HONEST JOHN PLAIN interview by Ted Dahlin
Honest John Plain was working in a factory in north London in 1976, when he started the band The Boys together with fellow employees Duncan Reed and Jack Black. They were later joined by Casino Steel and Matt Dangerfield.
Dangerfield had converted his basement apartment in Maida Vale, North London, into a four track studio and they used to hang out here with other struggling bands at the time and make demo’s. The Boys signed to the record company NEMS in January 1977 and were, at the time, the only punk band with a record deal as the Sex Pistols had just been dismissed by EMI. After they had recorded four studio albums and eight singles they disbanded in 1982. It has been said that their lack of success was most likely due to them being too good musically for the punk music scene. Honest John Plain kept recording with other bands until he was asked to join his old mate Casino Steel who was working with Gary Holton. Holton/Steel were enjoying a huge success in Casino’s native country, Norway.
Unfortunately it was to be a short lived collaboration due to Honest John getting fired after a few months.
In 1999 they were asked to get back together for a tour of Japan. They thought it would mean playing small venues to ten people and their dog and were surprised to find they were playing gigs at large venues, packed with fans. They sold 90 000 records and it was the motivation they needed to keep the band together. The Boys played the Rebellion festival in Blackpool this year and are ready to set off on a string of gigs in Italy later this month. This autumn sees them touring Japan again and unfortunately loosing bass player Duncan Reed, who’s last gig is Tokyo. They are currently looking for someone to take his place.
Honest John Plain has just been in studio working on his next album Honest John Plain and Friends that lists a long line up of well known musicians. This album will be released in April 2012.
Ted : Your name is rather unusual. What’s the story behind being called Honest ?
Honest : When The Boys first signed for NEMS I was given the advance so that the band could buy new equipment. I am a bit of a gambler and thought that I could get more money for the band by betting it on a horse race on which I’d been given a red hot tip. Unfortunately the horse came second and so all the band’s money had been lost. The band were a little disgruntled with me and as a result came up with the name “Honest”Â!
Ted : You are the founding member of the punk band The Boys. You were working at a factory in North London in 1976. What inspired you to start the band ?
Honest : It was really Matt & Cas who were looking at starting a band following their involvement with London SS. I had met Matt at Art School in Leeds and we moved down to London together and shared flat with Barry Jones in Maida Vale. I was a foreman in Gaz T-Shirts and two kids who worked for me were Duncan & Jack, who were old school friends. I certainly gave them the runaround as they were both lazy buggers!
Ted : I know you used to hang out at Matt Dangerfield’s studio in Maida Vale with people like Sid Vicious and a few others. Do you have any fond memories from those good old days?
Honest: Yeah we had some great times in Matt’s studio and I got to know all the bands of the time who hung about round Matt’s place and in the local pub, The Warrington.
Ted: Was there a friendship between the punk bands in London at the time or was it just competitive and divided between the bands in north London such as The Boys, The Clash, The Damned and a few more and the ones in south London such as The Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Generation X etc ? Or did you all just hang out together at the Marquise Club for example ?
Honest: There were lots of friendly rivalries!
Ted: You disbanded in 1982 after making four albums and a few singles. What was the reason for this ?
Honest: Cas had already left the band in 1980 to team up with Gary Holton. Safari decided to drop us in 1981 when Boys Only bombed and then Duncan left so we decided to call it a day. We played a few more gigs in Italy, New York and Spain after we’d decided to finish and those were great fun.
Ted: You spent a few months in Norway playing with Gary Holton and Casino Steel in the early 1980’s. They made a completely different type of music than The Boys. It’s a big leap from Punk. Did you enjoy playing country rock ?
Honest: I had a great time with Holton/Steel and loved their music.
Ted: What did you make of the music scene in the short time you spent in Norway ? Was it easier than the London ?
Honest: It was very different from London but I really enjoyed my time over there, and still do when I regularly visit to play gigs with Cas & Petter Baarli.
Ted: You got fired for being a bad influence on Gary Holton when you played with Holton/Steel. Gary had a reputation for being a hell raiser. What’s the story here ? What did you do ?
Honest: Well Gary was sort of out of control at that time and I actually saved his life twice! We got on great and loved to have a few drinks and do other things together! Unfortunately no one dared to say anything to Gary when he turned up late or was incapacitated so they needed a scapegoat and I was in the firing line so I had to go!
Ted: The Boys record individually as well as together. You have an album coming out in April 2012 called Honest John Plain and Friends. There is an impressive list of musicians contributing to that, such as Martin Chambers (The Pretenders), Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols), Sami Yaffa (New York Dolls/Hannoi Rocks) and many more. Are these old mates that you like to work with or people you have chosen specifically for their musical talent ?
Honest: Honest John Plain & Friends was actually my debut solo album back in 1996 so the new album certainly won’t be called that! The recordings in Rockfield were great fun. Several of the musicians like Cas, Die Toten Hosen, Darrell Bath and Glen Matlock are old friends whom I’ve recorded with previously. I have played live with Sami and have known Martin Chambers for a while. I’d not previously met Michael Monroe but I knew he was a fan of The Boys and Cas so it was a real honour that he came along. I’m very excited by the results and we are hoping to have major album launches in London, New York, Oslo, Singapore and a few other countries with numerous guests.
Ted: The Boys seem to be touring a lot. You had great billing for the Rebellion Festival in Blackpool. Then it’s off to Milan and several other Italian gigs before you head off on a tour of Japan. Is touring something that you all enjoy, or is it a necessity ? By this I mean financially. It’s so easy to steal music from the internet and the sale of music CD’s has taken a nose dive. Not just for you but for everyone.
Honest: I love playing live and want to be on the road as much as possible with The Boys as well as playing acoustic shows and of course launching my new album in 2012 with a new band.
Ted: Again, you are touring a lot. What do you get up to in the tour buss ? ”Â¦(.giggle..)
Honest: I’m not sure I could repeat that on here!
Ted: The Boys go into studio next year to make another album. Is this going to be new music and when will it be released ?
Honest: Yeah it’s going to be all new material. Matt, Cas & I wrote the original Boys material and we’re all working hard at writing brand new songs which will stand up against the old Boys classics. We’re all very excited about the forthcoming recordings and gigs.
Ted: Is there anything you can tell the fans that they don’t know about you and that will surprise them ?
Honest: I am really an honest man! Can you lend me a fiver, I promise I’ll pay you back next week!
/>[/caption](TNT supporting TV Smith)
Sunday 4 September Treviso (Villa D’Asolo)
Monday 5 September Piacenza
Tuesday 6 September Bologna
Wednesday 7 September Potenza Piceno (Ancona)
Thursday 8 September Rome
And with The Boys:
Saturday 6 August Rebellion Festival (6:15 Almost Acoustic Stage), Blackpool
Sat 6 Aug (8:10 Empress Ballroom) Rebellion, Blackpool
Fri 9 Sep Rome (Circolo Degli Artisti)
Sat 10 Sep Milan (LO-FI Club)
Saturday 22 October Tokyo (Shimokitazawa 251)
Sunday 23 October Tokyo (Shindaida Fever)
Tuesday 25 October Ooosaka (Muse Hall)