Home Pop Music Haircut 100 interview: “We at all times had the arrogance that we have been one thing particular”

Haircut 100 interview: “We at all times had the arrogance that we have been one thing particular”

Haircut 100 interview: “We at all times had the arrogance that we have been one thing particular”


Haircut 100Shiny sufficient to have their very own cartoon and potential TV sitcom, Haircut 100 have been additionally an odd mixture of six numerous personalities, incorporating post-punk, jazz, Brazilian rhythms and martial arts film soundtracks into one pop masterclass. Even 40 years after the unique lineup’s solely album collectively, there’s nonetheless nothing fairly like Pelican West. Because the band reunite for a one-off present to have fun a brand new boxset, they reveal: “There was an power in Haircut 100 that all of us managed to harness. We have been like a comet.”

Shiny sufficient to have their very own cartoon and potential TV sitcom, Haircut 100 have been additionally an odd mixture of six numerous personalities, incorporating post-punk, jazz, Brazilian rhythms and martial arts film soundtracks into one pop masterclass.

Even 40 years after the unique lineup’s solely album collectively, there’s nonetheless nothing fairly like Pelican West. Because the band reunite for a one-off present to have fun a brand new boxset, they reveal: “There was an power in Haircut 100 that all of us managed to harness. We have been like a comet.”

The extra that anybody appears at Haircut 100, the much less sense they appear to make. The band made sensible pop music with Love Plus One, Favorite Shirts (Boy Meets Woman) and Unbelievable Day, delirious singles that maintain up towards every other smashes of 1982’s good chart yr.

Mum or dad album Pelican West was solely saved from No.1 by Barbra Streisand’s Love Songs and Haircut 100 had their very own devoted fan military, The Scissors. Alongside Adam Ant, they have been the only real pop flip vibrant sufficient to obtain their very own cartoon in child’s TV journal, Look-in. Like Insanity, they even had a sitcom pilot drawn up.

And but… simply take a look at them. There are six folks in Haircut 100 for a begin, a band musically wealthy sufficient to require a saxophonist and a percussionist alongside the standard guitar/bass/drums formulation.

The extra you hearken to Lemon Firebrigade and the dizzying Kingsize (You’re My Little Steam Whistle), the extra layers there are to unpack. Everybody is aware of “The place does it go from right here?/ Is it all the way down to the lake I worry?”, but Love Plus One’s refrain is only one of Nick Heyward’s mighty lyrics, concurrently rapid and inexplicable.

They have been a cult sensation in North America, predating Ralph Lauren’s reinterpretation of the English gentleman search for a Stateside viewers.

This was a band as more likely to put on cricket jumpers or sou’westers, whereas additionally musically inventing Blur’s mixture of nostalgia and modernism a decade early.

Haircut 100 have been as unfathomable as they have been magnificent. And, 5 many years on, Pelican West nonetheless sounds bloody magnificent.

“We have been a clean canvas for everybody to do their stuff on,” theorises Nick. “I’d give you songs to encourage everybody else to get colouring them in. Everybody performed their position.”

Jazz-loving bassist Les Nemes admits: “It’s solely just lately that I realised we had our personal sound. However we by no means questioned that we have been going to succeed. We by no means stated: ‘If we make it,’ it was at all times: ‘Once we make it.’ We at all times had the arrogance that we have been one thing particular.”

Guitarist Graham Jones, an skilled punk who finally fulfilled his love of Bruce Lee soundtracks by changing into a fourth dan karate black belt, causes: “I’m not an awesome fan of all of the songs on Pelican West. I’d like a few of it to be harder-edged. However, in a band, there’s at all times give and take. What you hear is everybody enjoying to the very best of their means. It’s an album with no filler.”

In accordance with Marc Fox, the percussionist who was into Krautrock and Brazilian music, final to hitch Haircut 100 on the advice of saxophonist Phil Smith: “Pelican West didn’t sound like something on the time, as a result of it’s peculiar – each in the way it was recorded and the character of the individuals who made it.”

