Marking the 10th anniversary of the passing of John Peel, Dub Sex will be playing Manchester’s Sound Control in two weeks time. They’ll be playing a special set which will include new material as well as music from the recently released and well received ‘Over and Over’. The event is a night in honour of Peel who was a fan of the band and who had them on his show several times, and it’s a nod to the inspiration he served to bands and fans alike.
Louder Than War talked to singer Mark Hoyle about the upcoming show and also reflected back on the group’s history and their music.
Louder Than War: Dub Sex recorded 4 radio sessions for John Peel’s radio 1 show, was it important to the band to acknowledge his anniversary
Mark Hoyle: Yes, it has been ten years since John’s death, but in my opinion, that’s pure coincidence. After all the progress we’ve been making this year, we were always going to celebrate with a hometown show in the Autumn. The fact that it falls on the same day as John’s anniversary wasn’t deliberate. It feels more appropriate to be celebrating the day of his birth, really. That said, our relationship with John Peel is a long and very personal one, and he’s been such a huge influence and loyal supporter of our music, that he won’t be far from our thoughts that night. For me and Cathy, he entered our story that bit earlier. He was a great fan of Cathy’s ‘Performing Ferrets’ and he played my first efforts back in 1979! He’s been in my life for longer than almost anybody I know, relatives and everything! It will be a thoughtful night, no doubt about it.
You’ve also re-released a Peel favourite, Dub Sex’s track North by North East, to celebrate his legacy haven’t you?
Yeah … one of the great lost Dub Sex songs. We recorded it for our fourth Peel session, and we hadn’t long written it when we brought it to Maida Vale. When I hear it, I hear a band fizzing with optimism, excited by the potential of the sound they’re making, almost surprised by it. Peel sessions were like that, especially if you were trying new stuff out. You’d kinda knew it would be special, but when you heard it back … well … life changing stuff!
It’s been released on ’21 Songs for John’ a FREE compilation album which is downloadable for one month only as a mark of love for the man himself. We’re on it, as are The Wedding Present/ Cinerama, Half Man Half Biscuit, Talisman, I Ludicrous and, oooh, loads of people. Worth investigating. (Ed – we will be publishing a special feature about this compilation by the man who made it happen on Peel Day, 14th October, next Tuesday).
What were your own fave Peel moments, whether playing on his sessions or just listening to the show?
Peel moments? I’ve many many many beautiful experiences, running right through my adult life! Apart from listening every night as a teenage manc punk, I mean … the stuff we were exposed to on his show shaped not only my musical tastes, but led me to new ways of thinking, as the music led me to other cultures, steered me to ask questions about politics and society, and most importantly was brave enough to showcase the new music. It kick-started and changing many lives, mine included.
I was only 18 the first time I met John Peel. I just turned up with a sweaty cassette at Broadcasting House. On it was some lo-fi extremism that I’d done with Lee Pickering and Karl Burns (on a Jeremy Kyle-style ‘break’ from The Fall). We went to his car and he only listened to about a minute of it, before saying he’d ‘be in touch’. I hadn’t slept for about a week and I must have looked like a right urchin, dangerous, even, but he still risked it, in case he heard something ace. Didn’t even have a name for the band, and he still gave me the time of day.
Two weeks later, Chris Lycett, his producer, phoned to offer us a session but we were so untogether we passed on it, can’t believe we did that. I had to wait until the first Dub Sex session, some years later, to finally get to work down at Maida Vale. The first Dub Sex session was one of the pivotal experiences of my musical life. We’d only done three gigs, we only had a handful of songs, but we bonded big time and when we heard ‘Then and Now’ back for the first time, I knew I was right all along!
John came to see us once, in Leeds. Going to gigs wasn’t always easy for him with so many well wishers wanting to talk to him, so I felt really honoured. The trouble is that he brought David Gedge with him, and the entire audience were too busy rubbernecking to look me in the eye! haha!
Maybe not directly, but it feels quite a different place without him in our music world, you feel we really miss his whole presence, opinion and ear as well as his legendary and much missed radio show?
