This interview is courtesy of Paul Marko who runs the excellent Punk77 website.
How did you come to join the Killjoys as you were from a rock band? What sort of music was Supanova playing?
A. An add appeared in a local Midlands paper, I think it was the Birmingham Evening Mail for a "Brilliant Guitarist, Drummer and Bass player" for a band with recording interest.. Three of us, Kevin Mangan (Bass) Bob Peach (Drums) and I (Guitar) from Supanova went along to the auditions, held in a private house (Kevin Rowland’s brother’s home) in Edgbaston Birmingham one Sunday in 1977. There were many muso's and we had to wait for several hours. There was a lot of funky style stuff being played. When it came to our turn we bashed out (without vocals) a hard hitting track of our own. Kevin Rowland and his older brother (sorry I can't remember his name) seemed impressed. We left the auditions without any sort of answer, but within a few days Kevin Rowland telephoned to say he wanted Bob and me, but not the bass player. Bob and I said it was all three of us or nothing, so it was nothing. Bob and I discussed it with Kevin Mangan and he said he wasn't interested anyway and wouldn't want to join. After a few more phone calls, Bob Peach and I decided to quit Supanova and join up with Kevin Rowland. Supanova played rock music. We were probably a progressive rock band.....if I can assign a label to our style...we were proud of our musical ability....but I feel we were musicians first and song writers second. We were all very good friends and we had a great time. But...we were going nowhere.
What did you make of the Killjoys and punk in general and what bands did you rate?
A. Well, that's quite a question ...The first time we saw the other two members of the band, Ghislaine Weston (Bass) and Mark Philips (guitar) was at Supanova's last gig at The Barrel Organ in Digbeth, Birmingham. Kevin Rowland brought Gil and Mark along to watch us play. Gil wore mock leopard skin and Mark wore a dark suit jacket, drainpipe jeans and pointed high heeled boots, and had spiky hair. They stood out from the crowd like sore thumbs `cause all the rest wore the `traditional` 70's rock clothes...flared jeans, leather or denim jackets , tea shirts etc...I suppose I thought they were a bit weird,...but also exciting. At this time, the only Punk band I had seen was the Sex Pistols who had played at Bogarts a few months earlier, and I thought they were complete crap as musicians. I thought the idea of Punk, to make your statement without having to be a seasoned musician was a good idea up to a point...but some level up ability was surely necessary....or was it? I hoped Mark & Gil would be better than that...they were.
What sort of reputation did the Killjoys have round Birmingham??
A. I had never heard of them. Nobody I knew had ever heard of them. Music happened in London at that time. Nowhere else. If you wanted to get on you had to play in London. A&R reps NEVER came to Birmingham. I don't think the Killjoys played much in Birmingham at all, except at Barbarellas where, strangely enough, one of our management company personnel also managed the club. We also got paid more there than anywhere else (so I heard).
You joined in 77. When did the band start changing the style of music played and why??
A. When Bob and I first joined, we had long hair. We went to Kevin's house in Apollo Road, Oldbury in the Midlands (he owned it and rented out the rooms) where Kevin Rowland cut our hair. He was a trained hairdresser!! Are you surprised? Heather Tongue was living with Kevin. I don't know exactly why Heather left the band...I have my suspicions, but no factual knowledge so I won't speculate. Certainly at that time Kevin and Heather's relationship was volatile...I think the drummer left because Kevin said so....I also think that originally Kevin was going to ditch Ghislaine as well, that's why he advertised for a bass player as well as guitar and drums.....Kevin was VERY single minded. He had his vision of where the band was going...and he would not allow ANYTHING to get in his way. "If you don't like it, you know what you can do"
Listening to the two Peel sessions you hardly sound like the same band. How did Gem come to sing Ghislaine and how did these songs go own live compared to then old stuff ??
