October 2010 - BROKEN BONES
Anyone who is interested in the history of English hardcore punk should know BROKEN BONES. The band was founded in 1983 by guitarist Tony 'Bones' Roberts, who also pioneered hardcore punk with DISCHARGE. Bones' influence can be seen in works of countless bands regardless of whether it is punk or thrash metal, and his status as the 'Tony Iommi of punk' is well recognised worldwide. Therefore, it was clear that BROKEN BONES attracted attention with their debut 7" 'Decapitated' in 1983. I was 16 years old at the time and very soon I became a fan of Bones' new band. His unmistakably skull-crushing riffs were the basis of their gripping sound and the band's debut album 'Dem Bones', released in 1984, is a true classic nowadays.
Meanwhile 26 years have passed and my interest in BROKEN BONES has not become any fewer. As a result, I was very pleased when I found a package from England in my mailbox a few months ago, because it contained the new BROKEN BONES album 'Fuck You And All You Stand For'. To put it simply: this is probably the best record in the band's career. The songs are packed with energy, aggressiveness and passion. It's riff-laden and strong hardcore punk at it's best. Being barely able to contain my enthusiasm, I decided that an interview at Cosmic Lava is a must. Fortunately, Dave (drums) and Bones had enough time to answer my questions. Not surprisingly, this interview contains also a couple of questions about DISCHARGE, although the main focus is of course on the new album. Read on and enjoy our in-depth interview.
In honesty: I did not expect such a strong new album from BROKEN BONES. I find it difficult to say that it's your best one, because I really dig the stuff you've released between 1983 and 1986, but 'Fuck You And All You Stand For' is definitely one of your best records in your career. What were reactions to it and what do you think about?
Dave: It's all been good so far; the reactions from the music press has been positive. Much the same as yourself though, there is much lament about the 1980s and asking a band to re-capture the consciousness of punk in the 1980s some 30 years later is a tall order. We are over the moon with this album; everything flowed from start to finish and if we tried to tinker with it to make it any better, I think we'd end up taking more away than we added. Bones has always cited 'Trader In Death' as the pinnacle of Broken Bones recordings but even he's prepared to shift his position. It sets a high standard for future recordings, but we're up to the challenge!
How much time did you spent at Prism Studio in Stoke-on-Trent? The reason why I asked this question is because the new album provides a direct, straight-in-your-face sound.
Dave: Well, credit where credit is due. Shaun (Lowe) has recorded our last 3 albums as well as the odd single here and there and his new kit captures the "in your face" energy as you put it we put into it perfectly. We also have a secret weapon in the form of "The Meatman" who is a life long fan and ruthless. If he doesn't like it then it's back to record it again. All in all we spent 6 days in the studio - Typically 10 - 12 hours per day. Most of the album had been worked out before we started recording and the finishing touches were added on the day. Bones is a punk rock engine and Shaun is an ace mechanic! Together Broken Bones + Prism Studios is a great end product.
'Fuck You And All You Stand For' is like a reckoning with the superficiality of a life determined by capitalism, religious fanatism and social injustice. I can only agree with that wholeheartedly, and it is clear that something is going terribly wrong in society. What do you think are the reasons for the increased susceptibility to religious and political extremists in current times?
Dave: That's a pretty big question! I think history has shown us that people are selfish and greedy. Any sense of altruism is retained for family and close friends but "love for our fellow man" is really just a slogan. Whether it's religious or political divide; people seem to find a way to NOT get on rather than the opposite. The sad legacy of the human race will be that "they became very good at killing each other."
Do you think any changes, short of total rebuilding from the ground up, will be able to reverse the course of global enslavement and destruction we are currently on?
Dave: We're truly afraid that NOTHING is going to be able to reverse the shit WE are all in. Similar to the last question; it's not in OUR nature. People have a "live for today" attitude and "Fuck whats going to happen in 50-100 years time because I won't be here." That's fucked up. That's exactly what we're saying "Fuck You & All You Stand For" to. A politician is only trying to get re-elected so he can continue in their comfortable life-style and we really don't see any difference from the Clerics. Religion gives them a pretty comfy life too. The trouble is that these selfish interests have, via osmosis of society, worked their way down to every day lives and nobody gives a shit about anyone or anything outside of their own personal orbit. Just turn on the news and see if anything shocks or surprises you any more.
In contrast to older releases, the metal influences have been reduced to near extinction. The result is a pure hardcore punk album that sounds fresh and not nostalgic at all. Was it a conscious decision or did it happen by accident?
Dave: Something that NEVER happens is a band meeting to decide "what type of album will be most appealing" - This album just flowed from start to finish and it represents what WE, Broken Bones, want to sound like. Too many people are hung up on "metal influences" and that dates back to 'Losing Control' and 'Stitched Up' from the late 80s and early 90s. Everybody was experimenting with different sounds back then from Discharge to Metallica and I don't think anybody will hold up a recording from that 'era' as their best work. This album was certainly no accident; a great deal of effort and energy was put into giving it our very best because, who knows, it could be the last one. You never know. There was no time that we said "Too metal" or "not Hardcore" enough though. We play what we like and we hope that we're not alone in our tastes.
