The LTW Rezillos interview
Punk / New Wave band The Rezilo’s formed originally back in 1976. They’ve called it a day on quite a few occasions only later to reform. The current incarnation of the band began in 2008. They’re a band who deserve more attention & Louder Than War are honoured to provide them some of that courtesy of this interview by Joe Whyte.
As pioneers go, you’d have to travel to Venus to find ones quite like the Rezillos.
The delirious glee that they brought to their Area 51-refugee take on junk culture and classic pop smarts was a Dadaist hand grenade amongst polite 70’s Edinburgh.
“I blame it on those Fife women I grew up with who wore those strange tight tweed skirts and who chased their kids down the road with broomsticks”Â says Fay Fife today.
Scotland in the late 70’s was a weird, drab, monochromatic place. Straight jeans could get you a kicking. Short hair was for cops and standing out from the normals was a recipe for trouble.
The pubs were mostly men-only and pretty dangerous. The streets were worse.
Youth clubs were heaving dens of sectarianism, violence, hormones and Hi Karate.
The local bands of the time played a sweaty brand of barrelhouse boogie and Sabbath-style dirge, with patched denim and long, lank hair de rigeur.
This was not an era of style.
Into this dreary world exploded The Rezillos. And in Rezillo World anything went.
Fast, flash, sci-fi styled and out of this world, their concoction of scything guitars, Spector-esque rhythms and Marvel Comics lyrics found them instant fame and as unlikely pop stars.
Women in Scottish rock were as rare as Kryptonite at this time and in Fay Fife The Rezillos had an eye-popping, technicolor, go-go dancing dervish.
Singing in an unreconstructed Fife accent, Fay’s dynamic vocals and unhinged performances set The Rezillos on a path that would lead them worldwide.
Opening for The Ramones on their ”Ë77 UK Tour, signing to Seymour Stein’s Sire Records and mentoring The Undertones in their formative years were only a tiny part of the story.
Refusing to play the marketing game, internal politics and a deteriorating relationship with Sire led to The Rezillos career being a short, sharp and perfect two and a bit years. Two chart albums and a series of seminal singles isn’t a bad legacy, and when the group fractured, Fay and co-frontperson Eugene Reynolds morphed into The Revillos with some success.
2008 saw The Rezillos reforming and Fay (with some help from Eugene) agreed to spill the beans to LTW.
LTW: The Rezillos reforming. What prompted that?
Fay: A fab show offered at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Party. It triggered something and somehow even those band members “non-likely”Â climbed on board.
Eugene: We were approached by Stuart Nesbit, the guitarist in the Proclaimers to see if we would get together for a one-off for the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Edinburgh. The Proclaimers were playing, and he seemed to ask the question at the right time, and it went from there. We were surprised at the interest.
LTW: Number 1 Boy (Jan 2009) seems like a while ago now. You’ve a new single coming out on your own label?
Fay: When it comes to getting new material out we tend to be constipated So this new single homegrown package feels great! Also think its jolly good ! It was satisfying though a tad trying at times doing our own thing – several of us in the band have issues of control – not me ofcourse -so it seems to suit us!
Eugene: Yes, it was a while ago, and at that time Number 1 Boy was only made available as a download. This did not feel to us like an “Event” as downloads are OK, but since there is no hard product to see and hold they have a kind of facelessness which we and many of our fans don’t really feel connected to. So in the first week of December we have a new single coming out on our own Rezillos Records label which is available in three formats, the first as a seven inch vinyl record in picture sleeve, the second as a CD with an additional mix, and the download for those that prefer that format. The new single is entitled “Out of This World”.
LTW: The Rezillos signed to Seymour Stein’s Sire Records. What are your memories of that? It seemed unusual at the time given there was (I presume) lots of interest from UK labels.
Fay: Well, they were the most interested – they seemed a bit more cool and clued in – New York seemed like a fairy story place with skyscrapers – which of course it was ”â and also the visuals of New York were surely ours! There was no thought involved, really, and I don’t recall much thinking about it at all.
Eugene: The fact that it was an unusual approach from a US label was a big plus to us. We had interest from various labels in the UK, but none of the offers interested us. The labelmates on Sire Records appealed. Maybe because we were quite different to the UK bands, we thought here’s a different approach to a label too.
Ltw: Can’t Stand The Rezillos stands the test of time unlike many of it’s contemporaries. You recorded it in The USA. Was this the band’s choice or was there record company involvement?
What are your memories of recording? It must have seemed impossibly glamorous to be in the studio in NY.
