Folk Devils speak ahead of Northampton gig

Folk Devils
Folk Devils

Folk Devils are playing the Charles Bradlaugh this weekend.

Named after Stanley Cohen’s book on youth subcultures, the post-punk headliners were formed by Ian Lowery in 1983 with a line up that consisted of Mark Whiteley, Kris Jozajtis and Alan Cole.

Peter Dennis spoke to the band ahead of the gig.

Q - Can you tell me a little about how the band formed? How did you meet and what were some of the early gigs like?

A – “I knew Ian and Al Cole who had been in Ski Patrol together, and Whiteley from the Ladbroke Grove squat scene in the early 80s and kicking around with the likes of Killing Joke and Red Beat.

“It was only after Ian had heard me play on a demo with Mark and a pal of his called Alex as I recall, and Paul Jones from Red Beat that he asked me if I was interested in playing with him.

“I think he picked up on the Stooges type riff I came up with.

“We had a long conversation backstage after a gig in Brixton by Brilliant – the short lived band with two bass players featuring Youth and drummer Andy Anderson.

“I think Ian already had the idea of Folk Devils as a name.

“Our initial gigs were a bit chaotic – our ambition and desire to shake things up a bit, outstripped our technical capabilities and it took a while to find the sweet spot where we gained some control over the forces we sought to invoke.”

Q - It seems you were enraged by the political climate in the 80s. How much was it a driving force?

A – “We certainly wanted to shake things up a bit at a time when the fire of punk had largely died down.

“But apart from a few miners’ benefits we were never overtly political but you could certainly say that we were at odds with the broad drift of the culture back then.

“So although a song like English Disease addressed the specific conditions of the mid-80s, Ian never sought to preach about what ‘should’ be happening.”

Q - Can you draw the same anger from today's climate?

A- “Oh for sure, but the problems extend beyond what one might describe as the political arena.

“It would be nice to think we’re living through a period of change, but so many of us devote more time, money and energy to smart phones and football than properly engaging with the big questions facing us as a society and community.”

Q - Does apathy towards politics bother you? Could a band like The Folk Devils form in 2017?

A – “Yes it bothers me, but while there are plenty of artists that speak to what’s happening now – Sleaford Mods, Kate Tempest etc – I don’t think music occupies the same cultural territory now as it did in the 70s and 80s.

“There are many more distractions for young people now what we call ‘alternative’ is really niche marketing. Glasto on the Beeb? Not in our day.”

Q - What caused the band to split and what are your motivations for reforming?

A – “It’s strange, the more I think about it, the less sure I am as to why we broke up.

“I don’t think drink and drugs helped our cause and while we had a bit of success in terms of the Indie charts, our career trajectory had flattened out and I think we all grew a bit disheartened by the lack of opportunities coming our way back then.

“But looking back there’s a sense of unfinished business and unfulfilled potential and that is certainly a key driver of our reunion.

“But it’s also been a real treat socially, as if the thirty year hiatus never happened.”

Q - Optic Nerve did a great job with the 'Beautiful Monsters' anthology. Are you happy to have a comprehensive discography out there?

A – “Totally. Beggars Group had re-issued our three BBC sessions digitally in late 2015 and that was a great starting point.

“So last Summer we were all delighted when we got to see and hear the collected recordings package.

“The re-mastering work is top shelf. I, for one, was kind of surprised at how well some of the material stood up after such a long period of time.”

Q - What are your musical and cultural influences?

A – “I know that at the time we formed, Ian loved the Fall, the Birthday Party, that really fierce side of the post punk thing. I had slightly more mainstream tastes and was a big fan of the Clash and Elvis Costello at that time.

“However, I think we bonded over same early Cramps and Panther Burns’ stuff I had on a mix tape, and a fantastic Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters cassette that was kicking around one of the squats we shared.

“Mark was big on the Stranglers (check his bass sound) and Al was looking to take his drum kit into outer space! And we all liked the Gun Club.

“What was clear, right from the outset was that we had ‘something’, a chemistry if you like, especially when Ian unveiled ‘Hank’.

“I think we all realized that was a fantastic song straight away, and that we could do some damage.”

Q - How difficult was the decision to reform without Ian? Do you see the band’s continuation as a tribute to his legacy?

A – “It took a while for all of us to come round to the idea, but once we all committed to the reunion, good things started happening and made total sense once Dave Hodgson got involved as the new front man - it matters that he knew Ian and really ‘got’ what his lyrics were about.

“So yes, Ian remains a ‘presence’ in everything we do, but at least we’re not waiting for him to buy us a round anymore.

Q - What can the uninitiated expect from a Folk Devils gig?

A – “Well you won’t get many slow songs. And it will be loud.

“So passion, intensity and derangement of the senses, plus some acupuncture of the mind.

“Nostalgic we ain’t.”

Q - What do you hope your legacy will be both musically and in terms of work ethic?

A – “I think we all want to see where this new adventure leads, but I’m not sure we’ve ever worried about our legacy, whatever that might be.

“The point is to keep doing it and hope that in the process we can connect with some of the many other lost souls out there.”

Folk Devils play the Charles Bradlaugh on July 16.

Doors 8pm, tickets £8. facebook.com/FolkDevilsUK