The return of The Fits – interview with classic punk band

I grew up in Blackpool with Mick Crudge of The Fits.

We shared rehearsal rooms when I was in The Membranes and the he was in The Fits.

They started as rudimentary punk and were the kings of the local scene because Mick was the coolest punk in town – he was also affable and indestructibly optimistic.

When they released their single ‘Tears Of A Nation’ they had morphed into one of the best punk bands on the scene – it was an amazing single – full of power and animal intensity and still sounds great to this day.

The band were part of the second wave of british punk and went through the punk rock wars and eventually split. Last year they reformed for Rebellion and now have recorded new songs and are about to release them. The band have returned on fire and Mick’s years outside punk have been full of adventure…

For full details check their websites…

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1) Why did you return? People have been asking for years for THE FITS to return _ Why Now?

When we split all that time ago something inside me was really deeply upset and it has never let me rest. We’d gone on to form Pure Pressure which was good but ended pretty badly. Back then the punk scene had become so ugly and really violent. We were all just worn down with it I suppose. Though with hindsight, I wish we’d stuck it out a little longer as we’d become pretty good song writers and the band was at the time we split the best we’d ever been. But that’s life isn’t it.

A few years ago when I came back from the US I did a few acoustic slots at the Rebellion. I remember returning to my home town entering the place after so long away, I felt like a ghost, I slipped into the Winter Gardens like a kid going to the pleasure beach for the first time. It was just so good to be there, I knew it and it knew me. To my great surprise people were glad to see me, some even searched me out, though I refused point blank to play Fits songs at that point, still a cocky little punk after all this time. But people did keep asking me yeah. So the idea grew over a time really, I’d seen Killing Joke & The Damned there and they were still fantastic, I’d been afraid I suppose of reforming and it being a really sad flat thing as a few of them there were. But I’d bumped into Dave Broderick the old Pure Pressure drummer back in London who has a lot of energy and we began meeting up regularly. So I asked him if he’d be interested, then searched out Kerry Waite who I’d worked together on a few different things over the years and the name Ricky McGuire the bassist from THE FITS “Last Laugh” period was spoken in my ear one morning as I was going to work. Everyone just said yes.

The return of The Fits – interview with classic punk band
2) Did you decide on a sound for the new record or did it just flow

Nothing was planned sound wise in fact we began by playing a lot of songs that I’d written whist I was away in the USA. Everyone has been around the block a few times and the level of their musicianship and the combination of their power and ability was and is refreshing and really exciting . We began introducing FITS songs really tentatively at first, as there was a little apprehension that we were going backwards, but then there was this one magical rehearsal where everyone went native. It was like “YEAH… now that’s f’ing Good” Real power, rawness and precision.

I think it was when we nailed “Last Laugh” again. It was liberating, something lifted that I’d been carrying all those years, it was like wings opening again. The other great thing has been that I have been able to listen to a lot of our stuff again and give ourselves a little credit. To play punk convincingly you have to be convinced yourself, (I suppose it’s the same with anything) people listening or watching know instinctively when somebody is for real. That is the real X factor, you can’t buy it and you can’t pretend it. In the middle of all that activity and at that age we never really stopped to think about what we were doing and to be honest being “punk” somehow hinted deep down that we weren’t really musicians of any worth. That’s a truth I have come to realise now since we have reformed, I realise now having played with many different people how wrong that thought was. To do it right you need a certain level of fitness , not to run around the block, but speed of fingers and the ability to produce volume, back then we just had that but didn’t know it.

3) What have you been doing over the years? You travelled India and the USA.

After the band split I decided to get the hell out of here, the UK. I wasn’t sure what to do so I worked a few jobs and saved up. I had long been drawn to some of the ideas that the Native Americans had about the way the world turned and so thought I’d go and visit them.

Gosh, talk about naivety. But it was that very idealistic thing that fuelled my fires and I’m grateful that I have it. It certainly opened doors and the gods seem to smile upon the curious, the army say He who dares wins and how ever you paint it, it seems to be the way it is.

I travelled across the US & Mexico for a good six and a half years. I bought a 1972 Chrysler New Yorker with a 440 engine, a huge boat of a thing and lived in it for long periods. I absolutely loved it and did actually “live in a car” it often made me laugh out loud as we tore along. I took the radio out of the car and except for the roar of the engine I was in silence for most of the time, the only music I had was some Bob Dylan songs. I also learned to play guitar out there as I wanted desperately to continue writing. I busked my way all across the US. Stayed with a Cheyenne family in Montana for a period and some small town people up in Forsyth, then worked as a wrangler in New Mexico at a place Ghost Ranch, also lived in Santa Fe for a period, some of the happiest days of my life. I was free, I new the time of day by the sunsets and sun rise and totally lost track of what day it was.

