Why did the punk band Crass UK die


No matter how you feel about them today: The UK SUBS are one of the last living punk legends! Soon this band around the likeable grandpa Charlie Harper and New Red Archives Records maker Nicki Garratt will celebrate their 25th birthday; a constant that is extremely unusual for today's times. Reason enough to interview the two boys at the end of this year's "75% Original Line-Up" tour (with bass player Alvin Gibbs) in the Zeche Carl in Essen. The result were some really interesting views about table tennis, punk in the past and punk today, as well as living together on tour. We met the band at dessert ...

"... I'm usually a staunch vegan. But on a two-month tour you have to make compromises: I still eat a vegetarian dish if, for example, there is only some cheese on it to bake."

And you Charlie, are you a vegetarian or a vegan?

Charlie: "Oh no, I eat everything that comes on the table. For example today, when the hosts served us an excellent chicken: delicious cream sauce, mushrooms, risotto rice ... Because I also ate the leftovers of Nicki's vegetables, I am now filled with a really luxurious dinner. Unfortunately, this is a rarity on the way. "

I saw you six weeks ago in Cologne and, given your advanced age, I was surprised about your mobility on stage: Nicki in particular has always outdone yourself with acrobatic leaps in the air. What's your recipe?

"Well, we move on stage more than ever today. That is simply because the music has become part of our flesh and blood over the decades, and we could still play our songs backwards even in dreams."

Nicki: "We just have to keep moving because our soul's salvation depends on it. Standing still means death at our age, you shouldn't stand around for long, haha"

Isn't it paradoxical that e.g. in the jazz scene the advanced age of a musician is more of an advantage for his reputation, while punk rockers over 40 are already described as clinically dead?

"The best-before date of a punk musician expires when he turns 25, so they say ... But the scene kept me young. Sure, a lot of people push you off the shelf, but that's their problem. "

Nicki: "To be fair: We established ourselves 20 years ago. I think if a couple of people in their late forties had the idea of ​​starting a punk band for the first time, it would be a bit difficult ..."

Charlie: "Whereby ONE FOOT IN THE GRAVE is a notable exception, the youngest member of which, as far as I know, is around 60."

Are they still alive?

"I think so, at least once in a while you meet a fan who wears one of your t-shirts, haha."

Tell us again about your tour: Where have you been?

Charlie: "The first concert was in Holland, immediately afterwards it went to Germany. Then Poland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria, via Italy back to Austria, again a gig in Germany, and finally back to your beautiful country via Sweden, Norway and Denmark So Germany plays a central role, which is no coincidence: It's our favorite place for gigs! "

Indeed?! How come?

Charlie: "Because the other countries come up with worse conditions, for example the states: Not an uninteresting country, we gave great concerts there, but what makes you down are the huge distances between the individual venues. Or the terrible food there .... and We don't even want to talk about this "beer". (dismayed) I can't understand why American beer is now being served in German pubs. "

Nicki (completely distracting from the topic): "May I make a call? (Pause) I want to call on all table tennis players in Germany to beat me!"

(another pause, because both interviewers are somewhat amazed)

Oh what, you actually play the high-performance sport of table tennis?

Nicki: "Yes, as you can see, I'm even wearing a matching T-shirt (it says" Table Tennis Club San Francisco ") and that's why I want ambitious players to contact me before our next tour so that I can get one during this time few opponents: This tour was unfortunately a failure in this respect ... by the way (dreamy): Do you know the FUN LOVIN CRIMINALS? They basically have a table tennis table in their tour bus. So, I hope that some people now know what they have to do before our next gigs in Germany! "

This of course assumes that the UK SUBS go on tour again in this composition. Do you really plan to do that again?

Charlie: "Sure! The way we are sitting here at the moment, we are the UK SUBS! And not just a one-man company. And what can I say: Not only this tour was great now, the time before in the States was great too." good! Right, Nicki? "

Nicki: "Yes, you are right. It was a very good time!"

Has the audience been of that opinion so far? Were your concerts still well attended at all?

Charlie: "Better than expected. Sure, not always full, but never really badly attended."

Your official homepage shows that you want to convince people of your eternal youth in Australia soon.

Nicki: "That's right. We want to stretch out! And visit countries in which we have never performed before: Australia, New Zealand, Japan ..."

Like, you've never been to Australia or Japan ?! There were times when every band soon went to Japan!

"In Japan we had already been firmly booked, but then the following happened: Japanese are just a little different from Europeans and sometimes act a bit suspicious: Well, on a certain weekend we should perform three days in a row in a Tokyo club I don't remember the year. But because the weekend before 999 went through the same procedure with very little audience response, the organizers canceled our thing completely! What shit! Are we about 999? "

(Alvin joins the conversation and asks us about the "Holiday In The Sun" festival, which is of course a wonderful transition.)

