Scans of the original publication can be accessed from the home page but for easy reading, the interviews from ESN5 have been retyped and appear below with photos. Featured on this page: U2, Thompson Twins, Hazel O'Connor, Tracey Thorn, Aztec Camera, Higsons, Amazulu and Southern Death Cult.
ESN: Do you now play all new songs live?
ALANNAH: 'In The Name of Love' is the only old one we do when we play live because when we made that it sort of changed the direction of the old band and that's when we left.
ESN: What are the other four doing now?
ALANNAH: The bass player is working with Tom Dolby, the drummer is playing with Kirk Brandon in Spear of Destiny and the two guitarists are working on projects of their own.
THOMPSON TWINS: Allanah Currie
ESN: You don't use guitars anymore?
ALANNAH: No, we are trying to confine ourselves to synths, percussion and vocals.
ESN: What is the idea of using the screen behind you when you play live?
ALANNAH: A simple idea; when it's dark at a gig it looks very effective and we do quite a few things behind it. We all take turns at making shapes.
ESN: What happened to the hubcaps and burning incense on stage?
ALANNAH: When we used to play live with the old band, we used to invite people onto the stage and give them sticks and hubcaps and let them join in. We started because we wanted to break down the barriers between audience and the band. But it started getting out of hand - we used to get so much stuff ripped off so we really couldn't afford to do it, especially when we were on tour. When the new band formed we just stopped doing it and got down to getting the music right, which excited us more.
ESN: 'Love On Your Side' is the new single...
ALANNAH: It's getting very high in the charts, which could mean us playing Top of the Pops in the next couple of weeks. We've been waiting a long time for that to happen. Radio 1 are starting to play it a lot as well.
ESN: Where are you based?
ALANNAH: South London. We are based there but have been on the move since last April when old band split up. We've only had three days off!
ESN: So what have you been doing?
ALANNAH: We first went off and wrote a load of new songs, recorded some demos and took them to Arista and got a deal with them. Then we were sent off to record an album in the tropics, Compass Point in the Bahamas. Ah! The Tropics; barrier reefs, dolphins and all that sort of thing.
THOMPSON TWINS: Tom Bailey
ESN: When is the album released?
ALANNAH: February 18th
ESN: Will you be touring to promote it?
ALANNAH: We will be playing a few gigs and a lot of TV appearances. The first single we took off the album, 'Lies', has done very well in America, number one on the disco charts and has now crossed over to the main chart. At that period it seemed nobody loved us over here because 'Lies' only went to number 70 in the charts and it wasn't played on the radio. People were saying the Thompson Twins are really wet, so we said 'fuck you' and went across to America. We went over there and had a really good time. We did a tour of small clubs like the old days, came back and 'Love On Your Side', the second single from the album was starting to do really well which is changing things dramatically. We're going back to America in March to do another tour.
ESN: Who produced the album?
ALANNAH: Alex Sadkin. He produces Grace Jones. We liked the sound on her album so we got him to produce us. He was the reason we recorded the album in the Tropics because he works over there in the studio which belongs to Island Records in Nassau.
The success of 'Love On Your Side' seemed inevitable because the band worked so hard to produce a good dance sound. The album, 'Quickstep and Sidekick' should give them more hits.
U2: Bono on stage Gateshead Stadium 1982
I phoned Island Records to try to arrange this interview and the reply was: "U2 are doing no formal interviews on this tour but if you can wriggle backstage somebody will probably talk to you. Security will be tight though." When U2 arrived at the venue they didn't go through the usual entrance where the fans are waiting which make me very wary as to what the band might have become recently. I returned just before the doors opened to find Bono outside signing autographs. I had been too cynical - nothing had changed. In reply to my request for an interview, Bono cheerily replied, "I'll do it later, definitely."
ESN: Was the photo on the 'War' sleeve taken in Iceland?
BONO: No, it was taken in Sweden. We wanted to use this image of snow because we're using white flags on stage. I figured snow is a bit like that. If you call an album 'War' I think it's important you get across the theme. The theme of this record is surrender; soothe friction. A lot of struggle and a lot of friction is to do with ego and stepping on toes ambition. The principle of surrender is to step back. You're told to stand up for what you believe in. Ian Paisley (Bono mimics him), "Stand up for what you believe in. Refuse. No compromise." The IRA are doing it as well. It happens in all areas of living. The principal of surrender is to step back so I thought snow was a really strong image of surrender that's why I pursued it.
