The C33s Interview
One of Manchester’s most exciting bands, The C33s combine slap back delay guitar with a ferocious punk attitude. The result is a heady concoction of surf guitar meets psychobilly!
Nigel Carr sat down with Cav and Judy from the band at their recording studio and rehearsal space in Northwich for a big chat!
LTW: Both of you work long shift patterns in autism and severe epilepsy as well as running a full-time band. How do you manage it?
Cav: “14-hour shifts and then we come down here and work!
Judy: “A gig the next day, then we’re going from a gig into a 14 hour shift sometimes”.
LTW: How did the band get together?
“We’ve been playing music for years and separately to that, me and Steve have been in bands. Living in a van for six years between Belgium France and Germany and things got on top so we came back to England to get well. Let’s be honest, I had quite a few episodes regarding mental illness, in the later period of that touring situation”.
“A lot of mental illness came in and I was completely burnt out and exhausted, quite unwell to be honest, so we kinda came back and there was a death of a close member of my family, so within a space of about two to three months everything just got on top. It resulted in a breakdown in a Dutch hotel, I can’t even remember the name of the town or the hotel. So we came home, with the plan of getting well, just re-gathering sanity”. Judy: “Strength”.
“I’m a musician, it runs through my blood, so there was never a plan to stop playing music but there was no real concrete idea of anything or where to go, or how to move forward. So that lasted I think about a month, and I though you know? I’ll slowly get back in to maybe, not performing, but maybe, you know? Writing with the aim of, presenting it to other people I suppose.”.
LTW: I guess being a musician you never stop writing?
Cav: “I never stop writing in my head, they were also going down on paper. it never stops. The performing stopped and just becoming a caricature of yourself I suppose. So yeah we gotta take a break and that lasted the best part of a month. So we thought we’d take it slowly, we’ll turn the guitars up. I wanted to try and write something that wasn’t as sentimental to me, as personal, or deep and meaningful, more just like balls-out fun”.
LTW: Were you writing ballads previously?
Cav: “It was all kind of very sentimental, very nostalgic and deep, and if it wasn’t the alcohol that did it to me it was probably that kind of music”.
LTW: Did you find performing that kind of music difficult?
Cav: “Towards the end. You have to go into that kid of zone. When you are suffering from mental illness, to the point of complete delusion, you know?, not just a bad day, with heavy breathing, or a bad mood, it does become near impossible to either get into that zone, or to come out of that zone safely”.
LTW: “Doing this is kinda cathartic in a way? It’s not plunging you down into the level that you were doing when you were singing those types of songs, it’s brighter and fresher?
Cav: “Well it was supposed to be!”.
“It was supposed to be fresh and bright! ‘We’ll start off slow, we’ll have a few rehearsals, we’ll record a song or two”
Judy: “Get Ste In”
Cav: “That was in the first few months. First choice for us was Stephen on the Bass. I’ve known him since I began playing music and he’s an absolutely incredible bassist. He was doing his own thing, in his life, musically, and then he went through a super bad spell. A lot of personal stuff got in his way, so, it was also time for him to open up a new door I suppose, so like I said, we’ll start off slow, so…”
LTW: You called your second song Manic Depression?
Cav: “Yes, so… ‘OK we’ll start off and we’ll treat it as a therapeutic sort of thing. We’ll get together, we’ll get the ball rolling, we’ll do it for fun, we’ll do it for us. We won’t do any interviews!’. Then we thought, ‘we’ve done the EP, people seem to like it, there’ll be no harm in uploading it to BBC Introducing, again’, you know?, a therapeutic bit on the side? And then Fass called the day after and it’s just been none stop since then!”
“The balls rolled quicker than it ever did. But there’s something different about this I mean, it does the complete opposite to me, you know, it pulls me up.
LTW: The music is very up and you can excite young kids (and old fellas) in the crowd who can relate to it.
LTW: “With this kind of music, I think it is supposed to be, you know, ‘kick your problems to the side’, and kind of have that tongue in cheek joke about it all, which I suppose, the lyrical theme is on that first EP and then, Boom, with Manic Depression and there’s no two ways about that is there? So that happened and I suppose, the style of writing it, you can’t ignore your style, and it’ll come out in the end and those are the themes of my life so, subconsciously or consciously, they (the songs) will touch on those”.
LTW: Is Resurrection Men a reflection of where you’ve been?
Cav: “This is the first kind of novelty song, we, or I have ever written, and it’s the story that was running through my head a long time and it’s just based on, Gravediggers from Manchester in the 19 century. Steal the bodies and the parts and sell them to the university, to the surgery students”.
LTW: So it wasn’t an introspective thing? So there’s that duality?
