Mike Joyce – ex Smiths drummer interview from FOMfest
24 hours after his DJ set at the inaugural FOM Fest Michelle Corbett caught up with ex-Smiths drummer-turned-DJ Mike Joyce for a chat about knackered PCs, Bonehead and dogs on strings”Â¦
MC: So did you manage to do your set what with all the chaos?
(N.B: The Big Top Stage and Bowl Stage were both closed due to weather damage)
MJ: Nathan from The Whip sent me a text saying they’d been told not to go down. I’d seen where I was going to be DJing on the Saturday though so I didn’t think that tent would’ve been affected that much really and I made it down there. I had a lot of problems during the day with my computer. I DJ from a laptop and I had a virus on it that I couldn’t get rid of so I stuck a load of tunes on CDs. I went on and did my thing and it was fine. There was a lot less people there than there were on the Saturday. With it being so close to Manchester a lot of Mancs were there. In the event of the site being uninhabitable they just went home.
MC: Were you happy with it?
MJ: I enjoyed my set. It seemed very short though”Â¦ 45 minutes. I’m very flexible. I’ve never played the same set twice. Depending on where I am and who I’m playing to I can cut my cloth. I suppose the analogy is the same if you’re in a band. If you’re at a festival you don’t play a load of new material – you play your hits. Rather than thinking: “this is a really cool song that I’ve heard by a band a couple of weeks ago”Â you’re better off keeping it very simple. I’ve found that out over the years. I used to play songs by bands that I really liked – new bands that I thought people might want to hear”Â¦ Howling Bells, Metric ”â bands that sound great. But people just want to hear the classics. Things like Happy Mondays, New Order, Stone Roses, Oasis ”â I just don’t play a lot of that. I’ve done sets in Italy though and they want to hear the likes of Blur’s ”ËParklife’, which is still quite underground. There are very few indie nights there.
MC: So what did you play?
MJ: I kept it quite dancey. I wasn’t trying to be cool, just to have fun. I only had two CDS with me. I only got my PC about two years ago. My son said: “Dad, you should get a Mac. You won’t have any problems with that.”Â I’m like: “But I can’t afford a Mac son!”Â If I had ÃÂ£1,800 to spend on a computer, if this was my career and I was DJing every week or every couple of weeks then I would get a Mac, but I don’t so I don’t need to.
I went to All Tomorrow’s Parties at Butlins and I was all ready to go and the computer just wouldn’t turn on because I had a virus. The guy was like: “Are you ready to go after this next tune?”Â I said: “No, I’m not”Â. “Have you got some back-ups?”Â “No”Â. I’d stayed overnight and didn’t get the chance to go on. So what did I do today? I went on eBay and I’m having a look round for a second-hand one. It’s the cost that is prohibitive, but you don’t want to be loading up your PC and it’s like ”Ëbong, bong’ – Windows comes up. That’s just a bit embarrassing. I’ve put a bid in. Whether I’ll get it I don’t know.
MC: Did you catch the headliners?
MJ: I saw a bit of The Charlatans, but I’d rather go a gig where there’s nothing that can go wrong. You go in and you know the sound’s going to be alright, you’re going to be able to go for a wee, get a drink and get a taxi home. It’s all pretty much safe. Festivals”Â¦ I’ve never been into them. The first time I went to a festival was in 1985 with The Smiths. Elvis Costello was playing and the sound was blowing everywhere. It doesn’t make for a very comfortable performance for a lot of bands because they’re struggling with it a little bit. When I play drums at festivals the sound is really tinny. It doesn’t have a really fat sound because it dissipates everywhere. Luckily Dutch Uncles were in a tent – they are one of my favourite bands.
I saw The Charlatans at the Apollo when they played last year, which was fantastic and I don’t think that could’ve been bettered for me. Also they came on to East Village Radio and did a session on the day when they played the Apollo. I got to hear a few of the new songs off the new album. There was only me and an engineer. It was a unique, incredible experience – hearing it pristine through the speakers in the studio so I was spoilt.
