UK Decay return with new album : interview and listen to new song here

 UK Decay were one of the more inventive bands in the post punk period. They were sort of included in the early Goth scene but very much had their own thing going on with their atmospheric and thrilling music. They were also big peel faces and had many fans from the fringes of the Crass scene– typical of any band who were too inventive to be boxed in. A couple of years ago they reformed and put in some great gigs at festivals like Rebellion punk festival in Blackpool.

Thankfully they have decided to record a new album which is called ‘New Hope for the Dead’ and is out mid-January 2013. The album will be available on vinyl, CD and download at all shops and iTunes etc.

The band also plan to play their first London show in 30-years on Saturday 16 February 2013 at Electrowerkz, 7 Torrens St, EC1V 1NQ.

Below is a track from the upcoming album, it sounds great.

 

 

 

1). A lot of punk came out of the small towns- why is this and what was Luton like as a backdrop?

 

Abbo

Too much time on your hands, no regular music venue, one film choice at the local cinema, and a ton of subject matter and a closeness to the issues that affect society.

 

Luton, aside from having probably one of the most attractive footballing sides of modern times was a cultural desert and was probably well ahead of any small town in Britain in becoming a home for many immigrants. It gave us a great and colourful upbringing and really shaped a lot of the band’s views.

 

What ended that racial harmony sadly were issues seeping into the lives of Lutonians created by countries on the other side of the world. It is now a mess, and may be the blueprint for an emerging Britain, where worldwide events shape the everyday thinking of the people.

 

Spon

If you divide the population of the UK by the population of Luton it works out that about one in two hundred and sixty of all Britons are Lutonian. Yet in many ways Luton punches above it’s weight in certain areas, which are more to do with issues arising from a transient working class and a post-industrial urbanscape. Vauxhall Motors was the main employer in the town in our earlier period, but now it is gone and the airport has taken over. Luton is now a port that has become the first stop off point for many arriving from around the globe, making for an extremely dense and packed population (17000 per square mile). That in itself creates many issues, both positive and unfortunately some negative. But it means there is a wealth of ideas and creative thinking arising from the town.

 

Ray

The great thing about small towns in that era was the fact that you were really forced to make your own entertainment. No named bands ever played there and none of the club owners or pub landlords seemed to have realized that there was a ready-made audience they could fill their bars with. In a weird way, provisionalism on that level worked.

 

2). Please provide a couple of paragraphs on initial inspirations, like punk etc, What gigs inspired you to play music, and about the early days of UK Decay.

 

Abbo

Well, as a band our great love was reggae. We grew up with it, loved the rhythms and it was the first place we heard music with a message. My favourite non-reggae band was the Groundhogs and through that discovered John Lee Hooker and eventually my favourite artist, Son House. I liked Roxy and Bowie, and was a Motown nut as a kid. What made punk so exciting was it seemed so total: music, message, lifestyle, attitude. I liked Eater, The Users, Buzzcocks, Wire. I loved their singles but never thought much of the Sex Pistols. The Clash were huge of course, I saw them at Dunstable on the White Riot tour and it was like a space ship landing in your back garden. The Banshees’ early stuff had a great edge.

 

Spon

Being a couple years older than Abbo and with Dunstable on the doorstep, most of the good touring bands visited the town’s Queensway Hall or the legendary California Ballroom during the later 70’s. I saw so many soul bands at the ‘Cali’ I can’t remember most, The Isley Bro’s, Drifters come to mind. At the Queensway I saw Hawkwind several times and loved ‘em. Later in 1977 I saw the Sex Pistols & Jam there, with a miserable audience of 50 or 60. Later I saw the early Banshees at Friars in Aylesbury. All of this added up and made me determined to join the party.

 

3). You were lumped in with the Goth scene. What was the Goth scene, why is it overlooked and sneered at and was there such a thing? What bands did you feel closer too. Why has post punk been narrowed down to exclude certain bands?

 

Abbo

I think we ducked out pretty quick. I’d only used the phrase Gothic as I knew Steve Keaton, the Sounds journo who was doing the interview, would get the tongue in cheekiness of it. Wearing black clothes on tour when you are sleeping on couches or in vans and only seeing soap every few days is a matter of common sense.

