Last June, Dead arms visited Geneva as part a Euro tour with USA Nails. Full-on hardcore garage-punk assault with by charismatic singer Steve « General Waste » at the front of the action. Before the gig, we sat down with Nick (drums), Alex (guitar), Dan (Bass) and Steve (voice) to get to know more of the story behind the noise.
(ERRATUM : there are two mistakes in this interview, first, it’s Alex who lives in the States, and second, Nick is Nic. Sorry for that !)
Can you introduce us a little bit to your band ? When did you get together ?
Alex : It’s been 8 years, this is our second album. We’re from London in the UK. We did one album in 2015. I think it’s our third tour in Europe.
Nick : The band started in 2011 with a different drummer, Wayne Adams. But he was too busy with other projects, so before the first album he left. I was overseas and I came back and joined. That’s when we started to play more shows and finished the first record. We’ve just had a bit of a break cause I moved to the states. So we actually recorded our second album a year and a half ago.
How do you manage the band with you living in America ?
Alex : Well, she moved to the States last February and we haven’t done anything since. It’s our first shows for over a year.
Wanted to ask you about your scene in London. I went to the Shackewell arms to catch a Death pedals show (Alex looking pretty pleased. -Ed.) How active are you in this scene ?
Nick : Pretty active ! Steve and I and another friend of ours started putting on shows back in 2008. There’s a label called Rip this joint and that’s how a lot of us met each other. We probably met Dan that way as well. Basically I was in another band with Steve’s best mate and we were getting put on at terrible shows in London and we didn’t really know where the scene was, so we just decided to put our own shows on instead and then we just met all those great people !
Alex : When we started Death pedals, we were struggling to find anywhere to play a good show and then we met these guys who were doing these Rip this joint shows every months and they were the best shows ! So that’s how we all met ! A lot of people came together from different bands and it was good fun !
Dan : We were working in a pub together (I think Dan is talking of Alex but not sure – Ed.) – I bumped into you when you were really drunk, coming back from one of the shows ! And you said : « Come to the next one ! » and I did !
Steve : There were bands like Silent front, who were already part of a scene, they were more experienced and when they got involved, they mentored us a little bit through the early stages. But then it just grew and grew and grew and then more and more bands got involved and more bands came out of it. Death pedals formed out of this scene that became a birthing pool for new projects. People would swap through bands…
Nick : I guess over the last few years, we’ve all been a bit busier with other things – jobs and families and things – so we’ve been a bit less active putting shows on.
Dan : Yeah, but there’s more new, like, associations. Younger people went to the shows and then started doing their own thing. It’s really cool.
People here tend too think that the scene is getting older and complain that there are not so many people at the shows. What’s your experience of that in London ?
Nick : We were talking about that in the van. I think going to shows – and punk shows too – has become more popular recently. People seem to go out to gigs as a social thing again. At the time when we first started putting on shows, nobody young were doing that but actually in London,it’s really big again. You know, if you put a show on on a Friday or Saturday, it will be full. People will come. I think the scene has expanded and lots of scenes have kind of merged together.
Alex : And the punk thing seems to be bigger in the UK than it was 10 years ago. Now the noisy shows are popular, 10 years ago they were not popular.
So how do you explain that evolution ?
Nick : No idea ! Maybe it’s the internet, the social media…
Steve : You’ve got some bands, like Idles, that are getting bigger and bigger making quite noisy punk music and young people see that and they are getting into it more. I’ve lived out of London a few years ago and in Kent, the scene is very much young, it’s 18, 19, 20 year old kids. They are setting up their own venues, their whole almost mini-DIY industry. They’ve got records shops and venues and it’s attracting an awful lot of cool bands. It just seems that some bands, like Metz, do well and play all over the UK and everybody seems to be responding to that.
Alex : I think the politics at the moment is such a mess, people want to see bands that have something to say.
Steve : Yeah, when we started putting on shows, a lot of bands didn’t even have vocalists, it was all instrumental stuff.
Nick : It was all quite technical. Math-rock was really popular.
Steve : But nobody seems to be particularly angry. But the last ten year have changed that.
Nick : Yeah, people want a bit more of an experience than just people wanking on guitars.
So you think math-rock was responsible for the lower state of the scene ?
Nick (laughs) : Eeeeeh… No, I think it was just a big fade. I guess music genres are always going in and out of fade.
Steve : Death pedals were the first band to come out and not be a math-rock band. Oh my god, a new band that isn’t math-rock ! I was so excited ! I think a lot of bands formed because of Death pedals. It’s been a big thing !
