In Conversation With… Colin McFaul (Cock Sparrer) and TJ McFaul (Bar Stool Preachers) Print E-mail
Written by Nev Brooks   
Sunday, 10 September 2017 03:30

You know what? Opportunities like this come along so rarely, probably less than a British Rail train running on time! I mean, come on: the band-leader that brought us what has been called street punk or Oi! out on tour promoting a new LP, and the frontman of one of the fastest rising new bands on the scene… and who also happens to the son of the former!  Who wouldn’t want that on a front page?

 

Cock Sparrer - Cardiff

 

Rewind a bit… after numerous conversations with TJ McFaul (lead vocalist with The Bar Stool Preachers) and numerous attempts at getting together an email interview, we gave up, with TJ asking “you going to ‘Sparrer in Cardiff? Why don’t you do a joint one, with me and dad?” I nearly bit his hand off! As would any self-respecting fan let alone journalist.

 

Trouble is you have so many questions and areas that you want to hear about, how the hell are you going to cover it all? What follows is the conversation from the night, there was more, some I’m sworn to secrecy over but ultimately I hope you enjoy, take the time to read and, more to the point, enjoy.

 

Über Rock: So Col, here we are in a tiny dressing rom in a tiny venue, which you could have sold out ten times over. What put the idea in place to do this tour in these more intimate places?

 

Colin: Ask me this question at one o’clock any morning after any of the gigs. It was often said that all we ever do is rebellion and the big shows and we recognise that fact. We haven’t done this for a long time: we’ve have not played Wales, for example, since 1978!

 

Where did you play?

 

In Newport. There was only us and the bar man!

 

(Looking back it was in the long defunct Stowaway club)

 

C: Back to the question… we just thought that it was something that we wanted to do, it answered a few critics and satisfied what we wanted to do because when, for example, we go to the States, we’ll play clubs like this and have great fun.

 

If you said to me “honestly, what would you rather do: would you rather play to 30,000 people where there is 30 feet between the stage and the first guy, or would you rather be in a small club like this?”, I would do that any day of the week - and so would the other guys. But, we haven’t done it for a long time, for a number of different reasons; so, when the album was released, and when we were talking about it being released, we decided that it was something that we wanted to do on the back of it, and we were really pleased that it just all came together!

 

Talking about the album (Cock Sparrer’s ‘Forever’), Tom what did you make of the album?

 

Cock Sparrer - Forever

 

TJ: (Raucous laughter). How do you answer that one? What do I make of the album? I think it is easily some of their best work. I think that you could tell the process was a little bit different to how it had been in the past, but I don’t think that was a problem at all. I thought it was a really novel way of hearing ‘Sparrer songs, cos you could hear the personality come through with each individual track… but it wasn’t almost lost in people’s opinions, it wasn’t.

 

With any writing process, you know you have a germ of an idea, So to hear some of these fully fledged ideas come out of nowhere, almost, you know, was really impressive; just the fact that you have released another album, you know, once you’ve run your 800 metres sort of thing, is pretty impressive on its own.

 

C. Mmm, yeah he was pestering me like mad and when I told him we were doing another album, potentially, because we didn’t know if it was going to be an album or not, because we never heard the songs until they were finished.  We never knew what we were going to get out of it, whether a good EP, a couple of singles or an album. 

 

So Tom kept pestering us: “let’s hear what you got so far?” “No, no, no! You’ll hear it at the end”, knowing that there was the potential for it not to be the quality you wanted. And then, when we listened to the tracks, when everyone had done their bits, there was some potential here.  We knew the songs were good but we weren’t quite sure because of the recording method, because we recorded differently, we weren’t quite sure how it was going to end up!

 

It really did come over, the different approach, so when I reviewed the album, it came through that each track is a story and that’s what you always find with Sparrer, the way you write lyrics Colin, there’s always a story and you know it was pretty apt for the time (being now) and I think that’s what I got from it: ‘Its an album for the time’!

 

TJ:  Definitely, definitely - and as someone that is from a different musical era from ‘sparrer, to listen to an album like that, and you go “this is relevant, there are young kids singing along to those words there are young bands coming through that will take those words to heart, not us but other bands who will take those words and run with them”, [is] inspirational.

 

C: It’s funny: when you think of lyrics like “they fake it up and make it up”, those were only written last year, and it was only after the Trump administration came into the States the faking of the news became a buzz word, so it is really relevant - more by luck than foresight: the lyrics were great - but to actually use that phrase… fake news wasn’t necessarily down to the time.

