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(added May 2014)



 by John McVicker


There was  no new album for seven years then you've got 2 new albums, true to form HANGMEN. You have to be different don't you ?

Well, it’s not a conscious effort to do things differently, just never accepted or followed the typical band strategies - question everything. We don’t see a need to follow other peoples footsteps and to be honest a lot of the courses some bands take is bandwagon jumping, predictable, so we don’t do it. We just want our stuff to be our stuff, play it well to our own satisfaction - then for it to find the right people, or vice versa. I think we’ve proved you don’t have to follow a trail that isn’t really your own or that you have do what is expected.
As for new albums the industry has had a big shake up since downloading really took off, one thing that we put off for too long and then took ages to fix was determining who owned rights to what and where, then working out how to legally secure and protect it. We’ve not exactly been the most industry friendly band to deal with and we never had great distribution, so we got hit hard by piracy online and otherwise. Then we didn’t want to play new material live for it to be badly recorded on fucking phone-cameras and dumped all over the worldwide web before we’d even got a crack at recording it properly. It all kind of put us off.
What is fundamentally wrong with music media is that people go see live music after hearing records and base expectations on that, it was once the other way round and that’s how we approach it.
Labels offer to re-release our old stuff, re-issue it, compile collections and all that to make a bit of money, we continue to write and play new stuff so if we’ve put most of that old material behind us we don’t want to know, so wherever possible we’ve gone for artistic control instead of using tired old showbiz tactics to scrape in a few quid.
There’s been a couple of re-issue things come out on iTunes etc. some with outside ownership, which we have to accept. Original Sins was discussed with the label owner prior to it’s download release as we weren’t sure about the contractual shit and how it related to downloading which wasn’t really thought of at the time. We won’t see a penny off the downloads for it but that label settled their part the bargain with us long ago, we’ve already had all we asked for from that deal so no hard feelings and good luck.
We had no choice but to make downloads available legally, the alternative was to be exploited forever by faceless people who’ve done fuck all but set up some home bootlegging operation, or ‘sharing’ as it’s too nicely called these days. They’re starving bands out of existence so we all end up losing not just the bands themselves, no one wants to invest work, time and money for fuck all I don’t care what anyone says about doing it purely for the music and exposure, they’d soon give up if it were them and certainly wouldn’t last twenty odd years. It wasn’t about making money, now there are codes embedded in the tracks that identify the legal owners to the music and recordings which is more important to us. The work is all ours, years of it, letting parasites come along and claim it for their own ends without any recognition is not an option, and if they’re ripping profit out of it maybe one day they’ll get screwed by the copyright societies. If it’s marked and registered as ours then they can’t claim any of it for themselves so that was the main reason.
To be fair Exhumed & Groomed isn’t a studio album project like the others, as they all represent a stage or era in the bands development that you can pin down. It’s to fill gaps in album collections with stuff that isn’t otherwise available and sort of give a behind the scenes glimpse. It had been suggested to us a lot over the years, after some hesitation we got together recordings we liked.
What we didn’t want to do was compile a ‘best of’ or re-issue an old album, it had to be a collection that offered something extra not a cash in. If we wanted to cash in we could and would have allowed the other albums to remain on the market or be re-compiled long ago. It’s more about exclusive band picks than top picks, within the guidelines that we set ourselves we are putting out what we want not necessarily what the pop pickers would want. I use the word pop with tongue rammed firmly in cheek obviously.
I think Exhumed & Groomed achieves what it was meant to do, which is present a less disclosed side of the band to people who have the other albums - demos so they get a feel for how we get to where we’re going with stuff and released singles tracks that weren’t part of an album project before – and were unavailable as such - but which also seem to gel with the other tracks and remain representative of the band today. We all agreed it worked fine as an album, agreed on the title then that was the green light.
We had to push for a CD release as it was originally sponsored for download only, but I’m happy to say the CDs have initially outsold the downloads. It’s a limited CD edition so at some point that may change as true to form it won’t be repressed.
As for the other album you refer to, that is a whole new album project but won’t be out for some time. We are allowing ourselves the luxury of working at our own pace meaning we do a little, leave it then revisit what’s been done after a break, have a think about it - and if we think it could be better we revisit.
As we speak, we’d began recording seven new numbers but after revisiting them we will be tweaking some things and starting again. For a change I’m actually enjoying the recording process as there’s no clock ticking and with the help of the other band members some unexpected twists are being added to the original concepts – so I’m not in a hurry to just get it over with for a change. We are playing some of them live now.
Another reason that it’s been so long is that this is a band that is consciously avoiding rewriting itself, the ideas that haven’t been spent take longer to come and then meet our approval. More and more stuff gets thrown out.
I believe all of our albums have an evolved feel to them and their own vibe individually. They each mark a period of evolution, when the time is right to conclude each period an album clinches it and allows us to relax a little.
Having said all that, it’s still a rock n’ roll bands album that’s coming up! Raw and uncluttered. The material definitely carries the mood of the band on another step.

