maximum rock n roll
interview with lance hahn
Over the years we have done many interviews.
Most were for small fanzines with small distribution. Some were more intense.
Each have their own significance in the scheme of 'getting the message across'.
The following questions were posed by Lance Hahn... He has been working on a book on anarcho punk... many of its chapters have been published in "Maximum Rock & Roll"...
My response was written up and aired in August 2002... issue #231.
Deno never got around to sending her reply.
The following interview is colour coded... Lance Gazzer Deno
1. First of all, how did the band form? How did you all meet? Is there any truth to the story that two of you met at the Institute for Mental Health? Was this in ’81?
The band was actually formed in 1980... memory of that time is a bit jaded (21 years ago). And like everything else you tend to remember extremes... be they good or bad.
I was writing lyrics/music and going to lots of gigs (shows) at the time. I was looking for other people to play with and ended up teaching a friend how to play guitar... (could just about play myself).
Deno was a friend who lived local and we used to go home on the same bus! We never met at the Institute for Mental Health... We did however develop a history of problems that would lead people to believe that was the case... (This was perhaps one of the strong points of the band... our 2 personalities were so extreme that people who worked with us ended up suffering on numerous occassions).
You may notice we had something like 21 different members throughout the bands history!
I believe there is some truth to that rumour in 1980, and if not it'll probably end up that way.
2. How did you come upon the name Dirt? Was it “punk as fuck” or were there any deeper meanings to the name?
The name Dirt came about as a result of the way people treated us as Punks. Punk at that time wasnt the 'trendy' MTV thing it is today! It was seen as ugly and threatening. People used to attack you verbally and physically . You were refused service in bars and restaurants etc.
PUNK AS PUNK even!
3. How did you personally get interested in punk rock? What made you want to start a punk rock band?
At the tender age of 14,
I guess I was in the right place at the right time. Punk got into me. I'd come
from a musical background and was always writing lyrics. When I met up with
Gary he told me of his plans to invent this punk rock group made up mostly of
rejects and outcasts, it seemed a natural progression really. I didn't think
anyone would take us seriously, but then I didn't know Gary's middle name was
MacClaren either. Six months later there we are playing our 7th gig with the
likes of Crass in front of 2-3 hundred people.
Punk rock exploded in London in 1977. At that point... I was going through the 'growing up phase' not knowing what I was gonna do with my life.
The UK at that time was in a fucking mess. High unemployment. Strikes. Power cuts. There really did seem to be 'No Future'....
Music up to this point was crappy rock bands... same old shit... elevator music.
Punk was loud, fresh, in your face and exciting... It acknowledged its surroundings and said 'Fuck You'. Prior to Punk I felt alienated, had few friends and no idea about what to do in life... Punk gave me confidence and a direction... It certainly opened my eyes to the politics around me and made me think about things... it also gave me something more... a sense of belonging... a ‘scene’ that I wanted to be part of and a vehicle as an outlet for 'my ideas'...
4. Had any of you been in any bands previously? Had any of you played music before you were into punk?
5. What were the early gigs for the band like? What were the audiences like?
The early gigs were chaotic and exciting.... We couldn't get gigs at proper venues... always requiring demo tapes and 'play the music game' rules. So we would go out and find our own places... We'd never done anything like it before and it was a huge learning experience. I remember on one occassion we hired a church hall as if it were for a wedding reception. Got bands to play with, it was 'real' DIY... The audiences were similar people to us... the gigs were seen as meeting places for like minded people. We made lots of good friends... people would produce their own fliers and distribute them. (The fliers were quite diverse... vegetarian recipes.... human rights.... news and gossip). You didnt have to be in a band to be part of the experience.
One big party (in the first year). All our early gigs with the exception of the Deuragon Arms with the Last Resort (Oi band) were arranged by ourselves. We'd hire the hall, choose the bands, name the door price and keep the peace. Surprisingly we always broke even, which means that we must have been getting fairly good crowds, but then we used to work quite hard out most nights postering, and flyering at every gig going on in London (which back in late 70's early 80's was quite a few gigs). I guess back then to start with it was more easy going. It was bands that wrote 'political' songs as opposed to Political bands. There wasn't such a strict 'dress code' on black and the book on 'anarchist rules' hadn't been written yet, so the atmosphere was more about people getting together, doing what they wanted, finding things out for themselves, learning from each other, doing their own thing, but coming together in one big union. But it wasn't to last and soon the fascist side of Anarchy raised it's ugly head, suddenly Punk had become intellectual - people and bands were judged on the shade of black they wore or their hairstyle. Quotes from anarcho literature were banded around carelessly and your IQ was judged on the type of music you listened to. Where, why, who this came from I don’t know, probably 'wanna-bes'- those who couldn't quite get it together in a band took comfort in belittling those that could. (I know many members of various bands of the time that left because they felt they couldn't live up to what the 'movement' seemed to be demanding, fed up of being slagged off and criticized. We used to get letters from people actually criticizing what I wore, how we performed (not serious enough), etc) But what they did was break it up and break it down. Segregation occurred - if you wore black and short cropped hair you were a crass punk, if you sported a Mohican you were an oi punk, if you had dreadlocks you were a hippy punk, bit by bit being eaten away.
