This is an interview stolen from 'Rising Free Fanzine' no. 3. (81?)
The Angelic Upstarts were formed in South Shields after the initial punk
explosion had hit London. Their first single "The Murder of Liddle Towers" was
released via Rough Trade/Small Wonder and it still remains a classic punk
single. Since then the band have ridden the bumpy road in search of stardom.
Line up changes, naughty goings on in the North East and violence at their gigs
has not quenched Mensi's thirst to create a band that inspires others to
achieve goals of their own. Hopefully the past misfortunes will not rear their
ugly head again. The band, Mensi, Mond, Glynn and Decca have never minced
words. This interview is not an exception.
The single 'Last Night Another Soldier', was this aimed at the British Army
in Ireland or at the Army as a whole?
Mensi: The Army as a whole, but both really, it's about soldiers dying.
Do you think the Army should pull out of Northern Ireland?
Mensi: I haven't hot the answer, I'm not intelligent to say whether they
should pull out, but someone should do something instead of pissing about and
arguing amongst themselves, cos kids are still getting killed. Send Tony Gordon
(Sham Rejects Upstarts manager) over there, he'd sort 'em out, put them on a
weekly wage that they couldn't afford to live on. With 25 pounds per week they
wouldn't have enough money to buy bombs or guns. Or send Jimmy Pursey over to
talk them to sleep, and Garry Bushell, he'd scare 'em with his spots, I've
never seen anybody with so many spots as Bushell, Acne Bracket, Acne Bracket
Do you like him?
Mensi: No, not really (long pause) he's to spotty, he's really ugly.
Do you know why he slags me off all the time, 'cos he's jealous of my good
looks. Like when Charlie Harper compared our bands in your last issue he
forgot to mention that I'm the prettiest man in punk rock.
You talk like Ali.
Mensi: That's right, I'm the Mohammed Ali of punk, 'cept I'm white. (Mensi adds if there are any girls reading this and they are interested they
should get in touch with him. Oi! Oi!)
After writing the song 'England' what makes you proud to be English?
Mensi: What makes a Scotsman proud to be Scottish, what makes an Irishman
proud to be Isrish. The trouble is there's not enough people in this country
who are proud to be English. Mond: Put it this way, you could have been born a Greek or an Iranian
and that should make you proud to be English. Mensi: You're a racist! You're a racist! This band has been infiltrated
with nazis. No seriously, there is no-one in this band who is colout
prejudiced. It's just we hate niggers. No, it's not true. The Anti-Nazi League
thing is a load of toss.
You wouldn't do RAR again?
Mensi: I mean what's the use of playing Alexandra Palace in front of 4000
people when 3900 of the are white. And another thing, niggers are more racist
than whire people are.
But there's good and bad in everyone.
Mensi: Yeah I know but they could do a lot more for themselves and RAR.
When RAR has evenly split audiences that's when you're getting across.
Do the National Front Skinheads try and influence you?
Mensi: They try, but I haven't met any bright ones.
Do you think it's just something for people to follow?
Mensi: Yeah, it's just a fashion, the best parts of the aren't nazis. The
pub where we drink has some NF/BM people bit some of their mates are darkies.
People are entitled to their own views, whether I think they're right or wrong.
It's a free country.
You shouldn't be ashamed to be English and white which is another thing the SWP
put over, it's as if it's our fault we were born white, we should all have been
born niggers. I've got nothing against niggers but I'm proud to be white. But
the way things are in this country, if you're proud to be English and white
you're branded as a nazi, and it's time it's stopped. Glynn: You can't wear a Unoin Jack badge without people thinking you're
So perhaps the SWP, in a way, cause more trouble between factions?
Mensi: I'm sure they do, they had a march in London, one of these "troops
out" things. I went down just to clock the situation. It's the same faces all
the time, these poxy students with long hair, glasses and shoulder bags.
Getting the troops out isn't the solution to the problem.
I'll tell you who I thought was a really good politician who got slagged down,
and that was Enoch Powell. I don't think he was a racialist at all, he just
predicted things that DID happen. He was probably the most under-estimated
politician of all time, until he was exiled in some remote Irish constituency.
The papers branded HIM as a racist. If the NME get hold of this fanzine and
read this interview they'll brand ME as a racist. I think he should have been
Prime Minister, there you are.
Do you think politics and music should mix?
Mensi: No, but it happens 'cos everyone seems to ask me leading questions.
(I decide to change the subject to avoid asking leading questions).
From where do you get most of the ideas for your songs?
Mensi: From the poxy newspapers. Glynn: He just writes about things around him. Mensi: I can't write love songs.
Mensi: That was a leading question, "Sticks can" - tell 'em about Sticks.
Glynn: "Stick's Diary" is the B side of the latest single. Mensi: We found Stick's diary and Mond was reading out the words "oh my
God I love her so much, I can't live without her" and all that crap. It's about
his girl friend Karen who lives in Liverpool. It said in his diary that he was
going to sell his drum kit and give her the money so he could see her smile.
But we sold his drum kit and we smiled. (The band sold Stick's drum kit, which was worth 500 pounds to the drummer
of Infa Riot for 40 pounds. Because in Mensi's own words 'He's a good kid'.)
Why did Sticks leave?
