Interview with GOLDBLADE
November 2008, Manchester UK
Interviewed by: Jillian Abbene Richmond VA/Wash DC

1.  What can someone expect from listening to your new CD entitled, ‘Mutiny?’  How did the pirate theme come about?

JR - It’s a punk rock album; but it’s a punk rock album made in 2008 and fused with the spirit of the times we are living in, so you can expect big tunes, strong choruses, lots of energy and unexpected twists and turns. You can expect to have your world turned inside out, you can expect switchblade lyrics that deal with the world we are living in, and you can expect a big bold sound, and you can expect sex, style, subversion, with some swashbuckling action.  You enter the album like you enter a film—it’s our world, and you will get lost in there.

You won’t expect the psychedelic drones and backwards guitars of the anthemic, ‘Wake Up Wake Up You're Already Dead.’ You may not expect the adrenalised weirdness of, ‘Riot Squad For Toxic City FC,’ you will enjoy the mosh pit shots of ‘’Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone’ and the quiffabilly shakes of ‘Beyond God And Elvis,’ and you will surprisingly enjoy ‘the gangs all here’ camaraderie of, ‘Riot Riot,’ or ‘Jukebox Generation.’
The pirate theme is actually around one song; title song, ‘Mutiny.’ Goldblade have always been interested in history and history is now. With the world been run by pirates and piratical multinationals destroying the environment in search of booty whilst other pirates run the mainstream media promoting the society of the spectacle distracting us from their filthy greed with non-existent debates about celebrity culture, we can’t really avoid these pirates.  On the flipside to the coin, the original pirates were renegades and outlaws, and no mater how vile they probably were, there is always something quite fascinating about them and that’s why there has always been a pirate chic to punk rock right from the start.  Vivienne Westwood, Adam Ant and Bow Wow Wow have tapped into its renegade sexiness. It’s bold, colorful and toothlessly sexy. We tapped into that - the song, although, it is not actually about pirates.  Why be so obvious?

Goldblades latest release - an album with many tangents

Pete: The main thing you can expect is big sing-a-long chorus, catchy verses and pertinent lyrics. We tried to consolidate the way we were moving on the CD, ‘Rebel Songs,’ and make it bigger and better. As for the pirate thing - what's not to love?  It’s not so very different from a way of life than touring in a band. You're united in a common good, you make raids into towns, and share out yer punk rock booty [Or did he mean, “Shake out yer punk rock booty?!”] and we hold shit pop music to ransom. Black teeth and the Scurvy help too.

Johnny: The new CD is about BIG tunes that you can sing along to and will stay with you.

2. ‘Everybody’s On Drugs,’ has a particular message--what exactly were you trying to put across to the listeners here?

JR – Ah, but it may not be what you’re thinking! The song is about drugs and how they have proliferated everywhere in the world, the way that they have come along with the arms trade - the world’s biggest industry.  It’s not pro or anti-drugs.  It’s just looking at drugs; it wonders why some drugs are banned and yet you are expected to drink several strong cups of coffee before you go to work in the morning, and it realizes that everything is about work - the drugs that fuck you up for work are discouraged and the ones that make you work harder are encouraged! It has a nod at the coke-snorting politicians banning everyone else from taking drugs; it wonders just what a ‘drug’ actually is. Is it heroin or is it tea, coffee or alcohol; is it TV or is it music?! Society is run on drugs. Everywhere you turn drugs are greasing the wheels; from caffeine wiring the wage slave for maximum production to the wild weekends on booze. From the marijuana smoking train drivers to the cops and politicians on cocaine, it’s everywhere.

Late night sessions in Parliament are powered by powders; kids are stoned and drunk in parks. Smackheads shuffle round phone boxes and crack cocaine is treated like a casual pep pill instead of a deadly chemical cocktail. And it’s all been driven by pop culture. Every decade changes because of the drugs. Each decade had its own flavor driven by drugs, the music, the style, the hair was all drug driven. It’s become a grey area of pills and powders. Newspaper headlines, rumors and counter rumors, are a curious situation of banned substances lurking just below society’s surface whilst their legal combination of cigarettes and alcohol are literally rammed down your throat with vicious advertising and social conditioning.

