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The Au Pairs have been claiming a lot of critical praise recently due to the release of their brilliant LP 'Playing with a Different Sex'. We interviewed the group the day after its release.
ESN: How did the group form?
PAUL: I knew Lesley and I went to school with Pete. We were mucking around and decided to form a band. We needed a bass player, Martin - the bloke who manages us, knew Jane had just got a bass and was learning to play. We took it from there... There were interesting points like Jane was in the bath when Lesley phoned.
JANE: I conducted the conversation with Lesley in the nude!
The band decided to release their first single themselves. 'You' was released on 021 Records with a little help from Rough Trade. 021 Records has since branched out and discovered other excellent new bands.
PAUL: At the moment, Iganda, Musical Youth and Tarzan 5 have released singles. When the money is available, The Pinkies and Fast Relief will be releasing singles. It's just something Martin puts together occasionally.
ESN: How did you get the contract with Human Records?
JANE: A friend of the group had some connections with them.
PAUL: It's run by two guys. One knows the recording side as he's had a lot of experience with RSO. The other bloke works on the business side - distribution, advertising etc. We're quite pleased with them. It all came about from this friend who saw us. The deal was just what we were looking for.
AU PAIRS - Jane Munroe (bass) and Paul Foad (guitar) at Newcastle University a few hours before playing
ESN: What's the next single called?
JANE: What's it called? (The question is directed at Lesley.)
LESLEY: It hasn't got a title yet.
ESN: Do you have difficulty finding live work?
PAUL: We're quite fortunate working with a big agency, TBA. We can always find gigs. We played a lot of Rock Against Sexism and Rock Against Racism gigs and made a few contacts there.
ESN: Does 'Playing With A Different Sex' have a definition?
LESLEY: Yeah, three really. There's playing, as in playing like in sport that sort of thing; there's playing sexually with different sex being the opposite sex or 'different sex' being the opposite sex or 'different sex'; not the sex you're expected to play with - in terms of homosexuality.
ESN: What does the cover of the LP represent?
LESLEY: The Chinese woman on the cover isn't wearing a uniform but this searing dress. It's not like when people say women can fight as well as men because they usually dress up in a uniform this woman is going into battle as a woman, running into battle carrying her gun...
ESN: You've used the term 'Flexi Sex' recently. What is that?
LESLEY: Flexi sex, like in terms of sexuality and homosexuality. (Lesley says no more about that as she heads off in search of the sandwiches.)
ESN: Previous interviews have said you want commercial success. Do you think that's possible when you have such strong lyrical content (a recent example of the effect of this was BBC Television censoring 'Come Again')?
AU PAIRS - Lesley Woods (vocals / guitar) who was very keen to pose for this picture and loved it when she saw it, particularly the cigarette!
LESLEY: We're not saying that is our one aim and without it we won't be happy. We think our songs are commercially viable. The music itself is also commercially viable. Our lyrics are based on the same subject as a lot of other people's songs only we present ours in a different way. This means we can't be put in a bag. Because the music press can't decide whether we are commercial or political, which to me is a ridiculous distinction: the Beat are very commercial but their songs are also very political. A lot of music journalists want to be able to reinforce these distinctions.
ESN: What are some of the unrecorded songs about?
LESLEY: Pretty Boys will be on the B aide of the next single. It's a weird new version of it. It's a send up of an Iggy Pop song, 'Pretty Girls', which has the line "I like pretty girls, some have beautiful shapes". Our version changes the sexes to show how a girl can appreciate boys' bodies as well.
'What Kind of Girl' is a song we don't do anymore. It's about images girls that choose to adopt. Like a Tom Girl image or Olivia Newton John, "Oh, when I'm home I like to casual jeans and t-shirts" (Lesley puts on an excellent send up voice).
AU PAIRS - Pete Hammond (drums)
ESN: Do you think stereotyping will ever end?
LESLEY: It probably will but will be replaced by something else, maybe worse.
ESN: When the Au Pairs played the Marquee last February, thereabouts, there was an incident when a group of girls complained to the DJ because he was playing sexist music. The DJ ended up punching one of them. I mention this to Lesley.
LESLEY: Yeah, that got some publicity in Sounds. When we play three nights at the Marquee on this tour, we've made sure that DJ won't be there as it's written into the contract.
ESN: What next?
LESLEY: Who knows?
SIMON McKAY ESN Recommends:
DELTA 5 - Julz Sale
The setting was a noisy dressing room where the only table with a mains socket within a wire's reach was at the doorway to the hall where Pere Ubu were on stage. The interview was with Julz, who is usually the lead singer and occasional guitarist in Delta 5.
ESN: What sort or problems have you encountered since you formed?
JULZ: None at the time, we just formed.
ESN: How did you get equipment?
