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John Robb - Punk's Not Political

by Music Tech Fest | MTF Podcast

John Robb is a journalist, author, broadcaster and musician. He’s the frontman for punk band Goldblade and has a lot to say about a lot of things: music, technology, Britain, punk, genre, technology, architecture, the 5th century sacking of Rome by a Germanic tribe, and the inclusive nature of music and Manchester.

If you’re one of those people that plays podcasts at double speed, good luck with this one.

AI Transcription

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

people, music, band, punk, culture, play, beatles, hear, writers, songs, fascinated, write, pop culture, life, thinking, world, punk rock, records, person, interested

SPEAKERS

Andrew Dubber, John Robb

 

Andrew Dubber 

Hi, I’m Dubber. I’m the director of Music Tech Fest, and this is the MTF podcast. John Robb is variously described as an author, music journalists, singer commentator, he famously formed the membranes who were generally regarded as the loudest band ever. Some say the loudest sound ever. turns up on television on a fairly regular basis, he founded an ad. It’s the website louder than war. And he’s also the front man for punk band Goldblade. He knows an awful lot about music, and in short, he’s seen a lot of changes in the music industry and all of the media and technology around the music industry. And to put it mildly, he has some thoughts about things. I turned on the John Robb firehose, at XpoNorth in Inverness. Buckle up. There was a list of titles on the projector behind you when you were doing it, guys. I never saw any of them. Author, journalist, broadcaster, musician, and it was this is a big long list. How do you describe what you do?

 

John Robb 

Well, I’m actually really musician. I mean, when I started to be in a band to make music and play music, I still do that to this day. But what I found is and if you if you’re really into music, you can do all the other things anyway. I mean, if you’re talking about music, or talking about music, or that far apart, broadcasting your love of music and turning people onto things describing stories saying how things happened, be fascinated in all aspects of the soul. 360 a pop culture, they’re all the same thing. There’s no differences that you either play or talk about. So to me seemed perfectly natural to all of them. When I started doing it in the 80s you know, becoming a writer as well as the musician before was really art. But now it’s completely normal. You know, half the people six musical walks and bands, pick up things unusual for a person who plays needs to be broadcast or whatever now, but for a long time it was looked on as being a bit of room that’s a bit weird what you do not for your different churches. Yes, there seems to be very very far apart, but now everything’s blurred together because maybe the internet’s done that because the internet is a media that nobody quite understands what it is. Is it writing is it filming? Is it playing music? Why can’t it just be all of them at the same time? There’s the the famous i think is

 

Andrew Dubber 

Laurie Anderson line about writing about music is like dancing about architecture as Frank Zappa was it Frank Zappa? Yeah okay, I heard that story wrong by

 

John Robb 

by I don’t agree with them. I don’t think writing about music’s very difficult, you know, because you don’t describe the pieces of sound describing what they feel like, because Frank Zappa was technically very, very gifted, but he never made any music that felt of any feeling in it. So you probably find it very difficult to understand things like feeling and empathy, wherever or community and I think those things are quite important when you write about music. What does it make you feel I personally What do you make everyone else in room feel like personally, the sound of it, decisive it whatever, even when I was saying before that what people are wearing all those kind of aspects are really important in musical culture, that you’re just somebody plays guitar all day long, you put it out Don’t stand any of those things. Do

 

Andrew Dubber 

you make a distinction between musical culture and culture?

 

John Robb 

No, I think they’re all they’re all part and parcel to me music is the glue that holds all kind of interesting culture together. You know, so it’s, I mean, you could argue the same painting and theatre but I’m biassed some heavily involved in music. So I find music is a lot of time is quite classless it can just it can permeate any aspect of society and culture. So like he could be incredibly wealthy snob and you’ll hear a song affecting the same way someone’s got nothing, you know, and that’s kind of that law, that is the power of music. It’s if you just come seeping into this room now you’re actually gonna turn that off or it could be go on so and transpired you know, the Pied Piper of Hamelin or something

 

Andrew Dubber 

one tenant or tenant out. Volume is

 

John Robb 

a really interesting point. Interesting. I don’t want you list of things. Unless I’m recording or playing. I don’t listen to stuff that is that loud. You know, I don’t think volume is the best effect. You can play music or obviously needed to a certain volume, but halfway up so you get the punch. Are they being put on for classes, certain areas that some people do go what what is the point?

 

Andrew Dubber 

Yeah, for sure.

 

John Robb 

So we need to we don’t need to play Motorhead full blast these days. Right, great songs. Absolutely.

 

Andrew Dubber 

So you’re associated with a particular kind of music, though, more or less or at least a particular territory of music? Is that sort of these are the sort of cultural familiarities or is it because you know, you write what you know, or is it just sort of this is my lived experiences?

