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An Interview with The March Violets

19 May

The March Violets (Photo by Holly Fairclough)

I think it was in 2001 at a record fair.  I was looking to buy a couple of 7” singles when a guy next to me started searching through a pile of singles.  He picked “Crow Baby” of The March Violets and asked for the price.  He was told 20 Euros…

He put it back and I turned to mind my own business.  Another guy showed up and started searching the pile.  He also took out “Crow Baby” and asked for the price.  This one was told 30 Euros.

He bought it.

This 10 Euro change in price within 2 minutes was funny to me and I still remember it.

I thought it would be a good intro for an interview where the band that released “Crow Baby” talks about the past the present and the future…

For the first time that I can remember, the entire band took an active interest in getting their thoughts and feelings across. 

AND … as an added bonus and another “first of firsts”, The March Violets contacted us the day after posting the interview and offered to our readers a FREE DOWNLOAD of an upcoming track off their almost-ready-to-be-released album.  Click here for the free download of “ROAD OF BONES”!

tribe4mian:  Can you tell us a little about your previous release history?  Do you have a personal favorite and why?

THE MARCH VIOLETS:

• Tom – From 1982 until 1984 the band released a series of EP’s and singles, both on the Merciful Release label and then our own Rebirth imprint.  One of the biggest omissions in our release history is that there is NO album. This is something that is about to be rectified this year.

Personal favourites for me would include Crow Baby… just because it really doesn’t sound like anything else made since… pure Violets and very hard to imitate really… Undertow would come a close second just because I love the vocal interplay between Si and Rosie, the lyrics and the good solid bass, drum and guitar riffage… oh perhaps there’s more… ;)

In fact I think there was a period of writing in the band that peaked between the 1982 Peel Session and Snakedance… we were firing on all cylinders… it feels like that again now too.  Road Of Bones is my current favourite from the new material.

Si – My personal favourite is probably the first Violets EP, Religious as Hell.  That was the first vinyl I had ever done, and holding your first proper record is something quite fantastic.

(Though I do remember with fondness a 12″ picture disc that I did for Batfish with Motorhead‘s label.  I had just got the test pressings and eagerly stuck one on the turntable. It was a mashed up track, called Purple Dust:  A strange mix of Purple Haze and Another One Bites The Dust played at the same time… yes, weird and probably best left alone… but it had the intro to Purple Haze “doo Dah, doo dah , doo dah… BOOM!”… the entire building shook and the record jumped off… the physics lab at the nearby university had exploded on the downbeat.)

And I enjoyed seeing the finished gold snakeskin cover of Snakedance… I think I got a design award for that from somewhere.

Jo – Before joining The March Violets, I was a member of the now-defunct Screaming Banshee Aircrew.  We released three albums on Resurrection Records“Fishnet Messiah” (2004), “When All Is Said and Done” (2007) and “Sugar” (2009).  I am also a member of the band “Berlin Black and the Shades of Grey” which features the vocal talents of Chris Tuke, SBA’s former guitarist.  He has a CD out under this name called “Burn It Down”.

tribe4mian:  You created D-Rok, toured with UFO and recorded an LP for Games Workshop featuring Brian May on guitar. How is working with Brian May and how different is the feeling nursing Dr. Avalanche for The Sisters Of Mercy?

THE MARCH VIOLETS:

Si – Brian May was and is a very lovely chap.  Totally amazing guitarist, with a really down to earth attitude and a great gentle sense of humour.  I have bumped into him a couple of times since then and he has always been really friendly, he actually does remember the people he has worked with, which must be thousands over the years. Incredible.

I am not allowed any feelings while Nursing Dr. Avalanche.

tribe4mian:  Tom Ashton is currently living in the U.S. How do you manage to function with members on different continents?  (…Although now with the invention of the airplane, I suppose things are not as hard…)

THE MARCH VIOLETS:

Si – It is pretty hard work.  We have laid the basis for a lot of tracks down and do a lot of things over the internet. But it’s not the same as being in the same room.  Luckily it seems that we can actually do stuff this way and still get great results. We must be bloody good!