“Yeh, and I suppose the kind of way, I mean I’m not trying to get a dig in, excuse the pun!, but Manchester does have this way of resurrecting certain things every five years. Whether it be music, or a pair of trainers, or, every new bar you go in. You’re welcomed by a big fucking painting of Noel Gallagher. People, names I’m not going to mention. He was the only one that made the money to get out. The other people still lurk about certain bars and will probably have something to say to you about it. We don’t want to start fighting quite yet, but, yeh”.
LTW: Isn’t that just Manchester presenting itself to its own people in a certain way? You go into those bars and there a big mosaic of Tony Wilson, and that sort of thing?
Cav: “So writing it, there’s a duality for sure”.
LTW: You’ve come back in a Miserlou/Dick Dale, surf guitar, accessible type of way?
Cav: “We just wanted to turn the guitars up. It’s very simple, fast and furious, put all the reverb on, slap back. There are certain traditions we’ve taken from the earlier bands we were influenced by, as younger people, as kids growing up. The first cassette tape, the first punk cassette I was ever given, by my uncle was Stiff Little Fingers. The Cramps have always been a huge influence on us, so I suppose that was an accidental thing. We were just gonna be a punk band!”
Judy: “We just have a lot of influences don’t we? And it’s just not punk, we have many influences”.
Cav: “Within that punk bracket there’s all the surf stuff coming in and there’s the psych stuff coming in”.
LTW: “There a little bit of Fall in there as well”.
Judy: “It’s not a conscious thing I don’t think, really”.
LTW: It must have been. You either play old punk like the Pistols, or you have the echo that puts you firmly over there, and the furious way that you play it. The Cramps didn’t play particularly fast, they were more sort of louche, more rockabilly, low slung ‘Can your pussy do the dog’ It wasn’t quite so fast and furious as you do which is more Ramones?
Cav: “There you go. There’s the Ramones and there’s the Cramps. Cramps don’t play that music fast and the Ramones don’t play their kind of music slow. We drag all corners of punk together. Those bands as a basis of we what we wanted to sound like”.
LTW: You have a purity of sound
Cav: “Well good because the last thing we ever wanted to do was even take any influence from any other Manchester band, because it’s like the Manchester thing again. I think the basis of a good band is that need to escape and to get out from where they’re from”.
“I come from a different part of Manchester; I don’t come from Didsbury. I come from fucking Moston, Blakely, the North, the ‘forgotten about’ Manchester. All I’ve ever wanted to do was to get out, and no job I could ever get was going to get me there. The one way I could it was this way, and I think that’s what a lot of Manchester bands don’t have in them. The want to escape and get out, you know? and if that isn’t in a band then you do end up in an Adidas jacket jumping about the stage”.
“That’s one thing I never, never want to do. We’ve always wanted to get out. I don’t have two nice things to say about Manchester, The two nice things I had to say about Manchester have gone”.
“The Redhouse Rehearsal Rooms/Venue/Squat (used to be located underground what is now the suitcase shop and apartments, (opposite the marvel arch). I put my first and only show on there at the age of 14. Think it was 50 quid for the whole 24 hours and all of the rooms included. The place was berserk at any hour of the day. Haunted to fuck too!”.
“The second one is the OLD castle pub. Probably not a popular opinion in Manchester and absolutely no disrespect at all the new place (I’ve played and been to some incredible gigs there over the past few years ), but there was definitely something about that place. It was the first pub I ever got drunk in with my dad and those walls held a few close secrets and promises of mine and Ste’s. You’d go in and find people asleep in the back room from the night before. Roof falling in. The Lot!”.
LTW: The old Manchester is going, it’s all glass and steel now
Cav: Be careful what you wish for though because there were a lot of no go areas in Manchester when I was growing up. Oldham Street and Tib street, you didn’t want to go down there. It was pet shops and prostitutes, and there’s that ‘I wish we had somewhere to go, somewhere where musicians like us can drink’ and now you’ve got it on every corner and again, people don’t want that so you can never win with this place. So why fucking try?”.
“The Happy Mondays said it best, “We’ve got a love/hate relationship with Manchester, they love us and we hate them”. And you can’t say any better than that. And people still worship the fucking ground they walk on”.
LTW: What did you grow up listening to?
“My grandfather was a jazz drummer, my uncle was a punk, so I had Stiff Little Fingers, Dead Kennedys, who were about the politics. It’s them without the politics, so you can start to see where we’re getting little bits from. Sham 69, and my other uncle gave me stuff like The Fall, Smashing Pumpkins. My Dad got me into The Smiths, Strangeways Here We Come was the first album I heard on headphones all the way through. Obviously Joy Division.
