MEGA CITY 4 interview SOUNDS, June 3 1989
Night after night, MEGA CITY FOUR clamber into their beloved Transit to take their thunderous punk-pop to the nation, and theyâre gaining new converts at every stop. MR SPENCER climbs in the back to report on the best rock ânâ roll to hit the UK scene in years.
SOMEWHERE BETWEEN a rip-roaring display at Sheffieldâs Take 2 Club and a sell-out triumph at the Marshall Rooms in Stroud, the magnificent Mega City Four are squeezed into the back of a dust-caked Transit van.
Their aching backs â the result of a night on the floor in Chesterfield â are temporarily forgotten in the buzz of success.
A few more miles, however, and theyâll be in agony.
Bassist Gerry elaborates: âLee the tour manager says he can recognise Tranzophobia. He can see it in us, cos when youâre tired but youâre so ga-ga in the head that you canât sleep, your eyes get bigger and you go a bit red in the face. You just go bananas.â
Drummer Chris puts it more succinctly: âYouâve heard of thousand yard stares at Vietnam? Well, you get a thousand yard stare.â
âTranzophobiaâ is the title of the debut Mega City Four LP, and what an LP it is too! 14 tracks, every one a guitar-laden classic, from the uplifting opening blast of âStartâ, right through to the contemplative closing number, âStupid Way To Dieâ.
Steeped in melody and thrilling vocal harmonies, âTranzophobiaâ is propelled by an unashamedly punky power-base, along with an effervescent energy unheard of since the days whenâ¦ well, since the days when bands got their kicks playing songs rather than simply mimicking the sound of thundering pneumatic drills.
Not that MC4 donât thunder. Indeed, their particular brand of thunderous punk pop is infinitely more potent than the row being made by todayâs thrash/noise outfits.
This band operates on several levels â a concept hard to grasp in an age of one-dimensional rock barbarism, admittedly, but itâs true.
Weâre talking music here. So weâre talking highs, lows, and all the different bits in between. Weâre talking about emotions and, in Britain at least, in 1989, this means that the basically trad Mega City Four are pretty unique.
Chris: âItâs the sort of thing weâd have been waiting for, if we werenât in the band, sort of thing.â
Guitarist Danny chips in: âItâs fresh, cos thereâs only two bands that I think are like us â Snuff and The Senseless Things. And when I see them I think, F***, wow! Iâve gotta go home and smash the house up!
âAnd I hope weâre like that, I hope weâve got that feeling. Itâs a fresh attitude. If there were millions of fresh bands out there, they wouldnât be fresh.â
Songwriter, master tunesmith, singer and guitarist Wiz (Gerryâs brother) answers those who accuse MC4 of being a mere 1977 throwback with an irrefutable logic.
âWe played with Mudhoney the other night,â he says, stretching out a leg and colliding with his brotherâs ankle. âAnd I thought they were really fantastic. They reminded me of Jimi Hendrix in some ways.
âMaybe if I was a music writer Iâd say, What a load of hippies, what a load of astral bollocks. But I didnât â it had a really good feel to it, and it made people jump up and down. I thought, Shit, it really does sound like Jimi Hendrix, that. So f***ing what, yâknow?â
To quote Gerryâs immortal words, from Mega City Fourâs last Sounds interview: âIf youâve got the songs youâve got the songs and you canât argue with that.â
Obvious â but eminently sensible too.
THE TRANSIT van has been invaluable in helping MC4 rise to their current position in the rock ânâ roll league table (promoted from the third division and rising).
The Farnborough band have made their name through incessant touring. They play countless gigs and only release records â three singles and now an LP â as an afterthought.
Wiz: âWeâre not robots, but weâre getting to the stage where weâre enjoying ourselves almost every time we play. Nothing really pisses us off.â
Chris: âItâs walking onstage with the right attitude, isnât it? No matter what the circumstances are. You walk on, and if youâre laughing then, youâve cracked it.â
Danny: âWeâre really f***ing happy people. When we get up in the morning feeling like shit, we laugh our bollocks off.â
Chris (laughing off his bollocks): âWe laughed when we crashed our van the other day! Itâs like, we were going to call the album If It Can, It Will, because it does, every time. You know itâs going to happen, and when it does you just think, So what? Weâll get over it.â
Danny: âItâs good, because you canât make other people happy if youâre not really happy with yourself, and I think that comes acrossâ¦ itâs just entertainment, isnât it?â
Wiz clings on tightly as we negotiate a sharp corner: âYou can entertain all sorts of people on all different levels, you know?