ESN: A lot of publicity has surrounded the boy.
BONO: He's a symbol. He's become associated with U2. A lot of people have really strong symbols associated with them. Crass have their emblem, The Eagles - really macho symbols. This is just a child's face. I think it's really powerful. Every few years we take photographs of him. It's kind of an interesting thing.
U2: Bono on stage at Newcastle Mayfair 1981
It's fairly well known that the boy is Peter Rowan, brother of Guggi and Strongman of the Virgin Prunes. Their guitarist is The Edge's brother, Dik, who Bono describes as 'not a guitarist'.
BONO: The Virgin Prunes are not a rock 'n' roll band. U2 are though. We justify that term. I don't think many other groups do though. I think U2 is about avoiding clichés - clichés in performance, which is to turn your back on the audience. The music: we're using three primary colours - bass, drums and guitar. I think we use them in a unique way. A lot of people say to be original you've got to hang a banana out of your ear or do something silly. Originality is a more subtle thing. A lot of people put on a U2 record and they expect to understand it, then say, "I missed it. It's in code."
ESN: Are you considering a remix of 'War' for North America?
BONO: No, I wouldn't dare. We're using a guy called Karorkian who is a bit of a genius from New York. We are putting out his mixes of some of the tracks with out next single, 'Two Hearts Beat As One'. He's a funny kind of guy. His ambition in life is to remix Jimi Hendrix, which is a bit of an odd ambition as he's dead. We are allowing him access to two of our tracks. One of them is 'New Year's Day'. It's not for the American market. We don't make music to fit a mould. The music comes first.
U2: Bono on stage Gateshead Stadium 1982
ESN: Do you enjoy playing festivals?
BONO: No, I don't. One day I will though. We're playing in America to 250,000 people this summer. It's a lot of people. We're playing with the Clash and a few other groups. We are going to do it! Without being arrogant, I really think there is an understanding of performance in the group. There's an understanding of being able to give yourself to an audience. That can backfire and U2 could fall on its face. I don't think many other groups have the same understanding though.
HAZEL O'CONNOR: Newcastle City Hall 1981
Strange that I should be stretching across my desk, cigar delicately fingered. When it suddenly hit me, "Where the hell has what's her name got to?" The following week, while cutting up the latest music papers, a picture of her appears before my eyes. My immediate reaction was that she must have snuffed it to get a mention but no. There was no information really but the following week she turned up at the Tube. I sneaked backstage to meet her. After needing a moment to slip out of her stockings 'into something a little comfortable', she began to talk about the last 12 months:
"I spent a lot of time fighting my record company. I was broke, so it was all done on legal aid. I had a really bad contract. I was going nuts with the work and I was still broke. I spent whole afternoons in the DHSS waiting to see hard-faced middle-aged women through the glass panel. Being known as Hazel O'Connor didn't help. It's still not completely sorted out.
I've been doing some acting. I was in a play called 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest', which was highly acclaimed. There was a review with my picture in the Times - wow!
I spent a lot of time standing about suffering. I'd lost my freedom. I suddenly found I had to fight after being imprisoned by contracts. It's not that I didn't like making records; I just hated my company so much. I was penniless. My friends thought I was loaded because of my success. I was always a bit of a bluffer - I like buying people meals. I think some people felt bitter towards me because they thought I had money. I felt bitter as they thought I had money, and I didn't!
HAZEL O'CONNOR: Newcastle City Hall 1981
I finished writing a play I'd been working on. Now, my brother [Neil], Mick Khan and I are working on the music for it. In the play I need a motive for a person to leave London. For this I used the man who was driving the car when police shot Stephen Waldorf. (He is among a group of friends of mine.) Police were trying to frame the lot of them. I think they've given up on the idea, but I found my reason for a person to leave London.
I got a dog from Battersea, my pride and joy. She's really soft. She pretends to be vicious and terrifies everyone. (You'd better not print that she'd be embarrassed.)
