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Interview

Oi Polloi
26/04/2003 (interview with Deek)



Please give a brief history of the band, including current line up.

Well, we started the band way back in 1981 when we were all still at school and had an average age of about 14 or something. They used to have these charity rock concerts at our school about once a term and we got really fucked off having to listen to these older kids who were wannabe rockstars just playing ROLLING STONES covers and so on all the time when most of us wanted to listen to punk and oi.

We soon realised of course that the only way we were gonna get to hear some good music was if we did it ourselves so we started practising in a garage with one tiny amp, no mike and a drumkit mostly made out of buckets of fertiliser. We were just playing covers at first and so we soon had enough for our first gig at school which was great as we hit the kids with a string of classics by BLITZ, THE 4SKINS, THE STRIKE and the mighty COCKNEY REJECTS. Brilliant as the music was though it wasn't long before we realised that a lot of the oi lyrics weren't exactly penned by geniuses and as we started to listen to stuff like CRASS and DISCHARGE we started to think about a bit more than just aggro at football matches and getting pissed. We then tried to combine the more thoughtful lyrics of these kind of bands with the excellent oi type music with the old sing along choruses etc so we have always been a kind of mixture of the two types of stuff really.

We had started really just for fun and did an 8 song practice tape to send to "Sounds" (a music paper who reviewed cassette demos at the time) just so we could get a mention in print to impress our teenage mates but when the review came out we got hundreds of letters from all over the country wanting copies and after that when we discovered all about the whole underground scene of fanzines and distros (through flyers these folk sent us in the mail) we were encouraged to go on - and after a few more gigs it was too much fun to stop! Since then we have done a load of records and toured all over the place.

We started touring abroad in 1988 and since then have played in every single country in western Europe as well as in Poland, Czech and Slovak Republics, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia and Hungary. We have also been to the States three times and Canada too. We have had a load of line-up changes over the years with people coming and going and oming back again. Right now some of our ex-members are playing in EXPLOITED, IN DECADES DECLINE, DISORDER, DREAD 101, DIVIDE AND CONQUER and BOXED IN.

Our current line-up consists of Ricky who has been a long time stalwart of the Edinburgh underground punk music scene on guitar, Cam who I have known for years through the Edinburgh Hunt Saboteurs on drums - and Calum on bass - he is the young pretty boy.

Discography.

We have done so many records now that I'm not sure I can remember them all now! I think somewhere on the web is a discography of some sort and we did put one on our CD compilation "Six of the Best" but I am not going to write one out again just now. It is not so important anyway - and this interview is gonna be pretty long already.

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you whilst touring?

I think a lot of the funniest stuff that has happened to us wasn't actually funny at all at the time but
looking back on it you had to laugh. Like one time we ended up playing as the "guest live band" at this under 18s fashion show in some disco and to try to get one of our mates in free we had told the organisers he was a backing vocalist. We thought they would just forget about him but they thrust him onto the stage with a mic just as we went on and as he didn't know any of the words he just staggered around the stage shouting out "Oi Oi!", the sound was fuckin appalling too and the bouncers didn't let any of our mates in so we ended up getting chased off the stage by trendies
pelting us with soft drinks cans and had to escape out the back door.

Another time in Estonia we ended up getting attacked by most of the audience and had to
fight our way out of the venue - the only folk who helped were the two Russian bar owners who were these guys who looked like Josef Stalin and just picked up these big lumps of wood to lay into folk. As we were driving away in our bus most of the audience seemed to be surrounding it trying to kick fuck out of it - fuckin horrendous.

Then there are a few kinda funny things that happened due to our involvement in the "crusty" side of things where you get some of these folk who really seem to think that it is cool or punk
to be as filthy as possible - some of the stuff that goes on with these folk is unbelieveable. One time in London we were playing in this squatted dole office and were going to stay in another squat nearby after the gig but when we went there before we found out that the folk that stayed there were real crusty types who had some dog they never looked after and the stench of shit was everywhere. There was dogshit all over the house - it was fuckin horrible - even when we
were looking through the guy's LPs there was dogshit on some of the record sleeves! After the gig we decided to stay in the gig place but then so did half the audience and then they started playing this really clever game of throwing darts in people's heads so after seeing a couple of folk staggering around with darts imbedded in their skulls we thought it might be better to go back to the house. We knew there had been one bedroom with a mattress and no shit so we thought
we would kip there but by the time we got back there was a huge piece of shit right in the middle of the mattress! Eventually we found another room and although the stink of shit in there was really strong we couldn't find it anywhere so we had to just crash out in the end. Next morning when we got up to go though our guitarist picked up his guitar case to find he had put it down on top of this huge pile of dogshit so it was all over it! Oh dear oh dear, I honestly don't know how folk can live like that.

