Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Here's the first of two recent Steve Perrin interviews. This one is from France and Roger Guillevic at the Mod Pop Punk Archives, conducted a few years before The Distractions had thoughts of reconvening...
Steve Perrin - The DISTRACTIONS - August 2007
ModPopPunk Archives: Please tell us about the origins of the DISTRACTIONS? What the musical influences you brought to the band?
Steve Perrin: Mike [Finney] and I met on a college course that neither of us wanted to be on in, I think, 1974. We were both very bored but we responded to boredom in different ways. I became catatonic, he sang all day. I suggested that we form a band largely to shut him up. At the time he was obsessed with all varieties of soul music and I was heavily into the Velvet Underground and the Beatles. We both liked David Bowie and, especially, Roxy Music so we started off playing covers of everything from “Suffragette City” to the Velvalettes “Needle in a Haystack”. When we started writing our own stuff the Distractions’ sound, I guess, ended up being a mixture of all of those things.
MPP A: Let's talk about your connection to New Wave late '70s, when did you first get into it?
Steve: When we first formed the band there was no possibility of us ever getting any gigs. We just did it to stop ourselves from going insane. Nobody else apart from Mike and me would stay in the band for very long as there was no chance of making money, becoming famous or meeting girls if we carried on the way we were. That changed in 1976 when Buzzcocks brought the Sex Pistols to Manchester. Suddenly it turned out that there were a large number of misfits who were into similar stuff to us who had been living similar subterranean existences. That meant that we were able to put together a stable lineup. Pip [Nichols] had just missed out on a job with the Buzzcocks so Pete Shelley passed her phone number on to us. Adrian [Wright] came via an ad in the NME and brought Alec [Sidebottom] with him. That’s the lineup that made most of the records.
By 1977 the live scene had really taken off in Manchester so it was easy for us to get support gigs with the Fall, Joy Division and the Buzzcocks, then we started playing our own shows.
MPP A: How did you get hooked up with TJM records and later FACTORY?
Steve: Tony Davidson from TJM turned up at one of our gigs and offered to release a record for us. Nobody else was offering and we couldn’t afford to do it ourselves so we agreed. That record [“You’re Not Going Out Dressed Like That”] got a lot of good press and led to an offer from Factory where, I think it’s fair to say, we felt rather more comfortable.
MPP A: In '77 how would you say the Manchester scene compare to the one in London?
Steve: As far as I can see, the London scene was built around the juxtaposition of art school graduates and yobs who had left school at 16 with few, if any, qualifications. In Manchester we were light on the art school influence and heavy on the yobs. You could convince quite a lot of people that you were a conceptual genius if you’d been to technical college.
Having said that, there was a voracious yearning for information which is typical of an intelligent, if unfocussed, youth movement. People were sitting in freezing council flats reading Dostoevsky, Warhol and Wilde.
What’s also interesting is that a lot of the early movement coalesced around the rougher gay pubs and clubs in town, particularly The Ranch on Dale Street, as they were the only places you could go to wearing funny clothes where you wouldn’t get beaten up.
MPP A: You were DISTRACTIONS' guitarist so what's your favorite guitar, piece of equipment? Your first guitar was?
Steve: My first electric guitar was a red solid bodied Hofner which I wish I still had. I got rid of all my gear after I left The Distractions except for a Gibson J 50 acoustic so I guess that must be my favorite.
MPP A: Which songs are you most proud of? Who was writing the songs? What was your song usually about then?
Steve: There were a number of songwriters in the band. I wrote most of the stuff – some on my own, some with Mike. Adrian wrote less but did write our most famous song, “Time Goes By So Slow”. Unfortunately there was a mix up in the labeling process and the song got credited to me and Mike. We’ve been trying to sort it out for years but don’t seem to be getting anywhere as it turned up on a Korova compilation in 2006 still with the wrong writing credits. Understandably, Adrian is not very pleased.
As for which songs I’m proudest of…I haven’t really listened to any of the records since we made them so I don’t know. Maybe “Looking For a Ghost” as everybody else but me hated that song. It’s like having a child that nobody likes, you have to love it more.
MPP A: What were your ultimate goals as band and why did the band split in 1981? What was the last thing you did before you broke up?
Steve: I don’t think we really had goals, which was one of our problems. It was interesting being signed to Island Records at the same time as U2 and seeing how a group who really wanted to take over the world operated. I think we just wanted to escape from the boring lives we had been born into and, to that extent I suppose, we were successful.
