Revenge of The Psychotronic Man are still smoking
Their gigs and rehearsal space do not appear in the Lonely Planet or any other guide to England's second city, but three spirited punk and general music loving renegades based in Manchester, Andy Psychotronic (bass/vocals), Mat Woods (Guitar/vocals) and Big Hands. Through their forum for fast paced, punk fuelled parading of Revenge of The Psychotronic Man (ROTPM) are flying the flag for the underdog and creating a community. Andy and company also spend their time running a fresh, growing and new talent unveiling local independent label TNS Records, as well as continuing to provide cutting edge commentary and off-kilter observations through their well established Manchester distributed 'zine That's Not Skanking.
The Buzzcocks may have started Manchester's association with punk and 3CR has consistently kept the interest in it going, but ROTPM continue to keep Manchester's underground scene rumbling with their potent sound and fun spirit. They are a band who has taken control of their own destiny and celebrated this fact on May 1st, with a release of swift guitar licking and rustic punk flavoured abandon in the form of their new album, 'Make Pigs Smoke'. The trio gladly agreed to share their wisdom on most aspects of music and, how they continue to communicate their fresh perspective on life through several outlets.
On the TNS Punk And Ska compilation you choose to give people a taste of your rugged anthem building ability Through the Dead Kennedy's skirting, 'Get Pissed, Talk Shit, Dance Like An Idiot'. Do you agree that this song encapsulates the old punk spirit and do you feel that it gives people a good impression as to what ROTPM is about?
Andy) I think the song definitely gives people a good impression of what the band is about, because it's basically what we do ha-ha. It's a fun song about just going out and enjoying yourself, living for the moment and not giving a shit about what people think. I think that attitude is definitely a part of punk spirit. Sometimes punk takes itself too seriously these days, but we don't.
Matt) It's as Andy says, more a set of instructions than a song. It's the Revengifesto, and hasn't let us down so far, to my knowledge.
Big Hands) I think all three things could be overkill. It's bad enough when we do one of those things never mind all of them.
You're now renowned for the running your own independent/underground championing label, TNS Records. In my mind the most frustrating thing about running such a label is that if and when success comes for bands like the Fractions, Stand Out Riot and yourselves then you will no doubt have to handover the reigns to a major/bigger label? Is this frustrating or do you think it is getting easier nowadays for an Independent Label to grow with their artists?
Andy) A big reason why we started TNS was to help bands we like to move onto bigger and better things so we certainly don't begrudge anyone that sort of opportunity. I think that one of the TNS bands becoming bigger could actually really help the label as they would be exposed to a bigger audience and people would check out the back catalogue and it would also give us a reputation for finding great bands.
I think that the label is growing all the time, but we are never gonna be able to offer some of the opportunities bigger labels can. I'd be really happy if the bands got bigger as we would have achieved something and all the bands deserve to be heard by more people than at present. Hopefully the label can get to a point where we can support the bands at a higher level but we'll have to see.
Are split EPs/albums something that bands should do more of? It was a successful approach for Revenge of The Psychotronic Man and The Fractions? As a music purchaser yourself do you think it is a credit crunch busting way of continuing to be able to afford a wide range of music and try out new bands, as well as keeping up with your favourite one?
Andy) I think splits are a really good way to introduce people to new bands and from a label perspective it was a good way to get more than one band out at the same time to more people. I think it worked well as we were starting out as a label.
It probably only works for EPs though. For me an album is always gonna be better with just one band. I really like our split with the Fractions as I'm a huge fan of them anyway and I think it's a quality EP overall, but I think if we did another split in the future it would be nice to do one with a band from further afield or maybe even abroad. TNS has a 3 way split planned for Stand Out Riot/Sense of Urgency/A War Against Sound so it will be interesting to see how it works with three bands.
Matt) Splits are good, as it means that even if you only sell a few to your mates and the other band does too, at least your respective mates will hear a new band. They always seem like good value too.
