The Comsat Angels, C.S. Angels, The Headhunters, Dream Command...  All this & more
Straight From The Lions Mouth- Sounds 26/12/81
The Comsat Angels meet The Sound in a battle of wits

By Johnny Waller

Right - welcome to this weeks quiz show - you should know the rules by now - so let’s meet our contestants. On our left are - from bleak, industrial Sheffield - The Comsat Angels, Steve, Mik, Andy & Kev, who have just released their second album Sleep No More.

On the right are highly fashionable London band, The Sound, Adrian, Dudley, Graham & new member Max, whose second LP From The Lions Mouth is in the shops now.

Both groups have recently completed a British tour together, where each took turns to headline. It would seem therefore, that they share common attitudes and beliefs, so tonight’s contest could be very close.

Remember though, that the clapometer is just for fun, friends, and its your votes that really count - you the readers of Sounds and the great record buying public will decide the future success of each band.

Meanwhile - I may award points on a discretionary basis - see how easy it is to be the quizmaster! Which leads to our first question…

1. Is it easy to be a pop-singer?

The Comsat Angels - Steve: "No, not at all - its very difficult because its a 24 hour job. If you’re not playing a gig or traveling, you’re at home writing new songs or rehearsing, and in my case, I’m designing sleeves too."

The Sound - Adrian: "I don’t find it so 24 hour demanding, but I know what you mean - there are times when I’m off with my girlfriend and I just sort of drift off, maybe thinking about a song…it’s just like I’m not there, and then she can get upset, understandably."

Do you feel you are forced to make sacrifices for the group?

Steve: "Yeah, as far as I am concerned, I do - it all takes too much time, but at this stage I need to do it properly… there’ll be more time in the future to do other things I like as well."

Adrian: "I don’t really have anything else outside of music - being part of a band can be a large chunk of your life, but I find it a lot easier to just turn off & relax, go and see a film."

2. Was there much rivalry on the tour together (and you may confer)?

The Sound - Max: "I don’t think so - that’s not the idea of the tour."

The Comsat Angels - Andy: "I think it makes both bands try that little bit harder."

The Sound - Graham: "Oh yeah - it definitely does. When you’re following them, there’s far more challenge than usual."

The Sound - Dudley: "It hasn’t struck me as being a competitive tour, whereas the Bunnymen tour was very competitive, because we felt we had to blow them off stage every night, but I found them a bit distant as people - they didn’t want to talk to us."

Graham: "So Dudley was rude to them!"

Dudley: "I wasn’t rude - I was trying to cheer Mac up and he told me to fuck off!"

3. Have you found both bands are complementary or a contrast?

The Comsat Angels - Steve: "A bit of both. We’re different and similar!"

The Sound - Adrian: "And it’s easy to lump us both in the same musical area."

Steve: "I like The Sound though."

Adrian: "And I like The Comsat Angels! I know that sounds bad, doesn’t it?"

Steve: "But it’s true."

Adrian: "The reason we did the tour together is because I met Steve at their Sundown gig and we reckoned it might be an idea if we did a joint tour, we just agreed it might be a good idea. What we’ve got in common is that both bands are reasonable - that’s what made the tour work, no-one was on any star trip!"

Steve: "Yeah, what first struck me about Adrian was that he seemed totally without pretensions. I don’t know how you feel about it, but I think now is the time, people have had their flirtation with stardom - glorifying idiots like Jim Morrison who, let’s face it, was a bit of a berk. Musically brilliant but that kind of person who does all the drugs and dies young, gets on everyone’s nerves and is generally irresponsible - the days of that are over."
Steve Fellows & Adrian Borland
"Rock culture is fairly new, and when something is new, you tend to leap in with both feet and do everything to extreme…but now we have to adjust - groups have to keep their feet on the ground more."

At the end of round one, Steve’s eloquent plea for a greater sense of sanity, a return to responsibility (although he later complains about media images which he hates - "the image of Steve Fellows as reasonable bloke is the one I detest the most!") is so welcome in these times of unrest and total lack of moral responsibility from those who should know better (and its just TOUGH it sounds pious!) that it puts The Comsat Angels into an early lead. Round two…

4. How did you react to the recent street riots?

The Sound - Graham: "Predictable - bound to happen."

The Comsat Angels - Mik: "It was just indicative of the times."

The Sound - Dudley: "Well I remember seeing on TV - where was the first one, Brixton? And going "yeaaghh, great!", that was my reaction. The pressure had been building up - especially against the police & the sus laws - and suddenly it just burst. What happened was people were doing something about it by actually being active and expressing their anger and frustration in a positive way - like "we’re not going to put up with this anymore" and about time too!"

