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Godfathers - Interview with Peter Coyne

  by Denzil Watson

published: 26 / 11 / 2022

Godfathers - Interview with Peter Coyne


Peter Coyne, the frontman with The Godfathers, speaks to Denzil Watson about their critically acclaimed new album, ‘Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta’.

Ever since the release of their blistering compilation album ‘Hit By Hit’ back in 1986, The Godfathers have never waned in their mission statement to deliver blistering, melodic, no-holes-barred rock’n’roll. In a career that now spans five decades and has seen them release nine albums, along with a number of singles and EPs, they only took the majority of the noughties off. There’s been line up changes along the way, some of which that would make the now sadly departed Mark E. Smith appear like something approaching a benevolent band leader next to Peter Coyne. No more so than in 2019 when the entire line-up that produced 2017’s ‘A Big Bad Beautiful Noise’ album were given their cards by the band’s only founding member. Peter Coyne re-emerged later in the year with an all-new Godfathers line up, recorded a new single ‘I’m Not Your Slave’/’Wild and Free”’ before being stopped in their tracks in 2020 by COVID-19. With COVID restrictions well and truly lifted, the band are back and firing on all cylinders. Fresh from a triumphant performance at this year’s Rebellion Festival and a fist-full of new Godfathers’ classics, their new LP ‘Alpha, Beta, Delta, Gamma’ LP is up there with the best albums they’ve released in their thirty-seven year long career. Pennyblackmusic caught up with their uncompromising and charismatic lead singer Peter Coyne to discuss the new album and what makes a killer Godfathers album. PB: How are things in The Godfathers’ camp right now? Peter Coyne: Very good. The album’s been getting a fantastic reaction everywhere. Really great reviews for the ‘Midnight Rider’ EP and the album. We’ve got a festival coming up weekend after next in Belgium and then we start touring proper with ten dates in Spain in late September/early October and then we move on from there. So, it’s going really good thank you. PB: When did the writing process for the album start? PC: As soon as everybody joined the band. That was it and that was our number one goal to make a really good album and we started almost immediately. PB: Did you have a vision for where you wanted this album to go when you started recording it? PC: Not really. You’ve got to be spontaneous. It’s reliant on really good songs and tunes. PB: How did you arrive at the album’s title? I’m presuming it’s taken from the four identified strains of COVID, right? PC: Yes and no. It’s not really as simple as that. It’s just a really good album title and, like with a lot of these things, I like people to fill in the dots themselves and work out what it means to them rather than me telling them what the album title is all about. You get alpha males and you get alpha females too. There’s lots of things that happen with ‘Alpha, Beta, Delta, Gamma’ really. The Greek language – everything is sort of founded on it really. Plus we like playing in Greece. It was just a snappy title really. PB: Bands always big up their latest album to be their best ever, but having listened to it through, in full, several times, for me it’s up there with the best Godfathers albums. PC: Thank you. I always thought that as soon as I started writing it with all the songs coming in. Because of the pandemic, we had to record the album in stages. We had to work round that so that knocked it back some time. What we did most of the time is get three or four really good songs, went into the studio, demo’ed them, worked up vocals on them, little bits of extra magic here and there and they then turned into the actual recordings you hear on the album. And once you have got three or four really good songs you then have to really raise the bar. PB: One thing that comes across is that the band sound completely together as a unit and completely in unison – real tangible sense of musical chemistry. PC: Definitely. Also the way we recorded it and the nature of everyone in the band, we brought a lot of freshness to the recordings and spontaneity. They are key factors in making it a really good album. You’re always competing with your past. The Godfathers have made brilliant albums in the past – there’s no doubt about that. But we weren’t trying to replicate anything whatsoever. We were trying to write a new chapter to The Godfathers’ story and make it a killer album in its own right. And something that we can all be proud of and I definitely think we achieved that. PB: For me, it’s got everything a good rock’n’roll album needs; driving bass and drums, fantastically loud guitars that ebb and flow, big bold choruses, melodic backing vox and hooks aplenty. And great lyrics too. PC: That sounds good to me! PB: Also for me, your voice is sounding as good as it ever has. PC: I