15th Sep2010

History Lesson: The Godfathers

by toddc

In the midst of the synth invasion that consumed alternative music in the 80′s, there were a few bands who stuck to their guns. Determine to forge on, armed with nothing but guitars, bands like The Godfathers proved that alternative could “rock” without needing a dance beat. Huge in England, loved on MTV and alternative rock stations in the U.S. the band were a huge part of the scene in the 80′s. Having reunited to play a 25th anniversary show and tour, we caught up with the band to reflect on the past and the current state of music.

TDOA: You just played your 25th Anniversary show earlier this year (congrats!). As you reflect back on the career of the band, what are the highlights and memories that you’ll cherish forever?

Chris Coyne-Meeting Del Bartle. Touring all over the world. Working with Vic Maile. Meeting some fantastic people-the midnight Sun in Scandanavia-the list is endless Todd. Knowing my propensity to ramble on I would sum this question up by saying just play ‘In My Life’-by The Beatles

Peter Coyne- On 17th June ’85 the original line-up of what was to become The Godfathers (we were still known as The Sid Presley Experience then) played their first ever concert at the Embassy club in London. So, exactly 25 years later on 17th June 2010 we played our 25th anniversary concert at London’s historic 100 Club. The 100 Club is an amazing venue steeped in a rich, musical history, everybody from The Rolling Stones to The Sex Pistols have played there at some point – EXCEPT The Godfathers. It was a fantastic night, we played 25 songs for 25 years and were on top, rocking form. I swear to God I nearly cried when the crowd sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to us!! The 100 Club 25th anniversary concert was recorded & filmed & will be released as a live album/live DVD package in late October OR early November.

I suppose I’m most proud of the fact that when we first formed The Godfathers played dirty, exciting rock & roll music when it was practically non-existent in the UK. The only real rock & roll music you heard then was from great American bands like The Ramones & The Cramps. The UK scene at that time was very bland & mainly dominated by twee synthesizer outfits, definitely not my cup of tea at all. The Godfathers injected some much needed musical grit & lyrical reality back into the British scene. Other highlights & memories? far too many to go into here, BUT at some stage in the future I want to put them all into a book about my life called ‘Birth School Work Death’…good title that, now where have I heard it before?!! Briefly though I’d say playing hundreds of amazing concerts in the US & all over the world was quite some trip!! Also playing with & meeting musical idols like Iggy Pop & The Ramones was another tremendous blast. David Bowie came to see us play twice & was the loveliest guy. Oh, the stories I could tell you!! One day, one day…

TDOA: I have always found the concept of having two brothers in the band intriguing. When writing songs, do the two of you have a sympatico that makes the process easy?

Chris Coyne-No:) We are chalk and cheese but somehow it works. I read Dave Davies from The Kinks autobiography I think that book captures the madness of working with your Brother/Family perfectly.

Peter Coyne- I love my brother Chris very much, but even to this day we seem to argue about absolutely everything. SO, no, the song-writing process is & never has been easy – BUT that’s one of the major dynamics that makes The Godfathers what it is. Everyone knows what brothers in bands are like, always fighting & arguing all the time & Chris & I are no exception. Having said that I could not have done The Godfathers without him & he certainly could not have done it without me. Love you, kid!!

TDOA: Can you talk about working with legendary producer Vic Maile? I’d be interested to know what his role as a producer was, since some producers/ like to get involved in the detail of arranging songs, while others just sit back and work on the “sound” of the record.

Chris Coyne-Vic was the making of us. Peacemaker-arranger of the songs he brought the best out of us and used to tell us some great stories about the groups and people he worked with throughout his career. A truly lovely man wish he was around today If there’s a Heaven he’s there.