LTW: Are you scared of the way it’s going?
Cav: “We’re not scared of anything, we’re taking it all in our stride”.
Judy: “It’s just what we want to do isn’t it, music”.
Cav: Day by day, keep writing, keep playing. We enjoy each other’s company, we enjoy playing together. We’d be doing this anyway, whether we got that call (from our manager), so early on, or whether in the space of a year now”.
“There’s things we’ve ticked off the bucket list we’ve done in the past year with this band that we’ve been trying to do in the last yen years so you know. Luck seems to be on our side for once. So we’re just going to let the good times roll, There’s nothing else you can do”.
“Just let it be known that we’re more than fucking prepared, but if it doesn’t happen it doesn’t happen”.
LTW: Your next single Resurrection Man comes out when?
Cav: “We shot the video for in on Sunday and we just have the final mix back an hour ago. There’s our Night People show on the 19th of October and the single and video should be out first week November!
LTW: How about an album?
Cav: “We’ve got more than enough tracks for an album; we’ve got enough for two albums! We’re going to release one more single after Resurrection Men, which is going to be called Harpurhey Hostility”.
LTW: How about your musical history Judy?
Judy: “My grandad used to play the keyboards, but it was literally just plonking away. I started playing piano when I was fourteen. My dad used to get bent CDs from work. It was a huge collection and he’d pass them my way and I’d pick out certain ones. I remember picking out Slayer, Blondie; my dad liked them. But it started getting heavier and heavier as soon as I found Slayer!”.
LTW: How did you get into drumming?
Judy: I started playing when I was 15. I got lessons for 4-6 months and got a drum kit. I had really horrific neighbours at the time so had to get rid of the kit. I was really considerate, I had set times when I’d play it, They were evil, they called Environmental on me! They tried to get to us through the fence, they were awful! When I lost the kit it left a big drum shaped hole so I picked up guitar for a bit. I didn’t touch drums apart from the odd charity gig, then when we started this band it was reignited, I suppose”.
LTW: I love the way you punctuate the set with vocals, yelps and woops.
Judy: “It’s hard, your brain splits I suppose”.
Cav: “In terms of setting up a three piece I couldn’t think of anyone I’d rather spend time with – Steve and Judy are two of my best friends, and they were part of my support team for getting well. Ernest Hemmingway said, “Never travel with anybody you don’t love” and drummers, four time out of five are either sociopaths or just a compete fucking ego-maniac, you know?
LTW: Drummers do have a reputation for being a bit mad, from Keith Moon, Ginger Baker (RIP) to Buddy Rich.
Judy: “I think it’s an age-old frustration with drummers. We’re the loudest in the bad but you’re not getting the most attention”. Drums were always my favourite instrument but logistically it was not possible at the time to carry on, I’m glad it’s come back full circle as I wouldn’t have it any other way”.
Cav: “Ste’s a better guitar player than I am, sometimes we mix it up in rehearsal, but you’ll never get to hear that”.
LTW: Musical direction going forward?
Cav: “We did an acoustic set for BBC. The basis to our songs, there’s strength to it. My favourite songwriter is Bob Dylan, Towns Van Zandt, Gram Parsons, big strong songs, acoustic. There are strong songs as the basis for a lot of garage music, and they do boil down pretty well. We didn’t think they did at first, until we tried it. We’re musicians, none of this ‘punk ‘til you die’ shit! My favourite type of punk bands are those that stretched the envelope. The Clash, they were always evolving, and look at the instrumentation on London’s Calling, and that’s what set them apart”.
LTW: Finally, where does the band name come from?
Cav: “It was Oscar Wilde’s prison number. My favourite poem is The Ballad Of Reading Gaol and they wouldn’t let him release it under his own name so he released it under his prison number. Our dream is to have our own weed strain. As soon as that shit’s legalised!”.
LTW: Any hobbies we don’t know about?
Cav: Judy’s an artist, she does all the artwork.
Judy: “I’m an illustrator, I’ve done sculpture, I kind of stick my fingers into anything I fancy at the time.
Cav: I’m a huge vinyl collector, I have to stop myself, I go on Discgogs and it’s one click!”.
The C33s play Night People on the 19th October! Tickets: https://www.seetickets.com/event/the-c33s/night-people/1405445
More on the C33s – Peer Hat gig
Article by Nigel Carr. More writing by Nigel on Louder Than War can be found in his Author’s archive. You can find Nigel on Twitter and Facebook and his own Website. Top Photo by kind permission of Trust A Fox© – Please note: Use of these images in any form without permission is illegal. If you wish to use or license any images please contact Trust A Fox