Vague 14

Vague #7
 
May 1983 Work – Southern Death Cult last interview – Death Cult EP supplement
UK Decay – Danse Society – Dancing Did – Iggy Pop
American Indian Movement – Anarcho-Punk – Perry Cartoons
 

‘A huge and interesting pub anecdote in print, Vague has come as near to professionalism, without joining the establishment, as a fanzine possibly can. It’s glossy, full of colour and absolutely vital with it. Given a decent distribution this mag could do very well. Vague is deep from the heart of the squatting, hitching punk rock beast. From which the most positive elements are taken and examined. Full of charismatic optimism and resolution, it’s a classical fanzine.’ Richard North NME

‘I am only too well aware that with the advent of punk we were to have no more heroes. But when the heroes evolve without the heroic trappings then that’s a different matter. Even old Tom Vague is a hero, adored the length and breadth of Britain for his psychological traumas called Vague.’ Mick Mercer Zigzag

‘On the table was a copy of Vague fanzine containing an immense Southern Death Cult interview – the last they did before the split – and I flicked through it idly, unable to grasp much meaning in such a drunken state. It had seemed good tonight, but there was unquestionably still a lack of unity or cohesion. The ideal and the reality were drifting dangerously far apart. The tribe may be increasing but was becoming redundant, the tribe, the cult, the death cult, good lord. With such thoughts rambling through my dim awareness I slumped face forward onto the opened copy of Vague in deep slumber.’ Tony D Kill Your Pet Puppy 6

Work

Pete Scott wrote this issue’s mission statement on a subject close to all Vagrants’ hearts, the demolition of the work ethic: ‘What I am proposing is that the work ethic – to either find a master to employ you for wages or live in squalid poverty – is obsolete.’ Robert Anton Wilson. ‘There’s no need to work, ever, W.O.R.K. N.O.’ Bow-wow-wow. In today’s supposedly enlightened society we should be thinking in terms of getting rid of the work ethic once and for all. It’s over. It’s outdated. It’s had its day. Work is a curse, a drag, a nuisance, a barrier that stands between us and what we really want to do. People who want the right to work are fools. They’re asking only for the right to be exploited, the right to be treated like slaves by society’s higher-ups. The right to be bought and sold in the marketplace. Is this really a desirable state of being? No, it isn’t. Not to me at any rate.

These days the newspapers are forever paying lip service to ‘the plight of the unemployed’. Occasionally some character will kill himself because he can’t find a job, thus providing even more fodder for the propaganda machine. According to the Guardian, jobless men are twice as likely to commit suicide as those in work. I find this attitude baffling but not particularly disturbing. If a man thinks his sole purpose in life is to work, he might as well kill himself because he’s as good as dead anyway. Apparently, researchers have also noticed that jobless men are more likely to develop cancer than those in work. Cancer is a psychosomatic illness connected with frustration and lack of purpose. It seems that the ordinary working man has grown so accustomed to thinking of himself as a packhorse that his vital life forces break down as soon as he’s made redundant.

The Christmas edition of NME contained a brief seasonal message from the northern poetess Joolz. Predictably she felt obliged to wish all NME readers ‘a tinsel Christmas and an employed new year.’ This was supposed to demonstrate the extent of her social concern. Don’t be fooled, kids; we’re never going to see a return to full employment. No political party can guarantee that. The unemployment figures may fluctuate now and then, but in the last analysis they’re going to keep on rising higher and higher. They’re bound to, simply because unemployment is the natural, healthy result of an advanced technological society. Moreover, there’s nothing wrong with unemployment at all. In fact, it’s potentially a good thing because it provides people with an opportunity to escape from drudgery once and for all. Its only real drawback is that it leads to boredom, feelings of disaffiliation, riots and so forth. The way round this impasse is to teach people to enjoy their free time and use it constructively.

As Robert Anton Wilson wrote: ‘People can only spend so much time fucking, smoking dope and watching TV. After a while they get bored. This is the main psychological objection to a workless society, and the answer to it is to educate people for functions more cerebral than fucking, smoking dope and watching TV, or the idiot jobs that most are currently toiling at it.’ Wilson believes that there should be ‘a massive increase in investment in adult education.’ I can only agree. The so-called ‘work ethic’ is coming apart at the seams like a rotten under-vest. It has been since the 60s, when the hippies first began to challenge traditional ideas of work and leisure. As the technological revolution continues to accelerate, more and more men and women will be set free from their condition of ‘wage slavery’, as the social critics call it. To accommodate them, it may be necessary to alter the whole structure of society. The creation of a permanent unemployed class would certainly be a step in the right direction.