Rising up in David Bowie’s south London hometown of Beckenham, Nick and Les have been first to fulfill. Mutual good friend Tim Jenkins advised Nemes that Heyward’s band wanted a bassist.

Nick’s mother and father ran posh bar The Ski Membership Of Nice Britain, a part of the central London property the place Upstairs Downstairs was filmed, and later immortalised in Unbelievable Day’s B-side, Ski Membership.

“I chucked my bass gear into my 1967 VW Beetle and drove off to audition for Nick,” remembers Les. “The primary tune Nick performed me, Spanish, was like nothing I’d ever heard. It had a Speaking Heads method, with one-note solos. I used to be fully smitten.”

Graham, who had already performed a punk pageant with Sham 69 singer Jimmy Pursey, was subsequent on board. “Mine and Nick’s girlfriends have been mates who have been punks,” laughs Jones.

“Once they’d exit ingesting in Beckenham, we acquired chatting because the girlfriends’ boyfriends. On the time, Nick’s band was extra post-punk and based mostly on XTC, whereas I used to be into Era X, nonetheless thrashing out my guitar sounds with heavy distortion.”

Then referred to as Shifting England, future Intercourse Gang Kids drummer Rob Stroud accomplished the line-up. “Shifting England have been actually good,” insists Graham.

“I used to be at all times amazed by Nick’s means, and Les’ basslines have been very uncommon, too. Les’ enjoying at all times wandered up and down the entire neck of the bass. You may hear in Lemon Firebrigade and Love Plus One how Les offers an awesome motion to the music.”

Rob was shortly changed by Pat Hunt. Gutted at having narrowly missed out on being a part of Tubeway Military, Hunt was decided pop stardom wouldn’t elude him second time spherical. The band moved right into a flat collectively above a florist in west London’s Gloucester Highway.

“One piece of recommendation I’d give to bands has stayed the identical,” gives Heyward. “If you wish to be a band, you’ve acquired to behave like a band and have one thing to say. I as soon as noticed Sparks strolling down Beckenham Excessive Road. They’d the entire ethos of residing and respiration being in a band.

“I believed bands walked down the road collectively on a regular basis after they weren’t on stage. It’s necessary. At 19, we have been means too cool to suppose that we have been copying The Monkees by residing collectively.

“We tried to stay out the goals of the bands we’d seen on TV and within the photos I’d stared at for hours in magazines. We had that imaginative and prescient each from the beginning of Haircut 100, and as soon as we acquired profitable. I nonetheless play a Mustang bass as a result of it’s what Tina Weymouth appeared so cool enjoying in Speaking Heads.”

That band mentality meant a change of title from Shifting England arrived simply. At a band assembly, somebody urged “Haircut”, another person supplied “Hundred”, then Nick considered fusing the 2 names.

Marc explains: “There was no Svengali determine telling bands what to do in 1981. Once we first did High Of The Pops, we noticed Depeche Mode of their rubber trousers, Tony Hadley with a rug on his shoulders and Boy George within the nook, trying fully distinctive. We have been completely different from everybody else, however so have been all the opposite bands.

“There was no alternative of choices, so that you ended up making what labored for you out of your group of people. Even our title: ‘Haircut’ and ‘100’? We laughed our means into the chart. Supplied you didn’t fall into suits of laughter saying ‘Haircut 100’ to different folks, after 3 times of claiming it, it grew to become actuality.”

Fairly than seem in all places on gig listings, the re-christened Haircut 100 have been selective of their exhibits. “We wished to create an occasion every time we performed,” remembers Graham.

“We’d give out wine and marshmallows to the viewers, as a result of who arms out marshmallows at a gig? We didn’t really feel we would have liked to play in all places beneath the solar only for the hell of it.”

By then, their line-up had been bolstered by suggestions from Joe Dworniak and Duncan Bridgeman, a part of Britfunk band iLevel and managers of Haircut 100’s rehearsal studios in Leyton, east London.

They urged saxophonist Phil Smith, as Graham remembers: “We wanted a saxophonist for one tune at a present at The Embassy Membership on Bond Road. Phil stood on the balcony.