It seems that it is important for you to have total control over your music, because 'Fuck You And All You Stand For' has been released on your own record label Dem Bones Recordings. Do you agree and what the reasons for taking this step?
Dave: Since we reformed in '95, we released all our recordings with Bill at Dr. Strange records and have only good things to say about working with him. The "internet generation" allows us to take more control and what band wants to give up its copyright? That being said, it was bloody hard work (for Dave mainly; he was the power station that made everything happen post-recording) to turn the electronic files from the recording studio into a CD, complete with artwork etc. that could be held in the hand. We also had a lot of help from fans all across the globe. The album front-cover artwork was done by a guy in Indonesia called (Kenny Williams) because he was a fan.
The biggest constraint with this DIY approach is the marketing & distribution networks which record companies have; but you can only take advantage of that if you're going to line their pockets. We have always wanted to release our music ourselves with the copyright and ownership staying with the band. To be honest, we discovered that you really need a bigger budget than we had so you can advertise and get it out there in peoples faces, but at the end of the day we did it and it belongs to us.
Dave, when did you join BROKEN BONES and have you played in any other bands before? Please, tell us more about your musical background.
Dave: I joined in 95, having played in 2 other bands (Product, Rebel Christening) that released stuff on Stoke-on-Trents Clay records. I have known the rest of the lads for years, from the early Discharge shows in Stoke and Broken Bones gigs. Since 2006 to present I have also been the drummer of Discharge.
Bones, it is completely unnecessary to introduce you to the readers, because I think that everyone who has an interest in hardcore punk will know that you are one of the co-founders of DISCHARGE, one of the most influential bands in the history of punk. Perhaps you can understand that I cannot avoid asking you a few questions about your glorious past. Your band had a big influence on my personality in the early 1980's, and I was very surprised when you left DISCHARGE in 1983. How did that come about? What was the mood like back then?
Bones: Well, I have had this question and several like it put to me over the years and, in a way, you've partly answered it already. You call it "my glorious past" but remember I was, what, 19? 20? and what started out as a bunch of lads playing in a punk band and challenging the constructs of society and social convention had turned into something I just wasn't prepared for and certainly didn't want. People were in our faces and it became too intrusive. We were young and full of it and, as you'd expect, friendships started to breakdown under the pressure. Discharge was turning into something I didn't want to be a part of. There was talk of "superstardom" and it was just bullshit. Look back and see … Did Discharge become superstars? No. "MTV Cribs" hasn't got many Stoke-On-Trent punks in its Hall of Fame!
It wasn't until 2002 that the original lineup of DISCHARGE reformed. What induced you to do that, Bones?
Bones: Well, the original Discharge sound had headed south. We all met up at Nigel Bamfords birthday party and decided to put right all the wrongs and leave everyone with the real and the original Discharge. I'm very satisfied that we did that with the 2002 album 'Discharge'
Your brother Tezz was in the first BROKEN BONES lineup. What is he doing today and are you still in contact with other former members of the band?
Bones: Tezz works in a local venue as a stage tech, Nobby lives in New York, Bazz still lives in Stoke but I've not seen him for 10 years. To be honest, we've lost touch.
At that time in the 1980's, Fallout Records released most of the BROKEN BONES material. Have you been treated fairly with regard to the record sales?
Bones: It's unlikely that any of the bands who signed contracts back in the early 80s read them. Getting an advance for recording something was already a novelty but we personally haven't seen much in the way of return from the early recordings. In hindsight, we should have probably found someone who knew about this stuff but we were teenagers who were under the illusion that we were going to earn a living from playing punk music. That didn't fucking happen I can tell you!
Bones, you're a part of the punk scene for more than 30 years. Have you ever thought about writing a biography and what do you think about the current state of punk? Are there any new bands that you like?
Bones: I've thought about it and maybe, one day, who knows? There's already quite a few books out there; Ian Glaspers 'The Day The Country Died' is probably the best. I don't know. As for the current state of punk, I can honestly say (and I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing) that I couldn't name a "new" punk band. I've never really listened to other bands at home; I've been lucky enough to share the stage with most of them so we've influenced each other indirectly I suppose but I wouldn't know what "the current state of punk" really is.
Ok, let's switch back to topic. As far as I can recall, it's been almost ten years now since your last European tour. I am not the only one who would be pleased to see you again on stage here in Germany. Are there any tour plans for 2010 or 2011?
Dave: We would love to! As it is though Bones as a very young family (yes I know at his age!) so its 4-5 day weekends tours or festivals that we can best commit to. After 30 years experince you bet we put on one hell of a show (ask anyone who saw us at this year's Rebellion Festival!) so please anyone interested, get in contact.
Thank you for the answers, Dave and Bones. Anything to add or any comments?
A big thank you to Klaus and Cosmic Lava for taking the time to review and interview an old school punk band and not just ignoring us, because its not 'hip' or 'in' at the moment, like some of the so called big sites with 'PUNK' in their name. Appreciate you remembering where it all started and reporting on everything. Oh, and the new album 'Fuck You & All You Stand For' is available through Cargo Records Germany/Uk on cd and ltd edition vinyl. All the best, Cheers Bones & Dave