If a bunch of London steampunks name their new album ‘This May Be The Reason Why The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing Cannot Be Killed By Conventional Weapons’, surely they can survive an interrogation from Soundsphere? Lead vocalist Andrew O’Neill and guitarist Marc Burrows share their frank and funny thoughts with us.
“I encountered a copy of Korn’s fourth album ‘Issues’ in a shop the week before we were in the studio. I was quite disappointed by it.”
S] Your manifesto is to put the “punk” back into “steampunk” – why do you feel the need to do this?
A] “‘Cos steampunk needs punk. Otherwise it’s just people dressing up as Victorians. The DIY ethic, the attitude of joining in, the notion that there is no division between the people on stage, the people who produce the art and the people who consume it, all of that is vitally important to steampunk. That and a total unwillingness to take the whole thing seriously.
There are no other bands in steampunk that do what we do, which is why we decided we needed to do it. Most bands, to be frank, are just dressing up what they did before in a steampunk image. We set out from the beginning to mash up the aesthetic of the fiction with the attitude and sound of punk. We love the period, we love the more active areas of the steampunk scene, and we like very, very loud music.
Also, the vast majority of people seem to be labouring under the delusion that Victorian equals posh. There is a lot of class roleplay. We make it clear that we represent the working class scum. F**k the Queen, and f**k the toffs. And f**k the Tories. (Both the current ones, and the ones we sing about in ‘Doing It For The Whigs’).”
S] Where do you feel your sound fits in with other steampunk bands like Abney Park and Sunday Driver?
M] “Absolutely nowhere near them. They’re very different bands- we’ve played with both of them, and Sunday Driver especially are mates of ours – but we sound nothing like them. We’re a punk band with jokes. Musically there is pretty much no relationship there. Lovely people all though.”
A] “It’s oil and water. We don’t do the world music thing, and we have no interest in ‘Sky Piracy’! We’re influenced by 80s anarcho-punk, black/death/thrash metal, dirt, disease, Satan, explosions, the medical fascination with masturbation and very loud, very dangerous machinery. And hopefully that comes through in the music.”
S] You’ve had to rename your first album for legal reasons. What’s the story behind this?
M] “We erroneously assumed EMI would have a sense of humour and perspective. Although given much of their output over the years this seems a massive leap in retrospect.”
A] “Clearly EMI are panicking that their outmoded business model is failing. This is entirely a good thing. The era of the record label is over. So they are desperately trying to ringfence their crappy little patch of land. And of course, they pretty much timed it perfectly! Cheers for the free publicity, you pricks! Just in time for out new album!”
S] We hope the second album, which is out soon, is less problematic; did you encounter any issues when you were writing and recording it?
M] “I encountered a copy of Korn’s fourth album ‘Issues’ in a shop the week before we were in the studio. I was quite disappointed by it, but then I was never a massive fan. They peaked with the first song on their first album.”
A] “Andy had to work through the fact that his dad was quite cold and distant when he was a kid. Have we misunderstood the question?”
S] There’s a guest slot on the album by Sylvester McCoy – aka The Seventh Doctor – how did you get him on board?
M] “Andy and I accosted him after a theatre show in London and pretty much made him do it. He was very nice about it, because if he’d said no we’d probably have cried.”
A] “We find that the threat of tears is a great motivator. We have scored several great gigs simply through the medium of pointing at Marc’s wobbling lower lip. Jez is working on a drum endorsement deal by lying on the floor of Pearl’s office in London throwing his limbs about and screaming ‘BUT I WAAAAAAAAAAAAAANT IT!’ like a toddler in Sainsbury’s.”
S] What’s the rationale behind the distinctive cover art for the LP? And how important to you is the way your music is packaged?
A] “My tattooist and great friend Matt Barrat-Jones (Oddboy to the tattoo press) painted it for us. He’s a brilliant artist and it seemed obvious once we’d written ‘Victoria’s Secret’ that nothing less than a portrait of a zombie Prince Albert would do. Unfortunately the original painting was unusable because of a misunderstanding. So if anyone wants a picture of a decaying genital piercing, let us know. It’s horrifically realistic.
In this era of digital records and all the kids getting their music off of Bebo and Ceefax, making an actual object that is beautiful is really important. I will personally never stop buying records. I like holding them.”
S] As well as preparing the new album, you’ve been working on individual projects such as Andrew’s solo tour and Marc’s comedy shows; where do these fit in with the ethos of the band?
M] “Music and Comedy have only been separate forms of entertainment for the last 30 years or so. Go back just a little way and George Formby’s having huge hit singles. Even Ken Dodd had hits. Billy Connelly and Jasper Carrot came from the folk scene… for me the two things don’t need to be separate. And I’m not talking about ‘musical comedians’ who really put the joke ahead of the music, the band is about being absolutely true to the jokes in the lyrics and the serious musical content.
I don’t do much music in my stand up (Andrew does more), but I see the band as very much related to what I do on stage as a comic – it’s almost an attempt to update Music Hall. Not just doing what was done at the Palladium 70 years ago, but by taking the real Victorian ideals of the Music Hall – cheap, baudy entertainment for the workers and pissheads and the people who couldn’t afford or be bothered with the nobby theatre and opera.
A good chunk of that audience 120 years ago would be punks now, i’m sure of that. With the band we can combine jokes with music in the way they did in the Halls.”
A] “Yeah. Alan Moore once said that life isn’t separated by genre. That’s my attitude. Stand-up comedy can be moving, music can be funny, and a band which has jokes can have a serious message. Not that we do… we’re basically a bunch of pricks…”
S] How do you manage working on group and individual projects at the same time?
M] “Understanding partners, not enough sleep, under-spending on food.”
A] Very, very badly. Which is why my contribution to this interview is being conducted in a pub while I’m on the road touring my solo show. And why we double book ourselves a lot. And why I am so thin.”
S] The album’s launched with a London gathering. What can we expect on the night?
M] “We’re still talking it over. We’re hoping to play the whole of the new album in sequence, so we’ll see how that sounds in rehearsal. We’ve got Axis Mundi opening who are fronted by someone I’ve known since I was 4 and do this weird psychadelic techno-Metal about drugs and Science whilst wearing suits and capes. Hopefully there’ll be a comedy act as well, as we usually like to keep things mixed up (back to the music hall thing again).”
A] “Hard, thrusting erections. Oh no, hang on. That’s the week after. Erm… music. And that. A fantastic night of entertainment. We like to put on a genuinely incredible show. And we’ll have rehearsed and everything.”
S] Can you tell us anything else about what you’re going to be up to in the future? We’ve heard you’ll be Edinburgh-bound when the Fringe Festival comes around…
M] “Nothing confirmed yet, but hopefully there’ll be a full band show or two. Andrew and I are both taking up full stand up shows as well.”
A] “We’re working on a band gig for the fringe, and there will definitely be some guerilla gigs with some of our friends in various venues around the city. It’ll be worth making the trip.”
Thanks to Andrew and Marc for speaking to us. ‘This May Be The Reason…’ is released on March 9, and further details on The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing can be found via their Facebook band page.