Describe your time with The Wedding
Present in five words:
Frustrating, interesting, tiring, educational, erm…
What roles did you perform in your roadie duties (e.g. guitar tech etc)?
think I was mainly there to change guitar strings. For part of the time I
worked for them they regularly broke ½ a dozen strings a gig (I think the
record was 12 guitar strings in one gig or something mad like that). I
packed up and tuned and drove and set up and generally ran around. I made
sure we had spares for when things went wrong. I think I blew David’s nose
a few times too. Never did anything too technical though.
How did roadieing for The Ukrainians differ from TWP?
The Wedding Present was much less work. There were
occasional easy trips to sunny places for festivals, the occasional day off
and even somebody else doing the driving, though most of it would be hanging
around in venues in rainy English towns in November.
was often an 18 hour day with the Ukrainians. It’s been suggested I write a
book about them! With them it was full on - from being abused for waking
them up first thing in the morning to being abused for sticking the name and
address of their hotel into their paralytic pockets last thing. I drove
while they slept, set up while they ate and stayed sober and organised while
they drank. Then they’d complain that at £25 a day I was too expensive (NB
£1.50 an hour wasn’t that good even back then). I refused to work with them
ever again - though I’m not sure they even realised.
How did you feel when he was asked to stand in for band members who were
unable to attend some gigs?
never actually did that. I did do some bits and pieces of playing though.
I played ‘Don’t Dictate’ (the Penetration song) at the end of the set on the
Bizarro tour (and on telly once!) so David didn’t have to. I also played a
couple of bits on Peel sessions but I’m glad to say I don’t think it was
even suggested that I learn any Wedding present songs, don’t think I
could’ve done it anyway.
What is your favourite TWP/Cinerama track?
I liked the Wedding Present’s ‘pop period’
so Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm and other singles around that time. The ‘pop
period’ seemed to be recognised in the band (Keith and possibly Simon in
particular I seem to remember) as a slightly regrettable, uncool period. I
thought it was when they were getting good.
What TWP live performance stands out in your mind?
only gig I can remember is the Reading festival when Pete’s amp completely
stopped working a few minutes into the set in front of however many people
it was. Being organised, we had a spare amp and just plugged it in
instead. I remember TWP being very consistent live but I guess the
perspective is a bit different at the side of the stage.
What is/was your favourite venue?
honestly have virtually no memory of particular venues, just snapshots of
bits of stuff. Somewhere in Texas when Firehose turned up in a huge camper
van with their extended family and set up a barbeque in the car park – and
the Whiskey in LA which had been re-painted for the Doors film and Bradford
College when I realised they were getting people they didn’t know coming to
gigs (that was a very early one – about five blokes in Weddoes t-shirts
turned up who I didn’t recognise and another 40 or 50 in the audience too –
this meant something was happening). Newcastle Mayfair has some interesting
Buck Rogers stuff in there too.
Tell us about some of the excesses that you saw on tour (names can be
to say that the Wedding Present were VERY un rock and roll – no drugs,
hardly any sex (that I saw), no violence, hardly so much as a late night.
In hindsight, everyone made a point of being horrible to Pete (Solowka)
towards the end of his time in the band but really no excess at all.
Any funny anecdotes from on tour?
No, - I really, don?t remember anything. I missed the toilet-breaking-under-David incident.
Which band member(s) did you get on with best?
a bit weird working for people who you’d been in bands with (Pete Solowka
and Simon Smith had been in my band The Chorus and Simon was in the Sinister
Cleaners – I once turned Keith down when I was looking for a bass player, he
said he wasn’t very good and he liked the Fall!) so I don’t think anyone was
very sure whether I was a mate or an employee. That made it a bit awkward
sometimes. Pete was difficult because he was the one you had to talk to
about money – he always had lots of good reasons for not paying what you
thought you should be getting. David was the one I knew least and was often
off ‘doing interviews’ or whatever, so I got on best with Keith and Simon.
I got on fine with Paul too but I think I’d mostly stopped working for them
by the time he joined.
Are you still in contact with any of them?
I was last in touch with David when TWP were selling off some of their old gear a year or two ago. I wondered if he was selling his acoustic (I bought an acoustic off David years ago for £50 which until recently had confetti coming out of it from a video for one of the early singles). He wasn?t and he was just about to set off for a gig so it wasn?t a long conversation. I?ve bumped into Paul Dorrington a couple of times quite recently and lost touch with Keith when he went to Australia though considered myself a good mate before that. I still see Simon as I?m always trying (and failing) to find a decent drummer to do my solo stuff with. I?ve also seen him through the recent Sinister Cleaners ?reunion? and done a couple of practices and curries.
Tell us something that not a lot of people know about David Gedge
enough, David was, and remains, a bit of a mystery to me. I never felt 100%
relaxed in his presence (nor he in mine I think) though we got on fine. I
think it was a competitive thing (in that I sang and wrote songs too) and he
was just a bit wary of being caught out or something. This is probably a
complete fantasy on my part. He likes chocolate puddings (good) and has an
interest in cricket averages (bad).
Have you seen TWP or Cinerama live since leaving the setup?
What have you been doing since parting from TWP?
really a story of being in not particularly successful but ‘well respected’
bands. I formed Greenhouse while I was with TWP and then Fuzzbird.
Greenhouse supported TWP a few times which was good except that I still had
my roadieing job to do after Greenhouse came off stage. I’m now in Whole
Sky Monitor –
whose first album came out recently. We’ve just been doing some recording
with Matt Ellis, the bloke who recorded the Cha Cha Cohen albums (and
Louise!). Also I finally followed Keith’s advice and have gone solo with my
acoustic guitar, appearing at various acoustic nights up and down the North
of England. My first solo album will be out soon (www.johnparkes.com
when it’s done) on AAZ Records, the Legendary Len’s label which kind of
completes a circle. For the last few years I’ve even tried full-time work
(which I don’t recommend incidentally) but I’m giving it up soon.
What do you prefer roadieing for TWP, or
playing in your own band?
I really enjoyed some of the things I got to
do while working with TWP – Like driving across the USA and going up the
Statue of Liberty on a day off - but it’s always better in your own band.
Have to say there wasn’t much reflected glory working for TWP and no-one
ever offered me sex, drugs or even a Werther’s Original to get them
backstage (not that they have in my own bands come to think of it). I
turned down the offer of roadieing for the Inspiral Carpets at one point,
might’ve been interesting if I’d said yes. They got some bloke with big
eyebrows in instead I believe….
Do you still want to Firebomb Radio 1...or are you now an avid listener of
Zane Lowe and DJ Spoony?!?!
one of those people who prefers Radio 2 these days but when we thought up
the name Firebomb Radio One it was still the days of the Hairy Cornflake and
Our Tune. Now the BBC is being shafted by the government I appreciate how
good it can be. Still feeling the loss of John Peel in a big way though and
things will never be the same again. If anyone’s out firebombing radio
stations they should do it to those chains of commercial stations that
‘chase the demographic’ or whatever it is they do when they’re playing the
same 5 songs play list. Punk rock anyone?