THE SHOP ASSISTANTS tend to get lumped in with all the jingly-jangly stuff that made up most of the NME’s C86 cassette, but they just sound very punk rock to me. All of my Shop Assistants records went west a long time ago but we do have this short Q&A from 1986. Singer Alex answered the questions.
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EVERYONE was on tour in the States and I was staying at Southview House on my own. Alice and Dan were playing stadiums gigs for MTV with Aerosmith and I was working in Belle Isle. But at least I got to hang out with Derek the dog.
One morning, hungover as hell, I stumble out of my basement bedroom and head upstairs.
I discover the Ex cheerfully bouncing around the kitchen with what I have come to understand is their customary enthusiasm and vigour, laughing and joking with each other in high-volume Dutch while frying cheese and mushrooms with abandon.
The people in Chumbawamba and the Ex had been friends for years – in fact Coby did the live sound for the Ex before she moved to Leeds and began working with the Chumbas – and they’d let themselves in after playing a local gig somewhere the night before. It was that kind of house.
A LOAD of us went down to the Ministry at some point in the mid 90s and, despite hearing some great music, we were not particularly impressed by the distinct lack of atmosphere compared to clubs such as Kaos, Basics and Hard Times in Leeds. There just wasn’t the same kind of energy and enthusiasm.
A few weeks later, me and Earnshaw DJed at a party at a mate’s house and someone did some jokey flyers saying we were residents at the Ministry of Shite. We ended up keeping the name when we started putting on parties ourselves.
It was all a bit rough and ready, but we had a run of great parties over three or four years at an old mansion house at the Weetwood end of Headingley in Leeds, with perhaps two or three hundred people coming through the door during the night, generally ending around 6am with no bother from the cops.
We played a lot of new US garage and vocal house but we also threw in old acid, techno, hardcore and hip house at key moments to ensure everything remained suitably blurry and twisted out of shape.
LOCATED in one of those patches of bleak post-industrial wasteland that Manchester used to do so well before all the foreign money arrived, the White Hotel is sort of white but it’s certainly not a hotel. The bar, with staff serving drinks from a sunken inspection pit, seems to indicate a former life as a garage. A dodgy garage, knocking out fake MOTs, no doubt.
It’s just over the other side of Bury New Road from HMP Manchester, in the area of Manchester that once gave the prison its name. They like their evocative place names in Manchester, and this is about as Manchester as it gets. Even if we are in Salford.
I MET John White aka UV Pop when I bunked off sixth form and went over to Doncaster with some girl I was seeing at the time to interview Marcus Featherby about his label, Pax. I’d come into contact with Marcus through the punk gigs he promoted at the Marples in Sheffield. I’d never met anyone quite like either of them before.
At the time, Marcus was staying at John’s two-up-two-down in Bentley. My most vivid memory is the heating not being on, despite it being a very cold Yorkshire winter, but then again, I was still living with my parents, and didn’t have to worry about paying for leccy. And I think my girlfriend was much more impressed with both John and Marcus than she was with me.
Marcus gave me a copy of the debut, Cabs-produced UV Pop single, and I was impressed enough to interview John for my fanzine. I have no clue whether we did the interview in person or through the post.
People being vegetarian seemed to be really important to me at the time (I’d gone veggie about six months earlier, so I had the conviction of the convert), and I had yet to work out the world was coloured in various shades of grey rather than the black and white certainty I so clearly craved.
I’d like to say my interview technique is more subtle and nuanced these days but it really isn’t.
I can’t find any activity for UV Pop (who eventually became a proper band despite John’s reservations), beyond 2012, but I hope John is still making music.
ANY group that has a song with the chorus “Aaaaargh! Aaargh! Aaaaaargh!” must be pretty good. Bristol cider punks Disorder were precisely one such band. Plus, they are named after the fantastic Joy Division track. Me, Doug and John went to see them, Antisect and Amebix at one of Nick Toczek’s excellent and cheap (£2/£1.50) gigs at the Bierkeller in Leeds in December 1983.
As the intro to the original interview in my zine put it:
Lots of people were drunk so it might not make all that much sense in places. For realism, add lots of stupid laughing in between each question.
I’M VERY comfortable in record shops. Too comfortable, some might say.
Either way, I’ve spent too much time and money on both sides of the counter in new and secondhand record shops to worry about what some spod in a Radiohead tee thinks of my taste in music.
Not, I hasten to add, that the knowledgeable, dedicated and more often than not friendly and approachable musical-curation professionals in the shops I frequent are spods. And they’d also be unlikely to wear Radiohead T-shirts, probably. I hope.
Yes, they might be a bit eccentric at times but remember that they have to work with the public, week in, week out. They are a very agreeable bunch of people by and large, considering.
Take a bow, all you ruthless rinsers of my wallet at King Bee, Vinyl Exchange, Piccadilly Records, Vinyl Revival, Eastern Bloc, Jumbo, Relics, Phonica, Sister Ray and Reckless – and any number of breadhead charity shop wankers the length and breadth of Britain.
You are more persuasive, convincing and clinically efficient than any dirty drug dealer I’ve ever met. No doubt I’ll be seeing you again soon.