Sunday, October 19, 2014

Quango (London, ex-Apostles, Oi Polloi) interview 2014

Quango is one of the most exciting bands that has made it outside of the London punk scene in recent times. Their excellent demo was pressed to 7" in 2013 and quickly sold out. With a sound harkening back to much earlier times, it's certainly music for pleasure. Chris Low was kind enough to answer these interview questions in July of 2014. Interview by Erik SN of Negative Insight zine.

Quango interview

All answers by Chris Low, July 2014

1. The standard question: how did the band come together, and how does it differ from previous bands you've been in? What's the current line up?

The present line up is:
Richard Lewis - vocals
David Barnett - guitar
Johnny White - bass
Chris Low - drums
Quango first came about through my friend, and original Quango guitarist, Nuno who suggested forming a band with another mate of his, Richard Lewis of Hygiene. We subsequently met up, got along great and at our very first practice came up with four songs, the three on the EP ("Fatality," "Living In A Shithole" and "Quick Quid") and another, as yet unreleased, called "Viva Il Papa." We recorded the EP after only about five or six practices and never even expected it would be released on vinyl. We were amazed by the incredible reaction it got and all the interest in the band it generated. Due to one reason or another we only played a few gigs at this time -  originally with Richard also playing bass.  Nuno then left the band and was later replaced by my flatmate , and Part1 bassist, David Barnett who joined on guitar, with Johnny White who also plays in Hygiene with Richard joining on bass. So Quango is now 50% Hygiene; 50% Part1. Apologies for it all being very complicated and incestuous! Hopefully this line-up will stay together for a while as it seems pretty solid. So far!

2. Having played in prominent anarchist and political punk bands like Political Asylum, The Apostles, and Oi Polloi, did you feel a need to get away from serious politics with a project like Quango?

Obviously I think punk and politics go hand in hand and can't imagine it any other way, but after nearly 35 years of banging on about the same subjects in song lyrics you would think - and hope - bands might think of some other subjects to cover. The Quango songs have themes that are 'political' but we're not about trying to shove any message down anyone's throat. We like to think people are intelligent enough to interpret the lyrics and any 'message' they may have without it being spelt out for them. But to answer your question, it's not a conscious departure from bands I've played for in the past, Quango is just a lot more fun, while PART1 remain a more 'serious' project.

3. I had to look up the meaning of a 'quango,' as i'd never heard the word before your band. Can you please explain what it is for other ignorant Americans like myself?

A quango stands for a 'quasi-autonomous non-governmental organization'. It's not a term you hear much in politics now but you did hear of them a lot in the 1980s. Quangos basically functioned in the drawing up of government policies and were non-governmental bodies that served the purposes of the government, an example being the prison system. They served a purpose in giving governments a degree of separation from policy and it's implementation and a get-out clause should it fuck up (i.e. when there was a wave of prison riots in the '80s they could blame the quango rather than government and legislature).

4. I can't help but feel that the demo 7" sounds so much like a lost Rough Trade release or UK DIY record right down to the older looking layout and cover. How intentional was the sound, premise and aesthetic of the band? Were you consciously influenced by early Rough Trade releases or UK DIY bands like the Desperate Bicycles or Scrotum Poles?

I wouldn't say those bands you mention, but aesthetically, I must admit the Six Minute War and Fallout 7"s were a bit of an 'influence' graphically as I have always LOVED their appearance and that whole early '80s "photocopied A4 sheet folder round a 7" samizdat DIY aesthetic. Musically, it wasn't anything deliberate and more a matter of the songs being recorded in a friend's garden shed (really!!) on a 6-track Tascam recorder, which is about as basic as you can get other than a ghetto-blaster. I'm an absolute perfectionist and utterly obsessive when it comes to graphics and typography in particular and it took days of work to get the look and feel of the cover absolutely right. One of the images used is from a early 1980s photo-journalism mag which, by strange coincidence both myself and Richard found we had and loved a certain photo. All the images, and even the fonts used have a reason to be there and some (hidden) meaning or significance. But more than anything I just wanted it to look like a record I know I would buy were I to see it in a shop myself and have no idea about it other than the sleeve. I'm certainly as proud of the cover as I am of what's pressed on the vinyl which is something I can't say for many of the other records I've played on.