I like going for walks and sniffing the air, really boring things. They sound boring but I enjoy them. I like writing - plotting plots. I get an idea late at night stay up all night writing. I just couldn't do any of these things when I had no money to pay the rent or to pay old debts: I just couldn't think."
Hazel and another well-known personality have launched an appeal to stage a major music Festival on May 7 in London. I ask Hazel about involvement with CND.
"I approached them a while ago, probably the wrong people though. [It was] Hampstead and they were too busy being Hampstead. Some time after that the Youth CND approached me to do a benefit gig which I did. Our relationship built up from there. I think money should be spent on people not arms. I'm campaigning for unilateral disarmament. The bombs of the rich people who are protecting their property is the same as the old days when they built castles. The bomb is no good to you and me.
Hazel comments on making political statements being in the public eye. I'm in the position to state my views. I don't expect people to agree with me but I'm still in the position to be able to push my words.
All this and Hazel still made a few low-key appearances around the country. "Not having a band they were pretty quiet. The record company contract had not been resolved. I had a few musicians playing the piano and things. I really enjoyed playing."
Hazel O'Connor has not disappeared. She has not snuffed it and as a subject, she remains open.
Originally, I set out to do a piece on the Marine girls - Alison, Jane and Tracy. Since that began, Tracey has developed as a solo performer and formed a band with Ben Watt called Everything but The Girl so it cannot remain a 'fish story' [the Marine Girls constantly make fish and nautical references]. These projects exist in addition to the Marine Girls. In a letter dated April 1982, Tracey Thorn spoke about the informality of the group:
"The bass that we use is borrowed from a friend. It is purple and has 'Avon' scrawled across the top. (It probably came free with a bar of soap or a bottle of stenchy stuff - who knows?)"
In May 1982 she gave me the band's discography to date:
"50 cassettes, 'A Day By the Sea' done at home; Beach Party cassette on In Phaze Records and Tapes; 'On My Mind' / 'Lure of the Rockpools' - In Phaze; 'Beach Party' LP version of cassette - Whaam!/In Phaze; 'On My Mind' / 'Lure of the Rockpools' single - Cherry Red. Well, that's just about it…
We've done about 20 odd concerts: one on a roundabout, one in a fire station, the Moonlight Club, parties, two in Birmingham.
MARINE GIRLS: Alice, Jane & Tracey
We are no longer with In Phaze and are in the process of signing to Cherry Red (gasp!). There were no contracts with In Phaze. We wanted to record our songs and Patrick wanted to record them for us. And we'd go into Patrick's shed and play the songs and Patrick would press the record button and all giving us 25% of the profit made on the cassette."
Eight months later, Tracy has moved from Brighton to Hull and her letters no longer smell of fish. Despite releasing an LP called 'Lazy Days', the Marine Girls future seems limited. In February 1983, Tracey wrote:
"The Marine Girls drift apart and together every few weeks or so… musical and locational separation is causing problems (i.e. we don't live anywhere near each other any more, and we don't like the same music anymore! Hah, amusing eh? I'll tell you it is…)
How do I see Everything But the Girl going? Difficult. EBTG is just a laugh - perhaps another single? Maybe not.
'How do select EBTG songs?' An omission, Simon; I presume you mean, how do YOU (i.e. I) select EBTG songs. Well, we pick ones we like, and then abandon them because Ben can't play the chords or I can't sing them and then the few we're left with are the ones we play. Easy, huh?"
EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL: Tracey Thorn & Ben Watt
In January 1983, EBTG played their first gig at the ICA. Paul Weller made a guest appearance on stage, his first performance since splitting the Jam up at their commercial peak.
"My reflections of the ICA gig? Publicity attracted - was it the right kind? Were the ticket touts disturbing? The event itself was great - atmosphere of the year. Obviously, Paul's appearance meant perhaps people were there to see what HE was doing, rather than us, but a lot of the people there didn't know he was playing and we went down very well before he joined us onstage, so... The ticket tout lark was a shame, but what can you do?
New developments with Ben Watt? We recorded 'English Rose' [Jam song] today for the NME cassette. Ben has a new LP out, "North Marine Drive" and a new single soon to come, "Some Things Don't Matter". He is still teaching me to play the guitar (i.e. I steal all his chords when he's not looking).