I do sessions for my show every week on East Village Radio. Andy Rourke, Mark Ronson and Steve Lillywhite all have shows. Each DJ is given two hours – 12 DJs every day, seven days a week. It’s based in New York so logistically I can’t fly there every week – it’d be nice if I could! I record the shows here in the UK at Blueprint Studios in Manchester. We send them over as a two-hour WAP file. Any band that comes into Manchester I give them a call and ask if they’ll play two or three songs for the show. 99.9 per cent of the time they say yes, so I’m pretty much spoilt in terms of hearing bands one-on-one. I much prefer it than seeing bands where they’re not in their comfort zone – unless it’s The Prodigy or The Chemical Brothers where there’s more of a visual feast and the PA’s a lot bigger. I went to see Oasis in Knebworth and they had the same problem. You can’t see them.
MC:Did you see Buzzcocks?
MJ: I did yes, but (with the wind) the sound just goes. I saw them at The Academy last year and that was fantastic. They were the reason I started playing drums in the first place. I saw them in Manchester around 1978 ”â ”Ë79. I thought: “I want to do that. I want to do what he does”Â¦ that lad there, John Maher.”Â I had a black jacket on – a miner’s jacket ”â my dad used to work down the pits. I swapped it with Steve Diggle. He had a cool jacket on and he was like: “Nice jacket, nice jacket.”Â
I was obsessed by Buzzcocks. I had all their records, all the bootlegs. I even went round Pete Shelley’s house – knocking on the door when he was living in Gorton. I used to hang round Oldham Street where they had their offices. On the back of ”ËAnother Music in a Different Kitchen’ it says ”ËOffices: 183 Wilmslow Road’. I went down there and it goes 179, 181 and that’s the last building ”â there’s nothing after that. I thought “Bastard!”Â Apparently it’s inside! I used to hang around inside and try and get badges and just be a massive fan.
In 1991 they gave me a call and said they’d got the band back together again, but John Maher was busy doing his thing racing souped-up VWs and didn’t want to do the tour. They asked did I want to do it. Well, you can imagine it was just incredible! For them to ask me to go and play with them, it just doesn’t get better than that!
MC: Did you manage to catch up with any old friends at the festival?
MJ: It was relentless! I couldn’t actually walk more than 10 yards. I’m good with faces ”â just not names. So people were like: “You don’t remember me do you?”Â I was the same though. I’m a big fan of Cherry Ghost and I was like: “Oh that’s Simon Aldred over there!”Â
The same thing happened with Bonehead, who lives not far from where I live now. I remember going out for a walk with my lad. I saw an Aston Martin and as I got closer there was a bloke waiting for his gate to open and I was like: “Shit, that’s Bonehead!”Â I kind of stopped and said: “Alright, how are you doing?”Â He was like: “Yeah I’m fine. How are you?”Â So we were talking and I came home and I said to my other half: “You will not believe who’ve I just met, Bonehead. He lives round here. I’ve got his phone number and everything!”Â She said: “Bonehead? Wow!”Â and started dancing round. We’ve since become friends.
Loads of people wanted to say hello at FOM Fest. This lad came up to me and went: “Oh my God!”Â and gave me a massive hug. His girlfriend was like: “Who’s that?”Â and he goes to her: “You wanker!”Â and walked off. It shows you how small the festival was because I saw them about an hour later and she came up to me and said: “Oh my God, I am so sorry.”Â I said: “Come on, do you think I’m bothered that you don’t know who I am?”Â I don’t give a shit. It’s not embarrassing and it doesn’t matter. I won’t lose sleep over it (laughs). It shows you the intimacy of the day that I bumped into them again!
MC: All in all you had a good time?
MJ: I liked the fact I could just drive home. When I do the festivals I don’t do the tent thing. Some people dig it, some people can’t handle it. I’m the latter.
Years ago the Reading Festival was a traveller, leftie, white Rasta, dog-on-a-string vibe, punk and kind of hippie ”â non-commercial and famous for that. When the money starts to roll in they start looking at what’s going to make the most money as opposed to the acts you really want to put on.
The FOM Fest lineup was phenomenal – one of the best I’ve seen. It’s exactly what I do with the East Village show. I’d rather play what I want to play and believe in what I’m playing than be given a big pot of cash and play records I don’t like. If you do that then you’re a ”ËDee Jay’”Â¦ then you’re a tosser (laughs).