6. How did you get into anarcho politics? How did you first hear about Crass? Were you aware of that scene when you formed Dirt?
I think the so called Anarcho politics stemmed from the sense of community that developed after the 'No Future' ideas... The bands at the time were being bought up by the record industry and marketed as 'Anarchic'.
There was no way I was gonna let this be taken away from me... So just continued with the idea that we didnt need the mainstream... and if the punk movement was gonna become mainstream... we'd help re-direct it... create a future.
I had seen Crass play many times... and had become friends with several of them... I'd have to say yes the politics of their lyrics did influence me as they were representative of what was going on at the time... they were a little older than us and had been involved in 'movements' in the past, were artistic and easy to get along with.
They had a vision that made a lot of sense, were not about ripping people off and were genuinely trying to create something... above all open & honest.
I was a kid who became a vegetarian at the age of 14 and enjoyed the excitement of the punk scene. I wrote personal lyrics about the way I saw things that just by chance met up with like-minded people and formed a band. I was no messiah, didn't claim to be, I didn't and still don't have all the answers, yet I was questioned on everything I ever did/wore/said/wrote about/laughed at/ate.... I could go on.
7. How did you end up meeting Crass? How did you wind up recording for them?
Crass had been touring with the Poison Girls for a number of years.... and then at some point in 1981 the 2 bands decided to stop playing together.
I got a phone call from Steve saying they had a tour in the planning and were looking for a band to tour with... they liked the fact that we were different... ie. not an all male band with female singer... (Dirt from the outset had made a conscious decision that this would never be the case).
Plus our style and lyrics complemented what Crass were perceived as. On stage we were very non macho... almost amusing at times and we had a professional approach to everything we did.
Crass put out the "Object Refuse"... ep... as part of their label and as a thanks to us for being part of what they were...
79-80 the name Crass was popping up on leather jackets etc everywhere. I remember reading an interview they did for one of the major music papers, I didn't understand a great deal of what they were saying, but one thing that did stand out was that they were vegetarian, their reasons and beliefs, having been one myself for the previous two years and ridiculed for it, I found strength from this and the time was right to be opening my mouth about it. After a few months of Dirt being together, I remember Gary saying "this time next year we'll be playing with Crass" - he was right! Why Crass chose us to tour with is beyond me. They'd heard us on a crappy 4-track demo and asked to see us at a rehearsal. At the time we were rehearsing in an old church hall with a stage, Leo our lighting engineer (father of Fox (RIP) and Vomit) rigged up all his gear and we went for it. Cheesy as it sounds now, but rehearsals were like that for us anyway - full on. We enjoyed what we were doing and would throw ourselves into it completely 100% (this is where the dance routines started that we used on stage). Everyone was committed and as a team we were strong. Maybe that's what Crass saw, all I know is that I was told they were coming to offer us a record and we left with 2 full on tours and a recording session for 6 weeks time.
8. Your first record was “Object Refuse Reject Abuse” on Crass. Was this your first time recording? What was it like working on that record?
First time in a proper "grown up" recording studio, wow - you can imagine! Two days 4 tracks and Penny producing, You wouldn't believe the amount of times they had to record the backing tracks - drums, bass, guitars, boy did I hate those songs by the end of the day. Penny was a hard taskmaster, but he knew what he wanted - at least someone did!
12. What was it like working with Crass on a record? What was it like recording with Penny?
Recording was weird... never been in a studio before... it was good but also disturbing... in the sense that what may work live on a stage, sounds dreadful when you break down the individual instruments.
Coupled with the fact that our equipment was the cheapest you could possibly get! And I seem to recall having to do my vocals over and over...
