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Kris Dollimore - Interview Part 1

  by John Clarkson

published: 28 / 9 / 2007

Kris Dollimore - Interview Part 1


In a two part interview, both parts of which we are running consecutively, Godfathers guitarist Kris Dollimore in the first part speaks to John Clarkson about his years performing with the explosive London new wave punk band and playing subsequently with both the Damned and Del Amitri...

The front cover snapshot of '02/01/1978' reveals a young Kris Dollimore, impishly half-smiling at the camera, as, one leg tilted slightly in front of the other, he strikes a posture with the electric guitar that he has just been given for his twelfth birthday. On the bedroom wall behind Kris there hangs a poster of a smirking Johnny Rotten, who then in early January 1978 was still two weeks away from the Sex Pistols' chaotic final show at the San Francisco Winterland. Next to the picture of Rotten, an indication of the youthful Dollimore's already open-minded and broad musical tastes, there is another poster, this time of Led Zeppelin, who had a further two years left before they too would fall abruptly apart with the death of drummer John Bonham. Dollimore has given 'O2/01/1978', his first solo album, its name because it was that date, the day that he was given his first guitar, that he first decided to take music seriously and set out on what he sees as a nearly thirty year musical odyssey. By the time he was 17, Dollimore, who was raised amidst the Medway towns and near Chatham on the Isle of Sheppey, had already recorded his first album, 'Crashing Out' (Black Sheep Records), with his first proper group, local act, the Major Setback Band. In his late teens, he joined the uncompromising South London group the Godfathers. Infamous for their gangster suits, annual St Valentine's Day Massacre shows in which they would open their sets by spraying their audience with blank bullets from fake machine guns, and controversial record sleeves which included on their 1988 'Cause I Said So' single a picture of Margaret Thatcher wearing an Adolf Hitler moustache, the Godfathers, unusually for a band in the late 80's, combined volleying twin guitars and sharp, socially biting lyrics with a fiery new wave sound. Dollimore would stay with them for four years and three albums, 'Hit by Hit' (Corporate Image, 1986), 'Birth, School, Work, Death' (Epic, 1988) and 'More Songs about Love and Hate' (Epic, 1989) before, amidst some acrimony, becoming the first member to leave the original and best known line-up of the five man group in early 1990. He spent two years in the early 90’s playing with 70's punk survivors the Damned and also toured the world with Adam Ant, before eventually joining Scottish country rockers Del Amitri, with whom he would appear on their final two albums, 'Hatful of Rain' (Mercury, 1998) and 'Can You Do Me Good ?' (Mercury, 2002). Recent times have found him moving back to the Medway from London where he was based for many years and recording '02/01/1978', which is the first release of his own Sun Pier Recordings label. Dollimore has also called his record '02/01/1978' as, finding him playing almost entirely on his own and without a band, it is a return both to his own musical roots and to those of history. While maintaining the scorching fiestiness of his other recordings, much of the new album is acoustic, and finds Dollimore adopting a finger-picking technique. Several of the other songs have a stark blues sound. There are stripped down covers of John Lee Hooker's 'Groundhog' and the Stooges 'T.V. Eye', and there are also several self-penned songs, many about Dollimore's friend Ray, who died of a heroin overdose. In an extensive interview with Pennyblackmusic, which we are running in two parts both to be run consecutively, Kris Dollimore talked to us about his different groups, '02/01/1978' and his growth as both a musician and a songwriter. PB : The new album takes its name from the date of your twelfth birthday and the day that you got your first electric guitar. Was the picture on the sleeve actually taken on that day ? KD : It was either taken on the day itself or maybe a day or two after. I can't remember if it was me or my brother or sisters, but somebody in our family was given a polaroid camera for Christmas which were all the rage in the 70's. I can't remember who took the photograph either, but it was taken with that. PB : Had you actually played the guitar before then ? KD : Not seriously. No. There were always guitars around because my older brother used to play a bit and was in bands. I would sneak into his room and borrow his guitars and then mime along to Slade and Sweet records (Laughs). PB : Is it true that you recorded your first album at the age of 17 ? KD : Yeah, it would have been about then. It was with the Major Setback Band. PB : Who were they ? KD : It featured me on guitar, my brother on bass and a drummer. We started off basically as a working mens' club band. Those were the sort of bands that my brother was in, and I ended up joining one of his bands and then I joined another band that was doing covers of Eagles and other bog standard sort of club covers. The Major Setback Band evolved from that. We got into the local pub rock scene, the Dr Feelgoods and the Inmates and bands like that, and eventually ended up recording an album, 'Crashing Out'. PB : How did you go from that to the Godfathers ? KD : I used to go through a lot of different musical phases and one of those phases was for the garage rock scene. I was into the Milkshakes and the Prisoners and all kinds of bands like that. I was a big fan of the Sid Presley Experience, which was Peter and Chris Coyne's band before the the Godfathers. People say that records have changed their life and their EP, ' Hup 2-3-4'. honestly did change my life. When that needle went down