The following interview with The Meteors took place before a gig at London’s Marquee. It was the night that the opening – live – track on the In Heaven debut album was recorded. I spoke with Paul Fenech, later to be joined by Mark Robertson, the drummer, and Nigel Lewis, the double bass player.
NC: How would you describe your music?
PF: Basically, the songs are just a cross between rockabilly and early punk. It’s the feeling that the early punk stuff generated before it got commercial, and the excitement that we tried to carry over into the sort of stuff we sing about, and the sort of stuff we write about is the stuff we know about which is mainly horror and science fiction, because that’s all the stuff we are really into.
NC: I read that you are into the occult. Are you?
PF: Oh me, yeah, personally, yeah.
NC: What fascinates you about that?
PF: Well just everything. I’ve been brought up with it. My father and my mother are really into it and it’s just part of my household.
NC: What science fiction are you into? Michael Moorcock?
PF: I don’t read much. The other two are the ones who read. It’s mainly films. The old B movies. The old 50s ones, the really shitty ones.
NC: Outer Limits?
PF: That’s it exactly, stuff like that.
NC: Who writes the lyrics?
PF: Half of them the bass player – Nigel – writes, half I write. We sing half a set each. The drummer doesn’t write at the moment.
NC: I saw a picture of you and you had blood all over you.
PF: Yeah, chickens blood. I use it. I tried using fake stuff but it doesn’t work as well. The real stuff has a better effect. It’s part of a fertility rite, actually. It’s mean to improve your stamina, and stuff like that.
NC: What, drinking it?
PF: Yeah, but it looks pretty good. We do a song called My Daddy Is A Vampire and I just splash it about?
NC: I heard that song on the Peel session.
PF: I enjoyed that. Someone rang up and complained about the lyrics for Love You To Death.
NC: What’s that about?
PF: It’s about unrequited love. Some bloke’s in love with this girl and she doesn’t love him, so he spends all night looking for her, and he asks her out and she says no, so he kills her.
NC: Have you been interviewed by a fanzine before?
PF: Yeah, we’ve done a couple of French ones, and done other ones.
NC: What do you think of them?
PF: I think they are great. I much prefer stuff like this to the so called music press because it pisses me off because they are so fucking full of themselves. They all want to make new things, like the NME for instance. If they don’t discover you – so called discover you – then they won’t write about you, or they won’t write nothing nice about you. Every one wants to discover new trends, everyone wants to make more out of things than they really are. All we are worried about is the music and the fun we have and the fun that peple have.
NC: What influenced the name?
PF: we just thought we would get something short, a simple name that people could remember. There was an old rockabilly group in the 50s called The Meteors and we sort of ripped them off. They all died in an airplane crash so we thought we would use their name.
NC: Do you do any of their old songs?
PF: No, we only do about three or four cover versions, all the rest are our own. We do a couple of Roy Orbison numbers and Johnny Burnette ones here and there. The thing about rockabilly music we’ve found is that it’s so simple. You can’t go wrong with simple things. It’s got a good beat. You can stamp your feet and bang your head. I find it quite exciting, that’s why we do it.
NC: You mix it with a bit of punk?
PF: Yeah, we are not a rockabilly revival band, we don’t play for rockabillies, we play for anyone who likes to hear us. Anyone can come along and hear us and join in. That’s all right. We don’t tell people that they have to dress up like rockabillies to come and hear us. Just come how you like. If you like it, watch it, if you don’t, it doesn’t matter. We don’t rip off The Cramps. People say we are like The Cramps because we sing about death and stuff like that. The Cramps are really slow. When we went on tour with them, we thought everybody would be able to see the difference, but it just made it worse. No one wants to know. The press have got it in their minds that we are their understudies and that we copy the lot, but we don’t. We don’t sing about anything they do. I’ll tell you about the film.
NC: Meteor Madness?
PF: Yeah, the main thing was some guy came to see us at a gig and he wanted to make a video about us and the people who come to see us. Then he decided that he’d make a film about us instead. So we made a film and it took us two days to make it. It’s got two songs in it and it’s about the devil trying to create the perfect athlete. But it’s gone wrong and instead of that he gets us. People go to see it, the music press and the critics, and they expect it to be some bloody epic, but all it is, it’s just meant to be a bit of light relief when you go to see another film, instead of seeing something about fucking horse-riding.
