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trakMARX #19 (Apr 2005) Jean Encoule

trakMARX #19 (Apr 2005) Jean Encoule
by Jean Encoule

Ed Borrie – Gtr & Vocals
Salvatore Alessi – Bass & Vocals
Rob Hague – Drums

S*M*A*S*H were one of the very few British rock’n’roll groups that actually mattered back in the 1990s. Alongside These Animal Men they were lazily labelled The New Wave Of New Wave by IPC & subsequently broken on the wheels of the industry before they could inflict any real damage on the status quo. Passionate, inflammable, aggressive & exciting, S*M*A*S*H reintroduced the notion of home made: records, t-shirts, badges, posters & fanzines - & for a brief period during the middle of a very sad decade, S*M*A*S*H lit up the darker stages of the UK circuit with the hope of salvation: salvation from the ‘will this do?’ generation (Thatcher’s children).

I witnessed S*M*A*S*H live many times back in the day – each performance unique & memorable. Chris Jennings & I would think nothing of driving yet another 100 miles for yet another fix of S*M*A*S*H. We wore the t-shirts (bastardisations of the US military M*A*S*H template), collected the badges & poured over copies of the official S*M*A*S*H fanzine, ‘Petal Buzz’. Ed, Rob & Salv would always find time to talk to us – their dressing room was always open to all-comers. S*M*A*S*H were totally accessible.

S*M*A*S*H created an impressive racket for a 3-piece. At the time they were the only contemporary rock’n’roll group mixing politics & Punk in a vaguely anti-authoritarian manner - & we loved them for that. For Punks with a lineage of protest stuffed inside their leather jacket pockets - S*M*A*S*H were the logical continuation of The Clash – except without the compromise. There were no broken promises from S*M*A*S*H.

S*M*A*S*H songs were called things like “Real Surreal”, “Drugs Again”, “Lady Love Your Cunt”, “Shame”, “(I Want To) Kill Somebody”, “Self Abused”, “Altruism”, “Bang Bang Bang” & “Another Love”. In comparison to their contemporaries, S*M*A*S*H were spectacularly significant - a million miles away from the tambourines, ass-slapping, mono-brow conservatism & faux Cockerney music hall that the style gurus will tell you defined the decade. S*M*A*S*H were too real for those heady days of fakery & foppism. They were never going to last.

S*M*A*S*H released one LP – the smouldering “Self Abused” (Sept 1994) – as testament to their utter brilliance – but the British record buying public & the fickle media spectacularly failed in their obligation to elevate S*M*A*S*H to the heights their talent demanded & by 1995 the wheels has come off.

Dateline - 2005: a decade or so down the line from the moment in time that defined them, S*M*A*S*H have reformed. Jean Encoule recently caught up with S*M*A*S*H vocalist, Ed Borrie, to bring you this:

trakMARX - Tell us about the first birth of S*M*A*S*H back in 92.

Ed: OK .. Ed and Salv meet Rob 1983-ish.. at a squat.. and start to play/ practice together.. Gigs were benefits for Miners strike CND Animal Lib and stuff. Played with many groups.. often The Astronauts.. who also come from W.G.C.

trakMARX - What musical influences had an affect on the nascent S*MA*S*H?

Ed: Punk Rock.. Motown.. West Coast Rock and Northern Soul

trakMARX - As the most overtly politically aware group of the NWONW (copyright reserved - NME Genre Definition Dept 1994) - did it feel like you were picking up the baton from The Clash at the time?

Ed: Our anger, energy and politics came as a reaction to Thatcherism. We HAD NO CHOICE but to write songs about how we felt.

trakMARX - "Petal Buzz" fanzine gave S*M*A*S*H fans the opportunity to get involved & keep abreast of developments surrounding the group. Was the DIY ethic important to S*M*A*S*H?

Ed: The DIY ethic was very important to us. We made our own records and t-shirts and were very pleased that Matt Hill, who wrote edited and printed Petal Buzz, felt inspired also. Matt is now a journalist - a good one.

trakMARX - S*M*A*S*H classic, "Lady Love Your Cunt", proved to be an important watershed for the group. What did you make of Germaine Greer going on Celebrity Big Brother recently?