A. Kevin Roland played the single Johnny Won't Get To Heaven to Bob and I, then the `B` side, Naive and we learned those the first day, well, within an hour or so. Kevin gave us a copy of the single and a poster (I still have those). We began to practice with the other two members of the Killjoys at Outlaw Studio's near Five Ways, Edgbaston, Birmingham within that week. These studio practices were interspersed with sessions at Kevin's house where we went over Kevin's Ideas for new songs. Kevin would sit and play the basic chords on an acoustic guitar and sing the song to us. They never took too long to learn as they were very straightforward. At first all the ideas were Kevin’s. During the studio rehearsals, Kevin pushed us to contribute to the songs. Many of the song ideas were actually Mark Philips', but Kevin never credited anyone else as writers. Kevin believed that Punk had a shelf life so he was trying to find the next progression before anyone else. For that reason, on the back of the punk movement, we started doing some covers of 60's stuff....Dream Lover, Great Ball Of Fire...... I think Kevin was trying to create the next craze. Punk was supposed to be about the bands themselves, not about those who were chosen by record companies to represent the rest. Kevin was a games player. He wanted us to fit in with the Punk scene for a while, then storm ahead as the movement died. I believe he chose Bob and myself for our musicianship as part of his plans for the future of the band after Punk. Mark was a very accomplished guitarist, very jazz influenced, and Gil could have held her own in any band You know about Girlschool already..
How did these songs go down with an audience?....confusion....for them and for us...!!!
A. I think Kevin wanted to retain some of the energy and power, but to introduce some melody....to create uncertainty and keep the punters on their toes. Kevin had the idea for Ghislaine and he asked Gil to write some lyrics in French...Gil was a very talented girl, apart from her bass playing (taught by Mark Philips...they were `an item` you know) she could speak French quite well, and she was also a trained ballet dancer....seriously.....I know that sounds unbelievable...but true. So, Gil created the lyrics....she said (out of Kevin’s earshot) that it was about smelly old socks or something like that...but I have never tried to find out. Kevin wanted to make more of Gil's appearance on stage...he encouraged the wearing of a basque...fish net stockings and other sexually alluring clothing...(For Gil, not the rest of us) and sought to exploit that further by pushing her to the front for the one track. I moved onto Gil's bass guitar and Kevin played my guitar for this number. We couldn't think of a name for the song, but as it was in French, it seemed obvious to use Gil's name.
What was Kevin's vision of the band and what was yours?
A. I would guess from this question that you already have some idea of the way things were in the Killjoys...and perhaps why there have been several line-ups of Dexys Midnight Runners....Kevin was the leader. He said so. If we had a contrary opinion, we were in danger of being ousted from the band. Kevin and Mark used to fight a lot at rehearsals....physically fight,...blood and all....`cause Kevin was a tyrant. We practised for eight to ten hours a day, We had a set of ten songs, each lasting around three minutes...so a set practice took 30 odd minutes. Mark and I were not allowed to back strum the guitar chords....all chords had to be struck downward for power, and it took some real physical effort to maintain the pace with some the songs. Quite often, Mark and I had blood all over our guitars as our fingers bled from the pounding of the strings. (Sad innit?) I used to use very light gauge strings but they broke too often, so I changed up to heavier gauge. These were like cheese wire and did a similar amount of damage. Mark played a Gibson Les Paul sunburst, and I played a Gibson SG standard. We had to cover the Gibson emblem because it was thought to be un-Punk to own a name make guitar. I remember having a toilet cistern label on my guitar... New Era. Mark unwittingly promoted Dauntless Rubberline cisterns. Mark, Gil, Bob and I became very close...we had a common enemy...Kevin.
How did you find playing live in a punk band??
A. I found anger in myself I did not know existed. I had been used to the Rock scene, where people were joined by their love of rock music. Punks were angry. They spat at you if they liked you?...I remember after a gig at Bath Pavilion where I spent hours helping Bob clean the gob off his prize drum kit... I came off stage with gob in my hair and all over my clothes and guitar. I developed a glare of defiance which I directed against the audience. I also remember feeling like a traitor to Rock music. Once, after a mini tour of London clubs, we stopped off at a motorway services on the M1 whilst heading back to Birmingham. In the services we saw Magnum, a Birmingham Rock band. Bob and I knew the band to speak to and went over to say hi. They shunned us. We were Punks. That hurt very much. On the way out of the services, Kevin wanted to damage their van, but I wouldn't have any of it. I was the only driver and threatened to drive off without him. Consequently, as the only driver I missed much sleep, nearly putting us off the road on several occasions by falling asleep at the wheel. Kevin was a driver but said he was banned from driving?? I never knew if that was true or if he just wanted to avoid driving. We always took a small following with us to our gigs. Apart from gigs at Barbarellas in Birmingham all our gigs were elsewhere. I was constantly tired. The `stardom` job began to look very tarnished.
