Former members of EMF & Elastica join forces under the name of Asbo Kid. They have new material due to be released on Monday, a single called ‘2 Tone Techno’. Trailing that we have this interview with the band.
I don’t have a problem with the trend for reunions and bands getting back together. Why deny people the chance to make an honest few quid, or even better to think that some old friendships can be rekindled after the passage of time and that people can pick back up where they previously left off, which most likely ended acrimoniously last time round?
What always surprises me though is the lack of new creative collaborations from people who previously did good work – in the late Sixties and Seventies examples of different bands getting together in new combinations were plentiful and were called ‘Supergroups’ – take Free and Mott The Hoople turning into Bad Company, or Small Faces and Jeff Beck Group becoming The Faces.
But the old school of famous UK bands from the late Eighties and Nineties seemed to mostly just disappear into teaching jobs, driving cabs or the obscurity and safety of the nine to five. Apart from awaiting on their old booking agent to give the shout out for the comeback tour one day, no one seems to want to continue as they started, with a quest and passion for making new music that relates to the times they live in.
So here we have Asbo Kid, who are bucking against this and pretty much every other trend you can think of.
James Atkin was the singer in EMF and Justin Welch was the only male member of Elastica (as well as being a founder member of Suede). Together they are making some truly original, totally contemporary second decade 21st Century music, which is brimming with social commentary and personal insight. Above all they are creating a thoroughly original racket.
“My friendship with Justin stretches way back into the last century, during the mid 90s and the Brit-pop heyday we hung out together at notorious Camden haunts such as the ‘Good Mixer’ and other infamous establishments” James tells me, “We got really close when we started sharing a studio next to each other and whilst my studio was viewed by myself as a place of serious work, Justin’s had inevitably a different approach.”
“We’ve know each other what seems like for ever” Justin picks up, “when we both of us lived and owned the streets of North London.”
So is there a deeper mano-a-mano level to their pairing? “We call it Asbo brotherly love” says Justin, whilst James laughs and says “As me and Justin stumbled around Glade Festival this year in the early hours of the morning after our set, it was commented on what a lovely ‘openly affectionate’ couple we make!”
The Asbo’s debut single on the excellent Corsair Records label is a magnificent madmash of ravey noises and ska horns brilliantly described by Justin as “The classic sound of dance hall with a spaceship load of in your face beats to spin out the pill heads.” He continues “our sound was a no brainer really and definitely not contrived, it all came from us both having similar record collections and our love for a party sound.”
With James living a rural life up north and Justin down on the south coast, I wondered how they get the process of making Asbo tunes underway. It turns out it’s a mostly a modern web-enabled long distance affair – “I play beats and dirty old synth’s while James sings the hooks, backed with the magic and melody” explains Justin, “the process from there is all ideas, which will be sent backwards and forwards via dropbox.” James adds “Sometimes we may take new ideas into a rehearsal room and play around with them together, exploring new arrangements or structures.”
So what about the old days, were they fans of each other’s bands? “I do own a copy of Unbelievable on 12 inch” says Justin, although he quickly continues “I must add it was my brothers.” James tells me “I wasn’t a massive fan (of Elastica) at the time, although I’m very jealous of the legacy they have left behind. Whenever I mention that I was in EMF and Justin was in Elastica it is always his band that people remark on as being the cool band.”
Whilst EMF are still in touch and do the occasional gig for, as James puts it, “Fun, cash and a nostalgia trip” anyone waiting for an Elastica reunion might have to join the line behind the Smiths fans. “Never say never” says Justin, “I’m in, but the rhythm section will always say yes first. I reckon it would be fun to play a few shows right… I’d love to catch up with Justine and Donna but they have their things going on.” So what about the rest of the band? “I’m married to Mew so you could say we see each other every day hah!” he explains.
Seeing as they seem so united in their music, mission and worldview, I reckon it’s my journalistic duty to see if I can squeeze a bit of a wedge in there and find a crack in the Asbo’s steely determination and camaraderie. So I ask James is he reckons Justin mises being in an all-girl band . “Yes,” he tells me with a conspiratorial glint in his eye, “he sometimes makes me wear girls clothing.”
Asbo Kid’s ‘2 Tone Techno’ EP is out on 20th August on Corsair Records followed by the album “The SUS Laws” a month later.
All words by Paul Fischer.