Interview: Andy, Hands & Matt - Revenge Of The Psychotronic Man
They may possess one of the oddest names in Punk history, but the fact is Manchester's REVENGE OF THE PSYCHOTRONIC MAN crank out some of the fastest, wittiest and politically outspoken sounds doing the rounds in the UK right now. Three albums in, the band is more effective than ever. Add on that among the band's number is a motivating force behind TNS Records and fanzine and the drop-dead adrenalin rush of the new 'Shattered Dreams Parkway' album and little more explanation is required to warrant a chat.
..First off, tell us all how you discovered Punk Rock. What were you listening to before Punk?
..Matt) I've been listening to noisy bollocks ever since I can remember, starting when I was a proper little kid with the Freddie Mercury tribute concert and Live Aid. My mate had them on video and we would watch Metallica, Guns 'n' Roses and Status Quo over and over. I also enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, Boney M. For Punk, I got given a comp tape by an ex-girlfriend when I was 16. It had PETER AND THE TEST TUBE BABIES, SNUFF, COCK SPARRER and stuff like that on it. It was mega. Up until then I had been having more mainstream stuff like GREEN DAY, OFFSPRING, THERAPY? etc.
..Hands) I don't remember when I first got into Punk but then again I don't remember much from my youth anyway haha!! I remember having two sets of friends, one who were into Stone Roses, SONIC YOUTH, Oasis type bands and another into Sepultura, Nine Inch Nails and NIRVANA. So I think I've always been into various different incarnations of rock. I think Punk's by far the best to play though.
..Andy) For me it was fairly conventional too. I heard the likes of NIRVANA, OFFSPRING and GREEN DAY at about 13-14 through a friend's older brother. From there I got into the Fat Wreck stuff and then eventually I became more and more interested in music. I think I was always drawn towards alternative music from a young age, but that said, I'm open minded and will listen to anything I enjoy, regardless of genre.
..Just give us a brief history of REVENGE OF THE PSYCHOTRONIC MAN.
..Andy) We originally formed in 2004 in Manchester, but this line-up has been together since 2007. We always wanted to play fast music, tour as much as we could and enjoy ourselves. We're still doing all those things so that's good. We were massively influenced by the DIY scene and wanted to be involved with that as much as possible as we'd all always put on DIY gigs, etc. Musically I guess we have a range of influences. The likes of ZEKE and KID DYNAMITE are definitely two such influences, but we don't particularly sound like either of them. I guess we take elements from lots of fast bands.
..Hands) Myself and Andy were in a band together before REVENGE... and when that finished I think we both just wanted to play louder and faster. I think we've achieved that.
..Matt) I joined in 2007 after me and Andy got pissed on a beach in the morning. We had been discussing what would be fun to do in a band, and realised we seemed to agree on a lot. There has since been shouting, booze and at least one documented instance of nudity.
..The band has just released its third album, 'Shattered Dreams Parkway'. In what ways would you say this best represents the band so far?
..Andy) I think lyrically and musically this connects as an album far better than the others. We really considered how it worked as a whole album, with the art and zine contributing to this. The decision to release on vinyl also affected the track order. It's not massively different musically, but there are new twists and turns. I think you can tell we've been writing together for a while now.
..Hands) It's slightly faster. I think we're going to struggle getting much faster with number four though, but I'm sure we'll give it a go. I think it's got a few more rock moments than 'Make Pigs Smoke'.
..The album has been released on six different labels, including your own TNS Records. How did you work out that deal with all the labels?
..Andy) TNS covered quite a lot of the cost and coordinated everything, but the other labels all expressed an interest in getting hold of a decent amount of the stock, so we worked out a way of doing things collectively. Each label contributed the cost price of their stock. It all worked incredibly easily actually. The extra financial support allowed us to afford to release on vinyl and CD so that was great. They are all labels we've worked with as TNS and have lots of respect for. It also means that we'll get the music out to a much wider audience, with the labels being based in different areas and having slightly different audiences.
..A unique feature about the album was the limited zine that came with it that chartered the bandfs history. What inspired that?
