SS – why did you start JSNTGM (Just Say No To Government Music) Records and how has this evolved since you started in 1990?
Originally it grew out of the activities surrounding putting on punk gigs in Blackpool. Blackpool has always had a pretty good little punk scene and when my crowd got active in the late 80’s we wanted to continue this tradition. Although I had played in bands at school I dedicated most of my time in the 1980’s either to studying economics / politics or following Blackpool / England. About 1990 I started going to a lot of gigs in Wigan (Alan’s Records) and after a few conversations / chats, I decided to give the music thing another shot and formed the band Erase Today. This was the catalyst for a lot of things and gave me a focus around which to really kick-start my gig and recording activity. As a result we started putting on lots of bands in Blackpool that we liked – Leatherface, The Blaggers, UK Subs, Guns n Wankers, Scum Pups, Crane – and things started developing from there. We played with a few touring bands such as Green Day (we were originally going to put them on in Blackpool but opted for Manchester as we thought it would pull more people – which it did), NO FX, The Offspring and started putting our back alley recordings onto cassette tape. I got a copy of a compilation album ‘Scream from the Silence’ which featured amongst others one of my favourite all time bands Hooton 3 Car. We started communicating with them and helped out as much as we could with their first release Spot Daylight on Rumblestrip Records. We then thought fuck it why don’t we do some vinyl and gave an Erase Today track to Scream from the Silence Volume Two. As we were putting on lots of gigs and doing lots of zine related stuff it then seemed logical to start our own label and that’s how justsaynotogovernmentmusic records was born. I am sure Street Sounds has a discerning audience and will know that the name comes from the track Triumph of the Swill by Dead Kennedys of their third album Frankenchrist. In terms of evolution it has stayed pretty much the same little old DIY cut and paste exercise in my bedroom since when it started. I try and do about 2 to 3 releases a year which is about the maximum I can handle in terms of cost and time. Time is probably the most limiting factor as I really try hard to promote all the bands I get on the label by sending out lots of review copies to get them reviews and publicity. I am really proud of all the releases we have done and although none of the bands have enjoyed massive success I think some of the releases have been (and still are) fucking amazing.
SS – is there a particular type of band that you go for, which release(s) are you most proud of and why?
Most fit into the tuneful, melodic punk genre as that is what makes me tick. I only ever put out stuff I like and believe in otherwise what’s the point ? Looking back over my 30 odd releases to date I have to say they are nearly all 3 – 4 piece all male, UK punk bands so I guess I have not been overly adventurous in certain respects, but I guess that’s what I know best, so why not ? As I mentioned I love all the releases so it’s hard to select a certain few, but a small number that stick out for me for different reasons would include the first Four Letter Word 7’’, SICK56’s Recipe for Disaster, the Great St Louis S/T debut and the latest releases by Stay Clean Jolene, Holiday and Epic Problem. Strangely enough one that does irk me a little is the Erase Today album ‘Colour Sound and Vibration’ which we released in late 1996 after we played the Holidays in the Sun festival and then promptly split up without ever playing any of the songs live ….. Quite a few tracks have now found their way on to You Tube so although I am really proud of that release I am just a bit disappointed we never did anything to promote it with gigs / tours etc. as who knows where it wold have gone ?
SS – other than regular releases, you have released a couple of compilations documenting Blackpool bands representing the punk/independent scene. What do these mean to you & any bands/songs in there that you’d class as hidden gems?
Yes I have actually done a fair few local compilations but the biggest by far were the Ugly Truth About Blackpool (UTAB) CD compilations. Volume 1 charted the Blackpool punk scene from 1977 – 2005 (the present day as it was then) and volume 2 catalogued bands around 2005-2006. I got a grant from THE Arts Council to do UTAB1 and we gave away thousands of copies for free – it got loads of good reviews and understandably a bit of stick as we included Skrewdriver. I always knew it would be a controversial decision to include them but they were Blackpool’s first punk band and the stupid nazi shit that people now know them for was a few years after this when they moved down to that there London. As UTAB 1 did so well I started pulling together old CD’s and records and cassettes to make compilations of other local towns / cities such as Lancaster and Preston. I did actually get quite a long way putting these together but the pressures of life and other things stopped them happening. The idea was to get a compilation ‘Ugly Truth About …. XYZ’ from loads of towns throughout the UK. I spoke to lots of people and all were on side with the idea, but doing all the graft and making it a reality is another step. The only one to date that has seen the light of day is ‘The Ugly Truth about Ipswich’ by Andy Culture – that came out about three years ago – it is a double album and really, really good. All towns and cities have a great story to tell, it’s like mining for gold in your own back garden. It might be a project I will try and pick up before I die if time permits.
