Louder Than War’s David Brown interviews Vinny Cassidy – founder member of Section 25. He talks about the past and the future of the band and what making the new album, released on record store day meant to him.
Section 25 formed in Blackpool in 1978, led by brothers Larry and Vinny Cassidy, and they recorded four albums for Factory Records between 1980 and 1986. They regrouped in 2007 to record an album Part Primitiv and Nature And Degree in 2009.
Larry passed away in February 2010, shortly after completion of an album, Retrofit, which revisited and re-recorded their older material, with the addition of Beth, Larry’s daughter, on vocals.
They released the Invicta EP in October 2011, which featured the first two new tracks since Larry’s death. Since then, they have continued to play live and work on new material, and are set to release their new album, Dark Light, on Factory Benelux on February 25th, followed by a limited edition single, My Outrage, on April 20th for Record Store Day.
Dave Brown caught up with founder member Vinny Cassidy to talk about the past and the future of the band and what making the album meant to him.
Louder Than War: What made you decide to do an album?
Vinny Cassidy: I suppose because we wanted to release the material was there. It is tied up to my brother dying. When he died, we were in the middle of doing something. What we were doing then was revisiting old stuff and this was the first time we’d worked on new material. When Beth and I decided to carry on as Section 25, we inevitably ended up writing and coming up with stuff. We do play the back catalogue, but it’s not all we do. It’s about moving on and doing new things and that’s what the album’s about.
Louder Than War: Is it you and Beth that do most of the writing then?
Vinny Cassidy: No, it’s very much a group thing to varying degrees. Either someone will bring something in and we’ll work on it. I write some of the lyrics, Beth does, Steve’s written lyrics and we mix lyrics together as well sometimes if it works. For me it’s quite an upbeat album.
Louder Than War: I’ve listened to the album quite a lot. It’s an album that if a young up-and-coming band from London was putting it out, it would get a lot of attention. It doesn’t sound like a band that’s been going 30 years.
Vinny Cassidy: Possibly, we have to be upbeat because we’ve had a lot of downbeat shit. It’s about getting on with it and getting through adversity. I think a lot of it is quite hopeful, that’s how we approach things. The positive comes through in what we do and in terms of the material, we do reference the past but I don’t want to be burdened by it. But sometimes it does. The first thing people want to do talk about a lot of the time is the past. We’re never going to say that didn’t happen, but we’ve also got a future in terms of what we’re doing.
Louder Than War: You’re putting the album out on Factory Benelux. How do you feel that Factory fanbase that you’ve had for all the years react to the new line-up?
Vinny Cassidy: The input we’ve had at gigs and the contact I’ve had has been positive. The thing with certain other Factory bands is that it becomes a holy grail thing that can’t be touched as it means so much to certain people, but I don’t think we’ve had that with Section 25 as we’ve changed, developed and done new things.
Louder Than War: It’s noticeable at gigs that you see the older people who’ve been into the band since the Factory days, but there’s also a younger crowd.
Vinny Cassidy: It’s lovely to see the older fans out, and I like to see people at gigs who’ve got into the band in the last year because of the new stuff we’ve been doing. That’s a really great affirmation of what we’re doing now. A lot of people who went to gigs in the old days are now not the sort of person who go to gigs anymore.
Louder Than War: You’ve all got other jobs outside the band. How do you find it balancing the band and the rest of your lives?
Vinny Cassidy: Very tricky. But I love it now. And the reason I love it is that the reason I’m doing it now is the reason I got into music in the first place when I was about 11 or 12, because I enjoyed playing for playing’s sake. I gave up all aspirations to commercial success about 84/85. When I got back into it with my brother in the early 2000s, it was purely as a stimulating exercise and that’s what it’s about.
I love the whole process especially in the studio, because you can hear something, you can imagine what it’s like and when you’ve done it and you get so many different results. Other things happen by accident and something new comes in, I love that.
When we first started we jammed all the time and we’d record it on a cassette and we’d do stuff spontaneously and then just filter through it. When we did the first Factory album, we were there for 2-3 weeks, it was a big deal with Britannia Row Studio and Martin Hannett. I’m proud of the album, but with Martin, it was he was producing and that was it. We were OK with that, isn’t that the point of a producer?
