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Venue: The Waterfront, Norwich.
Participants: Shane Richmond, Willie and Pete.
SR: A lot of people would say that it's wrong to label bands punk if they don't fit with the politics of the movement, how do politics and music fit together?
Willie: That's counter productive to me, though. Speaking as a very, very political person myself, very politically motivated, the second that you try to slot something that's square into a round hole by virtue of your own set of definitions you've lost either the political point or the musical point. A band is either good or it's not good, if it has political content you either approve of it, respect it or not, it depends on the artistic way that they put it over. I think to condemn a band for reforming as being not true to some sort of political spirit defeats the object of the band being there in the first place; they were a band, they did that because they enjoyed it and if they want to do it again and rekindle some of that enjoyment why condemn them for it? If you're saying that they're doing it purely for some sort of commercial gain, that's another argument. But can you imagine how much fun it must be? Suppose you were in one of these also-ran punk bands from the seventies, the Verucas, or Chelsea. Essentially did nothing, touched the edges in the late seventies and early eighties then died away and then suddenly after you've waited five years, maybe been working as a bread delivery man for seven years, whatever it might be and suddenly it's all kicking off again and suddenly this sequencer thing that all the kids were buying isn't so important and they actually want to go out and see a guitar band and they're talking about this record that you made in 1981. I couldn't condemn someone for that, I think fuck it, if they think "I want a bit of that back" let them do it if it's fun, if it's entertaining.... And if it's transparent people let them know soon enough, they just don't go to their gigs do they?
SR: What politics are attached to Honeycrack?
Willie: Individually, you'd have to ask each individual member. I think one of the important points of Honeycrack is that, having been through various situations, all of us, individually and collectively, in different bands etcetera, one of the most important things that I've learnt, and I think everyone else in the band will probably agree with me on, is tolerance. So when I say I'm a political creature don't assume for a second that I'm talking for CJ, who would tell you that he has not got any interest in politics. I would argue with him, I'd say "what you mean is you've got no interest in party politics" and I understand that but there ain't one of us sitting here that isn't a political creature, there isn't one of us sitting here that wouldn't make some sort of criticism of their society without acknowledging that that's a political statement, of course it is. The second that you comment on the fact that your grant's to low, or the fucking streets are shitty, you're entering into the world of politics. There it is, sorry folks party politics - different thing altogether and I agree, I understand why people are totally disillusioned with party politics and why a whole generation has grown up feeling disenchanted, disaffected, the whole flaming thing.
As a band, because I tend to write, in fact for this album, most of the lyrics, most of the songs I guess it's fair to say on this record.... although, having said that, I should also say that CJ has also started writing since leaving the Wildhearts and I know it's something he's going to do more of because he's very good at it. Mark similarly, what a find he was! We were looking for a guitarist and what we got was a fabulous bloke, a very good guitarist and an excellent songwriter as well. So I'm talking about the album we've made now, which features mostly my work and, inevitably something of your nature sneaks into your lyrics, and since something of your nature also includes something of your politics it's inevitable that there are, whether they're ironic observations or direct affronts to.... We have a song called 'Powerless' for example which deals exactly with that, the fact that to all intents and purposes you could argue that democracy is one mass placebo dished out to you when you're eighteen years old. I think Ken Livingstone said it best when he said, in the eighties, that "if voting actually changed anything they'd ban it." It's one corrupt system to another isn't it? You take the best that you can get.
SR: A lot of your songs, 'Go Away', 'Sitting at Home', 'Five Minutes', there seems to be an aggressive approach to who the songs aimed at. Is that a part of your nature reflecting in your songs?
Willie: No, I disagree. I think there is an aggressive urgency to the music, but 'Sitting at Home' and 'Go Away' are actually the opposite of that. Lyrically they are a bit twisted and poke your tongue outy things, but they're not "I'm going to break their head against this wall." The ethic is very much that if there's a problem I'd rather find a way round it than go over it. 'Go Away', for example, rather than just deal smack on with a confrontation it's just easier to back off and go "alright, on your way." 'Sitting at Home' is the same kind of thing, I don't have to live by anybody else's bullshit criteria of what it is to enjoy rock 'n' roll or what it is to live your life. Whatever field you're in there are pleasures to be had anywhere, true autonomy is recognising that and not fulfilling a set of rules dictated by others that bear no relation to your own life. Being comfortable is something that every individual must come to terms with and isn't something that anyone else can help them with in my opinion.
SR: 'Sitting at Home' was written by yourself and CJ. How does that work?
Willie: That song in particular, in fact the same with 'Go Away,' although 'Go Away' more so. 'Sitting at Home', CJ had part of a riff, he'd sort of half written a song and he played me it and it featured part ofthe riff that made it's way into the finished thing, and featured this Iyric "I'm okay sitting at home." The rest of it was in odds and sods and he hadn't really pulled it all together. So what I did was say "look, I like this riff bit, I like the sentiment there," and I strung the rest of the song, the verses, the chorus structure, around the basic idea. 'Go Away' is an example of the same thing but more so. I've not done too much with the actual structure of the song there, bits of arrangement and so on, but the riff was there, the sentiment "go away" and I incorporated a few more of his Iyrics on 'Go Away' because they fell into place with how I'd approach the song.
