A bit of a spur of the moment
one this. Not a particularly Vague band you might think, but
names can be deceptive. UK DECAY has often been mistaken for
a Bushell band. The publicity they get on the back of ‘Exploited’
leathers hasn’t helped matters. That’s usually good
enough reason for me to give a band a good slagging but lead
singer Abbo was an old Ants fan. Names can be misleading.
I can remember being briefly
impressed by them at last years Futurama but my brain had
been too abused for anything to register. Then at the start
of this year you just couldn’t get away from them. They
nearly blew Killing Joke off at the Palais and probably would
have given TOH similar treatment if certain plugs had not
been pulled. I was much impressed Abbo had picked up a few
tricks from vintage Adam and their primal punk sound could
soon surpass the Joke themselves.
So I took their agent Paul Boswell up on his suggestion of
an interview and we tottered round to the Marquee to see what
they had to say for themselves. We dig Abbo out from amongst
his mutant punk followers. He's easy to spot. His beaming
smile and enthusiastic eyes stand out in the murky depths
of the Marquee. After fumbled introductions from us, Abbo
is embarrassingly enthusiastic about an interview and before
we realise it he's grabbed Spon and Eddie and were sitting
in the bar over a hot cassette recorder.
TOM : DON'T YOU FIND PEOPLE
GET PRECONCEPTIONS ABOUT THE NAME?
ABBO: We used to. The name was instigated about 3 years ago
from the song 'UK Decay' that became our first single. 'UK Decay'
isn't so much a dig at the UK in decline, no hope type job,
it's more an optimistic use of the word in the decadent sense.
UK Decadence. ie. Putting forward something different musically
and idealistically. The name just stuck. It's the decadence
of the UK. The youth in this country are the most contemporary
for-thinking in the world. I don't mean that in a bigoted, conceited
sense, but in a musical sense the revolution happened here in
the mid-70s. It's now spreading worldwide. Kids everywhere are
faced with the same problems, basically the same outlook on
life. Music in the Punk sense has had a lot to do with this
TOM : DO YOU STILL SEE YOURSELVES AS WORKING FROM A PUNK BASIS?
SPON : The original ideology, yeah…
ABBO : I'm totally against the Pistols nihilism, the 'No future'
thing was just hopeless. I'd like to think in a more optimistic
TOM : I THINK THE PISTOLS WENT STRAIGHT TO THE POINT. THE HUMOUR
WAS TONGUE IN CHEEK. IT WASN'T IN A NEGATIVE WAY
ABBO : That was the beauty of it. Its just people have taken
it the wrong way. 'We've got no future man, glue, pissed, drugs.
It's an escapism
TOM : ITS BEEN DILUTED DOWN BUT THAT HAD TO HAPPEN
ABBO : It had. The pistols acted as a catalyst but its been
taken to the extremes, mainly for financial reasons.
TOM : SO WERE YOU MORE INSPIRED TO GET A BAND TOGETHER BY THE
ANTS THAN THE PISTOLS?
ABBO: I think my role in the music scene was a lot more to do
with the Ants … or the Banshees. They sent off some wave of
positive thinking that I'd never seen before.
TOM : IT'S THE SAME WITH US REALLY. WE STARTED ALL THIS UP MORE
THROUGH THE ANTS AND THE BANSHEES THAN THE PISTOLS AND THE CLASH.
SPON : Well the Clash and the Pistols were more like standard
rock bands. The music wasn't very different really, but the
Banshees come along and put in variable drum rhythms and guitar
ABBO : Its like the Crass position at the moment. I'm totally
in favour of their ideals but they're limiting themselves by
carrying on the style of music. They're limiting the possibilities
of their idealism. They are there as an idealistic band to put
forward opinions, rather than as a musical entity. If they really
want to change the world, they shouldn't alienate themselves
with their minimalist music.
TOM : I THINK THEY LIMIT THEMSELVES WITH THEIR LACK OF HUMOUR
AS WELL…HOW IMPORTANT IS HUMOUR TO YOU?
SPON: You've got to have humour haven't you?
TOM : IN STEVE KEATONS SOUNDS THING YOU CAME ACROSS AS VERY
DARK AND SINISTER.
ABBO : The trouble is that was edited. It's his style. Steve
Keaton's a good writer. He's one of the few journalists I know
who are actually in touch with what's going on. There's him,
Mick Mercer and Mick Sinclair. (Ahem. Haven't you forgot someone.
Ed.) It's not just for the sake of creating crazes. They're
actually going out and looking at new bands.
TOM : DO YOU SEE YOURSELVES OR THE LIKES OF DANSE SOCIETY FILLING
IN THE CULT BANDS GAP THAT THE ANTS AND BANSHEES LEFT?
ABBO : Its hard
for me to judge being in the band. Loads of people have compared
us to the Ants, but not musically or idealistically. A lot of
people come to our gigs and our singles are riding high in the
independent charts but you can't read about us in the music
papers. You just cant find anything out about the band and that's
what makes it a cult. Like the Ants we pack places out in London
but fall flat on our faces in places like Hull and Grimsby.
