Another musical British Invasion of the UK '82 variety. The UK Subs returned to the American shores with the Anti-Nowhere League for a grueling two month tour coast to coast tour that also took in Canadian dates. This was to be the League's first trip to the US.
Sounds took the opportunity to catch up with punk's enfants terrible back stage at the Wolf & Rissmiller's Country Club (now the Reseda Country Club) in the Los Angeles area. The band had just left the stage as the headliners were in action during the interview. In a typical no holds barred discourse, the League outlines their philosophies on the 'nowhere's' on both sides of the Atlantic, their audiences, their music and the gig that they had just played, which is also included in this post.
Sounds 22nd May 1982
The League are grinning ear to ear like puppy torturers. They’re putting their arms – tattooed lumps of flesh partially wrapped in aged black leather – obligingly around the people in designer jeans who either work for the record company or the radio station or know the person who hands out the VIP passes and look like they wish they didn’t.
Someone with a camera is shuffling them closer together for a pretty picture, these Americans with nice white teeth and these Tunbridge Wells types with their stubble and shaved or eggwhisk-style barnets.
The League look happier than a pervert at a school lavatory; the liggers are casting quick and wary glances their way, and sussing out the nearest exit.
We’re back stage in the Country Club’s hospitality room, and the Anti-Nowhere League are being hospitable as only they know how.
Over the top of the champagne, beer and satin jackets come the sweet strains of the UK Subs, playing downstairs to a packed house of L.A. punks. The Anti-Nowhere League have already made their debut.
“’Ello f***s we’re the League,” they greet us.
“You’re all a load of shits.”
Ant to a mostly comatose, sometimes Slamming crowd, they belted through set of altered oldies (‘Runaway’, ‘Rock/F*** Around The Clock’) and not so oldies (‘So What’, ‘Let’s Break The Law’, ‘I Hate People’ etc).
They told me it might be dangerous when I came in. They searched everyone for lethal weapons and confiscated studded belts. But you were only in peril of getting your best punk suit damp, what with Animal sweating and spitting and jerking off a bottle of beer around codpiece level all over the front rowers.
A right little performer, Animal and his merry men leapt and grunted and emoted and came off (pun excused) as somewhere between bikers playing Batley and Motorhead parodying The Damned. Wasn’t bad at all.
So here we are halfway through the Subs’ set in a smoky little backstage room, Animal, Magoo and Winston (P.J.’s shy, doesn’t want to talk, and anyway you get the impression that he’s always a bit of an outsider, what with the other three being close school mates) bumming fags and having a bottle.
When we spoke, they were right at the end of their first American tour, a place they came “only to buy some boots. Not Cowboy boots – some decent boots”. Steel-toed, knee-high, double strapped lace-up biker boots.
“This is the only place in the world where they do them, and that’s the only reason we done this tour.”
They managed to complete the entire trip without getting booed offstage (when they refused to play Chicago, it was because they were “set up” by a local band, they reckon, who might have had something to do with their’s and the UK Subs’s instruments mysteriously going out of tune.)
“It’s been great. The Subs are a good bunch of geezers- we were surprised, because we don’t know band people, right. Somebody suddenly tells you you’re going on tour with them and we thought ‘oh f***’, know what I mean because a lot of people don’t think like us at all.
“But there’s been no hassles at all. They’re really good people. And they taught us a few things and all – they warn you about the people, to beware.”
“People who can really mess you up. Like reporters.”
What have you liked best about America?
Animal: “The food’s good, the air’s cleaner, better than London.”
Winston: “The weather’s good, that’s about it.”
Magoo: “My favourite thing about America? The number of women who’ve wanted to bunk us! Filthy, the women over here, aren’t they. I like the women most of all.”
So what do you like best about England then?
Magoo: “Everything. England’s a great country.”
Animal: “It’s only the nowheres that stink.”
What do you mean by nowheres?
Animal: “Nine to fives, people who’re nowhere. People who lie.”
Magoo: “When I started doing these interviews, right, I used to start explaining what the nowhere is – nine to five, down the pub, pick on people who are different, but it just disgusts me to talk about these people. I find then disgusting, totally disgusting.”