SR: So it's not really working with someone else? It sounds more like you're taking CJ's work and adapting it...
Willie: That's what I do. I wouldn't say there is a specific system. Mark and I, for example, have sat down on a couple of occasions and said "right, let's write a song" and just bounced of each other. With the two examples that you're familiar with 'Sitting at Home' and 'Go Away,' both of those were exactly as you described it, CJ saying "look, I've got something here but I don't know what it is" and I just took it away and did my bits and pieces to it.
SR: That's three songwriters so far. When I spoke to CJ he said that by the new year you hoped there'd be five songwriters....
Willie: Well it's already moving that way. Hugo, over Christmas, came round, very excited, to my place, sat down at the piano and bashed out this little song he'd written. It was surprisingly good, I don't mean that to sound patronising, it's the first song he's ever written and it was good. That will be very much the same sort of thing, I've done some bits and pieces to it and said "we've formed a structure here from what I think are the strong points of what you've got there." He's still working on the Iyric because I felt that lyrically it was very strong so it's something that he should pursue. It's dealing with the disillusioned fool that bought into the eighties ideology, thinking that it was all a pot of gold waiting to be collected.
SR: So you're getting close to five songwriters?
Willie: Well, as soon as we kick start this.... [gestures to Pete] Well, Peter?
Pete: I must admit this is the first band I've been in where I haven't written the songs, so it will be interesting. The trouble is it's quite a departure from where I've been before, so consequently it's quite difficult to get into the whole.... It's very much a different style of music for me really, the whole heavier thing hasn't been me before so I'm just getting into it.
SR: If the album was finished back in April and all this songwriting has been going on, how much stuff has been written?
Willie: Masses and masses. The thing is, I think most people can identify with this, whether it's writing an essay or a piece of prose, whatever it might be, you always feel that the most recent thing you've done is probably your best work. You do comparisons and you look back three months and you go "I'm not sure about that," a couple of years and you can find yourself cringing, going "fuck, how could I have written that? That seems very naive in light of the position I adopt today." So the short answer to that is that regardless of the fact that there are.... I don't know, another forty or fifty songs floating around at the moment, the likelihood is that when we come to do the next album we will sufficiently edit ourselves to go "right, these are the good ones, these are the ones we'll do, the others they'll be b-sides, we'll save them for rainy days or work on them in the future."
SR: If retrospect changes the way you look at your songs, how do you feel about the album now?
Willie: Already, within a matter of weeks, when one's finished on a mix or something, there are always improvements and I roughly feel that the day that I can look back at something and feel that that is just perfect something's probably wrong somewhere, that I'm not evolving anymore, I'm not open to new ideas because there is always something different to be done. That said, I'm still very proud of the album, I still think it represents very much where Honeycrack are at. We are, as I say, in the process of putting a lot of other material together for the second album, which I'm looking forward to doing enormously but I still haven't tired of the first, I think it's a very strong record.
SR: Is the second one likely to follow fairly quickly?
Willie: I really don't know. I would suspect that, to be blunt, it depends on how well the first one does. You know how these things go, if this thing were to take off and sell a lot of copies record companies all over the world, Epic in America, Epic in Japan, they'll just have you touring endlessly to keep the thing selling and so long as the figures increase they keep you out there on the road. This is how come bands like Guns 'n' Roses or whoever else don't make an album for five years, it sort of drags on because the success takes everyone by surprise. I think what is more likely to happen in our case is that we'll probably, if the record does finally come out in May this year and not next century, we'll tour it for three to six months depending on where it does well, in what territories in the world and we'll start another one, at the earliest, autumn to winter next year. [I assume he means autumn '96 to winter '97 - SR]
SR: What would you say at this point are your three favourite Honeycrack songs?
Willie: I think I would probably have to say.... 'chirpy chirpy cheep cheep'.... A song called 'Parasite' is probably my personal favourite from the album. I don't know, what are your favourites?
Pete: My favourites are 'Good, Good Feeling', 'Genius', 'Go Away', and I really like 'Animals' as well.
Willie: I guess 'Animals' would have to be one of my favourites. I don't know, there are none that I actively dislike.... Jesus, I just don't know.... 'If I Had A Life' I like that. Oh, that's not on the album is it?
Pete: No, it's on the b-side of 'Sitting at Home.' [It was added to the album quite late on, I gather. - SR]
Willie: You know how it is, suppose I ask you what your favourite records are and in six weeks time you'll probably have changed your mind, in six years you definitely will have. It's been a year since we did this album and some of them get a bit boring to play every night 'cos we've been playing them for nine, ten months and then suddenly they are rekindled. For no apparent reason they're suddenly very exciting to play again. I'm enjoying playing 'Animals' at the moment, we're not doing 'Parasite' live at the moment, I'm really enjoying playing 'If I Had A Life. ' I like 'King Of Misery' it think it's a strong song, it's very likely to be the next single.
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