Peter Coyne-Vic Maile was a genius producer who’d initially learnt his craft as a tape-op from sonic masters like Joe Meek & Shel Talmy in the early ’60′s. Vic’s first ever job in a studio was setting up the mikes around Keith Moon’s drum kit for ‘I Can’t Explain’!! Vic was responsible for producing our first 3 albums, ‘Hit By Hit’, ‘Birth School Work Death’ & ‘More Songs About Love & Hate’. We fell in love with his production of Motorhead’s ‘Ace Of Spades’ & in particular it’s fantastic B-side ‘Dirty Love’…so LOUD, so clear, so powerful. We contacted him ourselves to work with us & he agreed. Before we recorded those 3 albums he came to our rehearsals & would suggest slight arrangements & backing vocals to numbers that made a crucial difference. When Vic was happy he would light a cigar, puff away & say “not bad, boys, not bad at all”. The last album he ever completed was ‘More Songs About Love & Hate’ & while we were touring America to promote that record we learned that he’d died. We cried like babies. Vic was a lovely, lovely guy & I miss him to this day. Rock & Roll NEVER forgets.

TDOA: Living in the U.S., it always seemed like the band got more press over here than from the fickle music mags in England. Is that a fair assessment and why do you think that was the case? Was England too enraptured with the jangly Smiths sound to handle your more aggresive “rock”?

Peter Coyne-No, I don’t think that’s true. We enjoyed great press in the UK & our records were Single Of the Week in most papers & magazines at the time so we can’t complain.

Chris Coyne-We definitely got more press in America but that was down to our hard working promo people at Sony in the U.S. Whilst back in the U.K. they didn’t really bother zero promotion/no advertising for the releases yet they would spend hundred of pounds on champagne and flowers for an after gig party which we would have rather have gone into a poster campaign or something to promote the group. Remember we were signed by Sony in America not Sony U.K. And lets face it America has always been more appreciative of rock and roll than England.

TDOA: One of the things that we always loved about The Godfathers were the amazing guitar hooks, coupled with Peter’s brilliant phrasing. Can you talk about about the songwriting process and how it evolved over the years? Did songs generally start with a single guitar hook and build from there or did the band generally write together in rehearsals?-

Chris Coyne- ‘Lonely Man’ our first release as the Godfathers was written by me on a Bass guitar ‘I Want Everything’ was a bass riff too dollimore supplying the chorus. The majority of songs were written at home and then brought into rehearsals to work on the arrangements. Despite what the credits on the records say 5 people did not write those songs. mazur never wrote a word or a tune in his life-just complained all the time-wish I never agreed to splitting everything 5 ways it doesn’t work in the long run.

Peter Coyne-Each song is different. Sometimes an individual might bring in a rough tune & then the whole band would work on it OR whoever was in the band at whatever period would have a jam at rehearsals until something great/special arrived. I can’t play any instrument, but I always have an input into the music with suggestions, ideas or what have you. I’d like to think I’m very good with words, so my important contribution are the lyrics. For instance ‘Birth School Work Death’ as a title is meant to make you stop & think for one, single second is that all there is to life? NO, not at all if you play life’s cards right. I enjoy coming up with slogans like ‘I Want Everything’ or the black comedy of a song such as ‘Love Is Dead’, which we originally released on Valentine’s Day. A sense of humour is always helpful in life!!

TDOA: Can you talk about your experience with the major labels and MTV. You had quite a bit of success with Sony early on, but we’ve heard horror stories from people like Dave Wakeling from The English Beat about dealing with MTV and U.S. radio during that period of time. Your thoughts?-

Chris Coyne-I’ve got no complaints whatsoever! O.K. As I said earlier Sony U.K. at the time were crap but apart from that I thought it was great we got signed to a major label. Ditto for MTV they aired our videos. What’s there to complain about? As for U.S. radio, that was always a laugh-they used to give you a form to sign saying that if you swore on air you would be fined thousands of dollars and never get played on the radio again. Ahhh happy days.

