Comsat Angels are in the third phase of their career,
says singer Steve Fellows.
Will it bring success?
Mat Smith ponders past and future tensions…
backstage area of the Crystal Palace Bowl is something
less than exciting and a far cry from the one built for
the Live Aid concert a month ago.
There again, this is a different kind of benefit
gig, in aid of a different kind of tragedy – heroin.
Amid the mud and the peeling paint, a Cult,
a Motorhead and a Sprout mingle.
these diverse heroes Comsat Angels singer Steve Fellows
walks forlorn, a plastic carrier bag in one hand wearing
a face as long as the overcoat draped across his shoulders.
He’s just come offstage and he’s none too happy
with the way the Comsats just played.
Still, he can take comfort from the fact that,
for today at least, the event is more important than individual
I think The Comsat Angels are the best thing to hit the
Crystal Palace stage all day (excluding the bottles during
Vera Lynn’s set), but then, I’m biased.
may remember The Comsat Angels as one of those bands most
likely to. Another
in the long lines of hopefuls who despite releasing consistently
good albums have yet to savour the taste of victory –
a situation which came to a head in 1983 when the band
split with Polydor following poor sales of their 3rd
lady luck stepped in with Willesden based indie, Jive,
who sent the band into the studio with A Flock Of Seagulls
producer, Mike Howlett, to record their most commercial
LP to date, Land.
then, an eerie silence has hung over the Comsat camp,
broken only now by the Palace gig and the promise of a
new album, 7 Day Weekend.
I met Fellows on the eve of the gig at his Maida
Vale hotel, where he told me the reason for the long lay
think it was quite obvious to everybody that there was
something not quite right about Land.
This time we decided to get everything just right,
hence the long wait.
It was never in our minds to make Land so
commercial, it just came out that way.
The LP sounded as though we were trying too hard
to be commercial, which is a bad way to sound.”
most unusual thing about 7 Day Weekend is that
it features three different producers.
The afore-mentioned Howlett, Chris Tsangarides,
who numbers Thin Lizzy among previous clients,
and perhaps strangest of all, acclaimed funk producer
Despite the odd mix, Fellows is pleased with the
the most unusual thing is that everything hangs together.
We were curious to see if we had a sound that would
survive outside influences. Jive originally approached Mtume to produce one of their
R&B acts. He
told them he could do any R&B group he wanted to and
asked if they had anything different.
They played him a demo of ours and he liked it.”
you think he was drafted in to give you that elusive hit
although I’m not ashamed to say I’d like a hit single.
It means people like what you do – also it would
bring us a bit of cash, I’m sick of being poor. There’s
nothing more boring than poverty.”
Fellows or the Comsats ever considered taking the Robert
Smith route to the charts, consciously sitting down
to write a specific hit single rather than pulling the
most commercial track track off the LP?
do do that, but we tend to farm those songs out to other
not gonna tell you who.”
I find myself coming up with all kinds of songs
which I know wouldn’t be right for the group but which
still have value in their own way.”
why don’t you use them to get a hit for yourselves?
we’re awkward buggers. Too bloody-minded to play the game, but we’re realizing more
and more that it can be played to our advantage.”
that that blatant commerciality is not the only way out
of the corner some would say the Comsats have backed themselves
into, 7 Day Weekend signals a return to pastures
weird but is tempered by a more subtle coupling of the
confounding and the commercial. Fellows agrees.
always did do things that were a little self-consciously different
but we’re learning to keep things in their place now.”
silky accent reminds me of the bands origins.
What with the Human League and ABC
rapidly nearing the end of their 15 minutes and Cabaret
Voltaire being touted as the next band to shine the
light for Sheffield, do the Comsat's ever worry about
being the Sheffield band time forgot?
not unduly. As
for the Cabs, we sell loads more records than they do.
I like Cabaret Voltaire very much as people
but I think that musically their ideas have passed. They need to change and they don’t. ABC had a lot of initial success due to the fact that
there were a lot of good singles on their first LP. There weren’t any on their second one. The difference being one had Trevor Horn and one didn’t.”
Human League are a law unto themselves.
I’ve got to know them quite well and I still can’t
figure out what’s going on.
Their viewpoint changes from day to day.
They’re fascinating people, they do the opposite
of what people tell them to do and it always works.
There’s not really a Sheffield scene.
Everyone’s interested in what each others doing
of course but each group is wildly individual.”
term that could just as easily be applied to the Comsat’s
around at any Comsat’s gig and you’ll see a motley crew
of straight hippies and punks, the proverbial crossover
is it that draws people to them when by Fellows own definition
“it’s hard work being a Comsat Angels fan”?
tried to draw some kind of connection about the people
who like us but I can’t.
The only thing I can come up with is that they
all seem to be determined individuals.”
I remember around the time of the second LP I suddenly
decided I wasn’t going to sign any autographs.
This guy came up to me after one gig and asked
for my autograph.
I said ‘look I’m no different to you, there’s no
reason why you should want my autograph.
I’m not a big star, I don’t want to be, I’m just
the same as you.’
And he said ‘Yeah, but it’d be like a souvenir.’
I said ‘forget it, you don’t need it’.
This went on for about 10 minutes, in the end he
said ‘oh fuck you then’ and walked off.
I thought about that long and hard and I realized
it would have been far better if I’d just said ‘Yeah,
nice to see you’ and signed my name.”