Interview: Stuart, Andy & Toby - Litterbug

..To start, tell us your earliest memory of music - the song/band/ moment that flicked the switch. How did you get into Punk Rock - were you listening to anything before that, or was it the fabled ‘Year Zero’ moment?
..Stuart) (Vocals/ Guitar) Music seemed like light relief, but it all became serious and more important to me around 77/78. I was still just a wee nipper on holiday with the folks in Devon or Cornwall. Sat in the back of the car listening to the BBC charts on a Sunday tea time. It was inundated with Punk Rock.
The PiSTOLs (see what I did there), BUZZCOCKS, SLF, THE JAM and in subsequent years so many great post-punk pop songs from acts like THE FRESHIES, JOE JACKSON, LENA LOVICH, THE JAGS, JILTED JOHN and so on. Also the Two Tone movement which some Punks pretended to not have their records.  It was, of course, the edginess on the deemed Punk bands that grabbed me the most.
I then saw the SEX PISTOLS on Top Of The Pops; earlier that day our whole school bus thought we’d seen a textbook UFO overhead. It was quite a surreal moment and leaves me wondering still today. The very next day back at school, the only talk was of the real aliens on television the night before: Lydon, Vicious, Jones and Cook. It totally rendered our friends from of space a needless conversation.
Still as youngsters, we would play football on the back field with the older lads. They would have their cigarette break and this one time they brought a tape recorder; on came ‘Holidays In The Sun’ followed by ‘Bodies’, which sounded scary. Back at home later, my Mum asked what I’d been up to, I just said playing football!
The thing that’s hard to understand about the “year zero” thing is how this band was either public enemy number one or your heroes. Total marmite to the whole of society, they forced an opinion from everyone old and young. So I was frightened to admit I’d heard their album for fear of a good telling off.
As the following few years past I added heavily to my record collection, Punk Rock standard attire and probably attitude. Continuing to believe in the ethos throughout life, I feel at times I’ve paid a price for not joining the rat race, but stayed true to myself, a high percentage of the time.
..Andy) (Bass) First memory of music was hearing ‘Obla Di Obla Da’ by THE BEATLES - which translates as Life Goes On in Nigerian -  on the radio. First band I really got into was SLADE; my mum started buying records for me at a very young age and my first live gig was SLADE when I was nine. The switch was ready and waiting to be flicked properly when Punk arrived – the energy, the politics and the sound made the whole idea of ‘Punk Rock’ a no-brainer for me.
..Toby) (Drums) My earliest memory of music goes back to when my dad took me to my first Rebellion as a kid. I don't recall much from it but I have a really clear memory of watching the SUBHUMANS late on the Saturday night. This was my first real dive into both Punk and music in general. I remember thinking "I want to be those guys" and that Christmas I asked for a drumkit. After 14 years of practice I think I can just about hold a beat together.

..So what gave you the desire to become a musician rather than just a listener?
..Stuart) I was a later starter to picking up an instrument. Indeed, it wasn’t til the early 90s I got involved with bands. Most friends in the music scene had at least 10 years start on me. So I’ve always felt quite the novice. The natural recipe for the continuation of Punk Rock ideology perhaps. Well that’s the excuse I’m sticking with.
The fact is in my younger days, none of the people I knew were buying guitars or drums. Not sure why that never happened, as so many of our contingent were into music. We probably hadn’t spread our wings enough to venture into Blackpool town centre and remained hanging in our small town territory a few miles away. In a nutshell that was more like a village square with an adjoining graveyard.
..I recall you sent me the ‘Speaking Through The Gaps’ EP back in 2004 was it? From memory, that was a more Indie/ Alt Rock kinda sound... How come that sounded so different from the rest of the band’s material?
..Andy) Stuart’s song-writing and guitar playing have both improved enormously! Haha!! Also, he was very subservient to Karima our then singing drummer hence I think he felt the indie feel because it was more up her street.