Working with Crass was fun, inspirational and laid back. Southern Studios had a relaxed atmosphere and nothing was rushed... there was no obvious concept of time.
Penny was and still is a craftsman. We worked together recently when he produced one of the Stratford Mercenaries CD's.
He sees things from different perspectives and what at first seems odd to me... makes a hell of a lot of sense as time rolls by!
9. Did you feel like you were dealing with lyrical issues as a means of expression or as agit-prop?
Expression... the lyrics come from within... from things around us, that happen to us, that we see.
Not sure what agit-prop is....
Back then we didn't analyze lyrical content - hell if we did we probably wouldn't have released half the stuff. Gary wrote songs about war/bombs/politics and deno wrote about more personal issues. We both wrote about what was important to us.
10. The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki loom large in a lot of Dirt’s earlier lyrics. Did you feel your fears of nuclear war were like the fears of the Japanese or did you feel that the imagery was useful in shocking people about the realities of nuclear war?
Again this goes back to what was going on in the UK at the time. In 1980 England was involved in War games (Crusader 80) with the rest of europe. The USA was using the UK as a base for Nuclear weapons... We saw peace movements forming with the Women at Greenham Common. Anti apartheid rallies were highlighting race issues in South Africa. War was seen as a real threat at that point.
(And we all know 'War' is a good way of bringing a country together)!
Then... as if by magic... came the Falklands war...
The imagery we were using at the time was used because that was all that was available to us. People like us had little idea what the effects of war could be... those who were old enough for the war that ended in 1945 were a different generation.
We had soldiers in Northern Ireland and we saw the watered down news reports that tv at the time would show.
There was no internet or satellite tv. Nowadays there is far more access to this kind of information... (yet still this shit against mankind goes on)... We used what we could at the time.
11. Who did the graphics for the record? What did the front cover logo represent?
The text was done by me, the collage was done by Andy (crass). The skull on the records which was also used as the bands logo was painted by an artist and best friend of the band... Leo!
Many people have submitted to us what they feel it represents... No Comment!
13. Did you feel that you related to a lot of the other bands working with Crass at the time (Flux Of Pink Indians, The Mob, The Snipers, Zounds)? Do you feel like there was much of a connection between you and the other Crass Records’ bands?
Of course we related to the bands that were around us... in fact we shared musicians with Flux at one point... We did many gigs with the Mob... (probably one of the best bands of the time).
All the bands had something in common, a direction we all believed in and a hope for the future.
We would pool resources, share equipment/vans and book shows for each other. We helped form networks around the UK that would allow bands from outta town to have a place to play and stay.
In some ways we related to the other children of mama/papa Crass, but I think we tried to lighten the atmosphere a little. We weren't comfortable with the "preaching " aspect, so we'd perform stupid dance routines and cover versions like Elton Johns "Crocodile Rock". Some people liked it and some thought we were clinically insane - but then what’s new!
14. What music were you listening to at the time? What do you think were your big influences?
I cant remember what I listened to at the time.... I know my tastes havent changed that much and my record collection reflects that whole period. I used to see live bands all the time... regardless of what they sounded like... I just loved the whole energy that was around at the time.
Cant say that anything really influenced me... you can probably judge that by the way I play!
I don't think (with the exception of Gary) that what we were listening to had any reflection on what we were capable of playing.
15. Did you tour much after the record came out? What were the gigs like at this point?
Dirt were always playing gigs... Between tours with Crass we would tour with the Mob / Anthrax / Polemic... The vinyl release helped in the sense that people knew who we were.... other avenues were open to us... networks were getting bigger... clubs were phoning us to play.
I don't remember when the e.p came out, but we were gigging a lot in the early '80's. I remember there being a hefty National Front movement back then that used to turn up to disrupt our gigs, but we got quite used to it and quite adept at handling it and carried on long after they quit. I also remember the gobbing factor - strange though it seems now that people showed their appreciation by hoiking up a big greenie and aiming it at your face, but it was "the norm" back then. I used to keep fit running up and down the stage trying to avoid being by the crowd in the front and Fox from behind. And hey - it was good for re-spiking your hair the next day.
16. I know you played quite often with Crass. What were gigs with them like?
Crass gigs were like military operations. Everybody
had a job to do... PA loaded in. Screens set up. Projectors and tv's. Backline.
Banners hung from the ceilings. The whole room we played in was transformed.
From the moment the doors opened there was something going on. Videos playing. Spoken word artists / poets / etc... between bands.
The crowds were incredible, enthusiastic and very large.
