Most music fans will indulge in a little ‘Fantasy Football’ style imaginary line-up dreaming from time to time, thinking maybe what would have Johnny Marr become if he hadn’t teamed with Morrissey, or how might Mick Jones have turned out without hooking up with Strummer?
My personal twist on the game is to think of some of my favourite musicians who are not known to the multitudes, maybe because they never had their career-defining matchmaker moment, and then wonder if their contributions are any less valid because of it?
Case in point: Eddie Auffray, bone fide English guitar hero, songwriter and massively cool stage presence. Now living in Barcelona, Louder Than War catches up with him to hear about recording in New York, getting dropped by major labels and becoming a Catalan Punk Rock Rebel!
I first saw Eddie play in his band ‘Lightning Strike’ in the late 80’s. If you were a leather jacket wearing teenager in London around that time you couldn’t miss them, they were the house band of the ‘Intrepid Fox’ and at the hub of a scene that has never really been documented, based around said boozer in Soho’s Wardour Street where everyone congregated before gigs at the Marquee which was over the other side of the road.
An incendiary mix of Clash/B.A.D. and the Beastie Boys, the ‘Strike made quite an impact by signing to a major, having bigtime NME and Melody Maker coverage and playing nationwide tours (most notably with Boys Wonder, a kind of ‘Anarchy’ tour for its time).
“We signed to RCA in the U.S.” Eddie tells me, “USA trip was funded by our manager Kevin Daly (RIP), an agent got us 14 gigs in 2 weeks and tipped off the record companies there that we were looking for a deal. By the end RCA offered us one!”
Later, having recorded their debut album in New York, the band were on the cusp when fate played a hand. Debut single was due to be live favourite “Exocet Alley”, a blast of Rick Rubinesque rap-rock via Sigue Sigue Sputnik, which derided Jeffrey Archer in the lyrics. Prior to release the Tory shamster was subject to a high profile court case, the label got cold feet and the single suddenly became an A&M GSTQ story with all pressed copies being locked in RCA’s vault in London.
“Our manager was rubbing record company people up the wrong way so we sacked him. Slow downhill slide after that,” Eddie explains. So what happened next? “Spent around 2 years recording demos for 2nd album but RCA weren’t too keen on newer songs sounding different so we were eventually dropped.”
As a tight knit group of friends Lightning Strike continued under a different name, “but after a while people became bored, wanting to go in different musical directions. Normal really” Eddie says.
Now into the ’90s Eddie’s story picks up again with Speedway, another classic ‘lost’ British punky/rocky/poppy band. “I continued to play in different bands one of them being Trash,” he tells me, “eventually Trash split and just after that I auditioned for Speedway, the bass player being a mate of mine and suggesting me. The rest is history! Ha! I wish!”
Again Eddie found himself recording an album in New York. “It was the last attempt at getting a deal really” he explains, “we’d put out a couple of singles had radio play etc but couldn’t land an albums deal. Shaun McLusky (drums – previously in JoBoxers) funded the trip, bless him!, and we hooked up with a producer to record a demo which he would tout around on our behalf.”
Again fate played a hand, this time in Eddie’s favour. “The demo was pretty shit and we told him not to tout it. We played at CBGB’s and another producer happened to catch our set and basically he got us a deal with Atlantic records on the strength of our singles and previous demos. It was truly being at the right place at the right time!”
How did it compare to the previous US experience with Lightning Strike? “We spent around 4/5 months rehearsing and recording the album and it was a great experience and a whole lot more fun!” Eddie remembers, “second time round was definitely far more enjoyable.”