I discovered out there on the ranch working with the horses that I could channel energy. So when I returned to the UK I studied at the SAGB and have worked as a healer at the Phil Pooke healing centre in Bermondsey for must be 10 years now. Yeah I went off to India Nepal & Tibet a few years ago, I was again very restless. India was stunning and added another tone to my understanding. Tibet, though I wasn’t allowed to stay as long as I wanted, was as mystical as you imagine it to be. But anywhere is what you make of it. I was looking and I was prepared and so I certainly had some profound experiences up there on the roof of the world.

4) How different is your perspective on the world than when you were a young Punk Rock Kid?

I suppose I realise now that in fact some things have their natural time to begin and their natural time to end. If you are on the right horse so to speak and the winds blow your way, it is like being blessed as everything just falls into place, but it is just the right time. Then all things come to their natural end and if we are able to sense this too, allow it and let it happen, we suffer less.

Some things and some people come into your life for particular reasons it seems and some we have to let go of. I know these things, but of course at times I still have to work on myself. I always remind myself I’m just Mick from Blackpool, get a grip. In the silence of the car I would slip into depressions and later would move into higher moods. There was nobody else around to affect my moods or pin it on, it took many thousands of miles to realise these rhythms. It is that very thing that I miss profoundly at times now I am back in the belly of the relentless London Juggernaut. We blame a lot of our “stuff” on things that cross our path at a certain times, when in actual fact many times it is more a case of how we are actually feeling at that moment. I tend to check myself a lot more than I did back then. I could go on…

5) Do you look back on the Blackpool days with fondness?

Yes of course, they were the formative years weren’t they. I don’t dwell upon it to much anymore, I left some of the more painful feelings I carried out on the road side somewhere. It’s more a case these days of coming across people from back then and having a real warmth for them, knowing they know you and you them on another level.

Nothing is really forgotten is it. I have been really enjoying seeing people again from that time, to reminisce a little but also to see how they are doing. Again with a little time you realise the deep connections with everybody, how it all came together to make a scene happen and the part everybody played in it. It was a wonderful period. I am sure there are teenagers going through similar things right now, all the young dudes etc.

We used to slag Blackpool didn’t we, but in fact it was a vibrant place back then full of music, art, fashion, theatre and literature cool clubs and venues. Most of it created buy the upsurge of the youth from that time, but again maybe again everyone was just unconsciously plugged into the high tide that came in and washed across our shore. I wouldn’t like to be a teenager in Blackpool right now, it seems a little sad looking, but then again I don’t live there anymore so I can’t say for sure, but it does seem to be very depressed.

6) Is there space for Punk Rock in 2013

Well, it is tough windswept land starting out again, out there on the road but I’m going to say yes of course there is, it is still a pressure valve to let of steam. The scene isn’t what it once was nor of course could it be. It isn’t as wild as it was, nor thankfully is it as violent as it was towards the end of THE FITS days. I was away for a long time and wasn’t sure that there was anything valid in it or anything new that could be done.

But then I saw “Rancid” at the Rebellion, I’d not heard of them and so knew nothing about them. They were absolutely stunning. That hadn’t happened to me for so long. I couldn’t believe how good they were, they are very now, they seem to have plugged into the times. I am most certainly a fan and went to see them a few more times on the last tour here and I haven’t stopped playing their “Indestructible album” since. They really inspired me again with THE FITS. I look forward very much to there next record and the next time they are across here.

Punk Rock cannot be what it was back in 77-78 or 80’s etc can it. It exploded and it is now an accepted part of our culture, Anarchy in the UK is on the radio etc. But gosh I think we need a voice more than ever, a form of expression, something that speaks directly to people. Maybe that is its purpose now, an island of sanity in a terrifying and chaotic world, Punk has perhaps matured along with the people involved with it, it is how it should be, hopefully still provoking thought and joy and inspiring others to do something creative. It’s good to give a nod to the past and then move forward. A few sour people come to mind and its curios to hear people say things are dead, its spirit so obviously isn’t it. It says more about them, perhaps something in them died.

7) You don’t look any different – what’s your secret?

Funny. I certainly feel different, maybe something in the stars. I eat good food, I work out, I don’t smoke and I have the Love of a beautiful woman.

8) Are you surprised by how much people love Tears of A Nation

I suppose yeah I am, like I say I simply wasn’t around for such a long time and when ever it came up in conversation it made me terribly sad. I just avoided everything to do with it all. It is really great that we were able to do something that still stands up after all this time, it feels great again. It was one of those things that seemed to just take on a life of its own.