..Andy) I kinda stole the idea off THE STEAL. I think their name suggests they wanted me too. I've been writing a fanzine for ages and I do like to document things. So I thought it would be a nice add on for the vinyl version and pre-orders of the CD. People seem to like it. We really liked the idea of making it into an artefact. I think the sort of people who like our band are the sort of people who collect music and like something a bit different. We've not got any specific limited runs lined up, but I think we will do something a bit different for our next release.
..I'd just like to ask about a couple of the songs on the album, starting with 'Is This Cool?' It lambastes the generation that concerns itself more with social media 'virtual friends' and status updates than real life physical interaction. Considering the positives of the internet for a band, label or zine to get its message out to a potentially massive audience, could this song be viewed as ironic and a bit hypocritical - especially given TNS use Facebook and Twitter?
..Matt) I wrote that one; it's not necessarily about not using the internet/social media at all, just the more banal end of the spectrum. I do not need to see a picture of your lunch, even if it's really nice. Seriously, fuck off with that, I'm always hungry as it is. Also I worry when I see people boasting about stuff they've been up to that could get them in bother - if you wouldn't have it written on the side of your head/house then don't write it on the internet. Above all though, please post loads of pictures of cats. Wearing clothes.
..Andy) To be honest, I'm constantly on the internet working on TNS stuff, so I'm obviously aware of the huge positives of social networking. It's amazing how easy it is to connect with like-minded people all over the world, and booking tours is so much easier. But I have to say, the internet cannot be over-relied on as it is over-saturated with shite. You see this over-reliance everywhere. Often promoters only advertise gigs online, and whilst this is of use, you need to be out flyering too. I think politically, there are constantly messages going around saying, "sign this to make this political point", etc. etc, whereas in reality being a keyboard warrior will not have the same impact as protest, or actually getting up and doing something about it. The internet is clearly a good instigator of protest, or a great way to contact and organise many people quickly, but it's not a substitute for the actual action.
The internet is an amazing tool I would be lost without, but it also frustrates me. I've never had such a love hate/relationship with something as I do with Facebook. If someone had told me I would voluntarily give up all that private information online for anyone to see, a few years back, I would have laughed at them. But it's all there for people to see. However, it has changed DIY culture for the better in many ways and for that reason I love it.
Personally, I think people posting mundane crap online and the Big Brother/X Factor TV culture we have, can go hand-in-hand with the apathy we see in society about real issues that affect us all. Whilst I think that if mundane social networking and virtual life makes someone happy, who am I to say don't do it. I also think there is a dangerous side to it. It breeds that apathy. Charlie Brooker can probably say it much better than me.
..What about 'Red Top Bullshit'? It's a scathing attack on the newspaper media. Would you say all newspapers print a distortion of the truth - or primarily the likes of The Sun, The Mail etc? What about on a local level? Has TNS or ROTPM ever been interviewed or featured in a local Manchester newspaper?
..Matt) I wrote that one as well... It's more about the position of authority that newspaper media holds in the UK, for the moment. When it boils down to it, the likes of The Mail and The Sun are basically full of pointless nonsense, misplaced vitriol and paranoia, yet people accept this as gospel as "it's in the paper". You wouldn't listen to a bloke stood on a street corner spouting such toss, even if he had his tits out, and the Leveson enquiry underlined that they are lying, cheating scum who consider themselves above the law. In all fairness mind, my own political position is as skewed as anyone's to be honest. No one person has a fully objective view of society and any account given of any newsworthy event will always have a slant, unless it's pure maths. Even that's up for debate sometimes. I hate maths.
..Andy) I think all newspapers have their bias, but the likes of The Sun and The Mail are particularly full of bigotry. And how anyone can buy a Rupert Murdoch paper is beyond me. The newspapers here have a big agenda and too much power. A free press is important, but it is a power that is all too frequently abused.
We have been featured in a few local papers and misquoted actually. We did a TNS interview for a local paper with massive circulation, a few years back. The interviewer kept telling us he was interested in how TNS was getting a big buzz despite being so new. We reiterated several times that we'd actually been releasing zines and putting on gigs for quite a long time and this recent success was a result of years of hard work, but still got described as being "brand new" in the article. We also made a big point of saying that there were lots of other promoters and labels working together in the area to build such a positive 'scene', but that wasn't included, which we felt quite bad about. It was out of our hands. It was really nice to have the support, but a bit frustrating to be misrepresented.
