How did The Fire Dept. get together?
Neale Richardson and Neil Palmer worked together in a book shop in Cambridge. Neil R. Had already started a band with Rob Taylor, a rhythm guitarist, who was also interesteding for being in the group, really. Liam must've played some stuff to Billy because he asked if we wanted to do an LP.
Who have been the biggest influences on the band?
In no special order:
Joe Meek, Cramps, Misunderstood, Cockney Rejects, Amitage Shanks, The Creation, Damned, Mighty Ceasars, Ethiopians, Jason Crest, Love, Ramones, Move, Dead Kennedys, Link Wray, Toots and the Maytalls, Small Faces, Tyrannosaurus Rex, T Rex, Eyes, Who, Sonics, John's Children, Technotronic, David Peel, Tony Hancock, Seeds, Our Grandads, Kingsmen, Pat O'Brien, Arthur Kane, Dick Emery, Troggs, Undertones, Elvis Presley, Pogue Mahone, Psyche-Punk compilations, Phil Carter and the Draymen......
Were you pleased with Elpee for Another Time?
As far as tunes/sounds go, yes. We wanted it to be our version of a 'concept' album. We like the idea of 'concepts' but hate the music. We thought it'd be a terrific idea, the last group you'd expect to try such a thing! On the down side, we were hoping to sell a few more records, so Yep! would pay for another record. Weíve always been in arrears with songs, our records have always featured what we regard as ancient work.
It seems like a more melodic, more harmonious (is that a good word?), LP?
Melodic sounds good to us. We were trying to put more melody on the 'Elpee..', glad someone noticed!
Are you deliberately trying to get away from the rawness of your earlier material?
As we've learned how to get different sounds from studios, we've tented to progress from simply recording a live set (L'Oeuf D'Or is all live). It's true to say that a lot of the more recent tunes are less full-on than previously, but then again we reckon there's more variety. Itís nice to do a bit of raw and a bit of smooth.
How different are you to the band that put out the 'Girl Girl Girl' 7"?
We've got through several bass players, two singers, two drummers, and survived a location change...and we're older. Apart from these obvious changes we've still got no respect for musicianship, studio etiquette, self appointed scene 'gurus', or anything else connected with music. We still listen to old and new records, and we still don't look like people expect us to.
It must have helped when Mark Radcliffe championed your LP on Radio One?
You'd have thought so...(cue bitterness). It was a nice surprise to hear the songs on the radio at all, and we featured more than once. Radcliffe's producer said we could have a session if we'd send in details of a tour. We couldn't afford a tour and Yep! wouldn't pay. In such circumstances any normal record company would've faxed the man a list of tour dates (real or otherwise) and got their band a session, but not Yep! the fools! Anyhow, we got in his Top 30 (or thereabouts) of 1996, so that was a result.
Was 'The Golden Egg'conceived as a proper LP, or just a collection of odds & sods?
All the tunes were recorded at Toe-Rag between 1991 and 1994, but not for any specific release.
Were you under contract with Yep! To put out your first proper LP with them?
We never had - still don't have - a contract with Yep! They agreed to pay for recording time on the basis that the results would be released. They were happy with rough versions of a couple of songs, so we went ahead and finished 'Elpee..'
What is it like recording at Toe-Rag with Liam Watson?
He's become a very accomplished producer and always puts his unique stamp on our recordings. He tells us to stop pissing about trying to do things that are beyond us, and he's good at pushing us to try new sounds and ideas. Liam's also the perfect host, dinner companion and after-dinner speaker. If he's got a fault it's a tendency to show you his latest studio purchases - usually small, anonymous metal boxes - which he expects you to know all about. No-one else in Britain could tell what theyíre for! We've found that it's best to just inspect these devices and nod wisely.
There's been some collaboration between you and Vibrasonic on each others LPís, do you have any plans to do a full-blown project with Vic & Simon?
No. We're too impatient and they were too fussy (and now they're extinct).
Everybody under the sun seems to have released a 7" on Detour Records, have you been approached by them at all?
Not as far as we're aware. As you might expect, we've frequently been courted by the majors, but we've heard nothing from the West Sussex area. There's a common fallacy abroad that we're recluses with expensive tastes who live on unearned incomes. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, if Detour, or any other organisation for that matter, were to suggest a Fire Dept. single or LP release, they might be surprised at how fast, cheap and reasonable we actually are.
Are we going to see some new material in the near future, or gigs/tours?
Rob and Neil have got a vast archive of unreleased stuff going back to 1985, and there's still unreleased stuff from Toe-Rag recorded between 1991 and 1997. Seeing as how we're skint, we would be delighted to consider any requests to release this material - in any combination whatsoever - on 45, LP, CD, MiniDisc, or indeed any format. As for gigs, we've resolved recently only to play for a guaranteed minimum fee of £100 (merely enough to cover costs) which, considering how unpopular we are, rules out virtually everywahere.
A book called 'Into The Ether' (or something equally pretentious) was published recently, which contains some erroneous facts about the group. The writer actually phoned me up for information (we didn't contact him) and I gave him clear details, some of which he chose to ignore. I didn't expect him to give us more space than anyone else, obviously, but why publish incorrect info, unless your stupid, lazy or dishonest. The writer misspelled the name of The Killdares, the name of our old bass player, and he states that we didn't record, when I informed him otherwise. He insists that 'The Golden Egg' is not really psychedelic. We've only ever described our sound as punk, so it's absurd for him to include us in a book of psychedelic bands and then complain that we don't fit in to his particular bag. The psychedelic cretin also states that The Herbs (as featured) are from Southampton, UK. They were in fact a Cambridge group working from 1984-1986 (their guitarist is a friend of mine - he wrote a song on 'Golden Egg'). Alright, so most of the bands included are strictly small-time, and most are probably defunct, but why should this creature get away with publishing incorrect facts on the basis that 'unknown' bands should be grateful for the attentions of some half-witted hack?