Vic Godard and Subway Sect performing in Dundee in March 2011

One of my favourite performances last year was the one delivered by Vic Godard and Subway Sect at Dexter’s in Dundee last March as promoted by Something Going On. As you may know, Vic and the Sect are returning to Scotland this month and their three date tour takes in another date in Dundee – this time at Beat Generator Live! on SUnday 25th March.

Ahead of that show Andy Wood both shares his memories of Vic and the Sect and provides the first part of a two part interview with the man himself.

It’s a common enough axiom as to have a ring of truth in it – never meet your heroes, they’ll always disappoint you. Last March I put on one of my favourite artists ever, Vic Godard & Subway Sect. I’d loved Vic’s music since I first heard ‘Ambition’ on an NME compilation Pogo-A-Gogo and tracked down as much stuff as I could which was sometimes quite difficult as albums had gone out of print. It’s hard to believe that could happen in an era when new re-issues appear on a weekly basis but that’s the way it was.

I’d seek to make new converts to Vic and eagerly track down information and play him to anyone who’d listen. It was a kind of ritual when my friend Chris Fox (La Terrasse) would visit my house that at some point the Vic Godard vinyl would be dragged out and ceremoniously played. Chris has probably now seen Vic live more times than me, such was the effect of the wonderful music contained on these albums.

In the weeks leading up to the gig I got more than a little nervous. What if he turned out to be a pain in the backside, a jaded veteran of the punk wars and the music industry in general, bitterly be-moaning his lot and whining about the temperature of the beer on his rider. Thankfully, nothing could be further from the truth.

The single-minded individual, described by Edwyn Collins as ‘the finest composer of his generation’, who once declared Subway Sect were out to destroy rock ‘n’ roll wasn’t about to start exhibiting traits of rock ‘n’ roll clichés. He seemed genuinely happy to be back in Dundee after an incredibly long absence and more excited by the fact I’d provided tea-making facilities which he made extensive use of throughout the evening.

Throughout the evening he was a chatty, friendly guy and I remember wishing I could stop being the promoter and just sit and share a beer or brew with him and listen to his highly entertaining tales of 30 odd years of rock ‘n’ roll. As well as being a gifted songwriter and performer Vic possibly is one of the best raconteurs I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, and a lovely person.

Despite a less than packed room Vic Godard & Subway Sect played an extended, high energy set past the curfew and well past any set length they had played on the previous nights in Glasgow and Edinburgh in front of an enthusiastic and rapt audience, many of whom hadn’t even been born when Subway Sect were first setting out on tour with The Clash and The Slits. The set was a mix of songs from their then current album, We Come As Aliens, and highlights from a fantastic back catalogue, interspersed with Vic’s witty between song banter. Old favourites and newer songs were equally were received and we were even treated to an excellent new song.

I sometimes find my mind wandering or getting restless during some gigs but on this cold night in Dundee I never wanted the performance to end. Without exaggeration or hyperbole it was simply one of the best gigs I’d ever seen or been involved in promoting. It was, put simply, something pretty damn special. I may have ended the night a bit out of pocket but really it was worth it.

So when I heard Vic Godard & Subway Sect were returning for more dates in Scotland I barely hesitated before asking, would they come back to Dundee. Thankfully they agreed. I’d recommend with all my heart that you get to see them very soon if you haven’t already. If you’ve had the privilege of witnessing Vic Godard & Subway Sect then I’m probably already preaching to the converted.

I carried out two interviews via email with Vic Godard in the run-up to this gig, which he was kind enough to take time to answer.

AW – 2011 appears to have been a very productive year for you musically. How do you feel about that and what were the highlights of the year for you?

VG – A great year for gigs, with 27 altogether. The highlights were the two recording sessions, first in Brussels with Georgio ’The Dove’ Valentino, and then in Vic, Catalonia where I did my first Catalan vocals, with local group Mates Mates. We also did one in English and another with both languages.

The gigs I remember most were the Dundee one, the Edinburgh Festival appearance with The Sexual Objects, the gig at Sheffield as a three piece, the Liverpool gig with Joe McKechnie of The Passage on drums [having only met us an hour before the soundcheck] and finally the first appearance of the Sect with Paul Cook and Myers.

AW – What made the Dundee show so memorable?

VG – It was because of the circumstances leading up to it with our then drummer [now guitarist] almost missing it due to problems on the line between Edinburgh and Dundee.

AW – When I interviewed you last year prior to your Scottish dates I asked you if there were any other Scottish musicians or artists that you would like to work with in the aftermath of your collaboration with Irvine Welsh for the musical Blackpool. At the time you said Davy Henderson and that happened in the summer. Could you tell me a bit about that collaboration, how it came about and if there are any plans to rekindle it?

VG – Yes we do plan to rekindle it asap. The set list was totally different to what the Sect play, and I always enjoy it when that happens. My favourite with them was the reworking of Parallel Lines with a new melody.

AW – How did last summers collaboration with The Sexual Objects come about? You’ve said that you’d love to rekindle that. Any plans to take that collaboration into the recording studio?

VG – It came about via the tragic death of Paul Reekie who was keen on both of our  sounds, and one day I’m sure we can do a record together.

AW – You’ve played in Europe a fair bit in recent years. How are you received there? Does it differ from the U.K. much?

VG – We always get a full house wherever we have gone in Europe, which is not always the case here in England.

AW – Given that the Sex Pistols were a big influence on the Subway Sect first getting together, how does it feel having Paul Cook drumming for Subway Sect?

VG – Totally different Sect with Paul in it as his standards are higher than ours so he is dragging us up by our boot laces.

AW – How did he come to join the band? I know he played on a number of the songs on We Come As Aliens when Gary Ainge was unable to play which seems incredibly fortuitous.

VG – I asked him to join at the time of the album but he was unconvinced until fellow ex-Professional Myers joined.

AW – The reviews and response to We Come As Aliens were really enthusiastic and supportive. Did this translate into increased sales of the album and interest in the band or is it really difficult to sell records these days without a massive profile? Have their been any record labels sniffing around and would that be something you’d consider?

VG – The record has done amazingly well for us and has helped raise the Sect’s profile. The website has made a big difference as well thanks to Andrew Shaw, who created it, he has enabled us to sell through the website. I think our ethos is alien to the mainstream industry so we’ve never had a lot of interest there. We would consider anything but I am too much of a control freak for most, although I do get quite a lot of interest about releasing old material including an American label Slumberland Records who want to do an early years vinyl. ‘Better Not Turn On’ is also coming out as 7” later in the year through Georgio.

AW – I previously described a number of the songs on We Come As Aliens (and others did so more articulately than me) as a ‘state of the nation address or call to arms’ and, listening to it now it seems pretty prophetic. I enjoy the way you talk about things in a personal way – for example, your life in the Post Office – yet make it relate to the wider world. Previously you’ve said that the songs just come to you in terms of the music and ideas but do you ever have deliberate themes in mind when writing or editing the lyrics?

VG – I usually have things enter my mind after reading something, for instance ‘If We’d’ve’ was written after reading about a man from Isleworth who beheaded Maggie T’s statue destined for 10 Downing Street.

More from Andy and Vic here.

Vic Godard and Subway Sect will be performing three gigs in the Scotland towards the end of the month:

Friday 23rd March – The Accies Club, Glasgow (with the Sexual Objects) – Tickets £10 from Tickets Scotland and Monorail Records.

Saturday 24th March – The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh (with the Sexual Objects) Tickets from Tickets Scotland, Ripping Records and the Voodoo Lounge and online here. On Facebook.

Sunday 25th March – Beat Generator Live!, Dundee (with Vladimir, Edinburgh School for the Deaf and The Creeping Ivies) – Tickets £8 advance (£10 door) from Groucho’s or online here. On Facebook.

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