 

John Robb 

I think I think sort of grew up in a time and a lot of people in my world are so heavily defined by punk rock you know, it did change our lives. But it wasn’t all that I ever listened to you know, I mean, to this day, listen to lots of different types of music. Classical musical is to Indian music is music is like an adventure in it. There’s a lot of stuff I really like in punk, and I’ll list upon Now then, but they’ll spend all day in that rabbit hole. I mean, I do deliberately not listen to things I’ve listened to a lot you know, but every now and then like like saying like the cure before Glastonbury came on is slightly remind me how much I love that band. But there are no the book that’s probably because they play with the best gigs I’ve ever seen in my life and I’ve seen a lot of gigs. So Do you get taken back to that point of your own sort of creation, but I don’t wallow in it for weeks on end? Or is it I mean, the advantage of being associated certain type scene is that people will expect you to talk about it in places. The disadvantage is that you’re trapped in a little cage on here. So, I don’t want to be defined by somebody else’s movements because punk goes as much as we were part of punk. It was definitely 50 people in London, they’re seen and all those people are they’re all my friends and things. But I don’t want someone who’s three years older than me who does something nice 76 to find what I think my life my culture, I have my own definition. Am I a grown up in Blackpool was on the fringes of things, I might not be in the centre of it. But I’ve got a very, very strong sense of aesthetic and I know what I like, I know what I don’t like, I don’t need somebody telling me you shouldn’t do this because it doesn’t fit into my idea of what punk is I go, I don’t care. You know, I don’t care what punk is I’m not pulling God be something else. You know, I don’t I don’t need to be in the gang. I mean, I’m very much an individual person. I mean, there’s certain aspects of I really like but doesn’t mean I’ve got to be tied down the other aspects I’m not interested in Well, the

 

Andrew Dubber 

idea of punk has become very kind of mythical and almost commoditize in terms of this is sort of this is what it stands for us as the DIY ethic. This is the you know, the sort of three chords on a guitar and away you go you form a bass that

 

John Robb 

stands for so many opposite things. You know, for some people, it was a very political movement some people it wasn’t it for some people, what about the Ramones and but two two thirds out bound the three quarters of that band will be voting for Donald Trump, are those still alive? I mean, it’s, it wasn’t quite as Super right on movement that people think you know. And then of course, the class where I had sort of a vague sort of left wing politic. But the Sex Pistols didn’t really sing political songs. You know, their songs are more about a personal psychodrama, or John Lydon, which makes it mostly fascinating is a psychotic it’s also a nervous breakdown. We list them in a way that could be political. It’s not part of political. It’s not Manifesto, political but reflects a feeling of the time felt Britain felt claustrophobic. It felt like it was gonna blow up any minutes. And this is what it feels like. Now, oddly, you know, it’s that same kind of feeling. It’s a very claustrophobic place. There’s no space in Britain. Everybody is on top of everybody else. And everybody’s always really angry about something. Like Brexit, no one cared about that breaks five years ago, you say to the same people, do you want to be in around Europe and put your monitor I don’t care. But now it’s become this life defining issue is split the country up forever, you know, 100 years time, the country will still be split over it. You know, it’s two different Britons now trying to squash into one island. And that’s that’s about punk. Punk. kind of caught that feeling. But an older version of you know, that very claustrophobic and pissed off in this, or Britain. But I learned how to define myself, I defined myself more as a post punk person. I’m part of that generation totally captivated by punk, tried to do their version of it and came up completely wrong and different. That’s what post punk was. We never learned to play music properly. The original punk bands, they don’t the only covers, they learn to play properly. They wrote verse, chorus, verse chorus, they’ll great bounce. I love that music. But then I’m fascinated. And it’s a piece that came afterwards could just play one riff on the bass for 10 minutes. And just about trying to make a verse in the chorus, I have no idea how to do it. But somehow making that into music. And I’ve always been really interested that to this day, I’ve been playing music for 40 odd years, I still can’t play a colour version. I just made music in my own language. You know, that was the definition of post punk really well, for me, I missed punk I reckon by about two years and 12,000 miles of growing up on the other side of the planet. But also it was everybody’s older brother who had the punk records. But what I appreciated from punk was this idea that nobody should feel like they shouldn’t be allowed to play music. And I think that that then sort of all the lessons of punk this idea that music is something that everybody can kind of participate in. I think it’s a really interesting way everyone participates in it, but I don’t want to listen to it all. Now, of course, I think it’s brilliant if you can find something, when you play music, your friends, and is a brilliant, it’s a brilliant bonding thing. And it’s an incredible feeling. But please don’t send your very average demo tape to every single person on the planet. You know what, not not because of me, but you in the way of the genuine silence, the sort they’re probably a bit more timid, disappear in the background, somehow. I want to hear those people as a writer to this day, is that the avalanche information just gets bigger and bigger and bigger. Although I

 

Andrew Dubber 

would argue that that as a writer about music, it’s probably your job to act as my filter.

 

John Robb 

I would love to there’s 20 bands in the world. Well, there’s 20 thousands. You know, you have to go through 18,000 not bound bands, you know that actually, okay, six out of 10 bounce. But I want to hear the genius. I want to hear the people change the culture, the shapeshifters you know, how do you find those people? It’s a question. I do actually go out and try and try and find the button when you got all the people should be doing as a hobby in the way not it’s a mountain to climb. Yeah, but I’m torn between the idea that the growing up in public is a great thing and between the idea that you know maybe if you’re not getting millions of followers on on, on Facebook or whatever The first question you should ask yourself is, is my music any good? We’ll see the problem is says some of the most important groups of all time we’ve had 25 followers on Facebook have so there’s maybe I mean, I would love that I probably love that band or something the other person A lot of them ended up being in the biggest band in the world you know, it’s a way that you know the sentences exaggerated version but like YouTube probably took about 60 70% their music of Joy Division Didn’t they enjoy division call them now because your division obviously if incurs costs somehow come back to life, we’ll be playing the same arenas as you two. But the time division we’re playing to 60 people around Britain and YouTube on the fast track to like stadiums and that’s an example of like something that wouldn’t have been huge at that time been enormously influential. You know, we can be other way around Of course, you could be the beat the Beatles the most influential on the all time and the biggest band of all time, aren’t they? So it’s been influential isn’t necessarily a snob thing. Oh, you never heard of that. But I have right so you know, a lot of people out in DC can’t be but sometimes the biggest band the world can be the best band in the world because you’ve been quite a champion of some of the biggest bands on the planet too. Yeah, I’m not musical snob I have no filter I just like what I like I don’t care if it’s on call I mean we’re talking about ABBA a minute ago and ABBA are actually quite cool. So right now but for years I love that but not not the album’s because a bit more cabaret. For some of the singles are fantastic emotional piece of work you know, really brilliant tunes and and just great, really great songs, Aren’t they the way they did that? But the same time I can listen to swans, you know, we’re actually more popular now. But I mean, this is a completely This is a really heavy noise or total pop. I just see all his music I don’t. I don’t filter all out thinking about not tell people like that. Because you might laugh at me. I don’t really care what you think my musical tastes. I don’t care what your listeners think. I don’t care if you think I’m trying to be cool or uncool or anything. I like what I like and I doesn’t get old wrangle the time to waste listen to stuff without like,

 

Andrew Dubber 

I find it really interesting that you said that one of your favourite gigs of all time was one that has just happened. And there’s not something that sort of nostalgic about from 30 or 40 years ago, even though it’s kind of like a heritage act. But what is that relationship between nostalgia and music taste

 

John Robb 

was I understand nostalgia, I think there’s a moment to talk about as a friend of mine the other day and I was saying to the way song live forever, is a great song actually listen to this great this is really uncool to talk about Oasis and say actually, they have some great moments, live forever is, to me is very similar to anarchy in the UK. They’re neither of political songs. Anarchy in the UK is not about anarchy, it’s about when you’re 16. And you’re and you’re totally free for you stay up for three nights, you do crazy stuff utilising my drugs, you, you come off really nice girls and all that it’s the best days of your life, you know, you know, at the time, don’t you know that one day, this is gonna stop, you’re gonna have to grow up and be responsible, a bit bored live in the suburbs. And always in the back your mind is that little nibble that three months, maybe if you’re lucky, three years total freedom when you were gonna live forever, or your wife was anarchy in the UK. So when those grids reform, you go back to get that two hours, every two hours, you got your same bunch of mates you’re hung out with and they’re all older dudes. Now, you go down to this gig. And you go back some over time, when you felt so alive and so free. To me some of the greatest political music ever written, creates a space for that to happening isn’t that the most powerful political statement can make politics and music and it’s great. I mean, I’m coming left leaning person. I don’t want manifestos from balance. I want people to say, you are totally free. This is the moment of time when this you know you’ll never feel as good as this. That’s a powerful political state. Because really, in a perfect world, everybody should feel like that all the time, shouldn’t they? I mean, it’s important to have responsibilities. Of course it is, but have that feeling that euphoric feeling that life is really fucking good. You know, and you could do what you like. And it’s a brilliant theory. That’s the power of great music. And that’s the power of nostalgia because it takes people back to them over time. And that’s why I can never sneer at it because I am really lucky, because I just carried on. So at that point in time, when you had to settle down, or be responsible. I just went past that and just just carried on. I still do the same as they were 16 I write about music, I play music. Sometimes it’s a struggle. Sometimes it isn’t. But I am in a position where I am permitting in anarchy in the UK. It’s interesting, I totally get the whole thing about the greatest music of your life is whatever you’re listening to. It’s sort of 1516 years old, but I cannot personally think of anything worse than going back to being 16 years old again. No, no, but but a point in time when you were 16. You had that freedom to do what you wanted. Yeah, anyone but your mum would maybe tell you off or whatever. But your mom, you didn’t have to bother about having a house or a mortgage. You just went back to your dad’s house and just went up to your room wherever. That moment in time when the first time the culture hits you fall on the face. It’s an amazing feeling. And it’s the music sounds amazing. Everything looks amazing. I don’t want to be I don’t want to I’m not saying I want to be in that point in time. I don’t want to be in the punk rock revolution the whole of my life. I’m here now I’m that’s why I killed the day yesterday. been around for years, but they played like a fresh band, you know, so I don’t think music gets any better or worse because he’s 41 minutes old or 41 years old, you know if he’s great is great. At the same time. On the same day I saw Fontaine’s DC rising band from Dublin to sort of top 10 album. Four years ago when they were about 17. I was gonna put the record out I was on them right from the start first person outside the band. It was a really good, it’s a personal victory to see them being so massive now. They’re in a sense, brand new band. Really, really exciting news. That’s great. And the cure later on. It doesn’t matter. I mean, that’s crazy man Glastonbury. You go see Janet Jackson and go wild to me. Watching Janet Jackson’s like a new brand. And I never go to gigs either. Normally, while I will go watch Janet Jackson over go and see a band ocsea monster in the club anyway, so and so. So as a music I’m interested in all aspects of music, whether or not there’s always something I was interested in. Yeah, do you make a big deal of the connection between music and technology like that the things that people are playing and how they’re recording it. And what that means music driven by lots of things is always by surrounding culture bands are influenced by films, clothes, drugs, technology challenges. So key. Let’s think about that. From a golf book on the prime drivers of golfers new music technology came in drum machines were very key in golf, you know, I mean, suicide to use a drum machine in the 70s. But that was like, wow, I mean, serious, our favourite bands. But nobody ever heard drum machine in something that changed our sound. So when basses, Mercedes enjoy machines, it was quite an interesting move. But there’s always new guitar pedals coming in new ways of recording, the idea that you can start to use the early days of technology, digital technology to make a studio into an instrument as well as a lot easier. Martin Hannett was very key to this inventing different types of reverbs, new reverbs This is all the technology is shaping the way music is made, and shaping the possibilities of music in good ways and bad ways as well. But now, I mean, I was thinking about five years ago, new iPhone was like a Beatle singles in the 60s, you could actually make a very good argument that the 60s are punctuated by Beatles singles. So when the Beatles brought a single out, you can imagine any school everyone would go, have you heard the new Beatles single, it was a cultural moment, the way you liked them, right? You had to go back and listen to that, because that’s what they did what they up to now, Apple had that the iPhones for a certain amount of time, every new iPhone was on the news. You know, it’s in a way an iPhone was a seven inch single, you know, that’s a modern technology version of pop culture, pop cultural moments, what your phone was like, and that show the technology become pop culture in a way. But it feeds back into pop culture, because loads of people are in my last album, around half it on the iPhone in GarageBand, headphones on some trains and planes, and then transpose it back into guitar, drums, bass, you know, so the technology is changing where you can write because you never forget an idea because you just get your phone out and write your own. Yeah. And then you start to write classical music, because you can write it on your phone, I can’t play a violin, but I can I can, I can actually play it on an iPhone by moving my fingers around. So I’ve written and sort of neoclassical tracks for other people. just basic, I can do my iPod and iPhone, just two fingers playing complex string parts. So technology changes way people can make music, great music, the way you can propagate music move around the world, you know, Spotify, you know, stuff online, you know, and YouTube, and so people in America can hear your music, you don’t have to send an albums if you couldn’t afford to do anymore. You just send them files, or if you just said, check out our Spotify page. So it’s making massive, I mean, Internet’s brilliant, and it’s also a total disaster in it. I mean, it’s great way spreading cold culture around but it’s also a very good way for neo nazis spread their culture around. It’s also a very good way to polarise every single argument on this planet. Whereas 20 years ago, people sitting poor but it argued that go home is made but now people goes black and it’s white. That’s Yes, your Twitter or Facebook debate in it. I don’t agree with you. I agree. You even less bah bah, bah, bah, bah. I’ll say one thing you are guarantee you are never seen on Facebook. Somebody will say, Oh, yes, you have a point I’ve just changed my mind was why I like podcasts so much because it’s dialogue and you get people each week coming back and having longer conversations as long form journalism online as not just tweets and long form journalism. I like long articles. I mean, write laws calls. I mean, there’s a power and a skill to write the short things apparent skill, too. If you want to do interviews with people in the last about an hour we filmed them, but we always try and dig out one killer quote, you know, sums the whole thing up and it’s difficult in it because it’s hard to get the one thing that scapulae saw the whole form but there is there’s definitely space on the internet for long form. Not everybody’s always Zippy and bored and flicking from one thing to another. Yeah,