Animal: “You don’t get people like us child-bashing, do you?”
Magoo: “I find the whole subject of other people boring.”
So why did you choose to be in a band, when it means that every night you have to deal with a few hundred other people?
Magoo: “I’m talking about nowheres.”
Animal: “I wouldn’t go and play somewhere where there’s just all nowheres.”
How do you rate the people who came to your show tonight then in their parents’ big expensive cars then?
Winston: “They’re okay. They’re coming to see the bands or they’re coming here to pose or whatever.”
Animal: “They’re not back up Sunset Strip, are they, whistling at geezers? I mean the weirdos along the street, they’re sick, not the punks.
“We’re used to people not liking us and coming over and saying ‘I don’t like the way you dress’ and starting a ruck, or calling you unacceptable yobs or something. But over here- you walk down the street and these cars pull up and they whistle at you and go ‘how about this then boy’ and all this, after your arsehole. And the bastards won’t stop either.
“It pisses us off.” Let’s hope these punks tonight can see the difference between the shits they’re living with – we’ve got shits we live with, but they’re not so weird. They’re just f*** heads we live with! It’s a sick place, this. But the people who come to the shows – they’re the people that matter to us, not the shits on the streets.”
Has it been just as weird all over America, or just Hollywood?
Winston: “In smaller places it’s a totally different reaction. It’s like they don’t know what to expect – like when you walk on aeroplanes, it’s weird. We can’t get served anywhere in England. They don’t serve us in pubs, they don’t serve us in cafes, they don’t serve us in any sort of eating houses. ‘We don’t serve your type here, we’ve got an image to keep up’, right? They’re the f*** heads we live with. Over here it’s different but they’re still bastards. People here let you drink in the pubs – if you don’t mind getting touched up afterwards, know what I mean.”
Animal: “People here are different, but the punks are against the same sort of thing that we’re against in England.”
Have you been getting a good reaction on the tour? Tonight’s punks were a quiet lot.
Winston: “Our audiences have been a bit tame, apart from a couple of places.”
Animal: “The thing is, they said beforehand that we’d have to be the Sex Pistols – or something the press has conjured up. So we come over here and people expect me to look like Johnny Rotten and him to look like Sid Vicious, and to do the same actions.
“People say we’re the new Sex Pistols or the new Motorhead or the new this or the new that – they’re got no idea what we’re about anyway so they just stick a label on us. So when we come over here, the kids just expect to hear what the papers have told them. And when we don’t act like Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious, they take it either way: they either like you or they hate you. We don’t give a shit either way. We’re not trying to conquer the world.”
Some people reckon you’re another Splodgeness – a bit of a laugh.
Magoo: “If they come and see us and think that, then they’re stupid.”
Animal: “I don’t go round wearing make-up and powdering me bum for other people. Putting a label on – that’s stupid.”
But you have more of a sense of humour in your songs than a lot of punk bands.
Animal: “Yeah, but wouldn’t you laugh when you see the sick society – know what I mean. Everyone of our songs is about the shits that we live with, every one of them. And you can’t help finding that funny, can you?”
Do you take the band seriously though?
Magoo: “We take it seriously. If we didn’t we wouldn’t do it.”
Animal: “The only fun side of it is taking the piss out of the bastards we’ve had to live with all our lives – all the times they’ve taken the piss out of us on the street, and you end up in so many fights, you’re not allowed in pubs or anything else, and they’re allowed to do it.”
“This is our way of saying, you’re the prats, up your arse, know what I mean?”
Wouldn’t it be easier to say ok they don’t like the way we look; instead of forming a band, why don’t we go along with them and look the way they want us to?
Animal: “It’s like they say ‘settle down; be straight’ – okay great, explain to me what ‘straight’ means. It means marrying a girl who hates your guts…”
Winston: “And gets fat.”
Animal: “And it means bringing up a couple of kids that you don’t want anyway, slipping off after work to pick up a whore, going to church regularly on Sunday mornings and thinking that you’re good.”
