It’s 6 years since Wiz- formerly of the brilliant Mega City Four died- archive interview/tribute

Mega City Four (plus 20 000!)

Mega City Four (plus 20 000!)

MEGA CITY 4 interview SOUNDS, June 3 1989

Night after night, MEGA CITY FOUR clamber into their beloved Transit to take their thunderous punk-pop to the nation, and they’re gaining new converts at every stop. MR SPENCER climbs in the back to report on the best rock ‘n’ roll to hit the UK scene in years.

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN a rip-roaring display at Sheffield’s Take 2 Club and a sell-out triumph at the Marshall Rooms in Stroud, the magnificent Mega City Four are squeezed into the back of a dust-caked Transit van.

Their aching backs – the result of a night on the floor in Chesterfield – are temporarily forgotten in the buzz of success.

A few more miles, however, and they’ll be in agony.

Bassist Gerry elaborates: “Lee the tour manager says he can recognise Tranzophobia. He can see it in us, cos when you’re tired but you’re so ga-ga in the head that you can’t sleep, your eyes get bigger and you go a bit red in the face. You just go bananas.”

Drummer Chris puts it more succinctly: “You’ve heard of thousand yard stares at Vietnam? Well, you get a thousand yard stare.”

‘Tranzophobia’ is the title of the debut Mega City Four LP, and what an LP it is too! 14 tracks, every one a guitar-laden classic, from the uplifting opening blast of ‘Start’, right through to the contemplative closing number, ‘Stupid Way To Die’.

Steeped in melody and thrilling vocal harmonies, ‘Tranzophobia’ is propelled by an unashamedly punky power-base, along with an effervescent energy unheard of since the days when… well, since the days when bands got their kicks playing songs rather than simply mimicking the sound of thundering pneumatic drills.

Not that MC4 don’t thunder. Indeed, their particular brand of thunderous punk pop is infinitely more potent than the row being made by today’s thrash/noise outfits.

This band operates on several levels – a concept hard to grasp in an age of one-dimensional rock barbarism, admittedly, but it’s true.

We’re talking music here. So we’re talking highs, lows, and all the different bits in between. We’re talking about emotions and, in Britain at least, in 1989, this means that the basically trad Mega City Four are pretty unique.

Chris: “It’s the sort of thing we’d have been waiting for, if we weren’t in the band, sort of thing.”

Guitarist Danny chips in: “It’s fresh, cos there’s only two bands that I think are like us – Snuff and The Senseless Things. And when I see them I think, F***, wow! I’ve gotta go home and smash the house up!

“And I hope we’re like that, I hope we’ve got that feeling. It’s a fresh attitude. If there were millions of fresh bands out there, they wouldn’t be fresh.”

Songwriter, master tunesmith, singer and guitarist Wiz (Gerry’s brother) answers those who accuse MC4 of being a mere 1977 throwback with an irrefutable logic.

“We played with Mudhoney the other night,” he says, stretching out a leg and colliding with his brother’s ankle. “And I thought they were really fantastic. They reminded me of Jimi Hendrix in some ways.

“Maybe if I was a music writer I’d say, What a load of hippies, what a load of astral bollocks. But I didn’t – it had a really good feel to it, and it made people jump up and down. I thought, Shit, it really does sound like Jimi Hendrix, that. So f***ing what, y’know?”

To quote Gerry’s immortal words, from Mega City Four’s last Sounds interview: “If you’ve got the songs you’ve got the songs and you can’t argue with that.”

Obvious – but eminently sensible too.

THE TRANSIT van has been invaluable in helping MC4 rise to their current position in the rock ‘n’ roll league table (promoted from the third division and rising).

The Farnborough band have made their name through incessant touring. They play countless gigs and only release records – three singles and now an LP – as an afterthought.

Wiz: “We’re not robots, but we’re getting to the stage where we’re enjoying ourselves almost every time we play. Nothing really pisses us off.”

Chris: “It’s walking onstage with the right attitude, isn’t it? No matter what the circumstances are. You walk on, and if you’re laughing then, you’ve cracked it.”

Danny: “We’re really f***ing happy people. When we get up in the morning feeling like shit, we laugh our bollocks off.”

Chris (laughing off his bollocks): “We laughed when we crashed our van the other day! It’s like, we were going to call the album If It Can, It Will, because it does, every time. You know it’s going to happen, and when it does you just think, So what? We’ll get over it.”

Danny: “It’s good, because you can’t make other people happy if you’re not really happy with yourself, and I think that comes across… it’s just entertainment, isn’t it?”