This song looks at the way that drugs have taken over, but does it looking through the eyes of pop culture. It’s a look at the way that drugs have not only affected - but driven pop culture since the war. It looks at the way that, despite government crackdowns, that drugs have become central to our society, and driving the way we dress, the music we listen to, and the whole way that we live our lives. There's plenty of money to be made with drugs, billions of dollars swill round the trade, whole countries’ economies are propped up with selling drugs on the international black market. Meanwhile illegal substances are taken in the highest corners of the land and the police are driven to distraction trying to keep a lid on a huge social problem as a rampant use of banned substances. It’s tearing people’s lives apart.

In the UK, 70 percent of crime is caused by drug addicts, where lives are destroyed; violence is rife due to the spiralling usage of drugs. Drugs were once seen as the cutting edge of cool, a counter culture battering-ram paving the world for an idealistic Utopia. Now they have become everyday. A Saturday night pick-me-up; in post ecstasy and in post acid-house Britain, drugs are everywhere. It’s the same story across the western world as the chemicals have made inroads into mainstream society; whatever your stance is on drugs, there is no getting away from the fact that they are sat square in the middle of our society. The richer we get, the more drugs we take, everyone is getting a bit wonky in a wonky world.

The song looks at the way that drugs arrived hand in hand with pop culture and tracks - each decade as each youth quake is powered along by the drug of its choice. From the fifties amphetamine rock ‘n roll rush-the pep pill driven, all-night righteous rock ‘n roll of that decade to the sixties pot smokers and acid trippers, makes people look for a new way to live as a reaction to the grey post war austerity. Then we go to the seventies high on cocaine, pumping up a false confidence - a bubble that was waiting to be burst by the punk’s speed driven mini revolution. It then looks at the late eighties ecstasy explosion, tied in so deeply with acid house to the nineties post-rave era when drugs went mainstream - that it no longer preserved the bohemian, but as part of the armoury of the high street party animal on a crazed night out.

At school in the late seventies there were five drug fiends, at the same school now there would be five people not interested in drugs. The true rebel in 2007 avoids the drug train, check the straight-edge movement in America - a raft of bands who have turned their back on the trad rock ‘n roll vices and don't drink, smoke or take drugs, and are bored of the macho drug culture.  In the new century, the drug culture has carelessly permeated every corner of society, gobbled down in mouthfuls or snorted up the noses of people who barely know what they are doing.

The TV series takes no sides. It recognizes the shamanic “out thereness” spirit of the drug purists, then dances to their shamanic witch-doctor beat whilst it gets something positive from the drug experience, as it blows its mind but puts it back together again in a positive way.  It also recognizes the sheer danger of the rampant use of drugs. It shoots straight from the hip, at the politics of drugs, the economics of the drugs, the sickness caused by drugs, from famous casualties to the dead bodies in rotten bedsits.

It wonders why drugs are actually illegal when, at one time, the British Empire was funded by selling Opium to the Chinese and cigarettes, alcohol and caffeine are all legal. It examines the hypocrisy of Governments worried about your health when it comes to certain drugs but not really caring about the food you eat or the air you breathe.

The song celebrates the great art that came from drugs from Byron to the Beatles, to punk rock to acid house, from painters to poets, where the bohemian spirit was fuelled by drugs. It looks at the shamanic use of drugs in ancient cultures and wonders if we are really as modern as we like to think we are. Or just as trapped by our Neolithic tribal pasts as we always were. It looks at the huge shifts in culture and society in each decade as every new drug hits the scene, and it tries to unpick the codes of the modern world driven half mad by a plethora of drugs, and gate-crashes the mainstream.

In 2007 your postman is taking as many drugs as your average bohemian rock star, and the only shocking thing about Pete Doherty is how he is the only person getting picked on for taking far too many dangerous drugs when there are masses of people daily hammering the crack cocaine or other drugs of their choice. How did we end up like this?  The answer lies in the 2 minutes and 40 seconds of ‘Everybody’s On Drugs’!

3.  John, how did the project come about with Poly Styrene from X-Ray Spex?  I understand you both collaborated on a Christmas single?

