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Sex Pistols Experience - Interview

  by John Clarkson

published: 30 / 6 / 2013

Sex Pistols Experience - Interview


John Clarkson speaks to drummer Paul Crook about his much acclaimed tribute band, the Sex Pistols Experience

The Sex Pistols Experience are a Sex Pistols tribute act. The group, which consists of Johnny Rotter on vocals, Steve Clones on guitar, Kid Vicious on bass and Paul Crook on drums, includes amongst its fans Sex Pistols members Steve Jones and Glen Matlock and the Damned’s Dave Vanian. They have now played over a thousand shows in seventeen countries and regular Sex Pistols venue The 100 Club more times than the original band. Pennyblackmusic spoke to Paul Crook about being in the ultimate tribute group. PB: You are the founding member and also the manager of the Sex Pistols Experience. How long have you been together? PAUL CROOK: It has been eleven years of very hard work on my behalf. I started the whole thing off. I promote it and book all the shows and the hotels and the flights. It has been great fun to do. The three guys at the front have all changed once. Steve Clones has been with us four years. Kid Vicious has been there eight years and Johnny Rotter has been there about six years. With any band, it is like a marriage. It is like trying to hold a marriage together, and that is not an easy thing to do in this day and age (Laughs). There are inevitably going to be line-up changes along the course of any band, but this line-up has been together for a fair while. PB: People like Steve Jones, Glen Matlock and Dave Vanian from the Damned have all been along to see you, and even John Lydon has been fairly complementary. Has that been a surreal experience playing in front of these people that were there in the first wave of punk? PAUL CROOK: It wasn’t especially surreal because it crept up on us so slowly. It wasn’t something that happened in the early days of the band at all. It was a few years down the line. We first went over to America in 2006 and one of the ambitions that we had as a band was to meet up and play with Steve Jones. That opportunity presented itself when we were over there. Steve Jones phoned us up when were halfway across Texas, and invited us to appear on his radio show in Los Angeles. We were interviewed on that, and ended up playing some songs with him. That was the first box that we ticked, and once people had seen that we had the association with Jonesy - who had sung our praises - they were a lot more forthcoming about coming to see us. We also started playing at The 100 Club fairly regularly at about the same time. The word soon got around that we were doing a decent job, and these people like Glen Matlock, Dave Vanian and Soo Catwoman started coming down to see us. We never particularly invited anyone along. All these characters started turning up at various venues across the country, and especially when we played gigs in London. PB: Were you in any other tribute bands before the Sex Pistols Experience? PAUL CROOK: No, I have never had any other interest in tribute bands really and I am not really a big fan of them, although now that I am in one I have a lot more respect for them. I have been in a lot of other bands and played with jazz, rock and roll and punk bands, but they all had original material. Where I live in East Yorkshire, it is just about near on impossible to make it in the music business. You have to come from a city. If you are from somewhere like London, Sheffield, Leeds or Manchester, you have a far better chance of getting somewhere with original music, which is why in the outlying areas of Britain – and places like Norfolk, East Yorkshire or the Lake District – there tend to be more covers bands. If you want to make a sparse living out of being a musician, it is so difficult trying to do it with original material. That was even more of the case fifteen or twenty years ago and pre-Internet. Back then you were just climbing up a mountain with a weight of bricks behind you because you were never going to get spotted. You are never going to get A and R men coming to my part of the world. I always enjoyed playing the drums. I tried for years with original material. We would travel over to Sheffield and play to one man and his dog if we were lucky, and that was the time when it was pay to play, so you would have to pay £50 to play a gig to next to nobody because nobody had heard of you. It was just a real waste of time, and then one day I got a call from some friends saying that they were playing in a band in a holiday camp up the road, and that their drummer was on holiday, and they were wondering if I could help out for a couple of gigs. And so I went along, not really wanting to play a bunch of covers, but it was a great show and at the end of the night I had a hundred quid in my top pocket. I thought, “Who is the mug here?” It was an eye-opener for me, so that was when I switched sides to cover bands. It kept me going whereas I might have had to give up and get a proper job otherwise by now. PB: Did you ever think about covering anyone else or was it always going to be the Sex Pistols? PAUL CROOK: The tribute bands had all the best ones covered. The Who and the Beatles and Abba and Pink Floyd and all the classic iconic bands had tribute bands, but