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Me: How do you think the Music Machine gig measured up to gigs you’ve done so far?
Midge Ure: Personally, I found it the second best gig we’ve ever done in London. The best one being Dingwalls.
Me: Did you all enjoy it?
Steve New: Yeah. There were a couple of problems that I had, and I was really frustrated about that. Really disappointed. Because I was really into the gig. We all were. And when you’ve got a problem that comes up, it detracts from it, and you think: “Oh, no! I’m losing it, I’m losing the audience.” But I think it held together really well, considering the things that happened.
Glen Matlock: When you get up on stage, you’ve got to project ‘cos you’re totally in charge of what you’re doing. But when something beyond your control goes wrong, it’s like a crack appears. The crack gets really big, and you get more concerned with the crack than it’s worth.
Steve: There were a lot, but I’m not being a bad workman and blaming my tools.
Me: One of the things about the Music Machine gig is that, from an audience point of view, it was a very aggressive place. That night, was it more aggressive than most?
Steve: Well, I think that most audiences are now. All the gigs we did on the tour there was a lot of aggression.
Rusty Egan: Decent people won’t go to a gig anymore.
Me: Do you find that a violent audience is stimulating?
Steve: No, not at all.
Glen: They used to be, once upon a time. But when you’ve done that certain kind of gig, you find it’s still at that kinda level, and there’s no added interest. Just real violence coming across, no other emotion going on, then it gets a bit strange.
Midge: It just becomes a pain in the arse.
Me: So you don’t think bands should stimulate that kind of aggression?
Rusty: No. We’ve never tried. Our music isn’t written for that.
Me: I’m only asking because of Friday night’s audience. I was trying to see you, but I saw a lot of people being aggressive, which stopped me from seeing you.
Midge: They would’ve been aggressive no matter who was playing. Those people go basically to kick the shit out of people. That’s their night’s entertainment. They ruin it for everybody else. I think it’s just a minority that are like that.
Glen: In any crowd like that, who come to more aggressive types of music, there’s always those who start spitting at the band and stuff. So you say: “Look, this ain’t on, because I can’t play. Like when the gob lands on my guitar strings. I keep playing wrong notes. My fingers keep slipping in all your spit, and if this keeps goin on, we can’t continue. We’ll have to go off.” And then they do it even more, just to see if they’ve got enough power to make you go off stage. So you can’t say things like that anymore, because they’re wise to the fact they’ve got you in that situation, and they’re winning and that’s not on.
Me: This leads me to another question, Almost every kid in the audience, in some way, projects himself onto the stage. They all want to be rock stars…
Rusty: You see ‘em all playing guitar when you do a solo.
Me: So, for them, what’s the biggest kick you get?
Rusty: The biggest kick for me is actually getting on stage and getting applause before you’ve even done anything.
Steve: You don’t do it for kicks. You just don’t get ‘em.
Me: So, what do you enjoy about being up there?
Steve: Well, you just enjoy it. It’s just something that happens to you every night.
Me: What about you, Midge?
Midge: It’s basically the same for about 99% of artists. There’s only about one out of fifty gigs that you come off stage after saying: “Well, Jesus Christ, that was really great! I really enjoyed that.” It might be just one or two songs in the whole set, but everything just goes BAM! It’s just a feeling you get. It might only last two minutes, but it’s there.
Glen: It takes so many things for all these things to come together. I don’t really know what I get out of it. All I know is, that if I don’t do it, if I lay off for kinda three months, I go and do it again. I don’t know exactly why. It’s just kinda like… in the blood.
Me: So, it’s nice being up there?
Glen: Sometimes, it’s terrible, and you think: “What am I doing this for?” I still like to go back there the next night and see why I hated the last night.
Me: But you’d rather be there than working in a factory?
Rusty: People always say: “Would you rather be there than go back and work in a factory?” But I didn’t work in a fucking factory in the first place. I had a decent job.
Me: Would you rather go back to your decent job?
Rusty: I was doing all right in my decent job.
Me: But would you go back to it now?
Rusty: No, I wouldn’t really want to because I was doing my decent job when I was also in a band. And the reason I left the decent job was because I wanted to be in a band. If I hadn’t got into a decent band, I would probably still be doing .,.
Glen: A decent job! When you’re doing a job, you just do what someone else wants you to. There are a few jobs where you are working for yourself, and it’s all you own ideas and…
Steve: Yeah, if we weren’t in the band, we’d be projecting ourselves in something else.
Rusty: Yeah, that is what I’m saying. Even if I left the band, or the band split up after a certain amount of time, whatever it was, I’d still be doing something I wanted to. It wouldn’t be: “Oh no! I have to do a job, where I have to earn money.”
Me: Do you think you’re going to be on the road for a lot longer? Or do you see yourselves getting more into recording?
Rusty: I’d like to say something here now.
Glen: Just for a change.
Rusty: At the moment, life on the road is just not worth doing because the audience is just gobbers, and punkers, and skinheads, right? So, we really wish we had time down the studio. But when we go out on the road again, we hope the audience has clicked, and got a bit better. ‘Cos, at the moment, we’re finding that we’re going to places where kids are saying: “You’re not punk rockers” Because we ain’t got pins through our heads.