Sadly Speedway didn’t go on to make Eddie a household name, so what happened? âWe got dropped whilst mixing the single before the album came out!âÂ Eddie exclaims. âWe truly got shafted on this one, reason being someone got caught with their pants down (I mean LITERALLY) and the guy had to drop certain bands whilst making the ones he kept a success, otherwise he would be sacked for his misdemeanors! All true. Such a shame really coz I believed we had potential.âÂ
When I ask if Eddie is still in touch with any of the guys from Lightning Strike or Speedway his answer sums up what, for me, true bands are all about – âI’m still friends with all the guys from L. Strike and Speedway. Goes to show that it was all much more than just the music.âÂ
After a couple of serious attempts and knockbacks, it’s no surprise to hear that Eddie âgot disillusioned with music.âÂ The trail of true love meant he found himself living in Barcelona, after meeting his girlfriend whilst living in Amsterdam and then the pair following her work which took them to Spain’s most vibrant city.
True to form, it wasn’t long before Eddie found himself firmly at the centre of Barcelona’s alternative music scene, this time as guitarist in the three piece Ramones/Pistols punky aural assault of \’Ravales’.
Did you get involved in the local music/band/gigging scene straight away I ask him? âAfter about 6 months I started to put out adverts and eventually got back into playingâÂ Eddie explains, ââMaxi Santapa (vocals/bass) put Ravales together based around his skate shop HEY HO SKATE. I was put forward by the (then) drummer, auditioned and joined. Drummer left due to personal circumstances and Mauricio Schneider joined.âÂ
What does the name mean? âMaxi took the name from the Raval area of Barcelona where his shop is and where we’re based. It’s a very cosmopolitan area, with a seedier side of drugs and prostitution which the police are continually trying to clean up.âÂ So very much like Wardour Street back in the day then!
Ravales’ debut album âBarrio ChinoâÂ has just been released and is a fierce collection of 17 punked-up rocky gems. At it best it really does sound like Steve Jones and Paul Cook playing a Ramones set, albeit mostly sung in Spanish!
âMany bands here sing in English as well as Spanish and CatalanâÂ explains Eddie, who sings some of the English language tracks himself. \’321 On The Run’ is the closest to a new song from The Professionals that we’re ever going to get, so I ask Eddie if Jones & Cook are a big influence? âObvious I suppose but I never hide it! I’m a huge fan of the Pistols as well as The Clash, The Jam, Buzzcocks, Joy Division amongst othersâÂ he says.
Although songs such as \’Rock En La Radio’ and \’321′ have a powerful poppy simplicity to them, other tracks such as \’Victimas’ and \’Barrio Hussein’ dig a little deeper. âMaxi’s songs are a mixture of political and personal themesâÂ says Eddie, âmainly about the current economic climate here in Spain with its high unemployment.âÂ
With a couple of Catalan radio stations playing their tunes and some interviews and a live radio session under their belts, are there Spanish labels that might step in? âAs for getting signed not sure if that sort of exists in these days of internet/cyberspaceâÂ Eddie sagely notes, âthe smaller labels put stuff out for you but you have to contribute otherwise there’s no return for you. We chose to do it all ourselves that way any profit is ours. So far we haven’t made a loss!âÂ
With finances tight though international dates are hard to come by. By pulling on some old contacts Eddie’s Ravales have played in London once but so far that’s their only gig outside of Spain. âWe’d love to come to the UK again! Hint! Hint!âÂ says Eddie conspiratorially.
Ravales is the most \’punk’ band Eddie has been in so far, so bearing his love for the originals in mind, is it a lifestyle choice? âAs to it being a lifestyle choice I don’t think so. You are who you are. Punk Mod Skin they are just terms to help people box you.âÂ He elaborates â Paul Cook once said in an interview that the Sex Pistols regarded themselves as a rock band. The press labeled them punk. To me punk can be found in all art forms. To challenge and not blindly accept just because someone said so. Maybe rebellion with a cause!âÂ
With his trademark Les Paul Custom and Marshall amp combo, (âCan’t get much more rock n roll than that!âÂ, he explains), Eddie Auffray is still walking it like he talks it and this time round fate might just have dealt him the most unlikely hand of success he’s had so far.
Interview with and all words by Paul Fischer. You can read more from Paul on LTW here.