Steve Scanner Interview – December 2020

This is an interview conducted with Steve over e-mail Oct / Nov 2020. You may be familiar with the excellent Hey Suburbia ! podcasts put together by Steve https://www.scannerzine.com/hey-suburbia-podcast if not please check them out you won’t be disappointed …..

Steve …. we were first in contact when you lived in Norwich back in the day (the nineties) producing the Scanner fanzine – then you moved to New Zealand and are now synonymous with the very excellent Hey Suburbia Podcasts.

Slow down Andy… Are you baiting me, my friend?! I’m from the Pride of East Anglia – Ipswich! (of course sorry Steve  – AH) Norwich might get better gigs thanks to the UEA, but Ipswich has the better bands and much more successful football team!  But, I’ll let you off with the kind words about the Podcast.   

Big introductory question I know ….. but please tell us a bit about your life journey to date … including your personal road into and love of punk rock, the creation of Scanner zine in 1998 and your emigration from Suffolk to New Zealand.

..Good god.. What a question… Hopefully this won’t bore your readers, but here goes… Music has been a constant since a very early age.  In the early 70s (I was born in ‘69), I used to watch Top Of The Pops with my Mum and we shared a love of the Glam Rock bands – SUZI QUATRO, T-REX, SLADE, SWEET, MUD, BOWIE – as much due to the crazy appearance as anything else. But a couple of those records – ‘Fox On The Run’ – Sweet, ‘Devil Gate Drive’ – Suzi Quatro and, in particular, ‘Tiger Feet’ – Mud all really thrilled me on every level. I also had a couple of cousins who loved T-Rex, STATUS QUO etc., and that lead me to rifling through their records. And so it begun…

I continued to watch Top Of The Pops.  Y’know, at the time, many used to slag that off as ‘teeny-bopper’ chart stuff, or because the bands mimed, but back then it was a thrilling programme for an adolescent discovering music – probably cuz the charts were much more interesting. 

Anyway, come up to 1979, I was 10, and on came this band that just made me stop and think, “What the fuck was that??!!” The bassist looked like he’d smash yr head in, the guitarist was dressed in some kinda crazy coloured suit made of what appeared to be fluffy feathers, the vocalist looked like a vampire and the drummer??  Jeez – there was something crazy about him!!  That band was THE DAMNED, the song ‘Love Song’. Come the weekend it was into town and pocket money promptly spent on my first ever record. Still got it and they remain my biggest love with about 250 records by.  

From there more 45s were purchased – and this is a mark of how good the charts were then – THE SPECIALS, MADNESS, THE JAM, BLONDIE, ADAM AND THE ANTS, UNDERTONES, MOTORHEAD, TOURISTS, THE POLICE – and then the first album, ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’ – Adam And The Ants… That said, my mum bought me ‘Slade Smashes’ before that – but that’s mainly because she wanted it!!  Haha!!! I had no concept that these records were in any way ‘Punk’ until I went to a cousin of my mum’s and their son, who had about five years on me, suggested I listen to a live album, which became the moment life actually changed: RAMONES – ‘It’s Alive’. That was followed with REZILLOS – ‘Can’t Stand The…’  He’s a fucking doctor now!!  

From there it was all about music and this thing called Punk. I no longer had any interest in sport, or school – just wanted to hear the next band, buy the next record. To this day I’m still an avid record collector with over 6,000 rekkids.

Sounds music paper became an invaluable source of information – and I had a flirtation with Metal too thanks to the likes of AC/DC, Quo via my cousin, METALLICA, SLAYER, JANES ADDICTION and too many more I care not to disclose!! 

A young Steve from his days in Stuntchild

I never went all out with the appearance or hair, my cousins had turned me onto long hair and it felt right – to this day it is still long. I started playing in bands, most notably I suppose was STUNTCHILD that released a 7” and appeared on an Australian compilation; this was 1997. We had the chance to tour there too – but the singer/bassist didn’t want to. That made soooo much sense after weekly rehearsals – and yes, that is irony. End of band. 

I contributed to a few zines and increasingly found I was writing more for zines than I was music for Stuntchild. The thing that motivated me to start my own was probably Mad Monks (yes what a great fanzine that was – AH). It looked sharp, stylish, had attitude and lead pretty much directly to me getting my first computer. The debut copy of Scanner appeared in 1998.  In hindsight, I was always more of a ‘fan’ than a performer and even now, coming up to 25 years or so since the first Scanner, get way more enjoyment, excitement and thrill from writing, reading, seeing, listening and learning about bands than I ever did playing in one.