“It’s the old people and that that’s brought all these sex dives in, polluted every poor little kid on the street with every dirty shit available. It ain’t us – it’s them ‘straight’ bastards and they say be like them – bollocks, we’ll stay the way we are! We’ve got our morals.”
“We sing about sexual perverts because it’s them, not us. We don’t want society or the scum that’s in it. You can’t take lies like that seriously, it’s sick. We didn’t make the lyrics to our songs – they did.”
When you got together a year and a half ago to form the band was it just because you were mates and wanted something to do, or did you have a grander aim in mind?
Magoo: “It started pot as a piss-about really. It just went a bit more than we thought it would. We’ve been mates for ten years before we thought of doing a band. We’d just been hanging around in gang. When this band finishes, we’ll still be hanging around as something else.”
What made you go from hanging around together to saying ‘let’s do it properly and put a record out?’
Winston: “We didn’t say ‘let’s put a record out’. It was offered to us. We played the local pub and we had all these kids in our area – there’s a lot of kids on the street who’re exactly the same as us.”
Animal: “We done it for them first – just down the local, having a good time. No-one would allow them into the pubs, but we’ve got one boozer down our way that would take us in, so we played there – for all the socially unacceptable people.”
“There was bikers, punks, skinheads, all drinking together, arm-in-arm, having a real good time because they all realized that we’re all in the same boat. And from there it just went crazy. We got offers in London, went on tour – because there’s a lot of geezers just like us, who get told every day to grow up or be normal, when the normal life they’re told to go into stinks. People have told us that all our lives…”
Winston: “ Grow up and have no fun.”
Animal: “We’ve been slagged every day of our lives since we were born, for the way we dress and act. Everyday we’ve gone into boozers to try and get a drink, and there’s always big fat bozos standing there, right idiots, going ‘urg, look at the guy with leather pants on’ and they start.”
“And what do you do? Go ‘thank you and goodbye’? No you don’t. You hit them or something, don’t you. And then people jump on you and tell you what a bastard you are. You’re not the bloke who started it in the first place, are you? You’re just the geezer who’s gone in there for a drink.”
“So what if you wear leather trousers. This fat bozo goes home and beats his wife and kids up every night, then pops down the porno shop then probably prays about it at the end of the day – and he’s telling you that you can’t have a drink in the pub.”
Magoo: “They’re the bastards you get nicked for.”
Animal: “Who’s the cops going to believe? They mouth off, you fight back, and because you wear leather trousers and a chain, know what I mean? We’ve been in and out of nick so many times it makes us sick.”
Were you always like this. Weren’t you ever nice Boy Scouts?
Magoo: “No, we’ve always been a bunch of toe-rags really.”
Animal: “Right from the bloody word go. Like at secondary modern – when a guy comes up to you and hits you for being different, you sit back afterwards and your face bleeds and you think, ‘what’s wrong with me? Why am I different’?”
Magoo: “See, we’ve never liked doing normal, socially acceptable things. Like the Boy Scouts is an organization, isn’t it? Really I’m finding that music at the moment is starting to become more of a system too.
“You get a band, you come up, then all the reporters want to report you. At first it’s great, then suddenly you think, ‘hold on this is getting a bit naff’.”
Animal: “We all feel the same way. When it gets out of hand we’ll drop it, do something else. If we start getting socially acceptable, we don’t want it.”
Surely you’re socially acceptable now that you’ve got a hit record. People don’t tend to to write about your ordinary man-in-the-street in pop papers.
Winston: “That’s only to show us off as a freak show.”
Animal: “We did this for one reason, right – because we get a good time out of it, and the kids on the street who feel the same way as us can associate with us, and they’ve got a band who knows exactly how they feel about being unaccepted. The day we are accepted by those bastards is the day we get out. We’ll quit. We’ll go back to being on the street again.”
Magoo: “What makes me laugh, right, is we’ve always been thrown out of places; then you start a band up and you’re accepted by the people you don’t want to be. Like ‘talk to them because they’re important'. They don’t talk to us because they want to.”