The Comsat Angels - Kev: "That copy-cat aspect ruined it for me - there was one skinhead interviewed on Radio Hallam, and they’d actually been helping the police to get rid of Manchester skinheads who had come to Sheffield to start rioting, and he said "if there’s going to be any riots around here, its us that’ll do it, not people from Manchester!"

5. As young British bands, do you feel you should articulate that same anger and frustration?

The Sound - Dudley: "I don’t know - if I lived in Brixton, I’d have probably been out on the streets as well. Everybody has their breaking point."

The Sound - Graham: "We aren’t in the situation these people are, though, we don’t live in those conditions - but we can feel for them & sympathise."

The Comsat Angels - Steve: "I feel I’m in a kind of privileged position through being in full-time employment, but when I was unemployed, I figured the only way out, the only way I could get a voice to be heard - well the only thing I could do was play guitar really, so that was my way out."

"But I do feel for these people - we’re doing a gig tomorrow (in Sheffield for the unemployed - admission free) and I’m going to say something about it - but I’m not sure what! Like maybe ‘is this all the government do for the unemployed’?"

But that brings us into the dangerous area of rock as a political weapon, its potential to incite & arouse passions, or ability to act as harmless safety valve, a kind of sedative even. The Romans quelled thought of rebellion by distracting the masses with the elaborately staged coliseum circus, and maybe times haven’t changed that much - for what is rock if not a grotesque circus?

Isn’t it merely a means of channelling off excess energy that might otherwise fuel the flames of revolt?

The Sound Adrian: .-Yeah, there is some of that. you've got a certain amount of heavy aggression and I wouldn't like to think what sort of person I might be if I weren't playing guitar! There must be some aggression that comes out on stage and if it didn't I don't know where it would go.."

You questioned what the government is doing. Steve, but what exactly are you doing?

Steve: "What am I doing? Err I'm just… I dunno! Hopefully keeping them happy, holding the audience interest and they'll maybe buy our records."

6. Does it ever feel odd, as a member of a group, to be interviewed on your views from guitar strings to petrol bombs?

Comsat Angels Steve: ."Oh yeah all the time! But you're asking and I'm giving my views just the same as I would if someone out of the audience asked these question's."

The Sound - Adrian: "Personally I'd prefer not to talk about things that I feel are outside the scope of the band - this might sound like a cop-out…"

Steve: "No. Adrian I think it's essential to the whole thing we're doing that we don't hide in a group - that's why you tackled the song Missiles..."

Adrian: "I agree that there are certain matters that can be made clearer in interviews, but I feel less confident talking about things that are totally unrelated to music. Why should I have any more knowledge or influence than someone on the street? They have opinions that are just as worthwhile."

Steve: "It's just that they don’t have a way of getting those views onto plastic. But we were in that position once, and we made a way, we were in that position of not having a voice before we were in a group."

The combined voices of The Sound and Comsat Angels are passionate, often confused but always honest - they lack the slickness of a quiz show presenter (and I mean that most sincerely, folks), occasionally pondering to consider their thoughts. Discarding any temptation to mouth a facile cliché or ready quip. This is why I love both bands, for their integrity.

Last year, my two favourite albums (yes. even above the Fall's stunning Grotesque) were The Sound's Jeopardy and The Comsat Angels Waiting For A Miracle - debut LP’s full of fire and hope and commitment. To me, they reflect the awareness of youth, the determination of self achievement, an independent defiance. But to some (detractors), they are doomy and pessimistic - how would they answer such suggestions? (Question 7)

The Sound - Dudley: "Cobblers!"

Well, that’s not quite correct - I think I can pass that over to the other side.

Comsat Angels - Kev: "I suppose you've got to be honest and say in some areas it is. We don't actually set out to make music that is depressing. We just try to compose something that's appropriate to the song, to the lyrics."

"But I always think we're looking from the dark outwards hopefully to the light, instead of just ignoring it."

Comsat Angels - Mik: "There are many instances in the past of people writing dark doomy songs that don't musically sound a bit like us, people like Leonard Cohen. I mean what's a depressing sound?"

Kevin "It's like hymns, where you sing about depressing things like the crucifixion of Jesus, and yet everybody smiles when they go to church and it's uplifting - and yet that’s far more depressing than what we're on about, a far heavier sound, that great big organ and massed voices. Yet that doesn't depress people."

The Sound - Graham: "The music is a reflection of us as people and I don’t think we're depressing, so therefore I don't think the music is either …"

The Sound - Dudley: "It's not depressing in itself. It’s whether you happen to think what’s being sung about and the way it's put over is depressing."

A sudden interruption from Steve Budd, manager of the Sound: "But if you listen to what Adrian's singing, its always facing up to the reality of a situation rather than wallowing in depression. Every song which deals with the darker side is like, what can we do about it? Isn’t it time we did something? And let's go for it! Every song has an element of hope."