Jo – Admittedly it does make things a little less straight forward.  The main challenge it presents is with writing new material – it slows the process down a lot, as there’s no substitute for being able to get together and jam.  Obviously it limits our gigging schedule a little bit as well, as gigs have to be planned for the short periods of time during which we are all on the same continent.

Tom – Yes, airplanes have come in very useful.  ;)  It is a challenge for me personally as I am working on my own at my end but so far we are writing and recording the best stuff we’ve done in my opinion. Obviously when it comes to the second album it would be preferable to be able to work standing in the same room as the rest of the band but hopefully some success with the first album will facilitate that.

Luckily these days with Skype and fast internet we can fire ideas and mixes at each other from thousands of miles away and still create a fantastic composite of how we sound and still be rather good I reckon. ;)

tribe4mian:  As we all know, back in the 80s everyone ran to the record store to grab their favorite band’s new release. Here we are, 30 years later, and I was wondering…now that all the record stores are gone what media platforms will you be using for your new release, when is it coming out, and what title can we look forward to finding?

THE MARCH VIOLETS:

Si – I don’t think all the record stores are gone, though having just tried to put a gig poster up in a couple of record shops in Leeds who are selling tickets to be told “we haven’t got any space till next week”.  I’m not fucking surprised they are going out of business…

You are totally correct, things have changed for musicians in a way that couldn’t have been predicted in the 80’s. Back then it was vinyl or cassette, and yes you really did wait in the store to hear a track from the new record… it was really exciting.  You might have heard it on the radio, late at night on John Peel‘s show, staying up specially to hear new music.  And it was people like John who shaped the way things went, but he was incredibly fair about things… he would play stuff he liked, and to be honest you might only like some of it… but at least you got the choice and he was some kind of filter.  I think that is the difference, these days there is no real Shit Filter, and people swap entire record collections on a USB stick.  Gigabytes of music.  You could not actually listen to that much music in the rest of your life.  And it is all for free.  The word Devalued springs to mind… on every level. Maybe if the listeners knew how much work and passion and just Lifetime goes into making good music they might actually buy it and support the Artist.  Though some people do.  Our fans are fantastic.  Truly great people.

I came to the conclusion that with all the things that cropped up and got in the way of recording, it was impossible to finish this new Album properly in time for this summer tour, without killing myself.  So we have decided to release a 5 track EP.  This will be called ‘Love Will Kill You’ and will be given free to all the people who pledged to help us make the LP.  We hope to have it at the upcoming gigs.

The tracks are:

    • Road Of Bones
    • London’s Drowning
    • Dandelion King
    • A Little Punk Thing
    • We Are All Gods

So now you know.

Tom – The New Album will be named ‘Made Glorious’ and it is being funded by our most dedicated fans.  By using a website called http://www.pledgemusic.com/ we have asked them to pledge money in advance in order to fund the recording and manufacture of the album and all the other exclusive goodies associated with the pledge, as it is known.  So the album will be available for digital download for ALL pledgers and those who pay a bit more will get a CD copy… others who are willing to spend a bit more again will get the double CD version with extra tracks and remixes, posters and other deluxe materials.  The Pledge is still running by the way, and any new pledges will just help us to make the Album even better and maybe tour and do some videos.

We are aiming at a late fall release.

The March Violets (-Si-)

tribe4mian:  Your “Natural History” LP has a 1 zillion dollar note (unfortunately I can’t cash it anywhere).  What are your thoughts and views on the US debt and its continuance in raising the debt higher while we see Americans, and for that matter, we see worldwide populations, suffering to the point of what may be no return?

THE MARCH VIOLETS:

Si – Over to Tom who lives there…

But I think we are all being screwed by the 1% who are maintaining their lifestyle by raping the rest of the world.  I also think that what we are doing globally is unsustainable.  Fucking humans, we are a short-sighted self- destructive disease.  We can’t last.

Tom – Hmmmm… Economics 101… This is a bit of a bugbear for me as it appears that the Reagan/Thatcher policies that fueled the greed that defined a lot of what the 1980’s was about… has come full circle/reached its apex/or whatever…  My Gran who was a true Labour Mayor of a certain very large New Town near London when I was a child never tired of telling me this is what would happen in the end.

