Thursday, November 14, 2013

Interview with Vic Godard



My husband and I were listening to the Vic Godard & Subway Sect "What's the Matter, Boy?" cd, driving around, and it struck me it'd probably be a shot in the dark but I should try to contact him for an interview.  Vic Godard is a living legend, and, as it turns out, a gentleman who responded sweetly to my request, and has provided very interesting and insightful answers, better than I could have ever imagined.  

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Vic Godard (born Vic Napper in London, England) is a vocalist, Subway Sect frontman, songwriter & postman.   Vic's musical adventure which has taken him from post-punk to postman began in 1976 when he formed the Subway Sect with assorted South London soul boys, Rob Symmons (aka Simmons/Miller) on guitar, Paul Myers on bass & Ray Price on drums (replaced later in 76 by Paul Packham (aka Smith) then Mark Laff, then Bob Ward). They formed at the suggestion of Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren (who wanted another band for the line-up of the 100 Club Punk Festival) after spotting Vic, Rob & Paul at a Sex Pistols gig. Despite their inexperience, Subway Sect made a successful debut at the festival. They went on tour with The Clash on their White Riot Tour in 1977, as well as becoming a regular feature on the new Punk scene.

Other incarnations of Subway Sect, with different sounds (London Soul/Funk, Jazz, Swing, Motown), and Mr. Godard has worked with other bands as well.  Here's a discography:

1. What's The Matter Boy?                   10. Sansend
Vic Godard & Subway Sect.                   Vic Godard
Oddball/MCA LP 1980                         Motion CD 2002

2. Songs For Sale                           11. Singles Anthology
Vic Godard & Subway Sect.                   Vic Godard
MCA LP 1982                                                                  Motion CD 2005

3. A Retrospective (1977-81)                 12. 1978 NOW 
Vic Godard                                   Subway Sect
Rough Trade LP 1985                          Overground CD 2007 

4. We Oppose All Rock & Roll (1976-80)       13. Live In Stereo 
Subway Sect                                  Vic Godard   
Overground 2xCD 1996                         GNU INC CD 2009   

5. T.R.O.U.B.L.E.                           14. We Come As Aliens              
Vic Godard                                   Vic Godard & Subway Sect
Rough Trade LP 1986                    Overground CD / GNU INC vinyl 2010             

6. In T.R.O.U.B.L.E. again                  15. Peel Sessions 
Vic Godard                                  Subway Sect
Tugboat CD 1998                             GNU INC CD 2011 

7. End Of The Surrey People                 16. Live & Rare Vol1 
Vic Godard                                  Subway Sect
Postcard LP & CD 1993                       GNU INC 006 CD 2011  

8. LONG TERM SIDE-EFFECT                    17. Live & Rare Vol2 
Vic Godard                                  Subway Sect
Tugboat CD 1998                             GNU INC 007 CD 2012 

9. 20 Odd Years                                               18. 1979 NOW! 
Subway Sect                                  Vic Godard & Subway Sect 
 Motion 2xCD 1999                            AED LP COMING 2013 

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Interview


What do you like about being a postman?  How did you fall into the profession?  Is it a profession you have a particular more-than-professional interest in, like have you read Charles Bukowski’s writing about being a postman?  Do people often recognize you as Vic Godard from Subway Sect?  

I like the adventure of being a postman as I never know where I'll be from one day to the next and from an early age I've always liked Human Geography. I've never read any Bukowski, but in the late eighties several workmates told me about him.I do get recognised now and again.   

What is your favorite song of your own?

Nobody's Scared-the first one I wrote.
 
I’ve noticed that many English or Irish singers have an American accent when they sing, with the exception of some bands, like The Arctic Monkeys, The Undertones, and of course, Shane MacGowan.  Have you noticed that?  If so, do you have a theory about why this is? 
 I loved David Bowie singing in English when I was a kid and still listen to his old stuff like Did You Ever Have a Dream and London Boys.I think its very natural for singers from  Ireland and the North[except Mark E] to sing in American as its closer to their language than us in London.

Are there any newer bands or musicians you like, and if so, who?

Some of the groups I like- Sexual Objects,Mates Mates,The Embassy[Goteborg] and Flo Fernandez,Kill Pretty,The Blue Orchids The Bitter Springs, although they are not all new.
What are your favorite books and movies and do they influence any of your lyrics?  Assuming you’re a Jean-Luc Godard fan, what is your favorite film of his, and is French New Wave cinema a particular interest of yours?