Of the three projects, which do I most enjoy? I like doing Marine Girls gigs. I quite like singing, though I have recently discovered that I rarely sing in tune. I can't play the guitar and I dread having to record guitar parts in the studio - I always get it wrong. I enjoy them all some days, some of them most days, but would rather be in the independent charts than in a typing pool any day.
Which do I think is the most creative? Typing, definitely. They are all creative. What I need now is to be a little more destructive - perhaps anarchy for the Marine Girls!
'What format do you playing live?' This question makes no sense, Simon. Do you mean what format do you MOST ENJOY playing live, or MOST HATE playing live? You must try to be clear, Simon, and not miss words out. Only one EBTG gig ever and it was the high spot of my life so far, so…
Who do I like listening to, who maybe influences me? Aztec Camera, Billie Holliday, Lesley Woods, Chrissie Hynde, Nico, Astrud Gilberto, Orange Juice, Paul Weller, Ella Fitzgerald, Buzzcocks, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Robert Wyatt, Yazoo, Bob Dylan (early), Marvin Gaye, Supremes, Scritti Politti, Raincoats, Vic Godard and Ben Watt.
Is song writing for my next LP going well? Hmm… sometimes. It's hard. I don't know whether to do more of the same or move on a bit. Difficult (notice how often this word crops up?). I keep thinking, 'Yeah, great, I've got about six songs' then I go and look at them and think, 'No they're terrible' and throw them all out. I have got about five or so songs which will probably be on the next LP."
Tracy is annoying a lot of people at the moment because she will not play for them. "We only did the ICA gig for enjoyment, just ONE gig for a laugh - and now because we're turning things down (that we never wanted anyhow), everyone goes 'Oh, what's wrong? WHY don't you do it? etc.'
Tracey is also being asked to do solo gigs that she has not wanted to do. Some she has been interested in doing but turned them down because it would increase the pressure to take on others. She continues to appear on stage with the Marine Girls though because and says, "I like doing Marine Girls gigs because people clap."
AZTEC CAMERA: Campbell & Roddy Frame - Newcastle Soul Cellar (photo by Barbara)
The night before playing the Tube, the boys from Aztec Camera were in town. They were enjoying the congenial atmosphere of the first night in the Soul Cellar (run by run by Kitchenware Records), where Hurrah! were playing. Unscheduled, Aztec Camera picked up the gear and played a few of their songs. It was described by Keith Armstrong of Kitchenware as 'true 1977 spirit'. Roddy responded by saying, "More like Eric Clapton; just getting up and playing. I really enjoyed myself."
Aztec Camera don't always function as a regular band on stage. On some songs, everyone but Roddy stop playing their instruments when he sings and plays guitar - the band stand gaping.
RODDY: I just formed the group to do my songs. Some songs don't need a band. Most of them do, that is why I have a band. Ha!
ESN: Do the rest of the band feel a little left out of the game?
RODDY: Not really. I don't think it matters to them.
At the time of talking 'Oblivious' lay at number 80 in the Gallup chart.
RODDY: Hopefully, it will go up. If it doesn't, I won't be upset.
ESN: If Kajagoolies can get in the chart…
RODDY: We don't want to buy 35,000 copies of our own single though.
AZTEC CAMERA: Roddy Frame - Newcastle Soul Cellar
ESN: You have an LP coming out in March.
RODDY: Yes, we're doing a tour to promote it. The last tour lasted two weeks, this one will be bigger. We've got some new songs but we haven't had time to rehearse yet. Mainly the set will be LP material. A lot of people don't like 'Oblivious' because it's a quite a way from the early stuff. People think all our songs should sound similar to 'Just Like Gold', that post-wimp nostalgia sort of thing but you grow up, don't you?
ESN: Do I detect a scandal?
RODDY: No, Postcard was a good label. It just didn't work out in the end. Last May we moved directly to Rough Trade. Postcard was through them anyway. There is more co-ordination now. I wanted to move. I like moving about; changing things. We live in London now. I thought everything should change; it's bad to get settled. I think everything should be like 'groovy'.
ESN: You had a track, 'We Could Send Letters', on Rough Trade / NME's C81 cassette a while ago.