on those grooves, I thought "This is the band I want to be in. This is what I want to do." And I did in a way end up with them. They split up. I remember there were these ads in the 'Melody Maker' , one which came from Peter and Chris which read "Drummer and guitarist wanted" and another on the same page which came from the other guys who had been in the Sid Presley Experience saying "singer and bass player wanted", and I auditioned for and got the guitar playing job. There was an injunction on the name because both parties wanted to use it, so we had to think of a new name and that was the Godfathers. PB : Unusually for a band of that time you had two guitarists. Why did you decide to do that ? KD : If it had been down to me, there probably wouldn't have been (Laughs), but it wasn't my band. To be perfectly honest with you I would have preferred to have just been a solo guitar player, but it worked. We made a good noise if you like. I am immensely proud of what I did with the Godfathers. It wasn't like anything else at the time. We weren't following any trend whatsoever. The Goth scene was big at the time and I was really into that. I saw some photos the other day of when I first joined the band. I had lots of hair in those days and it was all crimped. The Godfathers weren't, however, going for that kind of thing at all and weren't a part of it. We suffered a little bit for it but still ended up being fairly successful. We may never have had a hit, but we did pretty well. PB : You attracted quite a lot of press and controversy with your suits, your picture sleeves and the St Valentine's Day Massacres. How much of that was deliberate on your behalf and how much of that was the media just beefing things up ? KD : We played up to it certainly. Certainly we did. We thought "Hang on. There's something to be had here. Let's go for it." I can't say that it was the media at all. PB : The credits on the sleeves list all five members of the band as songwriters. How did you write the songs in the Godfathers ? KD : That was something which I totally fought for, the five way split. If you look on the albums that came out after I left it wasn't that way at all. Peter and Chris were very much like "We're a band, a rock 'n' roll band. Us against the world" and I was like "If you're going to do that, then we've got to be all for one". It was something which I fought for because when 'Lonely Man', the first single came out, we hadn't really discussed it and it was just credited to Peter and Chris. I thought "Hang on, I came up with a bit of that" and so I brought up this discussion and by the time of the major label records the songs were credited to all five of us. I suppose that it was kind of hypocritical that I did that because I was the first one to leave. PB : You were the first to leave, but Mike Gibson and George Mazur (The Godfathers’ other guitarist and drummer) weren’t that long after you in also departing. In the space of about 18 months all three of you were gone. What happened there ? KD : I don’t know what it is like being in Oasis, but I’ve got a good idea. We all had egos the size of Russia and fought a lot, but with Peter and Chris being brothers if you had a fight with one of them you had a fight with the other and then they would fight amongst themselves as well. It was just a nightmare really. George, Mike Gibson and I weren’t close as such, but we used to have these silly sort of meetings in which we would have a moan about the state of things. I left basically because I had had enough. We toured a lot and I was sick of touring and, if I am really perfectly honest, I had delusions of grandeur as well. I seriously thought that that I was going to go on to do bigger and better things and they would be nothing without me and would crumble, but when I heard ‘Unreal World’ (The Godfathers 1991 Fourth album and first without Dollimore-Ed) I was like “Shit ! What have I done ?” It is a great album. That did seriously bring me back down to earth. There were other things as well, like things weren’t going the way I intended them to with the band. It was just young foolishness really. There were personality differences in the group as well. There were some people at the time that I just didn’t get on with. I just had had enough of it all. PB : Your long term producer, Vic Maile also died of cancer just after you completed ‘More Songs about Love and Hate’.Do you think that that also had an effect on the group splitting up ? KD : I don’t think that it did. We knew that he was very ill. It was no secret. He couldn’t really hide it. We loved Vic to pieces and I think that anyone who worked with him would say the same. He was just a lovely, genuine human being and he is sadly missed by everyone, but I don’t think that it would have made any difference at all. PB : You have, however, patched up your relationship with Peter Coyne in particular since then. He’s actually your manager now. KD : That’s right. Peter and I have had some serious falling outs in our time, but I have always had the deepest genuine respect for him. He taught me a lot about rock ‘n’ roll music and he got me into the Stooges and that Detroit thing, the MC5, the Sonics, and just so many great things, and as I said ‘Hup 2-3-4’ changed my life. I will always be indebted to him. Things are much better between all five of us now. We have all been in contact recently with each other as ‘Hit by Hit’ is going to be getting re-released. You haven’t been able to get a hold of that album for many years now. It is my favourite of all of the Godfathers albums. I think that it is the Godfathers at their peak. ‘Birth, School, Work, Death’ didn’t quite do it for me. It was just too slick. I know that it had an edge to it, but ‘Hit by Hit’ is really raucous and raw. I am never one to blow my own trumpet, but I think it is up there with the Stooges albums. I am so