Jet is known to visit the forum on a regular basis and seemed an ideal candidate for the first BUT Q&A session with a current band member. The questions cover a wide range of topics and were provided by forum members who’s usernames are shown in brackets after each question:
What gives you the greatest satisfaction regarding the band? (SwordSparkle)
Gigs, plain and simple.
Despite problems with your health over the years you have always returned to the drum stool – what keeps you going? What motivates you? (Evonx)
Same answer, the gigs. I wouldn’t want to retire so long as I’m gig able.
Would you mind if the band ever continued without you if you retired? (Jason)
No, why would I?
Have there been any songs where you have been creating together and thought “wow, this one is REALLY something special”? (Shah)
That’s so hard, because, and to sound rather conceited, you tend to think that, with most of them. It’s only much later that you may realise it perhaps wasn’t your greatest creation. But then you need to be a bit of an optimist to be doing what we do.
Has the methodology the band uses to write/construct songs changed at all from the early days? (Kincajou)
As a rule, we just get into a room and stitch ideas together. That happens most of the time but over the decades there have been many deviations from that norm. It has a lot to do with where we are at any particular time. The location has changed many times, too many to recall.
Do the band ever get together “on the road” for example to get something down quickly, maybe a great idea has formed on tour or is it always left for a set time and a place? (theraven1979)
Yes. Exactly that does/has happened, but it’s not something that forms part of a weekly, or monthly or even yearly pattern. Creating music isn’t like say, driving a bus. You can do that whenever you want, or when you’re told to. Whereas most writers can only write when they feel inspired to. It’s been said that everyone has one great idea at some time in their life, it’s whether they have any follow-up that sorts the men from the boys.
How do you get the right drum pattern/feel for the song? Do you mull it over thinking what would fit with the bass JJ is laying down for example? (theraven1979)
Mostly, I would develop my ideas alongside everyone else and work closely with JJ to get a tight fit between the two instruments’ parts. It’s a feature of this particular band that I/we feel very strongly that this tight co-operation makes for a dynamic powerhouse that typifies what we do.
Some of you may know that at gigs, I have always had a dedicated bass monitor on my right. Since day one, JJ and I have worked doggedly at this coalescence of the rhythm section. It’s part of the Stranglers’ sound. So that’s the principal objective. Then we all go home with a demo of what we’ve done on any particular day and review. Everything then gets honed and developed on subsequent re-workings.
Do you regret (with hindsight) using a drum machine on some of the 80’s albums? (Dan-Electro)
No, it was the thing to do at the time.
Are you still fascinated by UFOs, men in black etc, and do you still hold the same opinions to those of 30-plus years ago? (Bobinblack)
Oh yes. If anything, the subject has become even more intriguing. Years ago, you were considered a nut if you were interested in UFO’s, whereas today, the opposite is true.
What’s exciting you in this field at the moment? Any particular writers/theories/research that’s currently of interest? Maybe some good sites online you recommend for further reading? (theraven1979)
Well yes, yes, yes. There’s plenty to get excited about. The “field” you refer to, for me, is anything to do with the proposition that we, this planet, may – at some previous time – have been visited by extraterrestrials. If true of course, this would have major implications for us mere mortals.
Now firstly, I would want to make clear that I don’t believe this, I hope I don’t believe anything, I think people who believe are misguided. What on earth is the point of believing, isn’t it better to seek the truth? On the contrary, I want to know, I want to discover the truth. That for me, is the objective of my interest.
So yes, there’s much of interest to be read, as in fact there always has been, and I should point out that there is a lot out there that is both fanciful and absurd, but it’s well to remember that 100 years ago, the ideas of Jules Verne were viewed as crazy, but few would say that today. History has a habit of catching up with fantasy.
Nevertheless, even if the available sources amount to theoretical nonsense it’s surely at least worthy of consideration, for if man fails to question, he will never discover.
Current state-of-the-art UFO/alien research/theory is centred around the, ‘Archaeology, Astronautics and SETI Research Association’ (A.A.S. R.A.). They produce a periodical publication called ‘Legendary Times’ and are contactible via their website here.
Located in California, U.S.A., the A.A.S.R.A. are a small organisation dedicated to researching the subject as in the above and are the people behind the recent ‘Ancient Aliens’ TV series, first screened on the History Channel.
Anyone who takes delivery of their magazine – as I do – will be amazed at the extent and diversity of the featured subject matter, much of which has found it’s way into the band’s lyrical output, particularly across the M.I.B. period.
On visiting the LT website you will find contacts for all sorts of related books programmes and lectures, a wealth of information.
Have the band considered an acoustic tour of the UK? (IceCube)
Yes, it has been discussed but it just hasn’t come about, mainly I suppose, because there always seem to be greater priorities. Perhaps when we get our Zimmer frames!
