Peter Coyne, Chris Coyne & Del Bartle - The Godfathers - Uber Rock Interview Exclusive Print E-mail
Written by Johnny H   
Thursday, 31 October 2013 03:00

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This evening at Nottingham’s legendary Rock City venue ‘Jukebox Fury’ rock ‘n’ rollers The Godfathers kick off their latest eight date jaunt across our fair isle promoting not only their latest aforementioned studio record but also the deluxe edition reissue of their long out of print ‘Self Titled’ album originally released back in 1993. I caught up with band mainstays Peter, and Chris Coyne along with guitarist Del Bartle in the run up to the tour to talk about life on the road, being their own label bosses and ummm my maybe less than complementary review of their last album. Will they find it in their hearts to forgive me, or will I end up waking up next to a horse’s head? Read on to find out.



Hi Peter, Chris and Del thanks for taking the time out of rehearsing to talk with Uber Rock today, I wanted to start by asking you all what life is like being in The Godfathers in 2013?


Chris: Never a dull moment........We still love playing and touring.


Del: Well it's great to be doing it at our time of life at all, and we've had some great shows this year as well as getting a new album out, of course it can also be extremely stressful at times! - But worth it in the end, as a rule.


Peter: We had a VERY busy 2013 - releasing a great, new studio album 'Jukebox Fury' and then promoting it with tours of Spain, France the UK tour with The Stranglers, Belgium. Croatia, Serbia and Germany, a few festivals here and there. There a lot of work to do all the time because it's our label (Godfathers Recordings) but I love it! As they say "The devil makes work for idle hands."




Of course as you’ve just mentioned earlier this year you released your seventh studio album ‘Jukebox Fury’ what’s the reaction been like to that album?


Del: I wasn't counting, but if you say so, (laughing) yes it's had an excellent reaction from people, both in the media and in the audience.


Chris: Yeah I agree overall it’s been great, really positive.


Peter: We had some fantastic reviews to that record (apart from - I might point out - Uber Rock, which was very complimentary though about certain tracks!!) and that was extremely pleasing to be getting some of the best reviews of our 'career'... When we play numbers from 'Jukebox Fury' live like 'Back Into The Future', 'Primitive Man' or 'I Can't Sleep Tonight' without fail they always go down a storm, equally as well as what some people would consider classic Godfathers' tracks.


I guess I might have missed the point first time around with my review but I do really love the gritty rock ‘n’ roll tracks like ‘I Can’t Sleep Tonight’, ‘Primitive Man’ and the frankly awesome ‘The Outsider’ but this record is also steeped in a pop sound that came as a bit of a surprise to me. How would you describe the album to someone who hasn’t heard it yet?


Chris: You just did a pretty good job yourself right there (laughing)


Del: Well, in effect it's more the sound of The Sid Presley Experience in a lot of ways than the sound of much of the older Godfathers material, as indeed our line up and instrumentation would suggest. But it's got a nice combination of different styles, from as you say the harder edged rock 'n' roll to a bit of psychedelia, a bit of soundtrack-ish type feel too .... There’s lots of influences mixed together with our own secret recipe. (laughing)


Peter: I definitely don't agree with Del here. 'Jukebox Fury' sounds nothing like The Sid Presley Experience it’s more, much more like The Godfathers with a twist.  It's sort of our jukebox from hell, with lots of different styles - rock ‘n’ roll, punk, swamp rock, spaghetti western film music, '60s instrumental music, strange 'pop' sounds - but of course it's total Godfathers. Every album The Godfathers released has been very different, each record has its own story to tell, another adventure for the listener to explore. We always want to try & do something fresh & different with our approach to rock ‘n’ roll - there was no way 'Jukebox Fury' was going to be a continuation of The Sid Presley Experience or a sequel to 'Birth School Work Death' or whatever. I like the mix of differing textures on this album.




I mentioned ‘The Outsider’ which was produced by one of my childhood heroes (and friend of Uber Rock) Mr Bernie Torme. How do that musical alignment come about?