I remember marching against Thatcher and her ilk back in the late 70’s. We knew things were bad even then with the Labour Government but even my precocious 16 year old mind knew that you can’t sell things to people that they already own and then pocket the money with no consequences.  When she snatched my little sister’s milk… that was the wake-up call… why would anyone want to end such a thing?

So, basically I have surmised that the reason we are all in deep shit is purely due to the reaching of this policy’s logical conclusion… just how many banks have sold/circulated and profited/siphoned the same old shit/bad debt/ to each other and their friends/victims?  The answer is nearly ALL of them… certainly enough to bring the whole system crashing down on itself which it patiently has… it’s just that not surprising it’s not a widely reported fact.

Where does America fit into all this?  Well, because this specifically non-ethical type of Capitalism [Google the phrases Wal-Mart and Dead Peasants] originated here [and is in many ways a product of its geographical layout and soon-to-be critical reliance on oil] it is most likely to bit harder here first.  The country itself is spread wide and far [apart from some of the more sensible conurbations] and how these people who are spread wide will cope as the century progresses will be an interesting proposition.  I live in the Southeastern USA and it’s quite possible to drive 80 miles per day just doing the normal day’s routine… very few people in other countries would be prepared or even want to take it to that extreme…

One hopes that ingenuity and co-operation will win the day…that’s what I want to happen…but there is a darker side too…we all know how the so called Wild West was really won and I wouldn’t want my children anywhere near that, thank you very much! ;)

tribe4mian:  Is the sound of the new album different from when you were starting out? How can you label it?

THE MARCH VIOLETS:

Si – It’s nearly 30 years, and as they say, it’s not the same Bridge and not the same River.  We’ve all done different things for that time, learned new stuff, tried new stuff, been influenced by this and that.  But it amazes me, we still sound the same.  It probably shouldn’t, it’s the three original members and a very talented new bass player.  I personally label it March Violets because that is what it is… we were always pretty willing to try anything as long as it sounded good to us… the principle still applies.  And a lot of my contribution has been bubbling away in my head for twenty-odd years.  Tunes and words, I don’t throw things away, I let them ferment, refine them, distill them, until I have something I like. I think the new Album is typical Violets, with some surprises as ever, and an Old School attitude.

Tom – Well of course things will be sounding different to some extent… we have all come a long way from our teens and early twenties when we started the band… and with Jo in the new line up there is a whole fresh input of experience being added to the mix as well.

We’ve spent a lot of time on this record thinking about what it was that attracted our original fan-base, distilling the essence of that and pouring it into some of the new tracks.  Of course also we’ll be exploring some new directions that weren’t available to us at the time of the original line up in the ’80’s.

I’ve always found it very hard to label things that are intensely personal but I suppose you can do it on a track by track basis.  Some are romantic or emotionally searing, some more in the angry punky vein, others are just fun and dancey… the band itself, I think, will continue to reject the obvious labels that people may or may not try to pin on us.

The March Violets (Photo by Al Pulford)

The March Violets (Photo by Al Pulford)

tribe4mian:  Rosie is an award-winning author, amongst other things, that I’d like to know more about and would be glad if you could mention them here. How does she feel to be on stage with the band again?

THE MARCH VIOLETS:

Rosie – I’ve never been off-stage…!  I’ve never been intimidated by performance – If I was, I’d have given up a long time ago.  I have a powerfully low threshold for doing things I don’t like.

Si, Tom, and myself have been working on our own projects over the past *cough*enty years.  We’ve never stopped writing and performing, and it shows when we get on stage as The March Violets in 2011.  We’re writing new songs at an astounding pace.  It wouldn’t feel right if we were just churning out the old material.

Right now I’m slowly returning to touring and performance after an 18-month period dealing with cancer. Challenging?  Yes, you could say that:  it wasn’t on my to-do list.  Particularly ironic was that it was throat cancer – for a singer!

As well as The March Violets, I’m continuing to work on my own projects.  I’m currently writing my new one-woman show, plus my latest novel is with my agent.  As I am not a ghostwritten footballer or a ‘celeb’ it’s not going to be an easy ride getting it published… I’ve had numerous short stories in anthologies, plus four solo collections of poetry, the latest only a few months back:  Things I Did While I Was Dead http://www.flapjackpress.co.uk/.

