By: Tyler Vile
Journalist Tyler Vile recently did an interview with Goldblade vocalist/guitarist John Robb. In true Tyler Vile style he asked John some very interesting questions... And he did get the answers... We hope you enjoy this informative interview.
Punk Globe: Hey John, thanks for doing this interview. Please tell us a bit about yourself and Goldblade.
John Robb: Goldblade are a British punk rock band. I grew up in the late seventies and was totally into the first wave of punk...1977 and all that. In my hometown of Blackpool it really affected a few of us. The best thing from punk was the DIY ethic, which was really inspirational and made me start a fanzine and my own band the membranes who ended up releasing several albums and toured the world. After that I put Goldblade together and we have been touring and releasing albums for 16 years. Itís been great so far and it's great that punk is still a community. The festivals are amazing and everyone knows everyone else, itís become a genre of music like jazz or blues! Goldblade play euphoric punk rock with choruses for all the whole crowd to sing along to, we like to breakdown the barriers and get everyone involved but we also love high energy and punk rock is about going to the extremes!

the membranes started in Blackpool and people didn't understand what we were doing. we were outsiders in an outsiders scene! our music became more extreme and gradually people came to us. Gigs in the Uk could sometimes be violent in those days and we got some extreme reactions! I also write books - I wrote 'the oral history of punk' interviewing 150 people from the 1977 punk scene like the Clash, Johnny Rotten, Buzzcocks, Stranglers, Don Letts, Adverts etc...The book has done really well in the UK and will be coming out in the USA next year...
Punk Globe: Before Goldblade you were in a band called The Membranes, weren't you? Wasn't Steve Albini a big fan of yours?
John Robb: The membranes were my first band. We were intense, discordant and noisy but also twisted and surreal....We were sort of a UK version of the Dead Kennedyís but heavier and more of the wall, despite that we were still a punk band- thatís what inspired us and it was our version of what punk was...check us out on myspace and facebook.

I met Steve Albini at a Big Black gig in the UK in 1986 and he was into our stuff and I asked him to record our next album, at the time he had never recorded any other bands other than Big Black but by the time we got to his to record the record six months later he had done the Pixies and was working on the Slint record, we didnít want to look like we were copying the pixies- because we were not! He did a great job of recoding our album, 'Kiss Ass Godhead' which came out in the USA on Homestead records. We toured the USA a few times, which was great
Punk Globe: Having played both straightforward punk rock and more avant garde types of music, do you think there are more similarities or differences between the two?
John Robb: There are both similarities and differences! The intensity, energy and sense of humor are the same, the energy is the same, its just in one we would deliberately avoid any rock cliches whilst in the other maybe we celebrate them ha ha ha. The Membranes was in your face and not something that at the time everybody could understand but that was OK we were trying to ruffle feathers and twist things a bit, see what the possibilities of making a racket were! Oddly the music sounds quite listenable now- I think everyoneís ears have really moved since the eighties! all the time though I really loved straightforward punk rock as well, for every Captain Beefheart record we were listening tot here was always a Ramones record, for every Can record there was a Clash album, there were also moments in the Membranes when we would be more straightforward and there moments in Goldblade when it all gets a bit more twisted!
Punk Globe: Were you influenced by other Manchester bands of that time like Buzzcocks, Magazine, and Joy Division?
John Robb: Well, we loved all those bands and the Buzzcocks Spiral Scratch EP inspired us to make our own records . The idea that you could make your own record was so alien before that, everyone thought that you had to go to London and grovel to a big label to get yourself heard. Suddenly you could make music on your own terms and in your own style and put it out and if anyone bought it or not it didnít mater because it was yours and your version of music and that really important. In the late seventies Manchester was a musical powerhouse and we were really into the inventiveness and smartness of the groups coming from the cit who were taking punk and reinventing it on its terms ....That inspired us of course even though we were already bending punk into our own shape. Manchester seemed like this really cool city fifty miles away where all these clever colorful people were doing all this great stuff whereas we lived in Blackpool the UK's biggest holiday resort and a place where no one expected any music to appear from!