RODDY: It was a pure rush to do that. Everything was out of tune but it was really sparkly. I like the song. A lot of people got to hear it who had not heard of Aztec Camera. What is THAT? [Roddy points at my sandwich.]
STOTTIE: Product of Newcastle Upon Tyne
ESN: A stottie.
RODDY: A stottie. What's a stottie?
ESN: I open up my mysterious fare [an unfluffy large round bread usually cut into quarters and only found in Newcastle] to reveal the ham salad inside.
RODDY: How much are they? I'll have to borrow some money!
ESN: No you won't. This was the last one and I've eaten it now. We should not really be discussing the size of my sandwich. This is a commercial interview… it's better than talking about the size of our dicks though.
RODDY: Better than a big willy joke?
HIGSONS: Switch on stage Newcastle University 1983
Maybe you've just arrived home from a nightclub. If so, I recommend you cook a large meal as a hangover preventative. While your beans heat up, you can read this piece rather than the side of a Corn Flakes packet. Did you boogie the balls of your feet flat to the new Higsons' single, 'Run Me Down' tonight? The Higsons would like to think so.
SWITCH: 'Run Me Down' is a smooth disco funk eruption with a girl backing singer.
STUART: We went for a commercial sound and I think it's worked quite well.
SWITCH: This single is aimed at being played in discos. (There is also a 12" version of it.) We've tried for a club sound.
The Higsons hope it will lead to chart success and it could happen. After all, people were 'feeling' Blancmange in the clubs a couple of months before the band were 'living on the charts'.
ESN: You are making enough to live on at the moment so why are you particularly looking for commercial success?
STUART: At the moment we're making £50 a week. The national average wage is over £100. If you're in a band you're part of the music industry. At the moment we can keep doing these tours and make just enough money to get by. It means we can't buy new equipment - we can't expand. People won't book you for tours unless you have commercial success. So you have to keep going for a larger audience again.
SWITCH: We've been playing live constantly for the last two years. We've been going over the same ground.
'Run Me Down' is the second single the band has released on 2 Tone records.
STUART: It was only a two single deal. If it does well the label will bid for us, and presumably others will too.
2 Tone Records is mid-way between being an independent and a major label. This is because of the licensing deal through Chrysalis Records, which is a huge advantage for finance and distribution.
STUART: Chrysalis have no control over us. We don't get the same push going through 2 Tone but at least we're dealing with reasonable people.
HIGSONS: Switch on stage Newcastle University 1983
ESN: 'Tear The Whole Thing Down' was your first single for them. How did that do?
STUART: Very badly.
SWITCH: It wasn't 2 Tone's fault.
STUART: It wasn't a very good single. We didn't do it very well and it wasn't a very good song.
ESN: Why did you put it out then?
STUART: We recorded it in a hurry because we wanted to put a record out. We managed to get a couple of days in the studio. Jerry Dammers said he would produce us then we got into lengthy discussions with 2 Tone that lasted three to four months so the single was four to five months old by the time it was released: it was stale and out of date. It shouldn't have gone out at all but we didn't have the money to record a new one.
ESN: Was there hassle signing to 2 Tone?
STUART: There was no hassle, it always takes a long time getting contracts sorted out; going to lawyers and making sure you're getting a good deal.
ESN: Did you want Jerry Dammers to produce you or did he come with the black 'n' white man on the label?
STUART: It's black and gold now, without the little man.
STUART: We wanted him to produce. He was going to before we signed to 2 Tone.
ESN: What is it you want him bring out in your records?
STUART: He's not producing anymore. We've recorded a single since! We didn't like the production he went for. I think he'd agree that it was an experiment that didn't work.
SWITCH: We're doing our own producing. We've learned from experience. The first single was pretty rough… By the time we did our third single, 'Conspiracy', we had a pretty good idea of what sounds fitted together and how to get them. We still needed a good engineer to advise us on operating the equipment. We had one for the new single and we got the sound we wanted.
The Higsons are financing the recording of their first album (the live cassette was a taster they would rather not have held against them). It will be ready at the beginning of April and they hope 2 Tone will release it. If not, they're confident that somebody else will.