5. From an outside perspective, British culture seems very forward focused in that retro music is nowhere near as popular as it is here in America. For instance, there's few, if any, bands from England that sound like Discharge, Sacrilege, or Ripcord, yet there have been numerous bands from the States in recent years citing old UK bands as an influence and emulating their style. Why do you think this is, and what made you want to play a style heavily based on older bands?

Interesting question. Personally speaking, some of the punk bands I have always liked most have been ATV, Gang of 4, Crisis, Joy Division/Warsaw, early PIL, Six Minute War, Fallout, The Rondos and other late '70s/early '80s stuff. Myself, Richard and Nuno all shared many of those influences which is probably why the EP tracks sound like they do, but it certainly wasn't in any way whatsoever a deliberate emulation of those band's sound. I'd regard that as a very pointless exercise. Love Discharge (who doesn't??), but sorry to say I don't know Sacrilege or Ripcord. And, must admit I don't really know much about American punk bands as I never got into the hardcore scene. Though I do love Flipper.

6. With less focus in England on contemporary bands so closely resembling older bands, how has the reception been both live and to the 7"?

We've only played a few gigs so far. The best ones have been with Irish band The #1s last year, who we are playing with again this month, and looking forward to, and also with American indie band Howler, who had actually asked for us to play with them on their London date as they had got hold of the EP in Minneapolis and loved it! They were great guys and that's probably the best gig we've played so far. There's even a wonky video clip of us on YouTube if you search for "Quango Oslo."

7. When reading interviews with old UK punk bands, many mention how difficult it was getting noticed because they weren't from London or how thrilled they were to finally get their first London gig. Being based in London, do you feel that gives you more exposure or an inherent 'credibility' that other bands from less culturally prominent areas might have to fight for?

To be honest, I think it's possibly the opposite. There are now so many gigs going on in London most of them I don't even hear of. And also because everyone now seems to rely solely on Facebook to promote events if you aren't lucky enough to know anyone 'invited' to an event there's a chance it might escape your orbit! I certainly know many other areas in the UK (not to mention abroad) which have much, much better punk scenes than London. And, though I am only speaking for myself, I wouldn't say Quango have any great affinity with certain aspects of the London Punk scene and in fact, have possibly had greater support from bands, promoters and individuals which have no involvement with it.

8. Can you please describe what the song "Fatality" is about, and is it based on any actual events, or is it completely fictitious? It's my favorite song on the EP and kind of reminds me of Velvet Underground's "The Gift" with the spoken verses. I love it.

No, the words are recited verbatim from a news story in the Daily Telegraph newspaper that Richard had with him at the band practice where we came up with the song! He just read them out whilst we were jamming the tune and they seemed to fit so well he cut out the story and they became the lyrics to the song. I've always liked songs which just have a spoken narrative but hadn't considered the "Gift" similarity before, though you're absolutely right. The Apostles had a few songs structured like that too, "Last Train To Hellsville" and "A Rebel Without A Cause" being two which spring to mind. Though I suppose Gang of Four "Love Like Anthrax" would be the best known example, or the part in Joy Division "No Love Lost" - both fantastic songs. And by bands we all love so perhaps it was a subconscious influence that crept in?

9. Are there other contemporary London bands that you feel an affinity with?

Part1.... Hygiene.... We all like Sleaford Mods though they aren't from London.

10. Why was the song "Viva Il Papa 2" left off the 7" version of the demo?

I think that must have been Tim, the guy who very kindly put out the single's decision. I'm not too sure of the reason it wasn't included, tho as someone described it as being like a cross between Rudimentary Peni and Velvet Underground perhaps it wouldn't have fitted in too well with the others? Or being a good bit longer it might have been space? However,  if anyone would be interested in re-issuing the EP they're welcome to contact us at - - and they'd be more than welcome to add "Viva il Papa" to the release. It's my favourite of our songs as well.