My favourite books are too numerous to mention but they all come from the 1770's to the late 1800's and would be bracketed as European Romanticism but here are some books that have influenced my lyrics:

My Phantoms, Spirite and The Mummys Romance by Gautier, Valois Tales by Nerval, Colomba by Merimee,The Devil's Elixir of ETA Hoffman,The Devil in Love by Jacques Cazotte and Undine by de la Motte Fouque. 
French New Wave was a formative influence on me as I used to go and see a lot of late night films in the seventies.Godard and Malle were particular favourites and Truffaut's Les 400 Coups is still my favourite film.

What was your childhood like?


Nothing like Antoine Doinel's [thank goodness]. I spent a lot of time outdoors and had lots of adventures with my friend Peter like helping the milkman do his round, visiting a railway signal box and once we found tickets for a Chelsea match (I'm a supporter). I loved school after the first week but had nightmares about it before I went. Luckily I could already do the three Rs thanks to my family who encouraged an enquiring mind.When I left secondary school I was devastated -it was like the end of the world.... but luckily I recovered. 

Any outstanding story you’d like to tell from the White Riot tour with the Clash in 1977?  I was born in 1979 so this was before my time, but when I see documentaries like The Filth and the Fury or Clash Westways to the World, or even the punk band family tree in the liner notes of the “Generation X: Perfect Hits 1975-1981” cd, it looks like you guys were all friends or acquaintances and all in each other’s bands and would just like go to a Sex Pistols show and start some new art revolution while running into each other.  Was at all like this, or is this a hindsight romanticizing.

I haven't seen the documentaries but from our point of view we felt like outsiders although the other groups we ran into went out of their way to help us as It was obvious we were hopeless, so I think they felt sorry for us.The other thing was we were terrified and it showed, at our first gig at the 100 Club it was mostly down to Ray Burns from the Damned and Johnny,Steve and Glen from the Sex Pistols that we got through it. After that we got guidance and assistance from the Clash and from the Buzzcocks. I do remember one memorable night on the White Riot tour when we swapped places with the roadies for the night- they did a set of VU numbers and we ran around the stage with gaffer tape pretending we knew what we were doing.   


What is your favorite incarnation of Subway Sect? 

I've enjoyed playing with every incarnation of the Sect-the set lists are so different from one line up to another so I never get too comfortable with what I'm doing. Musically speaking the 1981-1982 Sect were in a league of their own compared to the rest but that came about by hard work -practicing daily and a huge amount of gigs.We had the punk attitude that came with doing supper-club swing just as sequencers drum machines and synths were becoming a dominant force..

You have a song inspired by the death of Johnny Thunders?  Were you two close or was he just someone you admired and/or pitied?

 Pity certainly never came into it-he was someone I looked up to and when he brought his group The Heartbreakers here in the winter of 76 we were not disappointed. He was also Sid's idol and Chinese Rocks was the first song I learned on the guitar thanks to him.I'd never seen chords bent till Pirate Love,and Born to Lose is one of the Punk Classics.I never met him but he did phone me asking for advice on drummers in London, I suggested Terry Chimes and he did join the group briefly. What was amazing about the call was that he phoned while Babylon was blaring from my record player so I put the phone up and told him. In my book he is up there with Berry and Diddley Daddy.  

I’m American and have never heard “Subway Sect” as a phrase.  I know what a subway is, and that a sect is like a small group within a larger group who have different beliefs than the majority.  Did you make up the name and if so what does it mean? 

We took the name from the subway under the one way system in Hammersmith near where we lived.Sect came from a group from the sixties who also came from our corner of South West London called The Downliners Sect,who used to dress up as Sherlock Holmes,which we liked.Our main template at the time were the Velvet Underground so the Subway bit also fitted with that.The first name we came up with was The Numbhearts so I'm glad we arrived at Subway Sect. 

Any closing thoughts to impart to this interviewer (A HUGE fan) and her blog readers?

Keep a look out on the website or facebook for gigs and releases-30 Odd Years double CD will be out in January, followed by 1979 Now, the northern soul LP and I'm also recording a new batch of songs in 2014. On the gig front I'm off to Scotland this month singing with The Sexual Objects, playing the whole of Whats The Matter Boy, then Subway Sect Gigs in London Newcastle and Brighton and doing a couple of Blackpool songs with The Bitter Springs at their London gig. 




 







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