This line up seems pretty stable.

It’s a great working unit for new material, a lot of experience, taste and creative talent on board. There is 3 way input and feedback, as opposed to some fucking duffers who just say ‘tell me what you want and I’ll play it’.
I come up with the base ideas then the others will take things, change things, suggest things, sometimes even insist on changing things. I find that sometimes a change is an improvement that adds something, sometimes it is just a different way neither better or worse but I do take their input seriously – which had been quite rare ha!
I want that, I don’t want ‘yes’ men no matter how good they can play, I want the ideas and suggestions and for them to own their part of it. I’m just a guitarist and focus on that, hit them with the basics and off they go. Sometimes they’ll suggest I change my own parts as well, and I can do the same with them. It should all bear out in the mood and character of the next album, like all the other albums have their own sort of progressive stamp, which is what we all ultimately want to achieve. The elusive masterpiece on our terms – ha!

When you're not gigging what do you lot do?
Collectively we have basic similar interests, the obvious - bands, music, records, horror stuff, serial killers...beyond that common ground you can ask them, they have minds and voices of their own. It usually seems to be me that is approached to speak for them, I do think they deserve more credit than they get for what they bring to the band.
Song-writing and working on new material goes on which obviously we all do as and when at a pace we find comfortable.
When we’re not playing personally I indulge in my other lifelong passion of drag racing, I’ve given that a bit more of a priority in recent years, more than I used to when the band was running hectic live schedules year in year out.

And any idea what your ex members have gone on to?
Not really, most still play in some capacity or other I gather. I do remain good friends with most of them contrary to popular rumour! I’ve had the odd jam session too, just as friends do. It was a privilege to play with some of them and one or two really helped forge the band onwards and left their legacy.
The bands progress was hit badly by a lot by line-up upheavals for a few years, usually caused by very understandable personal circumstances or else internal issues, poor team attitudes rather than musical ability. If someone wants to fuck people about they can go fuck people about under another name. Get with it or get out.
When you’re in a band you can’t put yourself first, you have to put yourself out for people and work on your part, you can’t sit on your arse suiting yourself until some opportunity you really like the sound of gets handed to you by people who are doing all the graft. I think one or two were chancing their luck on whether the balls were there to restructure yet another time, poor timing and everything else playing a part or even thinking the band would suffer a setback without them so they could get away with some shit – well, don’t fuck with firewalkers!
If it wasn’t going forward there was no point, “Don’t stick it out kick it out - nothing to get sick about” as the song goes.

Your first release was on Rockhouse in 1991. Do you ever listen to that material?

No. I don’t really like revisiting the bands past musically and that album was made too soon, we were a bunch of rookies who didn’t really know what we were doing. We had been formed less than a year and weren’t really prepared for an album, we had no idea how to go about recording it, and if we had no clear concept then the studio had no chance with a band like us. We thought we were demo-ing for a six track mini LP and wrote a lot of the stuff on that album in the studio, got drunk and just went for it.
We re-recorded some of it some years later, really just trying to right the wrongs, at Paul Fenech's studio with the man himself at the desk and with obviously better results. That session was also offered a release but it would have been a backward step and just a cash in so we turned it down. We had ‘No Happy Endings’ in the pipeline at the time so didn’t want the past creeping back as we moved forward. A couple of the re-recordings appeared as bonus tracks on the No Happy Endings vinyl picture disc, purely because they were firm favourites with the label owner who’d been a fan since the first album and who was also a great guy so we let him have them.
From Original Sins onwards I think it’s reasonably decent sounding stuff. Last Train and Tested On Animals are popular still and have better songs by far than the first one but they just didn’t represent the band sound-wise.

Of all your releases which was the best deal and which release are you happiest with sound wise?

Cacklefest! album. I also really like The Curse, really proud of that song and my own performance on it. I don’t think we could have written, played or sang that one any better. Mix wise, although there’s nothing wrong with it - it gets the mood perfectly, there’s a couple of riffs that could have been brought out a touch more, I’m talking a couple of seconds worth! But I’m never 100% happy, always hear things that could have been tweaked for my own personal satisfaction but I’ve long accepted that is a fact of recording that sits with everyone who does it. You always think it could be better afterwards but I’d hate to make a clinically ‘perfect’ recording though, there’d be no charm.

