The Boys came together in the mid-seventies when punk exploded onto the music scene in London. It was a teenage Duncan, who left his family and moved to London to pursue his second ambition in life - to play in a band. His first ambition to be a professional football player fell short due….. in his own opinion to his total lack of talent for the game. He found himself in the midst of a whole new world he could only earlier have dreamed of. The Boys made four albums and toured extensively, and became known as the Beatles of punk, due to their fusion of harmonies into the punk genre. Unfortunately success eluded them, and they disbanded in 1981. After being offered a tour of Japan seventeen years later, The Boys came together again and played together until the third and last tour of Japan in 2010, when Duncan decided it was time to call it a day, and he quit the band.
He has since pursued his own ambitions, writing music and making his first solo album entitled ‘Little Big Head’, released last year. The album has been very well received, and the band Duncan Reid And The Bigheads have been on an extensive world tour ever since. I caught up with Duncan on his Norway leg of the tour, to have a chat at the sound check, and this is a little of what we talked about.
TEDDIE: You started your music career back in the late seventies, tell me about that.
DUNCAN: I went to school with Jack Black who’s the original drummer in The Boys. He found a job in this t-shirt factory, where John Plain was the foreman. So John Plain was my boss in the t-shirt factory. We just got talking. I’m a bass player, Jacks a drummer The Boys were looking for a bass player and a drummer, so we went round to Matt Dangerfields place, in Maida Vale, which of course was the famous 47A Warrington Crescent, where Matt had a little four-track studio. Everybody, like the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned used to go down there. So everything sort of came out of that really.
TEDDIE: So you played with the proto-punk band The Boys for many years, didn’t you? What happened to make you disband the first time around?
DUNCAN: The first time was in 1981-82, and then we didn’t play for 17 years. A band in Japan had a big hit with one of our songs, which was ‘Soda Pressing’, off our first album. Firstly, a record company over there in Japan put a couple of our old albums out, and said “…why don’t you come over and play?” We thought it would be great to go to Japan and play, so we did. We were really shit the first time, but the second gig we had a lot of fun, so we decided to carry on doing it. We kept on doing it for another thirteen years, which brings us to the back-end of 2011. Funnily enough, I did my last gig with The Boys in Japan in Osaka. By that time, that was our third tour of Japan.
TEDDIE: Looking back again briefly, what did you do between the time The Boys split up the first time and you all getting back together for the first tour of Japan?
DUNCAN: I had a whole career, mainly in music. I went off to university first, because I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do. Then I drifted back into entertainment. I was working for Andrew Lloyd Webber for many years, for my sins, putting on shows all over the place, which is really punk, isn’t it? [laughs] People will probably shoot me for that. Then I had a spell running Nottingham Forrest Football Club, which was great fun, although absolutely bloody impossible running a football club.
TEDDIE: So was that because you were interested in football?
DUNCAN: Yeah, absolutely.
TEDDIE: Then The Boys got back together again and it felt right, so you played together for a few more years, what felt wrong when you decided to leave in 2011?
DUNCAN: Loads and loads of really, really silly things grown men acting like children, including me. Bands are like that. Bands are like dysfunctional families and there’s a bit of the Gallagher brothers in every band. Looking back I still think; “What the hell happened there? All of it’s silly.” But for me, it’s been a funny thing, because, obviously, lots of people are upset about the original Boys not being together anymore. But, it’s just been brilliant for me, because it forced me to make my own record, and start again from scratch, really. Having the name of The Boys gives you a certain amount to start with, but being out there and fighting for an audience has been really great. I have been lucky enough to get together with a bunch of really great…. I was going to say guys, but one of them is a girl, who are great to be with and are really great musicians.
TEDDIE: You are having quite a bit of success with your new band. Was it a clear thought, when you set out and split with The Boys, that you wanted to have your own band?
DUNCAN: No, I had absolutely no plans at all when I decided to leave The Boys. I parted company with The Boys, and then I started to wonder what I was going to do. I had loads of songs that I’d written, during the previous year. I didn’t have a band, and I was really lucky to be introduced to Tony Barber, who was in the Buzzcocks, Chelsea etc, and who set up this wonderful studio in a shed, in a field, in the middle of Essex. You know, in absolutely nowhere! It was tiny, but boy does he know what he’s doing in there. Tony was really keen to work with me. I went over there and took one look at his shed, and my wife, Liz, who was with me said “You can’t make a record here!” Tony, luckily didn’t get offended by that, and said to me “Look, come and do one track.” I did do that. Actually I took a bit of a leap of faith, well it was a bit of a leap of faith for both of us, as I was playing everything on the record, and didn’t have a band. Initially we recorded toprogrammed drums that Tony had put together. Then I got my friend, who was in The Boys in the later years, Vom Richie, to put the drums down. It just sort of grew together really, and Tony did a great job. I think I did all right, and we ended up with a pretty good record.