Just as I'm about to disqualify The Sound for unauthorised use of a substitute, the voice of sanity prevails, courtesy of Graham: "You’ve got to consider that these are depressing times in Britain, so you're bound to get a trace of that in all music at the moment, unless you're simply kidding yourself."

Dudley:(sings) "Everybody salsa!"

8 How would you like to be as popular as the Ants?

The Sound - Graham: "I wouldn’t mind it! I m not saying I think we necessarily have to be as big as them. From my own point of view, I’d just like to be earning enough money to live from making music. It would be nice to make a lot of money, but I don’t know what I’d do with it all!"

Comsat Angels - Mik: "Yeah, I don’t mind admitting I'd like to be a millionaire!"

The Sound - Dudley: "I’d like to be as popular as the Ants and make as much money as they do, but I wouldn't want to have to prostitute myself to do it."

The Sound - Max: "But it would give us more chances to do other things as well."

The Sound - Adrian: "We could be as successful as Adam And The Ants, but we could never - either band- never be as famous as them. We could never be on the covers of teen magazines, so we wouldn't face the same pressures. These teen idols create that image for themselves. They’re grown men, Adam Ant knows perfectly well what he’s doing."

Comsat Angels - Steve: "That's the difference - they’re doing something which is totally contrived, and I don’t mean that in a bad sense, it’s something which is theatrical, which is fine, but not for me!"

Comsat Angels - Andy: "And I like being able to walk down the street without being recognised!"

9 Do you ever feel you're documenting the times in which we live?

The Sound - Adrian: "Well you can’t help writing about what’s been happening."

The Comsat Angels - Steve: "Like Dark Parade - (about the disastrous helicopter raid on Iran) - it was there. I just had to do something about it. I couldn’t NOT do something. I wish I’d never written it now, or at least we’d never released it."

Why do you ask at gigs if people want to hear the song?

Steve: "Because if they don’t want to hear it, then we won’t do it. I know some people like it and want to hear it, but personally I’d rather not play it. But I realise that we do have an obligation to an audience to an extent, to do things that they want to hear."

10. Do you ever regard the completion of a record as the end of a phase?

The Comsat Angels - Steve: "Well, its fairly obvious that you get a set of songs, and the ones on the 1st LP are the earlier ones - that’s just how it is."

The Sound - Adrian: "The way I feel about our 2nd album is that it is more of a completed stage, it’s almost like Jeopardy (1st LP) is in another context."

The Sound - Dudley: "I think we’ve established a style of composition and playing which runs throughout this album, which the 1st album just didn’t have - it was very scrappy."

Adrian: "Maybe its in the nature of our music. I think it would be fair to say our music’s more based on songs, than yours Steve. Yours is more atmospheric, isn’t it?"

The Comsat Angels - Steve: "No, I don’t know - they’re always written as songs - maybe its the way that the group plays them that emphasises the instruments."

The Comsat Angels - Kev: "Its funny, because I would have said that the 1st album is catchier and more commercial, and yet the new one has sold many more already."

The Comsat Angels - Mik: "There’s always a degree of pressure and concern about the release of any new album, simply the pressure of selling enough for us to be allowed to make another one!"

The Sound - Adrian: "I feel we need to break out of conventional song structures now. Its been satisfying so far, but having made another album of songs - its time to see what can be done outside of that."

Steve: "Yeah - stretch out."

11. What do you think of the SDP / Liberal alliance?

The Sound - Dudley: "Its fated from the start to come to nothing, because the Social Democrats want to turn the world into Brussels, and already the Liberals have voted against cruise missiles which SDP are all for, so the alliance is doomed. The Social Democrats are just the right wing of the Labour party who could not see any way of getting power through Labour…"

The Comsat Angels - Mik: "Its just the typical moderate side of British politics, of British people - I think its terrible."

The Comsat Angels - Kev: "But the real political problems in this country are caused by people - not the parties. Its their attitudes that need to be changed - I mean there would still be 3 million people unemployed if Labour were still in power!"

Mik: "I don’t think so - they would have maintained full employment, if only for appearances sake."
Kev: "But the country wouldn’t be any better off."

The Sound - Max: "I hate politics!"

The Sound - Graham: "But if affects your life - like the situation where if it had been a Tory GLC you would have lost your house!"

With this passion that separates The Sound & The Comsat Angels from the great mass of uncaring bands, each member lays himself open to criticism, especially in a music industry which foolishly prizes & praises the macho pride ethic. But there are no cardboard rebels or bedroom dreamers.

The Comsat Angels & The Sound
12. But are you angry young men?

The Comsat Angels - Steve: "No - sometimes you feel angry, sometimes you feel happy! Both Adrian & I are capable of a whole range of human emotions!"

The Sound - Adrian: "And you are too, Johnny!"

And you, and you
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