think so. What I try not to do is worry about it and just go in and be spontaneous. The vocals were one to two takes. I had to work on some of the numbers but the majority were after just a couple of takes. It gives you that freshness without labouring what you are trying to do, so I’m really pleased. It was Jon [Priestley] that was producing the album and I think he got a really good sound on my vocals. In fact he got a fantastic sound on everything and it’s a really good production PB: And the other thing that comes across is that there is not a weak song on the album - it’s a cliché, but all killer, no filler. Just twelve really strong tracks. PC: Well, I think you hit the nail on the head there. It’s a really well sequenced album. I spent a lot of time thinking about that – how it should start and how it should finish. We wanted to start off with a bit of a surprise so that’s why ‘Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta’ [the album’s opening instrumental track] is there, starting of the album with something quite disturbing and when you initially listen to it you go “What the fuck is this?”. Then it slides into ‘Bring on the Sunshine’ as I wanted to start the album with a positive sort of flavour then making all the tracks up until it finishes with ‘I Despair’. There are lots of detours along the way. If you think you know The Godfathers, then think again. PB: Yeah, ‘Bring On the Sunshine’ is a big, bold start with its upfront guitars and a positive vibe. I like the Lou Reed reference and the way the song blossoms into a melodic chorus. PC: I just think that song is ace. We had a lot of a problem deciding which would be the first track. It’s a nice problem to have. And deciding which track would get radio play and, in the end, we decided on ‘Midnight Rider’. But this could have easily been a single in its own right along with ‘You Gotta Wait’, ‘I Hate the 21st Century’ and ‘Straight Down the Line’. There was a number of definite contenders, but at the end of the day we went with ‘Midnight Rider’. PB: Then you are after ‘Bring On the Sunshine’ into ‘You Gotta Wait’, a big and muscular backdrop to its spoken word verses. I love the tidal wave of melodic guitars and interplay between bass and the two guitars. And your take on the working week. PC: It’s about trying to encapsulate the grim 9-5 working experience for millions and millions of people. It’s just a catchy song and it’s got a fantastic solo on it from Wayne Vermaak. It’s one of a few atypical Godfathers songs on the album. I think we approached them in a different way and shed a new light on it. It doesn’t have to be what we did twenty-five years ago. What’s really important is what we do now and I’m always happy to keep the flag flying for rock’n’roll. PB: On to ‘I Hate the 21st Century’ and the line I picked up on there was “And I’m lonely”. Do you find technology has depersonalised many things we do now? PC: That’s certainly one element. I don’t want to say, “It’s exactly like this or exactly like that”. You’re meant to be brought closer by technology but often you’re not and you are at a distance. Instead of technology freeing everybody we’re all slaves to mobiles phones and TVs and rubbish like that, and we’ve got to cope with it. I could go on and on and on about why I hate the 21st Century. Number one – I’m a real 20th century boy like T-Rex. Number two – it’s no fun at all. No matter what you try and do there’s always something there to mess you up or fuck you up. You never seem to get a break these days. Everybody must be noticing this. It’s on the news, it’s on the radio, it’s on the TV, it’s in the newspapers. You speak to family friends or neighbours. There’s always something that is really ghastly or really horrible. Give us a break! PB: But do you think it’s a case of it’s always been there but due to technology we now hear about it more? PC: No, I actually think it has got worse in terms of a lot of things like climate change, for instance. There are a lot of disturbing things that are going on. And on top of that, in England, they’ve just elected an unelected, extremist, right-wing Tory party leader who is going to be just horrible and couldn’t really give a shit about if you lived or died. It doesn’t get grimmer than that, does it? PB: ‘OCD’ is also on your EP as well as the album. I know we are all on the scale, but was this song written from your point of view as someone who has OCD? PC: Yeah. Walking to school I always tried not to walk on the cracks. It used to take me ages to get to school. So, yeah, it’s about me, but it’s also about Joey Ramone because he suffered really badly from it. We’d pick him up in the van when we gigged with The Ramones and it would take him about an hour to get out of his apartment because he was checking the taps and adjusting the tins on his shelf. Charlie Watts was also pretty chronic with OCD. I’ve always tried to use it to my advantage by trying to focus on the details of things. So ‘OCD’ is a great