First of all, thank you for letting me do this interview. The first question is:What do you know about Sweden? Know of any good Swedish bands?
Im not really familiar with Sweden itself other than it`s the home of the invention of the cook coo clock, according to Harry Lime, anyway! Neither am I familiar with your punk scene, but Im hoping that your website will introduce me to it. I suppose I`ve got a lot of homework to do? I merely hope the scene is diverse & the bands are trying to be unconventional, cos that`s what punk`s about, isnt it? I`ve always thought that punk`s central maxim, be yourself, that is most important, & we tried to reflect that in the Violators.
Could you give us the bandhistory of Violators, when you formed the band, did you play in any other band before that, when and why did you split and so on.
Yeah, Matchi (the bassist, John Marchington) & I (the vocalist, Cess or Shaun Stiles) formed the band in Chapel-en-le-Frith, a rural town in the High Peak District of Derbyshire that lies 24 miles south of Manchester, in early 1979. This was following the demise of our former band, The Dismal Sports, whose line up included Paul Hines later of The Test Department. I suppose being in a band was our way of alleviating the boredom, & after some initial line up changes the Violators also comprised of Helen Hill on vocals, Anthony Hall (Ajax) on drums & Mark Coley on guitar. We only rehearsed as a band for a short period of time & had a few gigs under our belt before we signed to No Future Records where we released a number of singles.
The band split as we were beginning to understand ourselves & each other as musicians & as our popularity was growing.
Violators discography is quite short, 3 singles and one 12" (if you dont count the comps)
Yeah, we werent very prolific, were we? I suppose I regret that we didnt manage to get all of our set material on vinyl before we split. Yet that`s the way it goes sometimes. It was out of our control cos the split happened so quickly.
Can you give a short comment on each release:
Gangland was inspired by Walter Hills film, The Warriors. If you havent seen it, make it a priority cos its still a great movie! Anyway, it movedme to write a track that is perhaps a little over ambitious, but which still seems to be popular with contemporary ears. Although its about six minutes long its power, attitude & its diversity holds the listeners attention from beginning to the anti-heroes chant in the out-tro.
Was the b-side of Gangland. Its a great track & Helens voice really suited the hardcore stuff. She sings with bollocks & doesnt sound like the Banshee wanna be which many viewed her at the time.
Summer of 81/Live fast die young:
It was on this single that we began to understand each other asit shows cos both are great punk tracks: fast, aggressive & hindsight, I wish we had the time to release them as separate entities cos both deserved to be a-sides, & its a pity we didnt get more time to explore our creativity further, cos the irony is that Helen & Coley decided to leave at this point & form Taboo. Gotta laugh, havent you? I think, with hindsight, the Violators would have become an influential band. We really hadnt flexed our creative muscle at that point & we had a lot of ambitious project set ahead. Where as now, we are now seen as something of an enigma; the band that came out of nowhere & in a short period of time created some great punk classics & then disappeared up their own arses. Yeah, you just gotta laugh!
Life on the redline/Crossings of Sangsara:We fell out with No Future boss Chris Berry over this release. Unbeknown to us, the little tinker went & remixed & edited our original recording & released his version. Obviously we thought he had stabbed us in the back, & in our world that was a crime. On the re-released Violators discography The No Future Years you get both tracks. The different mix version is the unreleasedoriginal. I think, its a far better version than the single release, even though Im not too keen on my vocals on either. But, fuck it, we all have bad days. Im not gonna loose any sleep over it!
The track Crossings of Sangsara features the vocals of Lou & Andy Hill on guitar, who replaced Helen & Coley. For me, its quite a prophetic track, cos it predates yet sounds similar to early indie. It certainly has that early Manchester feel & to a large degree the Violators were influenced by the so called post punk bands, such as The Fall, Joy Division, Magazine, Public Image Limited, the Banshees, the Psychedelic Furs & The Cure. At the time, we saw them as experimental punk bands who were not gonna let themselves be boxed in by being stereotyped by the music press.
Die with dignity:
Is perhaps the Violators at our most musical. The guitar riff, base line, drum pattern & vocals blend together perfectly, & we didnt compromise ourselves when producing it. I think, it still stands today as one of the best punk/pop songs of that period. In fact, comments on a post card please if you know of a better one!
Why did Helen and Mark Coley leave the band?
I can only speculate cos we have never really spoke about it at great depth.Perhaps we just lost sight of each other as individuals, who knows? Dont think I`ll even bother speculating about it. I cant be arsed. They just left. End of story!
