INTERVIEW WITH DIMITRIS FOR "OLD BAD HABITS" ONLINE
Hello Tim, thanks so much for doing this interview, how are things going?
Hello Dimitris. I’d like to say everything is just swell, but anyone who know me knows it’s just not in my nature! No seriously, we’re all OK here in the UK, coronavirus, Brexit, it’s all good fun.
Tell us a few things about the band. We know that, individually, you carry a lot of history.
The band was formed in 2013 – yes, there is a lot of history, but we like to look forward whenever we can. Since 2013 we’ve recorded over 100 songs and still going strong. We don’t play any old songs, in fact usually nothing over a year old in our live sets, so we’re not trying to re-live any past glories (!) – we just love writing and playing music. If you want to know about how we came to meet, well that is a long, long story.. the band currently consists of myself, Jon Kent, Geoff and Linda Gorton (they come as a team), Rocker and Simon Harrison.
Where does the name of the band come from?
Honestly, I can’t tell you that or I’d be giving away everything. What I can tell you is that we started out as the Charlie Tipper Experiment, but with the idea that we would change the name every couple of years – a bit like Wah! Or Spizz from back in the 1980s. We became The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy in 2015 and then Arrest! Charlie Tipper in late 2017. We seem to be a bit stuck at the moment though, it was easier to change names when no one had heard of you.
So, this is your third LP, if I'm correct. It's released by the OldBadHabits label, a label run by people far away from home, who, I'm more than assured, are definitely proud of this . How did you come to be in touch with each other?
Actually, this is either our third, fourth or fifth album depending on how you look at it. I guess we have released three “proper” albums, “Mellow On” was our debut, then a couple of years ago we released “Themes from Blizzard”, an instrumental soundtrack album, and now “Red”. In between times though we released a 10” mini-album called “Ten” and a 2-CD compilation album called “The Astonishing Rise of Charlie Tipper”.
Jon, Rocker and I met Vasilis just over a year ago when we were playing with the Groove Farm. Vasilis invited us over to play a one-off show in Athens, which we did and it was great fun. Things have just evolved from there. We really admire what Vasilis is doing, anyone who call make a primarily 7” vinyl label work in this climate deserves a big pat on the back!
You and your bandmates had been members in seminal Bristol indie-pop bands, such as The Flatmates, Rorschach, and the Groove Farm. You were part of the Five Year Plan, The Flatmates, and, later on, Beatnik Filmstars. So, flattery aside, you carry a huge history, at least for those familiar with the scene. This kind of resonance is obvious, after listening to the album. Do you feel like you are paying homage to your past?
I think I may have answered that already, but honestly no, I don’t feel we are paying homage to the past at all. We grew up loving a certain kind of music and so we still write and play in that vein, but it’s not a deliberate attempt to invoke people’s memories of the past, it’s just who we are. I think if you listen to our records none of them sound the same, we are always changing and evolving, but perhaps always within certain parameters. Some might call it “indie” I guess, but to me it’s just the musical style that I like the best.
The album consists of eleven, pure and pristine indie-pop songs. Personally, as I grow older and more of a curmudgeon, I find it more and more difficult to relate to new indie music, let alone defining it such as/ as such. So, after listening to it, I felt chuffed to bits. What's your view on modern indie music?
Thank you for your comments, that’s very kind. If I’m honest, I listen to very little new music – I have a pretty busy life and when I do get a chance to relax I normally find myself writing and recording rather than listening to other people. I think I’ve always been lazy like that actually – when I first got into music I used to rely on my best friend Rob (he of Talulah Gosh, Heavenly and Catenary Wires fame) to buy all the cool records and play them to me, and then I would just pick out what I liked best. When I’m left to my own devices, I don’t go looking for new things really – they need to drop into my lap!
Could you tell us a few words about your personal experience, as a part of the 80s indie scene? Although scattered across Uk and not linked to a specific city, Bristol was the hometown of Sarah Records, Subway Organization, and multiple bands. At the time, were you sharing that feeling of belonging, of being part of a collective? Were you close to the other bands?