Has acceptance always been a struggle, or do you value your Outsider status? (Zontar)
I’d say both really. It seems that we’re one of those bands that you either love or hate. I suppose to put it into popular phraseology, we’re a Marmite band. We have always treasured our ‘outside’ status. There is so much bullshit in music, and that’s fine for those who love bullshit, but we’ve never been ‘fashion pop’, we’re just about music, and hopefully, with a least a modicum of humour.
Would you like to see the return of Strangled? (Stevie.T-‘up north’)
It would be nice, but sadly the concept would now be even more difficult to fund and maintain, than it ever was during the days of print. I’m glad that we switched to ‘electronic’ when we did. I think it would have been inevitable anyway, as it would probably have collapsed into chaos eventually, as it was so labour intensive not to mention expensive. Modern technology has brought so much with it. It’s much, much cheaper, certainly within the parameters in which we operate, and speed of course, it’s now lightening fast compared to the bad old days. You can now write a piece and have it in front of the readers the same day. In the old days, that was simply impossible.
Do you think more commercial success might have come your way with a less aggressive sounding name? (Manuinblack)
That could be true but then who knows? There’s no way of really finding out.
Following Hugh’s departure in 1990 the band made the collective decision to continue. If you hadn’t, have you any idea which direction your life might have taken? (Freddie Laker)
No. At the time there wasn’t actually an opportunity to think about that. We were pretty busy organizing a metamorphosis, the idea of doing something entirely different didn’t arise. Over the years, the band had never been entirely static. We were/are used to personnel coming and going from time to time. There was Hans, the guitarist, then a sax player, later John Ellis, over a long period, then a whole series of brass players. The situation in 1990 was significant, but it terms of strategy, we had been there before. So speaking personally, I never got to ask myself that question.
There is a recent trend for bands to play seminal album sets in full. The Stranglers will be performing Black and White at the convention. Would you ever consider playing other albums in concert? (Play It Cool)
Well, you know what they say, never say never.
Is there anything special planned for the 40th anniversary in 2014? (Gizzard)
Nope, least not as yet.
In today’s age of the internet, how do you still keep a mystique about yourself? Are you more open today than you were in the 80s? (Pigeon)
But do I? I’ve been doing a lot of talking on the net lately, and maybe I am.
What is your favourite meal? (Icecube)
A simple question, so difficult to answer. I can’t bring that down to one dish, but in general terms, fish.
Who would be your five fantasy dinner party guests? (Litrelips)
Prof Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, P J Proby, Homer Simpson, Buddy Holly.
Jet’s dinner gueslist: (L-R) Dawkins, Hitchens, Proby, Simpson, Holly
Would you ever consider doing an autobiography? (Dan-Electro)
Never say never.
Do you have a favourite Stranglers song to play and what is it? (Clairetheduchess)
I’m trying to be honest here, no. I never think about stuff like that, admittedly I’m weird. But, I know we aren’t all like that, I often hear Baz saying “wow, I love playing that one”. I guess it would be boring if we were all the same.
What is/was your favourite live venue and why? (Glasgeo)
There’s a couple really. The Glasgow Apollo. It was always so wild. And for sentimental reasons – although I would hate to be considered sentimental – the London Roundhouse. This is mostly because of our history with it. We played there so much in the early days, and it was quite a bit different than to-day (not so posh) and because of the shape of the arena you get such a great view of everything. Then back in the seventies we broke some kind of venue record. Great days.
Do you have a home studio setup and are your drums set up at home? (Derbyducksinblack)
Is it getting more difficult to write and record albums? (Shah)
I’m not sure in what sense you mean that, but I can’t think of anything I could call “more difficult”.
What are your views on fans remastering and sharing live recordings from the band’s career? (theraven1979)
I don’t know, do they?
Would you relish the challenge of starting out now in age of the internet with file sharing and downloads? (Jamesgreenfield)
Now that is something I have thought about, and I have no idea how we would get started and I’m not sure how anyone does these days. It’s all so very different, which I suppose is to be expected.
Do you listen to music at all these days when you’re not working with the Stranglers, if so are there any bands/artists you find interesting? (Gizzard)
Actually, not a great deal. I have the radio on when circumstances allow and love a good song when I hear one but I don’t ‘study’ music. I really don’t have a good idea about who’s doing what and I rarely go to gigs, that’s what I do for a living!
You have done a lot of travelling over the years. What countries or places have surprised you the most in either a nice way or a nasty way? (Black Leather Jacket)
Mmmmmm. Not sure “surprised” is the right word. I think we have all seen or heard something about most countries, in the present world of movies, TV and internet communications, at one time or another, so perhaps, ‘interesting’ might be more appropriate. In that regard, Japan takes a lot of beating. It just looks so different. All those billboards you can’t understand a word of and those street cleaners, RUNNING around picking up litter!