Big Hands) If the right bands are paired up I think they are a great way for both promoting your music as a band and hearing new music as a listener because you get to hear bands that you might never have come across and get heard by people who have bought the CD for the other band. Basically you're forcing your music on other bands fans, if people don't want to buy our CDs we will find ways to make them ha-ha!
Which two bands would you like to see produce a split EP/Album? Do you think the music industry would be ready to have Stiff Little Fingers and Amy Winehouse on one easy to carry disc?
Matt) Napalm Death and The Slackers covering each other please.
Big Hands) Cliff Richard vs Metallica?
Andy) If I could get Earth Song by Michael Jackson and the Anfield Rap on the same CD I would be a very happy man. Maybe they could cover each other, I'd love to hear the Liverpool squad singing Earth Song.
In a time when the freedom of movement of people from one country/place to another is as controversial as ever. Do you think that Sham 69 should still be allowed to tour?
Matt) Sham 69 - the clue is in the name these days. With or without Pursey et al, the zeitgeist spirit of some of these bands has passed and they are now playing for nostalgia/big bucks only. I think there are bands playing now and have been ever since who were/are better than some of the old guard, but will never achieve the same following as they are out of step a bit - I would rather watch the Kirkz or D'Corner Bois (especially for a fiver in a pub) than pay £30+ to see the likes of Chelsea, The Cockney Rejects or the Sex Pistols, although Cocksparrer do still rip it up live.
Andy) I'm afraid I don't know enough about how this all works to comment in an informed way, but I do know it's quite hard for UK bands to play America and vice versa. An American band I had booked to play my night called FBS have been refused work visas so have pulled out.
Has the song-writing process changed for you over the years?
Andy) We have had line up changes so things are a little different. We have always tended to write songs individually and bring them to practise and maybe make some alterations. Myself and Davey wrote a couple between us but then he moved to London to work as a ski instructor. For the new album, myself and Matt wrote most of the music individually, but a few of the newer songs came out of pissing around with riffs at the practise room and I think they are some of the best tunes so I think in the future we may well write as a band much more frequently, which should be lots of fun.
Matt) I just rub myself on a guitar until I am escorted away.
Big Hands) It's become easier for me since Matt joined as he can play the drums as well. Instead of Andy or in the past, Dave saying why don't you try going bum dum da de dum da ????? Matt just shows me what he means instead. On the other hand he makes me play faster which 1. I didn't think was possible and 2. hurts.
In your 'zine That's Not Skanking, you recently hit out at unscrupulous promoters and venues who charge bands to play. This is music's equivalent to vanity publishing and as being a rock star is a cool as ever, do you think that people will ever stop cashing in on the dreams of others? How effective can the policy that you often adopt of gig sharing be in combating this unfortunate practice?
Andy) The people who put these gigs on are quite clever with how they word things and con bands to an extent. Basically they offer gigs, but tell bands they have to sell tickets to play, taking most of the money themselves. In reality the band is only booked for their ability to sell tickets and although they do get a few quid if they sell them all the promoter gets more for doing no work and however the band look at it they have paid to play as they hand over that sum of money to the promoter in return for the gig. Anyway, the full article I wrote can be read at www.tnsrecords.co.uk in the fanzine section.
Basically all this means that lazy money grabbing promoters with no interest in music can prosper and bands should avoid these gigs at all costs. Unfortunately it's always going to happen unless bands boycott them, which won't happen. To an extent I think bands only have themselves to blame anyway and to be honest I don't have much time for people who want to be 'rock stars' anyway. If they are only doing music to get famous then they will encounter hundreds of money grabbing, music industry dick heads so they may as well get used to it all by working with these promoters from day one.
Anyway, after that rant I would like to say that within the punk and ska scene there is no need to play these gigs as there is such a solid community nationally with bands putting on gigs themselves and doing gig swaps to get good bands on in their own towns and to play further afield. It's really amazing to be a part of that and too be honest without that DIY community punk spirit our band wouldn't exist.