..While you undoubtedly have a socio-political voice in your lyrics, there are a lot of more light-hearted songs - primarily about getting pissed up!! 'Beer For Breakfast' being the obvious example. How important to you is getting the correct balance between the fun songs and those with more of a serious message?
..Matt) It can get on my nerves when bands are all po-faced, particularly Punk or Metal bands. I'm not saying don't speak your mind, but if you are in band called Fuckbastard Superdeath I fully expect that you disapprove of war and don't enjoy the system. This much is obvious, and to be honest it's been done to death. Please write a song about cats instead - maybe, they could be wearing clothes...
..Hands) I always think it's important to get the serious messages across and that's why we included songs like 'Beer for Breakfast' and 'Fuck the Sea'.
..Andy) I think it's really important to have variety. We are on a level, quite a political band, but we'd rather present interesting ideas than be preachy about it all. We rarely talk politics on stage. We mainly talk nonsense on stage to be honest. We'd rather do things such as suggest things to read in the CD/vinyl booklet. Music is such an incredible way to share ideas, but we don't want to do too much preaching to the converted and we also like to have fun. One of the main things that draws me to Punk is that lots of the people involved are incredibly clued up politically, but still appreciate the importance of having fun. A gig should be a place where we can escape the shit of everyday life and let go, so for that reason I think it's great to have that balance and not take ourselves too seriously, whilst still being aware that it's very important to challenge political opinion and share ideas.
..The band has played overseas quite a bit, specifically Europe. What differences are immediately apparent between touring and playing gigs in the UK and touring overseas?
..Andy) You get treated very well in Europe, with food, booze, accommodation, etc, all as standard for touring bands. Also, even on our first Euro tour, so many people came out to watch us and made an effort to listen to us before the gigs, even though we had absolutely no reputation over there. At that time, that was very different to our UK experience. In the past in the UK, we have driven a long way to play to a very small crowd, not get paid and sleep in a van. That doesn't happen in our experience of Europe. It was an amazing culture shock the first time we went and we still absolutely love going.
That said, I think it's very, very important to say, the UK scene is going from strength to strength. There are some absolutely fantastic local scenes all over the UK and more and more people supporting local gigs. Sometimes promoters hands are tied by financial restrictions here, but in general bands are being looked after almost as well as in Europe these days. I know that as promoters ourselves, we were certainly influenced by our experiences in the mainland and try to do the same for bands at TNS gigs.
We definitely need more collectively run social centers, which are common in Europe, but it's more difficult here. There is talk of a Manchester one at the moment, which would be fantastic. In our experience, it's all very positive both in the UK and mainland Europe at the moment and it's very exciting to be involved with both. I wish we had more time to tour.
..Matt) I love Europe, it is boss. They give us beer, and generally are top people. UK is also boss though - it has Pot Noodle, lots of cider, and is where my house is. Swings and roundabouts, really.
..Hands) Our first reaction to touring Europe was that we got looked after better and that people appreciated bands visiting their local venue more than most places in the UK. People seemed to be up for it a lot more, but that said we've had a really good run of gigs in the UK recently. Some promoters and venues over here are doing really good stuff.
..I read somewhere that you do an acoustic solo set. Tell us about that - I can't really picture ROPM songs translating to an acoustic format.
..Matt) We've never done any acoustic REVENGE... stuff, have we? Did I just blank it out? I used to do a solo set though, and did briefly come out of self-imposed acoustic exile for a TNS acoustic special a couple of months ago. I didn't do any REVENGE... songs then or now; quite a lot of my old material was pretty stupid to be honest. I just got a bit bored of playing the same old comedy numbers and never got round to writing anything new in that sort of way. I've been doing some dub and hip-hop stuff in my spare time since, and learning the banjo.
..Andy) Some of the songs I've written work fairly OK acoustically, but the only people who will ever hear them that way are my neighbours through the house walls.
..As mentioned above, you along with a few other dedicated individuals run TNS Records, zine and gig promoters! Not only that, it's all top-notch gear and incredibly regular, be that the zine or new record releases. You've been at it for ten years or so too I believe - what keeps your enthusiasm so fervent and dedicated? Has there ever been a time when you've thought, "Ah fuck it - I'm done"?