One down side being that 'Spitting' was very popular at the time! The more they liked you the more they spat. My guitar actually rusted after one tour.
Some of the gigs were marred by trouble makers... At the time in the UK football (soccer) matches were a place of violence! Certain factions decided to bring this to the shows.
Being politically motivated attracts a lot of intensity and anyone with an issue would show up!
At one gig in Sheffield we were confronted by local people who had lost friends and family on board The 'HMS Sheffield'... A ship sunk during the Falklands war. I remember a group of us sitting backstage before the show, we explained what we were doing and about our anti-war beliefs. There was never any suggestion that we were attacking the dead. It ended on good terms and most people stayed to watch the gig. Very moving!
Well organized usually!
17. The next year you released the live 12” “Never Mind Dirt – Here’s the Bollocks”. Why did you choose to release a live record instead of a studio recording?
19. Did you feel that Dirt were more of a live experience? Absolutely!
Studio album was out of the question... our instruments / equipment hadn't changed... Our material was raw and straight forward. We were more of a live experience anyway and it seemed this was the best way to go!
We didn't, it's what we were offered - supposedly a quicker and cheaper way of getting our material across. Only it turned out most of the guitar tracks were missing and had to be re-recorded in the studio.
18. There was no proper listing of all the song titles with that record. Was that done on purpose? Were the lyrics laid out purposefully in a way that you couldn't follow along and would have to read them separately?
It was deliberate... I call it art!
Yes mmm! No track listing - not one of Gary's better idea's, as I who answered all the mail had to keep writing it down over and over for people.
20. What do you think helped your political outlook expand between the two records? Had you become more politically active or were you just reading more?
My surroundings and people gave me my outlook. We did a lot of benefit gigs (various causes) and met lots of activists along the way.Some very close friends were active in hunt sabbing at the time... even going to prison for their actions.
People who know me... know I dont read anything! (Still the same).
All the tracks on the 12" and e.p were our entire set at the time, we didn't get time to write new stuff and none of us could read much more than a cornflake packet anyway.
21. At what point did Lou leave the band for Flux Of Pink Indians? Was she replaced or did the and carry on for a while as a four piece?
Lou left after the Bollocks album... she played for both bands for a while... I think! I dont remember... doh!
I can’t remember when she left, but I don’t think we liked the emptiness of the sound without the noise, so that was probably the beginning of the end of part 1 for Dirt.
22. What was it like playing the Zig Zag club gig? A lot of people think of it as sort of the “October Revolution” of the anarcho punk scene. What were your reflections on it?
The Zig Zag was certainly an event. We put out notice that it was to be at the Rainbow Theatre. Then the night before... The Zig Zag was taken over... electric turned on and we were in. I drove the van with the backline in it... Met by police at the door who didnt know what to do... so they did nothing.
It was a great day... all the bands and the audience alike were friends by this point... It was a party... We had all come a long way together and this was indeed a turning point... where could things go after this?
It was an amazing experience to have been part of the ZigZag gig. Under the circumstances it was well organised and run, it was just unfortunate that our name got pulled out of the hat last to go on (allegedly). But an historical event nonetheless.
23. The band’s first incarnation split at that point. What were some of the factors leading to the split?
The band had pretty much exhausted itself by this point. We felt we had done a lot... grown a lot... Lou had left... Fox who was the drummer had had enough.
The antics of me and Deno had caused a lot of rifts between us all and those around us... For some time me & Deno were pretty explosive (not physically) in each others company. We had trouble agreeing on anything... we were still sharing a house and domestic issues and relationships weighed heavily on what we were doing...
Well with the lack of a second guitar, constant arguing between members and outside pressures finding fault with us as a band and individuals, I guess it was time for a break.
24. Did Fox and Vomit go on to play in any other bands?
Fox and Vomit were brothers. Fox sadly died about a year later. Vomit went on to play in a few non-political local bands...
Fox met Honey Bane got married had a kid then sadly died of an epileptic fit. Vomit formed a Hawkwind style band and played a couple of gigs with us when Dirt emerged again.
25. Somewhere along the lines another record was recorded for Corpus Christi. How did that record come about?
26. Why was the “Mother / Ripper” 7” never released?
The Ripper sessions were recorded for Corpus Christi... a spin off at Southern Studios. We were 'perhaps unwisely' left to our own devizes... we ran up a huge debt at the studio... couldnt agree on sound or a final mix and ended up in one of our familiar 'disagreements'. It was shelved... and is probably still in the vaults at Southern!