JULZ: Bethan and I were in Edinburgh with tbe Mekons and Gang of Four. They shared a rehearsal room and had quite lot of equipment between them. They didn't use it all the time so on odd nights we bashed about. Ros got involved with us - she had been playing bass for the Mekons but left. Originally we were going to have two basses, drums and vocals. This changed though when we were practicing after a Mekons session. Jon Langford, the Mekons drummer, played guitar for us. Until a permanent drummer was found Dave Allen, the Gang of Four bassist, sat in drums. The band played sets like this until Jon Langford had to go to Ireland with the Mekons. Kelvin then moved in on drums after being the GO4 drummer for a week. Dave Allen and a GO4 roadie then shared the guitar, doing half a set each. This lasted until Alan moved in as a permanent guitarist.
ESN: How did you get the Rough Trade deal?
JULZ: Fiction offered the Mekons studio time to make a demo as they were interested in them. The Mekons couldn't do it so it was arranged that we would instead. Fiction liked the demo enough to want it remixed and have it released. We weren't really interested in letting them put it out.
DELTA 5 (circa 1980)
Somehow the GO4 manager, Rob Warr (GO4 had just signed to EMI) played the take to EMI. They offered us studio time as they though we could do better than that. We used this opportunity to re-records the tracks as we new there wasn't much chance of them taking us on. We took the new demo to Rough Trade. Geoff Travis was impressed and wanted to put it out as our first single. So, 'Mind Your Own Business' was released on Rough Trade.
After this two more singles were released on RT: 'Anticipation' and 'Try'. The Delta 5 decided against doing their first LP with Rough Trade.
JULZ: Just before Christmas, we left Rough Trade and survived on gig money while attempts were made to get us signed. The day after the budget we signed to PRE Records.
ESN: Which countries have your toured and what did you hope to achieve by doing so?
JULZ: Last year we toured Belgium, Holland, Finland and Canada. This year we've done Belgium and Holland again. We headlined all of these tours except the four days in Finland with the Slits. I don't know what we hoped to achieve. We just wanted to go abroad (we were living on £20 a week). The American tour was quite an achievement as we went there to play 23 dates when there only two singles available on import. On that tour we made $15, which obviously isn't much but usually tours like that lose thousands of pounds. We did get 4,000 advance orders on 'Try' which was released there as Rough Trade had just set up an American office.
DELTA 5 - Julz, Alan, Bethan, Kelvin and Ros (circa late 1981)
ESN: What sort of situations and events encourage you to write songs? What are a few about?
JULZ: I don't know. You just get an idea when you're sitting on a bus or something. We write about things that have happened to us or that we have a personal experience of rather than say, "Fly me to the moon and when I get there I'll jump about in craters." I don't know a fuck about jumping in craters on the moon. That's a pretty stupid sort analogy but basically they're about something that happens to you or someone close has told you about so you feel part of it as they tell you. When we get an idea we slightly obscure it so it's more accessible to people rather than a personal re-iteration. Then people might say, "Oh yeah, that's happened to me." Am I making sense?
ESN: In reference to a line from 'You', did someone take you to the Wimpy for a big night out?
JULZ: 'You' was a totally stupid song. It was the second song we ever wrote. That was taken from a men's wear advert that was shown on the telly. It said, "The big night out." There were all these people standing around a hotdog stand saying a line so we all lumbered round the mike saying what people had done to us.
ESN: What's important to you?
JULZ: I'm really into breaking down the barriers between the sexes.
From this point we became side tracked talking about a favourite subject of mine and as it turned out, also of Julz's - the Au Pairs. She then made a very strong case for us to step out into the main hall and see the Pere Ubu encores. "They're great; he does this thing with a hammer!"
DELTA 5 - Autographs: Julz, Ros and Bethan
There was some confusion over the name of Eccentric Sleeve Notes before I arrived for the interview. Julz was expecting somebody from Erotic Fleas! It was like that in the heady days of post punk bands in the early 1980s!
Rob Peters (drums) and Rob Rampton (bass) met while failing their BScs at Exeter University when they were playing in different bands. They met Chris Ames (guitar) shortly before they moved to Birmingham. This was to be a centralised point from which they could break out nationally. Once in Birmingham they met Mykocupa, also an Exeter exile who was working in theatre.
The four formed an experimental avant-garde rock band (something like ATV's introverted style) called 'In The Jungle With No Guns', which rehearsed a lot but never gigged. Dissatisfaction led to a rethink and in a burst of creativity 12 songs were written in a two weeks (the lyrics all done in one night!) and the name was changed to Dangerous Girls - spotted as a small headline in a local paper.
Their first gig was in Oct 78 with Dexy's Midnight Runners (their first also) and others in Dudley.