On the other hand, tours of Kosovo and Bosnia were pretty depressing in terms of the state of the place.
Most fans would agree that The Raven is their favourite album. One of the more interesting facets of the album are your drum patterns. They are varied, unique, interesting, creative and really important to songs like Baroque, Shah, Ice, Genetix. This was quite different to anything before it, bar Do You Wanna and Nice n Sleazy. And continued on into the Meninblack period, with increased use of toms as rhythmic drivers of songs (JLNOE, Waiting for the MIB, Hallow, Turn TC Turn). What happened in Paris in 1979, or just before? What led to you almost, it appears, ‘re-thinking’ how drums should weave into the songs of the band? (Shah)
This is a really interesting question. Well firstly, what happened in 1979 is a big ask. You may recall that memory issues were alluded to in my recent feature ‘For All The Wrong Reasons’. I was then referring to the mystery about why it is, that we remember some things and not others, and so, as it happens, I have no recollection of any event during 1979 being a catalyst for a “re-thinking” in the way that you suppose. With a unique knowledge about my personal modus operandi, it seems more likely to me, that the “what happened”, was no more than my rhythmical riposte, to the song structures evolving at the time.
It is supposed by many, that the drum part/track of a particular song, is just some old bit of drumming stuck onto the track, because that’s what drummers do, and in many cases that is perfectly true. However, that simplistic view, belies the fact that in many cases, what really is happening, is an integration of both musical notes and rhythmical notes. The two not being separate, but consolidated into one mellifluous composition.
In these circumstances, it should not be surprising that the drum/percussion part of a song is entirely related to the substance and character of that song, as is also the bass part, or guitar part, or keyboard part. To put it another way, you wouldn’t stick the drums from say, Hanging Around, into Relentless, it just wouldn’t fit, nor would it be appropriate. It flows from that, that what the drummer will do is entirely dependant on that very same – and probably unique – substance and character.
So, what is going on here, is the fundamental principle, that a really interesting song/melody, will probably attract an equally interesting drum/percussion part, not just for the hell of it, but in order to integrate in sympathy with it. Clever stuff. In fact, clever enough to make the job really interesting.
Of course, different drummers are different people, as are all musicians. Different people do different things. And so it is that each and any individual working a new song would inevitably imprint his or her signature by way of the nature of their own individuality. The people in any given band, constitute the very chemistry of it. Any alteration to that chemistry – like with actual chemistry – will result in a change in the music emanating from it. This could be good, or bad, depending on your point of view, but it cannot be the same. I’m not talking here about an orchestra or band playing a piece of music put in front of them, in that situation they would be playing something, the style of which, was already defined. I’m talking about the creative process.
And so any “weaving” of drums, would always depend on the detail of a song, not what may have happened in the studio, other than the development of that song. Accordingly, had another individual been involved in the events in that studio back in 1979, the results would very probably have been entirely different. It all boils down to the essence of the song, and who’s working it. The DNA of any given piece will itself, enthuse and inspire, or it can do the opposite. I can’t put it any simpler than, the nitty gritty, is in the ditty!
Returning to my earlier point, yes, some drummers do or would, stick “some old bit of drumming” in as his contribution, and others – like so many – would be more concerned about demonstrating to the listener, the quality of his abilities, rather than seeking a part, compatible with the character of the song. There are different horses for different courses.
All this of course, is why different people, like different bands, and for many and different reasons. By the same token, the same question posed to different people, would no doubt secure an entirely different answer!
The live version of Thrown Away from 1980-81 was so much more energetic than the Munich recorded version. A lot of that has to do with the drumming. In retrospect, do you think you, maybe, should have recorded the song in a less syncopated way and more in line with the fantastic live style? (Shah)
Thrown Away was a victim of a dilemma faced by all bands at one time or another. New bands, inevitably find themselves flogging around the circuits in an attempt to perfect their craft, establish a reputation and eventually secure a recording contract. That’s the way it goes and in that, we were no exception. By the time the contract is signed, the band are usually note perfect on the material they have been perfecting for what is usually a number of years.
Once a band is into that recording phase of their career, they begin to progress into what might be called the ‘pressure’ period. That is to say, new songs to be recorded, are suddenly just that, new. That being so, sooner-or-later, they will find they have put something down which on later reflection, wasn’t subjected to the same level of development as the earlier songs. The result of this, is that the songs then enter into the maelstrom of live performance where they undergo a change which might have been more desirable had it been undertaken in the first place. Enter Thrown Away! It happens to everyone.
Thanks to Jet, Jim the forum webmaster and all forum members who contributed questions…