Chris: Grant our drummer knew him and arranged it all.


Del: Yeah, it's actually co-produced by Bernie, he's a smashing geezer all round, with a great studio down in Kent - with a very vibey sounding room for drums especially. ‘The Outsider’ was something that was born out a demo I made when I first bought a baritone guitar. I love to play around with new instruments and new sounds. I often find for me it's that 'new toy to play with' effect that brings on inspiration for fresh ideas.


Peter; Bernie is a lovely fella and a superb guitarist and producer, he was playing at The Marquee and other clubs in London around the same time we started with The SPE, and the very early days of The Godfathers. I wrote the lyrics and vocal melody to 'The Outsider' at least 10 years before Del came up with the tune, it's all about a feeling of not belonging and looking at society from an outsiders point of view. I don't know about anybody else but all my life I've had the notion that I don't belong to the mainstream and you know what I'm very happy that way!


He’s such a talented guy Bernie, and he truly deserved to be a huge star, a bit like you boys, when you look back now what would you have done differently the first time around?


Chris: Ahhhh, the wonderful world of retrospect. I've had an interesting life, the music has taken me everywhere, to places I never even dreamed of. I've met some great people. I try to have a positive attitude to life. What ever happened in the past, good or bad, well it happened que sera sera. Sing-along now "You know there's no business like show business"..............(laughing)


Del: Well that's a much different question for me, but what's the point in changing history? Even if you could. Good things can come out of all situations in the end, for me after the end of the Unholy Trinity (which split right on the verge of more good things on offer, OGWT appearance, interest from labels and a top publicist) and then its 'rebirth' as The Soul Destroyers, which ended up running out of funds, with half an album recorded but never finished. I spent 10 years working on the “other side of the fence” for Rykodisc and Joe Boyd's Hannibal, ending up at Chris Blackwell's Palm Pictures for a while after they took Ryko over. These were enriching experiences for me, I’ve always had an ear for all different kinds of music and that certainly opened up a lot more from Louisiana Cajun to The Balkans via South Africa and much more.


And of course I became a Dad, which is the best and most important thing of all to happen to me.....My son Sean is 20 now and wants to follow in his father’s footsteps .... The fool! (laughing)


Peter: I don't believe in 'ifs' and 'buts' - after all if my Aunty had bollocks she'd be my Uncle! I consider that I've had in many respects a charmed life. The Godfathers have made a lot of fantastic records and travelled most everywhere on planet earth. It's all about the work and I'm very happy with most of the records we've made, so there's no complaints from me whatsoever.




Of course you’re back bigger and perhaps better than ever, and just about to tour ‘Jukebox Fury’ here in the UK what can fans expect from these shows?


Chris: A band giving it their all.


Del: Yeah. A rocking band, straight forward and in the raw.


Peter: An authentic, exciting, primal rock ‘n’ roll experience, lots of great songs. Bring your ear plugs, they say we're very loud!


You did of course play support to The Stranglers recently what was that like? I mean were they heroes of yours growing up?


Del: “No more heroes anymore”, as they said..... I don't have many heroes as such, but they really are a great band, who like ourselves won't be seen to be just going through the motions. They still really rock and the old material still sounds fresh, together with some great new stuff. They are good guys all round, and Baz does an excellent job, he does all of Hugh's parts brilliantly, whilst still being very much his own man, with his own brand of charisma and musical style.


Chris: The Stranglers was the first gig I went to, that sold out The Roundhouse. Couldn't get in, and couldn't go anywhere that summer without hearing their first album blasting out somewhere, so their music evokes many good times for me. So to play with them, which we have had the pleasure of doing over the years, from Hugh to Baz is always an honour for me, and it’s a real treat to watch them too.