As for New Zealand, that could be traced back to music too I suppose. Thanks to Maximum Rocknroll, I started to tape trade as was the need back then… This was obviously back before this Internet thing we now take for granted. Among those I traded tapes with was a dude in New Zealand who sent me the classic ‘AK79’ compilation and it was bam, bam, bam – one great song after another. As raw as anything produced in the US or UK, not as aggressive maybe but so good. I visited the country in 2001 and toured the South Island and thought it was a fantastic place. Two further holidays followed, each time my desire to ‘go home’ got less and less. So, in 2004 I took the plunge to move – thinking at worst it would be a six-month sabbatical, and at best probably just over a year out. During the last three months of that year, I applied for residency – and it got approved!! Unreal really as my education extends to two ‘O’ Levels, I don’t have a trade and financially, thanks to some record selling before I left, I was just about solvent but by no means rich. 

Since then, I’ve been here in NZ. Nearly moved to Melbourne, Australia about six years ago, never really thought about moving back to the UK… Sure I miss stuff – friends, family, the access to good gigs, public transport – and yes, Britain does have great public transport – hard to believe until you live somewhere that has virtually zero!! But generally, I’m pretty content with where life has taken me.      Umm – anyone still reading??!!

I still have some copies of Scanner zine back to the heady days of ‘the summer of 98’ – how many issues did you print up? Are these still available in some form?  Why did it cease? What prompted the shift to digital in July 2004?

All print copies are gone. I have a complete set here in NZ, and another locked away in the UK with some other stuff of personal value. I did thirteen issues in all starting with that 40 pager from ‘98 which had a print run of 200. It actually says 500 on the inner cover, which was a small white lie to make it appear a bit bigger and braver than it actually was!!  Haha!!  The last issue, from January 2003, which was a 92-pager, had reached a print run of 1,000 – although I note is still states 500 in the front. Guess that compensates for the missing copies on earlier print runs. Ha!

By that last issue I had got a bit jaded; bands seemed all a bit complacent and little new seemed to be happening in Ipswich. Fact is, that was more down to me being unsettled and wanting out that anything else. In reality, the print version stopped for the simple reason of my move to NZ. During that first year, I was living very frugally, so really could not commit to the expenditure of a new issue – and that’s when I decided to try something on-line. I’d never done anything like that before, so experimented with a blog and then found a website service that had templates and I just slapped the text and graphics on.  I’m still using that site, although I feel there could be better ones out there, and it has had a fairly consistent look since 2004. 

Your website https://www.scannerzine.com/ is a great resource to rummage through. It is chock a block with interviews, book reviews, music reviews in your TOP SOUNDS index and of course the HEY SUBURBIA PODCAST ….

..Very kind of you to say. Thanks, Andy!

I counted 51 separate interviews from 45 Grave, Anthrax, Dead to Me, Goldblade, Overground Records, Samiam to Zounds. (2006 – 2016). Out of the hundreds of bands that come across your radar what is it that prompts an interview?

..Umm, I’m not really sure.  Usually something ‘new’ is out and is rather good. But also, I look to those who would make for a good interview too. I’ve done a few where I’ve had vacuous one-sentence answers and always felt real let down. FRENZAL RHOMB was a good example – bunch of dicks.  I research them pretty well, so usually go for bands/ people that have a bit of a past although that’s not always the case. 

Often I’ve found that it is the non-band people who make better interviewees – Al Quint of Suburban Voice zine, artist Winston Smith, author Charles Romalotti, Welly from Artcore zine/ FOUR LETTER WORD, zinester/photographer Mick Mercer, Bill from Dr. Strange Records, the ABC No Rio collective in New York City – all of those were great-to-read interviews. 

Any interviews that stand out particularly ?

..The very first one I did face-to-face, which actually kicked off the seeds of Scanner, was with Joey Shithead of D.O.A. A friend and I went to see them in Norwich and asked Joey for an interview – which he very kindly gave us. It was kinda naive, but it was made up on the spot. Besides those mentioned above, TIM BARRY (ex-AVAIL) is always a joy to interview. Clif Hanger from THE FREEZE has provided two massive interviews, TV SMITH was fantastic and Exene Cervanka (from X) was one I was really a bit nervous about as I heard she could be difficult. Fact is, that is one of my favourite interviews now – she was awesome. Mike Ness from SOCIAL DISTORTION is another I was kinda… stressed about – but he ended up OK once he realised I was focusing on his solo albums rather than SD. John Haggerty from PEGBOY – not because it was a stunning interview but because it took an age to arrange and I so love that band! And Dick Lucas of SUBHUMANS is always a great source of interest. 

