by David Necro
Photos by: David Necro
There always is a prototype. Such is the case with the veteran British punk band G.B.H. They've created a legacy that includes a sound (and a look) that has inspired thousands of punk, and yes, metal bands (and fans) ever since they crawled out of the gutter in 1980. With a street-wise (humourous, and running with political and horror themes) stance that reflects heavily on the gritty environment of Birmingham, England (the city they hail from;) they are true punk rockers in every sense. This is because they never strayed from their working-class roots, never catered to trends, and never bent over for anyone in the music biz. It is fantastic that they are still around, due to the over-saturation of this disgusting anomaly known as "pop-punk." Which has not quite ruined the worldwide punk scene, but has been a cancer or plague of sorts. With their brand of heavy, fast punk, G.B.H. could chew up the Blinky 196's and Bad Charlotte (the Harlots) of the world and spit them out without batting an eyelash. It's true. But that's not the point. The point is, is G.B.H. know what they're doing and make good on that promise. Also, they fully know and understand their genre. That's what's important, and as this interview shows, they aren't so pretentious to say they wouldn't play a big gig or sign a lucrative contract. Providing it is on their own terms. That's ok, there's nothing wrong with that as long as "making it" mean not compromising what you are doing. To find out more, I spoke with lead singer (and founding member) Colin Abrahall (who is quite the heartthrob to many a punk princess out there) to see what lies behind the "leather, studs, bristles, and acne." Oi!
David Necro: I noticed that your hometown of Birmingham, England produces a lot of heavy and aggressive bands. Why do you feel that is?
Colin Abrahall: It might be something in the water. But, I know what you mean. You know there's like Black Sabbath and half of Led Zeppelin (Robert Plant and John Bonham,) and Judas Priest and all that sort of stuff. But, there's lots of bands in Detroit that are of a similar style. In Detroit, you know it's likened to Birmingham. Because you've got the car factories. Who knows?
D. Necro: How does the environment make a person feel, and as a result, produce this sort of music?
C. Abrahall: The only way to get out of working in the factory was being a sports star or being in a band. It's an escape route. But now, they're closing a lot of the factories...
D. Necro: I've noticed that in industrial cities that the audiences have a taste for outrageous, bizarre, annd aggressive forms of entetainment. They seem to really grasp on that.
C. Abrahall: Yeah, because it's so close to reality all the time.
D. Necro: A reflection of what they have to live with.
C. Abrahall: Yeah, yeah.
D. Necro: Speaking of agggressive, that's what people characterize your music as; visceral, aggressive, and so forth. Is there more to it? Are there subtleties that people miss?
C. Abrahall: Yeah, a lot of subtleties.
D. Necro: Ok. Can you explain that further?
C. Abrahall: Well, all our songs have got very strong tunes which you can whistle, and I think a lot of people miss that because it's played in such a hard style.
D. Necro: They take that 1 aspect of it.
C. Abrahall: Yeah, it is fast and it's melodic as well. But, a lot of people miss the melodic.
D. Necro: So, if you were to do an acoustic set, we would hear this. True?
C. Abrahall: Yeah.
D. Necro: when you started, the whole "Punk Is Dead" thing was going around. How did this affect you?
C. Abrahall: Nah, it's never dead. Most of the bands from around the second wave of punk, which we're from, we're all the audience from the first wave. The point of punk was that anyone could go out and form a band. So as we were the audience, we could naturally be the next bands.
D. Necro: Ok, so you were inspired by those groups. But, were you also inspired by the groups that they were? The Iggy Pops and the Lou Reeds of the world.
C. Abrahall: Yeah, absolutely. When I got into the Sex Pistols and the Clash, and I read about them, they used to say what bands influenced them. So, I'd go back and listen to those bands, It's just like a big circle.
D. Necro: Well, I wouldn't think you would cover "I Feel Alright" by the Stooges for nothing.
C. Abrahall: Oh yeah, and even from like getting into the Stooges and reading stuff about them, they were influenced by the Rolling Stones. So, I started listening to the Rolling Stones, and got where that came from; then the Stones were influenced by the Beatles, and the Beatles were influenced by Elvis. Everything always comes back to Elvis.