John Loder, Crass engineer, started Corpus Christi and offered us the record before the split, but due to production problems and disagreements - was never released.
27. The band reformed in 1984 with a totally different line-up. Who were the folks in this line-up and how did you all know each other?
During the year or so after the split, Gary had met and started writing with Honey Bane, he asked Fox and Vomit to contribute which they did for a while but I guess things didn't work out. Stuart (Special Duties) had been at the Zig Zag gig and despite what we'd read about him in the music press - turned out to be a really nice guy. Gary had contacted him about drumming. Anyhow the whole experiment never was to be but Gary came back to London with a fresh sound and some great tunes, which I found easy to add lyrics to. Paul had been to see Dirt/Crass a few times but was playing in a skinhead band so we abducted him as he hammered a mean guitar. Just as things were starting to work out then Vomit decided he didn't want to go through it all again. Richard was one of three guys who'd been tagging around the country after us along with Stef (later to become a Dirt drummer) and Dim the hippy. They hitched everywhere to see us/Crass play and usually missed every gig! We couldn't shake them so we decided the only way to get rid of people was to invite them to play in the band, after all it had worked in the past. So Richard picked up the bass for the first time in his life and much blood. sweat and fingernails later we were ready to hit the road again. New line-up, new songs, new roadie (stef) and new lucky knickers, we had to burn the hippy though - just a small sacrifice, but it kept us warm for the night.
28. Why did you decide to continue on as Dirt and not just call the band something else? Did you feel that it was a continuation of the same concept?
I had been working with some friends for a while and written some new material... that project ended before it saw the light of day... not wanting to waste what I'd been doing I put it to Deno who then added her contribution...
The new line up was made up from friends who were people we lived and hung out with... it just kind of fell into place...
What could possibly go wrong?
Paul and Richard took over on bass & guitar and Stuart (ex Special Duties) on drums. This caused a little controversy... but thats life!
We used the name Dirt cos the lyrics/music had always been written by me & Deno and this was still the case.
The idea was the same... we had taken time out, felt refreshed and ready to continue...
(this line up was the only time that Deno was the only female in the band).
We felt we had played a large part in a movement that made people aware of surroundings and options. And we still had potential and things to say!
It had always been Dirty deno and Grubby Gary what else were we gonna call ourselves, besides if we'd had as many name changes as line-up changes I don’t think none of us would've known who we were - remember me and Gary only just had a grip on reality as it was.
29. What were gigs like at the time? Who were some of the bands you were playing with?
Gigs at that time were taking on a new lease of life... Violence at gigs was by now a common occurence. Music tastes had changed (not from my perspective)... Every new band seemed to be heading towards Black Sabbath riffs... We toured with Antisect for the most part... We even ended up all living together at one point (hell... in case you were wondering)!
Other bands such as Toxic Waste and Crucifix joined us on some tours.
Gigs were great at that time, but in a different way than before. We'd "come of age" well almost. There was still the arsehole who turned up to spill blood and we had to deal with, but then me and Gary had become Karate belts by then. We had a few steamy rows with a Belfast band Toxic Waste over politics which lead to me singing with them, but thankfully the gobbing had stopped so the spikes had to turn to dreads and we teamed up with Antisect (which was an experience that went on and on).
30. How do you reflect on the band’s only studio LP? What were you trying to get across with “Just An Error”?
31. You released the record on your own label, I believe. Why did you want to start your own label?
God alone knows this one.... We recorded and released it ourselves. (because we could)... Limited to 1000 vinyl copies only.
In hindsight it was a demo of material we were working on. I think it would have been better if it was recorded a year later! But a year later and it wouldn't have seen the lght of day.
From early '80's to mid '80's our style of music had changed. We'd grown up as people a little. I'd finally been kicked out of school and Gary'd been kicked out his job (by his dad). Newer, older members and I'd finally got rid of Gary as the lyric writer, which meant that every song didn't have to contain the word "fuck" in it. "Just an Error” was probably a culmination of all that and more and we'd untied the apron strings of our fore fathers. There was no other choice. We didn't want to sign any contracts - selling our souls and music to a label - so the idea was to get the record out get some money back in and help other bands such as Polemic to get their stuff on vinyl. Unfortunately it wasn't to be.
32. Were there any songs on that record that had you had originally been playing with the first line-up?
33. Did you know that this line-up was ending by the time you recorded the album?
No... we were busy planning the next few months. We actually we did quite a few gigs before destroying ourselves!