JR - We have just done a Christmas single, ‘City Of Christmas Ghosts’ which is a re-recording of the track ‘City Of Ghosts’ from the Goldblade ‘Mutiny’ album. I’ve known Poly for several years and we are good friends.  We speak on the phone a couple of times a week because we live at opposite ends of the country. She is a wonderful woman and she has made some amazing music in her life. The lyrics on the X-Ray Spex’s first album stands the test of time - they are as true now as when they were first written, and she is one of the best lyricist that ever came out of punk rock. That’s why her influence is as strong now as when she first wrote the songs in 1977 with bands like the, “Gossip” and “Yeah Yeah Yeahs,”  who are always talking about her. I also think its great the way she went to become a Hare Krishna instead of hanging around the music scene for no reason.

Goldblade has always planned a Christmas single because we are interested in Christmas, and just exactly what it has been - a bacchanalian pagan midwinter party kidnapped by the Roman Christians who pretended that Jesus was born, then to keep the pagans happy and in line. It’s now turned into a celebration of capitalism, of guilt tripping aligned with the high street shops desperate for your money! I always loved the way it was sold as a wholesome story until you realize that the Santa Claus outfit is red and white because Coca Cola insisted on it!   Further, Christmas cards and Christmas trees were ‘invented’ as recently as the late 19th Century!

But despite all the contradictions I've always loved that time of year and there has been a great tradition of brilliant Christmas singles and we decided to add another one to the pile - a sardonic, melancholic but ultimately euphoric song that looks back on the year and reminisces about dead friends who we lost in the year.  It even touches on the spirituality of the time - especially with the songs ending that sees Poly do this great Hare Krishna chant that makes the Spector punk of the song suddenly take on an unexpected twist. I'm not making this up go and check:

3a.  John, are you working on another book by any chance?

JR - I'm working on two at the moment. I've just finished one about the post-post punk eighties underground which I was involved in with The Membranes. The book is called, ‘Death To Trad Rock’. Other groups [bands] in the massive book are Big Flame, Bogshed, A Witness, The Three Johns, The Nightingales etc - comes out in the spring on Cherry Red Books. I’m just finishing off an oral history of Manchester which has interviews with everyone from Morrissey to the Stone Roses, from Joy Division to Noel Gallagher, in amongst 200 interviews telling the story of Manchester music from 1976 to 1996…

4.   What subjects inspire you to write?  I presume you, John Robb, do all the writing, or is it a collective effort?

JR - I write all the words and about half the music with Brother Pete, although sometimes someone else will bring some music in, and Brother Rob will write all his drum parts which are crucial to a song.  A song is not just about riffs, it’s about every part.  Lyrically I’m inspired by everything from the most mundane to the most searingly critical, and I like things that don’t make any sense.  I’m drawn to ideas of chaos and excitement; but the themes are far more complex than that.  I like the way that some reviewers assume that because we are a punk band then we must be automatically stupid and totally miss out on what we are singing about.  Their laziness makes me titter!

There are thousands of different things going on in the album lyrics, and sometimes it is in the same song! To give you an example, the new album goes from, ‘Jukebox Generation,’ with its generation of dead pop-stars and the way their songs live forever - long after they have died – as their ghosts fill the room after the jukebox kicks in.  ‘Riot Riot’ is about the riots we saw on tour when the cops tear-gassed the crowds in LA - It says, “Stand up for your rights,” but backs off from the machismo of fighting in the streets because violence never seems to solve anything. ‘Mutiny,’ is a song about fucking! -  But also a sort of pirate song and a song celebrating the flamboyance of piratical punk rock culture.   ‘Do The Neo Con’ compares the Bush era of America with farmyard animals with their greedy right-wing snouts in the trough. ‘City Of Ghosts,’ is a melancholic drift through a city, and a dark psycho geography trip through the city's dark side, ‘Everybody’s On Drugs,’ looks at the hypocrisy of drug laws and also analyses the pros and cons of drug culture, and  ‘Riot Squad For Toxic City FC,’ looks at football culture. ‘Wake Up, Wake Up You're Already Dead,’ is a call to arms and an attempt to try a high decibel alarm call to wake up sleepwalkers.  ‘America Destroys All Of Its Heroes,’ and looks at the destructive nature of the American showbiz machine, but is still in love with American culture.  ‘DIY’ is a celebration of making your own music on your own terms and coloring the world in with wild noise that agitates against the conservative so-called alternative culture.   ‘Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone,’ looks at the teenage wasteland years and wonders what becomes of all that wildness and idealism - did the punk rock generation learn anything or were we all running around in circles? I like songs that have lots of different meanings and words that have a dark sense of humor.  I hate clichéd rock lyrics. I like things that fuck with your head.

