Interview: Steve Diggle of The Buzzcocks

 

Their gig in The Academy is mere weeks away and The Buzzcocks look set to return to Dublin with a bang.

I caught up with singer and guitarist Steve Diggle ahead of their gig for a chat on and what the future holds for The Buzzcocks, how the music scene has changed, and what it was like being the support act for Nirvana on their last ever tour

I’ve always wanted to ask is The Buzzcocks or simply Buzzcocks because every time I see you guys billed to play or are mentioned someone it’s always one or the other.

Well Pete Shelley likes Buzzcocks and I like The Buzzcocks, because in the English language when you put “the” in front of something it means the definitive, the one and only, that’s what I think anyway. He prefers one and I prefer the other. It’s gone on so long now that it will go on forever I think, a perennial debate.

You are about to kick off a pretty lengthy tour, does it feel good to be back on the road again?

Yes, I mean we’ve actually not stopped, in the last few years we’ve been all over the place, all over the world basically and it takes time to get around to everywhere. We did a few shows recently actually but we’ve been writing and working on the new album mostly.

Do you know when the new album will be out or have a release date?

Well hopefully by the end of the year it will be out. We’ve only just kinda got started really we’ve been working hard on two songs and we plan to keep on working. We are off to Mexico city on Tuesday and then were gonna be playing Coachella festival, and have some dates around Frisco lined up, so were doing the album in between the touring pretty much.

A pretty busy year for you all so, with a tour and a new album underway.

Absolutely, well it’s the same every year really. I did a solo album as well last year in between the gaps when I had time so it was all go for me. It was under the name Steve Diggle & The Revolution of Sound and it’s called ‘Air conditioning’.

Do you have plans for any more solo work or are you just going to focus on the band?

Well I’m doing both really, while the creative tap is open I just let it flow. I have lots of time off so I get a lot of song ideas and I just use it to my advantage. After a wee Guinness as well you tend to get more creative!

I’d say you’re looking forward to coming back to Dublin so! The home of the black stuff

I remember the first time we were in Dublin and we had a Guinness, and we thought the guy is taking half an hour to pour the drink out, and he said just trust me, so we waited it and he made it the proper way, and it tasted wonderful.

Ah yes it doesn’t taste the same anywhere else in the world!

In London and all that it’s quite gassy and it’s just not the same by any means, you can’t beat a Dublin pint! Being a big James Joyce fan too, you must have a pint every now and again.

Have you ever come over to Dublin for Bloomsday? It’s a celebration we have every year in honour of James Joyce

No but like Joyce I celebrate every day really! I’m a big fan of him and in particular Ulysses, one of my favourite books.

Last time you guys were in Dublin you gave a legendary performance for balcony tv are there any plans to do another when you come back in may?

I don’t know really, if we get time maybe. We haven’t really sorted it out. It was a lot of fun, we didn’t really have time or know what we were doing, and those guys just approached us and said “do you think you can do it?”,  We just got there and the next thing we were on a balcony performing over the street in Dublin, it was fantastic, very d.i.y, it’s kind of like the ethics of punk in a way, do it yourself. Use what you have around you, it’s far more interesting than MTV and the like. Inspiring and fascinating.

Speaking of punk and D.I.Y, you guys were pretty much one of the first Manchester bands off the block, are you proud to have been at the start of such an enduring scene?

Well yes, we were one of the first off the block and The Sex Pistols were in town when they were still relatively unknown, and we ended up opening up for them. All the journalists came down and people stopped and thought, wow, we have our own band right here in Manchester, and pretty soon bands cropped up in every town. Venues cropped up and people became alive again, after the first explosions, bands became more defined and each created their own roots. The Clash became The Clash, The Buzzcocks became The Buzzcocks and The Sex Pistols became The Sex Pistols. It was easy to distinguish who was who, we were all doing our own thing, we were D.I.Y, we played through one little amp, and to quote Yeats “a terrible beauty was born”.

What do you think of the watered down punk bands of today? Do you think they stand out and are easy to distinguish?

Well it’s almost like we and other bands wrote the script and bands now are just copying what happened. It’s a great compliment that they were inspired by the first wave, we were just making the music to relate what was happening to us, but having said that there’s nothing with a fresh angle been out since. It’s almost like monkey see monkey fucking do, we had things to say, but the bands now don’t really, back then each band had a quality about them, but now half the bands don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing, we need more imagination.

What do you think has been the highlight of your career so far, you’ve done so much, what would be the stand out moment?

There’s millions of them, all of it, every day is a surprise, so much has happened it’s hard to pick just one. Apparently U2 opened up for us in Dublin when they were 17, I can’t remember it really. That’s pretty crazy. There’s just been so much I’m gonna have to say it all.

With so many great moments in the past what does the future hold for The Buzzcocks?

Well I don’t know if it will ever really stop. We have the new album as I said and now when we play the audience is getting younger and younger that it always just keeps going, about two thirds of the audience weren’t even born when we started out. A lot of the songs made years ago still sound like they were made last week. We sang about the human condition, and it just still connects with the audience. Songs like Harmony in my head, I said we should go on with this power house thing so, I want to cram a load of words and imagery like with Ulysses. I wanted the vocals to sound raw so I smoked about twenty cigarettes before we recorded it because that’s what John Lennon did when he recorded Twist and shout and I told Kurt Cobain all this and he was fascinated. Because he was a bit similar vocally, the song had the same rough element which he liked. That was a great moment, talking to Kurt and sniffing all his coke on the tour bus.

That’s right you guys did one of their last tours with them didn’t you? In 94 not long before Kurt died.

Yeah that’s right, he shot himself not long after that, I hope it wasn’t over the coke, I’ve always said when I did, I’ll put two grams in my coffin and make sure John Lennon or Jimi Hendrix or one those guys doesn’t get to it and that it makes its way to Kurt. I said to him I’ll see you when we get to London and by the time we got back to London it was all over the news that he was dead. We’d been with him all week and it was all just very surreal seeing it all on the news.

It’s actually the anniversary of his death this week coincidentally enough

Is it really? Oh, God bless him. A tortured soul, you know. When you’re in a band you need to look after yourself and look after your soul. It’s a great experience, it’s a great exploration but it takes its toll on people in many ways.

Do you think that understanding that and staying true to yourselves is why you guys have stood the test of time and look set to stay in the future too?

Well when we set ourselves up we didn’t start out as actors, or people with personas. We were just being ourselves, we didn’t have some untouchable image. By being real it makes it easier, someone approaches you in the pub and says thanks for the music, they’re not chasing you around trying to get a lock of your hair. You can drink and talk to them and have a great time, I don’t have to hide behind some character. I think that’s kept us level and down to earth. If the world kicks you can kick back, say never shit on a shamrock, fuck off. I can get away with saying that where some little pop star can’t. They are in this world where they want to be loved and adored and can’t say what they like or be themselves. We didn’t set out to do that. If you like us you like us if you don’t you don’t. Were just being us and I think people relate to that there’s a realism and vulnerability and people know we are not bull shitting them in the songs, and that’s never going to change.

The Buzzcocks play The Academy, Dublin on May 11th 2012. Tickets for the event are €26.50 and are available from Ticketmaster.ie.

You can also check out my interview here on Goldenplec

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