AMAZULU: Rose Minor on stage
Amazulu, a six-piece reggae influenced band based in London, recently toured Britain on a 28 date tour to promote their first single, 'Cairo' / 'Greenham Time'. The single came on the independent label, Towerbell.
SHARON: We decided to sign to an independent because we didn't want to be messed around by a big major record company.
ESN: How did the band start?
SHARON: We didn't have any musical experience when we started out. We were just four people on the dole getting into music.
ESN: You appeared on the David Essex Showcase.
SHARON: Yeah, a lot of people come to see us because they have seen that programme, but we'd rather forget all about it. We weren't ready to do it when it happened. We had no experience of doing TV shows so we just did as we were told and it didn't come off very well.
AMAZULU: Rose Minor on stage
ESN: You've done some sessions for John Peel.
SHARON: John Peel helped us a lot. We've done two sessions for his programme and he really likes us. Peel's programme is great, he plays some great music.
Amazulu come across very well live but will they repeat this on vinyl? Their songs are very peace orientated. 'Greenham Time' is about the women protesting nuclear weapons on Greenham Common. 'Brixton' speaks for itself when the band dedicate it to Margaret Thatcher, as does 'War', which is dedicated to the late Bob Marley.
SOUTHERN DEATH CULT: Ian Asbury on stage Newcastle Tiffanys 1983
The Southern Death Cult - Barry, Ian, Buzz and Aky - are in the process of playing a short tour when ESN caught up with them at Newcastle Tiffanys. I asked them how well their recent independently released single, 'Fat Man' / 'Moya', had sold.
IAN: Altogether, 12" and 7", it's sold roughly 24,000 copies.
ESN: Was that enough to get it in the charts?
IAN: Well, it's not stocked at Woolworths or WH Smiths and they've got a monopoly on the Gallup poll. It's a lot easier for major labels to hype their product. What CBS did at Christmas was massive adverts for singles in Woolworths they knew would sell through Gallup.
ESN: Would you want to get in the charts?
IAN: I would like to get across to more people although at the moment, I would like to stay where we are. I'd like to play here two or three times more - tonight we'll probably get 250 to 300 people. I'd like to get to a stage where I could suss out what we're doing and then we'll take a step up. We won't push ourselves. If we think over exposure is bad for us, we'll try and turn things down.
ESN: You've been getting a lot of radio exposure, particularly on Kid Jensen.
IAN: Yeah, he's quite into the music though I don't think he understands what a lot of the songs are about. I talked to him on the radio and I thought he was aware of what the Southern Dealt Cult was about, but I don't think he understands fully. To a certain extent that's good because we're in the position where we're not bending over backwards to get on his programme - he's playing our records because he likes them.
ESN: So what is Southern Death Cult about?
IAN: Southern Death Cult is about millions of fucking things. Music, entertainment - to me what the lyrics reflect and the very strong stance we take when we play is about what we see around us - what is reflected by what is around us: what we can see and our experience is what we write about. Things like issues such as nuclear warfare, I write about them because they're all personal things. Alienation, all things you feel in your heart. Like 'The Girl' is a very personal song about my girlfriend. It's really hard to sit down and rationalise what the band is really about - we just do what we do.
ESN: You have quite a following. A lot of people have travelled to be here tonight.
IAN: That's right. Consider the fact that we've only been playing for nearly 18 months and we've built up a following from that. People come to see us because they know what we're about. They can understand it and they get off on it, though I suppose a lot of people come to see us because we're "hip" at the moment.
ESN: What has the tour been like so far?
IAN: It's not really a tour, just eight dates. Everything's been really beyond our expectations so far. We got 400 people at Liverpool, 400 at Redford, 860 at Aylesbury and over 1200 at 'Heaven' in London - that was beyond capacity, even the bars were packed. Some people didn't even pay; they just mobbed the doors and spilled in. The police had to come and sort out some order. Next time we might play the 'Venue'. London's a really strange place, there are so many clubs that people are just conditioned; there's not such a response - there were only about 300 people dancing to us.
ESN: What do you think of this venue? It's surprising half of your audience has been let in wearing Doc Martens etc.
IAN: It's the only venue in Newcastle really, apart from Dingwalls but we don't want to play too many of them… If we're breaking down barriers, that's good.
Go to home page: click here