Mensi: It was all over his girl friend, we didn't gang up on him, we didn't
mind him joining the Rejects, we're not all
gangsters you know. But Sticks started mouthing off to the papers that we were
too polite and soft and how he wanted to be hard and the Rejects were hard. And
after he had said all this we found his diary and it says "I love you so much,
I can't spend another minute without you" and I thought what the fucking hells
going on like. So instead of telling the truth that we wouldn't let his girl
friend live in our house, he told all these lies. That IS the real reason he
left the band. Glynn: She lived in the house for 6 months and all for free. Mensi: You see originally it was the four of us in the house living and
working together. We had this rule, by all means bring a lass down, she could
stay for a weekend or a week and then fuck off. Glynn: But when Karen came down from Liverpool for a weekend, she had
six cases, she stayed for 6 months. Mensi: Every time I went to the house she was there, you must understand
this, that I personally couldn't live with my own girl friend never mind living
with someone else's. I bear no personal grudge against him but you must
remember we're down here to work... it's no playtime. I mean, I wanna go mad
and smash the house up now and again. Mond: I wanna play with myself while watching our blue films and I can't
do that while someones lass is in the room. Glynn: The thing is, he was the sort of bloke who took everything very
personally, he'd go off in a mood. I had my girl friend at the house, but she
left after a while and got a flat so I moved out with her. Mensi: Which was fair enough. Glynn: Stick's lass was a dead idle anyway, she couldn't get a job. Mensi: When he did leave the house he said "By the way, I'm leaving the
band for the Rejects", I said right, great, fair enough. In fact, it was one of
the best things that has ever happened to the band.
Who actually wrote "Stick's Diary"? (Embarassed looks all around as Mond and Glynn start to tell conflicting
stories.) Mensi: Come on, tell the truth. (Mond and Glynn laugh) The person
who actually wrote the lyrics was the Bearded Mod, we played it and he gave us
the credit for it, which was good of him. Sticks told the Rejects we were lying
but we showed them the diary. We kept it just in case he tries to tell we've
gone soft, we'll show him who's soft. What gutted me about the diary was, 6
months ago it said how he wanted to pack the band in, and up to a week before
he packed the band in he was saying the Upstarts were everything to him, they
were his life, his lass came second. But he was telling nothing but lies and I
believed him. Glynn: If he had said something earlier, maybe we could have helped him.
Mensi: Mond was gutted. Mond: Aye, I was prepared to do anything for that lad. I thought he was
realyy into it, "the group before my girl" he told me. He was a liar.
Did you play prisons and sing 'Liddle' and 'Police Oppression' to get back
Mond: No, we just played 'cos it was a gig and they're hard to come by, we
knew a few blokes in there.
Did the screws let the prisoners dance?
Mensi: What do you think it is, a fucking disco! It's a prison man.
It's a wonder they let you out.
Mensi: Me, I shit myself it was frightening, once you get in there and they
close those gates behind you. We got in the hall and there was complete
silence, we did the first number and everyone sat there, then they all clapped
together and all stopped together, really weird.
What were the real reasons for the split with Warner Brothers?
Mensi: We were pinching too much stuff, no, we were blamed for a lot of
things we didn't do. They also wanted us to change musical direction, they
wanted us to be the British equivalent of the Eagles. They said to us your
third LP must be a change of direction. So we left. Mond: But we were still coming up with the goods. Mensi: Jimmy Pursey's the boy though, have you heard his new album? No.
Mensi: You're lucky then. No, Pursey's into what he's into. I hope he does
well, the best luck to him. But it's great when you're unemployed like Jim is
to have a swimming pool.
Do you have any desire to play any foreign countries?
Mansi: I wish we could, you'll have to see Tony Gordon about that.
What about America?
Mensi: Yeah! The girls over there are really dirty, I've got this good film
called "Debbie goes to Dallas". You've got to realise that there are so many
girls in this world who haven't had the pleasure of my body. Glynn: I'd like to go abroad because it's different, it would be a nice
Mensi, if you ever had to give up music would you go back down the mines?
Mensi: Yeah, I suppose so, it's good money, it's the only thing I know. The
only thing I really miss is the money, welll put it this way, I used to have a
sheepskin coat, four suits and a 1600 GT Capri, but I used to work for it.
Do you get a set wage each week from the record company?
Mensi: 25 pounds a week. Glynn: It's not much, you get it om Friday, it's gone by Sunday. Mensi: I hate it when you go down the Marquee and kids come up to you
and ask you to buy them a drink and when you tell them you aint got no money
they don't believe you. Sometimes I get very cynical with the kids. Glynn: Half the kids are most probably getting more on the dole. (The Upstarts are hard up, Mond still uses the same amps and cabs he started
with. Glynn adds that the whole back line is falling to pieces. On their last
tour they lost 2000 pounds. Their overheads are high, as they have to live down
here, Mensi also needs petrol for his Granada.) Mensi: The company (E.M.I) give us a certain amount to record
with. We like to get the best studios available to make a good recording and
You could do it cheaper and save a bit for yourself.
Mensi: We could do it, but we wouldn't be progressing and we'd be cheating
the kids, so it's not worth it. We're real heroes knoworrimean, Charlie Harper
was right, we're still doing it. Mond: We done it for the kids.
The interview finished with Mensi impersonating Jimmy Pursey, But Mond is
right they have done it for the kids.