In terms of gems – yes there are loads … so to name but a few from UTAB 1 Zyklon B’s Manic Depression, King Mob Echo’s Cock Suck America, Syntax’s Dot Dot, Take Lindy Surfing’s Twilight Zone, Neocoma’s Alcoholocaust and Ceramic Hobs’ Pro An Tips n Tricks and from UTAB 2 Kraul’s Social Cycle, Fes Parker’s My Take Away, The Neon Trees’ Here to Stay, Limousine’s For Once I Knew and of course the amazing Crew Slut by Walter and the Knobheads.
SS – if you could sign any bands, past or present who would they be?
It’s a bit odd this but I have never signed any bands. I don’t know if it is my punk roots or love of DIY but for some reason I dislike the idea of contracts. I have always put a lot of trust in bands I have worked with and it has nearly always worked out well. So if a bands wants to go on and sign for a big label they do it with my blessing. Most people in the punk world are pretty cool and sussed and I have only been stung / had over on a few occasions so I will probably just keep trundling along like this. If I had to sign anyone I guess it would be Walter and the Knobheads or talking of Knob-heads possibly that gimp Jamiroquai, just so I could delete all the shit records he has released to really piss him off and prevent him buying another mansion – same goes for U2 too I guess.
SS – in terms of your own background, which bands have been most influential in your life, any particular records or gigs that stand out for you?
That’s an easy one I just have to look in the mirror and I have most of them tattooed on my body. So from the UK there is SLF, the Ruts, Subhumans, Leatherface, Cock Sparrer, Great St Louis and from North America there is Dead Kennedys, DOA, The Weakerthans, Superchunk and probably most of all Husker Du (which my old band Erase Today was named after). Before year zero (I was only 11 years old at the time) I was a massive Slade fan and still am.
You will have to forgive me re some of the dates but my most memorable gigs were Slade at Blackpool Opera House in 1974 (I was only 8 years old) and still have the programme. After that there have been so many but a few that stick out for personal reasons were Sign Language (Blackpool 1981) Cock Sparrer (Jilly’s Manchester 1983), Conflict (Jilly’s Manchester 1984), Husker Du x 2 (Manchester International circa 86 and 87), Stone Roses (Blackpool Winter Gardens 1990), Superchunk (Liverpool 1991 ?), Fugazi (Manchester 1991 ?), Black Flag (Liverpool 2000 ?) The Weakerthans (Islington, 2003), GSM (Blackpool Rebellion) in 2013, SLF (Blackpool Rebellion) in 2014.
SS – you’ve been known to put the odd gig on yourself, such as a little known act called Green Day. Which of these gigs were most memorable & why?
Ha – yes indeed. I do remember lots of the gigs I have put on for quite different reasons – of the many I have done there’s probably a handful that went really well and I didn’t catch a cold ….. but on many occasions hardly anybody ever turned up and I always lost time and money, but as The Skulls remind me Punk Rock Never Paid the Bills …. I remember NOFX and Offspring turning up to the Caribbean Club in Preston and they could hardly get their coach (yes FFS COACH !! who are these guys Van Halen or something ?) down the road and to top it all they wouldn’t let Erase Today use their drum kit (how punk rock is that – cheers fellas) so we had to drive back to Blackpool and borrow one – I remember putting Biafra on at Bloomfield Road in 2002, bit of a gamble as we had to work with a promoter who wanted a guaranteed fee which when only have the expected turnout materialised cost me at least a bag of sand – the Green Day gig you mentioned was great – Leatherface in Blackpool was hilarious and great fun, I borrowed Frankie’s Gordon Smith as I smashed some strings on mine and have always played GS ever since – I did a couple of festivals called BLASTED in Blackpool which were really good, we actually more than broke even on one but The Great St Louis had their car towed away for some stupid reason like parking it on a road or something, so rather than invest the money on beer or fermenting international revolution we just gave them the money to get the car released – also for years (about 7) I did an event called Summer Daze in Blackpool every summer in Stanley Park with 10-15 punky type bands on until a local councillor closed it down for some stupid reason – Zounds in Blackpool a few years ago went really well, loads of old school punkers and friends pitched up was like a reunion ….
SS – one would assume that the annual Rebellion festival has had a largely prolific affect on the Blackpool music/punk scene. What has this meant to you personally and how do you feel it has impacted the local scene?
Rebellion has been a big part of my life and in certain ways a big part of the Blackpool scene, although I would like it to be more local tbh and I think Daz and Jenni would like that too. I have never missed a Rebellion in Blackpool (or Morecambe) and have seen so many bands I would never have had chance to see like The Avengers for instance that I am eternally grateful. Erase Today played our last gig opening the first Rebellion then HITS (Holidays in the Sun) in 1996 and there might be a chance of a 20 year reunion in 2016 which would be good as we could play some of those songs that we never did ! One good part of Rebellion has been the activity that takes place on the outskirts at all the after-shows – my friend Stuart is the main engine behind these every year and I think my amps and energy have been borrowed over Rebellion weekend for at least the past 7 years (with much grace and thanks I might add) – so I would like to see a lot of these bands get involved with the festival more. Fingers crossed in the next couple of years this will come to fruition. I think we are all facing in the same direction, love the music, love the people and just want everyone to have a good time.