Peter Coyne-Again can’t complain at all about radio or MTV in the States. We got a lot of airplay on most stations & especially on College radio. I used to love being interviewed by Ramones’ manager Danny Fields, who I have the utmost respect for. Danny was responsible for signing the MC5 & The Stooges to Elektra records. I would do one interview with Danny & that would be syndicated to 250 stations across the States. Danny Fields knows his rock & roll inside & out & was a great champion of The Godfathers in the States. Thanks Danny, you’re a true gent!

TDOA: Can you talk about the departure of Kris Dollimore from the band? In the past he had seemed reluctant to participate in the reunion, so I wonder if he finally decided it best to part ways to start something new for himself.

Chris Coyne-Dollimore always thought he was the band. Always had his eye on the next move. I’m glad to say he got the sack from the Godfathers after his pathetic ego stepped over the line when he played his last gig with us in America. Look up the word C**T in any encyclopedia and you’ll see his picture right next to the word.

Peter Coyne- I’m not going to mince my words here, it’s obviously not my style. Kris Dollimore is a great guitarist, but a self-serving, egotistical little prick. From the moment we reformed The Godfathers in 2008 he was an absolute arsehole & nightmare to work with, always saying no instead of yes & threatening to pull out of concerts. There are a hundred more negative stories I could relate about him, but you don’t have the space!! All five of us at two separate group meetings agreed to perform 12 gigs in America in February 2009. But once the gigs were booked & confirmed & tickets had gone on sale he informed us he did not want to go to the US. So the 12 concerts were cancelled in favour of one gig in Chicago at The Metro – our first ever Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre concert outside of London. Kris Dollimore did not leave The Godfathers, I fired him by email as soon as we returned to London from Chicago & had got over the jetlag. I got immense pleasure from doing that, I can tell you. I heard he was shocked by my decision to fire him, though I can’t think why. Basically you’ve got to work with people you can trust & you can’t treat promoters, members of your audience & fellow group members with the contempt he did – he had to go & that was it. We immediately replaced Dollimore with original Sid Presley Experience guitarist Del Bartle, who is a lovely geezer, a total pleasure to work & socialize with & also a much better guitar player in my opinion. Del Bartle rocks!!

TDOA: I have always loved the Sid Presley Experience’s music, so I was excited to read that Del had replaced Kris in the band. Can you talk about his contribution to the current version of The Godfathers and how you reconnected to bring him back on board?

Chris Coyne-Del is an absolute pleasure to work and just as importantly to hang out with. Songwriting with Del is a real treat truly sympatico to borrow your phrase from earlier. We met up again after one of our Sid Presley Experience songs was used for a TV programme and asked him if he would like to join us.

Peter Coyne-The Sid Presley Experience was a fantastic rock & roll group, light years ahead of it’s time & there would certainly have been no Godfathers without The Sid Presley Experience laying down the foundations for us to follow. Del Bartle came to see The Godfathers play in 2008 & it was great meeting up & we realised there was definitely unfinished business we had to conclude. Brother Chris & I had always enjoyed a great song-writing partnership in The Sid Presley experience with Del & I am very pleased that has continued with the songs we are ALL writing together now for The Godfathers. It’s very exciting, primal rock & roll music mainly or super melodic stuff, exactly what the world needs now. I can’t wait till we’ve recorded it all & released it. Del has an amazing, edgy guitar sound – but is also a stable, calming influence in the turbulent seas of rock & roll insanity. He makes a damn good beef stew as well!!

TDOA: How involved were you personally involved in putting together the Deluxe Version of the Hit By Hit and what thoughts did you have as you went back and listened to those original masters and b-sides for the first time? Any desire to re-record or overdub anything (ala the Rolling Stones/Exile on Main St. reissue)?

Chris Coyne- Standing right behind the Engineer 100% all ears:))) The only thoughts I had was how can we make this sound better? All we had to do was beef up the bass end and everything just fell into place -No overdubs or re-recording necessary.

