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 lets 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 tonights
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 youre
not playing a gig or traveling, youre at home
writing new songs or rehearsing, and in my case, Im
designing sleeves too."
The Sound - Adrian: "I dont find it so 24
hour demanding, but I know what you mean - there are
times when Im off with my girlfriend and I just
sort of drift off, maybe thinking about a song
just like Im not there, and then she can get upset,
Do you feel you are forced to make sacrifices for
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
therell be more time in
the future to do other things I like as well."
Adrian: "I dont 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 dont think so - thats
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 youre following them, theres far more
challenge than usual."
The Sound - Dudley: "It hasnt 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 didnt want to talk to us."
Graham: "So Dudley was rude to them!"
Dudley: "I wasnt rude - I was trying to cheer
Mac up and he told me to fuck off!"
3. Have you found both bands are complementary or
The Comsat Angels - Steve: "A bit of both. Were
different and similar!"
The Sound - Adrian: "And its 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, doesnt it?"
Steve: "But its true."
"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 weve got in common
is that both bands are reasonable - thats what
made the tour work, no-one was on any star trip!"
culture is fairly new, and when something is new, you
tend to leap in with both feet and do everything to
but now we have to adjust - groups have
to keep their feet on the ground more."
the end of round one, Steves 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 "were 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 theyd actually been helping
the police to get rid of Manchester skinheads who
had come to Sheffield to start rioting, and he said
"if theres going to be any riots around
here, its us thatll 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 dont know - if I
lived in Brixton, Id have probably been out
on the streets as well. Everybody has their breaking
The Sound - Graham: "We arent in the situation
these people are, though, we dont live in those
conditions - but we can feel for them & sympathise."
The Comsat Angels - Steve: "I feel Im 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 - were
doing a gig tomorrow (in Sheffield for the unemployed
- admission free) and Im going to say something
about it - but Im 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 havent changed that much - for what is
rock if not a grotesque circus?
Isnt it merely a means of channelling off
excess energy that might otherwise fuel the flames
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
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
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 dont 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
LPs 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
The Sound - Dudley: "Cobblers!"
Well, thats 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
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 thats far more depressing
than what we're on about, a far heavier sound, that
great big organ and massed voices. Yet that doesn't
The Sound - Graham: "The music is a reflection
of us as people and I dont think we're depressing,
so therefore I don't think the music is either
The Sound - Dudley: "It's not depressing in itself.
Its whether you happen to think whats
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? Isnt it time we did something?
And let's go for it! Every song has an element of
Just as I'm about to disqualify The Sound for unauthorised
use of a substitute, the voice of sanity prevails,
courtesy of Graham: "Youve 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 wouldnt mind it!
I m not saying I think we necessarily have to be as
big as them. From my own point of view, Id just
like to be earning enough money to live from making
music. It would be nice to make a lot of money, but
I dont know what Id do with it all!"
Comsat Angels - Mik: "Yeah, I dont mind
admitting I'd like to be a millionaire!"
The Sound - Dudley: "Id 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
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. Theyre grown men, Adam
Ant knows perfectly well what hes doing."
Comsat Angels - Steve: "That's the difference
- theyre doing something which is totally contrived,
and I dont mean that in a bad sense, its
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 cant help
writing about whats 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 couldnt NOT do something. I wish Id
never written it now, or at least wed never
Why do you ask at gigs if people want to hear
Steve: "Because if they dont want to hear
it, then we wont do it. I know some people like
it and want to hear it, but personally Id 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 - thats just
how it is."
The Sound - Adrian: "The way I feel about our
2nd album is that it is more of a completed stage,
its almost like Jeopardy (1st
LP) is in another context."
The Sound - Dudley: "I think weve established
a style of composition and playing which runs throughout
this album, which the 1st album just didnt have
- it was very scrappy."
Adrian: "Maybe its in the nature of our music.
I think it would be fair to say our musics more
based on songs, than yours Steve. Yours is more atmospheric,
The Comsat Angels - Steve: "No, I dont
know - theyre always written as songs - maybe
its the way that the group plays them that emphasises
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
The Comsat Angels - Mik: "Theres 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
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 dont think so - they would have
maintained full employment, if only for appearances
Kev: "But the country wouldnt be any better
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.