was ill
Cush - I was in hospital
Paul - That’s another reason why it was a happy memory.

Mel - Any regrets, mistakes?

Paul - Oh god we made loads of mistakes
Swill - But then again
Paul - We got lots of regrets as well
Swill - Too few to mention hahahaha

Mel - There goes a song! - Do you have any, well you probably do, it’s if you have any you can talk about a crazy rock and roll stories from your time on the road? Laughter erupts from the band

Mel - Just one story.

Cush - Which one do you want a sex story or a drug story?

Mel - A sex story, let’s spice it up a bit? (To the other guys) – might as well make the most of it whilst he’s drunk hahahaha

Cush - Sex story, ermm

Mel - Sexy stories, backstage groupies?

Swill - It hasn’t happened yet
Cush - No no no no 

Mel - But there’s time yet!

Cush - Nah, ermmm
Tom - He can’t answer these questions cos he’d drop people in it haha
Swill - He’s quite drunk (Cush) so he might give a bit away, remember that choir in Austria?
Cush - I was thinking about me and Jazbo and that ermmm I’m not going there. Actually I can’t think of any drunk, and sexy, rock n roll, drug taking stories, EVER! Do ya know why? Cos I can’t fuckin remember, but I tell you something they were all good!! 

Mel - Did you ever play on the same bill as The Clash?

Paul - Me and Swill did in our previous group
Swill - More than once actually
Paul - We got the invitation to play with them in Portsmouth and they came and played along with us on stage, and invited us to come along the next night. We were stood outside the dressing room when they had a big fight inside.
Swill - Asked us to do another gig. Actually I heard Joe Strummer was actually asked the exactly the same question, and he couldn’t remember, if he played on the same bill as us?
Cush - He’s dead now
Swill - I suppose
Swill - Actually there’s no proof that he did
Cush - Where are the posters? 

Mel - What were those early days like for you?

Swill - Poor, we were very poor, yea we were very poor

Mel - What made it all worthwhile to carry on going, friendship?

Cush - Yea, Friendship, really
Swill - You prompted him, you put the answer in his mouth.

Photo: Cush

Mel - You all seem like really good mates!

Swill - Do we (chuckles of laughter)

Mel - If you weren’t in this band who would you have liked to play with?

Cush - Er Jennifer Lopez (laugher again around the room) no ermm Rhianna yea. I like to hear a producer.

Mel – What do you do when your not playing in the band, hobbies, interests, causes ect?

Swill –-Shoplifting
Cush – Think about Rhianna (more laughter)

Mel - I can see were this interview is going hahaha

Tom - Yea hahahaa

Mel - You appear in chapter 4 of the book ‘Hater’ by David Moody, what’s this all this about?

Cush - Right you know about that!
Swill - How do ya know about that?

Mel - I saw it on MySpace!

Swill - I’m a fan of his Sci fi & post-apocalyptic & Zombies (mayhem reigned with Cush being a naughty boy and therefore I missed this section completely)

Tom comes in to tell the band they have 10 mins then they are on stage. So a quick run through of some of the questions I had prepared.

Mel - What’s the tour been like with Wonderstuff, so far?

Cush - Well, we’ve only done one gig but last night it was great, we had a great conflab after the show and errr talked about all things that matter to us. Yea it was good.

Mel - Where did you play last night?

Cush - Leeds
Swill - (It was question time to me) Where did you get your shoes from?

Mel - A car boot sale

Swill - A car boot sale, boots!

Mel - Can we anticipate any new material to be played live tonight?

Cush - Yes you can and it’s great, you’ll hear it and you won’t have to wait very much longer.

Photo: Tom & Paul

Mel - You played at Strummercamp what was your experience of this?

Cush -Yea, Manchester Rugby Club, yea it was good. It’s that keeping the torch burning, it’s the Strummer thing and they’ve got there own sort of take on the clash and Strummerville and some people like what ever album better than the other, ya know what I mean. It’s just good to keep and to be in there ya know so…well for a multitude of reasons and moreover Swill & Paul supported The Clash and one of the main reasons we got together was a genuine love of The Clash and we still do. The fire still burns bright.

Mel - A statement on your MySpace page says ”There was no way we could have not come to Manchester - over the years it has been a true home from home and source of some of our wildest and fondest stories. We’d love to hear a wild story from Manchester, why do you love it so much?

Cush - I’ll tell you a wild story, my ex missus turned up at a show and punched my fuckin lights out cos I was shagging a nurse in Manchester, how’s that, there ya go!!

More raucous laughter fills the air…

Mel - I believe your playing at The long weekend Witchwood Music festival on Fri. 29th May, how much are you looking forward to that?

Cush - The money!

Do you enjoy the festivals more than normal venues?

Paul - Depends on the weather doesn’t it?
Cush - No it’s not just the weather it’s like …eerr well actually it does depend on that but festivals ya know your allocated in front of a mixed audience and obviously you have to put out your R’ R.

