Edwin: Let me ask you about Billy Childish.
I love his music, by the way. It seems to me he used you guys,
Screamin' Jay Hawkins, the Kinks, Jimmy Reed and a few others
as his shtick. How long was he, basically, doing you guys before
you found out about him?
Don: About five years, I would imagine. He went through the Milkshakes and Thee Mighty Caesars and then he put Thee Headcoats together. Then he got in touch with us.
Edwin: So he got in touch with you rather than the other way around.
Don: Yeah, he got his drummer to get in touch with us. They bought a few albums and then we became friends. He said, "Would you like to come and do an EP?" so we did that and it worked great. Then we did a couple of albums and went to Japan.
Edwin: I love the Ready Sect Go album. Was that just released on Vinyl Japan?
Don: Yeah, I think so. It was great; Vinyl Japan took us out to Japan and we had a great time.
Edwin: They've done some great albums with Billy too.
Don: He's a really, really clever guy. For a guy that's supposed to be dyslexic, he can do everything. He's a great painter wood carver
Edwin: Yeah, he's also one of those people that practically anyone can talk to. I went to see him one time in L.A. where he did two sets. I was just hanging around between sets and he came over and sat next to me and started talking to me, out of the blue. He seems very approachable.
Don: Yeah, he is. When all of the record companies have written you off over the years, he returns the complement. We got a load of Downliners tracks that we never ever got royalties for. We put it together, Billy and myself, and we put it out as The Birth of Suave. That's it and we get the money from that.
Edwin: That's one of my favorite records!
Don: And we used a photo that wasn't used from the original session. He's good, very anarchic apart from when you play. When you do a set with Billy Childish, it's exact. Every song is in the right place, the arrangements never change, which is strange, because that's the way he plays guitar. He doesn't do music; he just learns the piece he's playing by ear so you can't change it.
Edwin: Was he instrumental at all in getting you guys excited about playing again?
Don: No, we were already rolling. But what was good was that he introduced us to the garage set of fans that we weren't in touch with up to that point. We knew about the mods, but the garage is better for us. We're not so limited. When you play for the mods they want everything exactly the same as it was in the '60s, same guitar, same notes, everything. The garage people are more open about it; if the music's good, fine.
Edwin: Burning Snow is the latest release you've done. What are you doing recording wise?
Don: We have a studio album on the way. Al and Del have just put together a studio over the years so we're writing stuff and we'll be going into their studio and getting something together.
Edwin: Who's going to be put it out?
Don: I have no idea. We make our own albums and then we license them. That way we retain control and every three or four years we get the product back again. Much better.
Edwin: Was Savage Return recorded in 1991?
Don: Yeah. Burning Snow was recorded in 2000, live. The last studio album was
Keith: Dangerous Ground.
Don: Yeah, 1998. That was our last studio album.
Edwin: How often do you play in England? Once a month? Once every other month?
Don: It depends. We get a little run of a few days and then we don't do anything for a month and then we tour maybe Scandinavia and then we'll maybe come out here for a little bit. When we get back we have a sweep coming up after Christmas, we have a festival coming up in Paris. I believe the Chesterfield Kings are doing the one in Paris as well. (ed. they were one of the Las Vegas Rockaround bands).
Edwin: Do any of you have day jobs?
Don: Odds and sods. A couple of us own businesses so other people do the work. (laughs) And I fill in doing reviews, columns and features for magazines. Keith does the same.
Edwin: You guys could have been the other Mick and Keith if you hadn't changed names.
Don (Mick): (laughs) Yeah, that's right.
Keith: I thought of that about thirty years ago.
Don: If we hadn't done that, they would have been the other Mick and Keith.
Edwin: There is no other Don and Keith.
Don: No. There's a Don and Phil
Edwin: A Donnie and Marie
Keith: There's a Mick and Phil isn't there?
Don: Could be
Keith: Well, the Pretty Things.
Don: That's Dick and Phil.
Edwin: When you guys were writing songs in the'60s, was it true collaboration? I notice that both of your names are on some of the songs. Was one guy doing the music and one the lyrics or what?
Don: It was slightly that way to start with. It's not that way anymore. Sometimes we collaborate and sometimes we don't collaborate. We write our own songs and then the other one will come up with a little idea.
Keith: The thing is that we all write. Del writes and so does Paul on the various albums that we've done together through the years. We've all written together for quite a long time. The title track from the Dangerous Ground record was written by Del.
Don: And the title track from the A Light Went Out in New York album, which we did with Matthew Fisher, was written by Paul. We all get a crack at it. One of the songs I worked on for Dangerous Ground, I loved the lyrics, but the only tune I could come up with was a standard tune so I gave it to Del and he came up with something great.