..Give us a brief history of LITTERBUG - why you formed, how you all met, influences, ambitions, previous bands etc.
..Stuart) LITTERBUG came out of the frustration of playing in a band and not really getting some ideas forward. In the end I did some solo recordings of moreso experimental music like soundscapes fit for tv commercials or movie background music perhaps. The formative bands I played bass in were called  SEIZURE, NESH, KING MOB ECHO and THE DEADSTARS.
LITTERBUG was so called due to those moments in life when you spill your personal rubbish in someone’s earhole as a means to relieve your own anxiety or tension. That person might just have been the wrong human though, and so the analogy is the right being would be that bin to listen to your rubbish, as opposed to the wrong one just therefore being the floor, hence your litter is dropped instead of in its rightful place. Apologies for the complexity.
Once convinced by a local musician to get the material into band format, we decided to focus on songs more than just weird noises.
I’d known Andy from football and music circles for some time, though we were pretty much on the periphery of each other’s lives. Karima Francis was our first drummer, when we were more like an indie band of PIXIES-esque taste. She left for a successful solo career. Adrian Green made up the quartet on bass. This was around 2005 .
After years of what could probably be described as messing around, LITTERBUG ended up a three piece with Andy on bass, me on guitar and Cas Streetly on drums. Cas was into his ‘77 Punk and liked to drum fast, so naturally we slid into Punk Rock gear. It probably took us until around 2016 to start getting some degree of attention with subsequent album and EP releases.
In 2019, Toby Ridealgph joined permanently after playing a handful of gigs in 2018 on European soil. Something I view as a major step forward in terms of adventure and broadening horizons. You can’t just play in Blackpool or 30 minutes from home forever.
..You’ve just released your fourth album, ‘Abstract Melodies Saying Terrible Things’. How do you feel this is an improvement and/ or progression on the band’s previous material?
..Andy) Personally I think there are some really good songs on this album making it the best LITTERBUG release to date. The melodies and backing vocals are more prominent and our friend Ronnie did a great job with the recording and mixing.
..Stuart) We managed to finish recording the album the day before the UK locked down due to this hellish virus that has decimated lives and pretty much ruined the arts for now in the United Kingdom.
Like most bands, you often feel your latest work is your best, at first. Then on reflection after the overkill of listening, you start to get critical. It’s been very well reviewed but for one guy who’s unkind words sounded somewhat premeditated before the actual hearing. Rough with the smooth is good though.
It’s possible albums can have too many songs perhaps, but finances aided by two-minute ditties kind of dictate to fill it up.
We still play one or two from ‘It’s Punk Rock Jim But Not As We Know It’ when performing live. ‘Your Perception Is Not My Reality’ from 2017 and the ‘Countdown To Schadenfreude’ EP, make up half our live set. The new album, yet to be showcased gig wise, will be the other half more or less.
I do think the new album has around 11 or 12 great LITTERBUG styled songs in terms of catchy chorus mixed in with a bit of quirkiness. They are probably more thought through musically than in the past. That said the recordings from 2017/18 have an  undoubted charm about them as you look back creatively at how things developed from A to B to C. Though no doubt to the general onlooker, we are stuck at Year Zero forever.
..Toby) Having only contributed to the most recent album, I can't go into too much detail on how the band has progressed, however I think that while the album still keeps the feel of "classic" LITTERBUG songs, tunes like ‘Straight Edge’, ‘Cutthroat Capital’ and ‘Midnight Dream’ show that we're not just stuck in the same gear in terms of our sound.