Me: So, you want to spend a bit of time in a studio?
Steve: I’d rather spend all the time in the studio if we were in that position.
Glen: You do far more innovative work in the studio. That’s where you put new ideas down. On the road, you’re just trying to get those ideas across to as many people as possible.
Me: Going into the studio there’s a lot of equipment about, are you excited about it, or do you think it’s unnecessary?
Glen: No, I like it. I like as many gadgets as possible. I want to be able to use them and not be at their mercy.
Steve: They are your tools. Recording is the most important facet …
Rusty: Like you’ve got a sound in your head that you’ve got to get out, so you get old Leslie. He knows about them
Steve: There’s performing and creating, and creating has to be by far the better thing. You’re doing something new all the time.
Me: Are you doing an album, by the way?
Steve: We’ve done one.
Glen: That’s what we did with (Mick) Ronson. We finished it about three months ago.
Rusty: Yeah, we haven’t even got the album out yet.
Writer’s note: The album was released the week after this interview was recorded. Apparently, despite a photos session with Sheila, the most well-known photographer of punk, and the interview, the band had no advance knowledge of the impending release.
Me: What did you feel like, when you’d done the album?
Steve: Well, it’s really different to how we feel about it now. We kinda learnt quick at the beginning of the album. At the end, we sort of sussed on at the studio, so we all wanted to do another one.
Glen: We did it over a long period, three months. Not three months in the studio. We’d go in for a couple of week, ‘cos we were on the road at the same time.
Me: You’ve recorded a fair bit, Midge. How did you find it?
Midge: When we all first went in, it was all new and confusing: flangers, digital delays, DTs. And now Steve will say he wants a bit of guitar, but he wants to put it that flanger. He knows what he wants, whereas before he’d say: “I want that sound. I want that effect. How do you do it?”
Glen: It takes ages like that. But when you mature in the studio, you come to terms with the jargon’n that. You can explain yourself.
Me: Is it difficult to get the effects on stage that you get in the studio?
Steve: Sometimes, but that just comes down to going out and buying them.
Me: Now comes the question about Slik and The Sex Pistols. It’s not going to be a long question.
Glen: I’ve got lots of time.
Me: Obviously, comparisons are being made between what you were doing with the Pistols and what Midge was doing with Slik. Do you think this harms your reputation? Or does any good?
Glen: Well, it holds you back a bit. When you could be six months ahead of everybody else they only give you credit for being five minutes, because they are still looking at you with last year’s eyes.
Me: A lot of people expect you to identify with music you’ve done beforehand.
Glen: That’s fair enough because everything we’re doing is an extension of what I was doing before. Your music is what you are like as a person. At least, hopefully. If it’s honest kind of stuff, and not just like the factory disco funk they put out in the charts. So, you hope your music kind of reflects what you think about things.
Me: What are your thoughts on disco music?
Glen: I think there is some good stuff, but a lot of it is real factory line stuff.
Steve: I think it’s good because it has a factory feel to it. You can go out and have a real mechanical evening.
Glen: It’s good that people can do it like that, and I respect the way they play, but I could never do it.
Rusty: No, no. The thing about disco is that disco is played on the radio, and disco is played in the discos. And in this country you just won’t hear a rock ‘n’ roll record in any pub. You won’t hear any of the Pistols, or anything like that. So, all the kids, the youth of today, other than rock ‘n’rollers, just buy rubbish like your John Travoltas. They hear it continuously, and they never head The Rich Kids or Pistols, or anybody. And when they go to their local discos every week, and nowhere else, they hear the same music all the time. So you mention punk rock, “Oh, we don’t like punk rock.”
Steve: I think, because disco music is so negative the people go to the clubs because it doesn’t interfere with them. It’s not a personality kind of music. Maybe that has something to do with it, and that’s why they like it. It’s in the background. They’re the sort of people that aren’t really into music.
Me: It’s like music to shop by in supermarkets?
Chorus: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Midge: Maybe there’s a hidden message in a disco song. The people that are listening to it are dancing away, and what they’re trying to do is pull the bird they’re dancing with. They’re not interested in what the guy’s singing as long as it’s got that steady beat and you can dance to it. And that’s it. If people started dancing to totally different beats disco music would die. Like nobody would buy it. I mean, I stand in a disco and I can’t tell one disco song from another. It’s exactly the same backing tapes with different “ooh-aahs” over the top.
Me: Yeah. I went to the Embassy Club where they play disco music all night. No DJ between each number, it just goes one song into the next.
Rusty: All night, the same beat, dancing to a clock, boom, boom. The thing is, you mention rock ‘n’ roll to your ordinary fourteen-year-old and she doesn’t know. They haven’t got any idols anymore. No rock ‘n’ roll in the younger kids today. Every black band looks the same.
Steve: Every black band?
Rusty: Your ultra-funky big collars and platform boots on. With glitter on their eyes. Or stars, right? Or they’ve got their dinner suits on, The Stylistics etc. They go on forever.
Me: Well, I won’t print this ‘cos the National Front might be interested.
Rusty: Every group sounds the same, right?
Me: Yes, I agree to a certain extent…
Midge: Let’s not talk about fucking discos, anymore. Jesus Christ!
Copyright©2017 Bryan Hemming.
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