We borrowed a load of money to release the LP I don't think we would have willingly put ourselves in debt knowing Richard and Paul were about to abscond to the other side of the world. If we'd known at the time how much the "price on their heads " was we'd have turned them in ourselves to pay back the loan shark that Gary had borrowed from for "just an error" - he may have been able to hang on to his big toes then.
34. Why did this line-up split and did Stuart, Paul or Richard go on to play in any other bands?
Dirt had a different feel than the previous line up. The tensions weren’t as high between us all and we didnt seem to have to work too hard to make things happen for ourselves. The energy wasnt right and it seemed hard to focus on a direction. I feel, looking back... that we felt we had something to say... but it was more like letting off steam and wasn’t working.
No..... after you play in a band with me & Deno... you would never want to experience anything like it again!
No. Richard met and married in L.A, Paul met and married and now resides as a recluse in Plymouth and Stuart - well no one really knows, although there was talk of a sex change?
35. Then the band took a long break until it was revived in the early ‘90s. First of all, what made you want to get the band back together at that particular point in time? What was the impetus for the return?
My best friend at the time was working for a music magazine. She took me along to see a band called Daisy Chainsaw... It was one of the first gigs I had been to in years. Fucking incredible!
I was so motivated that I called Deno... who I hadn’t seen for a long time. Our lifestyles hadn’t changed but we had gone in different directions... We got together and decided to work it through... It turned out that we were both still writing material...
And our different experiences had caused us to feel strongly about what we had done in the past. About the same time as we were doing this I got a call from Ali of Hellkrusher. He had heard from friends that me & Deno were working together and made us an offer! He had made some contacts and was booking a small tour for his band. We went along on a kind of low key ‘see how it goes’... It went well for us and we were all fired up!
A moment of madness I guess. I suppose me and Gary had never let go of the Dirt reigns after all it was our baby it just needed the right sort of people to nurture and care for it and that's what we thought we'd found in the '92 line up - how wrong could we be! Mick on bass who now resides at Her Majesty's Pleasure for the rest of his life, Karen on guitar who probably should reside at Her Majesty's and Stef on drums - well he'd served his penance as Dirt roadie and one-time mike stand (don’t ask) So just to make sure he'd never work again in this country we allowed him a time on drums.
36. Was there ever any talk of getting back with any of the old members? Who were the new members and how did you know them? What bands had they been in before?
Not really... Dirt always ended up in turmoil... so new blood was required...
The others in the band had been in some bands before... but I'd never seen them and cant remember the names... (not selective memory I assure you).
The new people were friends of old... except Karen who had been recommended as a guitarist.
37. Now I get the impression that the band led a pretty tumultuous life and that you and Deno fought a lot. Is it true that you weren’t even really on speaking terms when this line-up formed?
Well me and Gary knew each other so well we didn't need to speak. I knew what ever I said he'd disagree with and he knew that what ever I said he'd always get his own way.
38. What was it like touring and playing live under such stressful conditions? Had that always been the case throughout the bands career?
Understatement!!!! Dirt was fuelled by the fact that me & Deno could not get along. We were/are both passionate about what we do and both very head strong. We couldnt agree on anything! This was really hard for other members of the band... they would always be caught in the cross fire.
It did make touring difficult... but we got a new lease of life when we toured with Hellkrusher... they seemed to suffer more from us than we did!
In fact it caused them to split a few times! Later we did the same to Final Warning... but by this point me & Deno were always travelling in different vans. Our saving grace!
Many tours we never actually spoke to each other! But if you'd seen us on stage you'd think we were family.
Completely - each time we got it together new stresses replaced the old ones. A lot of it revolved around the money side, wanting to keep door prices low meant that we had to sacrifice decent touring transport. We'd buy a crummy transit for £200 then 3 days into the tour and parts would fall off or break down. Many hours/days spent on the hard shoulder of the motorway waiting for the breakdown service freezing our socks off, bored and hungry. When we toured the States we paid ourselves $5 a day to buy food, drink and cigarettes - so under these conditions it's not surprising that we'd fall out or split up or beat the crap out each other (in our dreams). However if and when we arrived at the venue and played a blinding set (which didn't always happen) it would all seem worthwhile and if we got a good crowd too - it was like we knew what we went thru hell for.
39. I believe that this was the line-up that recorded the “Feast or Famine” cassette. Why do a cassette release instead of a record?
