They released a brace of great singles and told their truth decades ago, Tony Wilson once said they were his favourite punk band and they were one of the big second wave bands. In 2012, like many original punk bands Sham 69 are still touring with a different line up. Currently without Jimmy Pursey or guitar player Dave Parsons they are back out on the road where we caught up with them in Bolton to talk about Sham 69 in the 21st century
Prior to their show at Kico Klub in Bolton, I caught up with the latest incarnation of Sham 69 comprising Tim V (vocals), Neil Harris (Guitar), Tony Feedback (Guitar), Al Campbell (Bass) and Ian Whitewood (drums) to chat to them about the Pursey/Parsons rivalry, tonight’s gig, and their next album.
How are you feeling about tonight’s show in Bolton?
Neil Harris: I’m excited- I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time- it’s been a long time coming!
Tim V: A little bit apprehensive- it’s only the second gig we’ve done with this line up. If it had been a complete change I’d be more worried but y’know we’ve been in this band or other bands for years…
Ian Whitewood: Yeah there’s a slight trepidation but we’ve had good times in Bolton before- don’t ask me where!
Neil, you’re obviously the original guitarist and founding member, and it’s recently surfaced that you were in Sham 69 when they wrote some of their most iconic tunes- which were the songs you were involved in?
Neil Harris: Yeah, “Borstal Breakout”Â and err “Hey, Little Rich Boy”Â.
And how does it feel to be playing those songs again after so many years?
Neil Harris: Its great- y’ know I’m working on new material as well- it’s good to be back in this environment again.
There’s a lot of controversy in the world of Sham 69 with the recent revival of the Pursey/Parsons collaboration- how do you guys feel about the Pursey/ Parsons line- up?
Neil Harris: It’s difficult to say really. It’s a bit like the Sugababes scenario! That’s the way the band’s gone- it’s gone down this route- it’s been going for the last 30 odd years and members have come and gone but it’s carried on. Jimmy left six years ago, the band worked really hard getting its cred back and then Dave cleared off!
Tim V: The band’s been evolving for the last thirty years- people have come, people have gone but we’ve carried on and we have faith in the intellect of the fans. I mean you might get people saying “this is bullshit- there’s no original members”Â but Neil formed the band in ”Ë75! If you don’t like don’t fucking come!
Tony Feedback: There have been a few comments- not many but these guys have been going as Sham 69 and made 3 albums under the name and why should they stop doing that? There’s two Sham 69’s. So what? If I was coming here tonight I would want to hear the music. On the posters people can see which Sham 69 it is and people will make up their own minds- we’re here as a working band and we’ve got a million gigs this year and by the end of this year we’ll know if there’s no market for our band. Tim’s been the singer for five years, this band’s done more gigs than the Pursey line ups, more people have probably seen Tim with Sham than Jimmy! Ok, guitar player’s changed but so what? If your favourite restaurant’s chef changed and the food was still cool, you’d still go there wouldn’t you?
Ian Whitewood: One thing we’ve been accused of doing is selling ourselves as the original line up or the ”Ë77 line up- why on earth would we want to do that? People would turn up expecting the ”Ë77 line up! There’s a real strange irony about all of this because traditionally Pursey and Sham 69 are synonymous but essentially what they’re doing is breaking the law playing under that name!
How do you feel when negative criticism does surface? Does it bother you at all?
Ian Whitewood: No I think any response- positive or negative is gonna make a difference and an impression. It’s sad that there’s two line ups when the fact of the matter is that Dave (Parsons) and I put this line up together in 2007 and we’ve been playing the world with Tim V for the past 5 years. As far as I’m concerned we are legally entitled to carry on as Sham 69 so we’re just steaming ahead and facing whatever comes our way!
Tony Feedback: I mean we’re playing places I’ve never even heard of! Do you know where Bratislava is?!
Point taken! What songs are you most looking forward to performing tonight?
Neil Harris: “Hey Little Lady”Â I quite like and “No Apologies”Â I like that one- and “Tell Us The Truth”Â. I mean there’s a few Pursey/ Parsons songs I like but yeah I’m looking forward to all of it really- it’s gonna be a blast!
Tim V: I used to love “If The Kids Are United”Â but I don’t think most kids give a fuck whether they’re united or not. I don’t think it’s a good idea doing it in Bolton! I like “Tell Us The Truth”Â because it’s a song that’s targeting everybody- but y’ know we have a good knees- up with “Hurry Up Harry”Â- it’s really hard to choose! Obviously “Who Killed Joe Public”Â is a big one for me…
Tony Feedback: My favourite song of all time I think is “George Davies”Â but I love playing “Who Killed Joe Public”Â because I get the guitar solo!
Ian Whitewood: We’ve got a track called “Army Of Tomorrow”Â that we’re doing live and we’re doing “We Gotta Fight”Â which we haven’t done for a long time.
There’s been talk of a new album for 2012, could you tell us more about that?
Tim V: Yeah we’re working on a new album- it’s gonna be a real meat n’ potatoes album talking about what’s going on in people lives today, but in a way that’s more like from our sofa rather than from a card- carrying member of the Labour party drinking red wine in an Islington residence. If people think this is gonna be some sort of progressive Billy Bragg record they can fuck off! The band built it’s reputation on rag- bag working class roots and terraced housing not local art college hipsters like The Bromley Contingent.
When you say you’re focussing on issues in people’s lives today- is there anything in particular that you’re targeting? Anything that really pisses you off about Great Britain today?
Tim V: Ha! We’re gonna be writing songs about the cost of fucking living! There’s always people saying the recession’s here… Then the recession’s waning… The recession’s never fucking gone! I’d say basically over the last decade the only resistance for working class people have been student marches and demonstrations. As much as we sympathise with students we sympathise more with the families having to fucking finance the students when they’re struggling themselves. We’re gunna try and reflect that more intensely than before. But also stuff like football; football clubs are going down the drain because of multi millionaire fucking business men fucking our game up. So that’s a target as well! We’re not into band- wagon jumping- if somebody gets assassinated by police in London we’re not gonna hop on that because it becomes a farce and people see through it. We’re not a bunch of 50 odd year old men in a punk band trying to get “down with the kids”Â. We write about things around us because at the end of the day other people are experiencing it as well.
Do you have any idea when in 2012 the album will be released yet?
Tim V: It should be around either September or October…
Sham 69, thank you for your time.