Peter Coyne- We were 100% totally involved in compiling that expanded reissue of our debut album ‘Hit By Hit’. We selected & paid for the 2 BBC Radio 1 sessions & chose the live tracks that make up Disc 2 & I contacted Danny Fields & got him to do the sleeve notes & we selected all the photos. Every fucking thing!! Corporate Image is our label & always has been & I have to say we did a superb job on ‘Hit By Hit’ – I’m very proud of that reissue. I think great songs from that record such as ‘I Want Everything’ & ‘This Damn Nation’ have definitely stood the test of time & if anything are even more relevant today than when we first released them. The original Vic Maile studio productions are British rock & roll music at it’s finest, the BBC sessions are also interesting to hear those songs from that period in the raw & the live tracks we chose are blistering stuff. Check out The Godfathers’ versions of Ramones’ ‘ Blitzkrieg Bop’ The Sex Pistols ‘Anarchy In The UK & Lennon’s ‘Cold Turkey’…that’s the way to do it!! Buy it, you bastards, it’s great!!!

TDOA: I wonder if you could take a moment to compare the music scene of the late 80′s to now. Are there bands that you find interesting now or do you feel like everything is a re-hash of something that’s already been done.?

Chris Coyne- The music scene now is being ruined by so called “reality” tv programmes. Every week we can watch to our horror great songs being ruined by some wannabe singer and they are always on an “incredible Journey”-I’d like to take them on a “journey” down to the end of a pier, dress them in a concrete overcoat and throw them in. And as for that robbing leech Simon Cowell, he should be put before the Court of Human Rights and tried for Crimes against Humanity. And after being found guilty be locked in a room and made to listen to one song only by one of his puppet acts over and over and over again for the rest of his life. Record companies these days do not encourage talent if your first album doesn’t hit your thrown off the label at least the Corporates back in the 80′s and 90′s were more about the music. Thank god for radio and the internet, at least the new acts can get some exposure. Couldn’t name one band in particular it wouldn’t be fair to single out one band /singer whatever I’m always keeping my ears open though.

Peter Coyne-The music industry is now SO corporate & middle class you would not believe it, it makes me so angry. I don’t think it would be possible for a real working class band like Slade or The Sex Pistols to exist nowadays& that’s a crying shame. I don’t like much new music to be honest, but I am partial to Artic Monkeys & think Plan B & their ‘Defamation of Strickland Banks’ album is great, sort of Smokey Robinson with some ‘criminal’ rap thrown in for good measure. I would also like to mention two American bands, Spoon (who covered ‘This Damn Nation’ from ‘Hit By Hit)’ & Local H (who covered ‘Birth School Work Death’).They write great songs of their own & obviously have superb taste!! Thanks, boys!! I’d love to meet up with Local H & Spoon one sunny day.

TDOA: What are your plans for the rest of 2010? Any chance we’ll see you here in America?

Peter Coyne- We have British, European & Scandinavian tours in Oct/November to promote the 25th anniversary live album/DVD we recorded at the 100 Club I mentioned earlier. We are also recording some very exciting, NEW material at the moment. which we want to release at the end of this year or beginning of 2011. We are dying to get back to America to play lengthy tours there, but we need to sort some ‘technical issues’ first. Trust me, we are dong everything in our power to make a US tour happen as soon as we are able. We LOVE rocking you Americans!! See you as soon as we can.

Read more: http://www.godfathershq.com/

On Tour:
Oct 16 2010 7De Notelaar – Youthclub Malmejo – ’40 years of R’n'R’ Malle, Belgium, BELGIUM

One Response to “History Lesson: The Godfathers”

  • Solid stuff, Have a bit of history with The Godfathers as I was one of the 1st to support their music on commercial radio or anywhere else for that matter at the late WFNX/Boston. A lot of the US commercial radio story grew out of Boston. So sorry to hear Dollimore was such a jerk as he was both extremely talented & an excellent showman.

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