It is sometimes even worse in Europe - we played in this Polish squat last year and when Cam asked this guy there where the toilet was the guy just looked at him like he was really stupid and said "Toilet is everywhere" - ah, right, very hygenic. The worst had to be in Cologne in Germany though. When we arrived to play in this squat there afew years ago this guy offered to give us a guided tour and started by saying "There are three kinds of people who stay here - there
are the political people and they are ok, there are the punks and they are ok - and then there are - the people with body lice" and we were like "WHAT THE FUCK?!!" and then he took us into this big hall just full of piles of rotting clothes and blankets interspersed with buckets of something black. "Don't go too close - this is where the people with body lice sleep" he said. Turned out the piles of stuff were like their nests and the buckets were full of shit and piss and they were black cos the tops were covered with a layer of floating dead flies - you had to see it to believe it. What is it with some people? Another time some squat gig we were doing in Luxembourg got stopped after only three songs cos the neighbours got really fucked off after some of the punks started shitting on their lawns. We have a lot more stories about shit but I suspect you have had enough.

We have some funny piss ones though - last summer in Finland we were playing in this place with a couple of really annoying folk in the crowd so we had mixed up these bottles of brutal Finnish homebrew mixed up with our piss and just gave this to them to drink. Then at the end of the gig I had a bottle in my hand that I had pissed into cos there was no toilet there and one of these idiots came up to me and said "give me your cider" - I was trying to explain that it wasn't really for drinking but he just took it out of my hand and downed it in one - classic. Actually another time in Finland our old bassist was really drunk and pissed all over this guy who was passed out on the front of the stage. When he woke up he thought it was really cool and when we got home we got a letter from some woman who had been at the gig who said she was a piss fetishist and that it was one of the best things she had ever seen on stage! Shit, piss - ah yes, vomit next!

One time we played in Wales at this gig put on by a couple whose relationship was on the rocks and the guy was really depressed and got really really drunk all night. The next morning when we had to go he demanded that we go to the pub with him so he could buy us a drink before we left. We were all a bit uncomfortable with it as it was really a very sad situation and there wasn't really anything we could do to sort it out but he was so insistent that we went along with him and his six month old baby he was looking after. Well, he had had a two litre bottle of white cider for his breakfast so he was really out of it already and after a couple more pints he was swaying on his chair and burping and we were a bit worried about his ability to look after the baby in his arms when suddenly he just went "Fuck - BLEEUUURGHH" and puked up all over the poor baby - it
was covered in vomit - oh man, one of the worst things I have ever seen. I don't think this exactly comes under "funny" as in amusing though unless it is a case of you have to laugh or else you'd cry.

I dunno, I could go on for ages - like when we arrived too late for one gig in Poland and these kids at the gig said "don't worry, you can play in my girlfriend's house" and asked us to follow them in our van to this house. When we got there they said they didn't have the key but that she wouldn't mind them going in through the window so they went in and opened the door and we were taking the stuff in and then started to notice that the house looked pretty normal with pictures of Jesus
and Mary and so on and when we asked where his girlfriend's records and posters etc were the guy got really evasive and we realised they had just broken into any old house to do a gig in the living room - fuckin insane. Another time in Poland we had to stay in this cheap hotel after the gig and a load of the organisers were there as well and they started making these home made molotovs and testing them in the rooms. The next morning half the stuff was burnt to fuck and THEN they tell us that the hotel is run by the Polish Mafia and that we have to jump out of the windows to run away - fucking nutters.

Yeah, sometimes you have some close shaves but I honestly can't recommend touring enough - you are always guaranteed some craziness or other - it's fucking great - even if it might not always be quite so amusing at the time!

You no longer look like skinheads, when did this change come about and why? Does this ever cause a negative reaction?

