Folk Devils – Interview
Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: What type of artist are you?
FD: Noisy, disaffected, visceral with a dark sense of humour. We started out as a rejection of punk orthodoxy and shiny 80s pop, but these days we are just a rock band ready for action. So we are ‘action rockers’.
PD: Tell us the brief history of yourself.
FD: We were founded in late 1983 by gutter poet laureate Ian Lowery (formerly of The Wall and Ski Patrol), managed and mentored briefly by Ray Gange, who starred in the rock biopic ‘Rude Boy’ with The Clash. Recorded three sessions for the John Peel show, released a series of well received singles/EPs, toured the UK, Benelux and Germany, opened for Nick Cave, The Fall, The Gun Club and others, finally called it a day in late 1987, then reformed in 2016 to celebrate the release of our CD/LP retrospective and to honour the memory of Ian who died in 2001.
PD: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
FD: Musically the original counter-culture punks (Velvets, MC5, the Stooges), British R’n’B (Doctor Feelgood, Eddie and the Hot Rods), then later punk and post-punk staples like The Stranglers, The Ruts, The Birthday Party and The Gun Club. Non-musically any iconoclastic literature, theatre, film, TV and art, we’ve probably read it, seen it, argued about it in the back of a van.
PD: What are your dreams and goals?
FD: At this stage of our lives, to make an album with the new line-up and to play a major festival.
PD: Who writes your songs, what are they about?
FD: When the band first started it was Ian and the original line-up, music by him, Kris Jozajtis (guitar) and Mark Whitely (bass). Ian wrote all the words, he claimed he couldn’t convincingly sing anyone else’s words, which is why we rarely did covers. They were based on stories, dreams, impressions of life, mostly concerning frustration, disdain, empathy for the fallen and disenfranchised. Often they were impressionistic, snarky, bitter and sometimes downright contemptuous. Now we are starting to write from a more group perspective and the supposed wisdom that comes with age.
PD: How do you promote your band and shows?
FD: In the live setting it makes more economic sense to partner with other groups from our era, those of a similar disposition and musical bent, but we’re happy to play alongside any band that creates the right kind of racket and energy. Social media, email lists and a bit of old-school flyposting when we have a proactive promoter involved.
PD: What do you think about downloading music online?
FD: iTunes is on the way out and most artists are transitioning to Bandcamp, but it doesn’t have the same reach or cachet that iTunes once had. Streaming has been the industry standard for 5 years now. Bands have to adapt or find other ways to support themselves. There are dozens of companies offering access to thousands of Spotify playlists for a fee. It’s mostly bullshit, who wants to be bundled in with hundreds of unknown acts who means less than zero to most music fans? Approach with caution, numbers mean nothing, true engagement with your listeners means everything.
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
FD: ‘Anarchy in the UK’ would be a contender, purely for the enduring impact this seminal track had on music and culture. If I had to pick a song I wish Folk Devils had done I’d say ‘1969’ by The Stooges…we used to do it as an encore from time to time and it was blinding!
PD: What are some of your pet peeves?
FD: I think politicians, bankers and corporations get under our skin when we contemplate the state of our ruined planet. I fundamentally disagree with the current neoliberal paradigm. I don’t believe that greed is good nor a necessary human trait. We need to get over that shit and consider new visions for the future.
PD: What is your proudest moment in music?
FD: Hearing the finished mixes of the new ‘Forever’ EP was massive. We’ve had many moments, gigs I remember, people I’ve met, it’s been a busy life but what counts is what’s current so, yeah, finishing the EP and holding a copy of the finished artwork.
PD: So what are you working on at the moment?
FD: Trying to navigate the new socially distanced reality and use the internet to co-write music and words. It’s not exactly conducive to the way we work but as one of us is in the States, one in Scotland, three in Greater London it’s the best we can do until some semblance of normality returns. “Will life ever be sane again?”
PD: What music have you available online and where can we buy it from?
FD: Our brand new EP (Forever), a comprehensive collection of all our 80s recordings (Beautiful Monsters), a BBC Sessions collection (digital only) and a Dutch radio session from 1984 (Dutch Courage EP). All are available from folkdevils.bandcamp.com except the BBC Sessions, which you can stream or download on others services like Spotify, iTunes and Amazon.
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