When punk burst out of London and into the provinces back in the late 70s, a schism developed quite quickly.
There seemed to be two ways to go when it came to forming a band. Firstly there was the standard thrash approach popularised by the 2nd wave of punk bands, such as The Lurkers, and the UK Subs, and secondly there was a more arty approach, demonstrated by the likes of The Slits, Siouxsie and the Banshees and even Sex Pistols.
Liverpool’s punk bands leaned very heavily in the direction of the latter. The city shied away from the more basic approach, initially at least, and instinctively headed in a more interesting direction.
Echo and the Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes and Wah! created music that was imaginative, inventive and intelligent. This soon came to be known as post punk, but it was all just punk to us at the time.
It seems like a very Liverpool thing to do, to take the less obvious path, the path that has more artistic merit , rather than take the easier road more travelled. It is this approach that made the city such a fascinating and vital city when it came to music, it is also something that has filtered down through the decades ever since and has made the city remain such an important place on the musical map.
One of the creative souls that made this happen is Paul Simpson, as a member of some of Liverpool’s best and most legendary bands, such as Industrial Domestic with Will Seargeant and A Shallow Madness with Ian McCulloch.
He was also a founder member of The Teardrop Explodes, playing keyboards on their excellent first single Sleeping Gas, before leaving to start the indescribably wonderful Wild Swans, as well as finding the time to form Care with Ian Broudie.
The Wild Swans have released three albums and the same number of compilations, and all of you who have yet to hear these records are urged to do so as soon as is humanly possible.
As if all of this wasn’t enough, Paul has also released albums under his own name and as Skyray.
While all the above may be a fairly dry run through the life and times of Paul Simpson, a more colourful and involved account will soon be available in his memoirs, which it is hoped will see the light of day in 2021, along with another Wild Swans album.
Before all this, Sun 13 spoke to Paul Simpson and asked him 13 questions. Read on to find out more about first gigs, getting told off and being weaponized with whisky.
1. Where are you and what are you doing and how is that working out?
“Its 2:22 on a Monday afternoon and I am sitting at my desk in the study at my home in Waterloo, Liverpool. The sun is streaming in and illuminating half a dozen memory sticks and a stuffed crow on my desk.
I’m drinking a celebratory glass of red because I have just signed a contract with a famous literary agent. Only took me 20+ years. If you’d asked me the same question this time last week, I’d still have been drinking a glass of wine, but I’d have been drowning my sorrows.”
2. How have you been coping with the lockdown situation?
“I was coping really well until about a month ago when I realised I’d gone mad without noticing. Mild lockdown agoraphobia morphed into a few poisonous weeks of hating everything and everyone.
Anything could trigger me. Posts about Covid, Trump and Bojo. People’s mind-bogglingly obvious received taste in art and music. New packaging on a Crunchie. I’m better now. Smiley faced emoticons to the moon!”
3. Who is the nicest ‘celebrity’ you’ve met?
“Nicest celebrity? Roddy Frame of Aztec Camera. A total gentleman.
Back in 1991, he arranged to join Ian McCulloch and I in a London pub. Roddy walks in wearing a beautiful camel overcoat over his shoulders like he’s Marcello Mastroianni or someone, goes straight to the bar and brings back triple brandies and cigars for us all.
Sitting down he tells me he used to have my photo from the Teardrop Explodes days on his teenage bedroom wall back in East Kilbride. When I protested, he blew my mind with ‘Where do you think the name Aztec Camera came from? Your song – Camera, Camera’. Cue me fainting.”
4. When did you last get into an argument?
“Last Christmas when I was out buying presents in Liverpool town centre. Some stocky student looking guy appeared out of nowhere and just shouted Aaaaagh! in my face. He was daytime pissed and showing off to a girl he was with.
I calmly told him why fucking with strangers on Merseyside wasn’t the best idea he’d ever had. He didn’t like being fronted and squared up to me, threatening to deck me. He had about 30 lbs on me and 30 years age advantage but unfortunately for him, I was weaponised. Faced with the full bottle of Laphroaig I’d just bought, he literally speed-walked away. Backwards.”
5. When did you last shout at the TV?
Every single night. Not at politicians so much as at overrated actors or weak dialogue.
6. When did you last consider quitting social media?
“I nearly left Facebook over Brexit. I couldn’t believe that not only some of my online ‘friends’, but people I actually know in the real world were proudly boasting of voting-in this fascist-friendly new dark age.”
7. When did you last make yourself do something you didn’t want to?
8. What was the first gig you went to?
“I tell everyone my first gig was Roxy Music at Southport Floral Hall in 1974, but it was probably Hawkwind at the Liverpool Stadium the year before. They had their topless dancer Stacia performing on stage with them. I was 13 or 14-years old. You can imagine my delight.”
9. When were you last told off?
“About a month ago. Some thousand-year-old Basil Fawlty told me off for walking in the wrong direction down the biscuit aisle in Sainsburys. Because they kept changing the rules, I hadn’t noticed the supermarket’s latest version of Covid direction arrows on the floor.
He looked so frail pulling his tartan shopping trolley, I decided not to chase him with a bottle of scotch, but instead I adopted the fiendish Discordian tactic of over apologising to the degree he looked scared.”
10. What’s your first memory?
“My first memory is almost crying my spleen out in my high-chair because I was teething and my sister wouldn’t give me the free toy that came in the Corn Flakes box. ‘Don’t give it to him Mum. He’ll chew it’! It was a plastic spaceman and I wanted it very badly. Eventually she gave in and Goop! Straight in my mouth.”
11. What’s your guilty listening pleasure?
“I never feel guilty listening to music, nothing is forbidden in my world. Because that’s not the answer anyone really wants, I’ll go with the Lycra euro-disco genius of ‘Spacer’ by Sheila B. Devotion.”
12. Vinyl, CD, MP3 or Streaming?
“Vinyl for its warmth and for the sheer ritual of the static cling, changing sides and for the chance for the artwork to really help inform the way you listen.
Because my car has no Bluetooth facility, I play CD’s when driving and mp3’s when I’m out for a run. I had a fantastic ye-olde I-pod ‘shuffle’ moment at 8am this morning when running on Crosby beach. The sun was rising over Seaforth docks just as the massed saxophones of ‘Hit The North’ by The Fall segued into the delicate genius uplift of Mama Cass’s ‘Make Your Own Kind of Music’.
It was so beautiful and filmic that I ran to the top of a dune in a victorious salute to the sun. More Pee Wee Herman than Rocky Balboa I grant you, but it’s the thought that counts.”
13. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Is there anything else you’d like to say?