Duncan Reid of legendary proto punk band The Boys- interview

LTW reporter Ted Dahlin catches up with Duncan Reid to have a chat about his life in music, why it was time to leave punk band The Boys and his new solo album.

LTW: You started your music career back in the mid to late 70’s. Were you always musically talented? 

DUNCAN : As a kid all my effort and ambition went into being a footballer. Then, when I was 13 I discovered an old bass guitar in my dad’s cupboard. He’d been hiding it from me. It turned out he played in rock n roll clubs at the same time The Rolling Stones were starting out.

From the time I discovered that bass I was glued to it. Whether I turned out musically talented, I guess that’s for others to say.

LTW: When you got together with Honest John Plain, Cas Steel, and Jack Black in 1976, was this the first band you played in? 

DUNCAN : Don’t forget Matt Dangerfield! I’d been in bands at school but The Boys were the first real band with real musicians I was in.

I was really young and the other guys seemed so clever and talented to me. They could write really cool songs and sing harmonies. It was another world. I learned a rock n roll sensibility from them including how to play simply.

LTW: What music were you listening to back then? What inspired you?

DUNCAN : My earliest memories were the Beatles and The Stones on TV. If you were a kid in sixties Britain they were the soundtrack to your life.

As a teenager before coming to London there was a lot of nonsense I liked but, to my credit, I was also into a lot of stuff I still think is great today like Slade, T Rex, Bowie, Mott the Hoople and early Roxy Music.

The Boys were heavily influenced by Casino Steel’s previous band, The Hollywood Brats but the band that really changed things for us was The Ramones. Immediately we heard them we knew where we wanted to go. Next to The Beatles they are still the most important band for me.

LTW: Did you ever sucumb to any excesses back then?

DUNCAN : Well, I was 18, in a band who were doing well in very exciting times, which were to change the shape of music forever.

It felt like London was the centre of the universe with a new guard rubbing shoulders with the old, people like Keith Moon, Lemmy, Thin Lizzy. I didn’t live like a monk! ;)

LTW: Did you think you’d be in The Boys for quite as long as you were?

DUNCAN : No. When The Boys broke up for the first time I thought that would be the end for me and music.

I went back to the college I’d left after a day when I was 17 and then went on to work for Andrew Lloyd Webber and run Nottingham Forest for a while.

I had no intention of ever playing again and didn’t pay any attention to music. I’d gone back to my first love of football and was happy raising a family.

Offers came in for The Boys to get back together but, like Matt Dangerfield, I turned them down. I didn’t want to spoil the memory of The Boys and not be up to scratch.

It changed when we got a request to play in Japan. a, it was a place I wanted to visit and, b, if we were bad we would be bad on the other side of the world so it wouldn’t matter. In the event it was the start of a great adventure.

We spent the next 13 years playing some great shows all over the world. On every continent except Africa in fact. The second phase of The Boys also bought me together with Vom Ritchie, who turned out to be one of the most important people in my life. Not just a great friend but the man who single handedly gave me the confidence to make my solo album with his praise and encouragement.

LTW: You left The Boys in November 2011 on the Japan Tour. You played your last gig with them in Tokyo. What was the reason for leaving after so many years?

DUNCAN : In fact it was Osaka but same difference. It was a lovely irony to end with The Boys in Japan, the country which got us back together.

Leaving was very complicated and there were a million reasons for it. There’s a little bit of the Gallagher brothers in every band but the main reason was we were holding each other back.

Time is always limited. The other Boys wanted to play more gigs and, subconsciously, I think I wanted more and more to make this album. Something had to give.

LTW: You now have a solo album being released soon. Tell me what inspired you when you made the music. It’s quite different to The Boys.

DUNCAN : I started writing it 18 months ago and really have written all the songs for myself, about my life and things which have happened to me. I think the songs are actually very Boys like although you can hear all the influences I mentioned earlier.

What makes it different from The Boys is the sound. I’d made The Mattless Boys album with most of the other Boys. With Honest John on guitar and Cas singing harmonies it was a very Boys sounding record. It couldn’t be any other way as they are great at what they do.

With my first solo record I really wanted to take a different direction and make something very personal. So I took the decision to play just about everything myself bar the drums. Tony Barber, the producer, really made that possible for me with all the know how he bought to it.

I think together we’ve come up with something really special and a little unique. I think people are going to be surprised.

LTW: As a solo artist you won’t have the other chaps with you but can use any musicians and it will be different for you. Will you miss the guys and the feeling of being in a group?

DUNCAN : Oh for sure but it’s an exciting challenge. When you are in an iconic group like The Boys, and being as good as we were, it was relatively easy. You get on the plane, you play the gig, the audience love hearing the familiar songs, you get paid, you have a good time and come home. Easy, everything is laid on.

Now I have started again and I have to fight for my chances and look after myself. But I’ve got friends and you really find out who they are. There are so many people helping me.

People like Alex Gold who is a fantastically talented musician. He can play anything and is ironically playing drums now for The Boys after I found him for that job. He’s been helping me find musicians to play live with.

LTW: What do you have planned for this year? Any tour in the pipeline?

DUNCAN: Yes. It’s the next part of the plan. I’m working on gigs in loads of locations all round the world. Watch this space! I have a website www.littlebighead.co.uk. It’ll all be on there.

LTW: I’ve listened to your solo album and love it. What strikes me is that it’s really personal. You are singing about your wife and your family. About your life and people you know. Good old times. Is this the most personal you’ve been with your music?

DUNCAN : Definitely. I loved writing the songs. They came relatively easily because I seemed to have plenty of ideas, a lot of which came from my life.

So, there are teenage memories, as you say, songs about my family, songs about great times I’ve had, people I’ve come across and even one which attempts to put my whole life into 3 minutes!

I think the key is that I just wrote them for myself and didn’t care what people would think. Thankfully everyone seems to love them.

LTW: What does your family make of you releasing your album?

DUNCAN : They are really behind it. My wife knows I have to do it or I’ll become unbearable at home, moping around frustrated and grumbling if I’m not recording or playing gigs. I don’t know how she puts up with me. I’ve got a Rickenbacker bass as a mistress!

LTW: If you decide to tour then please remember to include Scandinavia as we love you here. We wish you all the luck in the world with your new album .

DUNCAN : Thanks. I’d love to get back to Norway and Sweden. We played some great gigs there and the audiences were fantastic.

Interview by Ted Dahlin. You can read more from Ted on LTW here.

 

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  1. Great interview.Love Duncans album and am going to see him play it live soon in Germany with a friend and we’re both looking forward to it.

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