Friday, September 2, 2011

Paul Gray: Ace bass player of Eddie and the Hot Rods and The Damned on the rise of the Rods, pub rock and punk festivals

When you're next nipping about the local newsagent, convenience shop or W H Smith, keep your peepers peeled for Vive Le Rock issue 4 ( The Specials cover). Pitched alongside The Damned, The Specials, Suzi Quatro interviews, reviews and features, you'll find an Eddie and the Hot Rods special marking the 35th Anniversary of the Teenage Depression album - by me of all the things! 

Exclusive anecdotes (starring our own John Medd), band history and an interview with long-haul frontman/vocalist Barrie Masters are bagged as part of the celebratory bundle. One piece we couldn't squeeze in however was a natter with the ex-Hot Rodder, Damned member and UFOer that is - legendary bass player and local lad (Canvey) Paul Gray. So tuck in below, and as bonus, lend an ear to Hit or Miss. The Hot Rods out-take that later appeared reworked on The Damned's Black Album. 

What was the general vibe of the gig scene and circuit during the mid seventies. With the mix of salty seaside pubs and inner London boozers it must have been like playing in a bear pit at times.
They were full of characters from what I was a bit like playing in a set from Minder sometimes...sticky floors awash with Charrington’s IPA and a thick fug of Capstan Full Strength...shitty gear breaking down and crackling all over the gaff. Fights breaking out, and of course the IRA bombs were going off everywhere, we honestly never knew if we'd get home alive some nights  

What were the good, the bad and the ugly Southend/Canvey venues
We hardly played our home town - the Kursaal a few times, the football club...I played Southend with Captain Sensible last Xmas and found a little caff behind the Kursaal that I remember going to in 76...same old Greek couple running it, dead as a dodo in there, but one of the last remaining bits of the old Sarfend left, and kinda know that in a few years time it will have gone and been turned into a tattoo parlour or something  

What sort of sound were the band aiming for and how close to it did you get.
We had absolutely no master plan, simply plugged in, hit things and it sounded the way it did...our manager Ed played us loads of different music, he was a huge music fan, sat in his caravan drinking tea and skinning up and listening to Peter Tosh, MC5, The Doors, Live at Leeds, J Geils, Muddy Waters, The Stooges, Byrds, Nuggets and Arthur all sort of got absorbed I guess...we were definitely into being full on though, gave us the energy and drove us on...  

Zig Zag Magazine, May 1976

How were Eddie and The Hot Rods - these R 'n' B beating estuary swamp dwellers - received by london audiences at the time.
Really well and really quickly - right place, right time...the Feelgoods had paved the way for us and the others that followed - the pub rock scene was small but thriving, Chilli Willi & the Red Hot Peppers, Brinsley Schwarz, Stray, Kursaal Flyers and I think we kinda breezed along and blew it wide open and made it more accessible to a younger audience. I remember playing the Red Cow in Hammersmith, one week us with 30 punters, next week AC/DC with 40, next us with 50...kept building like that...  

Why did the Hot Rods and other similar bands return to the short, sharp, snap of R 'n' B (rather than the roots of rock and roll) - creating a form of a matured mod music
No idea. I'd grown up learning T .Rex and Slade and Hawkwind basslines, and I thought that was exciting, but when I plugged in with the Rods it was like mainlining 240 volts...suited the mood at the time maybe?  

In an almost tidal movement Essex bands were a major influence on punk. Were you aware of the scale of the developing scene, or young punks cribbing moves and techniques
Not really - I was 16, had no idea how it was meant to be. It just was! I was aware of course that the audiences quickly became less beardos and more younger kids with attitude, but the bands all developed this sort of mistrust bollocks and skirted around each other, except for the Damned, who subscribed to the same hell for leather attitude as us. Joe Strummer used to watch us like a hawk when he supported us for weeks on end at our residency at The Nashville in Kensington with his 101ers soon as that finished he disbanded them and formed the Clash...Weller was well aware of us too...the list goes on really...  