..Andy) I'd be lost without it. I've actually got a free day for the first time in ages and I don't know what to do with myself. I can't imagine that I'll ever want to stop being involved with music. There are of course highs and lows. We've put on TNS gigs, which have been poorly attended and paid bands out of our own money. We've also had releases that have sold poorly and I'll never enjoy packing envelopes. It's sometimes a bit overwhelming trying to balance TNS, the band and my real job. But that said, the highs far, far outweigh the lows. We just had our annual all-dayer, which sold out and was one of the best days ever. Times like that are what make it all worth it. The first ever fanzine came out in November 2003, so nearly ten years ago. The first gig was April 2004 so I think we'll celebrate a decade with another all-dayer next April.
..Hands) As for REVENGE..., I don't know what else we would do with our time?
..What makes a band a 'TNS Band'? When you decide to release a band's music what is it you look for?
..Hands) Andy can probably answer this better but I don't think it's a coincidence that they all fucking rock live.
..Andy) There's not really any criteria sound wise. Myself and Bev just have to both like the band's material. I think we are always impressed when a band is pretty self sufficient and works hard, putting on gigs themselves and organising tours. With that sort of band we can just come along and say, "You carry on with what you are doing and we'll add these elements to the mix to help out." Working collectively - band and label - is definitely the best way. However, we have also released things we know we'll struggle with, from bands who are not especially active, because we want more people to hear them and are fans of the music. The vast majority of bands we work with are ones we've seen live first. There have been so many times when a few tracks into a band's set, myself and Bev have just nodded at each other confirming that we're gonna be asking that band to get involved.
..The band is based in Manchester. Tell us a bit about life in the city. Is there a lot of poverty, unemployment, violence?
..Hands) I moved here for Uni about 13 years ago, and I'm still here so it can't be that bad. Although the nearest city back home was Stoke.
..Matt) Pretty much what Hands said. I come from Grantham, the birthplace of Thatcher, so I was just happy to be away from there. I used to see more violence back home if I'm honest, and unemployment/drug abuse is a bit of an issue there too. Manchester may have some dodgy people but so does anywhere; it certainly beats the fuck out of Grantham.
..Andy) Manchester is great. It's a typical northern UK city I guess. There are a lot of exciting things going on in all scenes. It's traditionally very left wing as most former industrial cities are. Like any city, there are affluent areas and less affluent areas. Unemployment is high and I think areas such as Manchester are hit pretty badly by the Tory cuts. But it's also the sort of place where people will stand up for themselves. I teach and was on strike last year and public support of our union march was in general very strong. There was also a decent turn out to oppose the EDL recently. I've lived here since 2001 and I guess there have been changes, but it's a city that's always had a quite distinctive atmosphere and community spirit. I see it as home and wouldn't particularly wanna live anywhere else.
..Manchester has a long history of being a Punk friendly place - dating right back to the likes of BUZZCOCKS, DRONES and SLAUGHTER AND THE DOGS. What do you think makes Manchester a continually vibrant place to live for those involved in some form of artistic/ alternative culture?
..Hands) The best thing about the city in my opinion is how close together everything is and how varied the scenes are. There's something for everyone.
..Andy) I guess being quite left wing politically does mean that artistic ideas and protest movements such as Punk thrive in areas such as Manchester. The DIY scene thrives as there are people wanting to get involved and understanding the need for a DIY culture. FC Utd is perhaps the city's best example of this. I agree that the size of the city helps too. It's big enough for there to be enough people interested in a sub-culture, but not so big that it's too over-saturated.
..For those visiting, what are some of the essential places to visit and experience that are not immediately obvious to the casual traveller?
..Andy) Go to an FC Utd football match. It's a unique atmosphere and truly deserves its 'Punk football' tag. It will be far better than going to United or City. You can also check out the CYCM pre-match gig, which are always brilliant fun. The Rockers clothing shop that our friend Kathy runs is well worth a visit. You can pick up flyers for most gigs there too. There is also V Revolution, which sells Punk/Hardcore vinyl and is a vegan cafe. There are also lots of interesting art places. Islington Mill and Kraak Gallery spring to mind. The Corner House is also cool. Itfs a bar, gallery and independent cinema.
..Matt) www.punkgigsmanchester.co.uk should have you covered.