One of the funniest was Stan Lee of THE DICKIES. I used a speaker phone to record all the phoners and obviously the output at his end didn’t go to well with his hearing loss as every question was greeted with a loud, American shouting, “SAY WHAT??” Since met him too – very cool and funny fella. 

Possibly my favourite however is HARD SKIN – I gave them a heap of skinhead-baiting questions and got suitably offensive answers!!

Any ones that you are keen to do or wished you had?

..Oh yeah – lots. I desperately tried to contact JIM CARROLL before he passed away but had to go through management and all sorts. Now I surely wished I’d done all the red-tape shite they requested. Would love to do Dave Vanian of THE DAMNED and from a non-music related perspective Michael Caine and Woody Allen would be awesome. I was in touch with John Holstrom of Punk magazine once too – that was probably between leaving the UK and coming to NZ. That would have been a good one. And the one I dream about? This might surprise you – BOB DYLAN.   

PODCASTS – from #1 in 2006 you are now up to #59 in 2020 which averages out at 4.21 per annum. I’m interested in a number of things here.  Firstly what is the volume of material that is sent to you to review – has this been consistent over the years and in what format does most music get transmitted these days.

..When Scanner was in print form, all the review material was physical – received in the post, given to me at gigs etc. Those days are long gone with the advent of high-speed internet connections and the ease and cost effectiveness of downloads. And of course there’s the ridiculous cost of postage these days, and increase that even more when sending to New Zealand…

I still get some physical material and that always takes priority over downloads, which is how a lot comes through now.  I’ll review all physical material received, good or bad. I’m selective with downloads though as I get about 30+ a day – soul singers, hip-hop, death metal. They all get deleted. In fact, probably 90% of downloads get deleted based on what the press release says. I’ll take a chance on a few things – if I like it, I’ll review but if it doesn’t capture me after two songs it’s deleted. 

I’m always happy to run a free banner ad for review material, or come to some kinda deal and pay postage for something I want and continue to review downloads.

Secondly producing a podcast every four months for 14 years takes discipline and dedication, admirable qualities. Does this level of discipline come easily? Like all labours of love does it not sometime become a chore? Can you reassure us that it is going to continue into the future?

..Simple answer first – yes it is going to continue. There has been a new episode since you sent this interview, and another is planned.

As for the level of discipline… You’ll see for a while the Podcasts were very frequent. I used to work for the local newspaper here which was a fairly, how shall we say, ‘relaxed’ job. I’d be able to plan the tracks, research them and write my notes all while at work. That made it much easier. I surely can’t do that now, so they have become less frequent.

Are they a chore? It seems that way when I’m ripping all the tracks, splicing them, getting levels, but I’m always real pleased to hear the finished item – especially now I’m comfortable with hearing my voice and I don’t sound like a comatose librarian like I did on the early, more self-conscious episodes!! 

Selecting the tracks can be a chore – especially with the lack of physical material coming in. I always try and play physical releases when I can, but I also like to have a reason to play something – could be as simple as a new release or reissue, if a band is touring New Zealand – well, when they could before COVID at least – I might spin a track there, if someone has passed away, I do the occasional label feature, such as the current one has a set of tracks from Brassneck Records, the next is planned to be Little Rocket Records. And requests – it’s neat to get requests!

I do like the ‘Gone but not forgotten’ section – what prompted you to do this?

..Mainly the fact that, as we’re getting older, a lot of those musicians that literally fought for what we have now are passing on. It’s just a small tribute to those who I think went a bit further.

You might see on the Blog there are full obituaries of those who have passed – most recently Pierre Kezdy of NAKED RAGUN/ PEGBOY and Walter Lure of THE HEARTBREAKERS. I scour a lot of media to get those as complete and accurate as I can, but as with anything, they’re only as good as the research put in the the accuracy of what I find. 

THAT PHOTO – who is the band on the photo on the home page – how come you have used that one? Have you kept a log of all the covers you have used for the podcast imagery – – – I detect your dearest love is the 77-80 era – am I right?

