These days, life is a bit quieter for Pete Haynes, once known to punk fans as "Manic Esso" for his frenetic drumming style with the Lurkers – whose meat 'n' potatoes approach garnered little critical respect during the '77 era, yet has proven more durable than their detractors could have imagined.
Then again, precision wasn't the point, Haynes gleefully notes in GOD'S LONELY MEN (2007), his spirited memoir of the Lurkers' life and times: "Mistakes or cock ups were grinned away, as having a good night was seen as having greater importance than such boring, poncy, post-mortem trials of who played a bum note, and was it in time. Fuck me, I would have joined a real group if I wanted to be bored to death."
Haynes has also published two other books. MALAYAN SWING (2009) details a mentally disabled man's struggles for acceptance, while AN UNLIKELY FOOLIGAN (2009) draws inspiration from two trips to Japan. If that's not keeping Haynes busy enough, he's written eight plays, and has joined former Lurkers cohorts Nigel Moore (bass) and Peter Stride (guitar, vocals) in a new band, God's Lonely Men (GLM). (Details are available at Haynes's website, http://www.petehaynes.co.uk/, or the official GLM page, http://godslonelymen.com/home.htm.)
Still, whether behind the kit or the computer, feelings of being a perennial outsider run throughout Haynes's work – as he makes clear in spelling out his disdain for British knighthoods ("everyone's aspiring to be lords, and princes, and bloody little characters"), uneasiness with Californian culture ("if you never got a decent job, you're fucking like a Third World leper"), and love of the Velvet Underground ("They opened it up for the ordinary in their art, in a meaningful way, for ordinary people").
We start our epic 80-minute interview with a more basic question....where did the most memorable Lurkers gigs take place?
PETE HAYNES (PH): I tell you, the worst one we ever did – we went to Manchester. I've got all these stories in there, which I call "Misbookings." Our management, in all their wisdom, sent us 200 miles up the motorway to play in a West Indian reggae club...a young punk band!
The bloke just looked at us. After one number, he just shook his head and said, "No, don't worry. Don't do it." They weren't friendly at all. So we took the gear down, he gave us a check for 60 quid, and I knew it was gonna bounce, all the way. We did a few [gigs] with three and five distinterested people, trying to have a conversation, and sort of scowling at you. But I kind of like that thing, in a way.
CHAIRMAN RALPH (CR): Because it brings out the best in you, being in people's faces?
PH: I think it I like it, because it puts people off a bit [laughs].
CR: So, I assume you hadn't done anything before you were in the band, correct?
PH: No, none of us had. I used to practice around [guitarist] Pete's [Stride's] house, at his mum's house. And it was just a row, really. He thought he sounded like something out of Lou Reed. I knew I couldn't play the drums. I only had one rhythm. And it was ridiculous.
We used to make this noise, and I suppose the basis of it was [the] New York Dolls, Lou Reed. It was certainly "American, trash, decadent rock 'n' roll," although we weren't anywhere near that. Pete was a bit more trendy, 'cause he had the long hair, and stuff, but we weren't art school students, in any way. I looked like a builder's laborer, but I listened to Lou Reed.
It was just that feel, songs like "Frankenstein," and I attached myself to it. And it's strange how this took root in the mind of someone who didn't come from an arty or middle-class family, or whatever -- so it just goes to show the power, isn't it, of art.
CR: I think so. Certainly, songs like "Take Me Back To Babylon"...that's a pretty obvious tip of the hat to the Dolls, I think.
PH: Yeah. A lot of English punk bands, you've got to remember, were a bit hippie-ish. A lot of them were liars. They could play their instruments. They'd got their hair cut, they'd had their flares taken in. We weren't of that genre, which made it odd. Our first set was only 10 minutes long -- this is how stupid we were, we didn't see anything wrong in it.
CR: Of course, all the American hardcore bands, that's exactly what they did, about six or eight years later.
PH: Really? Oh, well, there you go. I was giving it this energy, where I felt like I had to have a nosebleed when I played the drums...we played with Screaming Lord Sutch, you heard of him?
CR: Yes, I have.
PH: He was an eccentric guy, and lived not far from us, actually, in West London. He came from Harrow, in Uxbridge. We came off, and he said, "Is that it?" I said, "Yeah." And he said, "No, no, you've got to do longer [sets] than that." He spoke to me like a kindly uncle, like a kid with a learning disability, or something. I said, "I'm tired!" And he said, "You can't be tired, you're a young bloke." I said, "I'm knackered." He said, "No, no, you've got to go on again, you've got to do it again."
So we had a bit of a chat. We went up there again, and I think we did it [the set] about a minute quicker! And he just gave up. But, I tell you, he was one of the best people we played with. He was a real friendly bloke, and I suppose he knew that we were very green. And he let us use the gear, wished us the best of luck, had a pint with me afterwards. I thought he was a good bloke, but we didn't meet many people like that again [laughs].
