|John Robb - Goldblade - Interview Exclusive|
|Written by Johnny H|
|Sunday, 05 December 2010 05:00|
I guess it's safe to say that I go back a pretty long way with Goldblade. In fact I think it's pretty safe to say that anyone who ever went to gigs regularly in Newport's Legendary TJ's Venue will go back a long way with Goldblade.
Goldblade must have been playing the choicest of venues in South Wales on an almost monthly basis at one point (well it certainly felt like it), so it was nearly impossible to not know someone who didn't have a story to tell of how they had been accosted by a sweaty yet charming frontman from a great Punk Rock 'n' Roll band that you really should go and see.
That band of course 99.9% of the times turned out to be Goldblade and the frontman they would be referring to of course would be John Robb. Yeah THE John Robb, the same guy who writes for a number of broadsheet newspapers, hosts arts shows on BBC TV and just happens to be the singer in one of the best UK Punk Rock bands since oooo.....The Sex Pistols (he'll like that).
Five studio albums and something like sixteen years into their career Goldblade released their last album 'Mutiny' though Captain Oi in 2008. After witnessing yet another storming live show at this years Rebellion Festival on John's home turf, I thought it was high time Uber Rock caught up with the band to find out exactly what their plans are for 2011. In typical John Robb style though it wasn't long before we weren't just talking about music, and this was a time to challenge convention and ask those all important questions.
Uber Rockers of the world welcome to the world of John Robb and Goldblade.
Hi John firstly many thanks for taking the time to talk with us at Uber Rock.
Thanks for having us!
How are things in the world of Goldblade right now...what you guys up to?
We are touring, and we are getting new songs together for the next album that comes out next year. Basically shoving the new songs into the live set and feeling great because they are rocking the house! Songs like 'This Is War!' 'Sick & Tired', and 'Hey You! Elastic Face' can't wait to get it recorded now.
We have nothing to plug really, we have released 5 albums which (no doubt) you can find on the Internet for free or from our website if you want to give us some money! It's about gigs, the community and sharing the space for some wild times.
Personally I've also been busy doing other cool stuff - I've been doing loads of interview events where I sit on stage and speak to interesting characters - last week I had the pleasure of chatting to both Steve Ignorant from Crass and Peter Hook from Joy Division/New Order both of which went really well. I've got some ideas on the go for a couple of forthcoming books, and a radio show for the BBC; I've also about to launch a brand new website www.louderthanwar.com
But despite all that playing live music is the most important thing I do - It's what connects me to people.
I've got loads of stuff to ask and generally chat about, but I have to ask you firstly what your thoughts are on the current state of the UK and the over powering sense of gloom that is pervading us right now?
Its not just the UK, there's this odd thing that every country you go to they are blaming their respective Government's for the collapse, and despite the fact that the Governments were part of it all, you have to look more closely at the bankers and their attitude of carefree greed - I guess the Governments should have reigned them in years ago - they blew it and we all have to pay now; the 'Condem' coalition in the UK is using it as an excuse to bash everyone they always disliked, and not surprisingly the people at the bottom are really getting hit hard.
Music is a chance to answer back and also to feel alive to dispel the gloom, it's empowering and it's a loud riposte to the grim faced bastards that are always trying to grind you down.
I hope you don't mind me pointing this out but Goldblade seem to have been around since the last time our world was plagued with the "C word", what keeps you guys going (musically of course)?
Ha ha longevity! Don't forget all the years I played in the recently reformed Membranes before that! It's about 33 years of messing around in bands!
There are enough highs to keep it going and it's about the chance to be creative and make stuff; that's the luckiest place to be in the world.
If we can offer some sort of inspiration, excitement, action from the political gloom then we are doing it right.
It does tend to go hand in hand that during times like these that the UK births some sort of musical revolution...what do you think we can expect to see next musically in the UK?
It's too fractured now with loads of different scenes and medias - but there are already reactions and records that deal with more than X-Factor fake love. I think there will be songs that directly deal with the situation and ones that capture the mood.