Do you like festivals like this? We think it can be really cool to see bands that were active 20 years ago. But the majority of these reformed dinosaurs just make a fool of themselves on stage!

Charlie: "We don't define ourselves that way, after all, we were always there without a break! Although I really have to protect some, for example SLAUGHTER & THE DOGS, which everyone really wanted to see last year. They really tried very hard and put on a decent performance Although it is of course very difficult to establish a similarly good contact with the audience as a reunion band after our show. We are always in practice, the others are not! Ultimately, "Holiday In The Sun" is a good thing, everyone is partying and having fun a good time."

Nicki: "You have to look at it that way: in 1976/77 there was an explosion, punk broke out, and everyone who wanted to founded a band. That was okay back then, but 20 years later you sometimes get the idea that some of these Better not, people should never have made music: Some bands are completely overrated to this day.

What you have to consider to be good is that you did your thing until today and stayed true to the "punk": small halls etc. That is probably the reason why you still have loyal fans.

Charlie: "Yes, you are not alone with this opinion: Few accuse us of sell-out; we always keep in touch with our faith. Hey, we are the monks of punk rock!"

What is actually left of "punk" in England? "Holiday In The Sun" is probably not the only one at events ...

Charlie (interrupts us):
"Well, I'm really proud of this festival. A lot of people tried to copy it, for example in the States: We played there every day, a real back-breaking job, which then led to some really bad performances."

Nicki: "The difference between the United States and England is clearly that in our home country almost only old sacks come to concerts, while the audience in the States is much younger. The entire audience there was probably only born when we made our first record . "

David from the Ox has been living in London for a few months, he says that "punk" is more dead than dead there. Although there are still really good bands in England like CITIZEN FISH or LEATHERFACE. Or the "Greetings from the Welfare state" sampler on BYO, which features almost 18 current bands - although I don't see any connection between these bands and the Holiday Festival.

Nicki: "Let's not kid ourselves: 1977 will never happen again!"

San Francisco seems to be a better place for punk rock.

Nicki: "That's right, America has been far more active for a long time. But the same applies here: 1977 is over!"

But I think that punk rock is still alive in the year 2000, because there are always bands that push punk, rock'n'roll and bring it to the fore, like TURBONEGRO, for example, did.

Charlie: "Well, we unfortunately had a lot of really bad support bands on our tour, some of which looked really shitty (which was impressively confirmed to us that evening in Essen ...). Most frightening, however, was the fact that the shows very often were really bad and boring. Except in Scandinavia, the bands there clearly have a little more fire in their asses, like the band the night before last ... - Damn, now I can't remember the name! "

Nicki: "In 1977 you went to a club, you looked at the people, how they were dressed, how they behaved, the band was patterned, their attitude, everything was very rigid, but very dynamic. Today everyone does what they want "At the concerts you can see that punk has opened up to many other influences over the years. Which of course damages his profile."

Let's take a look at your profile and how it has changed over the years ... I have five records here, all of which represent something special in your story. Make a statement about how you rate these discs today. First of all: "Another Kind Of Blues".

Charlie: "I'm proud of that without end. This record is the foundation of our career, I love the songs and I love the cover!"

Nicki: "This LP bundles all the hits that we played live in the years before. So a very late first album, but a very good one."

What is the title all about: Is this a reference to what you did before?

"Definitely, after all, I'm an old blues musician."

Which then explains the frequent use of the harp.

Charlie: "I think we should go back to those blues influences that we've lost a little over the years."

But now to my absolute favorite SUBS record, which I think is a bit different from the others: "Flood Of Lies". I have often asked myself what the basic mood behind these recordings was: dark, harsh lyrics, medieval music, skulls on the front and Satan on the back of the cover. What was going on in you back then?

Charlie: "Uhh, there were a lot of drugs involved back then ... I like all those skulls and the rest of the artwork. Parron, the friend of our bass player at the time, Steve Slack, drew all these things, he was a carpenter himself and did witchcrafts. Carved accessories. So here's the connection to all this underworld stuff. Parron was also something of a witch, she wrote this little poem in runic writing for us too. "

Do you still have a connection to such things today?

Charlie: "No, at the time I was interested, but not convinced. It was really Steve's thing."

Would you still write such a blatant, combative text like "Violent Revolution" today?

Charlie (sings): "This is a violent revolution, that's what we're feeling today ... Sure, when I'm in the mood."

The next record: "Killing Time", your first reunion record.

Nicki (slightly disgusted):
"I don´t like it!"

Neither do I: She doesn't rock a millimeter!