CR: People seem to get an idealized picture of it [the '77 scene] as the years go by, but it wasn't necessarily that way, was it?
PH: No, not at all. Mind you, I've got to tell you, I might not have gone to school, but I wasn't thick, really. I had my eyes fully opened, Ralph, and I didn't trust anyone. I thought they were a bunch of shitheads. I wasn't really in the music scene, I played drums in a band. I saw it as being like in an army. We were in a war, supporting a football team, and nobody likes you.
That's how I saw it, so it was more of a psychological than a personal thing for me. I didn't want people to like us, really, the trendy people. I always liked having a drink and a laugh, seeing if we could get people in for nothing, and all that -- that was the enjoyable side of it.
But talking to some dickhead in these other groups -- I offered the hand of friendship a few times, and I just realized, they weren't like me, [singer] Howard [Wall], or Pete. We would go for a drink, play some darts, have a chat, and these guys -- they were scheming. You know, put on their funny trousers, gel up their hair, talk about hating America, and they wanna fly there the next day, you know what I mean?
CR: Yes, and take the USA's money back home with them...
PH: Yeah, which I always thought was a bit ridiculous. I always said, "I wanna go to America -- it's the land of Elvis Presley, it's the land of Al Capone, it's the land of John Steinbeck. I wanna go there, it's an interesting place." I went there twice. We played in New York, [at] Max's [Kansas City], and Hurrah's. We played in Philadephia, Boston, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Montreal, Toronto -- that was it.
CR: So how did you find us?
PH: Oh, fine, fine! Very friendly, yeah. Howard had a bit of a drink problem, and he used to sort of moan at people. We got bottled off in Toronto. It was a rock place, wall-to-wall denim -- denim shirts, denim flares -- guys having a beer after work, going out with the girlfriend or wife, listening to rock 'n' roll. We weren't that.
Howard said some fucking nonsense when he got on the stage: "Where were you in the war?" You know, it was obviously just a ridiculous thing to say, and we got bottled off. They didn't take kindly to it. So we got bottles thrown at us, which wasn't the only time it happened, I've got to say.
We got in quite a few fights. I got in quite a few fights; I got knocked out once. Yeah, I know, it's embarrassing, but that night was spectacular. It's a long way to go, get on a stage and insult people, and then just get [bottled off]. The manager said, "You've got to do two sets," and I said, "Fuck off, mate, I'm not going out there with bottles thrown at me." And there you go.
We went to record our second LP [in early '79], to a place called Muscle Shoals. I was excited about going down to the South. I even got a book about the Civil War. I've always been a reader. I thought, "I wanna read about things, so when I walk up and speak to somebody about something, have a little bit of knowledge." And, fuckin' hell, we got there, and it was a dry county -- fucking terrible!
CR: So how did you manage?
PH: Well, pretty bad [laughs], but I'll tell you this. We [later] went to a bar with the producer, who was from the South. I think he was from Atlanta. He took us to a bar, but he didn't come in. He stayed in the car park. I understood it as being like a class thing. It was right on the Tennessee county border.
I had a laugh in there, a drinking competition and an arm wrestle sort of thing, [that] I enjoyed when I was 23. It was odd, put it that way. Then we went again, a couple months later. We did the tour, and that was more normal. But that was our experience of America. It wasn't a disaster. The second album was shit: the producer was wrong, everything was wrong.
CR: Is it a case of, you've had all these songs in your pocket that you've had forever, and you just get them down?
PH: I think there is that, which is usually the case with people who aren't massively talented, like us. You've only got certain things to say, haven't you? And your best stuff is your first. There's not many people around like the Beatles, who can sort of churn these things out, or whatever.
But also, Ralph, if we were with the right people, in the right atmosphere, it would have been different. And also, it would have sounded different. The whole thing is too dry. The bloke didn't understand it, the record company were fucking useless, and we didn't really have any manager. Our manager was the record label.
CR: Which is, of course, the classic conflict of interest scenario you want to avoid...
PH: Yeah, and we weren't bright enough then to understand that you need representation, you know? Otherwise, you're gonna be presented in the wrong light, or you're gonna be doing the wrong thing, and that's exactly what happened. And we were just led by people who were fucking useless. This producer guy [Phillip Jarrell] was a sharp guy -- he worked for Tamla Motown, he wrote "Torn Between Two Lovers," is it, Mary McGregor?
CR: Mary McGregor, yes.
PH: It was number one in America for about two years, and number one over here for about a year. So he was a very, very rich bloke, this guy, and wanted to get involved in the punk scene. And he got hold of this, Beggars Banquet got ahold of him, and thought it would be a really good idea for us to be taken to bloody Muscle Shoals. So it was wrong. The whole thing was wrong.