 

Andrew Dubber 

yeah. When did the light bulb go on for you? I mean, I’m imagine you being super into music when you’re 16. But it was at 10 was it five was it you know?

 

John Robb 

Yeah, always my favourite questions. I always ask people that because there’s an awful moment and I put out a few I remember, Christmas, nice, empty one, the BBC and these students There shall be also because he was very smart and I should make everything they did tie into Christmas so they always put a single out just before Christmas the

 

Andrew Dubber 

Christmas messages yeah man club records

 

John Robb 

those records are really psychedelic by 66 that is a pretty weird cut up stuff going on. So every Christmas a BBC show Beatles film so we watch our days night again that looks amazing. That’s the life you want to lead. I was about 10 then so who is this band? I wonder I wonder what they’re doing next I no idea that already split up. Because Because no internet and you’re in a bubble we’re there. And then we start watching more this stuff. What is it so watching top the Pops is a programme loads of pop bands. It was amazing. Because punk culture was not like it isn’t in a pocket. It’s everywhere now and every newspaper, every magazine, every TV programme, and other don’t have TV programmes specifically about music music is in every programme so pop culture is everywhere. Nowhere all at once. But then Southern pops 20 million views are watching it and he’s Columbia rock you know? Yeah, yeah, of course. I’m a Bowie bowl of the old glam rock you know I love Sweet and Mud and Slade and Sparks and Wizzard are all about quite often you you’re not that cool tonight but make great records it’s all singles I didn’t even know they were put albums out a lot of them didn’t put out very good albums either. You know the singles culture is amazing

 

Andrew Dubber 

Slade were quite good at Christmas, too, weren’t they.

 

John Robb 

Oh yeah, well that would that the Slade’s model was based on the Beatles on it has its Slade’s basically the Beatles if John Lennon hadn’t sort of gone disappeared with Yoko and gone all soppy you know in may not hold on to sing like John Lennon he’s got a really really great voice hasn’t he? so that I think for a lot of us that’s what the Beatles find out the Beatles have gone and we all like john lennon we thought Slade will do because that’s what the Beatles would sound like in our head Brummie Beatles these are all the same effects add a little bit slap back on the piano and he’s a piano and a great songwriter. I know not the whole rewatch

 

Andrew Dubber 

fantastic so you’re watching TV.

 

John Robb 

glam rock.