Wiz clings on tightly as we negotiate a sharp corner: “You can entertain all sorts of people on all different levels, you know?

“Some people who like soul and pop aren’t put off by the volume and intensity in our music, because of the really nice tunes that go with it.”

Danny: “It’s like your Kylies and your Jasons, that to me is dead. It’s nowhere music, and there’s kids listening to that sort of thing. And I think, God, if they had a chance to listen to something like what we do…”

Is that your enemy? Sterile pop?

“No.”

What are you against, then?

Chris: “Showbiz.”

Danny: “That says it all. We’re not showbiz.”

Chris: “It’s like going to gala evenings and record company performances, and all this old shit. But then, I don’t think it’s an enemy – it’s just something we’ll never do.”

U2 then? Simple Minds? Genesis?

Wiz: “It’s difficult to think about those people without realizing that they’re as far removed from us as if you were talking about Robert f***ing Redford and Sophia Loren, sort of thing. It’s as if they’re on a different planet to us.

“We can’t really get annoyed about anything they do, I can’t really feel part of it. It’s a different f***ing culture to what we’re doing.”

Chris: “We hope there’ll never be a Mega City Four fan club, because we don’t think there’s such things as fans.

“If they come and see us, they’re just friends, that’s it. I mean, this musician/fan thing is completely ridiculous. Well, the musician thing with us is ridiculous!”

He laughs his bollocks off again.

WE STOP at a transport café for brown tea and a gut-churning breakfast fry-up. I join Wiz at a cholesterol-free table where we sensibly partake in a slice of Bakewell tart.

Wiz often sits apart from the others. He needs time alone, “mainly to save the others from an ear-bashing, because I get so bloody grumpy.

“Instead of being really ratty all the time I just cut myself off,” he says. “I just read, or look out of the van window, or sleep.

“I take as little part in the proceedings as possible, apart from actually playing the gigs and doing the soundchecks. We’ve all worked out our ways of dealing with being together all the time.”

Just as well. Mega City Four’s irrepressible and brilliantly liberating rock ‘n’ roll is the best thing to hit the UK scene in ages.

And yet some people have knocked them for being too lightweight, too poppy. Several misery-guts have leapt to the assumption that Wiz’s lyrics are all frivolity and no depth. How wrong can you get?

“As time goes by, people realize that we’re writing stuff that’s more erudite than you’d normally associate with a band of our style.

“Our songs aren’t direct, they don’t deal with exact subject matter. They put everything on to a higher moral scale – the difference between right and wrong, sort of thing. And on the face of it there aren’t any harsh political issues dealt with. But there are.

“The best thing to do is step away from the particular issue and talk about the whole thing of… whatever it may be – misuse of power, misuse of privilege, all that sort of thing.”

Do you understand why journalists are always sending you up?

“Yeah, absolutely, and we can see why they think it’s really funny. I know exactly why they say that coherent thought can only destroy an aesthetic that lives on instinct above, um, whatever it was [Sounds writer] Roy Wilkinson said. It was a very valid point.

“If we were super-intelligent we wouldn’t make the music we make. It’s as simple as that.”

ARE YOU in your element in the Transit van? Is it like home to you?

“Not to me, no.”

You’ve called the LP ‘Tranzophobia’ – it must mean something to you.

“Yeah, it does. We thought, If we’re going to do the album, we’ve built our whole thing on playing live, so we may as well tie it in, sort of thing.”

Would you ever consider getting a tour bus, or would it always have to be a Transit?

“Oh no, it wouldn’t have to be a Transit. But it’d probably have to be a Ford, we wouldn’t get a Bedford. But if we got some money, we’d probably get a bigger van, make it a bit more comfortable.

“But no, I’m certainly not in my element in the back of that bloody van, it drives me f***ing mad.”

Mega City Four – they don’t mince words, and they play rock ‘n’ roll that brings a lump to the throat. Wiz puts it like this…

“The better it gets, the better it gets.”

He’s not kidding either.

3 thoughts on “It’s 6 years since Wiz- formerly of the brilliant Mega City Four died- archive interview/tribute

  1. DavidM

    Wiz was a true gent who always found the time to sit down and chat in front of a tape recorder with this fanzine writer. Whether it was at 5.00am at Glastonbury or sat on the train tracks behind the Adelphi in Hull – cheers for the memories mate!

  2. Richard Newson

    ‘Wiz was a true gent’ – amen to that!

  3. Catherine

    A very special man who always found time for everyone. Many very special memories. RIP… but I wish you were still here for a chat.

Have your say...

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *