CLOSE LOBSTERS’ FIRST RELEASES WERE IN 1986: A TRACK ON THE NME’S C86 COMPILATION AND THE SINGLE GOING TO HEAVEN TO SEE IF IT RAINS.
Acclaimed album FOXHEADS STALK THIS LAND – plus powerful single LET’S MAKE SOME PLANS – followed in 1987, before a second album and career-changing tour of America two years later. The Scottish band’s contribution to SCARED TO GET HAPPY is a previously unreleased demo of DON’T WORRY and, in this interview with The Mouth Magazine, frontman Andrew Burnett discusses the song. He also reveals a little of the band’s early years as part of Paisley’s ‘Groucho-Marxist’ music scene, and offers explanation for Close Lobster’s extended hiatus.
… GOOD TO SEE CLOSE LOBSTERS ON SCARED TO GET HAPPY…
Yes. I like the way the compilation takes a very broad canvas, and I’m really glad we’re on there.
THE TRACK IS A PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED DEMO OF DON’T WORRY. WAS IT YOUR CHOICE TO OFFER THIS RATHER THAN, SAY, ONE OF YOUR SINGLES?
It was me personally who decided upon this track. The rationale is informed by the fact that it was our very first recording and, for me, it captures an approach and sentiment that was in some senses subsequently lost. It’s a very rough recording of a basic demo in a studio in Maryhill Glasgow that may or may not still be there. The track was available for a while on myspace and I was amazed at the amount of interest and compliments it generated. It features a kind of duet style of vocal that nods in the direction of The Only Ones, who were a huge influence on the group in the early days. We used to do a memorable – for us at least! – cover of the classic ANOTHER GIRL, ANOTHER PLANET to open our sets back then. The backing vocals by Anne are beautiful. We recorded another version of this track later on, which features on our singles collection FOREVER UNTIL VICTORY.
HOW DID CLOSE LOBSTERS FIRST COME TOGETHER – WHAT STUFF WAS IT THAT INSPIRED YOU TO MAKE MUSIC?
From the moment I put a poster of Marc Bolan on my wall and my mum took me to the local record shop to buy his new single CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION the group were destined to come together. There is a line of influence that flows through the VU, Television, Punk Rock and the Sound of Young Scotland that drew us irretrievably together as a group. We essentially ‘graduated’ from the situationist-inspired ‘Groucho-Marxist’ punk scene in Paisley in the 1970s and 1980s, and took it from there.
YOUR FIRST RELEASE WAS A TRACK ON THE NME’s C86. WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT THAT NOW – DID C86 BECOME A BIT OF A MILLSTONE?
In some respects, yes – but the cost of acclaim is to be misunderstood, as Elvis Presley once put it… albeit on a much grander scale. Who are we to worry?! The song itself – FIRESTATION TOWERS – is named after a disused firestation building in Paisley round the back from where I lived and remains to this day empty and neglected – a sad and stark reminder of the vandalisation and desecration of Paisley by the dull political despotism of modernist town planners in the 1960s. I was also a little obsessed with the characters of Blanche Dubois and Travis Bickle at the time, and that combination features in the song. A potent /explosive mix! Appropriate for a firestation perhaps… We brought out a limited edition single in 2012 to coincide with the Berlin popfest of that year, on Firestation Records of Berlin.
1987 SINGLE LET’S MAKE SOME PLANS IS, I THINK, ONE OF THE FINEST OF ITS ERA – A GREAT SONG. WERE YOU AWARE YOU’D CREATED SOME MAGIC, THERE?
I recently remarked at the NYC Popfest in June on introducing the song to the audience that it is – to date – our sole chart hit! The video is pretty good as well. I think you hit the nail on the head there – in the sense that we were unaware that we had created some magic (as you put it) with that track. Thanks for the compliment. It’s very kind of you. I’ve always relied upon the kindness of strangers.
THE WEDDING PRESENT COVERED IT DURING THE HIT PARADE, IN 1992…
Yes, they did. We were flattered and delighted with The Wedding Present’s version. We played a number of support slots on tours with The Wedding Present, and had some memorable times.
YOUR DEBUT ALBUM, FOXHEADS STALK THIS LAND… WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER OF THE WRITING AND RECORDING OF IT?
The album was recorded in Leamington Spa, in 1987. The group were really thrilled to do it. Producer John Rivers, and his assistant Francesco, did a wonderful job of bringing out features of the songs that we were barely aware of. There’ve been a range of excellent reviews of it. Amongst others in Rolling Stone, Sounds and, recently, again in Uncut magazine. It’s something we remain very proud of.
YOU WENT ON A LONG TOUR OF THE USA IN 1989… AFTER WHICH RESEARCH BECOMES QUITE DIFFICULT…
I consider it one of key responsibilities of ‘pop stars’ to be crazy and pretentious as fuck. In this spirit, to quote the Bible, a prophet is not without honour except at home.
I CAN’T WORK OUT IF THE BAND SPLIT OR ‘DISAPPEARED’, THOUGH…
We love America and – with a nod to multiverse theory – perhaps (should have) stayed there in 1989! An anti-Sirocco ill-wind from all points descended on us on our return. It made it very difficult for us to continue. It was never our intention to quit or quit music. Survival demanded a hiatus. We survived…
… AND PLAYED IN AMERICA EARLIER THIS YEAR…
We played two tours of the US in the late 1980s and, yes, returned again in 2013 to play a one off show at the NYC Popfest earlier this year. We very much intend to return to play NYC in the near future. Perhaps to launch the new single when it emerges. That’s the plan. From such acorns do great oaks grow.
THE SLEEVE NOTES FOR THE CLOSE LOBSTERS ‘BEST OF’ COMPILATION, FOREVER UNTIL VICTORY, ARE PRETTY ENTERTAINING. RATHER… ‘COSMIC’…
I wrote them. And wrote all of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Incidentally, one of my solo underground house offshoots is entitled Cosmic War. Check it out at Soundcloud. As was remarked recently when it was played it on a radio show in NYC, its ‘weird as fuck’ for the CLs.
DO YOU LOOK BACK WITH PRIDE AT WHAT YOU ACHIEVED?
Yes, for sure. However, we’re looking forward to releasing a devastatingly good new Close Lobsters single – hopefully this year… The titles of the single shift incessantly – for the moment it’ll be a double a-side, featuring; New York City and Space (Chicago Illinois) / Nitwit (Light the Lamp of Reason and Shine it on the Maladies of the Soul). We’re hoping to release this ‘devastatingly good’ new single on a US record label of some repute. More details to follow! That’s the focus now. AVANTI! is the watchword…
FINALLY, WHAT DOES INDEPENDENT MUSIC MEAN TO YOU?
It’s always been very important to me. It means being artistically free and able to reflect with some control on the inevitable commodification process in the music industry. Unfortunately, as a young group we became engulfed and constrained by these very pitfalls – the avoidance of which inspired us to make music in the first place. Sadly, the vultures descended on the scene quite quickly and despite donning the garb of independent thinking were actually worse than the majors, in some respects. We are, of course, not alone in this experience. Oscar Wilde once remarked on the killing of the very thing one loves – or words to that effect – which resonates quite well, here. Nowadays it is purely art…. (unless the single takes off).