..The photo on the homepage with my postal address on, you mean? (Yes – that’s the one) That’s the legend that was – is – THE REPLACEMENTS. Why? Oh, I just think they’re the greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll band ever. 

The intention was to update that photo often and it has changed over the years; whoever gets featured I consider legendary I guess. There’s been Stiv Bators of DEAD BOYS, Jerry A of POISON IDEA, THE CLASH… Think there may have been a CRASS one too. Now the original DAMNED has got back together, that could be the next one. 

As for the Podcast graphic, yes, I have them all saved with the Podcasts in both WAV and MP3 formats. Personally, I can’t detect a difference between the two formats and WAVs take up so much fucking space that I don’t tend to review those either. 

Those graphics are supposed to have some tenuous link to something on the podcast itself, and of late that’s become a twist on a record sleeve.

A love of ‘77 Punk? Umm… yeah, I guess if I have to pick a specific era, that’s what I tend to get most enjoyment out of. The bands were so fresh, sounded unique and have stood the test of time; think DAMNED, CLASH, ADVERTS, SIOUXSIE, X-RAY SPEX, RAMONES, BOYS, SAINTS – the list is endless. That said, I love most forms of Punk be it US Hardcore, Anarcho, Post-Punk and all its myriad formats, Garage… I do tend to draw a line when I start hearing Metal breakdowns, grunted tough-guy lyrics – all that boring macho posturing just leaves me cold. And some Ska-Punk almost makes me want painfully assassinate their lameness en masse…

But it’s not all about Punk – as you read before I’m a big fan of the likes of BOB DYLAN, NEIL YOUNG, BIG STAR, CROWDED HOUSE, WATERBOYS, THE WHO some traditional Folk type stuff… Really enjoying FONTAINES DC right now too. There’s a lot of great stuff out there – seems pretty myopic to limit myself to one genre all the time.   

The Home Page records hits from around the world 114,000 so far – has the distribution of – mainly US and Europe – a few South America and Asia – tell us about this and how it has changed over time .. ?

..Oh – that’s a rather good question!! Certainly when it started, I put the link out to whatever contacts I had.  Scanner in print form reached New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Africa as well as the usual UK, European and US areas – and that included distributors. That gave the website an instant… credibility I guess. It’s not like I was starting from scratch – I’d done a widely read zine, been involved for years, so I had a rather fortuitous head start.  

I have a mailing list to which I send updates monthly, including when there’s a new Podcast. I guess that numbers around 500. And, as much as I hate to say it, Facebook has been a massive benefit via linking bands, people etc when I tag them.  I’ve been amazed at some of the people who have got in touch.  And there is certainly a spike in hits when those emails and Facebook posts go out.

As a dedicated listener and contributor for 20+ years what are you views on the ‘development’ and ‘changes’ within the genre of punk rock?

..You’re very kind, Andy, saying 20+… It’s more like 30+!!

Well, I guess the biggest development is thanks to the Internet once again. You’ll remember scouring record sleeves for other band names, letter writing, fanzine reading, spending hours in second-hand record shops, charity shops and record fairs, talking to others about a band name on a jacket – just gleaning as much as you could. Now all ya have to do is Google or Spotify and it’s there – and that’s taken a lot of the humanity out of things and, more importantly, a lot of the thrill too. Buying a much-needed record on Discogs is not the same as finding it at a record fair. Of course, as I’m living in a small town in a rather isolated country – it’s fantastic tool!! Haha!!

The decline in fanzines is disappointing – thankfully there is still the likes of Suspect Device and, in particular, Artcore that keep the flag flying.

What are your views on the balance of power in terms of reach of the influence music from the USA and English speaking countries …. and in the rise of BIG punk labels from the mid 90’s onwards?

..I kinda feel that the influence of English speaking countries is inevitable – but that’s not to say they are always better. The sheer number of those who speak English suggests where the balance of lyrical power will sit, and history virtually dictates that English is the primary language of Rock ‘n’ Roll and all of its sub-categories. 

That said, bands like DEZERTER that sing in their native Polish, TOTALITAR from Sweden and Italy’s NEGAZIONE to name but three are just incredible. I’ve never, nor will I ever, ignore a band just because they sing in a different language. 

As for the ‘big’ labels in the 90s – I guess you mean Epitaph, Fat Wreck? I don’t have a problem with them. I’ve not paid much attention to the stuff on Epitaph in years however; they seem to have lost their way a bit. Fat Wreck I’ve always had time for, and rate about 75% of the stuff they put out. Of the others, Nitro seems to have disappeared, Revelation continue but again, I’ve lost track with them a bit too.