SS – in addition to the label & the bands you’ve played for, you’re also quite prolific in the world of fanzines, initially with ‘Eat the Rich’ and more recently/currently with ‘Blackpool Rox II’. What sort of material could we expect to find in these?
Same as a lot of the above I guess, but to mix up the music I try to make every issue a bit different. I regard punk as positive and empowering and any chance I get to use it for those interesting ends I try and seize. Eat The Rich only ran a couple of issues in the early 80’s I think I interviewed the Canadian Subhumans, the UK Subhumans, Newtown Neurotics, Oi Polloi, PTTB – I did it all on my type writer when I should really have been doing my University essays. I remember selling loads of copies at the anti-Thatcher Red Wedge event at Manchester Apollo and even sold a couple of copies to Grant Hart and Bob Mould at the Husker Du International gig. I also did quite a few articles for Fracture, Scanner and still do reviews for MRR and Razorcake – which I hate to admit is my favourite US zine. I must admit I have been a bit on and off with Blackpool Rox II since I took it over in about 2001. I try to make each issue a bit different so it’s worth reading. The current issue of Blackpool Rox II (10) is a ‘football and politics’ issue and the last one was a ‘media’ issue. So for each issue I try and get a few interesting writers to add a few articles and pieces to get the grey matter stimulated. Seems to me that a lot of our modern liquid culture teaches us how to be good consumers and not good citizens – I think fanzines are one of the greatest mediums to question this trend.
SS – you’re obviously who’s passionate about Blackpool, not just the music scene, but also football. Blackpool FC are not exactly in a good place at the moment, not just on the field, but also a growing discontent with the owners, much of which has been heavily publicised in the national press. Explain the effect on your club/town and a fans view of how this situation has evolved?
This is one of the saddest things I have ever seen, witnessed, experienced. It’s now war at Blackpool FC – the owners have full time protection, the fans are boycotting and protesting every week – – -and it is all avoidable. I put the problem squarely with the owners, but I have to be careful what I say / write or I will end up with a solicitor’s letter. I have done over 100 away grounds with Blackpool (as well as 6 World Cups with the equally crap England ) so it is a massive part of my life and my family’s life. I would hate to happen to any club what is happening to ours. Every week on the message boards I read about lifelong fans who have given up going until the Oystons leave the club – that breaks my heart – it really does feel like someone is stealing your soul, or stopping your music … it just isn’t right. They claim what they are doing (by taking all the money and loaning it companies whilst the club is almost run into the ground) is not illegal, but it’s immoral. The owners seem happy to do all of this with a contemptuous air about them – seriously I do fear for the wellbeing of their family members, one day they might well reap what they are sowing – and the sad thing is that there is no need. No matter how docile and worthless they might think the supporters are, the people will only take a certain amount of shit and then ../../.. boom ! The best line which sums up how I feel is Ghandi’s which I read on the message board recently – first they ignored us, then they mocked us, then they fought us then we won ! OYSTON OUT !
SS – you’ve taken your passion/view, one stage further by standing as a member of parliament for Blackpool South in the general election. How did this come about, what is in your manifesto and how is the campaign trail going?
The Blackpool Supporters Trust (BST) decided we should get a candidate to publicise the injustices at the club. There are about 2,000 members of the trust and we like trusts all over the country are agitating for changes in how clubs are run / managed. Football clubs were formed by people like us by trades unions, local charities, factory workers, boys clubs to play and enjoy the beautiful game not for wankers to take them over and use them as a vehicle for making money ! We had a few meetings and a few people sort of came forward but after a few chats it was voted that Muggins Higgins should stand. I must admit I think it’s the right thing to do but it is taking over my life so everything else is suffering at the moment (family, work, music) but it will only be until May 7th 2015 then I can collapse through exhaustion / fatigue.
Since we started it has become a bit of a mission. It feels like politics should be – campaign meetings in pubs, big discussions, passing round the collection bucket to get money for posters …………… I imagine a bit like the Labour Party used to be before it became a fuckin corporation. The websites, Facebook and Twitter things are all moving forward and put together / run by Blackpool fans. We are getting lots of support but also (surprisingly) a lot of unexpected criticism from a few quarters – I guess that is the dirty world of politics eh ? – so I do hope we do a good job on behalf of all the Blackpool fans and footy fans all over the country who are getting a bad deal from their club’s (temporary) owners. Watch the TV on election night – I think we might surprise a few people !
Thanks very much Andy, it would good if you could post me some pics that the editors can work with.
Hope to see you soon.