The Skids -Richard Jobson – Interviewed by Ged Babey
“Plaudits mean nothing. Action means everything”
The Skids are Back! And by all accounts they are just as good as they were 40 years ago…
At the end of last year Richard Jobson posted this brilliant, passionate statement on his motivation for reforming the Skids for a short tour, then an album and then a full nationwide 40th Anniversary tour. It’s so good, it says it all, eloquently, that its worth re-publishing…
Memories fade, but some linger for a reason. The Skids was the definitive part of my early life. A brilliant adventure into the world of creativity and adulthood. I was a kid when I joined the band in 1977 – 16 years old. By the time the adventure had run aground, I was a dazed and confused young man. We were fearless in the beginning, always trying new things and not afraid to be different in a musical world that was beginning to sound very derivative and safe. Contrary to the reports from people who were never near the centre of the band, Stuart Adamson and I got on very well – in fact for a long time we were very close. I enjoyed writing with him – he was generous and incredibly adaptable to my unmusical ideas. The Skids were not just another punk band – we were creatively ambitious as well as being close to the core beliefs of our hard-won fans. But most importantly we loved playing live. Taking these memories and replanting them into 2017 has not been easy. How do you do it? How should it sound? Are we little more than a heritage band? These were the questions rattling around my head as I tried to find a way to celebrate the bands 40th anniversary. The answers ended up being very simple – Don’t over think it – Just do it. Enjoy every minute of it. Play the songs like it might be the last time. Give it everything. And then…….there’s the new stuff!!! The beginning of something new rather than the end of something old.
The gigs have been magnificent. John Robb says so here and a good friend of mine from Dunfermline, Ray Smillie (primary schoolmate of a Skid or two and) a fan from early on, had this to say;
The energy the band had on stage was like being back in the ’70s. Bruce and Jamie haven’t just replicated Stuart’s guitar sound, they have arguably improved and embellished it, giving the band a fuller sound. Richard was in top form, talking between songs rather than grunting like some singers do. The gig at PJ Molloys, their first of two warm up gigs at the venue, was at least on a par with the Skids of yore at their very best and, arguably, better. In short, they were magnificent!
With those two recommendations how can you not want to go see the Skids on their current tour?
A bit intimidated by the prospect of the fiercely intelligent Jobson on a crackling phone line with his Scots brogue I plumped for an email interview with the legendary ‘Jobbo’.
May I call you Jobbo? Was one of the questions I should ask – as suggested by Craig McEwan – I fully expected a ‘No you fuckin’ can’t y’cheeky wee bastard’ in reply, but Richards reply was…
Jobbo was my Dads nickname. I seem to have inherited it. The first people to call me Jobbo were Paul Cook and Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols. It seems to have stuck.
The live shows so far seem to have been going down very well indeed… how does it feel to you?
The shows have had an amazing reaction. We worked really hard to make sure we were ready and that the performance level was high and the music powerful. The Skids were always a high-energy live band and peoples memories were alive to that. We couldn’t let them down.
Are you going to the gym? Are you all tee-total non-smokers now? Can you still do your Cossack-dancing/penalty-taking/ swashbuckling dance moves?
It’s very kind of you to suggest my stage moves have anything to do with dancing. The songs have a power and I just go along with that in my idiosyncratic way. Some things in life will never change. I keep myself fit and feel ‘strong and stable’ enough to carry off a live performance each night. The Skids music is very physical. I always preferred playing live to being in the recording studio. If I wasn’t on the stage I would be in the audience.
I’ve seen a fair few bands from the era who have reformed (Magazine, Penetration, Ruts DC…) and the anticipation is always rewarded with great gigs (and new records). The punk era bands seem to mean much more to people than bands since… it’s more than ‘nostalgia’ and ‘mid-life crisis. ’ Is that the way it feels to you?