Well it’s hard to describe. I definitely didn’t feel like part of any “scene” back in the Five Year Plan days or even when I was playing with the Flatmates, but certainly in the latter band we often used to bump into people like the Groove Farm and the Brilliant Corners on a regular basis. When you are young though you take everything so seriously, so you don’t really hang out with other bands – you see them as your deadly rivals.
Later on with the Beatniks I did meet a lot of bands because I was running my own studio, and we recorded all the Beatniks records there but also people like Boy Racer and Tramway who were both Sarah artists at one time or another. Those were really fun days.
Are there any anecdotes you would like to share with us? (Please do)
Seriously, we could all write a book about our experiences, except we’re all so old now that we can’t really remember what actually happened or when! A lot of stories are best told over a drink or two in a nice bar. Probably my favourite memory from that time is of recording the Tramway album for Siesta records – the band spent more time playing cricket in my studio than they did recording! I realise this is probably a very disappointing answer, so hopefully one day we’ll get back to Greece and you can quiz us all over drink or two.
The political targeting is more than evident in your album. You were also one of the coordinators of the Pop! Not Hate festival that took place in Bristol. What's the connection between politics and pop music in UK nowadays?
Sadly, not much. There’s probably much more of a political connection in other genres like Hip Hop. Most English pop bands are scared stiff of making a political statement it would seem. I grew up loving the Clash – there’s nothing remotely like them around now. The Pop! No Hate gigs were an attempt to raise people’s awareness of the far-right in our country, and in a small way it did work – and they were excellent gigs and a lot of fun to be involved with.
1980 onwards were the Thatcher years. Most of us outside the UK learned to hate the Tories, based exclusively on the music we listen to. Which were the major differences between then and now, as regards the counteractions that were taking place?
That’s a very good and difficult question. I think the opposition to the Tories amongst artists and musicians was much more obvious back in Thatcher’s day – there were things like the Red Wedge tour, people like Billy Bragg and the aforementioned Clash, Rock against Racism, the whole Two-Tone scene. I really can’t see anything like that happening now – but maybe I’m looking in the wrong places?
The indie - alternative scene of the 80s is not regarded as highly political, except for overtly political groups like McCarthy. However, the whole DIY movement, from each label's bottom-up operation and the distribution networks to the relationship between the bands and their fans, were definite political acts, don't you think?
Yes and no. I think it was a subversion of the mainstream, but I think it was mainly just a huge burst of enthusiasm for music which resulted from the punk thing. All of a sudden there were so many people out there making music that it just had to find its way out somehow – like that phrase from Jurassic Park – “life always finds a way”! So all those fantastic little labels started forming and they realized they could release their own records without needing the majors – it didn’t matter that they only sold a few thousand, it was enough to make them feel like proper bands. It’s my real gripe with major record labels actually – if they spread the money they spent a bit thinnier, they could generate a huge pool of decent music, rather than always trying to find that “one” star attraction.
On account of the pandemic, tough days are about to follow. The arts, thus, the music sector is already incrementally collapsing and thousands of people, the artists included, are losing their jobs and their sources of income, necessary not only for living but for creating as well. The smaller, the more independent they are, the worse. However, many believe that there is a chance for reorganization on a new basis. I mean, except for the short - term solidarity acts towards the artists, do you think there is a chance for DIY ethos to return?
I think life was already incredibly difficult for small artists and independent labels – streaming is definitely killing the chance to make money for most artists and bands. I’m not sure the pandemic will have that much effect to be honest. People can still listen to and buy music online, and bands can still create it – in fact, we spent the whole of lock-down writing and recording a new 19-track album, which if I do say so myself sounds awesome – the best thing we’ve done. So it certainly hasn’t stifled our creativity!
What to expect for the future?
Well, we’re hoping “Red” will pick us up some new fans and we’ll just keep writing and recording – although we can have a bit of a breather as the next LP is already done! We were hoping to come over to Greece this autumn but that was jinxed by the pandemic, but maybe next year we can get to do that – it would be great to play in Athens again.
Geoff and Jon during the making of the "Blizzard LP"