But there were loads of great punk scenes in the UK that were important..always loved the Crass label there was so much great music and ideas that came out there. Also really loved post punk and early Goth scenes and the American hardcore scene and great European bands like the Ex- there were so many variations on what punk was.
Punk Globe: Around the time you started The Membranes, you also started your first fanzine, right? What made you want to do that?
John Robb: It was the same process of DIY that inspired this. Someone brought a copy of Sniffing Glue fanzine to school and I saw it and that aaah! I don't have to follow the music press, I can write my own opinions down in my way, it took a bit of time to work out what photocopier was but when we found one we ran off 50 A4 sheets and it was the start of a fanzine that lasted for ten years and thirty odd editions! DIY was the key to punk, the idea that you could create your own culture was so important and inspired a whole generation at the time. It was especially inspiring for teenagers like me at the time in small towns, we were quite often left out of the musical mainstream and being creative was not an option for but suddenly in pun you could make your own stuff in the middle of nowhere and with John Peel on national radio you had some who would play it and he would read your address out and suddenly people would write to you and you would be in touch with like minded people and they would sort out gigs- it was all very innocent and all very DIY but those bonds were strong and remain all these years later...I documented a lot of this in a book I did last year called Death To Trad Rock which is available of Cherry Red books- it's about the noisy discordant scene that came up in the wake of the Membranes.
Punk Globe: Was there ever a disconnect or even a distinction for you between fanzine journalism and mainstream journalism?
John Robb: The anarchy of being a fanzine writer was fantastic, on the other hand a lot of that anarchy spilled over into music journalism ... There was always two different factions of writers in the eighties...The fanzine writers whose enthusiasm and knowledge of the music was in direct contrast to the dry 'proper' journalists. Those people thought we were weird going off to gigs every night but for us it was a passion, this was our world and we were bang in the middle of musical revolution that poured out of punk and we were following all its strands wherever they went whether it was second wave, post punk, Goth or whatever- there were so many fascinating little sub genres that everything splintered into. Whatís interesting now is that people think there was some sort of scene called post punk and that you would only like bands in that scene but everything was very much pick or mix...You could listen to Bauhaus, Discharge, Black Flag and the Gang Of Four and Joy Division all at the same time and they all sounded great.
Punk Globe: Do you think that print media in general will have to take a more DIY approach as everything becomes digitally oriented?
John Robb: Definitely. Its changing already, I think one model will be writing as almost a hobby- I think it would be better if people got paid for their work but there is so little money around now, magazine circulations are falling and the Internet doesnít really make any money- there are so many websites but its so hard to make money, I'm actually launching my own pop culture website in the autumn called louder than war and I totally understand the economics of it! I am trying to find ways of making money so I can pay my writers! The model is changing massively but in many ways its back to the DIY days of when we all started...
Punk Globe: As a biographer, do you ever feel compelled to write an autobiography?
John Robb: I keep working on one in bits of down time...will finally finish it one day! I've certainly been living it!
Punk Globe: There's an old Oscar Wilde quote, it goes something like "Britain and America are two countries separated by a common language. " Do you find that to be true when you tour in the states?
John Robb: Sometimes, itís harder now with mass communication! There was a time when Americans didnít know what wanker meant but everyone has learned it! To be honest its hardly a problem but I think he meant something deeper than that, to be honest the first time you ever go to America it all feels really familiar because you grew up with it on the TV, I knew more bits of new York than I did of my home town! The UK is very much full of American culture and I think because the language is the same and we know the backdrop people go to America and assume that its the same and are surprised that there are slight differences!
Punk Globe: Speaking of British bands touring in the U.S., GBH played in Baltimore recently. They seem like decent guys, have you shared a bill with them?
John Robb: We toured the West Coast with them a couple of years ago. It was a great tour, people were going mosh pit crazy every night they are great people to tour with, really down to earth and humble guys and really funny as well. Our drummer had to leave the tour after one gig because his father was ill and GBH's drummer stepped in and played for us for the whole tour. He leaned our set on his ipod on the way to the next gig and after a quick rehearsal played the set- amazing. And what a brilliant thing to do.. How many headline bands would look after the support band like that!
Punk Globe: How was Rebellion Festival in August?