D. Necro: Yeah, I suppose, and guys like Eddie Cochran.
C. Abrahall: Yeah, yeah, that's good stuff.
D. Necro: did you ever have any heavy metal influences? I ask this because you've been labeled over the years as a hybrid of punk and metal. Maybe starting with your 'Midnight Madness...and Beyond' record, and those that followed.
C. Abrahall: Nah, I'm not really into heavy metal. I don't really like it. I like Motorhead and AC/DC, but I think that's more heavy rock than heavy metal. Shit like Motley Crue really doesn't interest me.
D. Necro: Ok, did you catch anything off of say, Black Sabbath?
C. Abrahall: No, I can't say I'm into them either. I know a few of their songs, but I wouldn't say I was a fan.
D. Necro: Ok, that's not surprising (laughs) Anyway, what sort of emotions do you feel your music gives the listener?
C. Abarahall: Love, hate, anger. All those normal emotions.
D. Necro: Nothing extraordinary.
C. Abrahall: Nah.
D. Necro: There is a political side, true?
C. Abrahall: Yeah, it's slightly political.
D. Necro: With your songs like, "Gunning For The President."
C. Abrahall: Yeah, but it's always with tongue-in-cheek as well. Because we grew up basically Socialists, and we kind of disagree with governments. But, what can you do? You can't overthrow a government with 1 man or 1 band or whatever.
D. Necro: There's also you song, "Sam Is Your Leader." Do you have a particular problem with the U.S. government?
C. Abrahall: No. Well, it's (referring to the lyrics of the above song) actually written on the Statue of Liberty, "bring me your poor, bring me your weak," and all that kind of stuff. It's always the poor people that always end up being in the armies of the government.
D. Necro: Yes, that is a fact.
C. Abrahall: Yeah, becuase if you're not poor, you can basically choose what occupation you have.
D. Necro: So would you have the same criticisms of Tony Blair as you would George W. bush, true?
C. Abrahall: Yeah, I would.
D. Necro: So there's no singling out of any particular leader.
C. Abrahall: No, just all lumped together in 1 thing.
D. Necro: Are you into conspiracy theories?
C. Abrahall: I am privately, they interest me.
D. Necro: There's a lot to that, that everyone's in cahoots and this sort of thing.
C. Abrahall: There's a song on the last album ('Ha Ha') called "I Want To Believe," which is all about UFO's, the Loch Ness Monster, and the way governments control all of the information that's available.
D. Necro: Speaking of that, you have some tunes with horrific or dark themes, such as "Lycanthropy," "Blood," "Horror Story," "Necrophilia," and "Am I Dead Yet?" Do you explore the more cinematic aspect of horror or are you interested in the more real aspect of it?
C. Abrahall: No, I was just into horror films.
D. Necro: So you don't think vampires are real.
C. Abrahall: I dunno. I'm open minded about it.
D. Necro: It's a known fact that you influenced the original thrash metal scene of the 80s; bands such as Slayer, early Metallica, Anthrax, and Sepultura, true?
C. Abrahall: Yeah.
D. Necro: Why do you think that is/was?
C. Abrahall: Well, I think they liked the energy and stuff.
D. Necro: alright. Well, you made it clear that you're not inspired by the heavy metal scene. However, your music does contain heavy riffs, and does have a "heavy" sound to it, true?
C. Abrahall: Yeah, I would agree with that.
D. Necro: So, where did it come from?
C. Abrahall: I dunno. When we first started it was the easiest way for us to play. Because we weren't very skilled musicians at the time. It was a way of playing, and we sort of liked what we did.
D. Necro: Has your music changed over the years?
C. Abrahall: I wouldn't say so.
D. Necro: Do you prefer to perform during the day or at night?
C. Abrahall: Oh, at night. I prefer the night. The nightime is the right time.
D. Necro: Why is that?
C. Abrahall: I dunno. In the darkness, it's easier to play. It's weird during the day, it doesn't seem right somehow.
D. Necro: Yeah, it's the whole subterranean jungle aspect, especially in a big city. There's more electricity in the air. But, it's hard to put a finger on it. Moving right along, I feel you're a very underrated band, do you agree?