11. What are the plans for the future? Do you have any new releases planned?

Nothing at present but now we have a stable line-up we hope to write more songs and gig more. Hopefully if all goes well we will record something in the future.

12. Well, records are what people love to read about and what makes zines sell, so can you please list your top 5 favorite UK DIY releases?

Ohhhh...... if you mean by 'DIY' independently released 7"s my top 5 would have to include - Six Minute War - "More Short Songs," Fallout - "Conscription" EP, Part1 - "Funeral Parade," The Apostles - "Blow It Up, Burn It Down, Kick It Till It Breaks," Ramleh - "8 Ball Corner Pocket." Plus please note I didn't drum on that first Apostles EP or Funeral Parade; I just love those two records and have done since the first time I ever heard them!

13. Lastly, how come no one gives a fuck about the Vital Disorders EPs? For my money, "Prams" and "Wargames" are two of my favorite songs of the era. Do people in the UK care??

I must say I had never heard of Vital Disorders until now!! Thanks for introducing them to me!

Contact Quango at:

Friday, October 17, 2014

Negative Insight #2 - Bristol Breakout

Negative Insight #2 - Bristol Breakout w/ Chaos UK 7" ($12.00 + postage)

Here is the second issue of Negative Insight, entitled the "Bristol Breakout" issue. With a focus on the deafening noise of the Bristol punk scene in the 1980s, it contains comprehensive interviews with Chaos UK, Disorder, and Riot City Records founder Simon Edwards. The issue features many previously unpublished photos from the personal archives of band members and others involved in the scene, a large four panel fold out poster, articles, and more. It comes accompanied by a Chaos UK 7" containing two rare studio tracks recorded in 1981 and 1983 and packaged in a Riot City inspired sleeve. This issue is printed as a professional magazine on coated paper instead of the previous zine style, but with all layouts done in the traditional cut 'n paste format with typewriter text. This should appeal to fans of British hardcore, 1980s layouts, and those who enjoy reading about drug abuse and living the chaos.

USA: $15.00 ppd. / Canada and Mexico: $26.00 ppd. / World: $30.00 ppd.
Please send PayPal to .

For wholesale inquiries ($9.00 each + postage) or other questions, email .

Magazine preview photos (shit quality, almost as bad as my YouTube 'commercial'):

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Carcass interview from 1990

This Carcass interview comes care of long time pen pal and all around rager Luc from France. Many people know Luc from his various bands such as Face Up To It! and Gasmask Terrör as well as running the label Ratbone Records. But in the late '80s through 1990, he also edited a zine under the name of Poulets Basquaise which featured interviews with Carcass, Entombed, Carnage, Benediction, Agathocles, Funebre, Paradise Lost, Immolation, Pungent Stench, Grave and more. An interview was also sent out to Mick Harris of Napalm Death upon the release of "Scum," but Luc said he forgot to include an IRC and therefore never received a reply. Too bad.

As Luc states,
Poulets Basquaise "was a balance of hardcore, punk and thrash metal. I was super young (13-15) and it shows. By issue 4 I had gotten super into the emerging underground death metal scene." The youthful naivete is evident, but there's a sincerity too that's obvious, and that's what makes it all worthwhile.

Luc was kind enough to scan in the Carcass interview from issue #4 (1990) and allow me to post it up. It's a short and interesting two page read. No, it's not the most in depth, but it's still interesting to read where the members of Carcass' heads were at shortly after their "Symphonies Of Sickness" album had come out in 1989.

