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| 23 May 2016 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

Anti Nowhere League 01

Imagine this: you secure an interview with your favourite punk singer of all time, prepare some awesome questions that span the near-forty year history of the band, and within minutes you realise he has just written a book about his life and is – quite fairly – reluctant to spill all the beans!

What do you do? Well… you throw the questions out the window and have a chat with your favourite punk singer of all time, of course! Revelations will unfold…
100% ROCK: You came to Australia, I think it was in 2006 you guys came out to Australia, but you just went down the East Coast?

Nick: We didn’t get along to Perth. People keep bollocking me for not getting along to Perth. It’s in the pipeline: we want to get along there, but you know, it’s all down to [booking] agents, isn’t it?

100% ROCK: Yeah, someone’s got to come up with the fucking money, unfortunately.

Nick: Absolutely, it’s all down to money.

Anti Nowhere League 03

100% ROCK: I hear that. Do you prefer to go by the name ‘Animal’, or Nick?

Nick: Nick, mate. It’s just Nick in my book, and you’ll read in there that I really didn’t like ‘Animal’, right from the first. Winston should’ve been called ‘Animal’, he was our bass player. Unfortunately, because I sung the song, ‘I’m an Animal’ – and got me into trouble, that one – ‘Animal’ sort of stuck and I didn’t like it, but I couldn’t do much about it really. It named me, I didn’t name me.

100% ROCK: [laughter] Well I was going to ask what did you do to deserve it – but it just came from that song?

Nick: Yeah. It’s just the song. I fucking hated it at first. [But] there are a far lotta worse things they could have called me, I think!

100% ROCK: Some of those four-letter ones, perhaps?

Nick: That’s it, mate! So ‘Animal’ was quite light, and we all stuck with it and that was it. But yeah, I prefer Nick, if we’re talking.

100% ROCK: No worries, Nick. You lived pretty hard in the ‘70s before the band formed, didn’t you? You rode with bike gangs, skipped the country and lived off the grid in the Canadian mountains, spent a couple years in jail. Was starting the band partly a way to kind of find a place you belonged?

Nick: I’ve just finished my book – it’s being dredged through by the legal team at the moment – they’re obviously scared in this day and age to put anything out which is going to be… you know… upsetting people. I think if I put the book out a few years ago, it wouldn’t be a problem, but now they’re a bit scared. In the book there’s a lot of gritty details of how I started, why I did the band, right from the motorcycle background I had. It’s got a very simple ending to it, but really I think it’s that punk rock music stopped me from a life of crime, if you know what I mean? When I came back from Canada – I lived in the Rocky Mountains [there] for a bit and actually I was living a bit hippyish, but [when I got back] I actually found me a lot more [things to do] in life than getting into too much trouble.

When I came back [from Canada] and started with the band, it did stop me from going back on the dark side, as they say, and getting into too much trouble. Unfortunately, the band, like a bad smell, just followed me a bit – I still got into a bit of trouble in the band. The intention [with forming the band] was literally to try and smarten me act up a little bit, but unfortunately, it backfired a bit. But it helped me now, you know. I still love all of the guys I used to ride with – most of them are dead now, I think most of them are – but it was a fact, for me personally, I needed to sort myself out. Otherwise I was headed in a direction I didn’t want to go. It was therapy.

Anti Nowhere League 04

100% ROCK: Yeah, fair enough. I’ll just side-step a little – I did read a couple of years ago in a couple of interviews you mentioned writing a book – you’ve said that’s done now. Do you have a publisher all lined up for it?

Nick: Because we got signed to Cleopatra Records in California, they want to put the book out [in the US], but my manager is still waiting until the legal teams are finished pawing over it, I think, and then we’re going to approach people. I think everybody should just wait to read the first bits of it to see whether it’s too hot to handle. I don’t think it’s that bad, obviously because it’s my life story. I think, you know, at the end of the day, I’ve come out of it – I’m still alive to tell the tale.

Obviously, there are other incidents along the way which, they’re worried about the implications. Once it’s been pawed over by them, I’m pretty sure that at the end… I think it will come out. Because you can’t tell the whole truth and keep cutting bits out of it – I’m hoping that they will understand that, shall we say, there’s a happy ending!