 

Andrew Dubber 

Okay, but just disliking the music automatically make you interested in the biographies

 

John Robb 

and know why no interested people really were cool because then you can find out about them and even though people there’s a few books I remember somebody got a book on the Beatles in about 76 in amazing and somebody written a book or a band but I now is like 3000 books on the Beatles I mean everything’s been written about it’s insane but I know that sounds by the newspapers at the same time because I want to read about this kind of stuff but it’s they were buying mostly buy want to see papers a week still have a lot of money but they will have like entities or bands I’ve never heard of introducing like a Welsh rock band called man seeking car What’s this? I never they see these are built on Top of the Pops which ones that database is not easy you know like because you’re so naive a culture so you really think you’ll find out it’s actually in the world underneath one you knew about a small bands just playing in colleges up and down the country then banjee never heard from the 60s or the Beach Boys I mean no one ever heard the Beach Boys come and come area my age you know you know when people want to talk about that cannon? It makes me laugh because it was it wasn’t there that you know he wasn’t even even know about these boundaries. Even the really cool kids now pretending I love the Velvet Underground No you didn’t Yeah,

 

Andrew Dubber 

yeah 40 people in the world

 

John Robb 

I realised that I’ve been I’ve looked at walking whilst I was in Asia records I had no idea isn’t available underground. I didn’t know Roxy Music or cool bounds. I just saw a grey band and to me Roxy Music mods were the same they’re just great bands are lighting rise at home was a laughable One was that really cool? Is that was just me I was the only person really into music I was in school. And there’s people who kind of paid lip service to it you know, Bowie put a single output excited. But it wasn’t like it was a dominant culture dominant culture it’s actually football You know, that’s what everything’s in northern souls in the background of Blackpool that stupid saying before, blobs all of a northern soul towns and other kids a bit into glam rock and a few metal LEDs into Zeppelin and Sabbath and that was it. But it wasn’t like ambiguous a chart count on Tuesdays on the transistor radio while we’re all playing football, but it wasn’t like it wasn’t on the culture. Everybody hoped everything round. You know what? If you met somebody you never met before, you’re more likely to talk about football than the music. So it’s a bit boring.

 

Andrew Dubber 

But weirdly, I think that pop music and particularly pop music journalism gave people the permission to be smart about popular culture. Of course,

 

John Robb 

yes, I saw music as my education. I didn’t see as D education. I didn’t see music so that made me more thick. I actually because because I was already reordering a lot I was fascinated the world but didn’t hear anybody talking about it. You know, most people you’ve seen TV, which is the other big media I should probably was the biggest medium. Well, we’re they’re experts in their fields, but there’s other stuff going on and you didn’t you couldn’t hear about it. But when you read interviews of people like David Bowie, wherever you think these people are fascinated, they know stuff. Now I’m so naive. I thought these people have the wisdom. I thought I still bought I knew I heard about the counts caused by $75 our whole the way a living out. There is While the way that we know those themes are so commonplace, now the world is going to hell and we’re going to poison the world, blah, blah, blah. I was all I was into all this stuff in 75. I was reading about it that the only people who saw talk about it was people and pop culture is a very underground pop culture thing to be interested in as fascinating all those themes, important, quite dark, negative kind of wave, which may be obvious prions for punk rock, and even pop rock turned up. It was like, Whoa, this is it. This is these are my people. But punk rock was basically loads of nerdy, lonely kids up and down the country fell out of step with everybody at school. You know what, no one else’s school was sick or sick. And not because I was that clever or anything, just because I got fascinated in it. And one of them, the punk bands came along and they start doing interviews you thinking, well, this is what this stuff I’m thinking. I think the world is folk to think everything is crazy. Brother, agassi again talks about the clash in the pistols and even bizarre on cool bizarre strangles who I totally adore. We’ll talk about all this other stuff in a second, you know, people like to do talk about this stuff is not just me. Yeah,

 

Andrew Dubber 

yeah, and art, literature, politics, all these things.

 

John Robb 

The whole lot came in bang all at once. And whether whether it’s all made up or not, because what I found out years later was that most of these people either didn’t really believe in it, or it just a phase for them on it. Yeah, for me, it was it was a journey, but it was

 

Andrew Dubber 

the writers and this is the thing that I really want to get to it was the writers creating the narrative, they created this narrative, but they invested all of their intellect and knowledge into the narrative about the pop music. So the culture was kind of created,

 

John Robb 

they maybe they got Jojo was obviously a very clever, quite fucked up fascinating character, and they just added some stuff on top of that, you know, then he goes, Oh, that’s interesting. I’m gonna go with that. So it kind of is a self fulfilling Whirlpool and he keeps chucking things in the key changing colour. So I think that’s pretty well I mean John Lydon all that times obviously very very smart self educated great taken the world and when he’s meeting his people from different other eyes quite middle class beings University and read a lot of books that shocking ideas into these own four minds but these these informations are smart these are smart people. And they take their understanding these ideas within two sentences and then make them regurgitate it back out whether we can understand them and that was part of the process one is it is two way process one it is fact three way whatever it was performers, the writers and the audience The audience was in there as well. You know, the expectations of the audience people haven’t just live up to you and they so when the audience is saying gone Tell me something interesting. You had to think something interesting a guest in there

 

Andrew Dubber 

Yeah. And and that level of sort of fandom which is about this kind of almost kind of train spotter II you know, fact collector, that that was also created by the music press analytics, and yeah,

 