I was talking the other day with a friend about how I sent of the demo to Crass. You, Steve and I had chatted in Blackpool town centre one day as we all toured the cafes. We’d just finished with Rondelet Records. You’d mentioned that Crass were putting together that Demo tape album and perhaps we should try them. Steve and I had a rehearsal arranged. Tez McDonald (Drums) was fairly new in the band. Ricky (bass) had just left to join the UK Subs and the bassist was some guy who we’d roped in for that one rehearsal and couldn’t really play.

We recorded it on a terrible tape recorder at Section 25’s rehearsal room. But they (Crass) must have heard something as they contacted us, and we went down to meet them. Gaz Ivin had auditioned for bass in between sending the tape off and we called him on the way to London to tell him he was in. All the elements seemed to come into alignment. They offered us a one of single on Corpus Christ, we were so psyched up. Came back to Blackpool and rehearsed our asses off. We were so ready for it. Crass set us up in Southern Studios with Barry Sage a Rolling Stones engineer (who was also at that time working on Peter and the Test Tube Babies, South American Frogs album) and we simply exploded brightly in there. The vocal was done in one take. Perhaps that’s what is on the record, it’s a great song but it feels great too.

9) The lyrics sound quite intriguing in the new songs – are they written with experience?

Yeah they are. When I left the UK I definitely went with that in mind. I was acutely focussed on writing. I wrote everyday, in the mornings over coffee and hash browns before I set off to where ever I went that day and then with a candle burning on the dash board late at night parked out in the wilderness or out front of the parking lots of ‘Denny’s restaurants all across the US. I wrote everything I thought smelled saw dreamed and talked.

My guitar got better and better and I began to write about the people I met and tell the stories in the songs. I thought I had to live it to sing it, I still do. Every line in “Son of A Gun” is a real thing or place wrapped in the metaphorical, I love doing that. “Soldier on” is about a conversation with the guardian just before being reborn… kind of “ok this is how it’s going to be .. are you ready Mick?” He’s not Ready Yet, & Chances, are old FITS songs that we were working on when it all fell apart. “He’s not ready” about a real news report I saw back in the mid 80s that Jesus was had arrived and was living on Brick Lane London E1.

Steve never liked Chances but I always loved the crunching machine like riff and had always wanted to record it. I’ve re written the lyrics to both but kept the subject about the claustrophobia and loneliness of London Life . The Visitor was written in Spain while we were Pure Pressure, I was becoming more and more aware of how deeply we are affected by what ever winds are blowing in a ‘particular place’. We all like to think we have free will but many of our reactions and thoughts seem to be driven by external forces, at times it takes great deal of strength to step outside of the mob or a moment, see yourself, then consciously make a choice. I have always loved the song and just wanted it out there for real. I’m really happy with the new “Lead On” E.P. and the band are absolutely cooking, It’ll be interesting to see how it’s received,

10) The songs are classic Rock N Roll Punk – is that your preferred end of Punk ?I always remember you being a big Ants fan as well- Ever feel like doing something off the wall like Adam used to do

I remember Rock N Roll used to be a dirty word didn’t it. I suppose the new songs are the rock n roll end but I very definitely call us a Punk Band. I loved and still do love the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Iggy Pop. They most certainly changed my life. The sound track I grew up with was The Beatles, The Rolling Stones & Led Zepplin, so how could I avoid it. I never was a great fan of thrash stuff. I was definitely loving Killing Joke too. Their album with Dave Grolsch drumming is magnificent. All those things are stirred into the pot, perhaps even a little Motorhead unconsciously and now Rancid too.

Back then it was Initially The Sex Pistols that exploded my world. And then after seeing Adam & The Ants at the Norbreck Castle Blackpool in Jan 1979 as soon as he/they walked on stage I knew that I would be a singer in a band. It really was that instant. When I listen back to those early Ants songs now, they sound really quite strange don’t they, they really were cutting edge and I often think how lucky we were to have been able to witness that. Mathew Ashman was just so dangerous looking, even their roadies looked incredible, I have never forgotten the impact of their total image. I have often wondered why their live sound never really made it onto vinyl. They were really wild and raw sounding.

As for doing something off the wall like Adam did, perhaps not. I tried the make up thing and it didn’t fit well onto my face and I cringe now when I see what I was trying to do, I didn’t quite get it right. Oh well.. I’m smiling too. It’s all led me to here and it feels like a great place to be. I have written many many songs posted lots of them on soundcloud and Myspace as MANuS. But I am loving being back with THE FITS and musically I will always be writing what ever I feel like and what ever comes to mind. For years now it has always been about the song, what ever I look at and where ever I am, I am always wondering how I could get it into song. It’s a wonderful way to explore a subject and in fact yourself, perhaps that is at the end of the day what it’s all about for me, exploration, so Lead On.. !!

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


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