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Interview

Guitar Gangsters
10/07/1999



Please give a brief history of the band, including current line up.

Steve Brewer - drums, Phil Ley - bass, Pete Ley - Guitar/lead vox.

Originally the three of us played in a band with Simon Hart on lead vox and went by the names of Embryo (well we were young and naive!), Jump Squad, The Untouchables, and finally Under The Gun. Simon gave a good impression of Fergal Sharky on vocals but he had the good sense to call it a day and get a life around 1988. We had started life as an angry punk band and then ended up with a brass section, soul influences, dancing pompom girls and of course no commercial success - sounding good but not very angry by this time. We had known Mark Brennan of Link Records for some time and around 1989 he asked me to contribute a couple of songs to the Underground Rockers compilation album - Phil and I recorded the songs with Micky from The Business on drums and me on lead vocals for the first time. The two songs got a really good reaction so we recruited a drummer to record another eight songs (in three days I recall) and released "Prohibition" on Link. Our drummer, Spencer Holman (ex Angelwitch!) then promptly left to persue his career as a taxi driver. When we started gigging we called in Steve on drums temporarily and he's been with us ever since. Apart that is, from a two year period when he went missing and he still won't tell us where he went. During that time Gianfranco Scalia (a real Gangster and ex Roadholder and Big Boy Tomato drummer) played for us and can be heard on "Skweeler"

Discography.

UNDERGROUND ROCKERS Vol 1 (Compilation) (Link Records - Link 53)
Nov 89
Thats When The Razor Cuts, Everybody Wants To Be My Friend

PROHIBITION (Link Records - Link 105)
June 91
Nothing To Shout About, Turn The Tables, What Did I Do (This Time), Thats When The Razor Cuts, Everybody Wants To Be My Friend, It Must Be Physical, Radio Shakedown, Its So Sad, Gotta Get Out Of Here, Long Division, Endless Saturday Night.

MONEY WITH MENACES (Vice Records - HABIT 001)
Nov 93
Dream That Dream, Seventeen Again, All The Worlds A Television, Bad Bad Girl, Wild Weekend, Get Me Out, I'm Not Too Scared To Dance, Rubber Hammer, Readers Wives, The Yellow House, Pray All Day

POWERCHORDS FOR ENGLAND (Anagram - CDM GRAM 78)
Jan 95
Little Miss Mystery, City Of The Damned, Bitter Sweet But True, Strange Kind Of Love, All Over The World, Innocent Eyes, She's My Kind, Radio Authority, A Boy Like Me, Playing Games Again, In My World, When Guitars Ruled The Earth

SHES GOT A GUN (EP) (Rampant Records - RAM 003)
May 95
Shes Got A Gun, Im Destroyed, Strange Kind Of Love

SKWEELER! (Rampant Records - PANT002)
Nov 96
I Can Handle It, Because I said So, In Too Deep, Halfway To Bielefeld, Parasite, Extremes, Mothers Little Helper, Skweeler! (Undies In The Ice Box Mix), May Day By The Sea, The Cars That Ate The Planet, Gimme My Ball Back, Too Tough For Tears, Match Of The Day

BRITISH PUNKINVASION Vol 3 (Compilation) (High Society Records - HIS 6)
Aug 97
Get To Them (Before They Get To You), Just Do Nothing, Worst Bar In The World, How Was I To Know, Underground Disaster
MADE IN ENGLAND LIVE IN EUROPE (Rampant Records PANT003)
Nov 98
Just Do Nothing, Everybody Wants To Be My Friend, Extremes, On Hundred Miles An Hour, Parasite, Halfway To Bielefeld, How Was I To Know, I Can Handle It, Before They Get To You, Strange Kind Of Love, Its So Sad, Turn The Tables, Thats When The Razor Cuts Underground Disaster, Because I Said So, Nothing To Shout About, Radio Authority, Radio Shakedown, First Time, I Wanna Be Sedated

RAZOR CUTS (EP) (Final Vinyl 011) Limited Edition
Nov 98
That's When The Razor Cuts (97), Get To You (Live), Skin And Blister, Stranger In My Own Street

Well you did ask!

Describe your sound.

A car crash in a biscuit tin. A dawn chorus at the break of a new rock'n'roll day. An eclectic collision of post modernist musical imagery and stark reality. The mongoloid offspring of a union between The Monkeys and early bluegrass.