The other thing is that no one really cares what's in the charts any more, and it's getting harder and harder to have 'the song' that everyone knows about. When The Pistols released 'God Save The Queen' everyone knew about it whether you liked the record or not! Now, you could be number one for five weeks and most people would be looking the other way - you could have a big hit on youtube and no one else would care - this is great in some ways as it means that no one controls music any more; no matter what Simon Cowell thinks. But it also means that the 'knock out blow record' can't be made.
However that doesn't mean that as a collective force music has no relevance. Of course it would be great if there was a wave of musicians answering back but the energy is dispelled through the internet- maybe this time everyone gets a chance to answer back, maybe everyone will realise that as Penny Rimbaud said 'There is no authority but yourself'.... Do we really need to play their game?
Hard working people are being manipulated and ripped off by a Government that says 'we are all in it together' whilst stashing their money into Swiss bank accounts, they tell us to tighten out belts whilst they spend our money on personal photographers and stylists, they pretend to like our music and culture (Dave Cameron and the his love of 'Eton Rifles' (a song about the school he went to, and its treatment of the Right To Work march that went past it in 1979)).
They want it all, they want our money, they want us to be their slaves, they want us to take the blame and then they want to clap along to our music that retaliates.
Do you guys have some kind of a vision or musical utopia that acts like some internal belief that the power of rock n roll will in fact change the world one day, or am I just talking bollocks?
Rock 'n' Roll has changed the world already, and it has given people hope, when we played in Russia the promoter explained to me how the very sight of the Beatles long hair in the 60's was enough for them 'They looked like freedom' he explained.
It was powerful and inspired many of the people who eventually changed Russia - sometimes we are just too complacent here, we have got too used to our culture and they have been good at selling back abrasive culture so that we are numbed by its power, but I know and you know that there are plenty of transcendental moments in music that can wake you up just when you start to slumber again!
Of course we are not claiming that it can be us, we are too small to make any real difference we just believe in the sound and fury and electricity of music to make you feel amazing, the empowering rush of Punk Rock. It affected us thirty odd years ago and it still affects us now, its primitive and its primal and it the opposite of the big entertainment machine.
Cowell pop is there to make you slump into the settee and to allow yourself to be manipulated by their heavily scripted/edited games played out on subscription TV; We are the opposite end of the spectrum where chaos rules and anything could happen. There's a power in that.
When I reviewed your last album 'Mutiny' for my old paymasters Glitzine back in 2008 (I've linked the review here) I called it "Essential Street Punk Rock N Roll". How would do you feel that sums up Goldblade and in particular that album?
Close. I guess we are Punk Rock - pure and simple, but Punk Rock means so many different things. I grew up through the initial wave and was enthralled by its power and its excitement. Feel free to describe us in any manner, feel free to say we are rubbish, it's an on going debate, it doesn't really matter, the music gets made, we get out and play it, we define ourselves as punk rock because that's what we came from, but we don't care for any rules, we play loud guitar with lots of energy because that makes us feel something primal and powerful, we have tunes in it because that means everyone can connect over the song, we try to make sense of the world with music and then we stencil our disorder over it because a bit of chaos feels right in the universe!
Its ancient and its tribal, there has always been music and you cant box it in, Cowell pop takes all the emotive qualities of music and scripts them to death, it takes the basic ideas of music and turns them into crocodile tears for Cheryl Cole, it takes desperate raw talent from the street and uses them as props for their own bank accounts and egos - the judges are always the winners, it's the old model of the music business where the labels are the mill owners and the musicians are the serfs -They destroy people, they make them sweat and grovel for their right to perform, the other week they did a baize guilty pleasures where they had the singers covering brilliant old songs that were deemed guilty pleasures! They have no understanding of pop culture but a big understanding of how to make sinister primetime TV - Goebels would have been proud of Simon Cowell!!
They make the singers perform live and then Cheryl Cole mimes her new single with a rubbish gormless dance routine, they have all the media and the rest of us have hardly any; but we are louder than them and we drown out their greedy piggy eyed filth with out Punk Rock chords and our fierce pride.
