Friday, March 1, 2013

Interview with THE VILLAGE PISTOLS

The Village Pistols from Greensboro, North Carolina released their one and only 7" back in 1981. It became a true Killed By Death punk classic. 32 years later orginal members Ed and Mike answered my questions. "I want BIG MONEY and I want it now!"
 

I always asked myself if the bandname Village Pistols was ment to be a combination of Sex Pistols and Villiage People. I hope you can give me an answer!?
Mike: That indeed is correct. Ed came up with the name before we thought about making the band a thing.
Ed: Yes the name is a combination of those 2 bands. i was thinking of 2 groups you would never see in concert together.

You made it on "Killed By Death #7" and they also used the cover of your 7" on the frontcover. Did they ever ask you for permission or got in contact with you? One the one hand, most people know Village Pistols because of Killed By Death, on the other hand it's a bootleg compilation series. So what's your opinion about it?
Mike: I heard about the KBD thing back in the early 90's I guess. Didn't make much of a difference to me in terms of being "bootlegged". I have always collected bootlegs so it was kind of an honor.
Ed: The only people who asked for permission to use the cover art were the people who put together the Italian bootleg a few years ago (RaveUp). NO ONE, including RaveUp has credited the original artists (Lisa Brown and Ed Shepherd) or paid to use the art. My opinion about KBD #7 is that i have only seen a copy at a record sale one time and have seen a track listing online and i don't know anything else about it.

What's your opinion about people paying a few hundred dollars for the original copy of your 7"? Are you sorry you didn't stash away a few boxes of the record?
Mike: All power to them. I wish they would pay for all the music I have since recorded and released. I did learn my lesson and now keep a few copies of everything that comes out with me on it in a box in my shed.
Ed: If it had sold better then it wouldn't be rare and people would not pay so much for it. Because it did NOT sell is the reason people will pay so much for it now. And people usually want the original pressing. i have reissued the 45 on CD for $5 and got very few sales.

Last Laugh records recently reissued your 7". How did that come about?
Ed: Mike set up the Last Laugh deal. i did not know about it. i would like to get a copy of the record.
Mike: Harry Howes of Last Laugh found me on Facebook. Since my real name is on the record for production, I'm sure he just searched the Mike Nicholsons in NC and found one with a guitar in his hand. I'm not sure he knew it was me that was "Felipe Rotten". There is a LONG interview with me from 1991 on the web that kind tells the whole story with real names and all.

Are you sometimes surprised about the big interest in Village Pistols?
Mike: Yeah. It's nuts. There are some early US punk obsessives out there. Bless 'em. They seem to not care a bit about what we all have done since. But that's OK. It's not punk rock.
Ed: Surprised? No. Every band that put out a record has some fans. What surprises me is the fact that they think the people involved are frozen in time and are still young punk rockers. We're different now.

What do you think is the main difference between punk/underground music back then and the punk/underground scene today?
Ed: Back then the underground scene was very diverse. Pere Ubu, Devo, The Residents, Stiff Records were all part of a great musical experience. Now everything is categorized, even "alternative" is a category. Forget what category something is in. Do you like it? Do the musicians sound like they really mean it?
Mike: Like Ed, I have little knowledge of the current underground scene. I just know that there are millions of bands and artists out there vying for precious little exposure. There are so many genres and sub genres that all are insulated and often myopic and catholic in their musical dogma. In the early 80's it was a mess and things got to the hinterlands of NC a lot more slowly than they do now. I almost got my ass kicked when I was in a punk band in 1979 by local patron of a bar we were attempting to play. This was 2 years after the UK punk heyday. I read some Flipside and Maximum Rock and Roll issues back in the late 80's and got into some punk things like the Diodes and Poison Idea but not much else. I became a full-on curmudgeon by the time I was 25.

In which bands have you been since Village Pistols disbanded?
Ed: Bands i have been in: Mah Jongg, Automatic Music, F-Art Ensemble.
Mike: Bunches. Mostly power pop or some sort of melodic rock which is where my roots really are. No more all out punk things. Bullwinkel Gandhi put out 2 CD's in 1994 and 1996 of power pop stuff. I just played bass and produced that. The X-Rayons did original surf-inflected instrumentals and I was the bass player there. We did one CD in 1999. I was on the 1st Doleful Lions record from 1998. Very poppy stuff that has gotten a lot darker over the years. I played in the UK for a while and well as living there and working as a producer/engineer in the Washington, DC area. I worked on a record by Craig Pearman who was the VP's drummer in the 1980's. My current band that I play for and co-write all the tunes for is Stratocruiser and we just put out our 6th full length CD since 2003. I play guitar in a roots-pop thing called the Banana Seats and in all-Kinks cover band. I have an instrumental project that has some punky elements to it called Penelope Cruise control.- but it also touches on prog, surf, acid jazz, ambient and folk - so… not for the purist. I toured as Grant Hart's (Hüsker Dü) guitar player a couple years back, so that has a little hardcore cred I guess. I have played guitar, bass. keyboards for lots of projects that have come through my home studio. I have done and still do loads of production and engineering work and teach guitar.