In between, I perform across the UK, Europe, and the USA as Rosie Lugosi, burlesque singer and Mistress of Ceremonieshttp:www.rosielugosi.com.  She’s an alter-ego, an exaggerated (honest!) part of me.  She’s quite demanding, so there’s a clear demarcation line between how I am on-stage compared to off-stage.  But she’s a lot of fun to bring out of the dressing up box and play with for a night. She satisfies my need to perform, to dress up, to be rude to people, and get paid for it.

tribe4mian:  We know you’re starting your European tour soon. How does the economic strife affect your present day tours in comparison to years gone by?

THE MARCH VIOLETS:

Si – It’s much harder, a lot of people have no money to spend on music and concerts.  But you also find that people party harder when times are not much fun… it’s an escape route.  But the answer is… We will see.

tribe4mian:  In his career, Tom has guested for The Sisters Of Mercy, Danse Society, toured and recorded with Clan of Xymox.  He was also part of a project with Cleo (who replaced Rosie in the Violets), Craig Adams (Sisters), Steven Hewitt (Placebo), and Mark Price (All About Eve) which was called Amania but was never released.  Not many people know about this and I wondered how he feels when looking back upon all that?

THE MARCH VIOLETS:

Tom – All great times for me on those. Had a lot of fun whilst playing a bit of guitars for The Danse Society on The Tube.  Met Jools Holland, of course who [I sincerely hope, drunkenly] told me to ‘get my cock out’ just before I walked on stage to do 2000 Light Years… even more importantly, Leslie Ash, whom I was madly in love with at the time [as most boys my age were after seeing her and Phil Daniels in Quadrophenia] asked me for a fag and I got to light it for her too… them were ‘t days. :)

Clan of Xymox’s Ronny and Mojca have become very close friends after I toured the USA with the band in 1991 in support of the Phoenix album release.  It will be wonderful to hook up with them again in Leipzig when The Violets play WGT later this year…

The Amania thing was really good but we got stuck in the Camden circuit never to return ;) …hmmm maybe I should bung up a Facebook page and upload a few tracks because, unfortunately, none of it saw the light of day at the time… would be interesting to hear people’s take on it now almost 15 years later…

tribe4mian:  On June 4th Simon Hinkler (former guitarist of The Mission) will open for you at Leeds. How did you come up with this idea?

THE MARCH VIOLETS:

Si – I just thought it would be nice to get together with some old mates, and Simon was up for it.  I was also trying to get Artery to play too, Simon’s old band and Murray was guitarist in Batfish Boys so some nice connections… maybe next time.  I’m looking forward to seeing Simon, he is a great guitarist and a lovely chap.  WE also have a brand new band making their debut in Leeds, with Ed Banshees new lot the ‘Partly Faithful’.  Always good to mix the new with the old.

tribe4mian:  How has the internet piracy issue affected not only your sales but also your desire to release new material with little to no compensation?

THE MARCH VIOLETS:

• Si – It has obviously made things very difficult. You can only hope that people who like your music want to support you and give a shit enough to buy stuff… I have faith.  The real problem was caused by the Greedy Major Labels not adapting to new technology… remember Napster?  What a mistake to not go with it.  Bunch of shortsighted corporate clowns.  They are paying the price now, and unfortunately, so are we all.

Jo – Personally, as musician, I will always be writing new material, and always wanting to get it heard, regardless of the “compensation”.  However, the fact that there is little or no money to be made does make it more difficult – in that it’s often not even possible to recoup your costs.  In my previous band we sank a lot of our own personal money into albums that we never recovered, which is a real shame, but as we were doing it for love not money, it didn’t matter.  Of course we were only a small band, and not expecting to be able to make a living at it.  The March Violets are on a different level entirely.

The March Violets

tribe4mian:  With album sales down, tour sales down, and just a general feeling of doom and gloom, what do you foresee for the future of the music industry?.