Yeah. John’s radio career spans a really long time and at different eras of musical history, he’s been important in different ways. He was always a champion of minority music, and his love of African music, and reggae, for instance, led to a real change in thinking in this country, which was much more racially and culturally polarised when I was a kid. People forget how straight people reacted to punk and reggae early on, it was no joke. I was beaten to a pulp in Middleton by three grown up men when i was only 15. We were hated and at times listening to Peel was the only proof that a different life existed. That’ll be missed.
Mainly though, it was the music. Above and beyond snobbery or commercial clout, you never heard such a diverse set of tunes anywhere else. That’s pretty well still the case.
A Dub Sex promo video for the single ‘The Underneath’ which was shot in the Stone Roses rehearsal rooms in Chorlton Cum Hardy, has just been released online hasn’t it, what’s the story behind it?
‘The Underneath’ rules! It’s a photo-finish between that and ‘Time of Life’ for my own personal favourite. That changes all the time though! Haha! It was made by IKON, Factory records film people, and they really got to grips with the pace and energy of the song. They spent a day building train tracks to get those panoramic ‘circling the band member’ shots, and in a mastery of moodiness later perfected on our ‘Swerve’, they got right to the dark heart of it all. Love it, me.
It features Director Malcolm Whitehead’s trademark ‘hang the camera out of the car window and drive round Hulme’ technique, first spotted on his brilliant, iconic joy Division stuff! Haha! Brilliant!
Yes. All gone. The idea was to make it a special limited edition, so there weren’t many.It was a World Record Shop Day release, and we wanted to present something unique. Unfortunately Martin isn’t with us any more, so it’s only right and proper that people should be able to hear everything he did. We were going to do an album with him and we had some try out stuff from Strawberry Studios. Tim Burgess and his colleague Nik Fraser heard ‘Over and Over’ and Martin’s version of ‘Time of Life’ and wanted to release it on his fine O-Genesis label. The rest, as they say, is (recent) history!
Since reforming what’s been the stand out moments for the band?
It’s kind of been one big ‘stand out moment’, if that makes sense. The whole thing of getting back together has worked so well, and given so much pleasure, that it’s hard to see any downside. In fact, there is no downside! It was a bit special the very first time we got together again in a rehearsal room. Nobody knew what to expect, and there was Kev drumming for the first time with us, and my son Stefan, who had never been in a band before, with me, Chris and Cathy… and within a few bars of ‘Instead of Flowers’ we knew it was gonna be just brilliant. That was a year ago, now, and I’m still smiling.
So any surprises for the Sound Control show, it feels like it’s going to be a special live performance?
Yes, of course there’ll be surprises! But if I told you about ’em, they’d hardly be surprises, would they now?
We’ve been blessed with a wealth of ace songs, and it’s been an absolute joy to give them the treatment we’ve always wanted to.
We’re all a bit open-mouthed with wonder at how powerful it sounds,and how we’re all so much more able to control and direct things. You’ll be hearing new stuff and incisive reworkings of our best known songs. This is timeless stuff and it feels as fresh today as ever. Trust me, I’m a doctor! (Well. I’m not, but Cathy is!)
On a personal note, I’ve never sang as well in my life as I have in the last year. Something about the way we’re sounding just sets me free and I’m having an absolute ball. Check it out at Sound Control!
…and how will Dub Sex see the year out, any more shows or releases planned
After Sound Control, we’re gonna crack on with new stuff, there’s a backlog of ideas and songs which will form the backbone of a fine new Dub Sex album and it’s a real privilege to be in a position to release new material and to add a new chapter to the story. We’re just really enjoying ourselves, and we’re delighted to be returning to London for the first time in twenty-odd years, to play at The Dublin Castle, in Camden, on 31st of January.
Things are happening all the time, though. Keep your ears and your third eye open!! Haha!
Buy tickets for the night from Seetickets.
All words by Carl Stanley. More writing by Carl on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.