Tommy Concrete Interview
Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: Tell us the brief history of yourself.
TC: I’ve spent the best part of my life in and around music and have been lucky enough to have played in a whole bunch of bands. Started off in 1987 with Flib Ginis Dead Chimps which was a strange experimental goth alternative teenage experiment with flangers on the drum machine sort of affair. Next up was progressive thrash band Warp Spasm in 1989, who did a whole bunch of cool stuff, we then added keyboards and changed the name to Cosmic Juggernaut which was one of the core bands I have been in. Around about that time 1993-1995 I was probably at my most creative and formative of my style, we messed with a lot of genres and improvisation and it was a great era. After that we ditched the keyboards and changed the name to Concrete Head, and retrospectively the only thing any good about that band was I got the name Tommy Concrete out of it. Round about 1996 is when Shitball started, now no matter what I do or have done before, Shitball is the band that will end up getting written on my gravestone. So round about that point I sort of got to the point where I had tried more or less every single genre, style or experimentation I was ever going to utilise in my later life. Unrelaxed is a musical honing of this era in my musical development. I have of course played in a bunch of bands since Shitball, all of them being my ‘main’ bands of my life, but Unrelaxed 2 deals more with a focusing of the genres on display in this second post-shitball aeon.
PD: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
TC: For Unrelaxed, I was totally feeling it with The Eric Adams vibes, going back to my days as vocalist for Man of the Hour, there are even a few King Diamond moments which I haven’t done in a while. On guitars I was going for some sort of Frank Gambale / Whitesnake kind of trip. It’s all well and good trying to be clever about your playing and influences, but it’s all in the ears of the beholder to be fair. You know whenever I go to explore some jazz fusion influence, everyone says ‘Yeah, sounds like Kerry King’. So yeah, influences for real is just Lemmy era Hawkwind and Mototrhead, and that goes for everything really.
My main none musical influence is LLamasoft guru Jeff Minter, who was a one man surreal, games programmer in the 80’s who made loads of ultra good blast games for Commodore and Atari sysytems. They were all really proggy and druggy, with fucked up space goats, especially Revenge Of The Mutant Camels which is just outrageously ridiculous.
PD: What are your dreams and goals?
TC: I want to release a hundred albums, get a black belt in judo and kung fu, do a tour of the Scottish Highlands and Islands, get a tattoo of Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ album cover as a chestpiece, end child poverty.
PD: Who writes your songs, what are they about?
TC: I write all the songs and on Unrelaxed they are about fighting as recreation, religious gas lighting, suicide, cats, autism, mind over matter, sleeping, human rights, poverty, sleep deprivation and surviving trauma. Usually I just write about prostitutes, werewolves and drugs but I felt like branching out and breaking a routine. To be honest, the music expresses what the songs are about more than the lyrics, which are written to fit with the undiluted meaning entwined within the riffs and solos. A great deal of the guitars were done in a two week period when I was off sick with a ruptured disc in my back. I was filled with dihydrocodeine and all sorts of other shit and dealt with the riffs no problem, but when it came to the lead guitars I felt like I was floating in a sack of ethereal glycerine to the point where I made some unusual musical decisions. The lead guitars on Unrelaxed, are attempting to communicate a specific point somewhere between slow motion panic and accelerated relaxation. Hence the title of Unrelaxed.
PD: How do you promote your band and shows?
TC: For Unrelaxed I have been working with Dewar PR for promotion of the album, and so far that has been going great. As for shows, It’s all a mixture of slogging away at social media which is life draining. You can’t beat going round and physically putting posters up though and word of mouth is best. You can’t beat reality when it comes to promotion, or anything else really, except Unreal which is best left as Unreal, as it would have been shit if it had been called Real. Yeah, just get yourself out there and let folk ken you exist.
PD: What do you think about downloading music online?