John Robb 

I mean, I’m not I’m a bloke I can remember facts, but I don’t I don’t define musical facts. I don’t. I’m not I mean, I I like facts but uh, but I like emotions more Alright, emotional writer, like feeding of things. You know? I think, though, I mean, punk was incredibly emotional when you get old people talk about punk now, dudes my age, they get very misty eyed. It’s quite interesting watch, you know, we’re to talk about the classic Joe Strummer. It’s a very emotional subject because he meant so much to so many people. And when he died people in tears you know is I never seen that before and punk it was powerful You know? So I’m thinking this the other day cuz a lot of friends of mine are dying you know, I was getting older people dropping off from cancer here and there. I wrote a little thing about a friend of ours when we died in Manchester and resolves to say that you know, side of our life was thinking, punk rock used to be a celebration, life lived forever and in the UK, that moment when you’re free, life’s gonna last forever. And now punk rock is everyone’s epitaph to go to a funeral. And they play the punk classics, don’t they? And it’s tainted with this sadness now and it’s it’s the it’s the end of our lives music and it now we’re used to be the beginning of our lives and it just seemed like two weeks ago in between. It’s crazy. No, that feels like a book that scared to death and bring it on. You know, I’m not scared to get an old I’m 62 years bring on a lot. It doesn’t scare me. But it’s interesting that your culture shifts slightly too much. That kind of feeling in it.

 

Andrew Dubber 

Yeah, interesting. And it feels like that that’s the journalism then I guess that the sort of generation can do now is growing old with a fan of you know, growing old disgracefully because as you find

 

John Robb 

out you your rights get older, you couldn’t embrace a lot of motions you probably couldn’t embrace when you’re younger you’re not you’re not scared. Say stuff makes you feel something you know, was when you’re in your 20s especially a mountain North of England. You’ve never met anything emotional that’s what yeah, that’s why the band’s nothing has so many great bands, because bands are joining he could articulate what people felt like, but he’s in a band. But he went to pub and said all that people go wow. About Shut up. By 50 pounds. People go Okay, that’s what I feel. I feel melancholic. I feel depressed. I feel sad. You know? Can he sing it for me? How can I you know, as embracing it

 

Andrew Dubber 

as that part of the power of music that the sort of being able to express emotion with words run out?

 

John Robb 

Course. Yeah, there was almost incidental. I mean actually a lot of Joy Division words don’t single out the topics that you think Joy Division sing about, some of them are about nectar of wallbox aren’t they installed, you know, by the way he sings them because sing anything you sing the phonebook, you go I know what he’s feeling. And then the music was perfection that band every instruments matching the mood even the drums, the dislocated drawings, much dislocating emotions and in the day even though they were doing it they were standing in a room playing a need to stay up to go I don’t know where it came from. He doesn’t he just stands out there all agony along about the subconscious it just playing and don’t even know everyone else feels it. No, no and no one talks about it. You’re just playing and it just kind of meets in the middle of the doors talks about this communal mind is a powerful thing in it. When you’re in a band and you’re playing and everyone clicks. God is magical.

 

Andrew Dubber 

I mean, it’s it’s something that 16 year olds now have access to us.

 

John Robb 

Yeah, yeah. Music coach didn’t stop because you got to 27 which is many dosi. Fontaine’s DC is so intense. You know that guy is on that trip. I hope he’s okay. He’s a very intense young man. I hope you’ll be alright in the end. You know, I don’t write CB destroying sells music I saw happen to Kurt Cobain almost firsthand. You know, several of the people in my life seen him even though you know normal heads he grew up with like people gone too far. Suicide drugs and messed him up. There’s a dark side to pop culture as one of the

 

Andrew Dubber 

Yeah, and there’s a lot of people complicit in that not just

 

John Robb 

making a you know, thousand grands heroin. Great song. But does it glamorise heroin? Yes, it does. Cuz I know you’ve got to heroin off the back of that song. You know? Is this basically their fault? Maybe because you’re an artist? You never apologise? You know? Do you just do your art? I mean, no matter how much you think Morrissey is a complete fucking idiot for every interview he does these days. He’s you never have to apologise that’s his art. His art is talking complete rubbish in a way. But you know, there’s so many people apologise for everything now you know? People go oh my god is the Twitter gang of got me they should go well, what’s it got to do with you and that’s that. That defiance in art is one thing like and most artists are idiots most artists talk pretty crap. But we need we need justice in society like John and Yoko, that’s their thing when it john lennon said we were the clowns you can laugh at this but we got a message you know, some people are too scared to be clowns. Now, I’m not bracing in Morrissey what Morrissey says and embrace the right thing to say it but also embrace my right to say Morrissey. You’re talking bollocks. I’m not gonna stop you doing it.

 

Andrew Dubber 

Right? Who did you look to when you were coming out? Was there somebody you thought that’s what I want to be when I grow up?

 

John Robb 

I always wanted to be me but the band the bands, the bands are key cultural formers, you know, I loved all the bands. I didn’t want to be any of those bonds because course the most important tenets of punk is to be yourself and it completely misses the point if you just want to be some bloke out of the class or, or the pistols or whatever. I am an author. I come to the north of England I come from a different space. You know, I loved a lot music, but I came from London it was different you know, they they grown up a multicultural city where I grew up with a city or town where everyone was white is one black kid in my school was hideous it should have been when I first wanted to Manchester I’d love to instantly because that’s my version of England, where I am a patriotic person I’m patriotic about Manchester or London those kind of multicultural cities where everybody actually gets on it’s not my my version patriotism is Nigel Farage his worst nightmare You know, my job my idea of an English person is it could be it could be a Muslim I got when I go to the gym. There’s only about four white people in the gym and nobody ever knows is till I point out everyone goes oh god that’s great isn’t it you know we think that they will have a lot in common we all train together they all like football and some music or not. And I think that’s to me that’s a brilliant vision of a country everyone feels really British but we’re all from different places that that’s something to be patriotic about we get on you know, no matter what they will tell you in the Daily Mail or in the papers or all the media we actually get on pretty well out here you know, it’s not it’s only people like Farage and all the shifts those most cooks it never works. Fucking come to Manchester works perfectly. You said to people in Manchester you live in a multicultural society they go do it I never I never thought about it. Because you don’t think about it, you just walk down the street. It’s only when you walk down the street and think oh, yeah, there’s loads of Chinese people loads of Asian people, wow, that’s really cool, isn’t it? but normally walk down the street and go all right, all right mate, because that’s the north, isn’t it? alright mate how’s it going to say hello to everyone?