Apart from smashed equipment any other outstanding memories of the Marquee gig with Pistols as support band. Or Mont De Marsan Festival (first European Punk Festiva) with The Damned  
Only that they were fucking dreadful and McClaren was issuing them directions when to kick stuff over...M de M was a haze of beer and sulphate, I don't think any band played at less than 100 mph and that the promoter Marc Zermati was smacked out of his tree, bless 'im...given the state of the bands involved after a few days of no sleep and constant partying it may have been a pretty good option for him. I do remember the Damned though. Frighteningly brilliant, and in those days Vanian was all over the stage like a mad thing.  

EatHR and other working class music from this era seems to have an energy driven by escape, change and more to the world than the old home life and traditional trappings - mirrored from Sex Pistols to springsteen's Born to Run to the Hot Rods and their peers (even spilling into Saturday Night Fever) What do you think was driving this.
It simply seemed a perfectly natural thing for us to do - play the music we wanted to play and bollocks to what anyone else was doing or if they liked it or not. Some sort of escapism for sure, but we genuinely never really took it seriously. But whatever we did seemed to strike a chord with a lot of other kids our age, no nonsense, unpretentious, fired up rock n roll. And personally speaking a helluva lot more fun than sitting crossed legged nodding off to Genesis.  

How did your time in the Hot Rods shape you as a musician and was it a musical apprenticeship for your career
Absolute apprenticeship. No idea really what I was doing, bit it fitted great with the others! It was learning on the job, 300 gigs a year, and on days off probably recording, usually first take. Get the vibe down, fuck the mistakes! We never really rehearsed, knocked ideas around in the soundcheck and said "Great lets sling it in tonights set!". And absolutely the opposite of my later years in UFO when we spent months on end holed up in a dreary Birmingham rehearsal room which was deadly and took all the spark away. Mind you, the Damned never rehearsed, either.  

Have you heard the budget Top of the Pops album version of Do Anything You Wanna Do
Ha ha no but I'd love to, where can I get it? (here}  

Do you think the Hot Rods are due for a Feelgoods style reappraisal?
Due? We're fucking years overdue mate!

Hit or Miss is an unreleased Hot Rods tune better known for being on The Damned's Black Album 
Paul Gray: The Damned thought they could do a better version, but I've always prefered the Rod's one myself..  

Eddie and The Hot Rods - Hit or Miss

Point to note: Paul Gray's 'Punk' shirt on The Rod's September '76 appearance

Click on the pic to buy

Paul Gray official website

Eddie and the Hot Rods official website


John Medd said...

Gray, together with Messrs. Matlock, Foxton and Gordon brought about the revival of the Rickenbacker bass: an object of sheer beauty.

Mondo said...

Don't forget Steve - are you ready Steve

Kolley Kibber said...

Well done you, lad! Nice job. I keep looking out for V le R round here, but haven't been able to pick up a copy anywhere. They'll be collector's items before you know it.

Radiant Future Records said...

"Gray, together with Messrs. Matlock, Foxton and Gordon brought about the revival of the Rickenbacker bass: an object of sheer beauty."

Indeed, and the first one he got his hands on was mine, he told me recently.

Martin Gordon.

Nazz Nomad said...

Paul Grey and his rickenbacker- best fucking bass player The Damned ever had!

John Medd said...

"It was deliberately and with malice aforethought purchased by (unquestionably fine) bassist Paul Gray and subject to incessant, ceaseless and incessant bouts of pernicious Hot Roddery"

I couldn't have put it better myself.

(I can't remember, but, when those fun lovin' Radio Stars shared the bill with Mr. Hot Rod, were they, inact, playing the same Ricky (don't lose that number?)

Mondo said...

If it's tricky to track down ISB, grab a take away versh here

Agreed Nazz I saw him action with The Damned in the 80s and with the Captain last Christmas He's playing better than ever now..

Martin/John is it fair to say Macca would be the original Mr Rickenbacker?

John Medd said...

I wouldn't argue with that. It was also his instrument of choice in W*ngs.

Radiant Future Records said...

"When those fun lovin' Radio Stars shared the bill with Mr. Hot Rod, were they, inact, playing the same Ricky (don't lose that number?)"

Actually, surprising enough, we could each afford our own basses, at that point.

"Martin/John is it fair to say Macca would be the original Mr Rickenbacker?"

The first with a high profile, yes, I think so. Although I am prepared (in fact expecting) to be corrected by Rick-nerds the world over...

Martin Gordon

Mondo said...

Sir J P McCartney pops up in most peculiar places you know. Whizz to 1:03