Edwin: I think I read somewhere that Matthew Fisher was with you for about a month.
Don: He was with us quite a while. He left Sutchie (Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages ed.) to join us and then he left us to join the Paramounts, who by then were Procul Harum.
Edwin: There was quite a while then between the time he was with you and when they (Procul Harum ed.) had the big hit ("Whiter Shade of Pale" ed.)
Don: We weren't recording, unfortunately, at that time so we didn't get him on record in the'60s. We got him on Savage Return.
Keith: There were various other people who played with us like John Paul Jones before he went to Led Zeppelin. There were people who did back ups on various things like Marty Wilde and his wife Joyce, excellent people.
Don: From the rock and roll days.
Edwin: Is it still a kick going on stage and playing?
Don: There's no point in it if it isn't.
Keith: It's great. You should have a quick word with Del and Alan. Their original band in the '60s was the Barrier, which was a very underground outfit.
Don: They were one of the first people to do a video, or a film rather, before videos.
Edwin: Tell me about the Barrier.
Del: It started about 1966 or '67
Alan: And then went up to '70. Recording wise, we did very little and there seems to be a cult following due to the b-sides of the singles that they were pushing out for us at Phillips. They wanted this very commercial, good-looking kind of '60s band, which we were, but at the same time there was a real rock, hard sort of like Hendrix and Cream built right underneath it. The b-sides have seemed to be picked up by a very strong mod contingent that is well locked into the '60s type of material.
Edwin: did quote unquote professionals write the a-sides while you guys wrote the b-sides or what?
Alan: That's how it works. You just hit the nail on the head.
Edwin: So the fans are actually trying to capture you guys.
Alan: The Barrier, as I say, was quite a ferocious, hard hitting thing not this commercialized, goody goody sweet '60s band. The songs were very poppy on the a-sides, but the b-sides showed a different animal.
Edwin: How many singles did you guys do?
Alan: We actually did four. There's an album that has been released over in Spain called First, Last and Always, which just consists of four b-side songs. In that sort of cult following, it seems to be doing very well, but there's never ever been any sort of reforming of the Barrier. As we were then, that's how it was left in the '70s when the band split up.
Edwin: Were there other songs, like acetates or whatever, that never got released as singles?
Alan: There is one thing and I feel it's amazing that it was actually found. We recorded a festival in Belgium and it was filmed. I was amazed that it was found in the archives. It was found by Eric, the singer. I think he must have put the Sherlock Holmes hat on to discover how to get it. It was a real blast from the past to see yourself all the way back in the '60s on a live recording at a festival. We did a lot of promotional films at that time because our manager at the time was an ex BBC cameraman and he knew all the ins needed to do filming. So the a-sides had a promotional film to go with it, but the nearest one to actually get to the b-side stuff was this vintage live recording that cropped up from Eric's detection. I think it was some Dutch company, I don't know the name.
Edwin: What's the quality like? Is it TV quality?
Alan: It was a TV company that actually filmed it. It's black and white and the sound was audible. The last we heard, this mod contingent asked our permission to rescue any of the last bits of material that was recorded by the Barrier live. We told them to go for it, that it sounded fantastic. That really puts the Barrier in the picture. There is definitely a cult following of the Barrier.
Edwin: You're lucky that there is something that exists beyond the singles because that's not the case with probably 99 percent of the bands from that era.
Alan: There's another band that's actually recorded one of our b-sides and it's pretty amazing to hear it. They recorded it more or less identically, the same way, that's how intense they are about locking on to the '60s.
Edwin: Did you guys ever play the same sort of circuit as the Downliners Sect?
Alan: We did everything from ballrooms to pub gigs to TV to festivals so it was quite varied.
Edwin: Did you hook up with them later? Did you know about each other back in the late '6os?
Alan: I started working with Keith in a band called Punch and Judy. We did an album for Transatlantic records in the early '70s. Here's a weird one, I actually played with the Dowliners early on. I joined the Downliners officially in 1988. I did actually do a gig with the Downliners, it must have been some sort of fate that we were going to do something in the later years, and that must have been something like 1965. Their current drummer couldn't do it and I had to meet them outside Bethnal Green Station where they picked me up in this old van. I thought I was going to get the gig with the Downliners, but I was only about fifteen at the time. They were doing a lot of tours over in Sweden and Germany and Europe generally and there would have been complications for me to have to go to these embassies to keep track of me because I was underage. So that didn't happen, but the fate still sort of came about with me and Keith being the rhythm section in this Punch and Judy band. We also went out in various other outfits as a tight rhythm section, just bass and drums. We're pretty much telepathic, the length we've been playing out. Then Del entered the midst and me, Del and Keith went out like the three piece. We did a few dates out as the Skeleton Crew. Would you like to have a little chat with Paul?