THE MARCH VIOLETS:

Si – It will evolve, but I think it will end up as subscription based for music collections, probably held in a cloud. The real problem is the lack of good shit-filters these days, it’s all out there and as the Cash Pussies said… 99% is shit.  So I also think that the level of desperation to sell crap to the public will mean it gets cheaper and cheaper to the point of being free as the distribution/content-providers battle for income, or actually just for numbers to advertise at.  It will devalue everything.  But there will always be live gigs, and hopefully loyal fans who realise that if you make it impossible for musicians to make a living you will get the amateurish safe nonsense of the Simon Cowell monstrosity, and that’s it.  Or maybe we will all be doing little holo-stream gigs?

Jo – It’s a tricky one.  The music industry is certainly going to need a bit of a shake-up if it is going to survive.  On the other hand, people will always want to make music and people will always want to listen to it, so I do think it will survive… in some form or other.  So long as the likes of Simon Cowell are still controlling it, though, I don’t think the future’s that bright.

tribe4mian:  Jo Violet, who joined for the 2010 reunion gig in London, has become a permanent fixture and had previously played bass, keyboards, violin.  She also sang in the Screaming Banshee Aircrew and still plays bass in the ‘Trash Vogue’ combo Berlin Black.  Recently, she performed the part of Gilda in the opera, “Rigoletto”, has a degree from Oxford University and a PhD. How does it feel to have such diverse and talented people in just one band?

THE MARCH VIOLETS:

Si – It is great, Jo is very talented and a great asset to the band, we have a track in production sparked off by her singing some operatic style stuff… really cool.  It is also good to have another female in the band, it adds perspective and everyone knows lady bass players are the best.

Jo – Haha, I’m not really particularly talented – I’ve always seen myself as something of a jack of all trades, master of none.  That said, the band certainly *is* very well-loaded with diverse and talented people, and obviously this has always been one of its strengths, way back since the beginning. It’s a pleasure to be working with them.

tribe4mian:  Have you noticed a faithful following of friends and fans as you travel on different pathways within the industry?

THE MARCH VIOLETS:

Si – Very much so, and it is a heartening thing.  It is a small world too…  and our fans in particular are the most good looking and sexy fans in the world.  It’s almost automatic, as soon as you become a Violets fan this inner beauty just starts to leak out and glow.

Jo – Oh yes, definitely. The same faces crop up over and over again, and you get to know them.  People who started as fans can become friends over time.  It’s nice.

Rosie – Most definitely!  It’s been a pleasure getting to know them. I’ve only ever had one creepy fan (and very creepy she was too, but that’s another story). I’ve never, ever understood people who get sneery about their fans. Apart from the fact that fans appreciate the songs / stories / poems / whatever that we produce, they also show their appreciation by buying the albums, the books, the t-shirts.  Do the math: fans pay our goddamn wages. It’s as simple as that. What’s not to like?

tribe4mian:  What was one of the most memorable and fun times (which are printable) that you can share with our readers?

THE MARCH VIOLETS:

Si – Seeing Joy Division supporting Siouxsie, or maybe Bauhaus supporting Magazine.

tribe4mian:  Last question:  If you could come back as any other person in time, past or present day, whose body would you like to jump into?

THE MARCH VIOLETS:

Si – I’d like to jump into a young Margaret Thatcher, somewhere on the top of a very tall building.  Things would have gone very differently.

Rosie – Genghis Khan has always appealed.  Can’t imagine for the life of me why.

Tom – I reckon I’ll have to cheat on that question and say I would like to clone myself in order to be in two places at once… it would make working with the band and being home in the USA with my family an even easier proposition ;) … or maybe just a working jaunt technology, that would be good too. :) 

If I came back as someone else then I’d have to say [without naming names] it would be great to be someone who is in a powerful position of influence and a willingness to use that for the true benefit of all of us on this planet… or maybe just Phil Daniels circa 1979… that would do too…  ;)

tribe4mian:  We want to thank you for what has certainly been one of the most interesting interviews we have had the pleasure of conducting.  Your reflections and history leave us eagerly awaiting more from you and we hope that the future will be as diverse and gratifying as the past has been.  Thank you again and all the best to each of you in all your journeys through time.  We’ll be keeping tabs on you and will post more of your travels and adventures.

Be well!

The March Violets - Logo

You can learn more about The March Violets by visiting their official website, HERE or by clicking the above logo.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2011 in Interviews, Music

 

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