British bands seem to be quite good at that noise-punk sound, is there any particular reason in your opinion ?
Steve : I don’t know. Maybe, we’re fed up with being thought of as wishy-washy indie. (Laughs)
Alex : I read an article about how noise-rock was really taking off in England because it suits our sense of humour and shit weather ! Britain is a dirty country and we all love it and hate it ! This article was talking about that and I think it was right. I think it will only go bigger and bigger.
Also, British bands have a really strong vocal identity, the voice is pretty much at the front and the accent being very strong…
Steve : It all started in the streets and I think Idles is kind of the continuation of that. … but I always thought that, in Blur, Damon was quite mocking the accent…
On purpose ?
Steve : Yeah, it’s self-deprecating, it’s the British sense of humor.
Coming back to the scene, what are the bands that you really like at the moment ?
Dan : I was having this conversation with Gareth (of Usa nails. – Ed.) driving in the van, and for me, it’s this band called Bo Gritz. I think they’re the best for me at the moment. I can’t take my eyes off them when I watch them live. They’re up there for me.
Yeah, we don’t hear so much about them…
Dan : They need to come and play Europe.
Steve : I really like Modern technology. Waynes Adams told me about them, I put the record on and I was like : « Oh, my god, that’s exactly what I like. » They’re the best thing I’ve heard in a long time !
Nick : One of my favourite band – they’ve been for several years but they’ve just put a record out – is Petrol girls, a punk band originally mostly from London. They’re on tour with War on women and they’re just fucking brilliant. They’re doing really well and rightly so.
Alex : There are so many bands… Grey hairs is one I really like. There’s a band called We wild blood. They’ve played their album launch last week and mybe that would be my tip if you want to check a new London band out. If you want a tip for a record label, check out Hominid sounds records. We released our album with them and there’s lots of cools bands there.
Steve : Also, Human leather ! When you see them live, it’s just brutal. The singer has the greatest voice.
Obviously you are releasing music and touring in a DIY network, what’s good about it, in your opinion ? And what’s not so good about this network ?
Steve : None of us are young men or women anymore. I’ve got a full time job, kids, so this is a bit of freedom to do what we do. We have that freedom to decide when we do it and how we do it. Play what we want to play and where we want to play. Turn down the things that we don’t want to do. For us it just works, cause we’re not full-time. It’s about us. We’re a little family. That’s cool.
Sometimes, when you listen to some bands, it seems like having two lives…
Nick : It is having two lives ! I play in another band back in London as well and I work sometimes seven days a week in a hospital. It is exhausting. It’s really nice to have not so much pressure on the music. Like Steve was saying : picking and choosing when we want to do stuff. It needs to be fun, it needs to be something that we enjoy doing. Otherwise : why would I use all of my holidays ?
Steve : It makes it all the more special. I wouldn’t want it to be a chore. I wouldn’t do it if it was a chore !
So what’s the negative aspect of it ?
Steve : I guess if we played more, more people would hear us and we’d do better. Obviously bands become successful because they tour and gig a lot. But you know what ? We’re at a level that’s quite nice for us. We’re doing all right ! I would never had thought that we would tour Europe and it’s our third time !
Alex : When we started this band, it started as a bit of a joke ! Eight years later, we’re still doing it !
The joke is still going on ! (Laughs)
Nick : Yeah, we like repetitive jokes !
Steve : You must wait for the final line of that one !
You have a song called « Apocalypse Yow ». What does David Yow represent for you ?
Steve : It’s various things. When we had reviews of our first album, people likened us to Jesus lizard and I was like: « really ? » I liked Jesus Lizard but I wasn’t a massive fan. It wasn’t a band any of us listened to heavily and said this is how we are going to play our music and I still don’t think we don’t sound anything like JL.
Alex : I see the similarities now, it took me a little while.
Steve : I think we sound like Cows more, the AmRep band. Anyway, that’s one part of it, the other part is the band Big lad that Wayne produces (ex-Shitwife – Ed.), they always have really good song titles. And so I was messing with things in my head and I came out with Apocalypse Yow : « Yeah that would be funny ! » Then I watched the film « I don’t feel at home in this world anymore » where he plays this crazy character then I started using some of the words that he uses in the film and it became the lyrics of the song. It is a bit about being famous, I guess. How famous people have to deal with fame in different ways. In the old days they would just be on TV once in a while but now everybody is all over the place and it stops people being interesting. You don’t get interesting famous musicians anymore because they’re too worried that everyone’s gonna find out about their sordid secrets. And politicians are the same. They are hiding now. Well… I just put together a lot of nonsense in my head ! (Laughs)
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