Edwin: How long have you been part of the Sect?
Paul: '75 I think, something around that time.
Edwin: So you're kind of the late addition
Paul: (laughs) Well I guess I'm the young guy.
Edwin: If this were Star Trek, you'd be the one that wouldn't come back from the strange planet. I'm not sure if you know that scenario
Paul: I'm not a big fan of Star Trek.
Edwin: Who did you play with before the Downliners?
Paul: I used to be in the Black Cat Bones with Paul Kossoff and Simon Kirke.
Edwin: Wow! I had the Barbed Wire Sandwich album when I was a kid.
Paul: It's a bit of a collector's piece now, that one.
Edwin: Is it available on reissue CD?
Paul: I believe it is, yeah. I believe they put it out on See For Miles in England. I think it went down very well in Japan and a few other places.
Edwin: I loved that album cover.
Paul: It was designed by Derek Brooks who was the rhythm guitarist. He made this sort of model. He used to be in the Medieval Society in England, making his own bows and arrows and things like that.
Edwin: Were you a fan of the Downliners?
Paul: Yeah, I was. I think I saw the Downliners for the first time at the Suffolk Community Center.
Edwin: In your hometown?
Paul: Yeah, it was a sort of council assembly kind of place. It was very big and had lots of echo so it was hard to get the real sound, but they were very great. They were part of the Twickenham, Richmond British blues scene, the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds and all that and I listened to all that.
Edwin: Did you guys all live pretty close to each other?
Paul: We were in the same area. I started playing when I was about thirteen. We used to play charity gigs for the county council. Then I got into blues and rhythm and blues. I played with the Black cat Bones. I was the lead singer. I got them through the Marquis auditions in London and the BBC auditions and things took off for us. Blues was my great love.
Edwin: How did you end up in Downliners Sect?
Paul: Well, they had sort of gone for a great while and then sort of came to a halt. I knew Don, through another friend, and we used to go out as a duo called Loose End. We ran our own club and would have people like Elvis Costello come and play for us and Don and I would play the opening set, as it were, with our own numbers. We'd have a guest on like Costello, a mixture of blues and folk artists basically. When there was interest in reforming the Downliners, the original harmonica player they thought he had died or something. I came in as the fifth member and I've been there ever since.
Edwin: So you're playing harmonica
Paul: And singing and playing a little bit of sax. I play guitar and bass as well.
Edwin: Are you guys doing any of the Loose End stuff?
Paul" We do it now and again. It depends on what time we have. This gig here, we've got like fifty minutes so we've got to condense a lot of stuff to try and please so many people and some other people are going to say. "Why didn't you play so and so?" It's quite difficult.
Edwin: There are a whole lot of songs that I would think are essentials. That doesn't leave a whole lot of room for throwing in personal favorites. I mean there are some with the word "sect" in them that have to be included.
Paul: Well, we've included some like "Sect Appeal" and "Insceticide." We've included a couple like that. There's also numbers that we feel that people get off on, our version of "Monkey Business," "Glendora" obviously, "Little Egypt." When we were coming up this morning, someone stopped us and said, "Hey, it's great to see you guys. Can you play Cadillac?" Unfortunately, we can't get everything in in fifty minutes. We hope we've got enough balance in the set to please our people and also the people that don't know us will come to our way of digging the music.
Edwin: Very good. I want to talk to the other member now. Del, who did you play with before the Downliners Sect?
Del: I was with Alan in the Barrier.
Edwin: Did you do anything that was recording before the Barrier, or was that your introduction to rock and roll?
Del: I was with a couple other bands before that. We didn't do any recording, but I was with a band called San Serif and a couple other little bands that weren't doing anything, but the Barrier was the first band where I was actually recording.
Edwin: What happened to the Barrier? Why did you guys break up?
Del: We kind of folded up when the singer started getting more into film. Our manager at the time used to make films of bands. He used to do bands like Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich and so the lead singer got into working with him more on the film side and so the band kind of folded up at that point. We got another band together briefly called Slam Hefty, but we didn't record and that was kind of the end of the Barrier. That was the end of '69, beginning of '70.
Edwin: Did you and Alan come to the Downliners as a package deal?
Del: Well, we'd kept in touch and Alan had got to know Keith. We put together a band called Skeleton Crew, me Del and Keith and then this opportunity with the Downliners came up.
Edwin: When was that.
Del: '89, I think. The first album we did was Savage Return.
Edwin: Do you have a company you're running from over here or are you not one of those guys?
Del: I'm not one of those guys.
Edwin: Do you have a day job or is this enough?
Del: I don't make enough. I have a building company gig going. Bits and pieces.
(After this exchange, there was general agreement that all topics had been covered reasonably well.)