And – how do you anticipate these things will change in the next 5-10 years?

..With the advent of COVID-19, who knows, Andy – we could be in for an interesting and history-defining time. 

In the short term, I imagine things will become ever more secular with ‘on-line’ live streams of bands in a studio.  I’d really like to see more bands mix a few styles up while remaining resolutely ‘Punk’ – KNIFE CLUB do that rather well. We could be in line for more ‘studio only’ type bands too; dunno if that runs contrary to the standardised Punk ‘ideals’, but I’m already seeing studio-only projects – and not all bad.  

But there will always be those who are pissed off – for whatever reason – and that’s the fuel in the fire for Punk. Three chords, something to say – in fact shout – and the balls-out “Take it or leave, mofo,” attitude. 

Are you familiar with the CD compilation – The Ugly Truth about Ipswich?

..I am yes and know the guys who compiled and released it. It’s a great document of one side of the town’s musical culture. There’s always been a great Punk scene in Ipswich – one that is very welcoming, that doesn’t look with disdain on those who don’t exactly follow the Punk ‘look’… That comp captures just about all the main players – past and present – perfectly. 

Of course there are a few omissions… I loved an Ipswich band called RIVAL SAVAGE, likewise one of Ed Shred’s bands – in fact my favourite band of his – SINK. CHEEZE was a fantastically funky-Punk band,THIS SIDE OF SUMMER played a Punky Power Pop sound and released one of the best demos I ever heard of any genre, THE THREAT was a Ippo institution… Going back a bit there was WORLD SERVICE that was kinda Waterboysian, GOD’S KITCHEN, CHOI CHOY was a band I saw many times that kinda fused DOORS, REM and something rockier, SONGS FROM THE BLUE HOUSE that feature some very notable identities and play wonderful Country/Folk stuff… And it omitted all of the bands I’ve been in – which ain’t surprising!  Haha!!!

There was actually a fantastic cassette called VIC-Rub – Venue In Ipswich Campaign (VIC) which I think would have been released late 80s. All proceeds of that went to VIC and it featured so much great and varied stuff.  Would love to see that reissued!

As with any comp though, it does reflect its time (2011) very well.

Ipswich also has always had a big Heavy Rock/ Metal scene with bands like WODEN FORGE, COBRA, BAY X and CHASER from years ago. Check Discogs for how much that Chaser 7” goes for now… Would be nice if that could get documented… Although it might have been for all I know. 

Please can you let us know your views on the New Zealand punk scene, how is it where you live?

..OK, where I live, I’m probably it!!  I’m in a small North Island town – Taumarunui – population about 4,500. It’s quite isolated, no gigs happen but it’s home. It takes me less than 10 minutes to drive to work and I don’t see any traffic lights… It’s got a great community… But like anywhere I’ve lived, there are negatives. Yes, I miss those Friday nights in Ipswich of going to the Steamboat Tavern and seeing whatever band is on, seeing my friends from 30+ years… But that’s my decision.

I’ve seen literally thousands of bands and have those memories. Yes, I’d like to see another thousand too and do at every opportunity I can.

As for NZ on a bigger scale, there is vibrant scenes in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington. Dunedin can be quite a hotspot, as can New Plymouth.

There’s a few annual Punk gatherings each year – Punk Fest was a regular over about three days, Hamilton used to have the Hamtown Smackdown that featured more Hardcore derived bands but I don’t think that’s occurred for a while. Latest one is in Auckland called Punk It Up that features older bands, plus some newer ones over the course of a couple of nights.

I’m a bit out of the loop when it comes to NZ bands at present. New Plymouth’s STUNGRENADES instantly come to mind for playing direct, in your face, Punk Rock. DIE! DIE! DIE! has been going for several years cranking out Post-Punk stuff that I think is great… Dunno if PCP EAGLES is still together, but they were superb. GRIPPER from Nelson on the South Island was another great band – awesome guitarist. 

Any final thoughts you would like to add ?

Steve on holiday

..Just thank you very much for the interview, Andy! I hope I haven’t bored too many; I guess if you’ve made it this far I must have been entertaining in some way – good or bad! Ha!!  Scannerzine.com will take you to all that I have been waffling on about.  If you wanna get in touch, email is stevescannernz@yahoo.com or Facebook Steve Scanner. Stay safe and take care. 

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