I left the band in 1980, soon after the release of the album, as I was exhausted, sick of playing live and disillusioned with the music business in general. I was replaced by Arthur Kadmon who had been the guitarist in Ludus and went on to work briefly with The Fall. Shortly after that the band were dropped by Island but released an EP called “And Then There’s” on Rough Trade. From what I understand things just fell apart from then on. I don’t really know as lines of communication were not fully open at the time.
MPP A: Did you tour a lot? Did you enjoy?
Steve: Too much. I hated it.
MPP A: Strangely DISTRACTIONS records never get reissue and it's a pity. Why?
Steve: Basically Island was bought out by Universal and they refuse to release the stuff or allow anybody else to. There’s a guy in the States who runs an independent label called Acute who has been trying to persuade Universal to let him reissue “Nobody’s Perfect” for about five years but they keep trying to charge him a huge amount of money which he doesn’t have and he’d be unlikely to make back, meanwhile the tapes are presumably sitting in a vault somewhere. The band members have no influence as we don’t own any of the material.
MPP A: Are you still in touch with ex DISTRACTIONS members?
Steve: To varying degrees. Mike is my oldest friend and I speak to him regularly. After The Distractions he worked with the Secret Seven, Dr Filth and, briefly, the Art of Noise. He’s no longer involved in music. Pip and I exchange the occasional email. After the band she studied sound engineering and, for a few years, played with Liverpool band The Frocks. She’s still writing and recording her own stuff. Alec I used to run into regularly when I still lived in Manchester. He’s very involved in Latin American percussion and spends as much time in Cuba as he can. Adrian I haven’t seen for years. I’ve tried but he doesn’t like to socialize.
MPP A: What other bands have you been in since '81? What does the future hold for you?
Steve: When I left The Distractions I put a band together called The Escape Committee. I wanted to do something more downbeat (to suit my mood) and, I guess, we sounded like a rather more woozy Young Marble Giants. We played one show but my heart wasn’t really in it so apart from briefly playing with Mike in a radically different Distractions lineup in the early 1990s and accidentally finding myself managing a record company in Italy in the late 1980s I have removed myself from the music business and retreated to the world of academia where the holidays are better. I moved to New Zealand in early 2007 so we’ll have to wait and see what the future holds.
Copyright © 1999-2007 Roger Guillevic at The ModPopPunkArchives.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
This City Fun review of the Leigh Festival was from none other than Kevin Cummins, then budding photographer, now friend to music celebrities and last seen lording it up on the Manchester City Cup Final bus parade with the players. Thanks to Mike Noon for the scans as ever, and note the links that Occultation label-mates, The Wild Swans, have to the first two Scouse bands...
400 PEOPLE SITTING IN A WINDSWEPT FIELD ON A SUMMER AFTERNOON
400 PEOPLE SITTING IN A WINDSWEPT FIELD ON A SUMMER AFTERNOON
LEIGH FESTIVAL, ZOO AND FACTORY LABEL DAY
Where were you? The very poor turnout meant that most of Manchester / Liverpool each missed three of their respective best bands,
Liverpool first: All well danceable bands with tape/drum machines and silly names.
TEARDROP EXPLODES: 4 members (real drummer!!) not at all doomy as on "Bouncing Babies" single. Light, bouncy rhythm, very melodic.
ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN: Having three guitarists gives them depth and power, whilst the drum machine bounces out dance rhythms to such classic choons as "Read in in Books", "Pictures on my Wall" and "Monkies".
OMITD: Brilliant! Pop for the 80s. "Electricity" should be top 20, no messing! Andy, Paul and Winston the tape machine ran through their establishd set of electric dance musik. Everyone should go and see this band.
A CERTAIN RATIO: Much better now that they've dropped most of their electronic screeching effects from their set. Worth seeing again.
DISTRACTIONS: Squeaky clean, tight pop - as good as ever. Music to move to, though few people did.
Finally, JOY DIVISION: One of the most hypnotic, surging groups I've heard. Anyone who can't move to "Disorder", "Insight", "Interzone" or the fantastic "Transmission" must not be alive. Even better live then on "Unknown Pleasures", the elpee.
Tony Wilson said we're the elitists having seen great bands who people will soon pay through the nose to see. I reckon the old sod's right.