The 12 songs were recorded at the Old Smithy Studio near Worcester. The demos were hawked around the major companies for several months with no results. Lots of gigs were played around the country but the lack of response on the recording front depressed and frustrated Chris Ames who then quit the band in April 79.
Several guitarists auditioned for Chris' position but none were suitable. Then Beetmoll, one of the roadies, had a go and was taken on.
Feeling the need to get something out on vinyl two tracks from the demos were remixed: 'Dangerous Girls' and 'I Don't Want to Eat' and put out as a single on Happy Face Records with help from the Old Smithy. This was released in July 79 after the first tour of 16 dates.
SOUNDS ALTERNATIVE SINGLES CHART - 22 September 1979
While doing a few dates with 'Here and Now', who were recording a live album, the opportunity to record the set at Norwich was taken. Four tracks emerged as the 'Taaga' EP, which served to introduce Beetmoll to vinyl. 'Taaga' was released in November 79 and was Number in the independent charts by the end of December. The second tour, 25 dates, took place through November and early December. The third ran from 21 May until 9 August: truly mammoth! A moment of particular note was when the rear axle parted company with the rest of the van at a festival in Bristol!
At the end of the tour the band signed with Human Records, a new London independent label. The first release is the double in the double A side single 'Man In The Glass' and MO 7S'.
Steve Harvey (drums)
Nick Ketteringham (bass, vocals)
Chris Simpson (guitar, vocals)
Bronek Szerszynski (guitar, vocals)
Pat Shammon (artwork)
As The Fashionable Impure have only played only two gigs and have no vinyl releases in their own right you may wonder why they are getting a good sized article. Apart from the fact Chris Simpson has given us two good interviews - the group are brilliant. You may have heard their track on the Sunderland compilation, NE1 (there's a link to download the LP at the bottom of the page). This is not one of their better pieces as the group were only given five days notice that they would be on the LP and the recently formed band had hardly rehearsed.
I interviewed Chris at his place. I had the usual cassette recorder problems - worse than usual. The play wheel was completely fucked. Chris sat mending it as I interviewed him using his recorder.
CHRIS: I'm the only one doing it full time at the moment. The rest of the band are waiting to hear from record companies before packing their jobs in.
ESN: There are companies showing interest?
CHRIS: Six major; WEA, MCA, Virgin, CBS, A&M and EMI. We're waiting to hear what they thinking of our second demo.
ESN: Is 'Awayday' only being kept in the set until all copies of the single are sold? (Chris was singer in Treatment Room who released an excellent single. When the band recently split he was left with the remaining copies and the debts from its production).
CHRIS: We'll probably keep it in the set as I think it's one of the stronger songs.
THE FASHIONABLE IMPURE - Bronek, Chris, Nick
The Fashionable Impure are an ambitious band experimenting in collage music (concréte) and they incorporate visuals in their live set.
CHRIS: Our bass player, Nick, has just got a job with 'Seen and Heard'. They do shows for industry providing lighting, videos, sound etc. This could be of use to the band. Over the summer we'll be getting ready for some October dates. It can't be until then as there's so much preparation to be done: mainly artwork and we want to get some material recorded. Hopefully, we'll have a record company to back us by then. When we are ready we'll play as many gigs as we can get. All of the group are trying to arrange gigs in their area. At the end of these dates we're hoping to play some London dates, where hopefully, the companies interested will send A&&R men to them... We don't intend making videos of the band as we don't have the finance to compete in the video market. If we can't do it properly we'd be wasting our time to do it at all.
The group have played two gigs, the first in the Sunderland, the second in Newcastle (which I thought was excellent).
CHRIS: We didn't have the slides for the Sunderland gig. It was only meant as a chance to try out the tapes. I thought it was pretty good in places though. The Newcastle gig went a lot better. We didn't have problems like my guitar dropping off during the set!
THE FASHIONABLE IMPURE - Bronek, Chris, Nick
A while ago when I talked to Chris he said that when the band played there would be no support group but instead they would move away from the conventional style of a concert and provide the night's entertainment themselves. I asked Chris if he thought this had worked.
CHRIS: I thought it was dismal. We had totally the wrong concept. In future we'll be bringing in other bands.
ESN: Wouldn't this be hard with all your gear on the stage?
CHRIS: we're improving the equipment and making is as simple as possible so stage changes can be done more quickly, it'll be easier transporting the gear then too.
ESN: Do you think the tapes add dept to the sound?
CHRIS: I think they do in places but need sorting out so they do it all the time. The bits of tape between songs were crap as they slowed the set down. I think if the gaps had been about four second long people wouldn't have known what was happening and would have watched more intently.
ESN: Is the set going to be changed drastically before the October gigs?
CHRIS: We'll be building on it, replacing the weaker material with new.
The next Fashionable Impure gig is at Newcastle Spectro Arts on Saturday 8 August.
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