It feels more important than Nostalgia. The songs feel relevant and the new songs reflect the world around us which has gone mad. Punk was essentially about relating to what was going on at the time and its importance can be seen in the world of music, media and art. It was an inspiration to a new generation. Young people found a voice and a platform to project their anger and sense of hopelessness. We were all very Political. I get the feeling with Corbyn it’s happening again – at last.
Looking back objectively at 77-81 the three most iconic bands were perhaps. The Clash, Joy Division and U2 …….. and in a way Skids had very much the same elements which made those bands ‘successful’… the anthemic sound, the Boys Own heroism and the intensity/artiness…. Do you feel Skids legacy is not given as much value in the retrospectives of the era?
The Skids music was definitely an inspiration and influence on other bands. But we too enjoyed being inspired by others including bands, writers, painters and Politicians. Plaudits mean nothing. Action means everything. We’re back and we mean it man……
People remember the impenetrable lyrics (that advert) and the ‘funny’ dancing and cricket jumpers…
I loved the irony as a Scot wearing the emblematic and iconic English cricket jumper. At first it was a Gatsby moment of pure fun that became a loose form of identity for a brief period. Out album was called The Absolute Game, and there was a certain amount of gamesmanship running through the songs, tour and image.
My lyrics are not impenetrable if you give them a chance. My understanding of them changes each night I sing them.
When we heard you were playing Brighton we got a minibus together and I noticed the list of names had a bit of a theme… McGregor. McCarthy, O’Brien, Beazley… a lot of Scots blood/origins) Do you and did you find a lot of Scots ‘ex-pats’ all over the UK who were fans?
Scotland was our home and people coming from that country remain very proud of anything that is creative and can travel further afield. Scots are often accused of being provincial, but the truth is the opposite. We had a tune and a few words and we wanted to travel – that was always our motto.
(After his statement of intent I was a bit stuck for questions for Richard in an interview-type scenario, so foolishly I asked my friends. Ever the professional he answered them all. Even the ‘silly’ ones.. )
Nath Haywire asked: Would he still work for the Yankee Dollar now Trump is in power ?
Donald Trump wants the world to be working for the yankee dollar. He’s the most bizarre and potentially dangerous leader to not come from North Korea for a long time.
Joe Whyte suggested; Ask him about his days as a skinhead pre punk.
My older brother Francis was a skinhead and when I was about 10 he bought me a crombie and Doc martens and took me to get my head shaved. I loved the Ska music and clothes. I never met anyone who was racist or violent. The other Skins just loved the fashion and especially the music. I refer to it in my film 16 Years of Alcohol.
On the subject of his film work, David Nolan asked; Is there the appetite for another Scottish Kung fu film ?
There is no appetite for another Kung Fu film set in Scotland I don’t think. I might have killed that idea off forever with the Purifiers. It was an attempt to make a graphic novel come alive on screen with a tiny budget. It was a difficult experience.
A strange question from David Gibbons: Why didn’t he have the balls to take off his clothes on that naked chat show thing in the 90’s? (Not that I have any particular desire to see him in the buff, mind you.)
I didn’t take my clothes off because the Mother of my children was watching and she had warned me to not come home if the clothes came off. She’s the boss!! And you’re right me in the buff is not worth the ticket money. I think you might rather see me in a cricket jumper etc. Or maybe not.
Paul Beazley asked; What’s happening with his Bowie/alien novel ?
The Bowie Alien book is a fun meditation on creativity. Two Aliens arrive on Earth to find their hero David Bowie. You can pledge money to make it happen through the publishers site at Unbound.
Ray Smillie: Were the rumours about Crystal Palace being interested in signing his brother, John Jobson, true? (When JJ played for Meadowbank Thistle)…
Not sure about that rumour. But he was a great player and prolific goal scorer. I used to go and see him play for Raith Rovers in Kirkcaldy where I was born and became a fan.
Mark Tutton (who just happens to be promoter at the 1865, Southampton where the Skids play on Wednes21st June) – Is he looking forward to playing Southampton?