very proud of that and really glad that it is finally going to get re-released. PB : When is that going to happen ? KD : It was going to come out in October but it is now going to be January. PB : After the Godfathers what did you do ? KD : I think the best description for that period would be as the “dark ages”. I went to America. It was all to do with a woman and, as I said, I thought that was I was going to do much bigger and better things. I didn’t though. Nothing really happened. The phone didn’t ring and I thought “Crikey ! I better do something” and so I came back home and got together with Vom from Dr and the Medics. A mate of a mate knew him and I went to see the Medics and I thought “He is a great drummer” and he was up for forming a band and so we formed a band, the Brotherland, and recorded an album (‘Nightmares and Dreams’, King Size Records, 1992-Ed) I think I was just getting all that rock ‘n’ roll thing out of me. We lived the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, even though we didn’t have any rock ‘n’ roll money to do it with (Laughs). It wasn’t really what I wanted. It wasn’t what I envisaged but it was an okay band. It was lively and we had lot of fun doing it, but musically it was a million miles from what I wanted to do. The thing is I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I really didn’t, but I knew that it wasn’t that and so that got all messed up and I went back to America. I have always been a friend of Rat Scabies. The Godfathers played a show with the Damned in Switzerland. The line-up consisted of the Damned, Motorhead and the Godfathers, which is a great bill, and that’s where I met Rat Scabies. He was always trying to get me in the Damned, and he called me up when I was in Las Vegas in about ‘93 and said “Do you want to form a band ? It might be the Damned. It might be something else.” I was just desperate to do something and so I legged it back to England and we tried auditioning singers, but it didn’t work out and then eventually the Damned. who had split up at the time, got back together with Dave Vanian on vocals. I spent two years playing with them. It was great. Out of all the bands that I ended up being a hired gun that was the one I enjoyed the most. It was a great laugh. PB : They’re a group who are not known for having any rules. Did you enjoy that ? KD : I did, but there was always this burning issue with me that I just didn’t feel a part of it. It wasn’t mine and it never would be, because the band had had 15 years before me. It wasn’t a massive problem because I was a really big fan. I was brought up on playing ‘New Rose’ and ‘Neat Neat Neat’. I listened to ‘Damned Damned Damned’ a lot when I was first playing guitar. It was for me like being in a Damned tribute band , but with Rat Scabies actually playing drums and Dave Vanian singing. PB : Were you involved in recording with them ? KD : Yeah, I was. I did the ‘I’m Alright and Jack and the Beanstalk’ album with them (Marble Orchard, 1994-Ed). PB : Were you involved in the songwriting ? KD : No, I wasn’t. Rat ran the show completely at that point. I wouldn’t say it was a closed shop, but I didn’t really come up with anything. I was too shy to go “Look I’ve got this song.” PB : Were you songwriting at this stage ? KD : Yeah, I have always written songs since I picked up the guitar. I have come up with riffs and lyrics too, but I had always been shy to present them to people because a lot of them were really personal to me. Some people in that situation would throw everything at the main guys and have taken the attitude that what gets used gets used and what doesn’t doesn’t, but I have never been like that. Mind you, a good song is a good song. I guess I was afraid of rejection. PB : After the Damned you were involved with Del Amitri. Were you very much a hired hand there as well ? KD : Yeah, they tried to make it a group thing, but it never would be. It was always just going to be Justin Currie and Iain Harvie (Del Amitri’s vocalist and guitarist and co-founders-Ed). I got a phone call from Justin Currie completely out of the blue. That was a weird one because all the bands I had played in before were nothing like Del Amitri. I am still not sure why they asked me to audition. I had heard of them obviously and I quite liked their singles. I thought they were good, well-crafted pop songs, but I couldn’t say I was a fan or anything or knew any of their album stuff. It came, however, at a time when I really needed something. They biked around some albums for me to listen to and I remember I put on the 'Twisted’ album, and I listened to it and I thought “There is noone on Earth who can do this better than I can. I can do this country rock sort of thing. I know that I can do this as well as if not better than anyone else.” I think that might have come across in the audition. I just knew that it was mine. They were really pleased because they had been having a hard time finding the guitar player to do their next tour. The Del Amitri years were neither here or there really. It was a good wage. I was pleased to be working. It was the most successful I have been, but I can’t say that it fulfilled me musically. I kind of resigned myself to thinking this is what I do. I am earning a good living out of playing my guitar. I should just be thankful for that. PB : So what made you change your mind about that ? KD : I had always kept writing. I have always loved to do my own thing. It was always in me.

Picture Gallery:-
Kris Dollimore - Interview Part 1

Kris Dollimore - Interview Part 1

Kris Dollimore - Interview Part 1

Kris Dollimore - Interview Part 1

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Interview Part 2 (2007)
Kris Dollimore - Interview Part 2
...while in the second part he speaks about his new debut solo album, '02/01/1978'

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