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Jerome is the lead singer for a band called The Skuzzies, a tight three piece band of rockers. The Skuzzies Are : Jerome Alexandre - Main Vocals / Lead Guitar , Nick Le West - Drums Laura Heggarty - Bass & Vocals. They are influenced by the very early punk rockers such as Johnny Thunders, The Clash, New York Dolls, but also have elements of The Cramps and The Rolling Stones in their repertoire. This all translates to what they call dirty indie punk. The band are managed by Nina Antonia, the authoress of several notable biography's, Nina is also Jerome's partner.

Photo: Taken at the Rhythm Factory by Jay Dubber on Friday May 15th

I met Jerome & Nina a couple of weeks ago in Liverpool at the Francesco Mellina photo exhibition, preview party, the time wasn't right for an interview but we spent some time in their company. I sent along some questions later via e-mail.

Mel - Hi Jerome I guess my first question would be, could you give us a little bit of background into yourself. What were you like as a teenager, were you a rebel, with or without a cause?

Jerome - I don’t think I ever consciously rebelled. Whenever I got told off at school I was often left scratching my head wondering what I’d done wrong. These days at least I know what I’m rebelling about, be it greedy politicians or the marginalisation of dissenting voices in the music business.

Mel - I believe you have a story about Iggy pop and David Bowie, surrounding a studio? Tell us more…

Jerome - When I was little, my mother worked at a rehearsal studio called Underhill in South East London. It was frequented by the likes of Jeff Beck, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Peter Perrett and Squeeze. But the person that really stuck out in my mind was Iggy Pop. One night he read me a bedtime story in his own crazed way. From what I recall he eventually put the book down and started ad-libbing making it up as he went along, I was very impressed! Another time I remember seeing him dancing to James Brown narrowly missing tables, chairs and other household objects like some deranged ballet student. Occasionally I’d sneak into the rehearsal rooms behind the amps and watch groups in my pyjamas when I should’ve been in bed.

Mel - What is a Skuzzie, and why the name for the band?

Jerome - A Skuzzie is a street urchin grown up. Scuffed around the edges with the kind of style you can’t buy. Skuzzie style comes through experience, knowledge and survival. It’s the opposite of the homogenised fresh faced look permeating the music scene at the moment.

Photo: Jerome by Sam Collins

Mel - How did the band get together on the South East London Scene?


Jerome - South East London used to have its own scene. The Specials and The Clash played the Lewisham Odeon and there was the Venue in New Cross, where I saw Suede and Pop Will Eat Itself. However, by the time The Skuzzies got together in 2004 the Venue only put on tribute acts, and Lewisham Odeon had become a police station so there was nada unless you got arrested for impersonating Abba!! We came up through the squat scene. You have to be creative when there’s a void. Some night’s we’d be playing to audiences of 400 people. You wouldn’t get that in a pub.

Mel - I read that The Skuzzies vanished into homelessness? What was the experience like, did it have any direct lasting effects on you, did it make your song writing more creative as a result?

Jerome - Let me tell you one thing, squatting isn’t fun unless you’ve got a trust fund and options. I had neither at the time. I hated it!!! There were people getting stabbed outside my front door so blood would be all over the landing and you had to be on guard in case the door got kicked in. I would lay on the bed for hours with a kitchen knife, my heart going into overdrive whenever I’d heard footsteps outside. The only way to deal with it was dreaming of a better life. It sharpened my song writing abilities but it came at a price to my health. If Nina hadn’t saved me I would either be in prison, a mental institution or dead.

Mel - You were asked to support the notorious Babyshambles at the Astoria in 2004, when the whole place erupted, what was this like?

Jerome - Surreal, exciting, powerful and at times, scary. It was our third gig and although it really stands out in my mind I felt that first line up was musically at odds with each other. It’s only now, with the addition of bass player Laura Heggarty that we’ve got the definitive Skuzzies.

Mel - Can you tell us some rock n roll tales about supporting Babyshambles and the infamous Pete Dougherty. What’s he really like to work with?

Jerome - Any rock and roll tales? Plenty!!! But not many that are printable and that’s not just for my sake, either! However I do remember once Peter picked me and my ex-girlfriend up in a car. Peter had the French model Irina Lazerenau with him. As Peter was driving he asked me to hand him my guitar which he proceeded to play whilst Irina who was sitting in the passenger seat tried to steer the car Grand Prix style around these narrow bends. It’s a wonder we didn’t get pulled by the Rozzers. When we got to my mothers place, Peter and Irina tap danced in the kitchen. It was sheer comedy. My favourite times with Peter are when we’re jamming or hanging out. It’s always better to know someone out of the public eye. Last weekend The Skuzzies played the Rhythm Factory with Babyshambles. The gig was a tribute to the promoter, Johnny Rhythm, who passed away from cancer earlier this year. Johnny was a great guy and the proceeds of the show went to his family. It was a wonderful if sad night. Peter put his heart and soul into it. He is a genuine and lovable guy.

Mel - Do you have a recording contract yet?

Jerome - We have some label interest but everything’s under wraps at the moment whilst we work in the studio. You’ll be the first to know when there’s an official announcement!!!!

Mel - I believe your currently working on a debut album, can you give us some song titles, and what the main thrust of the album will be about? Any album title yet?