Here's Cummins' brilliant photo of The Distractions at Belle Vue, Manchester, taken 22 August 1979. It's in his excellent photographic history of Manchester music 'Manchester: Looking for the Light through the Pouring Rain':
The Distractions, Belle Vue, Manchester, 22 August 1979. (c) Kevin Cummins.
Monday, June 20, 2011
A handful of days and The Distractions' second album has been recorded. Like label mates, Manchester's Factory Star, the chaps don't mess around these days - Mancunian work ethic, anyone? (Although with Mike Kellie, Arash Torabi and Nick Halliwell on board, Stockport's finest are in the minority.) We'll bring you more on how the sessions went, including some great photos, but first here's a mini-diary of the sessions:
Steve Perrin - Two days to go and band members still in three different countries.
SP - Acoustic run-throughs going well.
SP - Day one went very well. Four basic tracks done.
Nick Halliwell - We almost got five. That's on day one which included a couple of hours set-up time. We don't muck about in this band...
SP - Day two started with a moment of panic when Nick's guitar wouldn't work but tension was broken by a Bo Diddley version of the album's most sensitive ballad and visits from David Quantick and our old Island pal Neil Storey.
Neil Storey - Everyone in cracking form. Kellie drumming up a storm and Finney / Perrin have become the Morecombe and Wise of Exeter! Sixth song today being worked on now - all sounding really good.
NH - We got six more rhythm tracks done today, one more to do tomorrow then we'll see where we are.
Arash Torabi - Looking forward to another day in the studio with The Distractions.
NH - We went all Fleetwood Mac and spent a whole two hours on the final track on Saturday morning. As we had a bit of time in hand we decided to knock off acoustic versions of three of the songs.
SP - Last day for Mike Kellie and Arash, both of whom performed at the peak of their powers. All backing tracks completed. Tomorrow is vocals day. Mike and Nick are getting early nights while I am going on an epic bender around the hot spots of Exeter.
SP - Woke up and could not find trousers. Had an argument with a seagull. Told Mike I had been up all night rewriting the lyrics to all the songs. Mike appears to be having a breakdown.
SP - Final day finished. Rather emotional for various reasons. Tracks include the first Distractions duet (me and Mike on one of Nick's songs... it is not a good idea to follow Mike into the vocal booth). We have suffered for our art. Soon it will be your turn...
SP - Time to break camp and head out of town... sincere appreciation to Nick for making the seemingly impossible happen. Over and out.
NH - Messrs Finney and Perrin have left the building.
Mike Finney - Back to normal... if it all really happened. Huge thanks to Nick and family for putting up with me for the week, to Arash and Kellie, to Neil and David. Can't wait to hear one all the way through!
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Today The Distractions entered the studio to begin recording their first album for 31 years. The legendary (legendarily difficult to find, more like) Nobody's Perfect on Island Records underperformed commercially despite almost unanimous critical acclaim. I've a hunch that making up for the lack of sales first time around isn't the major motivation for the reformation the axis of The Distractions, Steve Perrin and Mike Finney. More a chance to simply make the music that they want, whilst at the same time giving those lucky Distractions fans who remember a reminder of the wonders of Finney vocals and Perrin songs. Plus, of course, input from newer Distractions; Nick Halliwell of The Granite Shore, who penned the wonderful Oil Painting from 2010's Come Home EP, and the newest recruit...
Mike Kellie, Alan Mair, Alice Cooper, Bob Harris. (c) BobHarris.
Mike Kellie is best known as drummer with The Only Ones (famed for their classic Another Girl, Another Planet single), but also played with Spooky Tooth, Peter Frampton and Chris Wood. Mike joins The Distractions in the studio in Exeter for the album sessions and becomes, as Steve wryly added, "...the most famous person in the band." Initial acoustic run-throughs of the new material are under the belt and you can keep track of the progress of the recording sessions at The Distractions Facebook page and via Twitter.
The Only Ones, Mojo Honours List Awards, 2007. Alan Mair, Peter Perrett, Mike Kellie. (c) zimbio.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
From a 1980 City Fun fanzine, kindly supplied as always by Mike Noon. Here, the reviewer Mat Snow rates The Distractions somewhat more than the support group, The Members, who oddly appear to have played second...
