What hasn't already been said about the Adverts, whose first UK tour inspired one of the era's most famous taglines: ""The Adverts know one chord, the Damned know three. See all four at…"
TV Smith contributed some of the era's most startling imagery, in songs like "Gary Gilmore's Eyes" (the first of two Top 40 UK hits), "Safety In Numbers" ("All you pretty people who've been taken over/Had better start looking for your own answers"), and the delightfully self-deprecating insights of "One Chord Wonders" ("I wonder what we'll do when things go wrong/When we're halfway through our favorite song, we look up, and the audience is gone"). Their debut album, CROSSING THE RED SEA WITH THE ADVERTS, is considered one of the classics from the '76-'77 scene.
Although long removed from that time herself, former bassist Gaye Advert (now doing business as Gaye Black) has hardly been idle -- though these days, it's the artistic life that motivates her, as shown by the August 2010 "Beyond Punk" show that she curated, and contributed some of her own characteristically individual pieces. (For more about her current doings, visit: www.myspace.com/gayeblack.)
Held from August 10-21 at the Signal Gallery, in London's Hoxton neighborhood, "Beyond Punk" presented a cross-section of work from the Year Zero generation (see summary below). The best news, however, is that Gaye's been asked to organize a second show, which she expects to be bigger and better than the first. We began our 50-minute phone chat with what motivated her to become an artist...
CHAIRMAN RALPH (CR): Obviously, when the Adverts were going, you were an artist long before then – so I'm curious how you got started, and when...
GAYE ADVERT (GA): Well, I did three years at art college, did a foundation year, and a couple more years of graphic design – then, the band kind of happened, and it all got shelved, really. A few years later [after the Adverts], I did a course in stained glass, and started doing some stuff with that – but I've just given that up now, because it takes up too much room [laughs]. Not an easy thing to do at home!
CR: And it can be a bit messy, I imagine...
GA: Oh, yeah, yeah...I've fought the poisoned lead fumes [laughs].
CR: So what are your favorite mediums?
GA: At the moment, I'm doing more photographic ones, just odd bits and pieces. I don't know if you've seen any of the images from the show, or not.
CR: Yes, I had, and I was curious how you produced some of them.
GA: Well, the smaller ones are mostly the eyes from extreme metal bands that I've taken photos of, and put into skulls. The other ones are more, sort of, symmetrical patterns made out of people's faces. That works nicely. That's something I'm going to keep doing for awhile.
CR: Do you work in Photoshop to create that effect?
GA: No, scissors and paper. I don't have Photoshop anymore, anyway. I guess I just like to go back to the basics – there's not a magazine that in people's houses, that I haven't mutilated [laughs].
CR: How well do you think the connection between art and music in that era has been documented? People say, “Well, it was an art school movement,” or, “Well, you're over-intellectualizing it, it was music first, last and always.”
GA: Well, it was the bands that started off in art school. Well, we did, because there was no such thing as music college back then. But there was also an awful lot of bands that didn't go to college at all, really – but it was [about],“Have a go yourself,” make their own artwork, their own posters, and everything. As you know, there's no more of that around.
CR: Exactly. So, when you were studying graphic design, before the band happened – what did you actually envision yourself doing?
GA: Well, you know, we grew up in Devon, there wasn't much [around] but odd jobs down there. So I fancied moving down to London – we did record covers, book covers, and things [like that], at college. That was something that interested me. But once your skills get rusty, and technology moves on – when I did it at college, it was much more hands-on than what I could do now. Everything can be done on computers. It's a whole new world!
CR: Right! Did you ever get the chance to use your skills in designing the singles or the [picture] sleeves for the band?
GA: No, they [the record label] always used other people for that. I wouldn't have minded having a go, but... [laughs]
CR: You're not asking for your money back [much laughter at this point]! What is the most important aspect of the scene – and the band – that gets overlooked, or shrouded in misinformation?
GA: Well, the most important thing was Tim's lyrics – that's what made it [the Adverts' style] stand out from other bands. I think that's been fairly well-recognized, especially in recent years...he's still plugging away.
CR: Well, “Gary Gilmore's Eyes,” is the song that established you, wasn't it? Did it cause problems, in that it overshadowed what he [TV Smith] was writing later on?
GA: No, no – that's the one bit that people remember! But he went through a few years where he didn't get very much [inquiry] about it at all. Tim couldn't get a record deal for a few years, but still kept writing songs -- the interest had sort of wore off, but the songs just kept getting better, despite that.
