How did you get into Rockabilly?There was a Rockabilly night at the Mayflower Pub near to the Pier Head in town in the early eighties. I used to go there with a bunch of mates and listen to DJ Colin Brazier blasting out Rockabilly through an old 1970’s disco rig. Grabbed me by the throat, knocked me in the face, got my feet boppin’ and was the most powerful music I’d heard. I’d heard bits of Rock’n Roll growing up but this was total immersion, I would have been about 21 at the time.
What was the first rockabilly artist you listened to?
I remember hearing Peggy Sue by Buddy Holly in Kirklands when I was 16 and that really blew my mind (again through a sound system). That was incendiary. The first Rockabilly collections I bought were from Probe Records:
- Swamp Cats Beat (Louisiana Rockabilly) the whole Columbia collections (Vol 1-2-3) are fabulous
- The Cramps -Gravest Hits (a great marriage between punk and Rockabilly)
- Rockin’ Rollin’ Rainwater by Marvin Rainwater a whole bunch of Hill Billy albums
- and then there was The Stray Cats.
Being the founding member of the La’s how much did your interest in Rockabilly influence your work with the La’s?
When we started I wanted to make discordant Rockabilly with the La’s. Unfettered, unbridled rhythm. My Girl Sits Like a Reindeer, Red Deer Stalk, Trees and Plants and Breakloose were the tracks where you can hear that influence on our album Lost La’s Breakloose (1984-1986). But overall, we brought back a driving acoustic guitar, a kind of ‘skiffle’ back into Liverpool music at a time when it was all quite pompous with haircuts and keyboards.
You’re also a visual artist in Liverpool tell us a bit about what you’ve done and how music played a part?Throw a stick in town and you hit a musician but noone was making sculptures from tin cans so I accidently discovered a new thing. Artists have to be resourceful and will find a way to create whatever and that’s how I became a sculptor after years of being in a hard working band. There is a love of the 1950’s in my visual work though- I make B-Movie Robots and hub cap flying Saucers and a whole load of American style Hot Rod cars and Tea Caddy-lacs.
Is it true you wrote a jingle for the BBC ?
Myself and Paul Hemmings (my partner in the Viper Label) put a pitch together for the theme music for a new BBC daytime drama called Doctors. We knocked it out in half an hour and never really thought much about it. Anyhow it was selected and it’s still running 13 years later! Funny how you pour your heart out into a song and play all over for nothing happens and then something like that happens. Funny old world, but I am terribly grateful as it helps us out no end with keeping the label going and paying the bills.
How did Action Packed come about and what do you hope to achieve with the festival?
I started playing Rockabilly and Country Bop again properly after showcasing at SXSW in Texas back in 2009. It stoked my fires to get a band back together after bringing up the family and basically I wanted to play somewhere. I wondered where all the old Rockabilly’s and Teddy Boys had disappeared to that used to pack out the Mayflower and hang around the Probe record shop. I was also seeing the style come back in young lads quiffing up and girls wearing 50’s style dresses, crepe shoes and all that. I started a night at the Magnet but they lost their music license so I started again at Camp and Furnace (the new Uber Venue in the Baltic Quarter) and there’s been no turning back. It gets bigger each time and now with Crazy Cavan n the Rhythm Rockers coming to perform after 30 years it really is putting Liverpool back on the map and reminding people that Rock’n Roll was heard and performed in this city before any where else in the country (even London).
Lastly what are your hopes for your beloved home city of Liverpool?
There’s been an incredible change in this city over the last 10 to 15 years and it’s encouraging. I wish the Council would put some of that Beatles tourism money (est. £200 Million per annum) back into local music and stop living in the past! The Beatles were revolutionaries not capitalists. The John Lennon airport quotes ‘above us only sky’. How crass! Should have been called Wings. Now the art school has taken the Lennon moniker. The city need to get the hell out the 60’s and it’s Merseybeat obsession and in my view get back to were it really started with Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent and Elvis Presley. That stuff is still sounding fresh & contemporary, it never ages. I do insist that all the bands that play the Action Packed! Night play original material (maybe chuck and the odd cover) in a Rockabilly Rock’n Roll style but being progressive and taking the genre forward. Ronnie Dawson says it all (a 14 year old Rockabilly flat top kid from the late fifties):
I aint gonna get me a Cadillac – Oh No not anymore
I’m gonna get me one of those Rocket Ships
Something that’ll take me there and back,
Cause it aint gonna be fun being rich if it aint :
Action Packed! Hear me I said Action Packed!