Actually that's bollocks .... '77 style punk is closer to the truth.

Has any band member played in other bands, if so what?

Is that, what band? Or, what did he play? For other bands refer to question 1 although Phil has just depped on bass for punky/poppy band Nasty Habbits (note our gig with them at The Horn at St Albans on Sat 30th October '99) and I played in a stage musical once does that count? But seriously, we are all up for playing with other like minded bands just for the crack - and I'm not talking session work here just playing with other people for expanding the mind and soul if you get my drift.

Have you toured abroad, if so, what was the reaction like and how did the audience differ to UK audiences?

We are regularly touring in Europe - Germany mainly but more recently Poland, Czech Rep and Italy - in fact we have tended to avoid playing in the UK over the last few years but that's changing now. The big difference is that people turn up at gigs in Europe! This means we get treated better, get paid enough to cover costs and get a buzz from playing to crowd that want to have a good time. Audiences in the UK want to watch from the sidelines - abroad they want to get on the pitch and kick the ball about. At some shows in Europe we have had people apologising to us if the crowd hasn't gone ape - even if the place is half full everyone will come to the front but in the UK they'll stand against the walls clutching their beers and clenching their buttocks.

If you could see any band play live, either of the past or present who would it be?

For me it would be T.Rex, Mott The Hoople, The Boys, The Carpettes, and The Ruts. I know Phil would want to see The Plasmatics, Blondie with the original 8 stone version of Debbie Harry and the Ramones playing as they did in 1978. Steve has a thing about Karen Carpenter - it must be a drummer's thing and he wants to do a drum workshop with Keith Moon, either that or challenge him to a vod contest.

Do you think street music will rise again?

When you say rise I guess you mean feature in the charts or on Top of the Pops. The answer I reckon is a big no. Occasionally you might get the odd Offspring type thing come through but for "kids" today street music is rap, dance, jungle, garage etc. Dance is the new punk rock!! I know it's bollocks but there it is and if that's what the CD buying public want then best of luck to them. BUT, what we understand to be street music is probably more relevant, than any sequencer and drum machine crap produced for drugged up morons, will ever be. Our own music and that of bands like us has a comment to make, a story to tell or maybe even a political (small p) point to put across - today's chart music says nothing, tells you nothing and inspires nothing. And this is what radio, sponsors, DJ's, record co's want - it's safe and easy to package and sell. The last thing the media want is something with any hint of reality, any threatening sound or sentiment that disturbs the cosy world of MTV, sponsors and commercial radio. In the late 70's/early 80's you wouldn't get gigs sponsored by Levi's, Becks, Pepsi Cola or whoever - these were part of the establishment who were getting a slagging! Now they are part of the rebellious (and lucrative) teenagers lifestyle and somehow I don't think Guitar Gangsters, Beerzone, The Business, The Stains or anyone else doing our kind of stuff would give the sponsors their desired "product profile". Anyway, while street music as we know it, is outside the commercial mainstream we can remain unaffected by it and play what we want rather than what will sell - this way it will stay honest, sometimes crap, sometimes repetitive, but always honest.

What is the best gig Guitar Gangsters have ever done and who else was on the line-up?

It's starting to fade into a distant memory now but Glasgow Barrowlands, support to Stiff Little Fingers, December 1991. Two thousand punks, who we thought were going to murder us and then defile our bodies when we came onstage, then went apeshit for the whole set - it was like watching peas boil! Brixton Academy comes a close second but Barrowlands felt like the lid was coming off.

Plans, gigs and releases planned for 99.

We're playing at the Punk Aid three day thing in Southend in September - we're due to play on the Saturday - we're looking forward to that one. No other gigs sorted at the moment apart from St Albans in October and Croatia in August but we are trying to arrange more UK dates now. We're recording some eight track demos of new stuff at the moment and with luck we'll find a label to fund the recording of a new album towards the end of the year - otherwise we'll just release the demos!

Any final comments?

Yes, the Rega Music Bar in Southend only holds 160 people so get a ticket soon, help the charity and come early. Apparently there will be two stages so turnaround time between bands is quicker - lets hope they've got two bars as well.

See ya ,

Pete
Guitar Gangsters

Mark Magee, The Anti Hero`s

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