“When he began enjoying, everybody circled, going: ‘What’s that?’ We at all times tried to introduce components to make the gigs extra attention-grabbing, and there was clearly much more Phil might convey.”

“Every little thing in Haircut occurred so shortly,” continues Marc. “I wasn’t conscious of any big curiosity within the Haircuts, it was simply my mate Phil saying: ‘I feel you’ll like this lot.’ From first turning up with a bag of percussion to being within the studio making Pelican West was a matter of months.”

It helped that their singer knew how Haircut 100 ought to look in addition to sound, bolstered by his day-job in a design company. “I believed like I used to be the artwork director of the band,” displays Nick.

“I at all times carried a portfolio with me, which had photos of us and our potential paintings. I knew to not go away the visible concepts as much as different folks as a result of, in the event you don’t take management of your life, you possibly can’t complain when others do it as an alternative.”

“The appears for the band at all times got here from Nick,” says Les. “We lived close to Kensington Market and acquired plenty of our gear from there, mixing and matching from concepts Nick urged. Nick would have a diamond jumper straight out of Chariots Of Hearth and I’d suppose ‘OK, high quality with me.’”

Heyward insists the imagery wasn’t at all times thought out, stating: “It’s humorous, the issues that caught round. I placed on
a sou’wester as soon as simply because I didn’t suppose anybody had worn one in pop earlier than. I went to a fishing store off Piccadilly Circus, the place I acquired the large hat and socks. Then I believed: ‘I might go the entire means right here, go full fisherman and get waders, too.’ Jonathan Ross as soon as advised me: ‘I went out dressed such as you as soon as and practically acquired crushed up.’”

Spandau Ballet have been a key affect, as Nick remembers Chant No.1 “blowing London aside”. They even had a gathering with Spandau’s charismatic supervisor, Steve Dagger, hoping he’d symbolize Haircut 100, too.

“Steve has a relentless smile about him and, after we met him, he had a snake round his arm,” laughs Nick. “I believed: ‘OK, that’s distinctive’. The assembly didn’t work out, however that’s how sturdy Spandau’s affect was.

“They have been gods to us. When Marc joined, he was a tall, hairy-chested man who might have been in Spandau. The remainder of us have been all beneath 6ft and couldn’t even develop facial hair.”

Haircut 100 shortly signed to Arista Information, who hooked them up with The Beat’s producer, Bob Sargeant. “The Beat and The Specials have been up to now superior of us, we thought there was no means we might sound that good,” raves Heyward.

“Then we acquired along with Bob, and it was, ‘Wow, he’s making us sound like Mirror In The Rest room!’ Everybody within the band had their very own influences. Bob was the one capable of convey all of it collectively.”

Favorite Shirts grew to become the primary single. At that time, it grew to become clear Pat Hunt needed to go away. Graham causes: “Pat couldn’t maintain tempo. It didn’t matter if errors have been made stay however, within the studio, you’re on a schedule and it wasn’t taking place.”

Revered soul drummer Blair Cunningham joined from Shake Shake, the opposite band of rehearsal studio managers Joe and Duncan.

“They have been very understanding,” attests Les. “They stated: ‘Look, it occurs.’ In case you’ve acquired Blair behind you, you possibly can’t go improper. With a drummer like Blair driving the music alongside, it’s going to sound unbelievable. I’ve by no means heard him say a foul phrase about anybody. He simply desires to get on with the job.”

One other fallout from Favorite Shirts got here when Marc was pressured to give up his day job as a trainer at Lewisham Women Faculty in south London. He laughs: “As quickly as I used to be on High Of The Pops, I used to be referred to as in to see the headmistress and advised: ‘Now we have motive to consider you’ve contravened Inside London Schooling Authority guidelines by contracting your self to the BBC. We predict you must select between us and a pop profession.’”

At solely 21 years previous, Marc was distant from his older instructing colleagues, moreover feeling at sea appearing as extra of a carer than an educator for a lot of of his deprived pupils.

