04 April 2014

Pop Will Eat Itself get bitchy with John E Smoke

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Since I was a teenager desperately trying to snog lots of girls I have always had a soft spot for the Poppies. Always interesting, always fun and always kick arse. They unleashed new material in 2011 after just a bit of an absence. That release was a new album called ‘New Noise Designed by a Sadist’ and they toured the bollocks off it. Rather than resting on their buttocks they have unleashed more new material in the form of the brand new EP ‘Watch The Bitch Blow’. John E Smoke decided it was about time he tracked down the fellow Black Country noise mongers for a bit of a natter.

Tpwei1a muchly for sparing us some Poppie time. How the heckers are you all?

Fucking frazzled. Just spent all day every day promoting the new EP, now we’re recording our unofficial World Cup song.

The new EP ‘Watch The Bitch Blow’ has been unleashed, with new tracks and remixes. Tell us some more about it? Can we assume that the EP is a precursor to a new album?

The album will come out the beginning of October, we think. it had been a long time without new tunes & originally we’d wanted the album out in march, but it would have been rush. So getting an EP out was the perfect solution. A stopgap.

One of the things that strike me about the Poppies is that your sound often drastically evolved between albums, taking on new influences like hip hop, dance and industrial. Can we expect more Poppies curveballs in the future?

It wouldn’t be us if it didn’t. I honestly would stop if I thought there was nowhere left to go. I’ve always been in in this mainly for the challenge of keeping it fresh, and evolving and being proud of your work. Love your work.

In my personal experience bands that have been releasing music for several decades struggle to deliver the goods on the stage in the same way as they did earlier in their careers. I’m pleased to say you seem to have bucked the trend. Given that PWEI first released music in 1986, I was blown away with the energy and insanity of your live show in Wolverhampton in support of ‘New Noise…’ I can’t wait to see you again. How do you compare playing live to earlier on in your career?

pwei2I’m relatively sober these days. having said that….I liked what Perry Farrell had to say about playing live: some bands play safe and achieve consistent mediocrity. Those who throw caution to the wind will play some terrible shows, but some totally amazing ones too. That sums up my beliefs perfectly.

You have recently played several re-union style tours with Jesus Jones and The Wonderstuff. You also easily hold your own on a headliner tour. I’ve not seen you at one of the reunion gigs (sadly) though I’ve seen you several times over your career. Do the reunion style gigs feel different to you than playing a stand alone Poppies gig? Do you play a different style set? I imagine they are good fun.

To be honest we played a more crowd-pleasing set on those gigs because one, it’s Christmas, and two, it’s kind of a retro-package. I think it was an important step for us to play in front of that type of crowd to show the old magic’s still there, but I think we enjoy our own shows more ‘cos we’re boss & can shape the show 7 the musical content to what we feel is the real ‘us’. Which of course can change from one year to the next.

Out of the current crop of new bands, is there anyone you’d particularly like to take on tour with you?

I like Silverarm, Reabo…I’ve mentioned them to those who pull strings, I don’t know if anything will happen.

The band line up for the last album included Mary Byker (Gaye Bykers On Acid, Apollo 440, Pigface), guitarist Tim Muddiman (Gary Numan) and drummer Jason Bowld (Pitchshifter, Killing Joke). Any changes for this release or is the line up pretty fixed these days?

It’s as fixed as fixed can be. We all get on great so I’m certainly hoping it stays that way. Absolutely top bunch of guys. Love ’em.

Mary Byker is a hero, he gets everywhere! You seem to have a good on stage banter, are you good mates?

No, he’s a cunt.

In terms of former members, I know Clint Mansell had some involvement in your earlier reunion outings. Are you still in touch with Clint? Has he told you what he thinks of the new material?

Yes, Clint has been to a couple of the shows, as have all the guys. Fuzz & Richard got on stage with us in Birmingham & played Def Con One. It was great. It was planned with Fuzz, but Rich sneaked on & surprised everyone. It was great. Clint really loves ‘Watch The Bitch Blow’, that was good to hear.

What do you think of the word ‘Grebo’ these days?

Crikey. there was a post going round Facebook the other day of words from the Middle ages (I think) or maybe a bit more recent, which have now dropped out of every day use. I was surprised not to see ‘Grebo’ on there.

Rivetheads/Midlands Metalheads are obviously based in the home of heavy metal noise pollution. If we throw a few classic black country bands at you can you say whether they influenced you at all or whether you were a fan?

Led Zeppelin. I came late to the Led Zep party. When I was at school punk, mod, ska and new-wave was my thing. I got the rock thing more in my twenties. I loved Kashmir so much when I first heard it I wrote Radio PWEI but we subsequently weren’t allowed to use the sample. Though we’ve just sneaked it into our live version.

Black Sabbath. Same again really, got into them quite late. Superior to most metal on account of their darkness. Most likely the roots of alternative rock.

I used to live in the Aston/Handsworth area, I can see why Ozzy turned out the way he did.

Judas Priest. What I hated about rock, as a school kid, was the strangulated high voices and squealing lead guitars wanking away. It was all a bit ‘me, me, me. I didn’t really like Judas Priest, I have to admit, but God bless them for inspiring Jane’s Addiction to write Mountain Song.

Napalm Death. Great. Met the guys, nice blokes. We don’t really venture into that type of territory but I admire their musicianship very much. Saw a clip of them on some kids TV show the other day, Craig Charles presenting – brilliant!

Godflesh. More up my street musically. Love huge walls of guitar noise. I liked Head of David too. Dustbowl was a favourite.

Have we forgotten anyone? Yeah, but I can’t remember who!

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