As a teenager I was never sure why my local venue always told you where the bands due to play came from and then slowly realised how great music is always influenced by its environment. Consequently I agreed to make the trip to Immingham to meet the countries top rock ‘n’ roll band on their home turf. Prior to going the two most notable facts on a computer search seemed to be it’s 6 miles from celluloid sensation Grimsby and the most well known inhabitant was Soham murderer Ian Huntley.
Clearly this isn’t a Bowie in Berlin yearning for inspiration scenario for the Ming City Rockers as the only thing they got to choose was to include their home towns nickname in the band’s moniker. In reality Immingham is probably little different from any number of towns in a system which increasingly prepares kids to fit their designated roles in life. In this case the local oil refinery or in Immingham’s county of Lincolnshire being manipulated into anger at Eastern European migrants for denying you the chance to pack boxes in a retail chain warehouse.
Unlike some bands arguing for your opportunity to do the 9 to 5 while spending a life time avoiding it themselves the Mings don’t want the right to work. Channelling their frustration resulted in a 2014 acclaimed debut album which married a Hives like sound to an early Manics without the Camus quotes feel. Whereas you can’t swing a bootlace tie around Camden without hitting a band who think buying the right shoes makes you Johnny Thunders the Ming City Rockers flamboyance on a shoestring relied on school shirts and the ability to actually write some tunes.
You can also tell a lot by their choice of covers and a clattering version of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” had conviction to spare with this gang of misfits sounding like they they had no choice but to be a band. The recent pointed take on “Death Trap” by Hawkwind further demonstrating a range of influence extending further than any narrow definition of punk and meaning they are much more so as a result.
So here I am sat rather aptly in a cafe with the affable pairing of Clancey Jones (vocals/rhythm guitar) and a hungover Morley Adams (lead guitar) ready to slice open their new album “Lemon” and squeeze it ’til the pips squeak. In an understated way however they describe themselves as “very pleased” with the results before Clancey speaks about achieving their aim of avoiding “the more you listen the more bored you get” syndrome by making the “dynamics heavier and softer.” Latching onto this I attempt to put two and two together and attribute this to Sabbath fan Morley but whatever she writes “ends up sounding kinda punk”. Going into fan boy mode I rave about the rousing pop of “All I Wanna Do Is Waste My time With You” and how the chorus stuck on first exposure. Its going to be the second single from the album and in my just alternate world would be number one for some considerable time. Clancey seemed as satisfied that I heard a P J Harvey element to album closer “Don’t You Wanna Make My Heart Beat.”
Moving on with an effortless link to one time Harvey producer and man who worked on “Lemon” Steve Albini I wondered whether the Mings found his history daunting? Morley said she wanted to ask about Nirvana but decided not to as he was “so professional letting you choose everything and have your own opinion.” Having heard that he worked by asking the band to describe the sound they wanted in whatever way they chose Clancey opted for “The Stooges ‘Raw Power.’ Make the guitar solos sound like that and on ‘I Don’t Mind If You Don’t Mind’ the solo really does.”
Asking about a tour and being told their agent had “disappeared” left me waiting for the sound of duelling banjos to drown out the sound of crying babies in the cafe. Nevertheless things are well on there way and may include European dates where I am sure they would go down a storm so well worth checking out on the usual social media website stuff. A question about bands they rated brought a thumbs up for Californian skate punks Fidlar from Morley. Initially an incongruous choice until you consider their hedonism has a kind of desperation which resonates with the Mings.
Adopting a serious investigative journalist demeanour I felt obligated to ask what had happened to their original bassist Jakki. Appreciating that the wound might still be a bit raw their initial response of “depends who you ask” was appreciated but the eventual parting of the ways could be attributed to Jakki’s struggle with touring. This is a shame as he not only brought a tremendous head of hair but an element of unpredictability which added some of the magnetism to their live shows. Understandably rather than go for an audience bothering, drink swigging doppelgänger they have opted for someone they already knew. As Morley put it “Ramona Rae knew all the songs when she turned up and looks decent but not like Jakk.”
After being asked if they consider themselves a “political” band Morley responded in the sense of “being poor and coming from a nowhere town.” Agreeing that it came from their existence rather than any explicit “Smash the Tories” message I attempted to draw parallels between them and the Sleaford Mods. This was based on geography and being the two live bands of last year to leave me with that take on the world feeling bands can generate.
The Mings kindly indulged me in this somewhat circuitous ramble and Clancey concurred with the observation that their boozing lyrics were less celebratory than about blotting things out: “Definitely. Good it comes across as it’s pretty much what we are trying to do.” He was however less forthcoming about new single “Sell Me A Lemon” saying that people “get what they get from it as it’s purposely ambiguous.” I therefore intend to indulge my right to get that the lemon in question is the lie of rewarding work and secure housing his generation have been flogged.
Deciding to continue with the big issues and wondering whether their cultivation of a little mystery extended to interviews it was time to challenge whether their landlord really was Scunthorpe’s top Elvis impersonator? Thankfully I can report that it was batted straight back with an “actually true” and a “happy coincidence” when pushed to reveal if they had moved there for anecdote purposes.
Around mid afternoon the handful of cafe patrons had changed from mums and babies to elderly ladies drinking tea so after asking what it was about Immingham that had “shaped” them we seemed to agree on speaking in hushed tones and trying to accentuate the positive. In short having nothing else to do helped make them creative and in the absence of a “scene” cultivated an independent mindset. Something like in far flung areas of America where what’s “cool” isn’t as rigidly policed and the middle of nowhere lets bands develop their own identity?
Ultimately though it is “boring” so what if they lose their spark when the album goes platinum and they can afford to move? After consideration Morley mused that it “would be annoying” before Clancey decided the best plan “would be to drink all our money and move back.” As they strode off into the Immingham afternoon I watched them through the cafe window and hoped their escape plan worked without them getting too serious as the world of adult rock and the heritage punk set needs all the competition it can get. Now in the words of the song I wanna get out of here.
All words by Steve John. More from Steve can be found at his Louder Than War Author’s Archive.