Do you listen to current punk bands? If yes, which are your favorite ones?
Mike: I listen to lots of stuff but the 77-era punk bands and a few hardcore things from 1981-82 are cool, but things like Green Day and Blink 182 are faux punk bollocks. My daughter hipped me to some current underground punk things back when she was in that phase in high school. I liked some of the politics but the music was generally lame.
Ed: NO, i do NOT listen to current punk bands. No interest in that at all.

Have you ever considered to do a reunion?
Mike We did the one in 2011 and that was killer. The drummer that played that show passed away and unless Harry from Last Laugh wants us to do something, I think we will let it sit. Craig is moving back to NC from Los Angeles so, ya never know.

Village Pistols were based in Greensboro, North Carolina. To be honest: I never heart of this city before. Tell us about the punk scene in your hometown back then. Have there been any other bands?
Ed: Greensboro is a city that people move to so you always get a new influx of people, musicians, and ideas. The original scene was by US, for US. We made our own fun.
Mike: Greensboro is a medium sized city that is close to two other cities that make one metropolitan area. I haven't lived there for a long time but I am an hour by car away. The music scene near where I live (Raleigh Durham, Chapel Hill, NC) is generally better for music but I still play both places as well as tour. I have a love/hate thing with Greensboro. I was born there and have some certain affection for it but by high school I wanted to get out of there badly. There was no punk scene there in 1980 or 1981. There were bands that kinda were new wavy punky but not anything like Black Flag or the Circle Jerks. The Flies were the first punk band in Greensboro around early 1979 or so. They were kind of in the Dictators/Dead Boys vein. One of the Flies formed Truehearts which was a great band. Other bands were cover bands who covered punk things like the Clash and Sex Pistols. Lots of bands started coming in from out of town like REM, the Bad Brains, etc.

Have you ever toured with Village Pistols or did you play most shows in your hometown? What are your memories of your shows? Did you play all your shows with Halloween masks?
Mike: Most of the shows were in Greensboro. The shows were always nuts. Each one was designed to be a unique event. Except for Ed, we were all non drinking, non smoking virgin geeks. Not much ribaldry to report. We generally wore the masks but took them off to play a benefit/memorial in honor of John Lennon right after he was killed.
Ed: As best as i can remember every show was in Greensboro. Most of them were at Fridays (where the Italian bootleg was recorded). Seems like we did a few shows without the masks after everybody knew what was going on.

How did you get in contact with punk back then? Do you remember your first punk records and how did punk change your life?
Ed: First time i saw punk was on and old show called "Weekend" on NBC. The segment was about the new musical movement in England. They featured Eddie & The Hot Rods, The Damned and memory fails me as to the third band that was featured. How did punk change my life? It made me quit listening to the radio because they weren't playing it. First punk record i bought was "New Rose" by The Damned.
Mike: WQFS, Guilford College radio hipped me to punk. That and a couple record stores had punk sections. The first punk things I bought were the Dickies, The Damned and The Jam. I jumped in with both feet as I couldn't grow my hair long or play like my friends who were all in metal bands. Punk got a lot of exposure though Trouser Press and Creem, both of which I subscribed to as a teenager.

What has life been like for you since Village Pistols?
Mike: Moved to the UK. Moved back. Met my wife. Moved to DC. Got married. Went to college. Had kids. Worked a crushing day job in the airline industry. Moved back to NC. Started rocking again in 1991 and have been a full time musician since 2007 having given up graphic design work which I did from 1994 to 2007.
Ed: Life has been a wonderful journey.

Aren't you tired of being interviewed of Village Pistols, a band you've been in more than 30 years ago?
Mike: Nah. I'm a self-absorbed musician-artiste. Bring it on. I love talking about myself.
Ed: Actually haven't done a VP interview in years so not tired but there is much more to me than that, it is a very small segment of my life.

What do you miss about all the time you've spent in Village Pistols?
Mike: My hair. My 36 inch waistline. My 1964 Chevrolet Corvair and my 1957 Gibson Les Paul Special.
Ed: I don't miss anything. If i did i would still be doing it.