I took this manager on a couple of years ago. He’s very good, but of course they take it out of my hands. I’ve been used to sort of doing things myself. He tells me whether it’s going to be a good move or not. Its sounds sort of big business but it’s just the way it is. I know that every time I have mouthed-off, I get my hand slapped, I get lawsuits chucked on me – I’m a bit of a dinosaur in this age. I think people like me – they just wish that we’d fuck off somewhere. Unfortunately, I’m a child of the ‘80s and I’ve been around, obviously. I’ve been getting into trouble with my mouth too much. Every time I put a song out… It’s funny, people like the idea that you’re an anti-band and that you’re against people – as long as you don’t say anything against them: ‘You’re fine saying what you like about people, but don’t talk about me.’

Of course, now every time I write something about somebody, it upsets somebody. Because of the internet now, it goes instantly around the world, you know. Twenty years ago we’d just laugh at stuff like this. Now you say, ‘fucking’ and they can’t have a fucking laugh about it.

Anto Nowhere League 02

100% ROCK: Oh, it’s ridiculous. You can’t even make a fucking joke anymore. I’m 50 in three months, so I know exactly how you feel.

Nick: Yeah, well I’ve got my 60th birthday coming up next month.

100% ROCK: Oh, you’re 60! Wow, I didn’t realise!

Nick: Oh mate, I’m fucking old. We should all be in the ground mate, instead of still being an old fucking punk rocker. We put the release date of the new album on my birthday. And we’re having a big party here in my hometown. They still can’t handle us, the people around here, even knowing me, even though I’m a respectable citizen now.

100% ROCK: Well just one week ago was the 36th anniversary of your first gig, wasn’t it? 31st of March?

Nick: It could have been. It could well have been.

100% ROCK: Well that’s what Wikipedia said, we fucking don’t know how honest Wikipedia is, though… but the dates add up…

Nick: I’ve looked through [Wikipedia] a couple of times and thought, “where the fuck did they get that from?” I don’t know… most of the stuff written about me is bollocks, I don’t really read much of it. Sometimes it’s perfect bollocks, sometimes it’s just shit bollocks. I think we had our first gig in 1980.

I don’t know where, what or how that lines up with what they’re saying. This is … because it’s my 60th birthday, three anniversaries: it’s the 40th year of punk [in England], of course this year – it’s a big year in the UK for Punk. That’s why we put this new album out so it coincides with the conjunction of events of 2016. It’s a good year for punk music and for Anti-Nowhere League. Hopefully, if I don’t get banged up in prison ‘cos of my book, it’ll be good for me too.

100% ROCK: Well, I tell you what, I’ll drop a few questions that you’ll probably cover in your book and I’ll hope to read about them shortly. Let’s talk about this 40th anniversary of Punk. I read Viva La Rock Magazine recently, and I saw your name splattered all over these gig festival line-ups celebrating the 40th anniversary and everything. How much of an impact did that first wave of punk have on you personally?

Nick: It’s funny because, as you know I came from a different [background]… I approached punk music from a different road and I can’t really say – all I know is that punk rock music did affect me. Whether I was looking for something to affect me, because as you said earlier about being in the bike gangs and stuff, I just… I was the youngest member of the bike gangs and my club name was Old Nick – being the devil – because I was the young pup of the gang. I knew I was looking for something, and then obviously when I first came back from Canada, and went to the clubhouse and they were playing all the punk rock music on the jukebox in the clubhouse – it did affect me. I went – wow – you know, ‘fucking hell!’

People do say that some types of music really do affect you: this is honestly true. Up until then, I was just shaking me head around to Lynyrd Skynyrd and stuff, Meatloaf, possibly. You get drunk, throw yourself about: that was all that music meant to me. But then all of a sudden – wow – there was The Stranglers and The Clash… I thought, ‘wow, that did something for me.’ For me personally, punk music was a vehicle to get out of the road I was going – back to prison, if you know what I mean. It affected me. But musically, I don’t know… it’s like trying to ask a plumber why he does plumbing, or why an electrician is an electrician – why I write songs, I don’t know.

I didn’t CHOOSE to write songs, I just found that I COULD write songs. And I found it a bit like blood-letting, I could actually sit and write. While I was at school I was fucking useless at writing anything, you know. I used to be a rebellious kid, every time the teachers wanted something I was like, ‘you? what do you know? I know everything!’ I was that sort of a kid, I thought I knew everything. To actually sit down and write anything was an impossibility, but obviously when punk came along to actually put a pen to paper and sort of sit down and go, ‘wow, fuck me, I wrote that’… and actually put it to music… it just happened.

I don’t know… if I didn’t hear The Clash or The Stranglers on the jukebox in the clubhouse, whether I would have actually known whether I had that ability to sit and write. I don’t know. All I know is that punk music meant so much to me, it opened so many doors for me. That’s my love of punk. I don’t necessarily think that I am punk. I feel a little bit of a cheat when I see these punk rockers and stuff, you know. Then again, maybe they didn’t walk the road I walked, so I’ve still got half of a motorcycler in me. I still ride me motorcycle to the gigs and stuff. I’m not the average punk rocker, but I’m somewhere like the bastard child somewhere I think, at the second generation of punk, should we say.

Because, obviously, we came in when punk music came back in with its second wave – should we say – of 1980, with The Exploited and GBH and all this, the aggressive, grungy side of punk. We had our little niche, and you know, we had our little corner – we were bike guys. There was an opening there for us.

100% ROCK: In the very early days, the punk and the metal crowds were quite hostile, weren’t they? They rarely mingled together. But you guys managed to straddle both camps really well. Perhaps only like Lemmy before you could do.

Nick: It’s funny, I was matey with Lemmy – we used to hang out a lot in London, in my early days. He knew a lot of the [Hell’s] Angels and stuff in London, obviously a lot of the gangs I knew, we used to get on really well, Lemmy and I. He used to have a boat on the Thames, and we used to spend many happy evenings doing illegal things. We used to go out on the town, we go out and see The Damned play. It’s all in the book…

Lemmy and I fell out because we – it’s in the book – but in the mid-‘80s, when punk music got sort of stale and Lemmy was still doing Motorhead, we went out, and he looked at me and said, ‘what the fuck’s happened to the Anti-Nowhere League, you’ve all gone fucking pansies or something.’ Which was entirely right – too many drugs and too much confusion going on, and yeah, he was right. And in my book it says that I should’ve took his advice, that he was right, I just fell out with him [over it]. I was a bit of an arsehole. Obviously he was on the same sort of movement we were in those days, in 1980. He was just flying the flag of… I always thought that Motorhead were sort of like the punk side of metal, and that Anti-Nowhere League were the metal side of punk.

100% ROCK: Yeah, definitely.

Nick: We had some little thing between us, which was very similar but very different. I mean Lemmy never road a motorcycle. We used to laugh at him. He never rode. We all used to ride and stuff like that. He had a good sense of humour, he was a good guy. Then we sort of parted ways, Lemmy and I, it was only later on – a few years ago – when we toured with Motorhead, we actually sat down and sort of reminisced about the old days going up to London, you know, going playing with the band. We had a little bit of a heart to heart. It was quite good really, because we did fall out. When you get older, you think, ‘how fucking stupid was that?’ We were silly. Unfortunately, he’s not with us anymore. Sad day, sad day.

Anti Nowhere League - The Perfect Crime

100% ROCK: You talked then about losing the throttle a little bit musically. Is that around the Perfect Crime era?

Nick: Yeah, it was a funny time, and everyone sort of blames us for dropping the ball. And like Lemmy said, ‘your album’s shit,’ and I got a little upset with him and said, ‘well your fucking album’s shit.’ It was true though, we lost our way, totally. I didn’t know why I was in the band at the time. We were back heavy into drugs and stuff again, and it was the same old thing: I was trying to escape from the bikes. So I thought, ‘fuck, this isn’t the road I want to take again.’ So we downed tools and fucked off for a couple of years. It does happen. I always say that bands are allowed to make one mistake, and that was our mistake – of losing track of where we were going.

I should have listened to Lemmy. I should have heard him say, ‘what the fuck’s happened to your band, you fucking wanker?’ I should have listened to him, but I didn’t. I got all stroppy and thought the [Perfect] Crime album was the right direction to be riding in. But it wasn’t. The right direction to be riding was the other road, and we couldn’t see it. So while Lemmy carried on being Lemmy in the moment, we just dropped the ball by the wayside. It happens. I don’t know why. Too many drugs, too confusing, to … you have to know where you’re going and why you’re doing it. And at that point, we didn’t know what the fuck we were doing. So… it was a simple thing to give the thing up and walk away. But I couldn’t walk for long, because I needed the music. So I just downed tools for a few years.

100% ROCK: I have to be honest. That album, there’s a few songs on there that have grown on me over the years. So maybe it was just ahead of its time.

Nick: I always think looking back at it now, that underneath… see, when we first wrote the songs and sat down, we always used a live guitar. Magoo and I used to sit down and chuck a guitar down, chuck a little beat down and then we’d write the song, and that was it. But because we were so fucking far up our own arseholes, we would bring in all types of orchestras and backing singers and choirs and all this fucking bollocks. I think half of it was the record company supplying such a large budget for the album. We just thought, ‘wow, fuck me. We’re rock stars now. We’ve got a fucking great budget, we can do what we like.’ And then got carried away with all the bollocks.

Underneath all those songs, they are still four-piece rock band songs. It’s just that unfortunately we covered them with shit. I think if I ever had the chance to redo that album, I would do it literally as a guitar rock album. Then I think you would see the songs – I think you’d see the songs underneath all the bollocks which is around them. I don’t diss the original guts of the song, I just diss the fact that I fucked them up in my own stupidity.

I’m allowed to make one mistake in life, I think.

100% ROCK: Fair enough. The new album you’ve got coming out, is that all new material?

Nick: It’s all new, yeah. It’s called The Cage. It’s the basic [thing] of how we’re born into a cage we’re made into, and we live in it until we die, sort of thing. It’s about people’s lives. I think it’s the best thing I’ve done for fucking years – I really honestly do. And I don’t say that to push an album. It’s only other people who will fucking tell me whether they think it’s shit or not. For me personally, I fucking love it. I can’t stop playing it, which is something I’ve never done before. It’s hooked right in me.

Anti Nowhere League - The Cage

The only difficult side of it is, there’s so many lyrics – and my brain isn’t as big as it used to be. It’s just remembering all the words when we do them live. I have to keep rehearsing and rehearsing them. Fucking frightening, mate. I didn’t know I wrote so many words, there’s fucking thousands of them. [laughs]

100% ROCK: You must have had something to say.

Nick: Where this is a very interesting point, I always think if people ain’t got fuck all to say, they shouldn’t write songs. Over the years I’ve thought – I know you Aussies call us whinging Poms – but moaning is a fucking [good start] to a fucking good song. I think if everything’s nice and wonderful, you’ve got fuck all to say. I’m a good moaner.

I think moaning about people, moaning about their lives, I think is what I’m good at. I know people will tell me what they think, but I’ll be surprised if anybody doesn’t think this is our finest hour. I really would.

100% ROCK: And is that coming out on Cleopatra as well?

Nick: Yes, it is. May the 13th, it’s being released internationally, Cleopatra is obviously doing their bit. I’m setting it up on my site, my Facebook site, so you can put your order in. We’re touring this year, we’re in the States and stuff. There is talk of Australia, but I think they’re sitting there waiting to see if the album’s successful or not.

Everybody wants to know if you got a successful album or a shit one, don’t they? If it’s a shit one, I don’t think we’ll be getting any bookings. If it’s good and going well, then yeah we’ll get the agents and we’ll get the promoters. It will start its own engine. It’ll be good: I’m sure it’ll be good.

Anti Nowhere League 06

100% ROCK: I was lucky enough to see you perform So What, with Metallica, at Wembley in ’92, when you came on and did the encore there – that was cool. And then I saw you in 2009 as well, in L.A. in a small club, The Roxy I think it was – that fucking night was just insane, just from start to finish, but that’s another story.

Nick: It’s funny because we’re doing Punk Rock Bowling this year, and they put us in this smaller venue, than we’ve done it before in Vegas, and as soon as they put it out it sold out. Of course everybody is moaning at me saying, ‘fuck me, I’m traveling to see The League,’ but I think in their madness these people do these things, because I think that’s where we’re at our best – when we’re right in the sweaty pit, when we’re right in people’s faces and it’s fucking crazy. You sit up there on a high stage, it’s another day in the office, if you know what I mean. You have to work a big stage.

When you’re actually in your face with people – we’re actually one spit away from you – it’s good. They always put us in this sweat-box more than the open areas. I think it always works. If you have fun then it proves that these things work.

100% ROCK: 40 years down the track, do you think that punk achieved what it set out to achieve?

Nick: It’s hard to put a label on punk, isn’t it now? All it done for people is to give them another fashion sense. You see the goth kids around, you see the metal kids around, and you see the punk kids around. I think it gives another good feeling of rebelliousness to them – everyone loves feeling a bit rebellious, don’t they, as you’re going up.

As you’re growing up, you’re going to rebel against something. Otherwise life’s fucking dull. I think punk will always keep doing that, it will always be the undercurrent of things. I don’t think it achieves anything, it’s just a voice for kids growing up… and an old bloke who moans.

As punk music goes, I don’t think there’s anything achieved. It’s just fucking music, really. It ain’t gonna solve fuck all, apart from giving you a good time now and then. I don’t think you’ll solve any problems with it, there’s been demonstrating songs forever, it don’t change fuck all. It just gives you a reason to get something to sink your teeth into.

I just like the punk thing, and I like the metal thing when we play the metal festivals, [they] are great. I like playing punk festivals. Even the family entertainment festivals they put us on now and again! I think they keep the kids away, but I think they put us on just to… well, you go to festivals now and you’ve gotta have all different types of music going on. Nobody wants to go to a festival for just one type [of music]. It’s always good to have a few different types of bands playing. Skinhead festivals, they’re the ones that we’re not quite sure about…

100% ROCK: Well, for good reason.

Nick: We do play on the skinhead festivals, but I think they are not as rowdy, should we say, as the other ones. They sort of stand there and look at you and think, ‘what’s these blokes about then?’ You know, these long-haired blokes with motorcycles. Anyway, it’s all good fun.

100% ROCK: I’d imagine that you’d agree that punk certainly allowed someone like yourself to start a band. Whereas, maybe in the Led Zeppelin days, and the Yes days, you wouldn’t have got to put a record out as easily.

Nick: Oh absolutely. Me, in my bike days, listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd, going along to see Genesis and that, it never made me think, ‘cor, fuck me, I want to be in a band.’ But as soon as you hear The Clash, as soon as you hear The Stranglers – I want to be in a band. I think that you’re exactly right, THAT is what punk music does to the youngsters. It did it to me. It is a stage where you can get on and do your stuff, and if they come along to The Anti-Nowhere League and go, ‘I can fucking do that better than you,’ then that’s what it’s all about. I felt the same way with the punk music scene. It did it to me: it helped me, and I think a lot of these places… especially locally where we are around here [Tunbridge Wells in South-East England], and in most towns really, there’s fuck all really for the youngsters: never has been, never will be. Once you get in a band and start playing the local venues, [then] it just keeps them off the streets. It kept me off the streets.

Anti-Nowhere League at Vivaz. Photo by Lisa Rocket

Anti-Nowhere League at Vivaz. Photo by Lisa Rocket

To be honest, I would be there now [on the streets] if I didn’t have it. I think there’s a lot of other people probably, possibly like me, who get far more out of the punk music scene in attitude than they actually realise. Certainly when you get later on in life, you think, ‘fuck me, that was what it was all about,’ – I think it’s a good vehicle for that. You are exactly right. A lot of people come to a punk band, start a punk band, start in music because of watching a punk band. And you don’t get to do that when you watch pristine polished bands.

Anti Nowhere League - We Are The League

100% ROCK: Absolutely. I’ll let you go in a minute, you’ve been very generous with your time…

Nick: Nah that’s alright mate. I was only gonna be going out on me bike today, but it’s fucking raining! [laughs]

100% ROCK: What are your thoughts on the American bands that call themselves ‘punk’ – your Blink 182s and your Green Days and your Good Charlottes?

Nick: We used to entertain people like that in the early ’80s. Their Mums used to bring them along in their Lamborghini’s and Junior would get out of the car and put their little punk wig on and go in there. It’s all good clean American fun, isn’t it? They’re all polished, they’re all wonderfully polished. [with disdain dripping from his voice]

I don’t know that way of life. My mother never took me to a gig in a Ferrari. All I know, I was dragged up through some back streets of England. I don’t really know why they’re doing it, as much as they don’t know why I’m doing it. They probably look down their nose and think: ‘dirty old English bastards.’ I think they don’t understand the grittiness and the dirtiness of us. There’s nothing that I understand about the polished, lollipop, bollocks of them.

I always thought in the early days you couldn’t really say punk. You couldn’t. We were just swept away into that little category and that was it. Punk has a big catchment area. American punk bands… but punk is from the street, isn’t it? It’s all guttural. They’ve just taken it and polished it into a typical American – ‘awesome, awesome, man,’ [adopts cheesy American accent] thing. They polished this turd – whereas I think the English just display it! [laughs] I won’t criticise them though, because it’s their style – it isn’t our style, though.

100% ROCK: Well if it matters at all, I couldn’t agree with you more.

Nick: Ah well, that’s good. There’s a couple of us old boys around, still, aren’t there.

100% ROCK: [laughter] Awesome Nick, thank you so much for your time today. It’s been great. We’d love to see you down here in Australia.

Nick: I think we will do it, definitely. I just hope I don’t turn up there in a wheelchair!
The Anti-Nowhere League’s new album THE CAGE is out now. Order here:

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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