Ed: Confusing.. I thought.. No I didn't.. I didn't.. confusing.

trakMARX - "Kill Somebody" threatened to cause a furore in the summer of 1994 with it's list of recommended Tory assassination targets. Were you watching your backs & listening out for clicks on the phone-lines back then?

Ed: No.. (Erm, that’s interesting, as only 10 years earlier Crass were heavily persecuted by both the Police & MI5 following their criticisms of the then Thatcher government. Is there, therefore, a connection between the growth in the power of State Control over the last 25 years & the subsequent reduction in the levels of radical anti-authoritarianism? Discuss. - Jean Encoule)

trakMARX - Your support for the Anti Nazi League in turn led to you working with Billy Bragg who deconstructed the acoustic reshuffle of "(I Want To) Kill Somebody". What was it like working with Billy?

Ed: Billy Bragg was fab to work with and the trip to the park on the ANL float is a cherished memory – “Real Surreal” under the railway bridge as a train went over - Wow..

trakMARX - When the debut S*M*A*S*H LP, "Self Abused", arrived in Sept 94 it somehow failed to match the ferocity of your live show. In retrospect, what were the reasons the blue touch paper failed to ignite successfully?

Ed: “Self Abused” reflected our tired and un-focused state.. It is a great album, overly honest in words and music. We were touring at the time of mixing and Chris Allison came under a lot of pressure from us and the record company and probably himself. I guess he wanted to do the best for us.

trakMARX - How did you hook up with Sub Pop & how did the USA react to S*M*A*S*H?

Ed: Lisa at SubPop was a S*M*A*S*H fan who came to see us quite a few times, she organised the single. The U.S.A. Loved S*M*A*S*H energy, vibe, songs and honesty.

trakMARX – Tell us about the first death of S*M*A*S*H.

Ed: We hit the wall in 1995 when Rob left. Ed’s drug addiction, lack of communication, strained friendships.

trakMARX - How was life post-S*M*A*S*H?

Ed: A bleak decline into the hell of addiction..

Rob: Spent too much time chasing deals, compromising my ideals, putting up with muppets, selling my soul, getting sick of the biz & most who sail in it. Did some magic stuff too. I’m not bitter, I promise. Three is the magic number.

Salv: There was no life for me, post-S*M*A*S*H.

trakMARX - What have you made of the musical comings & goings on the guitar landscape during the ensuing decade?

Ed: Rock'n'Roll comes and goes. There was a definite song-writer gap for a while there, fortunately songs are back. We always said we were a SONG band. We always said we were a SOUL band.

trakMARX - Tell us about the rebirth of S*M*A*S*H.

Ed: 2003 - Ed knocks on Rob’s door: tears, hugs.. call Salv.. hugs.. little Jam.. wow.. that's why we started - because we liked playing songs together?? !!!!

trakMARX - Any plans to resurrect "Petal Buzz"?

Matt Hill has mentioned it.... we'll see.

trakMARX - As a politically aware group - how do you view the changes in the political landscape since you've been away? Is there any room for politics in politics - yet alone in Punk Rock'n'Roll?

Ed: ‘Who ever's in power I'll be the opposition’ – “(I Want To) Kill Somebody”. Politics is about money and votes, so is Rock 'n' Roll.. fortunately we have no money and lots of friends..

trakMARX - Will the new S*M*A*S*H be writing any new material?

Ed: New songs are what really vibe us up, can't help it.. We've been in the studio recently recording tracks for a little EP we plan to release on Les Disques de PopCor in April/May 2005.

trakMARX - How have the recent comeback shows been going?

Ed: Really well, so many old faces makes me smile - and so many New kids who just dig the music or just missed us first time round. Overwhelming.

trakMARX - What live dates have you got coming up?

Ed: April 9th, supporting Carbon Silicon at Bedford Esquires. May 21st, Guildford. May 29th, Reading - and finalising gigs in Leeds and Manchester.

trakMARX - And finally, where's the best place for folks to keep abreast of future S*M*A*S*H action?

Ed: vu.morrissey-solo.com/smash

Jean Encoule – tMx 19 – 04/05