..I’d like to ask about a couple of the songs on it, starting with ‘Guinea Pigs’. Is that a comment on the wider populace, or something more specific? There’s a repeated line stating, “You’re a lab rat.” Can you expand on that and how it relates to the song?
..Stuart) It’s a more simple song akin to earlier workings with a good RAMONES bounce along coupled with LITTERBUG twist.
The idea could be multi faceted. The song was quickly put together in all honesty and meant to be that furious track after your set list has perhaps relaxed a little.
It’s an aim at the fact the establishment in the UK dictates elections ultimately, just when we like to feel our individual voice is not just being heard, but validated. Social media gives us that platform, but opinions are also diluted by the fact everyone can display theirs online.
We are in the relative infancy of the internet this 21st Century, hence the guinea pig reference coupled by laboratory rat. The song references those moments we’ve all had where you regret your naive statement to the World, that can look embarrassingly dumb later on. There is also the possible interpretation at time of release, that Covid 19 has put us all in the laboratory together.
A lot of LITTERBUG songs are meant to contain dark humour and also sung as a third person, depending on the mood.

..And what about ‘Cutthroat Capital’? That’s one of my favourite tracks on the album - can you tell us the inspiration and meaning behind this song?  Guess you’ve never had the desire to leave the confines of Blackpool for London?
..Stuart) That song has attracted some attention with its title I guess. The meaning, of course, is how London centric the UK is. The song is a reference to those who go chasing fortune and fame but end up losing their sense of humour as well as their bank account in the world’s most expensive city.
There’s also been a feeling from some Londoners, that the rest of the country is wet behind the ears or out of touch. Obviously it’s a great city in many ways, but seems incredibly impersonal at times. It appears to make some folk a wee bit tougher but also ruthless and selfish, in an attempt to get on. Again it is also a dig at myself for not getting out of Blackpool, in particular when I could have moved to Berlin. That’s another story that helped create a few songs .
..What influences and inspires LITTERBUG songs?  Do you write collectively? Music or lyrics first?
..Stuart) In most cases, I come up with a riff and subsequent structure inc verse/chorus/middle 8. At times lyrics have come to mind with the melody, but I think most of the songs are music first with lyrics I have fitted in later. Obviously dropping or adding syllables where necessary to fit. I think it would be good to just jam more sometimes or let Andy just play a nice bass line whilst I come up with something for a different approach.
..Andy) The songs are almost 100% all Stuart’s creations – I would like to be able to supply songs but it is VERBOTEN. At times however he does allow the bassist and drummer to make suggestions - like the break on ‘Time Machine’ - and supply backing vocals.
..Stuart) Andy has his solo project ANDY HIGGINS AND THE MAGIC OF THE MARKET PLACE, where he has exercised his wisdom and thoughts.

..You’re based in the seaside resort of Blackpool, England. What’s the music scene there like? Is it a good place for a Punk to live?
..Stuart) Blackpool has always had its side dish of Punk, but I guess a lot of towns do. Punk had a bit of a revival here this century. It’s not just Rebellion though.
We used to have gigs here with acts like the UK SUBS, GOLDBLADE, TV SMITH, VIBRATORS, LURKERS and THE BRIEFS. All this side of the millennium. They were organised by a two guys who have since driven these bands around Europe.
I also ran a monthly Punk night at a venue around 2007 to 2010, before leaving that job unceremoniously. These usually involved local bands with an out of town act too.
These days, the Waterloo Music Bar has done a great job with live music, pre-Covid, and featured many Punk events. The local Punkier acts over the last decade or so have varied from 77 style , 60s garage to a more Grunge style.
..Andy) Yes. The Gold Coast as it is increasingly referred to – the cultural capital of the UK.
JSNTGM has attempted to document by CD, download and scene reports most of the bands that were part of the Blackpool Punk scene or associated with it.  Reports and articles available on the www.jsntgm.com and the music off the 2 CD’s can be listened to FOC on https://jsntgmrecords.bandcamp.com/music .
It’s always been a lively town with a lot of entertainment so it’s not difficult to find places to put gigs on.
It’s a great place for anyone to live Steve...

You’re selling it very well, Andy!
..Andy) According to the IN DIRE FUCKING STRAITS song 'OY-STO-NISM' is claimed by some that Jesus Christ was born here.