John Robb: Iíve just got from Rebellion and it was amazing. Itís the best punk festival in the world. There is a great atmosphere and real sense of community. Loads of great bands play and the atmosphere is really special. Itís also great going back to where I grew up in Blackpool! also get to play in a packed Empress Ballroom which hold 3500 people- it's a brilliant feeling go out on stage in front of that many people and the atmosphere is very special!
Punk Globe: There seems to be a big demand for older bands to reunite, do you think it's genuine for most bands?
John Robb: Of course, I think most people love to perform if they are in bands..Of course there a re a handful of chancers but I always thought in music that if you want to make money then go and get a proper job! Its not that easy being in a band but its an amazing buzz when you play a gig and it connects with the audience...Thatís the real thrill for most performers and not the money...
Punk Globe: What do you think of David Cameron, could he be the new target that UK punk bands love to hate?
John Robb: I hope so, he's our very own George Bush- he seems really out of his depth. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and is nowhere near as smart as he thinks he is. He is only in power because the Lib Dems sold out and supported the Tories. They are the same old Tories they say one thing and do another, he pays lip service to Green causes pretends to ride a bike and travels in a limo, he was a PR man when he was younger and looks and acts like one, its all so transparent- style over content the worst of all modern European politics. I think its hilarious when he does these speak to the people on the stump speeches pretending he is Obama, that is Obama with none of the charisma are intelligence. At the moment they are bullying the poor- they are trying to get all the 'benefit cheats' when all the cheating goes on with their own people, its a party supported by tax dodgers and full of the worst MPs for screwing their expenses- a far worse crime that diddling a bit on top of your dole money.
Punk Globe: You're playing China this year, right? What do you think that's going to be like?
John Robb: Fascinating! I've traveled a lot but never been to China. I'm interested in playing cities that are off the beaten track- cities where bands never normally go to play. There is a punk scene there. Especially in the big cities, I've been in touch with a Chinese punk band in a southern city for years and they are going to get us to play their city- no foreign band has ever played there so I imagine people will either be shocked or thrilled- both perfect reactions- the whole point of music is top try and make connections with people all over the world... I'm also fascinated by the music they have there, the bands Iíve heard sound great. China is a pretty interesting place at the moment- its really changing a s a country
Punk Globe: How was the show in Algeria earlier this year?
John Robb: No punk band had ever played Algeria before, the audience knew what o does though and there was a lot of energy flying around the hall! Kids were all over the stage and stage diving and flying about, they knew what to do! I think youtube makes a difference everyone has seen a high-energy punk gig and knows how to react- years ago we would play off the wall countries and no one really knew what was going on. Algeria has got a really good death metal scene and there is a well-organized music scene there with some great local music called Gnawa, which they mix with hip-hop and trance and it really works. We played Algiers City and that looked like an old French city, they took us for a drive around after the gig and it was really quiet with lots of police road blocks on the street corners- its only ten years since a very nasty civil war so I think it was a leftover from that. The people there were great though and really looked after us.
Punk Globe: At this point in the band's career, why do you feel it's time to release a compilation album?
John Robb: We have released a few compilation albums in different countries like Russia and China and Brazil and in the USA already! But we are talking to new labels and trying to get our stuff out in the USA properly so there may be another compilation album.
Punk Globe: Tell us about the Modern English media project and how you got involved with it if you please.
John Robb: For me it more of a record label, there are other media stuff going on there but thatís separate from my role...There are so many great young bands around with varying styles of music that we just wanted to be a conduit to getting them heard...running label these days is tough though- everyone is downloading stuff off the internet for free which is great because it gets the music heard but it makes it tough to get the money together to go to the studio!
Punk Globe: What else do you hope to accomplish in 2010? Nothing short of world conquest I'd imagine...
John Robb: I want to get this website Iím doing up and running, We are sorting out a lot of gigs round the world for the band and starting on our next album rehearsing all the new songs getting ready to record, I got a bunch of TV stuff to do and also getting this radio show idea together for national radio which looks like it may happen...
Punk Globe: John, thanks again for the interview. Best of luck to you and the band. Any closing comments?
John Robb: We should be coming over to the USA to tour next year! check our website for details...
Punk Globe would like to thank both Tyler Vile and John Robb for this great interview....