TEDDIE: Absolutely! I heard it prior to release and it’s great. How did you get this band together that you are touring with now?
DUNCAN: It’s a funny old story, because Alex, who plays guitar and keyboards with me now, is one of those annoying fuckers who plays everything. He turned up at my office with a double bass once. I said “What are you doing with a double bass?” and he said “I’ve just done a gig with it.” And I said “What? I don’t even play the double bass, and I’m a bass player!” Anyway, I digress, John Plain, from The Boys, and I auditioned Alex for The Boys, when there was a sticky period, and we didn’t have a drummer. But, I left, before he ended up playing gigs with The Boys, as drummer. In the meantime he was putting on evenings in a really tiny pub in London, called the Betsy Trotwood. He asked me to come down and play some of my songs on one of his evenings. And I said I’d do it on condition he played the guitar with me. So that was the beginning, really. Anna was an old friend who previously lived in Germany, and then moved to London. We ran into each other at an exhibition by David Apps who took the photographs for the cover of my album. Anyway I asked her what she was doing, as I knew she played the guitar. She said “nothing”. So I said “Right, you’re in!” And eventually the drummer, Tom, is a friend of Alex’s, so that’s how we all came together.
TEDDIE: It seems to work really well and you’ve been on tour now for quite a long time.
DUNCAN: Well, actually it seems like a long time, but it’s only a year.
TEDDIE: I heard you went down really well in South America. Tell me about that.
DUNCAN: Yeah that was absolutely brilliant. I’d been to South America twice with The Boys, and the song ‘Montevideo’ on the album was written about that experience. I went over there with TV Smith, doing a co-headlining tour, and as ever it was brilliant and the audiences in Montevideo, and the whole of South America are great. But the fantastic thing was that in Montevideo they gave me a medal: An illustrious visitor, for the song ‘Montevideo’. You write a song about getting completely shit-faced in the city and then they give you a medal for it, which is brilliant.
TEDDIE: Teaming up with TV Smith - now I’m a huge fan of Tim’s, I think he’s absolutely smashing, but it’s completely different to what you’re doing. How does that work?
DUNCAN: It works really well. We did a mini-tour of the UK together, and he’s played with The Boys before. I’ve always liked Tim as a bloke, and I’ve come to like him even more after touring with him recently, and we have become really good friends. I have also grown to like his music more and more, as I’ve seen him perform it every night. I think the fact that we are so different - he’s very political and a one-man acoustic guitar troubadour, and I’m very ‘poppy’- if you like, and have the full band, but it really goes well. In South America it was great, because he came on at the end of the set and we did a song together with the whole band, so it was really good.
TEDDIE: What I thought, when I saw that you were teamed together, I was wondering what sort of audience you would get - because it’s so different.
DUNCAN: Well, I said on the blog at the time I wrote on the tour, I really didn’t know how Tim was going to go down, because they really like their music with a good old thump behind it, but he went down a storm.
TEDDIE: So now you are in Norway and you are touring…
DUNCAN: We have three gigs here, Oslo, Kristiansund and Trondheim. I’m really pleased to be here. The Boys did a really great gig here a few years ago at Elmstreet which was one of my favourite gigs ever, and it’s going to be great to play here again.
TEDDIE: Do you think that many of The Boys fans will come and see you, because of the connection?
DUNCAN: I don’t know. We’ll see later. I know a few will.
TEDDIE: So have you got anything in the pipeline?
DUNCAN: We are off to Germany and Poland next month, and then some gigs in the UK, and in the meantime we are recording the next album, which I’m doing with the whole band. We’ll see when we get that finished, hopefully around spring next year. It will be out next summer, with a fair wind behind us or it might be later, we’ll see. It all just depends on how long it takes.
TEDDIE: I saw your gig at Rebellion Punk Festival, you rocked the Arena on the Saturday night. It’s very different to what you’ve been doing with The Boys. Did you expect it to be received that well?
DUNCAN: No, I really didn’t know how it was going to turn out, but for about six months now, I’ve been really confident with the band, and I know that, every time we get up on stage we are really, really good. I know that we just have to get in front of people and they will like us. That’s what was great about Rebellion. Obviously you get a lot of fans there, but you also get a lot of people who have never seen you before. I had literally hundreds of message from people afterwards who had wandered across us at Rebellion, saying how much they liked it. So that was superb!
TEDDIE: Wishing you and the band all the best and good luck with the new album.Interview by Teddie Dahlin