CR: Almost always the case when the spotlight's turned off, isn't it? [Gaye laughs.] The Adverts were one of those classic “here today, gone tomorrow” bands – you made your mark, and then it all kind of imploded. Why do you think that happened, in hindsight?
GA: I don't know – our guitarist [the late Howard Pickup, nee Boak] disappeared one day, first drummer got sacked, second might have done, as well [laughs]...everybody that I knew but me and Tim left, and he just carried on, really.
CR: Did you ever much have contact with him [Pickup] after those days?
GA: No, we never saw him! He just didn't turn up for rehearsal one day, and we never saw him again. No contact, or anything...
CR: So, in retrospect – perhaps the usual things of people not getting along, not having enough money to do what you needed to do...
GA: Yeah, I think he was pretty disillusioned, after all that touring and everything, that there was absolutely no sort of money in it, I suppose.
CR: I suppose so. Well, how was the band set up financially? Was it [run on] a weekly wage from the management company?
GA: For a little while, yeah...to start with, we were signing on [the dole]...and later on, when that [money] ran out, that was it, really.
CR: So, when everything ended, what did we do next?
GA: Well, I was a bit worn out – I recovered for a year, or so. I got jobs to earn a living, doing [artistic] stuff in my spare time.
CR: You ended up working for the [Hammersmith] Council...
GA: Yeah – and then they got rid of nearly everybody that worked for them [laughs], so I got made redundant about two and a half years ago...
CR: After how many years?
CR: What was the genesis of “Beyond Punk,” then?
GA: Well, I go to a lot of galleries, and I'd got to know the guys in the gallery [that hosted “Beyond Punk”]. They said, “It's about time you were in one of our shows, and why don't you curate it?” And I just rather naively said, “OK.”
CR: Not realizing all the work that you were letting yourself in for, right?
GA: No, no – it was quite good, starting off the deep end, with many people in the show, [and] musicians, to boot... It was great for some of them, they'd never got to show [art] publicly before. There was so much involved, [such as] getting sponsorships...
RH: So how did we determine who we were going to include? What was the criteria?
GA: It was originally just going be people in bands. Then, I thought, “It doesn't need to be so exclusive.” Also, I knew some of the people already, and I'd met enough of them. I just found out about more people. There were only a couple that I couldn't get, like [former Clash bassist] Paul Simonon – he wasn't very interested.
CR: Of all the folks who did participate, who surprised you the most?
GA: Well, I didn't know that [former Eater drummer] Dee Generate was doing anything at all, actually, but he'd recently gone back to college. There were some that I was very familiar with, like Chris Brief – I love his work. I always thought that was an original punk band, The Briefs; they're such a great band. He's really prolific, he's really dedicated.
Knox and Charlie have been painting for years and years – do you know that punk festival up in Blackpool, Rebellion? They have an art show up there. Myself, Knox and Charlie have been in it the last three years. You get to know what people's work is [like], and you get inspiration from that.
CR: In looking at your images, the one that everyone seemed to be talking about was, “Don't Play With Mummy's Things”...it takes a certain dark humor to create something like that, so where did the inspiration come from?
GA: It just sort of popped into my head [laughs]! You know, I'd sort of amassed these various bits and pieces – and then, suddenly, things sort of dropped into place. I have a thing about collecting old bones, as well.
CR: And what was the medium for that particular work?
GA: It's a glass globe, with doll legs and necklaces... it's a three-dimensional thing.
CR: Was that [show] just basically a one-off?
GA: Well, it was going to be a one-off, but the gallery has asked me to do another one. And they're just moving to bigger premises, as well, so it'll be an altogether different space.
CR: More confirmation, if we needed it, that the art school dance did go on forever, if you like. [Gaye laughs.] How will this [show] be different?
GA: It'll be bigger, and hopefully, it'll be different. I don't want to sort of conjecture too much, in case it all goes pear-shaped.
CR: So what would you say the show says about the collective strength and ability of the folks that were participating?
GA: I just mainly wanted to draw attention to them, and get a good mix of styles, and media, you know – like Viv Albertine's ceramics. Steve Ignorant, from Crass, did wood carvings. It wasn't just painting.
RH: And it wasn't all just graphics and flyers with kidnap logos...
GA: No, we had none of that! You know, it was a good gallery, but it was quite small, so it was a challenge to keep things under control, and not have too have many [pieces] to fit in...or it wouldn't go together.
Actually, it's where a lot of the most interesting exhibitions are [held], around that way...not West London. The East End is a bit more interesting, and edgy. Personally, I travel across London about twice a week, I live west – and I just go east, and try to look at the artwork. There's a whole different atmosphere out there.
