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Pop Will Eat Itself - Interview

  by Erick Mertz

published: 21 / 5 / 2015

Pop Will Eat Itself - Interview


Pop Will Eat Itself frontman Graham Crabb talks to Erick Mertz about three decades of stirring the underground pot and returning to the stage for the Gigantic Festival

Even if you’re not familiar with their sample heavy, hip-hop influenced sound, the name Pop Will Eat Itself should surely ring a bell to long-time fans of alternative rock. It doesn’t sound like a band name, except it is. The iconoclastic English group has been turning heads and turning up the noise since the mid-1980’s, with records like 'This Is The Day… This Is The Hour… This Is This' and their highest UK chart success to date, Dos Dedos Mis Amigos. Pop Will Eat Itself first went their separate ways in 1996. After a brief reformation in 2005, the band has been back in full force since 2010, with stronger than ever material, such as 2011’s 'New Noise Designed By A Sadist' and their brand new 'Anti-Nasty League'. Through the entire span of PWEI’s history has been one Graham Crabb, a surly rule breaker who is, above all things, outspoken about his band’s celebrated place in the pantheon of underground music they helped define. I had a chance to share a few words with Crabb about life, love and the pursuit of nastiness in advance of their set at England’s 2015 Gigantic Festival. PB: Your band went through a dizzying array of names before settling on your memorable moniker. How did you manage to settle on Pop Will Eat Itself? GC: We actually put out the same demo under different names and said we would call ourselves whatever got the best reaction. John Robb loved our tunes and his copy was under the name Pop Will Eat itself. The other names were Pop Tarts and Grrrr. Thank fuck that PWEI won! PB: Were you aware of how far that moniker would go toward branding both yourselves and your sound? GC: Obviously not. At the time we were just trying to be a bit cultist and weird. It was David Quantick who had put the four words together. I just saw it in a music paper and it leapt out at me as a great concept. Thanks David. PB: You’re about to take the stage at Gigantic Festival. Looking back, describe those first sets in the early 1980’s, sixteen songs, less than a half an hour. GC: He he he. We got away with it in the UK. Our first gigs in Birmingham and the Black Country were shambolic. We thought we were The Jesus & Mary Chain. I’d regularly trash my drum kit or just walk off. We were always shit-faced but gained a reputation as the local hell raisers. People like folk devils. Then we started gigs in Europe and they just would not take the short sets. At one gig in Germany, we were barricaded in the dressing room with an angry crowd banging on the door. When our tour manager tried to calm the situation down and speak to them through an inch of open door they shouted ‘the band were shit and didn’t play for long enough!’. So basically, they were asking for more shit!! PB: I am fascinated by your bold cross-pollination with hop-hop, influenced by acts like Run DMC and Public Enemy. Did you feel as though you blended in with those acts on stage and in your shared communities? GC: I felt hip hop was the new punk rock, and Public Enemy were the new Sex Pistols. When Run DMC cranked the guitars up on 'Walk This Way', it was game on. We wanted to be a part of that whole crossover scene and when Run DMC came to tour England, Rush management contacted us and asked us to support. Playing with Run DMC and Public Enemy was better than winning the lottery. It validated everything we were doing, despite it previously confusing the fuck out of most people who just didn’t understand this new hip hop thing. PB: The hip-hop/rock hybrid tends to be demonized, especially in the states. Who do you listen to now that you feel carries the PWEI banner? GC: As it should be really, the pure hip-hop/rock hybrid is very dated. We were never just into hip-hop, we had punk rock and post-punk roots, but in the late 80’s I was going to raves and got totally into acid house and then later, perhaps as a consequence of touring the States a lot got into heavier, more industrial type beats. I’m not sure anyone carries the PWEI banner. I love Sleaford Mods. The White Mandingos are awesome. Prodigy and Hadouken! I see elements of us in all those bands, despite them being much better than us. PB: Sixteen years passed between 'New Noise Designed By A Sadist' and its predecessor. How did you resist the urge to dive back into writing new PWEI songs? GC: I think there’s a natural wanting to break free from a band. It becomes like a job, or you don’t feel you’re particularly progressing or life starts getting in the way. I needed a break and for ten years I was happy not doing PWEI. But after the Reformation gigs it felt like a lost limb had been returned. PB: What comes next for PWEI? It seems like there is a no holds barred element to your collective futures. GC: Who knows? I hope it works out but the music industry is in a shocking state. We’re seeing if we can get by being as independently as possible, but who knows, we’ve got shows in Australia, New Zealand and the States is coming up. It’s a great band and hopefully we’re doing what most thought we’d never do and are making PWEI a force again. PB: Thank you.

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