C. Abrahall: Yeah, but it's the story of our lives. We're struggling musicians still.
D. Necro: How does it feel to be an innovator, and see the people that you influenced go onto gain more financial success than yourselves?
C. Abrahall: It doesn't bother me. We've got our integrity I suppose, still.
D. Necro: So it doesn't make any difference as long as you enjoy what you're doing, true?
C. Abrahall: Yeah, that's true.
D. Necro: That's pretty humble of you. I dunno how I would feel in that situation. To be quite honest, I don't know if I would like it.
C. Abrahall: Well, I always think if we would have made it massive, and we were millionaires, we wouldn't be in the band together. So, it's the struggle that's kept us together.
D. Necro: You like being a little bit hungry.
C. Abrahall: Yeah. If you're too comforted, and you've got everything that you want, you lose all your desire to keep on making music.
D. Necro: Then you make fat, bloated, and lazy records.
C. Abrahall: Yeah, true. Just going through the motions.
D. Necro: But money is nice to have becuase you can give back to the fans more. Then again, you don't have a big theatrical production behind you like Alice Cooper or KISS. What do you think of bands that do that?
C. Abrahall: It kind of suits their music anyway.
D. Necro: Well, you do your own brand of theatrics like hang the mic stand from the rafters and jump into the audience. How would you describe that?
C. Abrahall: I dunno. I just get on with it. Doing the business.
D. Necro: Do you feel a lot of bands are too pretentious?
C. Abrahall: Yeah, they take themselves too seriously.
D. Necro: Do you record your albums in a relatively short period of time? They sure sound that way.
C. Abrahall: Yeah. 2 weeks maximum.
D. Necro: I feel that's good. Most rock bands worth their salt should do that.
C. Abrahall: Yeah, becuase of being taped too long.
D. Necro: It just becomes a mess, and you lose the energy and vitality of it.
C. Abrahall: It becomes too refined.
D. Necro: Have you cut any albums live in the studio?
C. Abrahall: I think the first 12 inch and maybe most of the first album were pretty much live. It was just a couple of guitar overdubs and backing vocals.
D. Necro: You prefer to do it that way, true?
C. Abrahall: Yeah.
D. Necro: It saves on studio costs as well (laughs) I noticed your albums are scattered over a wide range of labels. Did you lose control of your catalog? What happened?
C. Abrahall: We always seem to fall out with record companies because they don't deliver what they promise.
D. Necro: In other words, you don't put up with their bullshit.
C. Abrahall: Yeah.
D. Necro: It's a strange thing. For example, the '81-84 Punk Singles' is now on the 'Sanctuary' label. Before that, it was on another label, and before that, another label; and so on and so forth.
C. Abrahall: It was originally Clay Records, and then Clay Records went bankrupt, and were bought out by Trojan Records. Sanctuary then bought out Trojan. So, that's how it comes to be on Sanctuary.
D. Necro: Would you contract with a company the size of Sanctuary for your new releases?
C. Abrahall: If they made us an offer, we'd consider it.
D. Necro: Are you against major labels in general?
C. Abrahall: If we had control over what was released and the whole product, I'd have no problem signing.
D. Necro: Well, I'm sure you know that doesn't guarantee that you won't get dropped if the album doesn't sell in the millions.
C. Abrahall: I think a record company's primary goal is to make money, not necessarily to release good music. But, I'm happy.
D. Necro: Would you say you're a band for the fans?
C. Abrahall: Yeah, definitely.
D. Necro: Why do you feel that way?
C. Abrahall: Becuase we were fans once and we know what it's like.
D. Necro: Do you feed off an audience?
C. Abrahall: Yeah, as long as someone's there, it makes us go more crazy.
D. Necro: So that does it for you.
C. Abrahall: Yeah. But, we do the same show for 10 people or 10,000 people.
For more on G.B.H. visit: http://www.njhindl.demon.co.uk/gbh/
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