But were not claiming we are better than these people, this is just our version.
But do I hate these people? Do I hate Cowell pop and do I hate the way the world is swinging to the right? I can't because that plays into their hands, I get frustrated that Cowell like Murdoch before him owns the media, I'm glad the Internet creates a small piece of space for everyone else. But hate is pointless, there is so much hate around, the internet is full of anonymous haters, people on forums who are full of hate but can't sign their names to their tirades, these are angry times and the anger is all over the place and misdirected and messy. Politics is played out like a debate amongst five year olds in a playground; music is dumbed down to nothing. But we must remain positive and celebrate the human spirit; there are still lots of good people out there.
What I love about you guys is the 'gang' mentality you engender within your people, is that just something that comes naturally being a member or fan of Goldblade?
I hope so, we want everyone to feel involved, it's not about stars it's about everyone in the room and it's about a culture, we are just the ones playing the music. It's a gang mentality, a community, a celebration of a culture and an ideal. We are small cogs in a bigger machine, we are about camaraderie and community - too much music is handed down from the Gods, we are not about that. Every day I question what we do and why we do it, punk was about questioning everything and that includes yourself.
I must have seen you guys a good few times live now (probably near to twenty times if I'm honest), and you have never disappointed (even when playing with a man down and Pete had a broken finger, as you did in TJ's In The Square earlier this year) how important is it to you to have that killer live band reputation?
It means everything. The stage is where everything aims at. It's amazing the power of music to make you lose yourself. It's a naked place, a place to strip down and lose all the chains of real life, the only place you feel alive, the noise and the filth. We give it everything we have got. We are into chaotic brilliance and the power of noise. We surf on the electricity and ask you to join us.
And keeping on the TJ's theme you played there on a regular basis throughout the years do you have a special memory of John Sicolo you can share with us?
He was a great man; TJ's was one of just a handful of venues in the UK that looked after you. We don't ask for a lot on the road but it's nice to get fed and he always had a great big tub of curry for us! We stayed in his flat a few times which was also the dressing room - there was a big dog there for some years. There was also the roof behind his flat where you sat in the sun. TJ's was a great venue, great crowd, the local council should take it over in memory of John and keep it going as a live venue and a creative hub for the town; it put Newport on the rock 'n' roll map.
He was a big bear of a man, very down to earth and with no bullshit, at the Christmas gigs that we played for years there was always a great pre gig Christmas party where everyone wore a Christmas hat ha ha ha, and sat around a big table pulling crackers; an oddly traditional moment before the mounds of paper throwing mayhem that was about to come!
Talking of legendary figures you've just done some dates with Steve Ignorant of Crass how did that come about?
I know Steve from some time ago. He wanted a band that made him feel good to play with him, a band that didn't fuck about and was fun to be with - and that was us apparently; he also likes the music we play. It was a great tour to play. I've loved Crass for ever and Steve is a brilliant person, he wanted the nights to go so right, he really cares about what he does, so much that he made himself ill and would be sick every night. The band he had to play the Crass songs were great and honoured the memory.
And how did the shows turn out?
Good, of course a small percentage of the audience didn't like what we did but a larger section really enjoyed it - that's the curse of supporting but you learn to take it. The gigs were packed and we hung out with some great people.
Your set at this year's Rebellion Festival was also something special what are your memories of that show?
I come from Blackpool and to play the Empress Ballroom is really special, it's an amazing building with so much history. It's always a real buzz how many people actually turn up to see us play. Walk on stage and it's a real rush. The Rebellion Festival is the best punk festival in the world, and its great being there for a few days catching up with lots of old faces and seeing loads of bands old and new. The faded grandeur really suits punk and Blackpool is the perfect town for such a festival with cheap accommodation and its cheap thrills backdrop.
So what's next regarding new albums/upcoming tours etc?
Touring in the spring and also trips to China where a new compilation album 'Beyond God & Elvis' has just come out and then to Brazil. We are just finalising a handful of dates (March 2011) with a very well known ska band, the idea is to mix up the two scenes, they are to be billed as punk/ska ska/punk double headers with local support acts with the essence on enjoyment - Blow those winter blues away!!