CR: So how long has the East London scene been flourishing?
GA: About 20 years, it's been like that. It's almost too cheap for its own good – the reason it's interesting is because people can afford spaces, and studios out there. As it's got more and more hip, more people want to go out there, and that's putting the prices up.
CR: Right. And then, before you know it, you'll be victims of your own success, so to speak.
GA: Yeah, it's like Camden Market, places like that. Big business moves in, prices out all the interesting people...it's Starbucks everywhere, and big nasty buildings [popping up].
RH; In other words, if I went back to Camden Market, I'd be terribly depressed...
GA: Probably. All the interesting stuff moved out to Brick Lane, I mean, that's really good, still. There's a thing called the Upmarket now, which is a car park during the week, and then on Sundays, it's used for local stalls. And there's the Backyard Market, which has [also] got small stalls. There's people that sell their own paintings and drawings. Once you get out that way, it's got the spirit of old Camden, really.
CR: So, what sort of music are you listening to these days?
GA: Well, a lot of extreme stuff – that Norwegian black metal area.
CR: What is it about that [Norwegian] music that appeals to you?
GA: Well, the bands I go and see, you wouldn't see them in a big arena. They're specialized, and it's a DIY sort of thing. I really like the music, and the visual component, as well.
CR: Certainly. Have you been to Norway?
GA:Yeah, I've been coming for the last [three] years, to photograph the people in the pictures!
CR: So what kind of society produces Norwegian black metal? I've met people from there, and they tell me, “It's a very paternalistic society, with lots of rules.”
GA: Yeah...and what always happens, when there's lots of rules?
CR: People tend to want to kick back.
GA: You know, it's quite good. The characters I've met out there are real interesting. If you look at the bands, they're not the same, at all. There's a band called Kvelertak that are really good. They're kind of punky, [with] a bit of metal, black metal type guitar-y bits that make it real distinctive – but they do seem about to take off in England. They just sing in Norwegian, who knows what they're singing [laughs]...
CR: Is there any way you would ever go back [to music], even for a one-off (gig)? What if somebody came to you – I'm sure, perhaps, somebody has – and said, “Gaye, TV, we've got this-and-this much on the table, who else you want [onstage] is up to you...”
GA: No. The time has passed, really, for something like that [laughs]. You know, it's been done, and I'm finished with all that, that's the way it is. If I were to do anything, it wouldn't be with Tim.
CR: It would you be and a “cast of thousands” [Gaye laughs], as the saying goes...
GA: Certainly, it wouldn't be the original lineup.
CR: Do you still keep a bass, and play around the house? I've always wondered this myself, as a fan.
GA: No, I don't have one anymore. The last one I had, it was unplayable, anyway, and I think somebody's got it on their wall now.
CR: You see music as part of the past, then, it's safe to say?
GA: Yeah. I'm still a music fan, I go to gigs, but I'm just a punter on the other side of the stage, really [laughs].
CR: And it's not necessarily a hangover from some of the experiences that you had with the press, where they tended to focus on you, to the detriment of everybody else...
GA: Oh, yeah, I hated that. I felt like some kind of freak, back in the day [laughs]. It's great to be still getting enjoyment of music.
RH: No regrets, then, as the cliché goes?
CR: And what would you tell anybody who's just beginning to work on a style, and perhaps may be feeling self-conscious – since a lot of art is being defined through celebrity culture?
GA: They should just do what they want to do, what's in their heart! Do what you like doing. It's like music, as well, and if other people like it, good. If they don't, then at least you did. That's what I always think. I make things for myself, and if others like it, that's good.
"BEYOND PUNK" LINEUP (August 2010)
Adam Ant (Adam & the Ants), Charlie Harper (UK Subs), Chris Brief (The Briefs), Dale Grimshaw, Dee Generate (Eater), Gaye Black (Adverts), Gee Vaucher (Crass), Jamie Reid (Sex Pistols), Knox (Vibrators), Nick Taggart (Zkrr Zkretna), Philip Barker (Buzzcocks), Poly Styrene (X Ray Spex), Shanne Bradley (Nipple Erectors), Shepard Fairey, Steve Ignorant (Crass) and Youth (Killing Joke).
"PUNK & BEYOND": THE SEQUEL (11/24-12/17/11)
Following the buzz after last summer's "Beyond Punk" show, came the second installment, "Punk & Beyond," at Signal Gallery, 32 Paul Street, London EC2A 4LB, UK. Asked how she envisioned round two playing out, Gaye responded:
"As the 'Beyond Punk' exhibition last year had been such a success, Signal Gallery asked me to curate part two, which I called 'Punk and Beyond' to reflect the expansion of the original theme, with a new set of artists.