Mel - hahahahaha I’m not looking forward to transcribing this back.

Swill - I’m still thinking about that nurse in Manchester
Cush - Don’t worry about her she married a drug buster
Swill -That night me and Cush was sharing a room but cos he went back to the room with the nurse (Cush – I’m not talking about her). In the morning they were going at it and the hotelier came in and said “alright lad’s there’s a cup of tea for ya”

hahahahahaah again bellows of laughter.................

Cush - Shouts - That was another night!
Swill - Oh sorry
Cush - Anyway festivals, versus our own gigs, festivals yea there great and you get a worked up vibe thinking right you got 45 mins to get on there and you have a massive crowd doing blab la bla whatever, were doing your own gig is different ya know.

Another reminder of the time….Right let’s move on a bit….

Cush -We can continue this after the show ya know

Vanessa yells “to be continued”

Mel - Yea, but we’ve gotta catch the last train

Cush - Where ya going?

Mel - We’re going back to Newton le Willows

Cush - Oh yea, we got a gig to do

Mel - Do you want us to carry on with this after?

Cush - Yea, yea, that’d be great yea, that’d be nice that wouldn’t it

End of part one….and its up to the top floor to witness the band in action.We leave the guys to change and sort themselves out for the show and head upstairs.


Up close in the photo pit, had a great view of the guys, and took advantage of my new Nikon D60. They were on good form, but hadn't got a drummer. Both Swill and Cush have tremendous, powerful vocal ranges, passionate singing.

As usual they did a bit of on stage banter, Cush did a little rant about the Tories and a general fuck em all attitude, he was the last to leave the stage.They played for around 3/4 hour, the best of the songs in my view were 'The Colours', 'Ironmasters'. I'm looking forward to buying the new album which is out June 1st.



PART TWO - Back for a second helping of hilarity and exuberance, we knock on the closed dressing room door. We hear a friendly “come in”, peep our heads around the door and ask is it safe to come in. The boys are all chilled out on the leather sofas. So with Dictaphone back on, we press on with part two and hope for the best…."help yourself to the bar"

Mel – So we’re back again…(lot’s of chatter, & laughing, which I can’t pick up). Right were shall we start?

Cush - At the beginning
Swill - Right here, right now

Mel – Is there anything you’d like to say?

Cush - Anything I’d like to say? …I love you,…. stop it, officer stop it
Tom - Stop hitting me officer hahaha

Mel - Why are you so happy?

Cush - Why am I so happy! Cos I have a sort of up and down, peak and troughs life and at the moment everything is pretty hunky dory. Why shouldn’t I be happy? I’m in Liverpool, you wanna see me when I’m not happy. Actually I don’t get massively unhappy, no.
Swill - Your quite well balanced really.

Mel - Do you talk a lot when you’re drunk?

Cush - I talk a lot anyway, and when I’m drunk, hey I’m not apologising
Swill - Sorry I’m not apologising
Cush - I didn’t say sorry I’m not apologising, I’m saying I’m not apologising
Swill - I apologise on his behalf
Paul - He rings me up sometimes it’s about 3.30am, and I was asleep and all you can hear the next morning is the soundtrack to ‘Easy Rider’ for about 5 minutes on the answerphone. (Laughs)

Mel - So you’ve got a fantasy to be an easy rider have ya?

Cush - Yea, I used to have loads of motorbikes yea. I sold him a motorbike once (points to Swill) unfortunately it was stolen and I went to fucking jail over it. Yea, San Quentin, I went to San Quentin 6 years I did.

Laughs all round...

Mel - San Quentin!!!!!!

Some discussions went on about Johnny Cash and a concert….

Swill - Cush wrote that song didn’t ya
Cush - I wrote both them songs for Johnny Cash, ‘Boy Named Sue’ and ‘San Quentin’. I was gonna call it ‘Swill I hate every inch of you’ but I couldn’t because he was in hospital.

Mel - Who writes all your songs?

Cush - Johnny Cash (Mel – hahahaha)

Mel - This is going online ya know hahaha

Cush - A what Online!!!!!Online!!!
Swill - Oh no!

Mel - Yea this interview. We were gonna actually video it, that would have been good fun that actually.

Swill - Post it up on utube!

Photo: Swill & Cush

Mel - Right let’s get back to that question, you didn’t want me to ask initially. There’s been a comparison with The Pogues, how does this sit with you?

Cush - You can ask me what you like. Oh that one, don’t ask…I love him, but we’ve got this sort of hate, hate relationship, but never mind that. I love him, I do, we go back. Anyway, may the roads rise with him and all I can say.

Mel - Never mind that lets move on. You’re like naughty school boys.

Cush - What is your preconceived your perception of us?

Mel - Good time boys!

Cush - Exactly!

Swill - Are you goodtime girls? She said goodtime boys, anyway I’m not in this interview, it’s you!
Photo: Mel interviewing the band

Mel - What inspires your writing?

