Pete Bentham of
The Dinner Ladies
1. Pete Bentham and the Dinnerladies - introduce us please - what goes on, what has transpired, what is there to come and why the band name?
We are the Dinner Ladies, based in Liverpool, often described as a punk rock & roll band or even kitchen sink punk rock & roll, which is quite appropriate. We've been going for six years, made three full albums, one EP, toured Europe eight times, going to Germany, France, Italy, Czech Republic. A documentary film about one of our tours called 'Dinner Ladies DIY Adventures in Europe' is about to be released. We are named after my mum who is a retired Dinner Lady.
I wanted to do a band that is a proper rock & roll band in the old fashioned sense but with modern lyrics. My view of the world was formed not by books or teachers or anything but by the likes of The Specials, The Clash and Billy Bragg. I'm also influenced by comedians like Bill Hicks who have something serious to say but do it in an entertaining way. So the idea is to make it an entertaining show but with songs that have something to say. I just think it's a better way of getting your message across than ranting at people like some bands do.
Whilst Mrs Wood is a fine writer and comedic actress, the Dinner Lady has no sexual connotations for me personally. Although our bass player would probably disagree. She could be the one that introduces the Raggamuffin, Dance Hall Style Sexy Dinner Lady to her homeland of Trinidad. I think Paul Daniels shouldn't be allowed to father any children to spare future generations any further suffering.
The important ingredient (which is no secret), is that there is a point to what we do. We sing about things we believe in and we put 100% into putting on a great show. The songs are basically ideas that pop into my head, based on my view of the world. It's sort of socio-political, but because we use a lot of humour, we sometimes get dismissed as a joke band. However, those people aren't really listening, as even a song like 'Cats & Dogs' has the important message at the end that says "You find you get what you deserve". So it's really a song about treating people how you want to be treated yourself. I think part of our appeal then is that our thing works on a few different levels, it's not just one-dimensional. We're like Andy Warhol filming the Suffragettes pogoing at a punk gig in a working man’s club in Widnes, during the Spanish Civil War. An existentialist thingy.
5. Your local scene man - name, shame and proclaim allthat is good and bad and how it compares to the wider arena.
Liverpool is a very special place in a lot of ways. It has its own attitude that is nothing like any other city in Britain. I guess because it's always been a port, it has a lot of different influences flowing in and so is like a melting pot of styles and ideas. It's very small for a city and is fiercely independent. So I always think that Liverpool is like the biggest village in the world. The music scene is very supportive and eclectic with different types of bands playing together and lots of great bands and gigs. I suppose the only downside to Liverpool's village mentality is that it can be too cosy and a lot of bands are happy to stay there and be a big fish in a little pond, rather than get out and play other places. Not us though, we love the challenge of a new audience.
I'm going to say The Station in Ashton. We've played some festivals to big crowds and we've played some amazing places on tour in Europe but it's those little DIY gigs that make the punk scene work all over the place. There's too many good bands we've played with to mention but there seems to be a bit of a scene at the moment for garage punk that we fit into and that includes bands like The Franceens, Cyanide Pills, Pussycat & The Dirty Johnsons, Dick Venom & The Terrortones and quite a few others and they all have the same attitude to us in that they want to put on a good rock and roll show.
7. Describe thy fellow band mates in 4 words including one that must be grocery based.
Bassist Tamara Sauce - A Fiery Caribbean Pepper
Sax Player Mufti Day - Avant Garde Veggie Burger
Drummer Tony Calzone - Big Bag of Chips
I seem to remember Kenny as the token black British person in Seventies light entertainment and while he is obviously a talented individual and would be decent company, I feel the atmosphere would be too claustrophobic in the egg for me. Although, if I was to share it with Seventies entertainer Alexandra Bastedo from the hit series The Champions with her sultry glamour and sexy accent I'd be prepared to chance it. I realise only readers of a certain age will have a clue who I'm on about. I'd be prepared to receive most kinds of amphibian anally if it were in support of those fine working class heroes the train drivers, with our drummer Tony previously having been one of their shop stewards.
I have great faith in the DIY scene. On a practical level it enables you to go and find gigs anywhere if you have the energy and enthusiasm and generally I've met some of greatest people I know through this scene. On a spiritual level, it can restore your faith in humanity in a cruel world. It's very accepting, you can be old, young, whatever. The only flaw I can see is in those that see punk as a uniform. I know for a fact that we'd get more gigs if we had mohawks and certain patches. But it was always an intelligent and open minded thing to me. If the message is do it yourself, then let people be themselves. It was never a uniform at the very start.
10. Old vibes vs new vibes - the knickers are off - which is best, who should get the main note, are too many wasting time looking backwards?
I'm an oldy myself so obviously I'm biased, but it gives me a warm feeling when I see kids discovering punk like I did when I was a teenager. It's a very empowering thing becoming a punk. I guess when you are young it gives you an identity at a time when you are looking for something. Like religion is for some people I suppose. We play with great young bands all the time. We have some in Liverpool such as Bolshy and The Stopouts. They are both ska bands which is big again now of course. Also, the Crass idea of punk seems to be the prevailing thing with kids now doesn't it? I totally respect Crass for taking the DIY ethic as far as possible, no band has ever been that committed or organised. But I think some kids don't realise that punk didn't start with them. They wouldn't have happened without the bands that went earlier, in particular the Sex Pistols, who get dismissed by some young un's as a gimmick now, which is just daft. The Ramones might have started the musical revolution but the Pistols started the cultural revolution that spawned everything that came after including Oi, Two Tone and Anarcho Punk thing of Crass.
Rubber trombones make excellent waders if you have to navigate a ditch on the way home from a gig and polythene drums can be used as makeshift rafts if it's a particularly deep ditch. But the downside is, neither of them fit into a bumbag.
Hilda Baker would be an excellent Dinner Lady as would Rita Tushingham, who someone very astutely observed in a review of our band, her being a heroine of one of those aforementioned kitchen sink dramas of course. Perhaps, Michelle Dotrice from 'Are You Being Served' could complete the line up? They all have the necessary inherent Britishness, understated sexuality and working class credentials to cut it in our band. Plus they all probably already own a tabard.
12. Finally peddle the bicycle of promotion to Successville - push it hard, burn the rubber into the ground and leave us a final message of conviction.
We have just released our third album called 'I Heart Here' which is sort of a concept record around the idea of community. It's about how I think the future will be about people getting together to organise themselves and not relying on councils, governments etc. Not necessarily in a revolutionary way but in a practical level setting up co-operatives or whatever. At the end of the day, music is all about the people. You can hear or download it and see our forthcoming gigs on our facebook page at www.facebook.com/dinnerladiesliverpool