Still Going Steady

Posted by Pete DeMola on 18. Okt 2010

BEIJING, OCT 19 -- This coming Friday sees one of the year's standout performances in Beijing with a gig by seminal punk pioneers Buzzcocks.

The UK foursome emerged during the embryonic stages of punk's shambling birth across the pond in the mid-1970s, counting pioneering bands like the Damned, Sex Pistols, X-Ray Spex and the Clash (among countless others) as contemporaries and co-conspirators.

They formed in Greater Manchester, England in 1976 after two students -- Pete Shelley (pictured above, far right) and Howard Devoto -- were inspired by a galvanizing Sex Pistols gig in London earlier that winter.

Unlike their peers mentioned above, however, the foursome -- aside from a hiatus in the mid-1980s -- have been touring and releasing new material ever since, with their latest studio effort, "Flat-Pack Philosophy," dropping in Spring 2006 to favorable reviews.

They'll enter the studio this winter to record their ninth full-lenth effort.

While most well-known for their early punk rock classics -- including their controversial ode to masturbation "Orgasm Addict," the wiry, gritty "Boredom" and the widely-covered youth anthem "Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)" -- it's often overlooked that they virtually invented the pop-punk blueprint, welding together elements of punk, radio-friendly pop and rock and roll -- all anchored by Shelly's introspective and bittersweet lyrics -- into an indelible art form that paved the way for the genre's first steps into mainstream acceptance.

In addition to making history by being the first British punk band to establish a DIY record label (New Hormones) to release a single (1977's "Spiral Scratch") -- a now universal component of today's punk rock scene -- their 1979 singles compilation "Singles Going Steady" remains one of the most influential rock and roll records of all time.

We tracked down singer-guitarist Pete Shelley to see what the legendary band -- rounded out by original member Steve Diggle (guitar), Danny Farrant (drums) and Chris Remmington (bass) -- has in store for their gig on Fri, Oct 22 at Yugong Yishan.

What's new in the Land of the Buzzcocks?

The most exciting thing is our trip to China. In November, we'll go on a South American tour. In the New Year, we start recording a new album.

Why China... and why now?

We always like to play new places. Being in a band is a great way to see the world. Last year we played in Thailand and Malaysia. I've always wanted to go to China and now that dream is coming true.

Is there anything that you'd really like to see and do here?

Everything will be a new experience. I wouldn't know where to begin -- I'm sure we will be taken to all the sights. And then there is the food.

What was going through your head after that Sex Pistols gig in Feb '76 that inspired you to start the band?

Just the excitement that there was another band who liked the music we were listening to. It was liberating to realise that music could be fun again.

Is it strange to perform songs about adolescent self-pity now, three decades after you wrote them?

No, the songs still are fresh with new meanings.

How have you progressed lyrically since the band started?

Never really thought about that one.

What have been the biggest changes in the punk rock aesthetic since Buzzcocks first burst upon the scene?

Punk is a state of mind. It's about being an active participant in one's culture rather than just being a passive consumer.

How do you feel about some of the more progressive methods that artists have been using to release their music -- including Radiohead's now-infamous "pay what you'd like" model for "In Rainbows" in 2007 and Trent Reznor's (Nine Inch Nails) and Smashing Pumpkins' decisions to skip labels entirely and (freely) disseminate music directly to their fanbase. Do you see the band experimenting with such models in the future?

The experience of attending a live show is what can't be copied. I'd like to move to a more direct-to-fans approach. Record labels have lost their importance. Music matters more than the business.

What's in store for your Beijing gig?

We'll be playing a set full of all our classic songs full of passion and energy.

What's the one question that you wish interviewers would stop asking you?

"Do you get tired of answering the same questions?"

Buzzcocks will perform in Beijing on Fri, Oct 22 at Yugong Yishan with local modern rock act the Dancers scheduled to support. 9pm, 200/150 RMB (door/pre-sale).

Photo courtesy of Ian Rock. From left: Danny Farrant, Steve Diggle, Chris Remmington and Pete Shelley.

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