Originally it was done as a demo whilst on tour in Ireland. The reason it was only on cassette was that it was only a demo and we could press them as and when required!
As I recall, it was all that we could afford and I think we were given free studio time in Dublin by Deko of Paranoid Visions.
40. The only song from the cassette to make it to the subsequent single was “Lunacy”. What do you feel was special about that song and what were you trying to express?
I think the reasoning behind it was that the cassette had actually sold about 1500 copies and to put out the same songs on vinyl would have felt like we were cheating somebody. Plus the cassette was good enough in its own right.
Lunacy and the other songs that formed the 2 7" singles were Deno's new direction in writing. Taking on a more personal direction and those of womens rights. The 2 Toxic Waste songs were added because Deno had performed with them on a tour and we had incorporated both songs in our set.
41. How did you hook up with Skuld for that record? What was your relationship with that label like? Why didn’t you want to release the record on your own?
Cant remember all the finer points... but I recall Hellkrusher had dealings with Kleister... we talked and it seemed like a good idea. We had no finance to put anything out ourselves and Skuld has a good network. Kleister was good to work with and easy to get along with.
42. There was a more serious tone to what the band were doing in the ‘90s especially in the artwork. What were you trying to get across with these more abstract record covers?
Not sure what you mean by more serious... I have always considered what we do to be serious.
Its easy to put out a record and miss the point that art plays a strong point in what you do... (Gone are the days of photocopies and stencil/letraset etc)...
I think we realised that artwork was 'not' a strong point in our list of talents!!! We decided that someone more artistic should be involved.
Lin Cummins, artist/photographer was given the space...
43. How did the split record with Mankind? come about? How did you know them? How would you describe that band?
44. Did you ever get to play any gigs with them?
45. Do you feel you had much in common with them musically or ideologically?
We had played with Mankind on a few occassions. Tribal War were releasing some of their material and asked if we were interested in putting something out... We had 2 tracks from the same recording session as the Skuld 7” so... released a split.
They were seen as the US version of Dirt! ... (Well... at least soundwise).
Ideologically... hard to say! On the surface... probably... but we are worlds apart... We are much older! A little wiser?... more jaded... more cynical... better looking... we face different problems to them... different lifestyles... different backgrounds...
We are all part of the same scene and I consider Stacey and Bill to be really good friends of mine.
46. When you toured the States with Hellkrusher and Final Warning, was that your first time over? What were your personal impressions?
47. How do you reflect on that tour? What were some of the better and worse moments?
48. What made it imperative for you to come back that same year? How did that tour go for you?
49. Was the first US tour just a test run for the later tour?
50. Did you feel that all the touring was putting a strain on the band?
It was our 1st US tour. I think we were all really impressed that the scene was thriving on its DIY level... the enthusiasm was overwhelming and we met tons of good people and bands.
It seemed odd at times... the age gaps between us all. All ages shows mean that majority of audience are under 21... The tour was great... 3 bands travelling in 2 vans. We covered a lot of ground but didnt make it to the west coast... theres only so much time you can put into touring in one go... thats why we came back later the same year.
Subsequent visits have led me to the conclusion that whilst the 'punk movement' appears to be growing... when people get to 21 they tend to avoid all ages shows... leaving bands with a new audience to play to... unless they start playing in bars!
Some of the best moments that I recall... this is hard... the basement shows in Chicago / Wisconsin with a jam session at a local bar afterwards! A 2 day party in Minneapolis! Hanging out in Dallas on a very hot day! Playing an AA club in Long Beach & having to pass breath tests to get in! Riot police stopping the shows in LA & again 2 days later in Phoenix. Falling in love a ‘couple’ of times... seeing the Redwoods / deserts / truck stops / some presidents cast in a mountain?
Getting to play with Aus Rotten and Naked Agression... Seeing how Tribal War Records works!!
No real bad points... although everyone can remember me & Deno not talking.......
The tour was in 2 parts... a lot of people dont realise what a lot of stress touring can be... you dont have a proper bed, a place to call your own, endless driving, sleep deprivation, having to be nice to the 50 people who have trekked 3 hours to see you. The noise on stage everynight, drinking & partying... even if you dont want to... basically its a rollercoaster that you cant get off... and it is hard work. All for the 45 minutes performance everyday.
Add to that 5 shows in the mid west were cancelled and you end up camping cause theres no money for the 15 people on the road and its hell!! (we are punks not hippies).
So the tour has to be broken down into smaller segments!