"A few songs are okay, but somehow I get depressed every time I listen to this record."

"I like" Yellowman ", at least this song rocks."

Charlie: "I don’t like him, somehow I didn’t have my finest hour when I was writing."

Nicki: "The songs aren't all bad, they just don't sound like the UK SUBS. Hmmm, this record was made in a week, from the songwriting to the recording and mixing. That probably explains everything."

We come to the next LP: "A.W.O.L." . A special record, isn't it, Nicki?

Nicki: "This record is the hour of birth of my New Red Archives label. Behind it lies the following story: Until today we have not been paid for our old recordings by all the record companies. I was able to get these songs here as a kind of" mini compensation "from a record company I founded NRA to publish them. But the same applies here: The songs are ok, but not the best of us. "

Charlie: "I like the cover because that's actually the two of us in the photo. I look like a young Lou Reed, which is why some don't recognize me, haha. Otherwise the record is not bad either, a good compilation of rare songs."

"War Of The Roses" is a really kick ass song I think.

Nicki: "That was the first song for which I also wrote the lyrics, which is why I don't like it anymore: Charlie writes great lyrics, I however ... The background of this text is not uninteresting: It's about a club in Middlesborough , the "Rockgarden" where we played back then. This club became the scene of a wild brawl between people from Yorkshire and Middlesborough during our gig, a scene that reminded me of the medieval Wars of the Roses. "

Speaking of money. Perhaps the UK SUBS sampler "Recorded 1979-1981" is an example of how a lot of unauthorized releases have been made with your songs. Or which label was Abstract Records in the end?

"Abstract Record was a" one-man-company "of an important employee of Jam Records, our home label. The guy's name was Christian, and when he left Jam he took all the rights to our previous songs with him. I have the track list for this compilation, by the way put together: On side A are the songs that people were crazy about live, so the fast ones. Side B is a bit more relaxed, as a rule these are single tracks. "

Charlie (laughs at one of the photos): "Oh man, there's a young Alvin, haha."

How did you actually manage not to lose the fun of it? With all the business shit like managers, license rights, contracts, you can easily lose your interest.

Nicki: "Even if it sounds trite. If the music is okay, the other shit can still be borne well."

Charlie: "An important motto of my life is:" Above us is only shit! "When bands get bigger and get hit by the big companies, things always get terrible. They lose the fun, we don't. We also go on tour at our age , it doesn't matter if Nicki hasn't been there for a few years! "

How do you get along on the road? Talking on the phone is one thing, touring together is another: So many old men in a narrow bus ...

"We argued so often many years ago, and we really cultivated the hatred of the other to excess. That is why we have a beneficial indifference today when it comes to the quirks of others."

Almost like an old married couple.

"You're right. We've known each other for so long, we know how to behave. Nicki is still the person with the thinnest thread of patience on earth. That's why it's a good thing he's 8,000 miles from me." lives away, haha. I see Alvin regularly, that's ok "

Do you still plan to start your album titles with the letter "Z"?

Charlie: "Sure, but somehow I already dread work. If people think we'd have a nice spring when we get home after this long tour, they're wrong. All the stupid office work that has accumulated, oh my god, the many emails that I have to answer, the songwriting for new records ... I'm already starting to sweat, the physical stress on tour doesn't mind, that's what we as rock'n'rollers were born for after all. "

What is Alvin's part in all of the UK SUBS work?

Charlie: "Alvin is first and foremost a chain smoker.Then he does the really tough job of making all the women who want something from us happy, haha. "

Nicki: "We have the following joke: When we perform, there are all the skins and male punks on my side who cheer me on. On Alvin's side, however, all the women stand and make him beautiful eyes. After the show, the women want to kiss Alvin .." well, and the skinheads - they want something from me. Somehow we can't explain it to ourselves, haha. (serious again) By the way, there is actually a concrete project on the horizon: We want to re-record our old hits on an album, which then has the positive effect would mean that we would finally see some money for our work. Shit, people brought out complete CD boxes with original songs from us, at prices that did not include any money for the band. "

Charlie: "But it's also time for a really really good album with completely new songs, we really have released too many Schluffi records. I now hate this tour-recording-tour routine that we've been through for years."

One last question: did you actually get the money from that GUNS AND ROSES record with punk cover songs at the time?

Charlie: "Yes, we did. The matter was quite exciting. Because the money from GUNS AND ROSES first flowed to our publisher at the time, with whom we had not inconsiderable problems. The matter finally ended in court, where fortunately we were right . "

Thank you and all the best for you guys!


  • U.K. SUBS

    © by Ox-Fanzine - Issue # 39 June / July / August 2000 and Marc Schellenberg

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