Fay: It was their (Sire’s) suggestion – and what a fab one! We just wanted to see the skyscrapers. We did it night – we ate brilliant banana yoghurt on the way home from the studio. It was an excellent recording experience with a brilliant producer (Bob Clearmountain) and also a great studio with lovely acoustics
Eugene: Well, we were on an American label so I guess it was a natural. The studio has just been built when we arrived. It had been constructed in the same building where they filmed the Exorcist, I remember. There were two main guys during the recording process; one was Tony Bongiovi (an uncle of Jon Bon Jovi) and Bob Clearmountain as the engineer. Bob was so instrumental in the great sound of the album that we asked for him to get a credit for production. Tony Bongiovi had worked with some of our heroes and heroines of rock music. He worked with Shadow Morton on the Shangri-Las recordings, and he even lent some secrets of production from those sessions to a song of ours called Good Sculptures, during the “foot stamping”Â part. If you listen to it you can hear some aspects found in Shangri-las songs. There is so much to say from that period that it would merit an interview about it. And being collected from JFK in a huge metallic green Lincoln Continental with metal green plastic seats in 1978 was a gas to us. Never seen anything like it at the time. Yeah it was glamorous to us.
LTW: The first Rezillos gig was at Edinburgh’s Teviot Row in Nov 1976. By all accounts the early band was almost immediately popular live. What do you recall of those days?
Fay: Cleaning sweat off my plastic dress with Pledge polish (after wearing the same one for 6 months!!). And I remember the band leaving me in a pub in Edinburgh by mistake while they went to play a gig in Aberdeen! I kinda recall that the performing/singing was my natural milieu and that everybody was a little crazy. That hadn’t changed at all when we later got back together.
And, yeah, the band were instantly popular locally.
LTW: Scotland in the pre-punk world was a very conservative place. How did The Rezillos look and style (and high energy music) fit into the realm of flares and sideburns?
Fay: It didn’t fit at all -it was a quantum leap into whatever it was. ” I’m no Barbie, ken” as one of our new songs points out!
Eugene: The initial point was to look and sound as different as possible from anything out there. We succeeded in that! On the one hand we were building a following and in other aspects “contemporary bands” were wary of the unexpected. The time was so unbelievably ripe for kicking against for so may reasons.
LTW: You toured with labelmates The Ramones and The Undertones. What do you recall of those tours? The Undertones (who supported you guys) in particular, were very complimentary about The Rezillos in interviews at the time. They almost seemed like “wee brothers” to you. Did you offer them any guidance? Were The Ramones really the dysfunctional family that they are now portrayed as?
Fay: The Ramones were a great band with some violent psychotic paranoid vibes around (but you can’t have everything).
The Undertones were also a great band and really lovely guys but pretty fresh and naive at the time. Maybe we were a bad influence. I remember them as fun and I recall certain high jinks with fireworks with The Undertones inside hotel rooms that would have certainly contravened fire and safety regulations.
Eugene: We were pretty charmed by the Undertones. We didn’t give them any guidance except perhaps on Guy Fawkes Night when they had just come over to be our support band. We threw bangers and jumping jacks at them from our hotel window when we were staying in Lancaster Gate. Instead of keeping clear they picked the bangers up with their hands to look at them in amazement which then started to explode. It didn’t occur to us that they had not seen fireworks at that time, coming from Northern Ireland. I remember one of us shouting “PUT THEM DOWN !”Â Just imagine them losing their fingers and never being able to play the guitar…! I believe they all still have their fingers and eyes intact.
As regards the Ramones there was a fair bit of dysfunctional with them and also their management! This would take some time to discuss. The drummer had his head screwed on compared to the others.
LTW: Do you see the influence of The Rezillos in contemporary acts? I’m thinking The Gossip, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Urge Overkill, The Blood Arm in particular. You seem to bridge the art school/street-punk-garage vibe pretty well.
Fay: Oh yes, definitely. The Rezillos weren’t like other bands back then. And now it kinda makes sense. We certainly knew we were arty, we couldn’t help that, we were an art school band. Although saying that, some of us were definitely of the streets, too.
Eugene: As regards bands that say we influenced them, there are a lot, some very big ones too, and that’s how the melting pot works. If you analyse the contents of a mud puddle it’s stuffed full of DNA.
LTW: The Rezillos career first time around was a short, sharp two and a bit years. With the hindsight-ometer do you ever look back and wonder?
Fay: Wonder what? Je ne comprende pas.
Eugene: I think there has been a fair amount of wondering. When you press the destruct button, make sure it’s not the one connected to yourself.
LTW: Retro didn’t exist back in 1977. The Rezillos invented it. Discuss.
Fay: Aye maybe you’re right. It’s strange, and I don’t know why, but I had some powerful formative experiences with giant women in tweed skirts as a kid in Fife
Eugene: I’m broadly in agreement.
LTW: You received a “Legends” award at The Nordoff Robbins Tartan Clef awards recently. How did that feel?
Fay: Great, and about bloody time! Ha ha!
LTW: Is the Mission Accomplished?
Eugene: It’s never accomplished.
Faye: Of course not, you fool!
The Rezillos new Single Out Of This World is out now on Rezillo Records and can be bought from their website. Also see video below to stream it. The band are currently touring the UK – dates can be found on their website too.
NB, an edited version of this article appeared in the April edition of Vive Le Rock magazine. Kind thanks to Eugene Butcher for agreeing to LTW using the unabridged version.
All words Joe Whyte. More Louder Than War pieces by Joe can be found here.