 

I don’t really like the music of the acts that were caked in make-up, the lyrics are pretty facile and often all imagery with no depth.

 

Southern death cult were cracking, though. That’s why we brought them to London. Theatre of Hate were a good band and DAF were exciting .

 

Spon

We were what we were, scuse the pun. We wrote about topics that fascinated us, like for instance the supernatural. There was no ‘Goth’ in the time we first existed. Abbo would joke about ‘Gothy types’. I think that comes from a gig we did in Berlin in 81 where we hired some fancy dress party masks. But we did add a ‘psychedelic’ or dark edge to our usual hardcore punk style, and that happened alongside KJ & Bauhaus etc – although we all did so with a different take. We were looking for something slightly more ‘intelligent’, than the thrash sound on one hand and the Oi sound so lovingly perpetuated by Gary Bu-sh-llshit on the other.
’Post Punk’ is not quite what it says on the can today. We didn’t know it as that back in the day. I think at the time we knew it as ‘New Wave’, which led onto many other things. Post Punk is a relatively new genre, of which no two people can agree on its correct content.

Unlike Abbo, I can appreciate the showmanship and artistic providence of acts using make up creatively in their shows today. One of the strangest and most eye-catching cases of weird stage make up I have ever seen was an artist called ‘Anklepants’ (I think) at the Drop Dead Festival last weekend! Google it, not so sure about the music though.

 

Ray

Lumped in is the right phrase. The whole goth scene really kicked off after the band split up. We’ve played quite a few festivals featuring goth bands over the past few years and it’s obvious we stick out like a sore thumb in terms of lyrical content and musical style. I’ve always viewed Decay as a punk band that goes beyond the obvious.

 

 

4). For My Country was the breakthrough single…can you talk about it please.

 

Abbo

We were of the age for drafting and there was a lot of talk about war, our dads had been in wars . As soon as my dad used to start with the line ” when I was in the army …..” me and my sisters would tell him to shut up. I feel bad now he is dead, as it was his finest hour and there had been a good reason to fight, but I hated the glorification of it all and I wrote the lyrics at 17 with a very much simplified view on the matter, just contrasting the glory with the reality:

 

“Ablaze in their eyes, death is their glory”

“Ablaze in the fields, their death is quite gory”

 

I can’t say there was anyone who influenced the song musically, but I must credit a generation of dads for inspiring the mocking lyric, although now acknowledge that wissout zem ve vould be talking a different language.

 

We were very anti war and still are.

 

Spon

Completely agree with Abbo on this. Iraq and Afghanistan still makes it totally relevant today and sadly I can’t see any change for the better in the future.

 

Ray

I’d say it’s even more relevant today, considering the enthusiasm our politicians and media appear to have for going to war.

 

5). Can you talk about the connection with Crass?

 

Abbo

We had no connection and only played one gig together. But when Fresh Records went bankrupt owing us money, they very valiantly stepped forward and underwrote our ‘Rising From The Dread’ 12″ with absolutely nothing in it for them. They were good people, I do see Penny Rimbaud now. I like his poetry and enjoy passing a few hours talking about life with him over a coffee. He has a great sense of observation (and humour) and cooks a mean pasta.

Spon

Crass were a huge inspiration to many, they still are. The only time we played together was in an ex WW2 Nissan Hut on the Marsh Farm estate in Luton. It was a benefit gig for the Cobalt Hate fanzine writers, who had landed in trouble with the authorities for ‘spreading dissent’ in their ‘zine. Together we raised some money for their legal costs.

 

6). Why did you split up when you were on the cusp of a bigger breakthrough?

 

Abbo

We were in a band because we were. It sounds trite, but it was a matter of circumstance that a group of kids hanging around a pub fell into making music, when the entry level of required musicianship was suddenly lowered because of punk. We never had any aspirations to do it as a full-time job and even though we did it full-time for four years never thought of it in terms of commercial success.

 

That is the honest truth; it could have split up anytime. We toured Europe, the UK and the US in low-fi travel and accommodation, living on top of each other and with very different habits (I didn’t drink, smoke or have any interest in drugs. Sounds boring but there was just too much to see, do and take in, to be escaping from the real world outside of Luton).

