Issue 3 of No Class includes a short review of a three track cassette single by The Voletones: Speaking Clock / System / Miracle Man. The title track includes a rather direct snatch from Squeeze’s Cool for Cats and is a good example of the band’s potential commercial appeal. The follow up was that the No Class crew met The Voletones in a rehearsal studio in West Kensington, listened to the rest of their set, then went to sit on a wall opposite The Fox with Pete Donohue (vocals), Richard Franklin (guitar), Steve West – aka Jack (bass) and Mac (drums) where the chat went thus:
All the songs are credited to The Voletones, do you actually write them together?
Steve: No, we nick ’em off other people. What we do is we listen to the new Squeeze album…… (laughter abounds).
How do you write the songs? You don’t just go down to the studio and plug in?
Steve: No, we usually have a basic idea. Someone comes along with most of the song, the lyrics and the tune, and then we arrange it and maybe chuck out all the lyrics or chuck out the tune.
How about an LP?
Steve: We haven’t got any money.
How long have The Voletones been going?
Pete: The Voletones have been going – but not in its present form – a couple of years on and off, and in the present form about nine months. Two and a half years with just us three without Steve, and me playing bass as well as singing.
Would you mind people covering your songs?
SW: No. (pause) It depends who it was actually, doesn’t it.
Richard: Vince Pie and the Crumbs did one of our songs once. That’s how we came about really, out of Vince. Me and Mac used to be in it at the start and Pete used to come on stage to do a couple of numbers.
Have you been offered a record contract?
Steve: No we haven’t.
Richard: Someone phoned us up once from somewhere in Soho, with some kind of contract deal, which didn’t sound too….. She got our name out of an ad in the NME.
Steve: It was a con job.
Richard: It ended up the usual thing; we had to pay out money to go and make a record that you’d never see anything of again.
Steve: They made a record before I joined: they released Poisoned on an EP. (Street Level EP)
Was that on a various artists EP?
Steve: Yeah, four tracks.
What label was it?
Steve: We can’t say that word.
Pete: Fuck Off (Records).
Steve: A friend of mine from school’s record label, somewhere up near the Harrow Road.
Pete: Street Level recording studio, where we made the (Speaking Clock ) tape.
In the long term , regarding getting records out and being a successful venture…….
Steve: I’d like to sign to a major record company and gets lots of money. I don’t know what they (the rest of the band) would like to do. Pete’s into signing to one of the small ones, aren’t you, and not getting any money at all, but lots of street credibility. That’s your idea, innit, no money and lots of credibility?
Pete: I’m just a cosmic traveller on an earthbound star, man. (laughter abounds again).
Steve: I wish I’d though of saying that. (to Richard) If you have your choice, would you sign to someone like EMI for lots of money?
Richard: I know you’re hell bent on fame and fortune, Jack, you always have been.
Steve: (to Richard) Well, what do you want to do?
Richard: Take it as far as it goes.
Pete: I’d like enough money to be able to afford to wear underpants.
What sort of musical changes have you been through?
Richard: We do things that go back two and a half years, and stuff that was written only a couple of months ago.
Steve: The new stuff’s better.
Have you ever been interviewed by NME or anything?
Steve: No, mainly because they’ve never heard of us. That’s something they have in common with most of the population of most places. There’s about four people in Hemel who’ve heard of us!
Pete: We played at the Nowhere Club.
Have you got any sort of following?
Steve: We had people at Acklam Hall call out for a song.
How often do you gig?
Steve: We’re gonna do more now that we’ve got the tape.
How are you gonna distribute the tape?
Pete: It should be reviewed in Sounds next week. Plus, the gig at the Rock Garden should be reviewed.
Richard: We’re not gonna distribute it. We only really made it to send to people.
Pete: If people wanna buy it, they can write and we’ll get some more made.
Mac: I wouldn’t have thought there’d be a demand for it. I wouldn’t buy a cassette with three tracks on it, would you?
Pete: When we’ve had songs on other cassettes before, people write in and ask about Voletones stuff.
Which cassettes are these?
Pete: Lizards In My Lounge on the Left Luggage label, we’ve got five tracks on that.
All recorded at Street Level?
Steve: Yeah, before I joined.
Mac: The first one we did had loads of feel on it.
Richard: But it’s a bit of a mess, recording wise. A bad sound.
I thought Speaking Clock (the new 3 track cassette tape) had a pretty clean sound.
Richard: We had a lot of trouble with the first tape we did, partly due to the people who were producing it who didn’t really know what they were doing. We played it all right, but it wasn’t produced properly. We had a different bloke to produce the three track one, we did it a lot better.
Pete: It was produced by us with Steffe Sharpstrings.
Was it quite a live recording, or was there a lot of production?
Richard: No, there was very little production really. It’s just sort of a basement in Bristol Gardens.
Steve: It’s a dump, but it’s cheap.
Richard: The record’s been played in Germany and Ireland.
Pete: I got Poisoned played on John Peel, and on Irish Radio three times.
What about Germany?
Pete: That’s the Left Luggage tape. It’s been played by some station, but I can’t remember where it is. Germany somewhere.
How do you fancy doing a John Peel session?
Steve: Do you get paid for it? (to Pete) Do you fancy doing a John Peel session?
Pete: He hasn’t asked us.
Anything deep and meaningful behind the name of the band?
Steve: Yes, Pete was really drunk and he was crawling round on the floor and he walked into Richard’s guitar “Oh, Vol, Tone, Vol, Tone ” so they were called the Tonevoles for a couple of weeks; that didn’t take off, so The Voletones it became.
Pete: I met this bloke from Sweden once who’d heard of us and he said (adopting accent) “You are ze singer in the Wallytones!” I couldn’t deny it.
How do you categorize your music?
Mac: It’s pop.
Pete: West 14 music.
Steve: The Voletones: the pride of West 14.
Would you do any cover versions?
Pete: I’d like to do a song called Dr Kitch, by Dr Kitch about this woman who can’t stand the size of his needle. The chorus is “She push it in, she push it out, it’s terrible, Dr Kitch, I can’t stand the size of your needle.”