Isaws play final headline anniversary gig at Lab in Northampton
Northampton punk legends Isaws are playing a 40th anniversary and farewell concert on Saturday.
Inspired by the punk explosion of the '70s, they played their first gig in 1977 as ‘Hawker Harries and the Jumpjets before quickly becoming Isaws.
The went onto gig heavily and recorded the cassette albums 10,000 Lemmings Can’t Be Wrong and Isaw Esaw Sitting On A Seesaw.
Despite splitting in 1979, the band have played a few reunions over the years and now original members singer Alex Novak, guitarist John Novak, bassist Jem Clack and drummer Peter Brown have reunited for one final show.
Peter Dennis spoke to Alex Novak about Isaws, the importance of punk and his feelings about the the band’s final outing.
Do you think you would have been in a band if it wasn't for punk?
Punk was the catalyst?
“Definitely. Those initial few bands and few records started hundreds of bands and hundreds of labels and that was the starting point for the whole Do It Yourself movement”
So if there was no punk you wouldn't have formed a rock group?
“No. That really got it going. Before that we saw people in bands, especially big bands as quite distant.
“I think punk broke down the gap between audience and band. I suppose before it was like seeing the show, seeing the theatre but you didn't see how it was put together but punk dismantled the mechanics of how it was done.
“Whether it was playing live or whether it was how to produce a record or put a fanzine out.”
The sound of Isaws was quite raw and primitive. Which for me was part of the charm.
“We weren't musicians. We just kind of picked up the stuff and just started playing.
“We were starting from year zero. The feel was more important than technical ability.
“It probably was initially a bit of a row. As we went on we refined it.
“It was quite quick from when we started to when we finished and it seemed at that period bands happened and fell apart quite quickly.”
How were your gigs back in '77 and '78? Raucous?
“A a bit chaotic but good fun. With tribalism you had to be careful, it was obvious what tribes people belonged to.
“It was easy to spot somebody else if they were a biker, a mod or a punk.
“It was very defined visually. There was trouble but not all the time.
“I put it down to an edge to gigs. An edge to going out.
“Even if there wasn't something happening there was the possibility that something might happen. “That kind of made it more exciting, more electricity to what was going on.
“Once at a working men's club we asked if we could do a few numbers when the band finished so we just started to play and a woman threw a handbag at us. That was quite funny.”
Were there plenty of venues to play in the town?
“Yeah. I think punk revitalised people playing live so gigs were put on in every pub possible, even though it wasn't ideal.
“The set-up was very simple. You'd just set up in a corner somewhere, move a few tables, a vocal PA, no monitors - just working off the back line.
“The music was very simple so you could do that.”
Why have you decided to call it a day? It seems so permanent.
“The only reason we reformed before was because of the book 'Have Guitars Will Travel' and it covered that period.
“So, we did it partly because of that and we've done a few reunions connected with certain anniversaries but this one is nicely symmetrical, it finishes 40 years and that's it. It's a full stop.”
And the original band is reforming?
“Before we did this we thought, ‘Is everybody going to be able to do it?’. Fortunately, everybody can do it.
“If we tried it in another couple of years maybe it wouldn't be happening, maybe the people who are willing to do it now probably wouldn't want to do it in the future.”
How are your feelings about it? Bittersweet?
“I think it will be a happy occasion. That's the way I look at it. It will be good to celebrate all those years and it'll be a good chance to chat with people as well.
“A lot of people we haven't seen for quite a few years.
“People from Sheffield, Brighton and Derby will be attending. To get everybody in the same place at the same time is quite an unusual occurrence.
“I think as you go along it gets harder to get people in the same room unless there's a good reason.”
What do you hope the Isaws legacy will be?
“Part of the whole thing was that you had to think for yourself and do it yourself.
“The whole D.I.Y. Movement. Major labels are not interested in you? Start your own label.
“Nobody wants to put gigs on? You put gigs on.
“Nobody's writing about bands you’re interested in? You write a fanzine about the bands you’re interested in.
“It handed it all back to the individual. It's down to you to actually do something about it. You've got to do the work.”
Finally, you've been involved in the local music scene for 40 years. What keeps you motivated?
“You've got to like it. You've got to be interested in it, all forms.
“When I'm not playing or putting gigs on I'll go out and have a look and see what's going on.
“I usually find two gigs a night. I'm quite open minded to what I listen to music wise.
“If it's a thrash metal or a soul band I'll kind of have a listen and go, 'Yeah I get the idea, I think I'll go somewhere else' but at least I'll go and have a look.”
Isaws headline The Lab on April 29.
Doors open at 8pm. Admission is free. Visit facebook.com/thelabnorthampton