Pete:  John writes all the words, the music is written by me and John, individually and together. 'Wake Up' is a group effort.

Johnny:  I just dive in and rip off Fast Eddy, Brian James of Alex Lifeson and Chuck Berry - hee hee hee

5.   What band/musical influences do you pull from?

JR - It’s endless! I like to go forward and not be bogged down too far in the past. Of course punk rock is in there and as well as hardcore, but I also love loads of stuff like wonky jazz, hip hop, fierce blues, industrial weirdness and great pop music. In the last week I've been listening to Rise Against, Fucked Up, Rammstein, Ravi Shanker, Bad Brains, The Rabble, Minor Threat and Rancid, and I saw Shellac the other night and they were amazing - best gig I’ve seen all year.  Steve Albini is still turning rock music inside out. When I get this damn book finished I can start going out again checking out new bands; there's some great new bands like the aforementioned The Rabble who we just toured with - top punk band from New Zealand.  Also Kid British from Manchester, and this amazing electronic music from Angola called Kuduro - Africa is full of cutting edge new music at the moment because people have got access to laptops and they don’t have to save up to go to studios so there is a whole proliferation of DIY music getting out there. DIY music is always the best from Buzzcocks' ‘Spiral Scratch’ to a bunch of start kids in Angola rewriting musical history on a shredded laptop forever.  Proving that virtuoso musicians are not that interesting, modern music is at its best with so many different styles and ideas.  There's been great music in the past, but on a worldwide scale these are great times. The only rule is that there are no rules!  There’s nothing more boring than obeying the rules and putting all the chords in the traditional order.  If it sounds right, it sounds right - don’t let the musos tell you anything else! If you want to have a song with one chord in it, then have a song with one chord in it. Trad rock is still the enemy! Boring lumpen unimaginative rock music is the sound of boredom.

There is no direct musical influence because music can come from anywhere - anyone can play music and write a great song.

We write about everything and anything that goes on around us – Life, politics, war, day to day experiences. Musically I suppose we draw influence from just about every genre you can think of, but all neatly tied to punk rock!  Each of us draws from different artists.  Not that a great deal of that makes its way through into the finished product, but that’s what’s going on drumming - wise in my head.  Skullknuckles even has a fondness for prog rock!! I’m rooted in The MC5, the Pistols, Beefheart – The whole lot gets mixed up and bang you have Goldblade!!

Rob:  Clutch, Killing Joke, The Stranglers, Helmet, Unsane. Not that a great deal of that makes its way through into the finished product, but that’s what’s going on drumming - wise in my head.

Pete:  Me and John were first generation punks and that kinda mainly informs what we do with Goldblade. We do, however all listen to very varied things, and I try and listen to everything from, from French Mazurkas and Romanian Peasant music, to Extreme Noise Terror and Throbbing Gristle. Punk, 70's soul, Powerpop, Rock, and British traditional music are my main loves. Everyone is as varied as that with emphasis on different things.

Johnny:  My fave bands of all time are Rush (early stuff), Bowie (early stuff) Alice Cooper (early stuff) Hanoi Rocks.  Newer bands I love are The Supersuckers and Slobberbone. My record collection is large and varied, I love Prog Rock / Punk / Rock 'n' Roll / Psychobilly / Rock - all sorts.

6.  What do you think makes Goldblade’s live show such a spectacular one?

Rob:  The audience would probably be better placed to tell you that, but we have a good time on stage and that pretty much seems to translate into the audience having a good time too. John is an enthusiastic communicator, Keith has his bass solos and speeches, and we always prefer it when the divide between audience and band is broken down (stage invasions, band members in the audience…).