Matt) I don't see a problem with people making money from music, but pay-to-play is just the first step on the ladder of suckitude; all the 'biz people', managers and cocaine that this entails could be good, could be great- but will most likely be bad, and you'll end up shooting yourself in a field surrounded by copies of your difficult sophomore album, produced by Mark Ronson's left bollock. Don't do pay to play. It kills.
Big Hands) I think Andy covered most bases there but the way I see it is if you can sell 50 odd tickets for a gig somewhere then what's the point in going to a promoter and giving them the majority of the cash when you can put the gig on yourself. I'd much prefer to be paid fuck all for a gig if it's a decent gig put on by a decent promoter than be paid 50 odd quid for selling 50 odd tickets for a cock.
You now have a few UK tours under your belt. What venue, town or city produces the best Moshage?
Andy) I think there has only ever been about 3 moshages (mosh pit with dog toy sausages) and I think they have all been in Manchester. It is a real shame we haven't kept up this tradition. We really need to invest in some more Psychotronic sausages and get it going again ha-ha.
Matt) Some of the more mental people I've seen have been in Derry, Prague and possibly even good ol' Manchester... As far as venues, The Vic in Derby, Junktion7 in Notts and The Old Wharf in Birmingham get my vote as 'ace', along with nods to great venues lost, like the Castle in Manchester, the Market Tavern in Brum and the Attic in Leicester, all much-missed.
What do you think of the state of US punk at the moment?
Matt) The US has a huge amount of quality bands, a lot of my favourites like Zeke and The Dwarves are very uniquely American sounding as well, the pedal-to-the-metal nastiness that links back to the Bay Area thrash bands like Metallica and Slayer. America has also produced some top ska, particularly NYC with the Slackers and King Django etc. That said, I have always had a bit of a hard-on for Canadian punk like Nomeansno and DOA... It's hard for me to comment on the current state though as I pretty much listen to Zeke exclusively, they are the fucking tits.
Andy) As with UK punk it has splintered into lots of different sub-genres so it's hard to say, especially because it's such a huge place. Some of my favourite bands are American. The Lawrence Arms are my favourite band and I love Zeke although I'll leave the Zeke worshipping to Mr Woods. I'm not too sure what the more underground scenes are like, but through the label we have started to make a few contacts over there so there is certainly exciting stuff going on.
Big Hands) I'm a bit lame when it comes to getting into new bands, I think I'm getting a bit old. However, if the new Offspring album is anything to go by then US punk needs a lot of help, maybe we should go over there and teach them how it's done.
Do you not think that a Punk/Alternative Festival in Manchester would be a good way to advertise the growing strength of underground Mancunian Music? If you were to run it would you invite the Buzzcocks to play?
Andy) This gives me a brilliant opportunity to shamelessly self promote. First of all TNS was very much involved in the Strummer Camp festival.
Also, TNS, Bomb Ibiza and Slit Records will be putting on a 3 day festival called Ignition at Retro bar, Manchester on August bank holiday. It's the same weekend as Reading/Leeds, which may seem daft, but we did it last year and it was very busy and it will be far cheaper than Leeds. I like the Buzzcocks so if they will play for £250 they can headline Saturday night ha-ha.
Matt) The Ignition weekend is exciting for me because it isn't relying on some pre-ordained 'festival favourites', or playing safe- its new interesting bands booked by music lovers who aren't looking to pay for a squad of portaloos, and it's going to be fucking great. Strummercamp was a good weekend too, these aren't the only things happening even round the North-West, so there's plenty on. I ain't got a problem with Buzzcocks either, they at least have still been writing, and producing new music, and by all accounts are still slaying live. Prefer 3CR though for 'Manchester punk'.
Revenge of The Psychotronic Man's new 14 track album 'Make Pigs Smoke' is out now on TNS. You can buy it from the webstore at www.tnsrecords.co.uk for just £6.