..Of course - hence the tower!!  Lots of thorns on the local fauna I assume!!  Blackpool is home to the Rebellion/ Holidays In The Sun festival - how does that weekend change Blackpool’s environment? Outside of Punks, how do the locals feel about thousands of Punks descending their town?
..Stuart) Rebellion is very much the fulcrum of Punk Rock festival activities. We are blessed to have the Winter Gardens venue here. I organise fringe gigs and aftershows over the 4 or 5 days. The whole event is quite nostalgic but with new bands too. The locals have accepted and then embraced the Punk festival. In its early years there was some trepidation until people realised the friendliness of what seems more like a hippy movement perhaps . The metal kids and chavs in Blackpool disappear and run for cover for 4 days though. No idea why.
..Andy) It’s a great weekend. My old band ERASE TODAY opened for the first one in 1996 which was called ‘Holidays in the Sun’ and I’ve been fortunate to attend every one since - even when it transferred up to Morecambe as Wasted for a few years.
It is popular with the locals and local business owners who rarely have a bad word to say about it.
..Andy, you are the main force behind the label that releases LITTERBUG records, along with many others: Just Say No To Government Music Records (JSNTGM). You’ve been doing that for what must be at least 25 years now - I think we were first in contact when you sent me the ERASE TODAY album. What made you start a label? What makes you want to release a band’s music?
..Andy) Ha – yes – back in the day – it was initially to release songs by ERASE TODAY and other local bands. I do like the DIY ethos - although it’s hard work - and as no established label ever showed any interest in the band it had to be the DIY route. I’ve always been a bit of an organiser – writing fanzines, putting on gigs, organising travelling groups etc. – so recording and releasing music looked like an interesting idea and a natural extension. I did four singles and one album ‘Colour Sound and Vibration’ which was released in late 1996. ERASE TODAY split just as the album came out so hardly any of those songs ever got played live.
With Punk I’ve always felt it’s a bit of an ‘us versus the world’ scenario and I created a mission to help getting the music out there. Music is good for the soul and I like to help create things. When I look at the website or Bandcamp  I’m quite proud of the releases JSNTGM has done over the years... most recently the new TIRED RADIO album ‘Patterns’ and the latest Rebellion 50 band compilation CD.

..With the advent of the Internet and the ease of downloading, how has that changed/ influenced JSNTGM - for the better or worse? What format proves to be the most popular to those buying your releases?  Has the Internet had any affect on how LITTERBUG operate also?
..Andy) The Internet makes it easier for the label to be found by people who are interested, which is obviously good.  I wish the Internet had been around when I was young.
With a bit of assistance I built the first JSNTGM site in about 1997 which was early for a web site.
An increasing proportion of our sales are now downloads and that will probably increase as the world goes uber-digital.
..Stuart) With regards to LITTERBUG releases, we have done well with vinyl, CDs and t-shirts. It’s a DIY label and band. COVID has hurt the last album sales though, due to missed gigs.

..Besides LITTERBUG, you also do the solo project, HIGGINS ++ and were also in IN DIRE FUCKING STRAITS. Is that an on-going band? When writing, how do you decide whether a song is most suited to LITTERBUG or HIGGINS++?  Any of you other LITTERBUGs in other bands?  
..Andy) HIGGINS ++, IN DIRE FUCKING STRAITS and HIGGINS + THE MAGIC OF THE MARKET PLACE are all side projects really. I did quite a few gigs just with a guitar and amp, BILLY BRAGG style, under HIGGINS++. IN DIRE FUCKING STRAITS did one gig which was chaotic.
I would like to play tracks from the HIGGINS + THE MAGIC OF THE MARKET PLACE live someday. I have lots of songs whizzing around my head which I write but rarely play.
To be honest, I think the songs are suited to either but I am not allowed to write songs for LITTERBUG – I’ve tried but I just got laughed at… which hurt and is a shame - hehe - but I’ve learned to be less sensitive.