I think I should point out here that we were never ever all skinheads at the same time - the band was always a mixture of punks, skins and herberts and we liked it that way as we have always been all about unity. In the early 80s in Scotland there wasn't much difference between the punks and the skins - we all hung about together and it wasn't really something we thought about too much - we were all into the same kind of music and having a laugh, getting bevvied etc as well as organising gigs and going on demos, marches etc. especially during the miners' strike where there
were loads of us involved as it really brought so many sections of the working class together against the cops who had a lot of the mining towns up here under virtual military occupation. I think most of the time I personally was a kind of herbert - you know, harrington, sta-press or combats and boots, Fred Perry etc and I have had a shaved head many a time but we never ever made a big thing about how you had to be a skinhead or something. Our big thing was punks and
skins being united. Some punks gave us grief about this thinking that it meant that we wanted punks to hang out with nazi boneheads but that was not the case at all - we don't consider these bonehead fuckers as real skinheads at all - they are just nazi tossers with shaven heads - fuckin stupid if you ask me. We always remember the fascist National Front guy Webster who said "when we come to power the skinheads will be the first to hang" so I mean what else can you say about folk who still support a wanker like that except that they must be fuckin idiots. Anyway we never at
down and made some deliberate decision not to be skins - it is just that as time went on we really didn't find it important how people look - it is what is inside your head that is important to us, not the hairstyle on top of it. We get a mixture of folk at our gigs from crusty punks with dreads to spiky tops in studded jackets and good anti-fascist skins and we don't judge anyone on their appearance - they are all welcome. Honestly nowadays we take pleasure out of deliberately not looking punky or anything cos it is nice to surprise people and make them realise that you
shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Folk often say to us "oh we thought you were all huge skinheads" or something but anyone with sus is going to see us for the music and ideas and are not going to be put off if I have a big beard or something - as long as we still fuckin rock. One skinhead kid did come up to me in Switzerland last year after one of our gigs looking rather horrified at my hair and beard and say "After everything you have said how can you go on stage looking like that?" which made me laugh but I just asked him how old he was (17) and said "well look, I am almost 20 years older than you now and when you have lived another twenty years you'll have learned that it is just not important what kind of hairstyle someone has - it is what they are like inside. We are still true to our ideals - we still play the same mixture of Oi and punk that we have always played, we are still out there playing cheap gigs all over, we never sold out or went away and we still fuckin rock and that is what counts" and the guy was cool after that - he seemed to understand what I was saying. I mean if you like to look smart with short cropped hair
and you feel good like that or if you want a massive green mohican or something, fucking great - good on you, it makes the world a lot more interesting place than if we all looked the same and I have to say that some folk's hairstyles look fucking mental which is great - but personally we are not really bothered about our own - we just don't give a fuck to be honest. We are more concerned with rocking!

If you could see any band play live, either of the past or present who would it be?

I have been lucky enough to see a lot of the great bands in their prime like DISCHARGE in 82, AMEBIX, ANTISECT, FLUX OF PINK INDIANS etc from the anarcho side as well as folk like ABRASIVE WHEELS, ONE WAY SYSTEM, TEST TUBES etc from the streetpunk side of things when they were at their best too but I do regret never having seen CRASS who by all accounts were fucking amazing live. I would also have loved to have seen the 4SKINS when Gary Hodges was on vocals - that would have been fucking great.

What is the first record each member of the band ever bought?

Ricky says the first single he ever bought was "Rock the Box" by SYLVESTER which is not something I think I would be happy to admit to! Then again he is very broadminded in his musical taste which is a good thing really I suppose - variety is the spice of life and all that.

The first single I ever bought was the classic "Into the Valley" by the SKIDS - fucking great
Scottish punk - superb stuff - ah, those were the days.... The first Lp I bought was "In the City" by
THE JAM - another classic band - fuck, this is making me feel all nostalgic now thinking back to that.

Cam's first record was "English Civil War" by THE CLASH but I am saddened to have to inform you that the first single Calum bought was "Take on Me" by A-HA - oh dear , oh dear.... In a pathetic attempt to defend himself he said "at least they are Norwegian" but that is no excuse - thankfully he seems to have better taste these days. We'll try to keep him on the right track.

How important do you think politics are in music?

In terms of just making music itself I think politics doesn't have to come into it. I mean, I like plenty music that doesn't have any words you know - just music for its own sake - none of us would say that we would only listen to music with an anarchist message or whatever - that would be pretty over the top. When it comes to our own music though that is a different story. As we are not an instrumental band and we have words with almost every song, that means that each song is an opportunity for us to say something constructive and positive that could maybe make people
think or educate them or inspire them to do something positive. If you are going to sing something you might as well sing something constructive rather than just "Hey, baby come on out on the dancefloor with me tonite" or whatever. We started this band for fun and to have a laugh, not to spread any particular message but as we have songs we want to sing something sensible so that is what we do. We are anti-political in the sense that we do not want anything to do with party politics - politicians are all full of shit but we are not "non-political" as that is just impossible. Politics with a small p comes into every part of life - if you get paid fuck all while your boss gets a fortune that is politics, if you have to wait ages for a bus while some fucker cruises past in a Roller that is politics, if the tax on beer goes up so the government can buy more bombs that is politics, if your local hospital gets shut down or the cops try out their new gas spray on you or whatever that is all
politics. I can sympathise with folk who sometimes feel that everything is too heavy and that they just don't want to think about it all and just get drunk but that is exactly what the government want you to do.