51. Were there any more line-up changes during this period? Who was Cecille?
There were a few line up changes... one because Stick was refused entry into the USA so we recruited Julian, a drummer from New York. 2 days notice and rehearsals and we were on our way. Karen was out after the 1st US tour... too much pressure from touring.
Cecille was a girl we met in France and gave her a lift to Italy! She stayed on the whole tour and then came to visit us in UK. She took over as bassist after more arguements within the band...
52. Your next release was a live LP called “Drunks In Rusty Transits”. First of all, what was the story behind the album title?
Drunks came about after the european tour where the van (Transit) we were driving started to fall apart... everyday a bit fell off due to rust and we spent hours pushing the bloody thing!
Add to that it was a pretty extreme tour... 2 bands in the same van... lotsa arguements all round. And alcohol... D.I.R.T became an acronym for Drunks in Rusty Transits!!!
53. I believe that “Manhunter” was the only previously unheard song. What was that one about?
I think Deaf Dumb and Male was also on that one... both previously unheard! I think the lyrics speak for themselves.
54. What were the reasons for Deno quitting at that point?
55. How did you decide to still do the tour with Stacey from Mankind? on vocals? How did that workout?
Deno phoned me a week or so before the tour started and said she wasnt going to do it... she had said this to me many times before... so I didnt believe her.
Not sure of the reasons... got some ideas... but we never really discussed it.
Final Warning had flown into UK already, a van was bought between us, ferry tickets, albums pressed and a tour was ready...
As soon as I realised Deno was for real... I phoned Stacey (Mankind-vocally very similar) and convinced her to fly here for a 6 week tour!!!
2 days later she arrived and off we went... no rehearsals! She saved the tour. She was great.
The majority of people who saw us didnt realise we had a different vocalist. The fact that she was probably younger than most of the audience didnt seem to play a part in this! (its an older scene in Europe). Obviously there were a lot of people who knew Deno and were upset at her absence... but...
56. Was there ever any thought about continuing the band without Deno?
No... Never... Dirt was... Me & Deno.
57. How do you reflect back on the history of the band? Do you ever spend time listening to all the old stuff? How does it affect you when listening back?
I seldom reflect on specifics of the band... but I know that was a huge part of my life... I am fortunate that I have remained in contact with a lot of people who I met over the years... I also know the band played a huge part in other peoples lives... be it good or bad!
I'm happy to say I'm still actively involved in the punk scene... It still causes me some controversy... like the guys who say... "15 years ago you said...".
I cant always be bothered to deal with people anymore on this level. It seems that whatever you say is set in stone for someone to criticise later!
I occassionally play some tracks... and it makes me feel good that Dirt was totally different to the other bands playing during that era... I still think we were more of a live experience and not the best musicians...
58. How do you reflect on the early days of the anarcho punk scene? Do you think it was all naïve?
Naïve... no way... I think the whole thing was enthusiastic and took up the momentum of a runaway train.
If the anarcho punk politics hadn't evolved the way it did... then I think things would be a lot different today...
The 'anarcho punk rock' movement over the years has shown itself to be perhaps the most influential of any generation.
Punks have been prominent in demonstrations, protests, promoted vegetarianism, squatting (as an alternative for housing crisis), fought racism, human and animal rights, has its own music scene and venues, has communities that exist around the world offering places for people to stay and communicate.
We should all be proud of what we did........ Dirt played its part.
I also feel very proud that we did change the world!! (well we helped...).
59. How do you compare what you’re doing now with Stratford Mercenaries to what you were doing with Dirt? How do you compare the audiences?
Stratford is different to Dirt... for a start Deno wasn’t bald! (joke-Steve) Its a lot less 'in your face' politics!
I see Stratford as an extension of what I personally did before... I have the role of pulling Stratford together... from rehearsals to tours to artwork to the web site to communicating with everybody... I like to take charge of everything I do... I find it hard to hand responsibility over to anyone...
The audiences... pretty much the same... Young... (Maybe cos we are a 'little' older)... I think times and attitudes have changed a lot... I see things different-ish nowdays... its sometimes hard to relate... but I usually manage pretty well!
60. Are you in touch with any of the other ex-members? Do you know if any of them have continued to make music?
I'm still in touch with most ex members... see a few of them on regular basis.
Stef (drums) is often working with local bands. Stick is occasionally playing with Stratford when Phil is busy elsewhere.
None of the others are... I think me & Deno put them off for life!!!!!!!!!!!!