Names of songs in set?? Any covers?
A. Johnny Wont Get To Heaven. Naive. Ghislaine. Back To Front. Smoke Your Own. Spit on Me. (Covers) Dream Lover. Great Balls Of Fire.
One record On Raw...was Lee Wood never tempted to release another one by you..?? Were any record labels interested in signing you?? I recall Lee saying u made some more demos with a song maybe called Down On The Farm?? How influential was Lee Wood to the band??
A. We were offered a deal by Bronze Records but Kevin turned it down. We were discussing this offer in the canteen at the BBC's Maida Vale studios and Mark Gil Bob and I were really pissed off when Kevin said it wasn't enough. We shouldn't have been in the canteen at all, as it was supposed to be for `Staff` only. Bollocks to that. I never met Lee Wood. To my knowledge, Kevin was disinterested after the first single. Kevin wanted bigger things. I have no knowledge of the track Down On The Farm. I never even heard it mentioned. Supanova also recorded three tracks at Spaceward Studios in Cambridge, but that's the closest I got to Raw Records.
How did it all end and why??
A. For me it ended because of one factor. Kevin Rowland. I couldn't take any more of him. If I had stayed I would have exploded and probably killed him. At his house during a practice one day, he made some more demands of us...I can't remember now what it was? But we all disliked him intensely; only I was not prepared to take it any more at that stage. I quit there and then. I enjoyed seeing his face when I announced it. I had not planned to leave that day...but...the decision was made there and then. I liked Mark and Gil a lot, and Bob and I had played in bands together for years...I think they were a little shocked too when I quit. We were always trying to upset Kevin's plans in one way or another,. like being too ill to rehearse,...being late,. Kevin created an environment within the band that began to eat away at the structure. It became Him and Us.
We had another mini tour on the horizon, so I offered to do the tour whilst Kevin found a replacement but he said no, go now. He even spoilt my pleasure of quitting. I quit getting back at him. If it weren't for Kevin’s shitty way of treating people, all people, the band would have succeeded. Kevin created the opportunity for success, but Kevin also destroyed that opportunity. Not too long after I left, the rest of the band dumped Kevin. Unfortunately, Kevin had all the contacts.
He shared nothing with anyone. We knew nothing of the internal workings of the band. Kevin was older than the rest of us and more worldly wise. He kept us all in the dark. Looking back, it seems to me that the original Punk movement was a very short lived affair, and from then on it was full of `Normal` people (myself included) going along for the ride. Punk was a vehicle carrying everyone to a different destination.
Favourite moment/worst moment
A. Favourite moments were getting home again after a gig, and eating a proper meal. I enjoyed playing The Marquee. I had no money, no food and no expectation of those things whilst with Kevin Rowland. I never got a penny from my time with the band, and very little enjoyment. I did not mind the hard work or the driving, or even the lack of money to live on....if we were treated okay and appreciated for our efforts it would have been worth it. Kevin said that any monies we were paid for gigs was spent `repaying` the management team, Endale Enterprises. None of us had any money, except Kevin.
Worst Moment? Hard to answer, there were many of them. I had my Gibson SG guitar stolen by another band that was supporting us at The Music Machine. They took it from the dressing room upstairs and threw it out of the window to one of their waiting mates. The only reason I got it back several days later was due to threats from our management company, who also managed the other band...I also remember one night after a Gig in Leeds `F` Club, we had nowhere to stay so Kevin asked the audience if anyone could put us up for the night. Some hairy people (Rockers) took us back to their farmhouse squat, where Kevin, Bob and I slept on the floor in the `kitchen/lounge` and Mark & Gil found a room upstairs. It was bitterly cold and during the night a water pipe burst in the kitchen area and we were all soaked.