UK Decay Interview MusicThatJumpedTheShark.com
How did the reunion happen?
In 2004 a bunch of pals and myself opened up the UK Decay Communities website and right away we were overwhelmed by the massive amount of interest out there in the band. Later that year we put on a reunion party to meet-back up with some of the faces on the website. For the next couple of years the reunions grew until the inevitable questions arose about the band reforming. The interest became a reality when vocalist Abbo phoned me up days before one of our by now, annual reunions and suggested we play a couple of songs. As I hadn’t played guitar for nearly 25 years and with 3 days to rehearse, this seemed a tall order. In the end, a mate of mine Ray Phillpot sat in on drums to replace the late Steve Harle. We ended up playing “For my Country” twice, to a packed crowd, the atmosphere was electrifying and we spoke of a proper come-back, which happened some 18 months later in June 2008 in our home town of Luton.
Whose in the band that is from other bands?
For most of us, UK Decay was the first real band in the sense of anybody hearing about. Although I was in a punk band called Pneumania before I joined UKDK.. After the band split, I formed a band called IN Excelsis. The others Abbo, Steve Harle and ED Branch formed a new band called Furyo. Later ED joined Pete Murphy of Bauhaus on his solo project, spent ten years with him and then he teamed up with Kommunity FK for a period. Abbo got into music management and worked with loads of now household names. I worked in music production and produced too much to mention here. However as you asked about Click Click, I worked on some of their productions, as they are a fellow Luton band and close friends. My own projects have been dance elektronica related since the 90’s, I have released several titles under the name Nostramus.
Who was in the band back in the day that’s not any more & why?
Steve Abbo vocals, Steve Harle drums, martin Smith, Ed Branch, Turvey and Creeton Chaos all played bass back in the original times. Steve Spon on guitar and keys. In 2005 Steve Harle sadly passed away whilst backpacking in India. Ed, Abbo and I are still together with the addition of new drummer Ray Phillpot.
Whose in charge of your web site?
I am on behalf of UK Decay and UK Decay Communities, with of course contribution from the band and one crazy guy called Werewolf.
Who from UK Decay are we talking with? What did you do after the band ended its first run?
This is Steve Spon, I play guitar and keys for UK Decay. After UKDK split at the end of 1982, I formed a new band with Mark Bond and Errol Blyth from Ritual-they had recently split after ‘Death Cult’ poached the other two guys. We named the new band In Excelsis, which carried on until its demise in 1985.
How did that first tour with Bauhaus get arranged?
We never actually toured with Bauhaus, what we did do in the early days was arrange swap gigs. Northampton – Bauhaus‘s hometown is just 40 miles up from our hometown of Luton. One day doing my van driving day job, i pulled into a punk clothes shop in Northampton. It turned out the guys in the shop were promoting gigs and that they were managing a new band called Bauhaus 1919. They were looking for out of town gigs and so were we, it was hard back in the day for a new band to obtain gigs. We suggested a swap or return gig, mutual cooperation got both bands playing together. They supported us for a show in Luton and then we supported them, in their hometown of Northampton. It was our first out of town show!
How did that tour with the Dead Kennedys happen? How did it go? was there a divide between the audiences – like between punks and post punks?
The Dead Kennedy’s were actually one of my favourite bands, so I was well chuffed when we were asked to support them on their first UK tour. Apparently, Jello Biafra had liked our early singles and had asked for us to support them. It was also our first major UK tour. We had a great time with the DK’s on that tour and Jello asked us to visit the US the following year. The Kennedy’s introduced us to American post punk styles such as surf punk and hardcore. I think the American audience found it difficult at first to accept our slower and darker sound. They were used to slam-dancing to ultra fast and raging songs. We were actually canned and boo-ed at San Fransisco, it was only later that people wrote in to us saying stuff like “we are really digging’ your sound right now”. Even back in the UK we were moving away from the traditional mainline punk style, some just didn’t ‘get us’ at first. There was the dying embers of the original punk movement, the anarcho-punk, new romantic and Oi categories. We didn’t fit in really with any of that, for a while, there was some confusion as to what we were about. Gradually our audience began to understand where we were heading and came along for the celebration.