So, if you’re on the dole, make the most of it. And above all, don’t be taken in by the ‘Right to Work’ propaganda of bands like Chelsea and the Redskins. It is, as the Americans say, a crock of shit. Make no mistake, a man who goes to work every day is as Marx said, ‘a tool, an automaton.’ A life on society’s outer fringe is preferable to anything that smacks of responsibility. And that’s a fact.

Southern Death Cult last interview: My part in their downfall

In the early 80s post-Ants/post-punk/positive-punk days Vague particularly championed Southern Death Cult. I was nicknamed Tonto at junior school and felt some affinity with Ian Astbury when he first appeared on the scene in Liverpool as a Crass/Poison Girls follower/fringe member staying with the Ants roadie Robbo and co in 1980. Southern Death Cult were seen as the natural successors to Adam and the Ants as the coolest positive-punk group with some pop potential and an anarcho-mystical sub-plot – rather than the Ants’ avant-garde art tendency. When I interviewed them in Bradford, at first Ian wouldn’t say anything because he’d seen an apparently critical review of his mates Sex Gang Children in Vague 13 by Johnny Waller (which was in fact favourable). But we duly found common ground as fellow Everton supporters and I went on the last Southern Death Cult tour in a reporter/roadie/ligger capacity.

February 14 1983 The last Southern Death Cult interview, Bradford: My part in their downfall introduced by Barry: “The difficulty lies in all 4 of us making the right decisions. If we all agree on not doing something then that’s easy but more often than not we don’t agree.” Ian on his appearance on the Kid Jensen Radio 1 show: “I thought he was really genuine but he’s not. He’s just another DJ. He got really embarrassed when I said come down the front and dance and that John Peel hid behind his DJ stand. He wasn’t into what was going on at all. He’s got so much control on the radio. He makes all these funny comments but when he was confronted with it, he run away from it.” Aky: “I think he was running away from the violence which is understandable, I fucking would.” Barry: “We seem to have got away from that. We haven’t had a fight at a gig for a long time.” Ian: “It’s frustration and I suppose the gig atmosphere is a catalyst that lets it out. You’re frustrated by situations you’re in, pressures and stuff…

“Music’s become just entertainment but I know there’s an awareness there. When it all started rock’n’roll was a rebellion. You’ve got to go back to the slaves singing the blues. It was hopeless, they couldn’t do anything about it, so they just sang about the despair and all that. In the 70s it became a complete entertainment thing… We’re not all sheep. We do see what’s going on and a lot of it we don’t like. I do it because I’ve had enough, I can’t hold back, it’s not in me. I’ve got to state my case. I want to interfere with people’s lives. I don’t think Southern Death Cult’s a message. It’s more of a reflection of what’s going on around us and the way we interpret it. From the playing to the lyrics it’s stimulated by what’s around us. It gives us that energy. It’s always been a reflection. If you’re going to get desperate about it, really desperate, you take a stronger stance. Like in a way we’re a diluted version of Crass. We would never go out and do some of the things they’ve done. They take things head on.”

Aky: “But will they ever achieve anything with what they’ve done?” Ian: “They have achieved things, they’re breaking lots of barriers down.” Aky: “They probably are within the punk thing but will it ever rub off on other people?” Barry: “I suppose it’s methods. I don’t really agree with Crass’s methods. I agree with the women at Greenham Common. I don’t know where I draw the distinction. I don’t think the way Crass do it is the answer. I don’t think it’ll ultimately solve anything. In fact I think it’s a little bit violent.” Ian: “I don’t think it’s violent. I think it’s pure, like pure truths, they take it all head on. I’d be scared to do some of the things they do, I wouldn’t want the SPG knocking on my door and taking me away. I just have not guts to do what they do.” Barry: “A band is really just a group of people and their responsibility and their answers are to themselves. If it comes across and people get something from it then that’s ace. If their outlook on life be the common ground rather than the music then I think there’s something not quite right there. Maybe they should be a political party and not a bunch of musicians.”