rocker but it's not a song mocking people who suffer from OCD. I’ve got it myself and people I love are affected by it. And it seems to be getting more commonplace in the 21st century. And like a lot of the songs of here they are looking at the 21st century and what’s happening, how do we deal with it and how do we come out of here. PB: I liked the music box ending to it too. PC: That was one of my ideas. It’s so inappropriate for a song like ‘OCD’ to finish like that. And it adds a bit of Ennio Morricone to the end of the song too. It’s just a nice piece of music and sets it up nicely for the next track. You want to create an album that’s a genuine piece of art and that really rolls along from start to finish. And I don’t think there’s a single second wasted on the album. It’s great song after great song. Loads of variation on it which is really cool and I always love. And touches of the unexpected here and there. PB: ‘Midnight Rider’, for me, is a very strong song and understandable why you chose this as the lead single. You make reference to being a survivor and you are, quite literally, the sole survivor from the band’s original line-up. PC: Yeah, I will admit it is partially about me but the whole song is not about me and is about the whole situation of refugees fleeing wars all over the world and they can’t find a home or place of safety. This is outrageous and it’s got to stop. These people are human beings and flesh and blood. It’s not these people’s fault and they don’t really want to do it. They want to live at home where they were born. I always take the side of the underdogs of society. It’s a major fault of mine, but there you go, it’s what I’m like. PB: And many Western nations are complicit in all of this. PC: They start the wars and fund the bombings and they have got a great deal of culpability on their hands. They talk about these people as criminals and tagging them. It’s all ideological and extremely right-wing. The Tory Party is like the UKIP Party now. PB: Then we’re onto ‘Straight Down the Line’. For some reason, the vocal reminds me a bit of Baz Warne from The Stranglers. PC: Didn’t really think about that when I was singing it! PB: It must be the low register of your voice. I really like use of the deep vocals in the verse followed by the really high register chorus with the band. PC: They are all really good singers in the band. Jon Priestley did a lot of backing vocals, as did Wayne. And Billy (Duncanson) and Richie (Simpson) too. So we’re using all those voices to our advantage. Sometimes you can incorporate those strong melodic backing vocals into a song and sometimes you can’t. You shouldn’t shoe-horn things in. But the song itself is about love being the glue that holds society together. That’s where that song is coming from but, again, it’s open to the listener’s interpretation. PB: ‘Lay That Money Down’ is another really-guitar heavy track. I think the following track ‘Tonight’ is the first slight let-up in the album’s pace. PC: Some of the songs on the album, we played them pretty much straight after we wrote them. We didn’t introduce them on stage and mixed them up with the rest of the set list. And they went down an absolute storm straight away, even though the fans hadn’t even heard the tracks. People got ‘OCD’, ‘I Despair’ and ‘Lay that Money Down’ straight away. PB: And that’s one thing I’ve always found with Godfathers’ songs. There’s always an immediacy to them. PC: “I Want Everything and I Want It Now”. PB: I don’t find I have to listen too many times to a Godfathers song for the melody to stick. PC: It’s like that idea of milkmen just leaving you tunes as they deliver pints of Gold top to your doorstep. PBM: I think the song that’s been round the longest is ‘I'm Not Your Slave’. I remember this as a single from 2020 and the track that announced the new Godfathers line-up. It sits nicely on the new LP. On the album it doesn’t particularly stand out as a single down to the fact that most of the songs sound like singles! PC: It was a double A-sided single with ‘Wild and Free’. Back them we wanted to record something straight away and release it so people would know that this is coming from us. Early on in 2020, we had some European gigs lines up. It was all based around us playing a gig at this fantastic thing called Rockpalast. An amazing classic TV show and it is an honour to be invited to play it. So, we record the TV special in Germany and we had some gigs planned in Belgium and Holland coming home from Rockpalast. As soon as we did the show, Germany went into lockdown. As soon as we’d played Belgium, it went into lockdown too. And then we played the last gig in Holland and the very next day after we got back Holland went into lockdown as well. We’re talking late March. We came back home and we had one day off and then went into the studio for three days to record the two tracks. And as soon as we’d recorded then, hey presto, the UK went into lockdown as well. Both the songs are not quite what