Ch. 12c: searching for the young red eyed soul rebels
Here’s a transcript of a conversation that I had with a friend. We had a conversation on a beach in the middle of a cold February night in New Jersey. It was good to see him again, after all these years. he helped bring us PumpkinTime so I thought it was time for Pumpkin Time to bring part of him back to us. However, he wasn’t fully aware I was holding a tape recorder wrapped in my tail that hung over us like some sort of boom mic apendage.
This friend of mine played sax for the original Dexy’s Midnight Runners. Most members of that band ,once upon a time, quit and started a new band called The Bureau.
After that they performed & toured as a horn section called the TKO Horns, backing up both Madness & Elvis Costello.
Well, my friend Blythe has gotten Original Dexy Horns Mick Talbot and ‘Big’ Jim Paterson back on board and got The Bureau playing gigs again. I wanted to put up our Atlantic side chat to help promote the U.S. Bureau reunion shows. January 15th at Connolly’s in New York, NY & January 16th at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ.
Geoff has also been busy with the 30th anniversary of all things Dexy back in England (Dexy’s 30th Annversary). He’s also constantly on the road with o.g. NYC Irish punks : BLACK 47 And that’s just where I found him.
And to close on a more on-topic note: he’s been found guilty of putting more soul into the red eyes of your late 90’s Kubris Party, via mix tapes in late night van rides. Here’s to New Shoes at Serenity & to coloring with crayons at Keap.
How was your trip down to Asbury Park?
Usual thing. Y’know, sitting in the van, doing 350 down the turnpike & the parkway.
Does Black 47 get to play Jersey often?
We play at least twice a year in Asbury. We play at least once at the Pony and we play what they call the “Oyster Festival”, which those same guys promote & organize. Its like a street festival in downtown Asbury Park. So we’ve been doing this for …. god knows how long. We’ve been playing the Stone Pony for many, many years. Probably about 10 years. Y’know it was probably more than 10 years actually. Maybe 15. Back then this neighborhood was still, um, really scary.
So, I was curious about your musical background pre-Dexy’s Midnight Runners. I know some of the original members came fresh out of some of the early ’77 English punk bands.
Ok, so a brief potted history. I was really into classical music and I went to a music conservatory as a clarinet player. But I always wanted to be a sax player doing this kind of stuff. I got into the Dexy’s because there was an advert in the local paper which said that they wanted to form a soul band. One of the main influences listed being Geno Washington. Well funnily enough , I had just gotten off the road with Geno .
Like the Dexy’s song ‘Geno’? The early single?
Yeah, that’s right. That’s where it came from. Geno Washington. It was the first professional thing that I had ever done, like in my young day. The first on-the-road gig where somebody actually payed me for anything I’d done in my life was playing with Geno Washington for about 6 months. Then he moved back to LA & then soon after I saw this ad in the paper and thought : “well i gotta go for that well don’t I?” .
The soul scene the Dexy’s were in seemed to gel with the whole Two Tone thing happening around the same time. I know you toured with the Specials and Madness, as the TKO Horns…must’ve been some fun times.
The Dexy’s came out sort of on the tail end of the whole thing. The two tone scene was big before the Dexys came out really. We later toured with and became friends with the Specials as an opening band. Dexys were based out of Birmingham and the Specials were based out of Coventry, which is only really just down the road. That’s where [Coventry] I went to music school so thats how I got to know those guys. It wasn’t really the same scene but it was closely allied. It was a really interesting time.
Musically, if you looking at pop music at the time in England it was coming out of a really, really bland guitar hero intake. “Punk” had already come & gone by then, pretty much. Then you had all this synthesizer light romanticy kinda stuff (here, Jeff stops to briefly do his best impersonation of the average synth tune of the time. “Beep Boop Beep Doo-Doo Dah” I can’t do it proper justice). Yeah, like Joy Division, who we also played one gig with. We also knew those guys out of Manchester. So when we came out to be using the horns as the lead it was totally unheard of. Dexy’s definitely changed the face of pop music of England. No doubt about it. Then alot of other bands that came out that used horns were like the ska thing or the soul thing. The ska thing was one thing, but the soul people were like more sort of doing covers and more obvious copies than rather using it as the basis for like how Original Dexys sounded. But it did create a whole different scene. So I guess between us , the soul thing, and the whole two tone thing it was a real interesting time to be around. Yeah, it was really a good time to be around.
How did The Bureau reunion shows go?
Yes, it went very well. It was a series. The first reunion was for the Warner’s re-release of the first album. That was 2005. It had never been on CD. In fact, we went up to Warner’s to get the rights to the album.
How’d that go?
Uhh…. Well, it didn’t. And that’s why they re-released the album!
The album only originally came out in Australia and Canada [circa. 1981]. But they basically broke their contract by never actually officially releasing it in the UK. So we said “Ok. You’re in breach of contract.” You could get it alright, but you’d have to get it as a Canadian import.
Yeah, we had a big hit in Australia [Only For Sheep] with it actually. We thought that it must’ve been the title.
So that & we decided that this was too good and that we were still really into it . Despite being all over the place and doing different things, we were going to make a new record, which we did . That came out a few years ago and was called “And Another Thing”. Its really slamming but the problem is is how to get it out there because we’re all touring and performing with other bands & its hard to promote it. We just did it ourselves totally independently and financed it by ourselves. I kept bombing over there to go to rehearsals.
The rest of the guys live out there & you’re the only one in the states, right?