Jerome - We did have an album title but I’ve forgotten it! Here’s a sample of song titles though - “Brompton Cocktail” “Rich Girls” “Salome’s Corner” “Shotgun Romance” and “Dissatisfied” The album will be a mix of the songs we’ve been doing live for the last two years and some new material. There’s also going to be collaboration with someone very special. As soon as it comes off you will be the first know!

Mel - When can we expect some live shows? Let’s see you play in the North West!!

Jerome - As soon as we finished recording we will be organising more shows. I really like the north- west it’s a very friendly area and people don’t put on any front-what you see is what you get. I’ve been to Liverpool with Nina a couple of times and loved it. It’d be really good to play there.

Mel - Where do you hang out in London, and what do you enjoy doing?

Jerome - Don’t go out that much. Now and again I’ll go to a restaurant or to a friend’s place. I started going to clubs and gigs at 13 and was jaded by 16. Also if you are playing your own gigs going out can become a busman’s holiday. My favourite haunt is a natural reservoir 5 minutes from home. At night it’s very dark and isolated, all you can see is the moon. You have to be careful though, one false move and you’re in the river! Many drunks have met their demise there, perhaps an element of risk is something I require in any situation!

Mel - What drives you and inspires you in your everyday life?

Jerome - Injustice, love, rage, dreaming; a myriad of things. It can be a book, an incident, the news and lack of sleep.

Mel – Talking of lack of sleep, on your Facebook you comment about having insomnia, is your mind constantly active is this why you can’t sleep?

Jerome - My mind is always at the gymnasium even if my body isn’t!! I usually reach that pitch of exhaustion and hysteria. It’s a creative time when you can tune in to the secrets of the night; a soundtrack of  police sirens, phantom trains, lover’s quarrelling , animals howling Next thing you know its seven am and Nina’s shouting “Get to fucking bed, you look demented!!!”I often feel that there’s so much to do and so little time, if I sleep I might miss something…

Mel - Who are your heroes?

Jerome - If I believed in heroes I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere. No one can save you but yourself. However there are people I admire, Elvis Presley, Johnny Thunders, Tricky, Prince, The Shangri-las, John Fruscainte, Marc Bolan, Syd Barret, Nico, Rimbaud, David Lynch, Gravediggaz, Rozz Williams, Suicide, The Clash, Anton Lavey, Boyd Rice, Charles Manson, Donald Cammel, William Burroughs. We could be here all night.

Mel - Now I’m curious to know how you met the delightful Nina Antonia, was it love at first sight?

Jerome - You really go for the Jugular don’t you?!! Ha Ha. It’s strange Nina and I didn’t meet sooner. I had always loved her books, and we had mutual friends, like Peter Perrett and his wife Zena. I remember reading “in Cold Blood” religiously. There’s not another biography that can touch it because it was done her way and not written by some journalist after a cash-in. Anyway, at the time we met I was rehearsing with friends. The lead guitarist, Mick, also knew Nina and asked her down. I didn’t think she would show so when the door opened…oh god we just stared into each others eyes. I don’t think you need to be a genius to realise that there was chemistry there. Being a gentleman I made sure she had a comfortable chair and a drink and felt extremely nervous as we ran through some songs. A few weeks later we were living together. I spent about a month trying to make friends with the man of the house, our cat Merlin. He eventually accepted me.

(Read my interview with Nina here)

Mel - You played acoustic guitar for Nina when she did her reading in Brighton for her Johnny thunders book, (which we covered in our special reports section) what was this experience like?

Jerome - The whole experience was very gratifying. I’ve always wanted to write movie soundtracks so I approached Nina’s reading in the same way, to create an atmosphere that goes with the words. We even rehearsed on the train to Brighton much to the consternation of dozing commuters. When we got Brighton we were whisked into Juice Fm for a radio interview which was quite surreal as Girls Aloud had just been in. Then we played the Latest Music Bar. Nina was on top form. It’s still exciting for me to watch her read and the audience loved it.

(Read the review of the show here)

Mel - You told me you played with Mick Jones, this must have been every punk, rock n’ roll musicians dream? (Did you see his exhibition of all his memorabilia by the way?)

Jerome - I missed Mick’s exhibition but I would have loved to have seen it. Playing with him onstage at the Joe Strummer benefit in December 2008 was a dream. We played ‘Bankrobber’ which was quite a coincidence because the video for it was filmed five minutes away from where I’d lived in the squat in Lewisham. Most of my squat time was spent listening to the Clash and dreaming about playing with Mick Jones on stage. Two years later it happened. There’s a moral in there somewhere about not giving up no matter how difficult things get.

Mel - Finally, just a silly nonsense question who would you love to plant your lips on and give a big Muddy Kiss to?

Jerome - Famke Janssen (she plays a Russian Assassin in one of the Bond films who has an orgasm each time she croaks someone),Penelope Cruz, PJ Harvey (Circa 1994) Winona Ryder, Beatrice Dalle, Terri Garr, Madeline Khan, Faye Reagen.

Thanks for taking the time to do the interview Jerome, it was also great to meet you and Nina, let's do it again sometime.

Check out The Skuzzies:

Interview by Mel 25.05.09
Photos kindly sent by Jerome & Nina.
Credits to Jay Dubber & Sam Collins.

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