they appear on the surface. ‘I’m Not Your Slave’ is not a sexual song or about being somebody’s plaything. It’s about independence for Scotland and how one country treats another. And exactly the same with ‘Wild and Free’. That’s all about that too: “I want my independence, self-determination and free myself from your primitive nation”. Sometimes things on the surface are not what sometimes people may think they are. But that’s what they are really about. PB: ‘There’s No Time’ is the album’s gentlest moment. It’s got a nice melancholic start and there’s some beautiful imagery in the lyrics. It shows the band can do slow and low just as easy as fast and in your face. PC: Thank you. That’s the one song on the album that is about COVID-19. It’s about all the people who have died. Our next-door neighbour died of the virus. It was just heart-breaking seeing all of these things happening to people that you know and that you love. So I just wanted to write something about this and I think it’s a really beautiful number. And it’s got some fantastic backing vocals again, by Jon Priestley. PB: And then it segues almost perfectly into ‘Dead in Los Angeles’. PC: Yeah. It’s an epic track. I think it’s about six minutes long. It’s about the last night on planet earth of a rock’n’roll star. It had to be thrilling and exciting and unexpected. It shifts from one thing to another. It was about how far can we take a piece of music. It’s really melodic and listenable, but it’s really exciting as well. What we play is rock’n’roll music but it’s also entertainment. It’s no good if people are not enjoying it, We’re not just here to remind people how horrible life is. We’re here to remind them that life is beautiful and we’re part of it just like everybody else. PB: Then we’re on to the final track ‘I Despair’. It’s a really Godfathers title and surely a candidate for a second single from the album. PC: Could be. There’s quite a few. It’s having a little look at what’s going on today. And I do despair a lot of the time. When I hear stuff on the radio or people talking. It doesn’t have to be like this. It could be like that. We shouldn’t be forced down certain channels to live our lives. We talk about things that are so disgusting now and they are now so commonplace. The cost of living. They talk about human resources, this is Dalek-type terms for looking at the human race. That’s why I despair. PB: Overall, though there’s a lot of things to be proud about in terms of this album. PC: I think it’s a great record. We’ve been really honest. We’ve tried to sum up what we think about everything that has been going on nowadays. But make it exciting. Make it thrilling. Trying to make one of the best Godfathers albums ever is not easy. If anyone thinks it is easy, you try it, sunshine, and see how you get on. We’re still just as good as what we were before. We’re very passionate about our music and about playing gigs and be the best Godfathers that the Godfathers can be in the 21st century. And with the album we’ve achieved that. PB: In 2019 there was a complete change in personnel in the band apart from yourself as the singer but you still sound very much like The Godfathers. PC: Of course! Because we are The Godfathers. All credit to everyone who is in the band now. That’s how we pulled this album off because we’ve done it together. It’s thanks to Jon. It’s thanks to Billy. It’s thanks to Wayne. And it’s thanks to Richie. And thanks to me. Does it really matter? As long as we deliver the goods, again and again and again? With the previous line-up, I just couldn’t work with those people. There’s no way I could have carried on. They didn’t want to make a new album. I didn’t just want to go out there and perform all the old numbers that we’re known for. I would definitely not be happy doing that. Unless you can release something that is at least as good as if not better than the material you have done in the past, then forget about it. PB: I find that attitude about not wanting to do a new album bizarre. You effectively turn into a tribute band of yourself. PC: Well, that’s never going to happen to this band. We’re all about being as good as we can be now. In time ‘Alpha, Beta, Delta, Gamma’ will end up being recognised as one of the best Godfathers’ albums of all time, if not the best. You get these things with age as well. I’ve been looking at some of the old reviews of ‘Birth, School, Work, Death’ and it gets all the plaudits now, but at the time it was getting 7/10 and 8/10; here's an album from The Godfathers. These things grow with time. “Birth, School, Work, Death’ is now recognised as a classic album and I think with time the same will happen to ‘Alpha, Beta, Delta, Gamma’. PB: Thank you.

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Godfathers - Interview with Peter Coyne

Godfathers - Interview with Peter Coyne

Godfathers - Interview with Peter Coyne

Godfathers - Interview with Peter Coyne

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