Ian: “But they use rock’n’roll as a medium. A political party uses TV and radio and all that sort of stuff. I suppose rock’n’roll is another medium. Perhaps they shouldn’t abuse it. For me to speak on their behalf with my convictions and my views and say it’s a collective thing is wrong, that’s not fair at all. Like I write all the lyrics, so when I’m singing a song it’s not the band’s idea, it’s my idea… I don’t like giving a diluted version of me to people to keep them happy and not tread on their toes. I tell them how I feel and it’s up to them to make up their own minds.” Barry: “That’s why I say our ultimate responsibility is to ourselves. As long as we don’t let ourselves down and just hope people that watch us get it.” Ian: “I suppose if you’ve got the convictions of the flag you’re waving then I think that’s fair enough.” Barry: “But I don’t think you should have the right to push it on other people.”

Ian: “No, I think you should have the right. If something’s happened to you in the past then there’s no way you should keep it inside. Like me being in the army and being forced for a certain period of time to go into the army. If I met anyone who was going to join the army, I’d say just don’t do it and they’d say why not? I’d tell them my experiences and maybe they’d have second thoughts.” Barry: “But you’re making decisions for other people. If other people learn an answer from you, Ian, it’s a false answer.” Ian: “If you see people who need guidance and you’re just going to say oh just go into that and fuck yourself up completely, I can’t let myself do that. I can’t let people get destroyed like that.” Barry: “Yeah, Ian wouldn’t be writing lyrics if they weren’t there to be seen by people. When it gets to the stage where you’re the indoctrinator that’s when it’s wrong.”

Ian: “A teacher, yeah, I can see that. That’s why I’m not in Crass right. That’s one thing I couldn’t do, like say shut up and listen to this. I’m not pushing it that way but I do feel very strongly about what I do.” Ian on being in the army: “That was 3 years in the cadets, people all along the line saying you’re doing really well, your shooting’s getting better, your nuclear fucking biological chemical warfare training’s getting better, you wanna be an officer in the army. And I thought god, this is the first time anybody’s told me I’m great at something. So I thought yeah, get into the army and when I got in there, there was this Scottish kid who got put in army jail for bottling a corporal because he was just pissed off with people telling him what to do. He only joined because he had no job. He used to play Sex Pistols records in the barracks and say as soon as I get out of nick I’m running away. In the army if you’re an individual they really exploit you. We’ll make you a leader so everyone looks up to you. Or if you’re too aware of moral things and you can’t perform in a unit they kick you out and let society deal with you. You’re a little subvert.

“It was an experience – I’m really scared about it. You know the free spirit, like in 1984 when Winston Smith realises that he knows things that he shouldn’t and he’s shitting his pants. He got into a false sense of security with that Goldstein thing and then he finds out it was just a con… When you talk about the system, you say they, that, it, but that’s us when you get down to it. You push one bit of the system and it goes full circle and gets you in the back.” Ian on the ‘Fatman’ symbol: “Buzz designed this little character right and I thought it was a good symbol to exploit the system with. It represents the whole thing, multi-national corporations, the lot. I thought it was a good way of showing that.” Ian on the Kid Jensen show: “He said it’s a bit doomy isn’t it, the Southern Death Cult thing? I said no, what’s around us is doomy, we’re not doomy, we’re inspirational, we’re well into it. I like the arrogance of the Southern Death Cult. We are here, everything else get out of the way, the pure thing is here.”

Barry on being around in a different time: “I’ve often wanted to be around in the future, never the past.” Ian: “I wouldn’t have minded booting across the plains in the 1880s. That’s how you get by these days, you fantasise about the past because the past was so strong.” Aky: “Like when Arthur and all that were about. Somebody was probably interviewing some tribe and they’d say we fucking hate Arthur, he’s a cunt. Everybody’s complained. People have complained since time began.” Ian: “I went to a Sex Gang Children gig the other night and it was brilliant. I haven’t experienced anything like that for years. Great attitude. Everyone just jumping on each other. The concert situation is about the only thing left. You can really let yourself go.” Aky: “I think the best gigs you can go to for that are reggae concerts.”