TC: Rather that than home taping, as the quality isn’t going to degrade and you get the artwork. It’s going to happen no matter what, just a fact. Personally I just try to let people have as many options to Stream or download via https://tommyconcrete.bandcamp.com/ I know a lot of folk who used to be rich aren’t quite as rich as they used to be. Well I have never been rich, and now I have more options for folk to here my music, and I also sell more stuff. So for the small independent artist like myself, it’s all good. I feel sorry for the medium sized labels and bands that actually rely on sales to scrape along as a viable sustainable buisininess. Illegal downloading hits them the hardest and that’s the shame.
PD: What’s your outlook on the record industry today?
TC: Good riddance. All hail the new flesh. There is more options now to be a succesfull diy musician / label than ever before, the old models were labels ruled the world and had a monopoly on absolutely everything is thankfully over. We sign up our rights to different corporate entities now, such as digital distribution services like Distrokid, youtube, bandcamp as well as all sorts of social media advertising and stuff. I can’t complain to be honest, for me things are much better the way they are now.
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
TC: I don’t. That would be to say that I envy someone elses creativity which I don’t. I enjoy and find inspiration in the creativity of others, which in turn helps me write songs or whatever. The only real answer to this is to say I wished I had written the best selling song of all time so I would have the cash. But I have so little interest in what makes something popular that I probably couldn’t name any songs in the top fifty all time biggest sellers. This would mean I had got rich off of music I thought was shit, so it’s not a fantasy I have spent much time over before today. My songs and my music are from me and exist because of me and I exist because of them. So without any more avoiding the answer, Morbid Angel Chapel of Ghouls.
PD: What are some of your pet peeves?
TC: Talking, football, crowds, people who talk at gigs, posers, sport, celebrities, brass, xenophobia, piano rock, holo deck episodes on Star Trek Next Generation, Boss distortion pedals, pollution, noisy eaters, racism, theft, The Beatles, poverty, inequality, the dumbing down of counter culture, the monarchy, pop punk, ska, nu-metal, reggae, religion, droids, Tim Burton, coconut in curries, animal cruelty, animal testing, film and TV depictions of prohibition era America with the exception of Laurel and Hardy, having a union flag instead of a Saltire on my driving licence, indie music, people who fantasize about being Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation, film and TV depictions of Victorian Era London with the exception of Sherlock Holmes, bullying, the devastation of the ozone layer, nuclear weapons, anti intellectualism, samba drum crews, samba, drumming circles, ninjitsu, hippies, apartheid, cultural imperialism, franchise martial arts, people who don’t like cats, liars, fakes, bullshitters, people who go out of their way to let everyone know that they are not bothered about something or other, time wasters, HR, daal, people who think snouted werewolves are better than unsnouted, poser beers, no-touch martial arts, cider that looks like cystitis piss, everything that isn’t a cat.
PD: What is your proudest moment in music?
TC: Some of the first songs I learned to play when I was a kid was from The Exploited Punks Not Dead album, so to find myself thirty years later actually in The Exploited and playing those songs was pretty pride inducing. A few months into being in the band we played Belgium with The Cult, Patti Smith, The Mission and others. When we were backstage, one of The Cults ‘people’ came in clipboard, earpiece the lot and proclaimed that The Exploited were requested not to interact with The Cult. Don’t get me wrong, The Cult are a massive influence to me and one of my favorite bands when I was a teenager, but to have them ‘specifically’ not want to meet me by proxy just filled me with pride, nothing would’ve impressed the twelve years old dafty me more than that.
PD: Tell us about your next shows and why we should be there.
TC: I don’t have any booked at the moment, I have been focusing so much on making and promoting Unrelaxed that unfortunately my live bands Psychotic Depression and Tommy Concrete and the Werewolves have become dormant. However, I do have a new project in the works, myself and Stevie Power who I played with in Man of the Hour have plans to get some acoustic stuff together for a couple of gigs. I am also in the very early stages of getting a line up together to play my solo stuff. Anyway, cheers for asking me these questions, I enjoyed answering them. Ta, Tommy C.
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