 

Andrew Dubber 

You seem in a good place as you said and you seem like this come from this culture of no apologies and and just live life and pretty much full on at full speed them to be human. There must be something that you regret or that you wish you hadn’t done or you wish you hadn’t thought of as well. Anything along the way you thought that was a mistake, or I wish I, you know, that was kind of my big regret of the owner.

 

John Robb 

Not really massive. No, this is all little ones. I mean, you always make mistakes. I mean, make mistakes every day, don’t you? I mean, you make sort of mistakes with what you’re doing musically. Yeah, you make you get a chance. I know, there’s something very perverse about growing up punk every opportunity, you’ve got to kind of do the opposite. And lastly, as a good advice, no, it was rubbish advice. You should follow your own talents. Yeah, you know, it’s only last few years, I actually discovered up I was quite melodic, I mean, that would have been called tribe group in will be a criticism to be melodic. So we will write really melodic songs that the pilot enjoys on top of them almost hiding our melodic melodic skills. You know, it’s only the current one put out two weeks ago. It’s gone around the world and people go, some great reviews of it because people love the album. Now people are going, Well, what was this choose all control? We all Wait, why? Why did you see why after all these years, you finally got round to actually meeting up right? Pretty good

 

Andrew Dubber 

melody, just stop hiding them. Tie them

 

John Robb 

when we found a way making it where it wasn’t more down, or we kept the edge of the music and it’s quite intense. But it’s melodic, as well. So it’s so so maybe I’ll regret that, you know, maybe it’s just maybe it’s what causes too late and it bothered me when I was 20 I would have had the opportunity. But we never made music for money. You know, I mean, I have no problem with making music for money because I hate the idea. The only musicians get criticised for getting paid, you know, everyone should get paid for what they do if it’s possible. So I don’t know the term sellout means nothing. It’s just No, I know. I’ve been banned for years. It’s tough being a musician, you know, you don’t get paid. You’re struggling all the time. So if I hear that, I don’t know some really cool band is sold on their songs often advert in Japan. I go Good luck soon. Those 30 grand big survive for two more years.

 

Andrew Dubber 

Man, that’s Yeah,

 

John Robb 

you know, you know, if you don’t want them to make the effort, why don’t you pay for their records instead of just nicking them off the internet? Do you think the band actually wants to be on a Toyota advert? I don’t think so. But do you think that bands want to sit in a mouldy bedsit with no money for days on end? I don’t think so either. Sure, sure. So it’s always been that Michelangelo had to get champions to pay him to paint ruse. Leonardo da Vinci is not even his real name it that means Leonardo of the Da Vinci’s, the vinci’s whatever they were the people paying for him to be genius. I mean, it’s always been other artists. You don’t earn money for arts, you have to get some rich person to look after you don’t you. If you can’t marry one, you have to find one somewhere else.

 

Andrew Dubber 

And did you know so the next thing is a book, another book and it’s about golf?

 

John Robb 

Yeah, it was. It’s a dope hour.

 

Andrew Dubber 

It’s called the art of darkness. So dark wave and it’s all

 

John Robb 

in that it’s a huge subject, but it’s mainly more of the darker side of post punk. So it’s quite a wide remit. I start with the fall of Rome in force, and when the Visigoths sacked Rome, the western goths on ends with Instagram influences you can always women now place that Russia, Sweden standing in the forest and their pitch taken they look fantastic. No gears Amazon, there’s a lot of back to nature goth mixture thing. Yeah, and what’s really fascinating is that they’re very goth influenced, but none of them actually like any music, which was nothing’s wrong, or I don’t care. You know, it was interesting as an observation that the culture is stronger image wise, eventually then the music the music sort of secondary to the fascination of the weirdness of it, you know?

 

Andrew Dubber 

Yeah, the darker side of life.

 

John Robb 

Yeah, so in between it were, you know, the Gothic cathedrals stuff the guards romanticism Baudelaire the writers you know, then you go through people Alistair Crowley, or is it God is it once you start going oh my god, this is a can of worms. This is a

 

Andrew Dubber 

deep rabbit hole.

 

John Robb 

Oh, it’s a rabbit hole goes off reading the books, 400,000 words a moment. We’re just trying to chisel it down to 250. So the publisher doesn’t have a nervous breakdown.

 

Andrew Dubber 

But this goes back to my point about the the writing about music becomes writing about art and politics and the whole thing.