M/C 6 LONDON 1
The Distractions, The Members, M/Cr Poly, 3.5.80
Before, death warmed up; after, a million dollars. I'm probably preaching to the converted, but the Distractions must be one of the world's best, say, dozen pop groups. If you don't have the Irresistible Urge to shake a leg when they are on stage, you're either stone-deaf or in urgent need of the Samaritans. Electrifyingly strong, compulsive songs are dynamically performed. The next single in Eden Kane's oldie "Boys Cry", but the set is packed with chart contenders. My fave is the hurtling, ricocheting "Sick and Tired", but to each his own. In an earlier age they would have already appears on the Ed Sullivan Show and achieved world-wide fame overnight, but, given the breaks, they might achieve this anyway.
After the Distractions, the Members were at a bit of a disadvantage. The audience was drained, and the Members only occasionally reinvigorated it. The trouble is that the most of their songs are rather dreary, although hectically performed by Nicky Tesco and his pals. A lot of it sounds like a second-rate early Clash clone playing third-rate white reggae. Only a few numbers hit home - "Gang Wars", "Police Car", Off-shore Banking Business" and "Sound of the Suburbs" were pretty rousing. Others, like "At the Chelsea Night Club", were stilted and very uninspired. In the end, feeling ill and bored, I left before the encore, and I probably didn't miss much. If it had been a Battle of the Bands, the home side won, about 6-1.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Another brilliant piece from the City Fun fanzine. This one is by The Distractions bassist, Pip Nicholls, and it describes the day the band signed for Island Records (Nick "Bill" Stewart). 'Kevin the camera' must be Kevin Cummins, and Brandon, Brandon Leon, the producer of FAC 12 - Time Goes By So Slow. Thanks as usual to Mike Noon for the scans.
A TRIP TO THE TOP
Waking up, it just felt like any other morning, I heard Jaqui shout "Adrian, Mike's here." Mike's here, I thought, should I get up? I thought about getting up for ten minutes before I did.
When I got downstairs and went in the front room, I found it was Alec and not Mike. I said hello and sat down. Alec left. Ade made some tea, I made myself a peanut butter sandwich. I attempted to straighten my hair out but Jaqui's hairdrier's a bit funny, but I did what I could. Is this vanity?
Sometime after twelve, me, Jaqui, Judy and Ade set off dropping Jaqui an Judy at their mothers and grandmothers. Work that out.
First Ade and I found Bernie and the three of us went into the bar and guess who was there? Yes, Mike and Steve that famous drunken duet, but they seemed quite sober, in the presence of the legal chappie and Bill the squash player (and cricket). Alec arrived soon after we did, he shook Tony's (the legal chappie) hand, which reminded me that I forgot to. I like shaking hands. (I think I'll write to Forum about it). Tom bought me a pint of Harp lager and we all sat down in a row.
When we'd finished the drinks we call set off to meet again in the Film Exchange and also meet young Tony and Brandon and Kevin the camera.
Not a bad place, Bernie said to join you need three people who are members already to OK you. Then it's four pound a year. The atmosphere was totally undisturbing, you see I'm suffering from acute paranoia at the moment. But in here I could relax with five bottles of wine and endless beef sandwiches and horseradish. (But who was paying I wonder).
Then we all walked up to Albert Square and waited ages to sign pieces of paper. I sat on the floor in the sunshine, but I didn't feel comfortable. I was wondering if it was acceptable to sit on the floor in Albert Square when you are about to sign up.
The signing started, Bill was sent to get a bottle of champagne. Ade started signing - he had to sign his initials on every sheet of paper. The rest of us just signed each contract. The bottle of champagne was opened by Steve, but Kevin the camera missed the opening so Steve had to shake it up and pretend to have just opened it - we all had swigs, it tasted like pomagne to me but Mike said it was OK and he usually knows about these things.
We all said goodbye to Bill and Tom and I shook their hands. Bill's handshaking is very limp and Tom half crushed my hand. I wondered if he knew and if I ever hve crushed anyone's hand without knowing.
I went back with Ade (because we had a practice later in Stockport) to Jaqui's dads house. When we arrived back at Ade's house we had to shift all the gear into Alec's van. There was a group of young girls who kept asking "Are you a boy or a girls - ooh look at his shoes, you're half boy and half girl aren't you." I saw a black cat jump from an upstair window sill, about twenty feet down to the ground, and then ran off.
LIFE IS FULL OF LITTLE DISTRACTIONS