 

If I’m honest I have no real idea why it happened then. Luckily I don’t over think life even now, as I might be wondering what the hell I’m doing being back in a band.

 

Spon

I think it was a classic ‘burn out’ in retrospect. It seemed we had pushed and pushed a new movement against oncoming currents by sheer force, and it took its toll. We were the booster rockets that pushed up the Space Shuttle into orbit, only to tumble back to Earth when spent, as the payload glided gently into orbit. In retrospect, we should have taken a recuperative break for a few months, but there you go, we became martyrs instead!

 

 

7). Why did you reform? it seems like every band from the 80s has come back?!

 

Abbo

It is the most stupid thing we have ever done! It totally happened through circumstance, with no premeditation.

 

It’s lucky we did, as we are taken aback at how well the album has turned out. It speaks out about the times we live in. I hate nostalgia, it will be interesting to see if anybody recognises the band. When we play live, especially in Europe, the average age of the audience is early twenties. Someone needs to make records that are of our time and which are kicking. Hopefully ‘New Hope For Dead’ does that.

 

Spon

Never dreamt it would happen. Since it has, though, I have learned ‘never to say never’. At the end of the day ‘you are what you are’ and once experienced, the legacy is eternally ingrained. I guess we felt there was unfinished business, so while we are still alive and kicking, why not?

 

Ray

It’s just a complete accident really. Spon arranged one show back in Luton and before we know it we’re playing more and more. I don’t think we would be doing it if we had not produced these new songs, as there is only so many times you can play a set that’s 30-years old.

 

Abbo’s right, the new songs are cracking, and so is Spon, there is unfinished business. The new material has got energy, spirit and a message – and sounds like Decay without aping the past.

 

 

8). What can a new, older and wiser UK Decay offer?

 

Abbo

A lot more than a younger one.

 

Spon

Absolutely! Perhaps in our own unique way we can still make a difference, but armed this time with the rationality of our age and experience.

 

9). How much different is the new music?

 

Abbo

It’s heavy, sparse, twisted. I always liked the sonic power of some heavy rock and metal but then would switch off as soon as the stupid cock rock or high-pitched vocal kicked in. It was a gamble using Chris Tsangaredes (The Dark Lord or TDL to his friends ) to produce it, as we didn’t need or want anybody to tell us what or how to play. What we needed was someone to take the role of getting drop dead brilliant sounds, where you don’t need layers of overdubs, just a single pure sonic assault. He was absolutely brilliant. In my day job I’ve worked with all sorts of artists from RZA to The Black Crowes, and I have never heard a more talented sonic sound smith than TDL. He sticks a mic in front of an amp and KABOOM !!

 

Spon

UK Decay on steroids! UK Decay in the twenty first century. There are as many, if not more, issues to rise up and protest against today as there were way back then. The lyrics are still as pertinent, but we do have more ‘personal’ moments within our new sound.

 

Ray

It’s different sonically, but the same in attitude and message. TDL is a genius. As soon as we heard the monitor mix of just the drum tracks we were blown away. Also, we were lucky enough to go away for a week or so and live next to the studio – so it was a totally immersive experience. We’d record during the day and write at night, while surviving on Abbo’s fried egg sandwiches.

 

10). What are the band’s plans?

 

Abbo

Do a few gigs, meet some interesting people, make the odd record (every 30 years) and put Luton back on the map.

 

Spon

We have just returned from a really buzzing performance at the Drop Dead Festival in Berlin, where we had chance to premier some of the songs from the new album. We have also just recruited new guitarist ‘Jonny G’ to add some necessary layers and textures to our new material, he joined us for that gig and into the future now.

 

There is a new fire within the band and we heard that at DDF. I felt liberated from having to hold down the rhythm and somehow had more room to manoeuvre with some of my more experimental sounds. It was a joy and I am really looking forward to more gigs in 2013. I think we will have a new urgency and refined power, with great potential for the live shows and future recording projects. I shall certainly want to see the band ramp up its live performances next year and feel more confident than ever that we can and we will make a real difference once again!

 

 

 

 

 


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