With all six of the band capable of absolutely think about recording, their debut album took form beneath Bob Sargeant’s tutelage.

“I don’t suppose there’s been a lot since that’s been spinoff of Haircut 100,” ponders Nick. “There have been no bands copying Haircut 100 in any respect, actually. Lyrically. I drew from pioneers like David Bowie and Marc Bolan, going previous my brother’s bed room, listening to Experience A White Swan and considering: ‘Why are you using a white swan?’ I appreciated art-pop, singing phrases that didn’t make sense. What I wrote was completely different and blended up. This wasn’t The Carpenters.”

Partly, Pelican West sounded so distinctive because it was one of many very first albums to be recorded wholly digitally. “Bob had tried digitally recording with The Beat,” says Marc.

“We have been blown away by the readability, by how you can isolate and individuate each sound. We have been a shiny and glossy trying band, and our sound mirrored that.”

Recording strategies have largely reverted to the extra pure analogue means of creating music, as Marc explains: “We have been making music at an uncommon time limit. Our songs nonetheless bounce out on the radio however, whereas it nonetheless sounds fashionable, it does so in a means we glance on 40 years later as being just a little naïve.

“Additionally, after Pelican West, automated dance music out of the blue occurred. There was no such factor in 1982, so we have been on the mercy of attempting to make ourselves into machines.”

Pelican West’s glossiness made prompt heartthrobs of the band, a lot to their bemusement. Nemes notes wryly: “Typically, the fandom was nice enjoyable. It was solely when ladies would press the buzzer from 7am on the house in Gloucester Highway after we have been residence that it was a bit a lot.

“We needed to name the hearth brigade a few instances when followers acquired caught within the railings outdoors.”

The band by no means acquired to see the pilot sitcom script penned by Not The 9 O’Clock Information author Chris Langham, with a brand new tour shortly interrupting any putative filming schedule.

Graham remembers: “Having our personal cartoon in Look-in and speak of a sitcom was hilarious. Daft because it was, having your personal cartoon is a large privilege, as a result of what number of bands get that?”

Heyward agrees, mentioning: “I’d seen footage of The Beatles hysteria and thought: ‘That appears actually good!’ However that stuff needed to go, as a result of it acquired in the best way of the music.

“It’s solely now, if you see the photographs of screaming followers, that you just see how candy all of it was and suppose ‘Bless your hearts.’ The screaming would have stopped, because it did to Depeche Mode and Blur.”

Hysteria was by no means a difficulty within the States, the place Haircut 100 usually attracted a extra thought of response, although Nick remembers: “On our first stroll as a band away from our fancy lodge on Gramercy Park, we practically acquired crushed up. We acquired a lot stick, as a result of 1982 New York was not prepared for the best way Haircut 100 appeared. They wished The Doobie Brothers.”

At the very least, as Graham describes, the US tour exhibits have been a blast: “The Individuals truly listened to what we have been enjoying. They appreciated our musicianship, which made us play in another way. We began to mature as musicians there.”

A homecoming tour climaxed with two exhibits at Hammersmith Odeon, launched as a part of the brand new boxset of Pelican West. “We have been unstoppable stay,” beams Nick. Les provides: “We have been residing out our dream. The stage was the place we felt most comfy, as a result of it’s the place we acquired to hang around as mates, doing what we beloved most.”

One-off Beatles-y single No one’s Idiot continued Haircut 100’s reign, going High 10 six months after Pelican West. Sadly, it was the unique lineup’s final hurrah.

Though Pelican West had solely been launched in February 1982, Arista demanded a second album be able to launch by Christmas the identical yr.

Someway, sufficient songs have been assembled for recording at Oxfordshire residential studio The Manor, the place Nick’s heroes XTC had recorded English Settlement simply weeks earlier than.

However the workload caught up with Heyward, who stopped attending the follow-up periods at London’s industrial studio, The Roundhouse. Unbeknownst to his bandmates, Nick convalesced at a nursing residence.