..Not only do you do multiple bands and run the label, you also have done the Blackpool Rox zine. You still doing that? What gives you most satisfaction - playing gigs, recording, publishing a zine, releasing other bands’ material?
..Andy) The last issue of Blackpool Rox2, which was the afterlife of Blackpool Rox and Rox authored by John Robb, was about four years ago. I did attempt a further issue in 2018 and did some interviews with THE X-RAY EYES, NO THRILLS and ADULT MAGIC but owing to a lack of human bandwidth and repeat occurrences of TBD (depression) it didn’t happen.
I tend to do articles and VARIOUS pieces on the JSNTGM website now – I tend not to commit to big projects these days as recurring bouts of cyclical depression seem to render me ineffective and derail any projects - - so I tend to do little bits when I can rather than start something I can’t finish -  and I don’t want to let people down TBH.

..Coming off music for a bit, can you tell us how the hell a twat like Boris Johnson managed to become Prime Minister of the UK?! Your thoughts on him? What of the opposition?
..Stuart) Boris Johnson is a populist leader, but personally, I’ve no idea why or how working class voters switched to him from Labour. Well actually, I do...
In a nutshell the election was all about Brexit. Nigel Farage abstained his Brexit party from constituencies that helped the Conservatives win. Jeremy Corbyn was very popular for a while, but the right wing press turned against him. “Terrorist sympathiser” being a twisted accusation and of course he failed by wanting a second referendum on Brexit .
He was hammered for that idea being anti-democratic. The reality is Brexit was built on lies . There’s a list. Sadly anti-immigration was a motivation for many and Nigel Farage encourages that. He’s that guy who is a political adversary one minute and swiftly becomes a journalist when it suits. Maybe he doesn’t want to take on full responsibility for his actions. He’s a rich man and at times smug, but he is popular with Britain First advocaters.
As for Corbyn, for me he was a gentleman with decent values with a kind heart. Ultimately the establishment drowned him out. Who wouldn’t want to have a leader akin to New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern? Answer: A few million British who think our tiny island rules the waves. I honestly think this country has never got over the Second World War.
..Andy) Ha – I stood as an independent candidate in the UK 2019 and 2015 elections.
The two party tyranny in the UK needs to change as it strangles any independent thought at birth. I’m a member of the Electoral Reform Society, worth checking them out.
Historically I’ve always veered towards Labour – Starmer went to Leeds University with a friend of mine who used to play in an old Blackpool Punk band called HERMAN’S EFFEY. Starmer is polished and acceptable in the Blair mould unlike Corbyn, so he stands a far better chance of playing the game, being inoffensive and getting elected under the current system.

..What impact will Britain’s departure from the EU have - both in the sense of the country as a whole and on you personally?
..Andy) I voted remain in 2016 referendum but was probably 60/40 in favour so not ideologically driven about it. The EU needs reforming for sure and the fact that the UK already had one foot outside of Europe with Schengen and her own currency meant we had a reasonable deal already.
It could be bad for music and the arts in terms of travel costs – we had a few European dates set up, which all got cancelled because of COVID, but I think costs and access will curtail some gigs abroad – and also curtail small bands coming to the UK.