Death Cult

‘Quest for Fire’ tour despatches (new) Zigzag 1/2 October/November 1983 Before Vague 14 came out in May, Southern Death Cult had duly split up – in March after the last tour. Ian Astbury/Lindsay relocated to London and formed Death Cult with the Theatre of Hate guitarist Billy Duffy, Jamie Stewart and Ray Mondo, formerly the bassist and drummer of Ritual. I did a Death Cult update supplement featuring an interview with Ian which doubled as the insert of their debut ‘Brothers Grimm’/‘Ghost Dance’/‘Horse Nation’/‘Christians’ EP, and reported on their first gigs for Zigzag. Some salvaged extracts: July 28 Amsterdam The Paradiso is supposed to be the best gig around when full but a death trap when empty and tonight there’s only a smattering of spiky humanity. The house lights dim and the haunting intro to ‘Ghost Dance’ comes from the dark recesses of the stage. Hands up those who want to die – the Death Cult starts here…

July 31 First impression of Germany; autobahns are much the same as motorways, boring. We drop Ray off at Hanover airport, as he hasn’t got a 10 year passport and has to fly into Berlin, and cross the great divide between East and West. “We’re passing through the most important thing in the world,” says Little Ian the roadie, in combat rock gear for the occasion, and plays the Doors’ ‘The End’. Everyone else is asleep… The Berlin gig is at the Loft of the Metropol, a vast awesome building on Nollendorfplatz. The children of the neue Deutsche welle are gathering around the massive Death Cult display outside. Hordes of goths, it could be London, even down to the identikit UK skins with Union Jack T-shirts and 16-hole Dr Marten boots… The Loft is full of punters mindlessly chanting, “Pogo! Pogo!”… Afterwards we went to the Jungle nightclub with Christiane F (the real one, not the actress). Berlin is much as I imagined it should be, just like it is in all the Bowie songs and arty magazines… The next day, on our holiday in the sun, I’m looking over the Wall and they’re looking at me…

September 7-18 Death Culture in the UK: The quest goes on… Suddenly it’s winter on tour in the UK, heading down the M4 for the first night in Swansea. See the smog set over Port Talbot, which has to be the most dull and dreary place in the world, makes East Germany seem like Disneyland… September 8 Bristol Trinity proved to be a most worthy host for Death Cult’s English debut. The Trinity is like it sounds a church converted into a community centre. It can be cold and un-atmospheric but tonight it’s packed out with a mostly imaginative audience… After Bristol it became something of an endurance test as Death Cult came face to face with what they were parodying… Basically there’s two categories of death cults. On the one hand there’s the goths, spawned by the likes of the Banshees, Bauhaus and Killing Joke, and epitomised by the Batcave. Inspired by the darker, best forgotten memories of punk, it involves a preoccupation with death, Ouija boards and clothes, though they’ve got to be black…

Then there’s the cult of the billies, fuelled largely by Theatre of Hate… Enter rent-a-crew. It’s real easy to join, all you’ve got to do is go mental down the front and follow… and the goths have got to see any band with ‘death’ in its name… Death Cult do their time in the toilets where the goths and the billies get their kicks… Birmingham Tin Can, a tacky old strip club… Retford Porterhouse, the haunt of the billies and playground of the chicken dancers. Just get those shoulders going boys, pay your £2.50 to get in, queue up to get searched, spend you dole at the bar and then go mental to King Kurt… Yet every night Death Cult manage to rise above it and stir up some positive reaction, some independent thought, well almost every night… There was confrontation in Leeds with the Sisters of Mercy fans. As Ian screams: “You’re a bunch of vegetables. Do Something. React. Why not take a risk!” Si (Ord, the manager) gets out the shaving foam and Billy does a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo…