TOM : YEAH, WHENEVER
WE SEEM TO GO TO A GIG IN LONDON, YOU'RE ON THE BILL, BUT HOW
DO YOU GET ON OUT IN THE PROVINCES?
ABBO : There's
areas like Manchester, Bristol, Cardiff, Northampton, Preston
where we get big audiences, but you can go just down the road
to Brum and only about 100 people will turn up and go 'Oh Christ,
what's this? It aint fast enough.' Again I think a lot of it
is the misconceptions with the name, but the awareness is growing
TOM : AS WITH
CRASS, DO YOU MIND EXPLOITED FANS COMING TO YOUR GIGS OR DO
YOU TRY TO CONVERT THEM?
ABBO : I think
we have such a cross section at our gigs. I think its great.
It's fair enough preaching to the converted. But bands like
Linx are singing politico songs in the funky disco media, that
doesn't usually put over any political ideas.
It's usually totally
escapist. That's going to an audience that wouldn't normally
think about it (If at all). Then I get a bit confused and I
look at Linx and I look at Crass and I think who's doing the
TOM : CAN YOU
SEE YOURSELVES EVER GETTING INTO THE CHARTS OR ANYTNHING LIKE
ABBO: We wouldn't
aim at it. It would have to come really. I'm totally disorientated
with TOTPS, first seeing the Ants on there, I nearly dropped
dead, then Theatre of Hate, then Killing Joke! - Conversation
drifts off into nostalgia about the Ants.
TOM : LOOKING
AT IT NOW, ADAM WAS ALWAYS A BIT DODGY. I CANT SEE THAT SORT
OF THING HAPPENING TO YOU, BUT ISN'T THERE A DANGER OF YOU GOING
THE SAME WAY AS THE BANSHEES. THEY HAVENT SOLD OUT AS SUCH BUT
THEY'VE LOST THAT EDGE BY BECOMING TOO PROFESSIONAL
ABBO : I see what
you're saying. The thing is we don't use managers. There's the
four of us, the roadies, Paul Boswell our agent and that's it.
Everybody talks to us. If it's a matter of UK Decay, it gets
to us, rather than a row of businessmen. That way we can't lose
touch with the fans.
TOM : AS YOU GET BIGGER WOULD YOU SOONER PLAY PLACES LIKE THIS
OR BIG STRAIGHT MUSIC EXTRAVAGANZAS WHERE MORE PEOPLE CAN GET
TO SEE YOU?
ABBO : I think
there's good and bad in both situations. The billings got to
be right and if you're positive enough about how you're going
to do it, it'll come out alright. SPON : I think it's a rough
deal at the Lyceum and Futurama, 'cos they try to cram as many
bands as possible on the bill. Then on the night they don't
give a fuck. It's a real cattle market and there's a lot of
politics involved about the order of bands. For example at the
Lyceum, supporting TOH, we had the lights turned on on us because
things were going too well for us …but then again at Killing
Joke at the Palais, we met loads of people that had come to
see Killing Joke and I'm pleased with that aspect of it.
TOM: DO YOU SEE
THE PRESENT MUSIC SCENE AS HEALTHY OR DILUTED AND WEAK AFTER
THE PUNK EXPLOSION?
ABBO : Its good
for Zig-Zag 'cos they thrive on pulling out cult bands, but
its desperate for NME and Sounds and of course the record business,
because they thrive on crazes. So between 'em they've got to
create something into a craze. Fanzines are great, I buy them
religiously, (Abbo gets side tracked) things like 'IN THE CITY'
and 'VAGUE' cross the market. Fanzines are great until they
lower their standards.
Fair enough they're
supposed to be underground and for the kid on the street, but
it's unlike us, when we release an indie the quality of a major
label. Just because you're independent from the main stream
doesn't mean you have to have low standards.
TOM : HAVE YOU
STILL GOT YOUR INDIE LABEL GOING?
ABBO : Yeah we've
still got Plastic records, we've released 2 singles on that,
3 on Fresh and the LP on Fresh but we may go back to our own
label. It's the economics of it and the fact that we do want
to manage ourselves. But it's taking on another job, having
your own label and it's hard to keep the continuity going when
you're on tour.
TOM : GETTING
BACK TO THE STEVE KEATON ARTICLE. YOU NEVER REALLY HIT ME AS
BEING DARK AND SINISTER BAUHAUS TYPES?
ABBO: The trouble
is between here and Birmingham, there' only two bands really,
us and Bauhaus, and Play Dead maybe, they've got the same problems.
I don't dislike the comparisons but I see Bauhaus as a contrived
band with pre-planned ideas. We like to think were different
to that. We did dabble in the occult and that at first but we
didn't want to play on it like Killing Joke because it was a
bit corny and heavy metalish. But having said that I am interested
in writing lyrics about the unexplained side of life.