..How has COVID-19 affected you directly, and on a larger scale Blackpool. A new, more contagious strain has been discovered - do you think we’ll ever actually defeat it, and if so, how long do you think it will take?
..Andy) Personally work has dropped right off and as I’ve not been eligible for furlough I’m one of the individuals who has fallen through the cracks and had to live off savings.  I’ve tried to use the time wisely though.
Part of a group that has taken out a lease on a big old old building opposite the Blackpool FC football ground and we have been refurbishing that for six months. It’s called The Armfield Club and we have a website if anyone is interested www.thearmfieldclub.co.uk – it’s a big community based endeavour – we have set up a support group for lads with mental health issues, operate a boot exchange for kids and will be starting doing some work with local foodbanks.
With the vaccines we will defeat it.
..Stuart) With Covid, yet again, look at New Zealand. An island like the UK. OK, a smaller population, but is that not all the more reason to shut your borders and airports? They have shown the way.
Here, the economy, herd immunity, lockdowns repeat ad Infinitum. Now we have the new strain which has devastated the nation twice over. The vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel.
..What are your thoughts on those who suggest some kind of COVID conspiracy? We’ve all read those who think it ‘doesn’t exist’ or that it was pre-meditated, or some kinda of warfare contagion that escaped. Do you really think both Boris Johnson and Donald Trump caught it - or was that to gain some sympathy... Surprisingly both cases were ‘contracted’ around an election time.
..Andy)  I’m often sympathetic to what are labelled as ‘conspiracy theories’. It’s rather like the concept of ‘REALISM’ in international politics, the term seeks to self-legitimise by debunking everything else.
I’ve had friends who have died from COVID so I think it’s real.
..Stuart) The current climate of rising cases and deaths has put the conspiracy hoax people at bay. They are unsurprisingly quiet right now. I think a lot of people just want their freedom and see civil liberties being taken away. Is it not different and correct during a global pandemic that you do your bit to help?
The UK is more divided than ever, as is the USA. I’m on the left side of politics and drift further that way when right wing extremists think it’s ok to show their inner racist side. As for Johnson and his crew, along with Trump, I just hope one day they are a forgotten dark memory for all the turmoil they have caused, whether indirectly or not.
Phew!! Just mopped my furrowed brow.

..A fun question! I’m sure you aren’t real litterbugs - but if you had the chance to totally litter a property - whose would it be and what would your choices of litter be?
..Stuart) No, we are not real litterbugs ha ha!! But, I’d fill up Boris Johnson’s home (10 Downing Street) with pieces of paper with words on them describing the amount of lies he appears to tell on a daily basis . It’s intrinsic for him. Fuck, I got serious again...
..Andy) I love the song ‘Keep Britain Untidy’ by PETER AND THE TEST TUBE BABIES, especially Derek’s great riff, so I can envisage maybe empty Merrydown Cider bottles strewn across Brighton Pavilion.

..What’s your go-to Saturday night record before heading out? And what about the Sunday morning hangover record?
..Stuart) Saturday night out music? Well, we aren’t allowed out at the moment. Yesteryear is was singalong indie classics by the likes of SUPERGRASS, SUEDE or DANDY WARHOLS. I don’t remember hangovers and I’m tee total now. RAMONES and PIXIES will always get their fill, but recently I’ve really enjoyed long walks or bike rides with the headphones on, listening to the chilled sounds of GRANDADDY. They feel reflective in a desolate Covid stricken seaside town.
..Andy) Heading out, ‘In A Million Pieces’ by THE DRAFT off the ‘In A Million Pieces’ album and coming round ‘Undertow’ off the ‘Seamless’ album by PARDON US.

..What’s next for LITTERBUG? You guys already writing the next record? Where do you see the band in 18 months time?
..Andy) You will have to ask Stuart – I’ve really no idea whatsoever. I just supply the space to practice, refreshments, support, optimism and group love. Haha!!!
..Stuart) Next for LITTERBUG is just being able to practice and play the new album at gigs. We have several booked this year including a potential German tour. Also need confirmation for Rebellion too.
I have four new songs, well just the music. After 18 months solid writing and creating the last album, I’m lyrically all dried out. I feel like an idiot, when there is so much to write about right now.
..Toby) I think that just getting gigs in 18 months time will be a result, anything on top of that is a bonus. The UK lockdown and distance that I live from the other guys has made it really difficult to get together for practice, so things have certainly slowed down recently. Hopefully by the summer things will have calmed down and live music can start to live and breathe again.

..What’s next for JSNTGM?
,,Andy) Hopefully I will find time and energy to keep on top of the jsntgm.com website, the Bandcamp pages and do more mail-outs in 2021 – a few more releases hopefully.
..Anything you want to add?
..Andy) Thanks Steve and keep up the good work with the Hey Suburbia Podcasts – I love them.
..Stuart) It’s been a rough period for everyone. We need our music back in a live format. We need to see people. We need physical contact or to lose the fear of it. We need to dump our trash on open fields again. No one really needs Litterbug. Or do they?