Gangland is, according to me-one of the best punktracks from round that really captures what the movie The Warriors is about...But when you released it, did people react cause of the fact that it`s almost 6 minutes long?
We had no hesitation in releasing Gangland at that length. Yet I remember that the tracks length did course heads to turn in disbelief at No Future.There was some talk that the length of it would diminish the quality of the recording when transferred to vinyl. But we thought who gives a fuck! For us, punk was about being unconventional, & still is! We wanted to use Gangland to convey the message that we were about being ourselves. We didnt want to merely imitate our heroes like many other bands seemed happy enough to do during that period. I suppose it was a cry for diversity within the movement, &fortunately it was well received by critics & audience alike.
I read in the booklet of the newly re-released No future years that you consider your gig at Skunx in `82 one of your worst...too bad they made a bootleg of it then isnt it?
You can say that again! The gig was troubled with technical & artistic problems from beginning to end. We had all taken a large cocktail of illegal substances during the course of the day, which isnt conducive with being able to performance well, is it? Yeah, as you can imagine, we arrived at the venue well & truly fucked! The venues PA system also conspired against us. It repeatedly cut out though out our set, so the gigs energy was lost. I struggled to remember the chorus to Live Fast, Die Young. Bad gig, simple as that! I dont know who the fuck was behind the bootleg, which contains Blitzs first demo too, but their only concern was cash. I dont know how many were printed*, but it now goes for ridiculous prices on the internet. So I can only conclude that its a rarity. Bastards!
What gig do you consider to be your best one? And which was the highest point in the bands career?
I dont really know now, but I recall supporting Discharge at The Manchester Funhouse. The crowd went wild as did we. Yeah, that was certainly a memorable one. We did quite a number of gigs with Discharge. We all had a lot of respect for that band. They had great tunes & were good performers. I suppose the highest point in the bands career must be the release of our second single, Summer of 81 & Live Fast, Die Young, cos shortly afterwards Helen & Coley left the band.
Did you have any problems with right-wing following? What did you think of the whole thing with Southall, bands getting banned from playing cause they played Oi and so on...
We didnt personally have any problems from right-wing elements that must have been in our audience. They were a small voice in our audience cos we were never considered an Oi band by anyone. The bands possibly affected by the incident at Southall were the known Oi bands, & the majority of them were not politically right-wing. The mass media (certainly in Britain) is so fucking lazy that it pigeon holes all cultural youth movements. They dont want to tell the truth! To tell that the concept of freedom of thought & diversity of thought exists within the membership of a youth movement is totally beyond their comprehension. As I said, theyre just fuckin lazy!
After Violators split you formed 'Ice the falling rain' but what happened after that? Did you join any other bands?
We did the Ice the Falling Rain single cos of what had happened with the third single. It was our way of telling Chris that he couldnt fuck usspent a bucket load of cash on it in the full knowledge that he did not have a clue about how to go about selling it. I dont think he even bothered releasing it in the end. He must have been very pissed off, but that reflected our anarchistic temperament as a band. After that we had no desire to be involved in that industry. We all thought we had been messed about enough by various people in the business & it was time to leave it behind, & anyway, we had fulfilled what we had initially set out to do with the Violators: write a few classic punk tracks. I moved to London to studied European cultural history & sociology at university, leaving the movement to take care of its self. The others moved on too.
Are you involved in the punkscene today?
Im not as active as I was in my youth, but I still listen to & enjoy old skool punk, both first & second wave, & I try to keep up with the contemporary bands that are emerging.
A lot of the old punkbands have reformed the last couple of years and played at Wasted and likewise....have you gotten any offers to reform? Or have you thought about it yourself? Do you have any contact with the old bandmembers today?
Im still in contact with Matchi, Helen & Lou-sadly, Ajax didnt make it!** We meet up for a laugh over a few pints from time to time, but we have never discussed reforming the band. Last December, however, I was approached by Mark of Captain Oi records to record some new material for the Violators discography that he was planning to reissue. I thought, yeah, fuck it, why not! One of these tracks, Everything`s in a State of Decay, features on the discography. What we tried to do was to blend 60s garage with hardcore punk, & we have done a great fucking job of it too. Were getting lots of positive feedback from it. People seem to like it a lot. The rest of the new material were planning to release on an ep, All Too Human, in the near future. So I suppose, purely by accident, Ive reformed a version of the Violators. Ive also recently been in contact with Nidge out of the Blitz who has been writing new material for a new ep too. He`s asked me to do the vocals on it & wants me to do some European gigs with him. Obviously, I am seriously considering his offer.