"We decided to dedicate the show to Poly Styrene as she had made a valued contribution to last year's show before she sadly passed away, so I commissioned three of last year's artist/musicians to paint portraits of her - Knox, Charlie Harper and Chris Brief. I also decided to include a photographic section comprising some iconic and rare images from back in the day from my three favourite rock photographers, including images of Poly and X Ray Spex."
As with round one, getting a diverse group of people involved was an important part of her task, according to Gaye: "I wanted to achieve a good cross section of styles and attitudes, that would complement each other and make for an interesting show and give some exposure to some deserving people. I think it has worked very well, and the photos from the opening last night bear this out."
Kicking off with a private viewing (November 24), "Punk And Beyond" ran through Saturday, December 17. Viewing hours were noon to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.
"As the gallery is now located in a larger space, we are trying live music too this time, starting with The Near Future, Tony Barber (ex Buzzcocks)' new electronic duo, which promises to keep everyone entertained, if their inaugural gig at the ExitStencil launch a few days ago is anything to go by," Gaye noted.
The Near Future performed three short sets on Saturday (11/26), with Dick Yorke (Cryssis) getting in two short acoustic performances between their doings! Other acts included Thee Spivs ("an energetic young punk band," Gaye says), on December 3; Jowe Head and the Demi Monde, on December 10 ("quirky and original as his artwork," she notes); and closed with a special acoustic set from Charlie Harper (UK Subs), and Knox, the Vibrators' frontman. To savor the moment once more, let the press release stir your eyes, and imagination...for other details, visit www.signalgallery.com/.
"PUNK & BEYOND": SIGNAL GALLERY PRESS RELEASE
When Punk exploded onto the music scene in the 1970s, it seemed to be an aberration: another pointless negative outburst of teenage angst involving lots of swearing, spitting and rudimentary music. Little did we know that nearly forty years on, the seeds planted by those early Punksters would flourish over the generations, so that In our own time of financial hardship and uncertainty not a million miles away from the troubled world of the mid 1970s, Punk seems ever more relevant and attractive.
Evidence of this was the huge success of our ‘Beyond Punk’ show last year, curated by Gaye Black (from The Adverts). A very wide range of people was able to appreciate this show, which brought together artwork by well-known Punk musicians, including Poly Styrene and Adam Ant.
As a second installment to this journey, ‘Punk And Beyond’ promises to be a very exciting expansion of the idea. Again curated by the iconic Gaye Black, we are now able to fill our new, bigger gallery space with more artists and more artwork. The lineup promises to be even more varied and fascinating than the first show, with a wider range of both artwork and musical backgrounds. Fitting tribute will be paid to Poly Styrene, who sadly died of cancer earlier this year, with a series of specially commission portraits.
On the four Saturdays on the shows of the shows run, live music will be
played in the gallery by several of the participating artists. Details of these performances will be available soon. This will be a show that celebrates the enduring creative potency of Punk. The Lineup speaks for itself:
Gaye Black (Adverts)/Ben Browton (The Shapes)/Billy Childish (Thee Headcaots, Milkshakes, Pop Rivets, Spartan Dreggs)/Michael Davis (MC5, Destroy All Monsters)/Ben Edge (Thee Spivs)/Ray Gange (Clash DJ)/Grant Hart (Husker Du)/Jowe Head (Swell Maps, Television Personalities)/Robyn Hitchcock (Soft Boys)/Bron Jones (Crass, Eve Libertine)/Dick Lucas (Citizen Fish)/Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth)/Mark Mothersbaugh (Devo)/Christian Paris (Wire/The Bears)/Savage Pencil (The Art Attacks)/Marco Pirroni (Adam & The Ants, Siouxsie & The Banshees)/Robert Pollard (Guided By Voices)/Jamie Reid/Nick Reynolds (Alabama 3)/Penny Rimbaud (Crass)/Paul Simonon (The Clash)/Tom Spencer (The Lurkers)
Poly Styrene Tribute Portraits: Chris Brief (The Briefs), Charlie Harper (UK Subs), Knox (The Vibrators)/Photography by Ian Dickson, Jill Furmanovsky, Ray Stevenson
Band Interviews AThru L
All entries here are archived by last name or subject heading (A-L). Put another way...there's more than one page of content here, so just click the "Archive" button under this message. Then click on the relevant link to read the entry that interests you.