Peter: It was a pleasure to perform again alongside The Stranglers who despite their fearsome reputation are lovely people, very decent human beings. We did a European tour with The Stranglers and the Ramones in '88 and also played Hugh Cornwell's last show with the band in '91 at a festival at Alexandra Palace. Of course we grew up listening to the Men In Black - they have made a lot of classic records and I like quite a few of them. Great band, great people - trust me, we had a real blast on that tour.


I mentioned ‘I Can’t Sleep Tonight’ earlier which does have a bit of Ramones/Boys feel to it, but who did The Godfathers take their influences from, and who do you guys listen to today?


Chris: I'm influenced by all kinds of music, I’m having a Jeff Beck day today, and who knows what tomorrow? I like to keep an open mind, in fact I’ve Just discovered Jeff Beck had an orange on an album cover too today. Well you live and learn, we should have gone for the Kumquat instead.......(laughing)


Del: There are too many to mention any in particular really, and we all like a range of different sounds. I probably listen to far more ‘60s soul, funk and reggae for example, than rock these days, (despite my offspring’s determination to turn me into a metal head) although back in the seventies/early eighties I was going out to gigs two or three times a week, which definitely helped give me a feel for what works and what doesn't – well for me, at least!


Peter: Stones, Beatles, Small Faces, Faces, T Rex, Bowie, early Roxy Music, Sex Pistols, Ramones, Stooges, Eddie Cochran, MC5, Johnny Cash, John Barry, John Lennon, and Johnny Rotten - anybody called Johnny is basically all right with me (laughing).



You’ve also just rereleased your fourth studio album ‘The Godfathers (Orange Album)’ as a deluxe 2CD set, what was the impetus behind doing that now?


Del: This was not a lot to do with me really, either then or now, so I’ll leave that mostly to Chris and Pete. MInd you, whilst I think about it back in The Soul Destroyers we used to play…and in fact started recording a song 'Could Be Better' which was spawned and demoed from a band that Kevin Murphy had played in with Chris Burroughs called The Presidents Of Explosion - That later evolved into 'Trip On You' when Burroughs joined The Godfathers. Both recorded by Ralph Jezzard incidentally.


Chris: It was demand, but I’ll let Pete explain it further.


Peter: I think 'The Godfathers' AKA 'The Orange Album' is a true, classic Godfathers' album, an overlooked gem that has many, many great songs on it. The rights to the recording reverted back to us, so when the 20th anniversary of its original release came up this year I decided it would be a good idea to celebrate that and re-release it in a vastly expanded 2 CD format. That album has not been available to buy for quite a few years and copies of the original CD were going on EBay for around £100. 'The Godfathers'/'Orange' album is the one album that most Godfathers' fanatics would like to own, mainly because it's not been readily available in years and it's regarded by those who have heard it as such a brilliant album.


It was great listening to that record as I’d only ever heard your Epic albums which didn’t have quite so much of the sixties pop influence in them. It kind of filled in the blanks that I had when picking up ‘Jukebox Fury’. Was that your intention with the re-release? To fill the void?


Chris: Like I said we got a lot of people asking us to re-release the record as it was no longer available, so any void filling was purely unintentional. (laughing)


Peter: That album is a very important piece of the puzzle that is The Godfathers. It shows that we pretty much always endeavoured and very often succeeded in making great rock ‘n’ roll records, no matter who was in or not in the line-up of the band.


The second disc of that set is a mix of demos, live tracks and a previously unreleased song ‘I’m Gone’, did you put this together with a vision of what you wanted to offer as extras on CD2, or did it like all great things just kind of happen?


Chris: Peter will answer that one...........


Peter; I wanted to make it a true, quality reissue, an absolute value for money experience for the 'punters'. So many reissues these days have 1 or 2 bonus tracks that are inferior crap and that's it. So, our re-release of 'The Godfathers'/'Orange Album' has the original CD on Disc 1 and the challenge was to make Disc 2 just as good, if not better. That's why Disc 2 kicks off with that previously unreleased studio version of 'I'm Gone' and also why that side finishes with a brilliant live performance of that same song. In between that there are really interesting studio demos and killer live versions of songs from the album. THIRTEEN extra tracks in all. I spent a lot of time sourcing that material, sequencing it correctly and making sure that it was mastered correctly - it was a real labour of love and I'm very proud and satisfied with the finished 'product'. Make me happy, go and buy it!!




