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Monday, October 13, 2008

Red London - Interview


"What really knocks me out is a book, when you're all done reading it, you wished the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone...".

Holden Caulfield, The Catcher In The Rye

Holden Caulfield's famous quote about books applies just as much to punk rock and roll. And for years it was a source of boundless frustration for me that I could never seem to contact the people who brought me such tunes as "Autumn Victory", "Children Of War", "Days like these" and many more.

When I interviewed former Red London sticksman and occasional vocalist Raish Carter last fall--see "Sascha vs. Raish" on Sleazegrinder--I would have also loved to interview either Kid or Gaz Stoker, the fraternal pistons behind the Sunderland combo, but at the time it just didn't seem to be in the cards.

As luck would have it, though, alcohol fumed rumors of a Sunderland punk supergroup filtered through myspace. Said supergroup, consisting of members of Red Alert, Red London, the Angelic Upstarts and Leatherface does exist under the alias "The Dipsomaniacs". When I found their site I realized that it was finally my chance to hone in on the Yeti-like Red London. I use that phrase not to describe the burly and genial bass player of both bands, Gaz Stoker, but to illustrate the fact that while every punk aficionado I've encountered knows about Red Alert--and usually sings their praises to high heaven--information on the other Reds has been chronically sketchy and in short supply in the US. It's never been clear why these bands, which hearkened from the same town at virtually the same time got such lopsided representation in the States. Maybe it was Red Alert's appearance on those "Punk and Disorderly" comps everyone owned in the 1980's, or the high profile of being on the legendary No Future label that released their first records that ensured their immortality. However if you mention the equally talented Red London half the time you get a blank stare. Or, they've been written off as some kind of Red Alert side project, which in fact couldn't be further from the case.

Although the band no longer exists, it's high time that they were given their proper due in the pantheon of rebel rock. It's never been fashionable in music writing to wear your heart on your sleeve, but with Red London I could do no less. To steal a title from one of their albums, they have been the soundtrack to my life. Red London had all the right ingredients for me: passionate without being embarrassing, anthemic without being sloganeering and political without finger pointing or didacticism. I've touched on some of this in the Raish article so there is no sense in writing about it all over again. It's sufficient to say that my world would have been a far poorer place without such albums as "This Is England", "Outlaws", "Days Like These" and the brilliant mistake of "Tumbling Dice" which veered so close into professional and polished sounding pop punk rock with a socialist bent it could have created a genre into itself. Special mention must go as well to arguably their best song, "The Day They tore the old school down" which as close to The Faces' song "Oh La La" in tone and emotive power as the punk generation is likely to get. And it's hard for a band to forge a distinctive sound while blowing through lead vocalists like pints of lager at the bar, but Red London did it standing on their collective head. That's tenacity defined, folks.

Getting in touch with Gaz, and through his good graces Kid, was my Holden Caulfield moment and I tried to make the absolute most of it. I sent them both the same set of questions, which finally threw some light onto this class act for me (I'd only been following them since about 1987 for crying out loud)and I hope a few others out there who share my interest in street rock and roll--the genuine article--and not what is dictated by the music industry to teen internet and mall rats.

Despite the demise of the band after the subdued-but-still-fighting "Once Upon A Generation", both Kid and Gaz have been busy.It won't come as any surprise that outside of the band, Kid is an accomplished writer with a Sunderland punk manifesto "Oi Stories", a bio of Red Alert and a fictional account of Red London "One For The Road" under his belt. Gaz, meanwhile, keeps the fires burning with his work with The Dipsomaniacs and occasionally The Upstarts.

Many thanks to Gaz and Kid for their time and consideration. And also Tony Frater (guitarist extraordinaire ) Matty Foster (on the sticks ) Patty and Steve Smith, Marty Clark, Steve Straughan, Craig Casson and anyone else involved in the band. Keep the faith!

Format note: I asked the brothers the same questions, but Gaz did such a fiendishly good job that half way through Kid's interrogation it was mutually decided that, as the songwriter for the band, he should divert from the queries and write a bit about some of the tunes themselves.

Cultural note: Gaz pointed out to me immediately a gaffe I'd made in the Raish piece, where I said that the band came from Sunderland, which I thought of as part of Newcastle. In fact, Sunderland is very much it's own city and folks from those parts are not Geordies, as I had stated earlier:
"Red London don’t come from Newcastle. They came from Sunderland.
Newcastle and Sunderland are 2 cities in the North-East of England that are only separated by 12 miles but have a really fierce rivalry between them. People from Newcastle (Geordies) and Sunderland (Mackems) more or less hate each other. Newcastle is much more well known than Sunderland, (another thing Sunderland people resent) Bands that have come from Sunderland include The Rebels, Red London, Red Alert, Leatherface, Toy Dolls, while The Angelic Upstarts came from South Shields , which is more or less in between Sunderland and Newcastle (Mensi supports Sunderland football team)".

Now, onto the interviews.

Red Sascha



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