The new album should be out in the summer but that depends when we get time to record it. We have a few European festivals booked already 'Force Attack' in Germany - There's also going to be the occasional Membranes gig as the band has reformed specifically for one off 'event' gigs.
John I thought your book 'Oral History of Punk Rock' was a fascinating and engaging read, which of your other literary outings would you recommend I buy, and why?
Ha! Depends on whether you are into the specific topic that the book covers. One that you may be interested in is 'Death To Trad Rock' (Cherry Red Books) which is about the noisy post punk UK underground that my band The Membranes formed part of throughout the eighties.
Also at one time or another you were a regular pundit on those endless list programmes served up on the BBC on a Saturday night, but having disappeared from our screens for a while I was surprised to see you taking steps into almost proper acting when you appeared on BBC3's 'Ideal' recently. How did that come about, and will we be seeing Ross making any other appearance on our TV screens soon?
They don't make those list programmes so much now, funnily enough I recorded some stuff for a series that goes out at Christmas the other day. The 'Ideal' thing was because the people that write the show are massive Membranes fans! There are a few things in the pipeline and a chat show idea that is getting talked about at the moment, I've also got a radio show that will be broadcast for BBC 5 live - so lots of ideas and things going on...
What was it like to work with Jeaneane Garofalo?
She was great. She is cool, smart and Punk Rock. She is a terrific actress and really funny; her and Johnny Vegas are really cool people, no 'star' bullshit, that show was great to do,
I've done other stuff where the 'star's ignore the serfs but there was none of that there - pure punk rock.
My wife has a theory that you should never meet your heroes (which relates to a story too long to tell here); I personally think this is a rubbish theory. Which side of the fence do you sit on in this debate?
I believe in no more heroes! There are great musicians and great inspiring people but everyone is human, the people I've met from the punk era have always been really sound.
Anyway back to Goldblade then, there were rumours of a second live DVD being made during the rest of 2010 is this now still on the cards?
There is a second DVD that we sell solely at gigs, a recording of three gigs for a fiver- DVDs don't really sell any more because of youtube so its hard to get them adequately distributed, but you can mail order it from us or buy at our gigs; but really you may as well go on youtube there's tons of stuff up there!
And how do you feel the 2010 line up's been developing since Johny Skullknuckles decided to take his guitar and play elsewhere?
Johnny played with Anti Nowhere League and then The Business which is cool.
We have Andy in the band now who we have known since he started when he was the in house engineer in the studio we did all our early albums in. He has always been part of the family, and knew all the songs any way. He joined the band and we suddenly started writing loads of songs and moving forward which is cool, looking forward to getting the new stuff recorded with him.
Before I wrap things up I mentioned earlier I've seen you guys loads of times both headlining and in support of other bands. Are there any bands left out there you haven't played with that you'd like to? And any you wish you hadn't played with?
The Clash would have been fun! And early Adam & The Ants and Rammstein.
Finally then just to finish off I'd like to get inside your musical minds by asking you to take the Uber Rock random music test where if we were to do the random first five tracks on your I Pods/I Phones MP3 players right now what would come up?
Black Flag 'Rise Above'
Britney Spears 'Toxic'
And with that we'd like to once again thank you for taking the time to speak with us at Uber Rock we'll hopefully catch up with you again sometime soon, so until then we wish you and the gang every success and we look forward to the next Goldblade album/tour whichever comes first...
That's very kind of you and we really appreciate you taking the time to write about us, the grass roots media is what keeps the whole thing going.
Right boys and girls if by small chance you might have never listened to Goldblade before now is the time to crack open their Myspace page (by clicking on the b&w logo banner below), crank up your speakers and enjoy their infectious shots of Rock n Roll, or better still buy one of the bands albums from their website (by clicking on the skull logo banner below).
No excuses now or we'll send Brother John Robb to hug you.
Live photo kudos David Wala