Do you consider UK Decay post punk or goth or?
I guess this question has to be in retrospect, as back in the 80’s, these terminological genres as known today, simply didn’t exist. Today when I look back on our early sound, I guess we could fit either the post punk or goth genre’s. We were at the point where ‘punk’ was developing into what would later become ‘goth’. Contrary to the ‘doom’ element implied to ‘goth’ however, we recognised the importance of having a ‘positive’ attitude to the approach. For a while, other people implied that we were ‘positive-punk’. We felt that we were punk at heart but on a new mission.
What did Albie de Luca have to say about the people in Gene Loves Jezebel?
I am afraid I can’t answer that one.
What was it like working with Crass records? Did you hang out with the Crass collective at all? What was that scene like behind the doors? Where they hypocrites or the real deal?
Back in 1979, we arranged a benefit concert in an old world war II Nissan hut in the Marsh Farm estate in Luton. The benefit was for a fanzine, its writers were jailed on trumped up charges. This was a move by the authorities to try to stifle what they perceived was some kind of threat to the estate. We were involved in running the national fanzine co-operative at the time and felt we needed to do something to highlight the issue publicly. A benefit show with Crass, the Poison Girls and ourselves was arranged to raise funds for the defence. The gig was successful and it gave us a chance to meet up and exchange ideas. Two years later, our sound was moving away from the hardcore anarchistic style of Crass. However, our basic ideals remained largely in sympathy. By then, we had started to record at John Loders Southern studios, which was the same place that Crass used to record at. Often we would take the opportunity to chat, particularly with Penny Rimbaud. The following year 1982, it was obvious there was something new happening in the post punk scene. Penny decided that Crass records would bring out a sister label to accommodate some off these new bands. Penny was keen that UK Decay should be the first of many releases, so we put together our ‘Rising from the Dread’ single and released it on Crass’s new ‘Chorpus Christie’ label in 1982. We never really got close enough with Crass to make any kind of judgement, nor really to want too. There was a lot of hearsay and Chinese whispers about Crass; people were interested in them, but for the most, you could take with a pinch of salt. They seemed reasonable enough guys to me.
What do you honestly think of the bands today calling themselves “punk” or “post punk” or “goth”?
I suppose these terms or genre’s have now become embedded into the historical context, as read by encyclopaedia’s, whatever. But as I mentioned earlier back in the very early 80’s, the terms ‘post punk’ and ‘goth’ weren’t in common usage. I have a quiet inner smirk to myself when bands use such terms to describe themselves. At the end of the day however, it’s fine with me!
What kinds of music do you listen to today? Whats in your ipod & turntable recently?
We all have incredibly complex and varied tastes in music these days. The most recent music I have had in my ipod recently has been the new album I have just mastered by an artist called Ella Jo. The album is called Attitude is Everything.
Have your music tastes changed since the start of the band?
Absolutely and continually! Abbo runs a musical management company for instance; he has brought to the UK for the first time, such artists as Jeff Buckley, The White Stripes and much more. His business is to keep an eye out for new talent. My work now includes, music production and mastering, i get to work with a wide variety of new artists. After quitting guitar in 1985, i moved into the production side of music. I produced a number of releases in the nineties in the genre of dance music. I am continually on the look out for a new or different take on the mix, I always have done. The same goes for the others in the band, that gave us a pioneering edge back in the early 80’s. Now we have all completed a cycle and have returned to our source, albeit with a wealth of musical wisdom accrued during the last thirty years.
Have you every read that interview that has been touted around since the 80s where Ian Astbury basically says goth was invented by Andi Sex Gang?