Can’t wait to get to the south coast for fish’n’chips and a crazy gig. Southampton was always a favourite destination. It felt like the other end of the world. The people were brilliant to us.
Sean Hensford politely ventured: WTF was the cricket jumper phase about ??
I’ve explained that above about the cricket jumper. It was a laugh – bit hot on stage though. No worries about it surfacing for this tour or ever again. It was a moment.
(Football-obssessed) Ray Smillie (again!) – Can you confirm with Richard Jobson whether he got hit in the pus by a half brick, lobbed over by a St Johnstone fan, at Muirton Park? This would be late 70s/early 80s. He would have been with Stuart Adamson and Bill Simpson amongst the Pars fans. I suspect the story is bullshit…
No, I didn’t get hit with a brick but I was attacked by The Perth Pack a notorious early firm of football casuals – they got me good!
And a sensible question from Stuart McGregor, (a massive fan of the band, and the only person I know with a copy of Richards book of poetry) – Which Skids album is his favourite?
My favourite Skids album is Days In Europa. I love everything from the songs to the sleeve (which was never banned incidentally!)
(Because I’m Southampton-based and have sent part of this interview to the local rag I asked a few ‘local’ questions …)
Ian Canty asked; Was he aware ‘The Saints Are Coming’ (the original not the cover) is played as the players (Southampton FC -‘the Saints’) come out at St Marys (Stadium)?
Yes, I got a letter of Lawrie McMenemy telling us that he was very proud for the team to be coming out to the song. It was a touching moment. I’ve been there when it happened. Wow!!
I understand that ‘Into the Valley’ is used as well …
Our songs have been adopted by many different football cubs: Dunfermline Athletic and Charlton Athletic use ‘Into the Valley’.
Southampton, St Pauli, and New Orleans Saints -The Saints are Coming. It’s a wonderful honour and I have been present at most of these grounds to experience it. Hairs on the back of the neck moment.
Am I right in thinking the 2017 Skids do a couple Armoury Show songs? A much loved band who didn’t reach their potential ( down to management partly I understand … Mensch concentrating on his other charges at the time?
The Armoury Show is one of the great disappointments of my journey. The band had good songs and the willingness for a brief period to break through. It didn’t happen quickly enough for some people and therefore they lost interest. We don’t do any of the songs on tour as this is not about me this is about The Skids.
Richard Jobson was seemingly a walking bundle of contradictions back in the day. Working class yet with an air of ‘arty pretentiousness’, a bit of a tool at times, yet driven and ambitious. He has achieved a lot over the decades since the Skids, in film, television and so on, but he seems to be fired-up and thoroughly enjoying being back with the Skids and to have a no bullshit attitude and openness about him. Jobbo is alright.
Thank you Richard for answering such piss-poor fanzine-y questions; ‘Worst interview questions Ever, or at least since Smash Hits in 1979′ I imagine he’s thinking…
The Tour dates are below – this is one band reformation not to miss, of that I have no doubt. I know a lot of people down here in the South are getting into a state of excitement unbecoming of gentlemen their age.
And NO! I wasn’t gonna ask him about Albert Fuckin’ Tatlock!
The Skids are Back!
The Skids Official Website
SKIDS on TOUR
15 June 2017 Junction, Cambridge
16 June 2017 Roundhouse London
17 June 2017 Brighton Concorde 2
21 June 2017 The 1865, Southampton
22 June 2017 Robin 2, Wolverhampton
23 June 2017 O2 Academy Newcastle
29 June 2017 Town Hall, Montrose
30 June 2017 Glen Pavillion, Dunfermline
8 August 2017 Rebellion festival , Blackpool
4 October 2017 The Ironworks, Inverness,
19 January 2018 Waterfront, Norwich, GB
26 January 2018 Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone
27 January 2018 Portsmouth Pyramids
All words Ged Babey.
Live photos by Steve White (taken at Leeds Academy 03.06.17)
Thanks to Ray ‘Fanny Magnet’ Smillie and my massed ranks of Facebook friends for the Question suggestions.