“Psychological well being is communicated so in another way now,” the singer says. “Bands wouldn’t suppose twice about cancelling a tour. There needed to be pioneers for that. Bands like us paved the best way in displaying how to not break up up.”

Graham provides: “On the time, I don’t suppose there was something we might do. We have been in the course of a profitable pop band, with folks pulling us in several instructions. There have been pressures concerned, and we didn’t know who to show to. Now, there are extra avenues for folks with psychological well being points. Fortunately, it’s higher recognised.”

Nemes admits: “We weren’t superb at sticking up for ourselves. We should always have advised Arista to fuck off, that we have been taking a while off. It was a complicated time. Our supervisor was nice for having large, wacky concepts, however we might have benefitted from somebody who was taking care of us. Communication wasn’t superb, and we simply didn’t know what was taking place with Nick.”

As Marc summarises: “The administration, file firm and writer have been all older than us. They’d had expertise of the tensions Nick was experiencing. Nick was clearly struggling, however the angle was simply: ‘Write the songs! Write the songs!’ We should always have all been grown up sufficient, inside and outdoors of the band, to take the foot off the accelerator. As an alternative, greed, pace and self-importance meant we drove right into a brick wall.”

The demos for that second album, Junction Field, are on the brand new boxset. Opinions within the band differ on its deserves: Les and Graham love them, Nick and Marc not a lot. “They’re simply works in progress,” shrugs Nick.

“I wasn’t pleased with the sound and wished it to be greater. I’d been launched to The Beatles’ engineer, Geoff Emerick, however I couldn’t persuade anybody Geoff was the man to provide us. I just like the songs, however they’re simply previous demos, not a trigger for remorse.”

Marc factors out that the three most completed songs, together with the hit Whistle Down The Wind, finally featured on Nick’s debut solo album, North Of A Miracle, noting: “The opposite songs have been sat on the shelf for a motive. I used to be excited at how they have been sounding, however they weren’t completed.”

However Graham eulogises the punchy I Consider In Sundays specifically, whereas Nemes believes: “Junction Field would have been a significantly better album than Pelican West. We’d toured so extensively that we have been actually on our sport, whereas Nick’s songwriting had gone to an entire new stage.”

Simply possibly, there may very well be a full-band second Haircut 100 album in any case. With the fortieth anniversary of Pelican West the apparent catalyst for a reunion, Nick has been writing songs which have proved appropriate for – up to now – Graham and Les to play on.

“They’re extra in the direction of the early Speaking Heads punk facet of Haircut,” muses Nemes. “They’re rawer and less complicated than Pelican West, however with extremely sturdy melodies.”

No matter occurs, there’s the Shepherd’s Bush Empire present in Could to have fun 40 years of our favorite cartoon heroes. All of the band appear massively excited for the gig, hinting it won’t be a one-off in any case if it goes effectively.

The one concern for his or her comeback live performance is the right way to play music with such rapid-fire depth now they’re of their sixties.

Graham: “You may stick us on stage at a village corridor tonight and we’d reel off Pelican West with out an excessive amount of effort. That’s the great thing about the bond all of us have.” Marc: “These songs are so quick. Listening to Kingsize, I feel: ‘Oh fuck…’

“However I’m looking forward to the longer term. As soon as we’re all onstage bouncing off one another, we’ll inevitably wish to do that repeatedly.”

Les: “Regardless how lengthy it’s since I’ve performed, as quickly as a Haircut 100 gig occurs, it’s at all times ‘Off we go!’ and we’re enjoying full pace forward.”

The ultimate phrase goes to Nick Heyward, Haircut 100’s light, effusive singer, an underrated poet nonetheless in love with what bands can obtain: “Haircut 100 has its personal power. You may say: ‘We’re 61, after all we’re not going to play that quick now.’ However on the evening, it would effectively be: ‘Woooah!’ We have been a dynamo first time spherical. It’s no surprise I acquired knackered.

“Possibly we’ll must settle down. However as soon as Favorite Shirts begins up, earlier than you understand it, the band is flying and I’ll be considering: ‘Oh God, it’s taking place once more!’”




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