 

John Robb  

So that’s the publisher because this is the king of take the first third of the book out so what without the Gothic cathedrals you don’t have the word Gothic without the Visigoths, second Rome. You know, this align here is quite fascinating line and also aligns all the idea Europe has always had a fascination of darkness, but it’s implemented. It’s not according to whether it’s damp. And all the folk tales, you know, like in Scandinavia, you know, the weird. The trolls and all things about the mountains we Little Bear things wherever that feeds into the darkness of flickering the shadows. The Europe is always wooded, it’s a deep forest and walk through a forest without a lantern. The 15th century would have been scary imagination, running writers thinking dark thoughts, you know, that’s all it’s all in. That’s all part of DNA. I don’t think Sister mercyone rehearsal is a song that captures 15th century European forest storytelling culture. For those flickering shadows have always been resonant in our culture has a fascination with it as one of the four horror stories horror films. I mean, and the Brothers Grimm God stories are really great Mama, you know, they’re not. You think they give this stuff to children. You know, she does. Sing around and she was like a dancer ballet dancer don’t chop two feet off the end I’m not sure how that one should go read I read them all seeking wow these these are really weird stories like we you know when old man pierced in the forest and and then he steals all the children away thing was a law that was really odd odd stories.

 

Andrew Dubber 

So when you’re an old man one day so now 20 years in the future

 

John Robb 

5858 actually old

 

Andrew Dubber 

I’m not far off here so but sitting out with your your, your fitness slippers, pipe whatever it is you’re going to be doing. What are you going to sort of how you gonna spend that time? what’s what’s gonna be sort of

 

John Robb 

our trying to do it just got to live this fast, right all the way to the end. I’m not gonna be sitting down the pipe and slippers. Hopefully if I’m lucky, I’ll still be getting whizzed around do stuff. I want to be like what no, William Burroughs carry on to the end Allen Ginsberg those heads they didn’t stop, they got to the 80s. And they’ll just still doing it. Why would you stop? Well, an artist doesn’t retire. They they, you know, this is this is an end game. I might have a bit more wisdom or something. But I mean, they maybe have to slow down slightly. Maybe you can’t walk but your mind if you’re lucky, is still gonna be really fast in it.

 

Andrew Dubber 

If not this, what would it have been?

 

John Robb 

Oh, that there is no other way. It could only be this. I mean, from the age of 10. I was obsessive pop culture. I knew it. I mean, you subconsciously know that’s the only way out in it. I never want a job when they did a survey school about SEO 100 questions sign what sort of job for you I got an alter 100. And they said they never seen anybody such negative career ambition. I don’t do this as a career. I don’t have no interest in a career. I’m interested in the very moment that I’m in. And that was then the pop culture was great, because pop culture is also about the moments when it so i was i was i was tuned into part course out of realising it. I couldn’t have done anything else. Well, first, and I was super fascinated with science and nature. fascinated with the universe. I mean, I made records by myself. I know a lot about that kind of stuff. Yeah, I’m fascinated by stone circles and history and cities and all those kind of things. I’m deeply put in a lot of ways probably more fascinated than musical culture. But musical culture is a perfect conduit for those interests as well. And a way to express them. Yeah, yeah, completely. Yeah. Because you could become an expert in that, you know, the great thing about that empowerment pumpkin party and everything. They know, I can see, I’ve met the head of CERN. And I can I can hold them pretty well in a conversation for two hours about the universe. And obviously, he knows more stuff than me. But he didn’t lose me in the conversation because I knew enough to kid I didn’t go oh my god is do my head in. Yeah, well, you mean is no wedge in the universe. But for me, I was going well, that kind of makes sense. So and so I gave me no fear punk. That was the brilliance of it.

 

Andrew Dubber 

And it seems to have done you Well, you look incredibly healthy

 

John Robb 

lifestyles, one of the mistakes of rock and roll lifestyle. I don’t know drugs and vegan. I mean, as a lot of people are very poor. What is I mean, most people I know, this stage of the game, especially younger people like that now, I mean, I’m interested in extremes and not political extremes. I’m interested in lifestyle streams, I’m interested in the idea that to have energy you don’t need to take to speed you know, you don’t have to I mean, I’ve done all that stuff when I was younger, but right now I’m interested in what’s the best way to maintain your mind body and soul in it like to go as fast as you possibly can without poisoning yourself, you know? And you know what? is actually not poisoning yourself. That’s what works people go what drugs do you take? I’ll come yourself fast all the time. Because I don’t take your drugs that’s why I’m fast all the time. Yeah, you do coke you get 10 minutes then then you’re knackered for an hour to find some more coke. If you actually have four hours sleep last night, because I drink water a little tease my advice. I need the caffeine just keep chipping on a little bit by Lee Well, I don’t eat shit, you know shit. You become slow. You know, I’m anxious also, boo. Give me information me a dietitian. I go what’s the latest? What’s the latest thing that works really well, you know? Because I want to maintain it. I want to get to 19 still be on it. buzzin feeling good. I appreciate stuff as well. You walk down the street and I look at the trees, the tops of trees, the tops of the buildings. Walking down here is amazing. I’m looking at the river you know seeing what’s in the river. I don’t walk around the I shorts. You know, everything’s amazing now of ladybird lands on your hands. You look at it and you go wow, what amazing construction you know, stuff like that. It’s good for the soul is good for the mind in it. You know, I’m not locked into music and I love music but not locked into thinking about it. And that’s the only thing in the world.

 

Andrew Dubber 

John, I feel like I’ve been on a roller coaster. Really appreciate your time. Yes, that’s punk orator and professional. outloud thinker, John Robb. And that’s the MTF podcast. If you enjoyed please like share rate review and we’ll catch you next week. Have a great one. Cheers.

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