JR - Passion,   communication, excitement and chaos; it’s all about energy and tearing it up, and the whole day is geared around the onstage explosion where there's a lot of sweat and thrills.  It’s unpredictable and wild like a punk rock show should be - but it’s also about the audience and getting the whole room involved.  It’s not about rock stars and backstage shenanigans; it’s about coming to your town and going crazy and then hanging out as it’s a celebration of punk rock and the punk rock community.  It’s a about being alive and it’s about everyone who is in the building. It’s also swaggering, entertaining, lewd, and visceral and that’s just the sound-check!

Johnny:  I think it’s that we all enjoy playing live and it shows.  Our enjoyment and enthusiasm is infectious, and the audiences appreciate that.

Say what you will - Goldblade always deliver the goods in the 'live' arena

7.  What outside interests are each of you involved in?  [Well, errr besides porn!]

Rob:  History, art, football (or ‘soccer’ as you will insist on calling it), walking, reading, music, of course, friends, family, cinema, cheese sandwiches. Porn’s pretty low down on the list, to be honest.

JR - Don’t need porn, I got a beautiful girlfriend.  When you hire a tour bus with porn in it, you know that some really turgid bunch of dullards has had the bus before you. I hate the rock ‘n roll lifestyle.   It’s so dull! The music is everything! I'm interested in everything else!  From history to nature, to current affairs, to people.  On tour, we always stop off at stone circles and ancient monuments-- they are fascinating!   With their hints of another life just below the surface, they make you feel transient like we are not here that long and everything we celebrate now will be an ancient monument--another pile of rubble in the future. I love cities and the buzz of a city street. I love weight training and stretching out with Yoga, and I love running especially on tour when I can check another city out in fast forward.  I love going to see bands and I love cooking up Vegan food. I love watching nature stuff on TV and I love the history channels.  I love hanging out and meeting new people as well as travelling.  At the moment I’m into saving up all my money and going to India and travelling deep into the Indian countryside where it really is another world. I love the holy cities and the vastly different cultures there; I love the sense of dislocation and the wide open empty spaces of that fascinating country. I'm fascinated by religion and belief and people trying to come to terms with the vastness of everything. I’m interested in the universe and space and I’m interested in dinosaurs and fossils. I’m interested in beaches and the edge of land.   I’m interested art and I’m consumed by punk rock.

Pete:  I front a band called G.O.R.G.E.O.U.S. (myspace/wearegorgeous) who are a punk band with a horn section.  Think the Saints and X-Ray Spex, rather than Ska!! I have been known to play for the UK Subs from time to time too.  Other than that, I teach guitar, do some session and production work, and help rear four children. Then sleep a lot.

Johnny: Well I do work for Rockers’ England. The greatest custom culture shop in the UK, and we are moving to a better location soon - so if you’re in Manchester, check us out at 62 Oldham Street, Manchester M4 or  We sell Lucky 13; Stop Staring, Steady, and all your Rock 'n' Roll clothing and accessory needs. We Rock!    Also my other band, Section 5, a classic British street punk/Oi band - play timeless non - political beer-drinking anthems and we really rock. We are writing and releasing a new LP in 2009, and its going to be big, bad and beautiful - oh yes indeed!!  

8.  How far do you think politics should be taken in Rock n’ Roll?

Rob:  As far as anyone wants it taken. I hate the misconception that politics is boring or has no place in music. Party politics may be pretty dull, but politics is life, and it is how society is run which affects every one of us. Saying that, you’re not interested in politics is a political statement.

JR - There have been great records that have been about nothing, and there have been great records that have inspired people to think again.  You don’t have to have any politics in Rock ‘n’ Roll at all; But I like a band that makes a stand, it confirms your worldview. In a world that sometimes seems cold and crass, it is great to have these lone voices raising the freak flag high!  It doesn’t have to be direct in its communication - it can be quite obscure but anyone who is awake will know that all great rock music comes from a more liberal heart. I like punk rock politics.  I loved Crass and I was inspired by the Clash.  We are all, of course, excited by the fact that Obama got in and we are all prepared to be disappointed as the establishment makes sure he can’t do anything.  He's got some big problems to solve, but at least he's made America popular again in the rest of the world, and everyone loves America.  Eight years have been spend, and finding it hard to reconcile with George Bush and the neo cons who seemed determined to ruin America’s name worldwide.