..Hands) If you're bringing booze my house is always open.
..Coming off music for a while, there has been news that Britain's credit rating has been downgraded for the first time. How do you think this will effect the average man on the street, the debt-laden student, the unemployed Punk?
..Matt) Booze minimum pricing isn't going through right now, so I would recommend anyone in distress to drink some white cider and start singing Elvis classics, such as 'Always On My Mind'.
..Andy) It's hard to call really. It's becoming clear that people have far less money at the moment. I know I've been hit, and as mentioned before, I've been on strike and will be again soon. Traditionally, in these politically and socially bleak times, positive things have come as a response to the situation in terms of protest movements and the arts - Punk being one of many examples. I think that people are starting to get pissed off; hopefully that will build and these huge negatives will lead to more becoming politicised and eventually, a change for the better in the long term. If that happens remains to be seen. We are really up against it with this government and the state of the media here, but at least we do have a voice if we can encourage enough people to use it.
..In hindsight, what did you make of the 2012 Olympic Games and the Queenfs Jubilee that occurred in the same year? Thoughts on the Royal Family itself?
..Andy) It's tricky to answer this really. I really don't want a Royal Family, certainly not funded by my taxes. I hate this sort of elitism in society. But unfortunately a lot of people in the UK do want them, which I find strange. The Jubilee really made me cringe, but most people loved it as it was a day off work on the piss. A typical example of the government giving a tiny bit with one hand, whilst taking with the other. In terms of the Olympics, I'm actually into sport. I did athletics as a teenager and enjoy watching the events, but can't endorse it when we are having these huge austerity cuts, yet public money is being so obviously flaunted. I hate the commercialisation of sport too, hence my support for FC Utd's anti-capitalist stance. That said, I was in London when the opening ceremony was on and there were loads of street parties and the atmosphere was great. It's very strange, because the vast majority of us had little or no chance of getting/affording tickets, yet the Olympics did seem to get a largely positive response from the public. Unfortunately that sort of sporting spectacle is exactly the sort of public moral boosting curtain the Tories needed to hide their dirty work behind.
..Hands) I'd like it if there was a King Ralph style accident and Harry was made King. That would definitely make the Royal Family funnier.
..What are the best and worst aspects of life in the UK?
..Matt) Strongbow cider is probably both of them, it's like fizzy apple-crack in a can.
..Hands) Best: REVENGE... Worst: my job.
..Andy) I think you have to sometimes take a step back and be grateful for the quality of life lots of us have over here; but it's difficult to be positive when you know it's at the expense of others. Obviously that's a talking point that could be discussed at great depth, so I've decided to give you some short answers too.
Best: Being able to go to great gigs every night of the week.
Worst: Cliched answer, but the fucking Tories.
..If you could change ONE thing about life in the UK, what would it be and why?
..Andy) One thing is tricky. Big Hands for Prime Minister?
..Hands) I would get rid of double red lines in London. I don't get them and when people explain them to me, they just say you can't park on them. Well you can't park on double yellows, so why do they have to be red. It's just fucking stupid.
..Andy) See, I told you.
..A fun question: The Psychotronic Man can reek revenge on three people. Name them, why he seeks his revenge and what his revenge would be.
..Andy) I've not really got too much hatred stored up today so I'll try to go with semi-funny ones. Right, I'd make Simon Cowell have to actually listen to the X Factor artists on repeat, in a small room for ages and see how he likes it. I'd make all newspapers who print bollocks have to print the apology in the same position and size in the paper as the original article. And, finally I'd make all the TNS bands pack the envelopes for their review copies of their next release so I don't have to do it.
..Haha - excellent answers!! So, what's next for REVENGE OF THE PSYCHOTRONIC MAN? You working on the fourth album already? It does seem that as a band you are incredibly prolific song writers.
..Matt) Two words: Dubstep Versions.
..Andy) We are actually working on something a bit different at the moment. It's another split, but with a fun element. We'll have more news fairly soon, as there are some bits to be sorted. But yeah, it's gonna be cool.
..Anything you want to add?
..Matt) Thanks for the interview.
..Andy) Thanks loads for the interview and your continued support. All our gigs are listed on our website. If anyone can make it to see us play, it is always genuinely appreciated.