Cush - Ermm well everything, breasts, he says glancing at my cleavage “Breasts!!!!” Peaches, death, breasts, anger, more breasts.

Vanessa - Who writes the songs all of you?

Swill - That’s a good question, yes we do!

Mel – Who are you currently listening to, and I don’t mean me talking hahaha, I mean music?

Cush - God, Imelda May and what was her name the jazzy girl with the glasses, can’t remember her name. That was the last album I was listening to, no actually the last album I listened to was ‘Devil On The Wind’. Do ya what; I went down lovers lane the other night, yea on my own! Listening to ‘Devil On The Wind’, I’ve got this ego problem.

Much laughter……..

Photo: Tom

Mel - Do you do cover versions?

Cush - Yea, loads of em, I’ll cover you, all over ya, I’d be like a rash.

Mel - hahahahahaha, you’re very entertaining anyway.

Cush - Do ya think so?

Mel - Do you have an all time favourite song of yours, that you enjoy doing the most?

Cush - Well, actually at the moment, ‘Mrs Avery’ is my favourite song that I like doing. Leave the studio (he says to the band) and you two can stay (to me & Vanessa). Have you got a tripod?

Mel - Tripod!!!! Yea but not with me?

Cush - Well get these fuckers out of here!

Mel – (Moving swiftly on) your new material released is 'Devil On The Wind’ an EP. Can you talk us through the tracks on the EP – ‘Devil On The Wind’, ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me‘, ‘Girl From The North Country ‘, ‘The Colours ‘, ‘Tyburn Tree’.

Cush - ‘Devil On The Wind’is the title track and it’s an alternative mix, that the ones that’s on the album. It’s sort of more acoustic, it’s well obviously different.

Mel - What’s it about?

Cush - Devil On The Wind?
Paul - It’s what ever you want it to be! Laughs
Swill - It’s about three and a half minutes.
Paul - That’s what Bob Dylan would have said hahaha

Mel - What are the lyrics about?

Paul - Do we have to get serious, I think the Cush interview is much more interesting.
Swill - Well there’s Aquamarine, one of Cush’s songs with a GREAT  solo.
Cush - Yea, it’s got Jude from Chumbawamba, playing trumpet all over Paul’s lead solo.
Paul - We do a different version, were we take the trumpet off, were my guitar solo is back higher in the mix and it’s much better.
Cush - I did another mix and took it out completely.
Swill - And I did another mix and it was just me.
Cush - I play the Jews harp over it, I played a wasp.

Mel - So what can we expect on the forthcoming album? When will it be released and any title yet you can talk about?

Cush - Chaos, mayhem, and fucking total carnage!

Mel - Have you got a title yet?

Paul - ‘Devil On The Wind’

Mel - That’s it’ really, the interview is finished!

Cush - Oh come on…come on…

Mel - I’ve done 26 questions!(smiles)

Swill -Tell em about..
Cush -Tell em about what? The day we went to errrmm
Swill - Ermmm Bangor
Paul - We had a lovely time.
Cush - We didn’t we had an orrible time, in Bangor in British hotels.
Paul - What about the time you stole the lead singer of Steely Span’s glass eye.

Mel - Is that really true

Swill - We can’t really tell that…
Cush - If I was a girl Steely Spans glass eye would be stuck up Swill’s arse, and you can quote me on that. Hahahahaha
Swill - He’s quite entertaining

Mel - This is one finalquestion for you! (Looking at Cush)

Swill - What, for Cush?
Cush - Oh.

Mel - Just for you! (Looking at Cush directly) Well I can ask you all individually?

Cush - How do ya like it?

Mel - Will you stop looking my chest!

Cush - No I won’t
Swill - I hate to say it cos I’m actually a feminist, but no I have to say it,  I think you don’t mind that much.
Cush - No, I was trying to look at what you had round your neck.

Mel - Just for the record, whose lips would you love to plant a Muddy kiss upon?

Cush - I think that’s pretty obvious at the moment isn’t it (Everyone laughs) and on that note here comes the wilderbeast. Errr Charlotte Rampling.

Mel - hahahaha Thank you very much guys!

The tape was switched off then we began to have a much better conversation, flowing about our first punk gigs we attended, Paul wanted to talk about Generation X, Billy idol, Cush shared a little saucy story, he wanted to know all about Mudkiss, found out he doesn't own a computer, used to go to my local Wigan Casino all nighter, we even had a little sing song and lot's more! (That'll teach me not to stop the tape rolling after the questions have stopped)

Photo: Vanessa has a cuddle from Cush, Swill, Paul & Felix (Guitar Tech)

Check out more about The Men They Couldn't Hang on the links below and check them out at a venue near you supporting The Wonderstuff.Thanks for a good craic guys, hope we meet again!

MySpace -
Website -

Interview & photos by Mel 16/05/09

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