Yeah. At least we have the internet now so we’d be emailing demos to each other. I would send my stuff over there. Archie would send me his tunes and I would download them back on to a porta-studio, put some horn tracks on it , and send them back digital.
And the shows themselves went well?
Two years ago, to promote that album we did a second set of shows. We just did 3 shows. The best one was the Jazz Cafe in London, which was just a slamming gig. Just really, really good.
You mentioned that you did have some issues with the new recording though.
Yes the mixing was all to cock.
I realized that when they played “Run Rabbit Run” on the Jools Holland show shortly after the release. Because he plays really eclectic stuff it was sandwiched between some Arthur Reeves song and some other soul song , and its then i realized it was mixed badly and totally underpowered, radio–wise. It came in half the power, half the volume, and I was just like this has to be re-done. It wasn’t in our hands when we mixed it unfortunately because we were all off to do other things, we left it to other people. It just came out like a real mess so I’m in the process of remixing the whole album. I’ve done a few tracks so far & have put an EP out called “Run Rabbit Run” which has that song & two others on it .
Well sorry to hear about the troubles but I think the songs sound great.
Oh? So you’ve heard them online? Right. Yeah i mean the new material is really slamming. I’m still in the process of starting to go back in the studio again. Next week is a break to get to re-do the rest of the stuff. The stuff is downloadable so we have to pull the old stuff off I-tunes & put the new stuff up. We just want to replace it with the new mixes.
What are the plans for the immediate future? Will the Bureau make it stateside?
I’ve been busting ass to try to get that to be happening. Its very difficult and scheduling makes it even more difficult. Particularly with Mick Talbot who was co-founder of the Style Council and was with us in Dexys. He’s a really main player in the Bureau and he plays with this lady Candi Stanton who is like a soul singer. He’s just touring all the time. So I’m really trying to push this but scheduling is getting really difficult. Getting someone to pick it up is really hard as well. I know it would do well if we brought it over here. We have at least some fan base, i know this from emails and the hits on the computer. Yeah, we wouldn’t have to bring all 8 people over here either. As long as you had the main players you could find some people looking to play. One big thing is trying to find another band to hook up with around here to do some gigs with.
So what got you to come to re-locate to NYC?
I first came here with Dexys in 1979. We played the old Hurraz building, which doesn’t even exist anymore. I just fell in love with NY. Its funny I had a feeling when we got the subway from Kennedy, at the time (no expensive taxis, this was before we had a hit! early days) we just got out of the subway on 33rd St. or somewhere and saw the Empire State building and I just had this feeling that I was just going to be here. And then yknow not much was going down so I decided to come here basically for a break and I never ended up leaving.
yeah, its sure been a long break…
[I] Yeah! Ha! A long break that’s lasted for 25 years.
You must be well rested ! How did you come to hooking up with Black 47?
Funny thing was , the old Bureau used to tour a lot in Ireland and we were very popular there. Larry Kerwin had seen us there at a gig. So around that time, I was looking around for stuff to do. I was doing blues jams at various clubs and wasinto doing various other interesting things. Going to see what was going on at Tramps, like Doug Shcultz or whoever. My ex-wife knew Larry and they just happened to bump into him in a playground in the Village, as they both had young children at the time. She just happened to say that ‘oh, my husband is in the Bureau and is looking for something to do’ so Larry said just to come on down and sit in. So i did, and like that long break, i never left.
… going on 20 years, right? Have you seen any change in the crowd since bands like Flogging Molly or Dropkick Murphys getting popular in the U.S.?
yeah 20 years now. Difference in crowd. Its hard to say, i mean we have a rejuvenation of people, definitely. We are a particular thing, we not like a fast in-and-out thing like a punk thing with an Irish flavor might be. Or something like that .
So you have a new album out as well? How do you know what songs you write end up going for Black 47 and others for the Bureau?
Yes, we got a new album out. Its called “Bankers and Gangsters”. It just literally came out last week.
Well, we all arrange for Black 47 but nobody writes songs for this band, apart for Larry. That was the known thing & it was the known thing ever since I started. I’m here as the sax player and am playing arrangements & stuff like that. But if I do write stuff for the Bureua i write specifically for Archie the singer. I’m not writing it for myself and transposing on to him, because I’m not a singer. So I actually write for Archie’s voice. Except , of course one of the new songs is an instrumental so I suppose I didn’t write that one for him.
Did the band get much backlash for coming out with a record that was so outspoken against the Iraq war? You seem to have a strong conservative following in NYC. Also, its a great concept,taking the real stories of that fans emailed from overseas and putting them to record.
We got some flack from it. The thing is Larry wrote that based on a lot of fans that were based in the armed forces. The flack we got was not from those people. In fact, we sent the album to various people serving in Iraq. This one guy used to go out on patrols at night and he said it was weird driving around Baghdad listening to the Iraq album on his headphones. So yeah, it wasn’t from people from serving in Iraq that we ever got the flack because we were telling their stories. A lot of stay at home, wanna-bes’, and sort of people what goes on that think its all “Ooorah!” and all that. Some of that we got a bit of flack. Funny thing, when it first came out we got a lot of flack but as time went on and the war got less popular & more things back here were heard about back home about what was happening to the soldiers over there , the negative things sort of dropped off the radar.
Well, thank you for all your time. Is there anything else that you would like to add for the big close?
It was my pleasure. Sure. Look out for the new Bureau record. Its coming out strong.
January 15th. Connolly’s, New York City.