“You don’t. You talk to us because at the moment we might be fashionable or something. If I wasn’t in a band and I’d be walking down the street, you’d look the other way. You wouldn’t offer me a fag or anything. Suddenly people want to speak to us.”
That must be horrible if you honestly hate people.
Animal: “We do hate people.”
Magoo: “We’ve handled ourselves so far. And we’ve got a manager who doesn’t like people at all.”
A lot of this sounds like the old teenage rebellion bit, but you’re not teenagers.
Animal: “Everyone calls us old men, right. Adam Ant’s three years older than I am, and he’s a prat and all…. But because we’re not young fresh chickens, 16 year-old kids who don’t know how to handle it, we get a kick out of it, because we’ve had a few years on the streets, we’ve been around a bit.”
Winston: “It’s not teenage rebellion. Not at all. A lot of kids rebel when they’re 17 to 19, and then its automatically sewn into them to get married at 20, and then their life’s over. They feel they’ve got to; they get called a freak. We’ve got over that now, and there’s no way back. We’re all like 24, 25 – you can’t go back to a normal life.”
“We’ve got to live this as far as we can, either in a band or in something else. It’s the only life we want to do. We’ve only got one life, so there’s no point in being like everyone else.”
You say either in the band or not. Do you think this band will last a long time?
Magoo: “No I don’t. The band’s not our whole life is it? The band might stop but we won’t.”
Will you take the jockstraps and chains and stuff off when the band finishes?
Magoo: “What for?”
Animal: “Just because the band folds up – whatever we do we’re the same people. We’ll probably end up in some tip somewhere with knife wounds.”
Animal: “Who cares? We’ll live the life that we want to live.”Magoo: 'We've enjoyed our life so far, I think, I've got no regrets in my life. I'm not saying I’ve done nothing wrong; you learn by your mistakes. But a lot of people go 'I wish I done that when I was younger', but we've done it.”
What were you doing in the way of jobs before the League?
Animal: "We all had jobs on and off, mainly just hanging around. Building site stuff. Magoo had a better job because he's the clever one in the band."
Winston: "He was a reporter for the NME! You're not NME are you? We don't like them."
Is there anything you'd like to be called - a punk band, a biker band?
Magoo: " A socially unacceptable band. An anti-nowherism band."
Animal: 'We've been called so many things in the past it doesn't worry us, what you call us."
Why do you do cover songs?
Animal: "We like destroying people's things. We like destroying old people. "
Winston: "It fills out the set to be honest. "
Animal: "You don't hear Bill Haley singing about f***ing around the clock do you? It's only our version of it."
Magoo: "To be honest, we've been on tour so long, we've written a few new songs, but nothing great at the moment. So you either do a short set of your own songs or do covers and fill it out. And if you do the same songs too often it gets boring, end we don't enjoy it. If we change it around a bit it makes it a bit more interesting."
Why do you call your audience f***heads?
Magoo: "A lot of bands try to win people over, but we're not like that. They love it! If you get a bad time, you really go to town. You call them all the names under the sun."
Animal: "You've got to be honest with them. You can't go up there and say 'I think you're great, we love you, thank you'. People will see through it. You go out there and say exactly what you feel for them.
"I'm not talking about working out a speech before you go onstage - it's whatever you think at the time, You can call them a prat, tell them you've got their money, say whatever you want.”
"Those kids out there don't want some prat telling them they're lovely because they don’t want to be lovely. They don't want people to say 'ooh, you look cool with your Mohican hairdo, what lovely colours'. "
Magoo: "They'd rather be called shits."
Winston: "That's what punk's about anyway, isn't it - or supposed to be?"
Animal: "Unacceptable people. You don't find us laughing at them behind their backs though. We like them. They call us shits end we call them shits.”
Were you surprised when 'Streets of London' was a hit?
Magoo: "I'm surprised It did what it did.”
Do you have any unfulfilled fantasies left?
Magoo. "That's a real unstandard question, isn't it. "
Animal: "We're going to live just for the day, right? We've got no fantasies. We'd just like to have a meal now and again without hassling each other."
The following recording is courtesy of the Facebook Anti-Nowhere League Fan Page.