Peter this question is just for you, I just wanted to know what the hell happened with The Germans? I saw you guys play a show upstairs in a pub in Digbeth and you were immense. But we never got to hear an album or anything, please fill in the gaps.


Peter; For those who are unaware The Germans had Rat Scabies on drums, ex-Godfather Kris Dollimore on guitar, The Love Family's Mark Wrangham on bass and my good self providing the vocals and lyrics. It was a great, raw, rocking band but it only lasted about a year around 2003. We rehearsed all the time but only played about a dozen concerts and made some really good demos with some cool original numbers like 'War Machine', 'We Don't Want Your Love' and 'Safe' and an amazing interpretation of Kraftwerk's 'Autobahn'. We had some other real good numbers - in fact I wrote the lyrics and melody to 'The Outsider' for a song of the same name for The Germans, that number with a very different musical styling ended up on The Godfathers 'Jukebox Fury' album. It was a shame The Germans never got the chance to make a proper album, but maybe there might be the opportunity to release a CD with the studio demos and some live versions. But that's not down to me, but also the other members of The Germans. I collect everything to do with all the bands I've been involved with, so the material is definitely there for sure. Let's see what transpires...


And right now you’re back with The Godfathers on your own label distributed via Cargo, I suppose going back to my first question I’d like you to tell me what it’s like being free to do what you want as opposed to shackled to a major label?


Del: Err, it's ok, horses for courses I suppose, and especially for the more, ahem, “mature” acts out there it seems to be the way to go, as the major labels want kids, and the older artists are fed up with being shafted.


Chris: Actually I’d like to deal with the term “shackled to a major label.” Sony were always very supportive of us and we were free to make the music we wanted as a band at that time. The odd disagreement over a record sleeve or two but that's the way it goes. Credit where it is due Sony put us on the world-wide map.


Peter: It's a lot of fucking hard work is what it is!! But when you're self-employed as we are it should also be a pleasure to work on what you love to really do. I agree with Chris - we were free to do what we wanted on Epic/Sony and we are also equally free on our own label. No one has ever told The Godfathers what to do or how to do it - there was never any need. We are naturals.


So would you ever go back to one should the offer come?


Chris: I would never say never for the chance to make music.


Del: Depends on the offer though eh (laughing)


Peter: I don't think that's really going to happen, is it? But make The Godfathers an offer we can't refuse and you never know...


Bristol gig


What is left for The Godfathers to achieve in the world of rock ‘n’ roll?


Del: Well I hope I dye before I get bald. (laughing) With a bit of luck, do plenty of nice gigs, and another new record possibly during 2014, and above all, to be able to pay my bills! I've spent the best part of the summer working on what will be a pretty decent new studio space for me and junior, at the bottom of our garden, where I can actually record drums and loud guitars in peace!


Chris: A massive hit record would be nice......................


Peter: You can always do it bigger and better - higher, longer, louder, faster. I'm always looking to do the best, most rocking album The Godfathers have ever recorded and I'd like to see the accent firmly biased toward that on our next studio release.


Finally I’ve had your albums for the best part of two decades yet it was only when I picked up the CD of ‘The Godfathers (Orange Album)’ that I suddenly saw the THE part of your logo. Please can you settle an argument we have had here at Uber Rock that I am not the only person who hadn’t spotted that most clever part of your logo first time around. Or am I really just an idiot. (laughing)


Chris: There you go...After two decades The Godfathers still surprising eh? (laughing)


Peter: Well it was meant to be VERY subtle!! (laughing)


Thank you once again Peter, Chris and Del I look forward to seeing you on the road sometime soon.


Chris: And thank you. See you soon.


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