If you try to be "non-political" and just sing about getting pissed and fighting at football etc that is politically conservative in itself in that you are doing nothing to change things and so are supporting
the status quo by default. You might not like to admit that but that is what is happening. People have asked us if we are a political band or a "fun band" and I would say we are a fun band as we want as much fun as possible. We can't have ultimate fun though if we or our mates are getting hassled by the cops so that makes us against them, we can't have fun if fuckin fascist boneheads are fuckin with our gigs so we have to be against them and promote anti-fascism, we can have more fun if gigs are cheaper and without meathead bouncers so we promote squatting and squat gigs where we can control everything ourselves and keep it out of the hands of businessmen so we can have more fun, we can't have as much fun if we are dying of cancer cos some fucker has built a nuclear power station down the road for example so we have to be involved in environmental issues, we can have more fun if we don't have to live in a world ruled by fuckwit bosses and
rich bastards telling us what to do all the time - so we naturally try to do something to change things - that is what makes us political - we want fun! Ironically the "non-political fun bands" do nothing to work for a better world of more fun but if you want real fun you have to go for it - and that doesn't mean boring meetings or shit like that - anyone who knows us or has seen us knows that we have a good laugh and are not some kind of self-righteous po-faced right-on intellectuals who spend all our time reading Kropotkin and Bakunin or whatever. Getting involved in direct action and so on can be a lot of fun too - hunt sabotage for instance can be a lot of fun. Yeah,
basically politics is important to us because we want more fun. Promoting "non-political" punk is to us either just conservative or another way of saying "let's keep punk stupid".


What is the Punk/ska scene like in your area?

The place where I live right now is the Isle of Skye off the northwest coast of the Scottish highlands so it might not surprise you to learn that there is pretty much NO scene here although the old main man of AMEBIX lives down the road making swords and castle door hinges etc and there are afew other folk here with good taste in music so all is not lost and I do occasionally put on the odd gig to liven things up. I put on NEWTOWN GRUNTS a while back and afew weeks ago we did the DANGERFIELDS from Ireland which was good fun. If things aren't exactly jumping where you are I
firmly believe in trying to make them better instead of just complaining. Don't wait for other folk to do it for you - DO IT YOURSELF!

Plans, gigs and releases planned for 2003.

We have a new live CD "Alive and Kicking" out on Step One next week. It has 19 tracks of old faves and newer stuff recorded with excellent recording quality at a big anti-fascist festival we played in Geneva last spring. We are very happy with it as it captured the set really well so that is the first thing. Then next month our new single "Carson?" comes out on Polish label Nikt Nic Nie Wie. The title is in the indigenous celtic language here in Scotland, Gaelic, and means "Why?". All three tracks on the record are in our own language as up until now we have always sung just in
English which is getting a bit boring! The release will come with a big fold-out cover with loads of info about indigenous Scottish celtic culture and why it is so important to protect people's linguistic human rights and prevent the current ongoing mass extinction of minority languages and cultures happening all over the world as we speak. It also fuckin rocks so look out for it soon! At about the same time our last full length LP "Fuaim Catha" ( Gaelic for "noise of struggle") will come out for the first time on CD on Finnish record label Combat Rock Industry who may also be re-releasing our "Six of the Best" compilation CD of six of our previous 7"ers now that Rugger Bugger
who had initially released it have stopped and have no copies left. So there is plenty happening on the releases front. We have also been writing a load of new stuff recently so we hope to record over the summer for a new 7" as well as doing the odd gig or two. We are pretty busy with all kinds of stuff outside the band this year ( this is NOT a professional outfit I must emphasise - we certainly don't make our living from Oi Polloi as some have thought - in fact we end up losing out as we very often lose money on tour. Still financial gain has never been our motivation so we can handle that!) so we don't plan any massive tours but we will be playing a festival for a friend's birthday party in Germany on June 14th and then I know that later on on September 20th we should be playing a big anti-fascist festival in Munich. We have also had invitations to go back to
Norway and Majorca where we played last year as well as Belgium and the US west coast so getting gigs isn't a problem. I have just heard as well that we are playing Bradford 1in12 Club on Friday 18th July as part of the Leeds Punks Picnic weekend - it is a benefit for Rape Crisis. Hopefully we will have afew more UK ones too cos we haven't played so much in England for a while.

Any final comments?

Just thanks for the interest and thanks to anyone reading this who has ever bought any of our stuff or supported us at our gigs. Hope to see you all next time we play in your area and if anyone wants to contact us you can write to us at
Oi Polloi c/o PO Box 421, Edinburgh. EH11 1JD. SCOTLAND


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