CR: A mismatch.
PH: Totally, but because we were excited about going to America -- we didn't have any lofty ideas about slaggin' off the States, like a lot of people did. We thought, "Oh, it'd be great!" But, of course, from a musical point of view, it was wrong. But that was a long time ago.
CR: You had your [political] views, even if they didn't find expression in the music, necessarily...those are things that you kept more to yourselves, I take it?
PH: Yeah. Politicians, they don't live their life by the way they speak, do they? And playing punk rock, playing the drums, I certainly didn't want to be part of something that had anything to do with that, which I thought was quite forced...although the actual movement did enlighten people, it did make people think. There is a good side, but it's just all those smarmy people running it, the holier-than-thou kind of thing.
CR: So was that the main thing that led to the dissolution of the band on the first go-round?
PH: Well, the first time round, we would run out of songs, and we had this guy, [guitarist] John Plain, who used to play for the Boys. He come along and he sort of hijacked it, really, duped Pete Stride. So I never liked that bloke. And that was that, that was the end of it.
But we got back together with Mark Fincham, in '82. You know, we did a couple of songs with him, but I felt it was after the event. I liked Mark, I thought he was good. He had a lot of power. To be honest with you, how old was I then? Twenty-six, and I wanted to write. I'd written a play, and my mind was elsewhere, right up till about two years ago.
When I was 30, I went to university, and qualified as a tutor for people with special needs. I never worked in that area, though, because I couldn't work with the staff. I ended up -- for 10 years -- working with people with disabilities, as a support worker. And that was really my only sort of job for a long time.
I wrote a novel in '93, which got published last year, called MALAYAN SWING. It's about a mentally ill person who goes into the community. But these are the sort of subject matters I've always been around. I try to look at the bigger picture, if you like, how it impacts someone who's seen as insignficant.
CR: That was one thing that really interested me – that's such a strong theme in your work.
PH: There wasn't a conscious plan or approach to my work. If you are fragile, vulnerable, it's through their experience that we can see the more complicated, powerful things that -- at first sight -- have no connection at all. Of course, this is where we can then read into what's going on. It's just something that I feel. I can't really intellectualize that. I'm more consicous of what I'm going through the last couple years, I suppose.
I'm proud of that book, MALAYAN SWING, and really pleased that it got published. You see, the thing is, Ralph, I was like this when I was six -- why would anyone like Joe Strummer, who went to a posh school, driven by plans, strategies, agendas -- how on earth could I ever feel a connection with something like that? It wouldn't make any sense, would it?
CR: I've always said, "Look, you really have to separate the music and the songs from the characters behind them, and whatever ideology somebody professed to believe." I look at them as distinctly different things.
PH: That's right. I've got a little saying when I wrote that book of mine about four or five years ago: "we were more Steinbeck than Stalin." By that, I mean, we didn't march behind a banner.
I think it was quite contrived, and that put me off everything to do with them [the Clash], really. And when I listened to them, I thought, "They haven't really got much power, anyway, as a group." As I say, I prefer "Last Train To Clarksdale," it's a better pop song. It's just the way it is.
CR: Well, it's always the silly songs that seem to be the biggest hits...
PH: Yeah, but out of the punk bands, take the Damned: "New Rose," that's a classic. When I first heard it, I thought, "Fuck, this is a great song." And it's still great. "White Riot" might have had a bit of meaning at the time it was written, but it's not a good song. With the Pistols' songs, you listen to "Pretty Vacant": they sounded big and great then, they sound big and great now.
See, this is why I write. Pop groups, I don't consider that important. I think they're meaningful at a different level. For me, music's very important, but you go and see people dress like the group, don't they? It's become quite an ordinary thing to do, you know. You've got your heavy metal group, they've got long hair, they wear a black T-shirt, and they wear jeans.
I've never really been like that. I just don't connect it like that. See, I don't come from a sort of rhythm and blues background, that pub rock that was [happening] in London. You take Joe Strummer, I remember seeing him before he was in the Clash, in the 101'ers. They were a good group, and he was good. I mean, let's face it, he was good at what he did...
CR: He was a good frontman.
PH: Yeah, definitely, good frontman, embedded a lot of energy. I saw them a couple times, and liked them. They were a good group, [with a] bit rockabilly-ish sort of look. See, these people come from a lineage of that, the rockin' pubs. I didn't, really. I wasn't really well-versed in that kind of [music]. I listened to music by myself. I saw weird images in my head. That's what I liked.
CR: So what are you hoping to achieve with the group, God's Lonely Men -- since it's essentially the original Lurkers lineup, more or less, isn't it?