the Sex Pistols, however, didn’t and I thought, “Someone is missing a trick here. Why aren’t the Pistols getting this treatment?” The Sex Pistols were really iconic characters, and if you are going to be in a brilliant tribute band you need to replicate someone who is iconic. PB: You have been praised from a lot of quarters as being as close as possible to the original band. How have you got to that level? Has that come from endless hours of watching old footage? PAUL CROOK: Yeah, we had high expectations from day one. We were never going to settle on being a laughing stock and we were never going to settle on being one of those poor quality, wig-wearing groups. We set a high barrier from day one, and stuck to it so it doesn’t really surprise us that the band has got a decent reputation. We spent a lot of time watching things like the Longhorn’s Ballroom video and ‘The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle’. You have got to study your subject if you are going to pay tribute to it, and for want of a better word to copy it. PB: Kid Vicious is almost the spitting image of Sid Vicious, isn’t he? PAUL CROOK: Yeah, he was called Sid when he was a school kid. He didn’t, however, join the band until he was in his mid-thirties. We have all said that we would have loved to have done this in our twenties when we didn’t have wives and kids and were a bit younger , but we wouldn’t have had had the experience to know how to do it really. Kid looks like he is meant to, but he is actually twenty years older than Sid was when he died. PB: The Sex Pistols Experience have appeared on various soundtracks and films about the Sex Pistols as well. How has that come about? PAUL CROOK: We have been involved in documentaries for most of the mainstream channels. We have also appeared as well on some DVD documentaries about the Pistols. I think the reason for that is footage of the real Sex Pistols is very expensive and they thought that we would be a bit cheaper. It is all good on the CV, I guess. PB: You were also involved in a Public Image Limited tribute act as well, Public Imitation Limited. Does that still exist? PAUL CROOK: We used to always finish off the Sex Pistols shows with a couple of PiL songs at the end of the night. This was back in 2005/2006. At this point there was no mention of Public Image playing again. They had been split up since the early 90s. The PiL stuff was going down very well with audiences, so in early 2009 we put together our own PiL show comprising of material from all ten of their albums. We played a lot of the tracks from ‘Metal Box’ and also all the other popular songs that we thought would make a killer set list. We toured as support to the Sex Pistols Experience. We were doing the two shows in one night. It worked really well, and Keith Levene (Original Public Image guitarist - Ed) caught early wind of it and he came and did a guest slot with us on his guitar down at The 100 Club in London. Keith phoned up Jah Wobble (Original Public Image bassist - Ed) to tell him that we were good, and the next thing that happened was they borrowed our singer so that they could do their own covers show, ‘Metal Box in Dub’. They ended up doing a few dates with him around the UK and over in Japan. Then John Lydon announced that he was going to reform PiL, and once he started touring with them November 2010 we thought that it was the time to stop. We didn’t want to be paying tribute to the band if the band were already out there doing that. We knocked it on the head then. PB: The Sex Pistols have got back together on three occasions now since their original split. Has that applied to them as well, or have you gone out on the road when they have been touring as well? PAUL CROOK: When we started out there was no mention of them touring again. It was a distant dream. They reformed in 1996 for the ‘Filthy Lucre’ tour and we started up shortly after that, but then sporadically since then they have got back together. They did a big one-off show at Crystal Palace in 2002, and then in 2007 they did some more dates. I see the beauty of tribute bands as paying tribute to a band that you can never see again like the Beatles. That to me is what I like about tribute bands. It is an experience to see something that you have not caught first time around, but ironically when the Pistols started playing again then our diaries were never busier. The phones never stopped ringing for us. It has never really stopped ever since. We are also replicating the Sex Pistols of 1977 rather than of more current times. That is because we have got Kid. With all due respect to Glen, our Sid plays the bass like he plays Glen’s lines, but I think that Sid was the iconic character that a lot of fans wanted to see. We wanted to offer something different, albeit it is the same band, to what the Pistols themselves were doing from 1996 onwards. It also means that Kid can do Sid’s songs like ‘Something Else' and ‘C'mon Everybody’. We can also throw in ‘Silly Thing’ as well, all the stuff that the Pistols themselves don’t do these days. PB: Thank you. The first two photographs were taken by Kim Ayres at www.kimayres.co.uk

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Sex Pistols Experience - Interview

Sex Pistols Experience - Interview

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