When we did the second album, Key Of Dreams, was more how we were writing as a band – four-track recordings reel-to-reel in our rehearsal room basically for days on end and capturing and filtering and stuff. You can’t do that in an expensive studio with a producer.
At gigs, we’d have a setlist written out for part of the gig, but then we’d just have big sections which we would just jam. We’d go 1-2-3 and start playing and no one would know what the others were doing, where it would go and it was pretty exciting. It’d shake you up sometimes. It was spontaneous and totally indulgent, but it kept it fresh. Larry wanted to catch the moment and encapsulate it, the gig was an event. When it worked, it was very powerful.
Louder Than War: Do you think that’s reflected in the records as well and that’s why it’s upbeat?
Vinny Cassidy: Yeah, I think so. We can do what we want. If you get commercial success, other people get involved and it becomes about money. You get direction about your output. We do what we want, what feels good for us and to me that’s the best way to be. It is tricky balancing this sort of stuff with the rest of your life. Most of our gigs are on Saturday nights because that’s what works best for us as well as going away abroad and doing festivals.
Louder Than War: Do you get a different audience and reaction abroad? You had quite a big following in Europe.
Vinny Cassidy: Yeah. When we play in Italy and Belgium, it is a different audience but they always work. I find them more open-minded. The gigs in the old days in the UK there was so much of what I felt was indoctrination by music papers telling people what to think and a lot of pre-judgement going on, but not so much so in Europe. They weren’t exposed to the stuff in the press and they have a different attitude culturally as well. They seemed to more open-minded about what we were doing and we always found that quite refreshing.
Louder Than War: The album’s out later in the month. What are you doing to promote it?
Vinny Cassidy: By doing what I’m doing with you. It’s not all on your toes, Dave (laughs). It’s the same traditional method, talking to magazines, doing gigs and also hoping the music carries some weight on itself as well.
Louder Than War: Are you going to tour as well?
Vinny Cassidy: We are going to go out and play some gigs. I do qualify gigs, I want to do things that interest me. If one comes up that’s right for us we’ll do it. We have a pretty loyal fanbase anyway, but it would be nice to reach other ears as well.
Louder Than War: You’ve got a new member, Jo, who’s joined the band. What’s her role?
Vinny Cassidy: It’s primarily vocals, backing vocals. I felt Jo’s vocal range was a good compliment to Beth. Beth’s got that very light quality and Jo’s got a more earthly quality that works together well.
Louder Than War: Is she on the record?
Vinny Cassidy: Yeah, she’s doing backing on about half of the album and it’s good. She’s probably going to be doing gigs with us. It felt like it was a step forward and that’s what we’re always looking for. And the other good thing is that someone of that age will bring the average age of the band down. In purely mathematical terms.
Louder Than War: The album is coming out in a couple of weeks and you’re releasing a single for Record Store Day in April. Are there any other plans?
Vinny Cassidy: done quite a lot of vinyl recently. There was a split single with Stereograph on Phaneron Records and we’re doing an EP with a Belgian label Minimal Maximal, a guy called Dirk Ivens, which will be coming out in the summer. There is a new track, but it’s the Hacienda EP, that was only available as a download, it’ll have a couple of mixes of that.
In the Summer, an Austrian label called Klangallerie is releasing an album in the summer of re-mixes from our back catalogue, the people doing the re-mixes are guys like Kirk Mallinder of Cabaret Voltaire, Blaine Reininger of Tuxedo Moon, the guys from Portion Control and 23 Skidoo. I’m really excited about that one.
Vinyl is nice. It’s very tactile and it’s great to have a physical thing to get round that illegal download issue. I don’t particularly have a major issue with it from a moral point of view, but purely from a practical sense, it stops a lot of bands from recording, because you don’t have the funds to go back in the studio.
Someone said to me the other day why should they pay for music, because music’s like water and you don’t pay for water. But you do, that’s what water rates are for.
There’s a tight budget for recording because you’re ever mindful of the amount of cds you’re going to be able to sell, because people don’t have to buy it. It took a long time, because that’s how we work at the moment.
I’m proud of it though, because it’s the first thing that I’ve done all new material since my brother’s not been around and it’s a big deal for me. The album was a year in the making because of the personal stuff, but we took our time over it.
I feel like he’s watching over my shoulder. There will obviously be comparisons and I want it to match up.
All words by David Brown. You can see more of David’s work on Louder Than War here.