 

T. But what about the lyric “Did we really fight for those things our children throw away”, what do you think about that one dad?

 

C: I bought you loads of toys and you haven’t got them now ‘ave yer? Be honest, have you still got them now?  You’ve thrown them all away… all your Lego: gone, out the window!

 

So, when you came to pulling the support together for this tour was there ever only one choice?

 

C: Ideally yeah, but it’s not my decision. It’s not one persons decision, for two reasons: we all understand in the band that it is our responsibility to do whatever we can to give our kids a bit of a shove, a bit of a push, and we’ve always done that, so if Tom had been a sound guy then we would have been saying “let’s get Tom in to do the sound”. One of the guys’ daughter, Sam, is a photographer, so we get Sam to do our photos, where possible. So, it worked out really well that we were able to get the Preachers on board, because they are getting busier and busier…

 

I think I found that out the first time I caught you in Rebellion in Amsterdam: it’s a sense of family that is attached to the whole ‘Sparrer scene that the fans attach themselves to.

 

T: It’s massive. It’s hard, especially being in the position that we are in. Thankfully, because we tour as much as we do, and get out there as much as we do and people see us, they appreciate our life story for us. We always get the comment “you’re nothing like Cock Sparrer”: no, we’re not! We’re always up against it: people thinking that there is this involved, that there is this leg up: but this tour has been the only time we have had someone, or ‘Sparrer turning round and going come on lads come out with us like this.  We had one with Die Toten Hosen…

 

Bar Stool Preachers - Cardiff

 

We played twice with Die Toten Hosen, and then in the Czech Republic, at the Mighty Sounds Festival: but, yet again, the whole thing was that we got their on our own volition. You get there on your own merit and then turn around and go “look there’s dad”… so this is the first time there’s been a hand out as such.  We are in a position now where it’s great and it doesn’t feel too much of a hand out: it’s another tour for us, another set of gigs.

 

C: You know, we have always been keen on the family thing and always tried to make that grow the best we can. We’re in a fortunate position: Cock Sparrer started out as a family and, in turn, that family grew… the kids came along, it got bigger, bigger, bigger: and then the kids had boyfriends and girlfriends, etc., etc. The people we work with are all part of the family and we keep an eye on what they’re doing and make sure they’re OK, that sort of thing. It’s only still growing, cos people are still coming to the shows and wanting to hear the songs; if that weren’t the case we wouldn’t be in a position to do it.

 

So family is very important to us: not just the immediate family, but everyone who’s coming tonight, for example.

 

T: It gets instilled, like. Not having just grown up in the scene and around Sparrer where family was always the buzz word; everything Sparrer did was involved in family: the Watford family, the Pirates Press family - and I’m just lucky that my boys in the band have exactly the same morals and ethical compass and say the same thing.  It’s almost like Sparrer set the example of the family first - and this is what is important, so bands like us can come along and see it first hand and take that back and run with it a little bit.

 

So what did you think of the Bar Stool Preachers album Col? Did you have an advanced listening?

 

C: Nah. Again, same thing Nev: Tom will occasionally say “I’ve got this idea for a song what do ya think?” “I really like it! Give us a couple of bars… a couple of verses… it’s missing a chorus… it’s missing a beginning… an ending… whatever”. That will happen occasionally, but those songs that I heard in those early stages were nothing like the finished product… when we sat down, it wasn’t quite mixed was it? Finished?

 

T: Nah. We’d done the first run and then we were going through the first round of edits when I came to you with my home work…

 

C: So we sat down one night indoors and had a listen to it, and I was so impressed. I mean for a new band out, after their first recording, self-managed, you know, self-produced to a large extent, it was a great first album

 

It was.

 

C: I’m not blowing smoke up his arse, but I think it really is; as a first effort I think its way outstanding.

 

T: Cheers mate!

 

C: The difficulty is going to be the next album - as it always is! The second one’s really a tough one, but the new songs are standing up as well. You make your mark with the first one, then you prove yourself with the second one.

 

T: Exactly!

 

Obviously the crowds with you (The Bar Stool Preachers) are getting bigger and bigger…

 

T: Yeah.

 

Putting it live on Facebook when you were out in Austria…

 

T: Yeah.

 

That was a fantastic performance, you know?