We were now joined by drummer, Mark Robertson.
MR: We’ve been going about a year.
PF: Our first gig will be a year next month (August 1981).
MR: It was at some rock’n’roll gig called the Cavern, in Willesden, where we got smashed off the stage.
PF: I whacked some guy with a baseball bat. It was grand.
MR: Because they called us punks, cos I had funny colour hair. The manager brought this procession of teds into the dressing room to say they didn’t like the band.
PF: So, I said ‘How comes you don’t like us then?’ He said ‘Your drummer can’t play cos he’s got green hair’. Honest. So fucking pathetic.
MR: After that we were pretty fed up, cos they’d been playing on the rock’n’roll circuit for ages, in various other bands. I’d only played two gigs on it, but I was pretty fed up with it, so we decided to go out and start playing to a wider audience, cos they obviously didn’t like us. The good thing about that night was because the rockabillies were on one side with us, fighting with the teds and bikers. Things have just developed from there. When we started picking up attention in the music press and stuff we started being lumped together as just another rockabilly revival band, but now they slag us off for being a punk band. You can’t really win, but we think we’re winning, don’t we?
PF: Yeah. I’m enjoying it.
MR: We’ve had two singles out and we did a film. There’s a soundtrack EP for that. They did 5,000 that sold out.
PF: They’ve just printed another 10.
MR: That’s quite difficult to get hold of. The second one was on Chiswick Records called Graveyard Stomp / Radioactive Kid. It was selling about 300 a day, which, if it had been bought in the right place, it would have been enough to put it in the charts, but it was bought from small shops, but as far as the charts go, I don’t really mind. There’s a review of us in this fanzine, Improvisation it was called, which is a Beat/ Belle Stars fanzine with a few rockabilly bands in it, and at the end of it they said The Meteors were a really nasty band, but they’d love to see them on Top Of The Pops, cos they’re sure to wreck the place.
PF: They slate the Polecats and the Stray Cats and the Shakin’ Pyramids off.
MR: And they said it’s a really nasty band and they’d love to see them on Top Of The Pops cos they’ll probably destroy the place, which is the only thing we’d be interested in doing Top Of The Pops for, for destroying the place. Whether they’d let us do it, I don’t know.
PF: They wouldn’t have no choice would they?
NC: How did you form then? How did you get it together?
MR: Get our shit together, er, well them two were in bands for ages.
PF: Yeah, for about 5 years me and Nige had been playing.
MR: I’d been playing sort of punk bands and stuff.
PF: The Models.
MR: But not The Models that Marco was in, a different Models. There’s about 3 Models. One’s a mod band. Various punk bands, none of which did anything. I was getting bored with the band I was with and their drummer and guitarist had left cos they thought it was too wild. We just sort of bumped into each other and got together. I’d never heard any rockabilly really, before, well I’d heard it but I didn’t associate it with rockabilly before I joined the band. It was a lot of different influences all coming together, that’s when the music developed. We don’t believe in playing for one audience. We’re quite willing to get slagged down as punks. Were The Meteors; we’re not gonna deny anything we’ve done in the past.
PF: We’re not The Cramps, are we?
MR: We’re not The Cramps, either. But we run into these old timers around the place, ‘It’s just fucking punk rock’ you know. I’m not gonna deny it. I’m not gonna defend it by saying it’s not punk. It’s Meteors music. Punkabilly. Punkhillbilly. Whatever you want to call it.
NC: That’s what appealed to me, the mixture of your music.
PF: Anyone who comes to see something that we ain’t, and don’t like us, can fuck off.
MR: We’re not part of any movement.
PF:We’ve got our own movement.
MR: The anti-style, which you could put Tenpole Tudor in I suppose. A reaction against the futurist thing,. It’s trying to break down barriers and this fucking elitism where you’ve gotta have £25 to go out to Heaven on a Monday night and get a cab back. It’s the total opposite of what we’re about. There’s very few bands that are standing up to that sort of thing.
PF: I’d rather spend the whole fee that we get on getting people in on the guest list – cos we have to pay for our guest list – than just have people who have got thousands of pounds to spend come and see us.
A rubber skull is produced
PF: This is Brian, he’s the fourth member of the band.
MR: And the best looking.
NC: What does he do?
PF: He sits on the drums
And finally a word from Nigel.
NL: The price of bridges for double basses is stupid.