Rock music is so contradictory.  On one level it’s the voice of freedom for youth worldwide - I remember when we played in Russia and the promoter told me that the Beatles music in the late sixties inspired them because it sounded like freedom, and everywhere you go in the world there are a clutch of kids who use rock music as the same sort of the thing.  It’s a sonic flag of freedom, but it’s also so conservative! From the way it’s just there to make money, and the dull banter of most musicians; its very inward looking, and also very backward looking.  It can be a really dull world.  Is there much difference between musicians and a second hand car salesperson convention? BUT there are sparks that keep you awake and keep the dream alive. It is of course also entertainment.  A re-affirmation of the counter culture dream is always good!

Pete:  Most political issues ain’t black or white scenarios - that’s why they're interesting, so sharing your take on something should be inspirational. I've never been into the, “my views are what that guy says,” thing.  Use it as a springboard to launch into your own pool of thought.

Johnny:  Only if the band/artist really believes in what they say and really knows and understands what it is they are talking about.  I am not a political animal so I don’t write political songs, but each to their own. As long as I do not feel I am being preached at, it’s OK.

9.  How best do you want Goldblade to be remembered?

Rob:  To be remembered at all would be achievement in itself, but it’d be nice to be remembered as a band that made people enjoy music and brought relevance to modern punk, and to have kicked down a few rock and roll clichés along the way.

JR - We should be remembered as a thrilling live band that came and saw and conquered. We probably won’t get remembered at all and that’s cool because there is far too much baggage in rock ‘n roll, far too much hanging on to the past. We are in the here and now - it’s the only time that counts.

Pete:  A series of ludicrous tribute bands perhaps! I'd really like us to be remembered for being five individuals with quality songs and a peerless live show, but we're not going anywhere yet.....

10.  What differences do you see in the USA scene and the UK scene today?

JR - The American scene is very organized and very professional - The bands roll into town like military units with big road crews, as if it’s like a war! The UK scene has loads of great young bands but there is media dead-set against punk rock with only, Distorted, and Big Cheese magazine(s) giving it any support.  In the USA, a punk band can get taken seriously by, Rolling Stone. In the UK, the NME is purely an indie paper that is paid for by record labels - maybe that’s why it only sells 20,000 copies these days? Punk bands in the UK don’t have big resources and can’t compete with the hype machine of the majors, and so are bands are left out of the music press, instead relying on the internet to get the word out.  In America, rock music is far more mainstream - it’s part of the culture.  We (UK) exist on word of mouth, and have got pretty big because of the bond of word of mouth.

Rob:  Don’t know! Our plans always revolve around what we can afford to do. If anyone thinks that we earn a lot of money from the band I’m eager to shatter that illusion!

Johnny:  I don’t know, I don’t get to hear much U.S. punk--the last U.S. punk band I loved were the MC5…brilliant!  There is a commercial edge to U.S. bands that make it over here, but that’s justone of those things. The Street Dogs and The Bouncing Souls rock!!

11.  Do you think you’ll be touring the East Coast USA anytime in 2009? Of course I have to ask—and what are you plans for the latter part of 2008 and 2009?

Rob:  Don’t know! Our plans always revolve around what we can afford to do. If anyone thinks that we earn a lot of money from the band I’m eager to shatter that illusion!

JR - There's always talk of something happening but the credit crunch is making people wary, and it costs so much for a British band to come to America.  We have to pay a fortune for musician work, permit visas…unlike American bands who have to pay very little to come to the UK.  This touring the USA is very difficult to organize, and sadly very expensive, but we are determined to come back because people are really up for our music there.

12.  Any other comments?

Johnny:  Take your pick from these below:
"I love Rock 'n' Roll"
"Be your own hero"
"You should never hide your Rock 'n' Roll pride"
"No sex please I'd rather have breakfast - then I wanna listen to some country and Western"

JR - "Don ’t forget the OFF switch".

Baby doll, you got that right.