 

T: Cheers!

 

And you had the crowd: you can see how much the crowd got into it.

 

T: That in itself has been a massive learning curve for us you know, going from strength to strength, stage to stage.  We got out to the 15,000 people shows in Austria and it was like “I wonder if this is going to work… Is it still actually going to happen? Are they going to get on the floor and jump up?  Are they going to sing preacher back to ya?” And when they did, we kinda looked at each other on the stage [and said] “It’s happening”.

 

Laughter

 

T: It’s happening… it’s what we’ve been waiting for!

 

C: I remember watching them at one of their first shows in Europe, when they played one of the early punk festivals in Berlin, and even though the crowd didn’t have a clue who they were, didn’t know any of their songs, cos none of their songs were recorded or released at that stage, you could still see people getting into it.  You could still see people nodding their heads, tapping their feet. I can always remember: I was standing about ten rows back and there was a big lump in front of me - he must have been six foot three, a great big skin - and he was just dancing all the way through: he didn’t have a clue who they were, he was just enjoying himself, you know!

 

It’s just the music. Music is designed to make people move in what ever way they move.

 

T: Exactly!

 

So what’s your next steps Colin? You’re touring all the way through now ‘til February next year…

 

C: We got a couple of dates in the diary for next year… a couple of Rebellions. This year was pretty much dedicated to the ‘Forever’ album… We got eight or nine small club shows now, and then three or four larger ones to end the year… I think we’ve covered it pretty well! Then we shall start working on the new album, of course!

 

Cock Sparrer Tour Poster

 

T: Naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah, you can’t say that: it’s taken you long enough to do the last one! (laughter).  Imagine if five came out in the next five years: that would throw everyone, wouldn’t it!

 

C: You know Nev, we’ve never been great at planning things, so we don’t know what’s around the corner; [we] just play it very much by ear and take it as it comes.   If it’s something that presents itself we say “yeah that’s great, give it a go” and we’ll do it: as long as we’re all fit and happy and keen to do it, we’ll do it.

 

So we don’t plan too far ahead. We got a couple of biggies next year: we got London, the Forum, and [the] Amsterdam Rebellion show as well… that will be a good way to start.  Between now and the end of the year I’m sure that other dates will be filled in as well.  There’s still lots of stuff we haven’t done… there’s still boxes we wanna tick, you know

 

T: Japan!! Micky bobble heads!!!!

 

C: This little run of gigs now was one of the boxes we wanted to tick, and we’re doing this now so we’re pleased

 

From your side of things, Tom, you’re just starting to tick boxes, starting to move through things… what’s the next steps for the Preachers?

 

T: For us - and what we’re focussing our energy on now, at the moment - is album number two. Again, we all realise the importance of how good its got to be in order to carry on the rise you’re on, and to make sure that we’re as proud of this and we’re giving this as much justice as we can. We’re sinking every single moment into that, but we go on tour, obviously with Sparrer now - and then we’ve got a real tour with Jaya The Cat (interspersed with lots of laughter)!

 

I will see you there.

 

T: A tour with Jaya The Cat, a tour with Lightyear straight after this one with Sparrer as well ,and that takes us up until Xmas.

 

We’ve earmarked the whole of January as recording, so we’ve got the next four months as writing, demoing, listening, perfecting then recording! And by the time of that we’ll have a time line for the album and, as you boys know, it kinda self-governs.

 

As things wound down and we brought the interview to an end it really hits home how much influence Sparrer have had on the music scene and for how long. Colin chatted through ‘70’s tours with the Small Faces, and clubs long gone - and a quote stuck with me from the gig that followed this interview: as Colin stood stage front facing the audience, thanking the support bands, saying “remember we’re not the future, these guys are”.

 

You might not be the future but ‘Forever’ is gonna stay in most writers’ end of the year lists, as one of the most relevant LP’s in a decade.

 

What also came through were truly humbling stories from Tom about some of the stories from fans, about how the first Bar Stool Preachers LP had impacted on their lives. It was a real rarity to get to chat to two so grounded individuals, past, present and future in one conversation, both bands relevant for the time, each in their own way!

 

Thanks for taking the time out from all of us at Über Rock, and check out the guys here:

 

www.facebook.com/thebarstoolpreachers/

www.facebook.com/cocksparreruk/

 

Oi! Oi! You can pick up a copy of ‘Forever’ HERE!

 

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