The 35 Year Anniversary Tour has you playing the albums Damned Damned Damned and the Black Album back to back. We will be getting the same treatment here in Australia?
Pretty much … it’s going to be more of a greatest hits … it’s going to be the first album and the Black album mixed with a greatest hits kind of vibe, you know? That is, if you can say ‘greatest hits’ and ‘The Damned’ in the same sentence without someone accusing you of an oxymoron. ‘Greatest shits’ maybe? We’re not going to do the two albums thing, it’ll be more of a crowd pleasing set but it will be heavy on those two records.
For me, I discovered The Damned possibly the same way a lot of international fans to your music did which was through your appearance on The Young Ones back in the early ’80 s where you played Video Nasty.
Oh … that’s right!
Looking back now, how was that experience? Did it open up a lot of doors for you?
Well it just added notoriety, really, because The Young Ones demanded their own favourite bands to come on the program. Generally, TV programs get the music that the producers and record companies choose. I can’t remember if we had a label or not at the time but we were chosen by Rik Mayall and the gang. It was half-witted as expected. Everything was going wrong in the studio; there were explosions and all sorts of stuff. It was, generally, bloody good fun! Then we did our bit, played our song, and then went off for curry afterwards and there must have been a drinking contest or some stupid thing like that because we all got absolutely wrecked. But no surprises there though. I loved the way the show portrayed students. They got it spot on, I think.
One thing I have always been impressed with was your working with Australian punk legends, the Hard-Ons back in 1991 … do you have any great stories that you could share with us about working with such a legendary Australian band?
Well we were working in a studio in Wandsworth, which is a quiet, built-up area. The houses there have nice patio gardens and the studio backs on to a car park and the other side of the car park was a whole bunch of gardens and these guys in the Hard-Ons were continually throwing a rugby ball at each other and every five or six minutes it would go into somebody’s garden and they’d be climbing over the wall, getting chased by dogs and stuff like that. That was my overriding memory of working with the Hard-Ons. Oh, plus, they kept asking me “how did it sound, Captain?” and I’d say “yeah, it sounded pretty good!” They’d ask “yeah but did it sound like The Damned?” and I said “yeah, a little bit.” And they said “yeah, that’s what we want!”
They got in touch with me which was good because not a lot of people ask me to produce because generally, the Sensible name is usually to my detriment, really. People think, and quite rightly, that I was named Captain Sensible with some sense of irony on behalf of the person who posted that name on me because I am neither, a captain or not at all sensible. In fact, I’ve been a walking disaster, so for the Hard-Ons to ask me to produce, I thought it was brave of them—and sure enough I chose Wandsworth because it’s the location of my favourite brewery, The Young’s Brewery, so a fair amount of drinking did go on. But somehow, like The Damned, we managed to make a great record despite the party aspect. But the smart thing about the Hard-Ons is that, like The Damned in a way, they still kick-arse and have a cracking melody in there. If you can marry those two things, you’re onto a winner, I think.
I think that is why bands like the Hard-Ons and yourselves have had longevity; you don’t try and follow a certain sound or trend. The Damned records all sound like The Damned … there’s so many bands out there that over the years tend to change to fit with the times or whatever but you guys still sound like The Damned.
I get asked by young bands occasionally for any advice and I just say you have got to be yourself. Nobody else can be you better than yourself, you know?
And after 35 years—which is such a long time for a band to be together—is there anything left that you need to achieve or that you are striving for?
I’m just happy to be alive, really. We did go through some fairly debauched periods in The Damned. It was a dangerous band to be in, to be quite honest, and thinking back on some of the escapades that we got up to, we’re fairly lucky that we have got original members. Brian’s still there, Rat’s, DV and myself … we’re still alive and kicking and that’s something to celebrate, I think.
Your legacy will always go on … there are always people hailing The Damned as an influence and going so far as covering your music as The Offspring did with Smash It Up.
I tell you what was bloody brilliant, was the guy from The Offspring, Dexter, signed us to his label which was nice, but then we started doing a fair amount of gigs in Los Angeles because we were hanging out with the record label out there and all of a sudden Sky Saxon pops up at one of the gigs we played so I got to play on stage with Sky Saxon of The Seeds, and I trace punk rock back to The Seeds and the garage bands of the ’60s. Really, for me, that’s where it all began; that lo-fi, fuzz-toned, three chord thing that was going on at the time. And don’t forget the Pink Fairies from Britain. They were kind of a proto punk band themselves. When I hear the song Do It, that sounds as punk as anything. I saw them when I was about 13 or 14 years old, one of the first gigs I ever attended. They had two drummers and one of them jumped off his drum stool and whacked the other drummer in the mouth because he was so out of it, and I remember watching that at 13 and thinking ‘Wow, that was totally real. These people aren’t being Mr. Show Business, this is totally rock ‘n’ roll, this is totally unscripted, it’s totally unglamorous and I absolutely love it.’ I thought to myself, ‘if I ever get in a band that plays in front of an audience, I want a band like that!’, you know?
Have you ever punched another band member in the mouth?
I’ve had the odd scuffle on stage, shall we say.
One of those scuffles wouldn’t have been with Glenn Danzig, was it? I heard that there was an altercation between The Damned and Glenn at some stage, was that right?No, I don’t know who the guy is. The rest of the band know who he is and know about his work, but I haven’t got a clue who the guy is. I know he did a band called The Misfits but I haven’t ever heard a song by The Misfits. Ever. I don’t listen to any music after 1980. I’ve got all the records I ever want to listen to. I’ve got my Terry Riley, I’ve got my Groundhogs’ albums, I’ve got my Soft Machine, I’ve got T. Rex … I’ve got the greatest records ever made—The Kinks, The Who … I don’t need to listen to anything after 1980. I don’t want to listen to people like Noel Gallagher stealing songs from my favourite acts from the ’60s and ’70s … I want to hear it by the originals. Allegedly … can I just say allegedly?