September 23 On the eve of going into the studio to record the second single ‘God’s Zoo’ (for which Nigel Preston from Theatre of Hate/Sex Gang Children replaced Ray on drums and Ray went to Sex Gang), here’s some of the band’s thoughts on the first tour, the audience, rock’n’roll and the Vietnam war: Ian: “It’s a spiritual thing, if you can understand the unspoken word, if you can understand the emotion. The kids that just follow are like scolded dogs, whimpering with their tails between their legs. It’s not so much questioning with your head. It’s questioning with your heart. I try to knock ’em on the head and say are you in there? A gig can be an uplifting experience, like if you see a couple holding hands and you think yeah, that’s brilliant, or someone crying at a funeral or the comradeship between soldiers in Vietnam.” Billy on combat rock criticism (after the first EP sleeve featured a classic Tim Page Nam photo): “It’s not a glorification of war. In war, Vietnam especially because it happened in my lifetime, you find a lot of barriers break down. It gets right down to the bottom line. Like when you’re getting shot at, it gets down to the bare essentials of life, all that black and white shit goes out the window.”

Ian: “That’s like a pure existence. There’s nothing like the media to push the image of how you’re supposed to act. When there was only natural codes to learn and live by, there was exhilarating highs and exhilarating lows. Now life is so mundane and mapped out you can only reach those levels in situations like war. War is such an extreme situation. People who are in a war experience those sort of uninhibited feelings. My interest in Vietnam started when I saw Apocalypse Now. What they were doing was the closest to some uplifting experience that you can get. I’ve fired a gun but you can’t talk about it. You can’t communicate that to an audience. You can’t get them to drop all their barriers, because if they do their environment will crush them. Maybe one day if people drop all those barriers war won’t happen anymore because you can experience everything within your own environment. Oh shit, that’s getting a bit deep. It’s a very vague thing. I’m trying hard to understand it and to communicate and show people that they can reach these levels of awareness.”

This was at the height of the goth/positive-punk scene and the revival of Zigzag magazine as the goth glossy under the editorship of Mick Mercer; the nearest I got to being a proper music journalist – when I was technically down and out homeless. The first short-lived London Vague office was in Brixton on Barrington Road, in the 1981 riot zone; the squat of Mike Muscampf from Salisbury as he was in the arty goth outfit Dormanu. This was after our original Ladbroke Grove squat plan fell through. Then it was briefly at Lavender Hill, in the flat of one of Specimen at the time of the Batcave goth club, where we watched Apocalypse Now on a loop, and next in Elephant and Castle, our first squat in Thomson House off the Old Kent Road. In the summer of 1983 the Vagrants (at this stage; me, Chris Johnson, Paul Smith from the Paragon, and Welsh Samantha) formed an alliance with the Mob, our anarcho-punk neighbours from Somerset, and crossed the river to live in their old squat on New North Road in Islington/Shoreditch.

As the Mob went off to form the Black Sheep housing co-op, 154 New North Road became the scene of the first stage of the formation of the Cult. When Southern Death Cult split, Ian Astbury, his girlfriend Jackie and merchandiser muses Anna and Maria, moved into our squat as he teamed up with Billy Duffy from Theatre of Hate. At the Death Cult stage of the band’s evolution I was quite closely involved. As the honorary 5th member Cult scribe I did their first biog and debut EP insert/Vague 14 supplement, and put in my 10 cents’ worth trying in vain to keep them on a post-positive-punk path against Billy and Ian’s proper rock leanings. I have finally got into Led Zeppelin and now admit they were right. If they had listened to me they probably wouldn’t have got out of north London. After our eviction from New North Road, the Vague office was briefly in the Anarchy Centre on Roseberry Avenue and then in Sickert Court on Essex Road towards the end of the year and the start of 1984.

1983 January 29 My 23rd birthday. February 1 Moved to London. Brixton. Lavender Hill. Elephant and Castle. Batcave. February 14 Southern Death Cult last interview and tour. March SDC split. May 7 Brixton CND festival and first Death Cult interview. Vague 14 came out. Moved to New North Road, Islington. June Thatcher was re-elected. Xmal Deutschland tour. July Death Cult tour Holland and Berlin. August Scotland. September Death Cult Paris. Rotterdam. UK tour. Futurama 5. September 29 Stop the City 1. October Zigzag was re-launched. Xmal Deutschland tour 2. CND demo. November Death Cult tour 2. Cruise missiles arrived. December Evicted from New North Road. Briefly moved to the Anarchy Centre, Roseberry Avenue and then Essex Road.

 

Tom Vague
(Vague Publishing, 1983)

Still available via
 
Housmans Bookshop


Get one Now!