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:

No comments: