Interview:2008-D-Side48-Douglas

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How came the idea to release "Ends!"?


A number of factors led to this writing of possibly the final chapter to the story of my first group Crisis. The American release in 2005 of the compilation album called ‘Holocaust Hymns’ was a success and, in turn, it’s led to an invitation to contribute the track ‘UK’79’ to another compilation album being prepared by Rough Trade/V2 that will also feature people like Neil Young, The Beat, Woody Guthrie, The Smiths and The Byrds! It’s very nice to be recognised so many years later to be worthy of being in such company! That release is running late but, I think it will be out later this year and it should be called simply ‘Protest!’


On top of that, I’d noticed that there appeared to be more and more bootlegs of Crisis appearing, especially on vinyl, that either featured studio recordings already available or, very poorly recorded live shows that in my opinion were not worth listening to.


A few months after we had split and had played our last show on 10th May,1980 performing with Magazine and Bauhaus in front of our home crowd in Guildford I was given a bootleg cassette recording of this final performance by a fan who had bought it in a market in nearby London. I probably listened to it once or twice and then put it in a box and forgot about it until this year. With the benefit of 28 years hindsight I was surprised at how good the recording was in comparison to other live Crisis recordings I’d heard from that period of 1977-1980.Coupled with its aggressive and intense atmosphere, which truly reflected that evening, and the fact that, despite plans to do more performances, it actually turned out to be our final show, PLUS it featuring unreleased songs, even one that went onto become a Death In June song which I’d completely forgotten about, I decided this was indeed historically very important and deserved to officially see the light of day and act as a footnote to the Crisis/Death In June story. So, I convinced the newly formed NEROZ II label to release it on CD and limited edition coloured vinyl.


The fact to release this last concert can let us suppose that this moment of your career has kept an importance in your mind. What kind of remembrance do you keep today from the end of this project, what does it represent in your soul?


The end of Crisis in 1980 came at a very special and particular time. By the end of this last show the membership of Crisis, and some of its closest fans, were literally tearing each other apart. Especially that night backstage, even before the performance, which appeared to terrify even the venues own security who were panicking about the fights and bloodshed between some of us! But, for Crisis it seemed like just another day at the office!!

Tony and I knew that Punk Rock for us was over probably at the end of the month long tour of Norway we had done in August, ’79. It was a great tour but the years of being Punks since 1977 had really taken its toll on us because we were such prime movers in the group and its surrounding, intense scene. Trying to keep the whole feeling and approach of ’77 was getting harder and harder to maintain as the years slipped away.

Plus we were fed up with the relentless violence which Norway had seen a hiatus of as almost every day and night every drunk idiot wanted to fight the radical English Punk Rockers. We were also bored, exhausted and frustrated with not only writing 99% of the material but also organising and doing everything else ourselves with little help from the other 3 members of the group who seemed content with sitting back waiting for things to happen, yet complaining about the things that Tony and I did make happen!! Perhaps Tony and I were too dominant, and I admit that as 2 Taureans we are very domineering people but, eventually left to their own devices, the others in Crisis proved incapable of putting one foot in front of another without specific directions from us. But, Tony and I were by then more concerned with looking for our own new direction and perhaps the others were too as, soon after our split, Luke Rendall the drummer went onto form Theatre Of Hate with Kirk Brandon, who had been attending some of the last Crisis shows, and Lester Jones the lead guitarist formed Car Crash International with members of The Sex Gang Children.

I remember well the train journey back home to London in September, ’79 after arriving in England from a truly terrible overnight sea voyage from Norway to Newcastle in the North of England where everyone on the ship that night thought it would sink. Tony and his then girlfriend, and I were the only members that seemed capable of even catching the train from Newcastle to London on time. The other members and entourage couldn’t even catch a train without us holding their hands and were left standing on the platform waving us a resentful ‘Goodbye’ in a very telling; ‘Cynthia Lennon misses The Beatles train to the Mararishi meditation camp in North Wales, 1967’ moment! She and John were destined to split and we knew it was only a question of time that Crisis would also end at the tail end of Punk!! Our divorce proceedings were already in the pipeline.

However, during the sound checks at the shows in Norway new material began to take shape which would later become the ‘Hymns Of Faith’ album so Tony and I both also knew we would start recording when we got home.

But, very importantly this also came at a great change of ‘atmosphere’ in the UK which hadn’t as yet shown any real cultural manifestation that Punk had so dramatically done a few years earlier.

I was already aware of Joy Division but it was reading a review of their album ‘Unknown Pleasures’ in a British music paper I had bought in Bergen, Norway that really intrigued me and I made sure I bought the album and saw them and supporting them, other Factory groups like A Certain Ratio and Durutti Column play live as soon as I returned to England. That, besides being very thought provoking, was a true revelation and really started my internal change and opened the doors to where we were possibly heading after the death of Punk.

So that ‘End Time’ for Crisis where we even met Patrick Leagas at one of the last shows, is really a melange of intense, unnerving feelings and memories but, certainly without that time, Death In June would never have come into existence and with it the birth of ‘Neo Folk’ or ‘Folk Noir’ or however else one wishes to name some music after Punk.


Do you keep some other Crisis’ tapes that could come to the surface later?


There is unreleased studio material but it is not in our possession. When in 1978 we gave John Peel, the famous BBC radio DJ, the master tapes of some recordings we had done for Step Forward Records (who had decided it wasn’t what they were looking for) in the hope that we could get a BBC radio session on his show they were never returned. I asked him several times as he liked Crisis a lot and even invited us personally into the studio where he did his show in London after we had recorded the session for the BBC. At that time, that had only previously happened to The Fall so we were considered quite special and he repeated the session 3 times – the usual amount of plays was 2! However, he always neglected the issue and the last time I spoke to him about it at a La’s concert in London in the late 1980s he was quite dismissive about ever finding them again. Somewhere they are lost in his famous barn where he kept all the early demo tapes he had from people like Pink Floyd, David Bowie, T Rex, The Undertones etc. Since he died a couple of years ago I understand that a proper filing of what material is in this barn is being undertaken but, who knows how long that will take? The tapes were put in there 30 years ago! Unfortunately, and strangely I was surprised no one else in the group had kept any cassettes of the material so we don’t even have those to utilise. It’s a frustrating situation because some of the unreleased songs such as ‘With Everyone I Disagree’, ‘Search & Destroy’ (not The Stooges’ version) and S.P.G. were really good. Luckily S.P.G. is on ‘Ends!’ Lack of money and the change in Crisis personnel in 1979 stopped us from recording them again. .


Do you see yourselves like some very different political animals between the Crisis era and the Death In June one? Do these entities represent for you two different manners to see the world ?


Tony and I wanted Crisis to be a very definite political statement. Even before Punk we were politically radicalized and operated in extremely left wing fringe groups. That’s how we first met – on a demonstration! That was probably in about late 1975 or early ’76 and we were already confirmed Trotskyists . At 18 I was the youngest trade union shop steward at the Post Office I worked in after leaving college. For 2 years I’d been busy organising anti-racist demonstrations, better working conditions and wages and I had a very definite view of how the World could be run under International Marxism/Socialism. So did Tony and when Punk Rock exploded in the UK it gave us the opportunity we wanted to put forward that view via art. Crisis was going to be a focussed ‘agitpop’ group and we made a determined effort to play at as many Rock Against Racism, Ant-Nazi League and Right To Work benefit shows as possible. However, the harsh reality of doing that had many pitfalls and by 1980 we were completely disillusioned with the left. Certainly Death In June, as far as I was concerned at least, was never going to be pinned down by anything as earthbound as traditional politics. And, that remains that way. At 52 I view the World very differently to how I viewed it when I was 18-23. That optimism of possibilities for the ‘Masses’ died a death in me many years ago. I think I’d be a very disillusioned man now if it hadn’t!