PH: At first, we were naive, as always. I thought we could sell T-shirts...do something on the website to communicate with people, buy our songs from the 'net. But after a couple months of making inquiries, it transpires that people don't buy anything off the 'net.
You have to really go out and sell it, so it's ruined our plans. So we're just going to make one song at a time. Someone wants to download it, good; we'll try to just build up a nice selection of songs, and it's out there, you know...and see where it goes from there.
CR: So it's very much an open canvas at this point, it sounds like...
PH: Yeah, yeah, that's right. There isn't a plan, but the purpose is to make good music, stuff that we enjoy.
CR: So what's the next thing as a writer, since you've had these three books published, right?
PH: Well, all I do is try. I send off to publishers all the time. I haven't got an agent. I've applied to people if I can do [public] reading in places, but I'm not the greatest person to deal with arty people. When you go into a room, [and] you've got stuffy people in black turtlenecks and sweaters looking at you, I feel out of place. So I struggle with that side of it. But I just write all the time.
I write every day, and I'm working on another novel at the moment. I've just finished a screenplay, a bit of a comedy thing. It's the first time I've written a comedy. I'm out in the dark, so to speak. Really, I haven't got an in. It's good being published, but nothing much has come of that. This is why it's a good thing that I'm doing the group again, with Pete. That's how I got you ringing me up.
CR: Exactly, yeah! I was scrolling around, and I thought, "Wow, somebody's doing something! This is great."
PH: I'm very open to anything. I'd love to travel more and do things. I like the idea of reading in places, 'cause I love the idea of storytelling.
CR: Well, I think that's something you should definitely look into, because it gets you in front of people.
PH: Yeah, I think we're very limited here, Ralph, you see. You're better off in the States. I think the storyteller is more respected than it is here. Also, this country is very class-laden. I think I would feel more at home in parts of the States -- there's less of a class barrier kind of thing. I know you got your crap out there, as well, but I think there's less.
You see, that really shows itself in its literature. For example, something like "Taxi Driver" -- he's [Robert DeNiro's character, Travis Bickle] an alcoholic, can't read and write, but what a criticism of the American system -- it's written about a bloke who's a cab driver. You don't get that in English literature. Any kind of character who's got powerful emotions or politics, they're either a doctor, a solicitor or an airplane pilot, you know what I mean?
CR: I loved what you said on the site about "chick lit," and all the cliches that go with it ("tired plots involving two-dimensional characters who live in Notting Hill, work in PR and have a token gay friend")...made me laugh out loud. "Sex And The City", that's another example of what we're just talking about, isn't it?
PH [laughs]: Yeah. I must say, I don't really give it a lot of thought, because I see it [the meaninglessness]. I only really find out what these things are 10 years afterwards, like "Friends". It is such fucking rubbish -- but I'm quite wrong, because I always think that most people know it's rubbish, when really, they sell millions. No wonder they don't like me, with my sort of rantings, [and] political observations. But I'm not bitter, Ralph.
CR: No, I don't think you are.
PH: No, I couldn't give a damn! I don't care enough to be bitter -- but, from the writing point of view, that is my life. It's a shame I haven't got an agent to push things out there. I've got a couple of things that I've written, which I'd love to be published. I've written one book, COLD WATER, about the collusion between the British state and Protestant paramilitaries.
It's about the relationship between this guy who's a paramilitary, and this bloke in the House of Lords. It's a sadomasochistic relationship. And this lord allows this murderer carte blanche, you know. It's about a corrupt British state, how they collude with street criminals to get things done for them...like the solicitors who work for the Catholics, for example.
CR: Well, I always thought the Protestant paramilitaries were the government gang, basically...
PH: Yeah, but they would often get disllusioned, because they would get dispatched by the government. This guy's given carte blanche, 'cause he's a psychotic. He likes torturing and dismembering people. And, of course, this lord gets off on this. They watch videos together, have a little party time. But then the lord allows too much insight into their murky roles, and this guy has to be dispatched.
I always write the first hour, hour and a half of every day. I'll be looking to get a little bit of part-time work again, I suppose...most likely, some kind of social care work. That kind of thing just suits me in a way, 'cause that means I'm not working in a [fixed] place. I'm gonna be out and about.
CR: Right, and you can interact more freely with people, than if you were stuck in a cubicle, God forbid...
PH: Yeah, and I quite like working with the disabled, 'cause I sort of get on with them -- check their medication, make sure things are OK. As long as I'm left alone, I don't think that's a bad way to earn a bit of money, you know? It's not good pay, I've got to tell you, it's not much more than minimum wage. But, yeah, concentrate on my writing -- that's the big idea.
CR: All right, well -- thanks for being so generous with your time.
PH: And thanks for being interested, mate, and good luck to you in everything you're doing.
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