âSome people who like soul and pop arenât put off by the volume and intensity in our music, because of the really nice tunes that go with it.â
Danny: âItâs like your Kylies and your Jasons, that to me is dead. Itâs nowhere music, and thereâs kids listening to that sort of thing. And I think, God, if they had a chance to listen to something like what we doâ¦â
Is that your enemy? Sterile pop?
What are you against, then?
Danny: âThat says it all. Weâre not showbiz.â
Chris: âItâs like going to gala evenings and record company performances, and all this old shit. But then, I donât think itâs an enemy â itâs just something weâll never do.â
U2 then? Simple Minds? Genesis?
Wiz: âItâs difficult to think about those people without realizing that theyâre as far removed from us as if you were talking about Robert f***ing Redford and Sophia Loren, sort of thing. Itâs as if theyâre on a different planet to us.
âWe canât really get annoyed about anything they do, I canât really feel part of it. Itâs a different f***ing culture to what weâre doing.â
Chris: âWe hope thereâll never be a Mega City Four fan club, because we donât think thereâs such things as fans.
âIf they come and see us, theyâre just friends, thatâs it. I mean, this musician/fan thing is completely ridiculous. Well, the musician thing with us is ridiculous!â
He laughs his bollocks off again.
WE STOP at a transport cafÃ© for brown tea and a gut-churning breakfast fry-up. I join Wiz at a cholesterol-free table where we sensibly partake in a slice of Bakewell tart.
Wiz often sits apart from the others. He needs time alone, âmainly to save the others from an ear-bashing, because I get so bloody grumpy.
âInstead of being really ratty all the time I just cut myself off,â he says. âI just read, or look out of the van window, or sleep.
âI take as little part in the proceedings as possible, apart from actually playing the gigs and doing the soundchecks. Weâve all worked out our ways of dealing with being together all the time.â
Just as well. Mega City Fourâs irrepressible and brilliantly liberating rock ânâ roll is the best thing to hit the UK scene in ages.
And yet some people have knocked them for being too lightweight, too poppy. Several misery-guts have leapt to the assumption that Wizâs lyrics are all frivolity and no depth. How wrong can you get?
âAs time goes by, people realize that weâre writing stuff thatâs more erudite than youâd normally associate with a band of our style.
âOur songs arenât direct, they donât deal with exact subject matter. They put everything on to a higher moral scale â the difference between right and wrong, sort of thing. And on the face of it there arenât any harsh political issues dealt with. But there are.
âThe best thing to do is step away from the particular issue and talk about the whole thing ofâ¦ whatever it may be â misuse of power, misuse of privilege, all that sort of thing.â
Do you understand why journalists are always sending you up?
âYeah, absolutely, and we can see why they think itâs really funny. I know exactly why they say that coherent thought can only destroy an aesthetic that lives on instinct above, um, whatever it was [Sounds writer] Roy Wilkinson said. It was a very valid point.
âIf we were super-intelligent we wouldnât make the music we make. Itâs as simple as that.â
ARE YOU in your element in the Transit van? Is it like home to you?
âNot to me, no.â
Youâve called the LP âTranzophobiaâ â it must mean something to you.
âYeah, it does. We thought, If weâre going to do the album, weâve built our whole thing on playing live, so we may as well tie it in, sort of thing.â
Would you ever consider getting a tour bus, or would it always have to be a Transit?
âOh no, it wouldnât have to be a Transit. But itâd probably have to be a Ford, we wouldnât get a Bedford. But if we got some money, weâd probably get a bigger van, make it a bit more comfortable.
âBut no, Iâm certainly not in my element in the back of that bloody van, it drives me f***ing mad.â
Mega City Four â they donât mince words, and they play rock ânâ roll that brings a lump to the throat. Wiz puts it like thisâ¦
âThe better it gets, the better it gets.â
Heâs not kidding either.