I have heard that. From my point of view Abbo had been joking about the ‘whole goth’ thing since 1981 and believe me, he was good at inventing new names. In 1979 when I was in Pneumania he renamed me “Spon” which is short for “Spon-taneous” (something to do with my behaviour I guess!) He would take a concept, shorten its name and apply it to some suitable victim; it is his way of humour. SGC and SDC with all due respect to them arrived on the scene a little later than we did. In addition, starting with SGC in early 1982, we were in the position to give these bands valuable support slots at some of our prestige London shows. At last, we were finding up and coming new bands that were playing our kind of music. In that year, Abbo moved to Brixton in London and shared a flat with Andi Sex Gang. Its true that SGC’s fans were dressing up by then, but I would say it was almost certainly Abbo that started referring to the new look followers as ‘goths’. Ian Astbury and SDC hit the scene a little later in 1982. We gave SDC their first major London show in spring 82 at the Zig Zag club, by then, the scene was already established.
Speaking of them – what did you think when Death Cult ‘went rock N roll’ & became The Cult?
I was very disappointed; to me it seemed like the end of the spirit of punk as we knew it. The lure of the stadium had somehow regressed the ‘Cult’. Then I guess times were changing. In retrospect, I cannot really blame them for having ambition.
What did you think of music in the interim period between ’86 through ’91 when alternative music was still an underground phenomenon unknown to the mainstream culture?
In the mid 80’s I lost interest in the ‘Alternative’ guitar band based scene, I couldn’t get on with the Smiths etc etc. I put the guitar away and got into music production. I started getting into the underground dance oriented thing and started working with bands like Click Click and the Big Eye. I remained firmly ‘left of field’ within my tastes and deeds. Instead of guitar-based music, I was into bass-lines and beats. I courted the underground party scene where I found many ex punks involved like myself. The underground was moving into the clubs and the sounds more radical, for me it was a period of deconstruction and minimalism. I rejoiced in it all and didn’t give a dam about the mainstream musical bullshit aside from fleeting visits to grunge music.
What did you think of the period of music during the alternative boom between the years ’91-’96?
I didn’t take much notice of ‘Britpop’ either. I guess it was a new generation doing their own punk thing, I could empathize with that, but for me it wasn’t original or groundbreaking enough. However, it did generate a lot of new energy into the ailing mainstream for a while. I was kept occupied tackling the many new frontiers of the underground worlds of drum and bass and techno etc, that had opened up in the mid 90’s music technology boom.
Did new alternative music stop being created after ’96?
No! It may have seemed like that at the time but that’s when the ball game was starting to change due to the growth of the internet and the mass development of affordable music technology. The ‘D.I.Y.’ ethos that came with punk was now achievable at an unprecedented scale. New alternative music was now available from everywhere across the globe. The net has widened music but at the same time, music had somehow become increasingly disposable. I sometimes surf Myspace and other sites randomly listening and looking for new sounds and I do find a lot of good stuff out there. Sometimes in the most obscure and unexpected places, I’ll find a real gem of a song or a sound. But I would find it difficult to recall from memory many if any names of artists or songs that I like. I would have to check back through my bookmarks and play lists to find anything. Maybe it is the shear choice, there is so much music available and free, that listeners are too fatigued to notice anything genuinely new these days?
What were your favorite bands in the music scene circa ’78 – ’83?
Below are some of the bands we used to play in our spare time in our Wellington street and Matrix records base (1979 –82): Adam and the Ants, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Fad Gadget, Gang of Four, Public Image ltd, Sex Pistols, Clash, the Dead Kennedy’s, Joy Division, Dr Amantillado and the Rebels, Dillinger, Bauhaus, Crass, Poison Girls, Play Dead, the Dark, Magazine, The Ruts, the Cure, Pere Ubu, the Residents, Kraftwork, Rema Rema, Fatal Microbes, Lee Perry, Prince Fari, the Fall, Panic Button (Sex Gang Children) pre commercial Human League, Cabaret Voltaire, Lou Reed, Killing Joke, Buzzcocks, The Tee Vees, the Friction, the Statics, those Nervous Surgeons, the Trashers, Malaria, Kate Bush, the Mutants, Social Unrest, Psychedelic Furs, Nina Hagen, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the Residents, as much Dub as possible!