It should also be noted how much better generic zine layouts of the era look back then than what passes for 'good' zine layouts now. Quite a disparity really in terms of how 'average' quality back then would be considered great today. If there's any 15 year olds writing zines today, they'd be hard pressed to put out something this good looking.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Out Cold interview from 1998

Like the previous post below, this Out Cold interview was also done for my teenage punk zine called Who Cares? fanzine (Issue #7). As noted in the A Global Threat interview below, I was 16 years old at the time and into UK punk and US HC. When I discovered that Out Cold were from the suburbs from Boston and living only 10 minutes away, I remember it blowing my teenage mind. How could these guys live so close and be this great, and I didn't even know them? Turns out the members of Out Cold were a lot older than me and had formed in the late '80s, put out a bunch of records, and been virtually ignored outside of Europe for most of their career to that point. But I LOVED this band from the moment I first heard them, and having them be so local only raised my interest in them.

I wrote them for an interview in the summer of 1998, if my memory serves correct. A few months went by, and i never heard anything back. Then one day, I came home from school and my mom said there was a weird message on my family's answering machine for me. I played it and heard "Hi, Erik, this is Mark from Out Cold calling you about that interview you sent to us a while back. Call me at [phone number], and we can schedule a time to do that if you're still interested." First off, my parents didn't know I did a zine. Like anybody who grew up as a teenage punk in the '90s, your parents thought punk was weird, so i always just found it best to keep everything a secret. The less they knew, the better. So how was I going to justify this? I don't remember. Secondly, I'd never conducted an in person interview in my life and was really not that assertive and was awkward as fuck. Nor did I have the means to tape record an interview. Still I called Mark back, and he must have realized I was very young by my voice. He said he hoped it was alright he'd left a message and said he'd gotten my number by looking it up in the phone book (back when people used phone books), and we managed to arrange a time to meet him at a bagel shop near his house in Dracut. I was so nervous. Scared to death is more like it. I remember I used an old answering machine found in my attic to record the interview on, and I still have the tape today. The interview went well enough, and Mark and a bit later on John (Out Cold drummer) became friendly with me. I really looked up to them, and they always treated me very well. A short time later, Mark called me again to ask me to conduct an interview for Out Cold that MRR had requested. I think I was 17 years old by that time, and I was being asked to interview my favorite local band for the mighty MRR. I thought I'd topped out in life. I'd peaked.

Mark Sheehan unfortunately passed away in 2010. It was very sad. He was always very kind to me, and I always appreciated how he treated me as a human being and not like some idiot when I was 16. But I think it showed the type of person he was deep down. When Mark passed, Out Cold effectively ended, although some material was released posthumously. So here is the interview. It's not great, but it does show some improvement over the A Global Threat interview below. Hope folks enjoy.

A Global Threat interview from 1998

In 1998, i was 16 years old and into bands like Aus-Rotten, Code 13, The Unseen, Toxic Narcotic, and a lot of stuff like that plus older UK82 and US HC bands. It was the times. I was young and enthusiastic and had a zine that was sort of about punk and sort of about BMX/skateboarding by the name of Who Cares? fanzine. By any measure, it was your typical teenage punk zine both in content and in execution. So it wasn't very good. But, back then, it was all about the youthful enthusiasm instead of the quality of content.

Anyway, this interview was conducted with Brett Threat of A Global Threat a short time after their first 7" came out. It was originally printed in issue #6 of my zine, which came out in either the spring or summer of 1998. This is when A Global Threat were still living in Maine and one of the "Maine Punx - Fuck You" bands. As evidenced by the questions, they also had a track on a Beer City Records CD compilation. The interview is not very thorough, but Brett Threat was kind enough to answer my superficial and trite questions seriously. He was kicked out of A Global Threat a short time after they relocated to Boston. I think I was at the last AGT show that he played in the band. I don't remember exactly where it was, but i think it might have been at the Elvis Room in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I also think the Casualties were supposed to play that show, but of course they didn't show up (or were advertised on the flyer but never even contacted -- who knows). It was an odd time in punk. Sometimes i think back to those times and wonder where so many of the people that I knew back then are now. But like the name of the zine, really, Who Cares?

It should be noted that the first page of the interview here was printed out from the original Boston Punk website, haha. Also, I blanked out the second column on the last page because it was just poorly written reviews.