What's been your favourite tour /country you played in?
I couldn’t say, it’s just been fucking great most of the time - it wouldn’t be fair on those I missed out to name one.
It takes a lot of work to host a band on tour or a festival and many promoters we have worked with have been fantastic, not necessarily grand - in fact far from it in a lot of cases - but just a pleasure to meet and work with and have fun with.
I can’t even remember how many countries that involves or how many times for some of them. We could once get around nine countries in succession across both sides of the Atlantic, the latest one was down to five I think. The sad thing is that at that extreme you can lose some recollection so sometimes you aren’t totally sure where you have been for a while, you just don’t get time to process it.
Really, it’s not a geographical thing. The best times are the best times because of the people involved and the audiences not their nationality or whereabouts. There is no rock n’ roll Valhalla!

Any funny on the road stories you can share?

Hundreds probably. Depends on your sense of humour.

One thing I've always admired the HANMEN  for is you always seem  happy to go your own way.

Happy may not be the right word! It can be a bloody hard work for less reward compared to just going with the flow. Sometimes it means missing out, or some hardship or other - but we won’t depend on anybody, except maybe the people who want to hear us play - but hey we were once playing before we were ever heard!  So we’d still have happened without you world, tough shit.

What about your own label ,releasing  other peoples material. How  well did  that Lost Souls CD sell ?

It sold quickly but was pulled after 500 copies as the band weren’t happy with the recordings, as a band we respected that where a label would want its investment realised. I should add that two versions of that album were recorded, the Lost Souls had control over the recordings and weren’t happy with either version – although the frequency issue on the release wasn’t present in the original recordings they felt the performance wasn’t good enough on the original. Legally we could have ignored their wishes and made more money back but that’s not how we roll. Basically we were gigging with them a lot and it seemed no-one wanted to catch that band at a time when they were really shining, we had some cash from Last Train To Purgatory so we stepped up. Sadly they never got their satisfaction in the end, which again I can relate to!
There was talk of a re-issue in recent years as I still feel that band is too overlooked in the psychobilly archives, but in the end it never happened.
Most bands these days self-release, a first album at least. It’s a lot easier, cheaper and common-place than when we tried it with our second album. We just felt we already had direct contact with our audience by then, mailing list, gigs and everything, so we could do it without complicating things with labels and publishers, and actually get something out of it, so we did. It was a lot harder back then to do it, not a lot of help around and the labels were still largely in control.
We knew nothing really, we had to look into recording studios, pressing licences, bar coding, artwork, mastering, pressing, distribution - the lot. These days there’s companies that do all that for you but we had to ring round lots of businesses step by step asking where the fuck to even start. Then when the albums finally turned up they weren’t even assembled! A box with the discs in, another with the cases, another with the trays, another with the booklets, tray cards – so we even had to put every one together and find boxes to ship them out in! It took months! It sold out really fast and ordering more was a very reluctant move after that!
We learned a lot from that and it affected how we’d approach deals thereafter. I think the first two albums were just us learning, the third was really the beginning of what the band was to become.

Or playing not typically psycho gigs is that for a reason?

When we began there was barely a Psychobilly scene left at all so it wasn’t like we rode a crest of any wave, we just went out and played wherever invited us, so we’ve never known any different. Every time we played we got more offers and it’s just gone on like that over the years.
Since the renaissance we are still something of an outsider band, don’t really know why but it’s never been a problem for us as our fanbase is probably 50/50 inside and outside of the ‘scene’ so we’re not reliant. Obviously we have a very strong and valued connection - but as you suggest it also doesn’t pass un-noticed that we are kind of persona non grata with some of that scene, a lot of people are puzzled about it and we can’t really answer them.
Some, certainly not all, but many clearly very active Psychobilly promoters seem conspicuously happy to book every band old and new from near and far, year in year out - except THE HANGMEN!
I remember we once named a tour U
underworld Underdogs as a kind of finger up to the scene that was blanking us. We’ve even had promoters asking us to change our bookings if dates clashed with their gigs nearby so that their turnout didn’t take a hit. If they had never booked us or had any intention of booking us we’d just tell ‘em tough shit. 
Maybe we should have a farewell gig or tour so we can hype up some come-back, or lie and say we played the Klub Foot. Or have a more stylish publicity photo, posing and wearing the latest look, wear costumes and shit with jugglers and circus animals or something, have stunt riders on stage with us and put creating music to one side. Or maybe just even have a publicity photo at all.
We did have a disturbing clown get up and freaky show start-up a few times which was fun, many years ago – three or four times maybe and very randomly. It quickly seemed to be getting an expected part of it all so we dropped it. People would say they were disappointed that we hadn’t done it when they came out to hear us play, which just proved it was distorting things and becoming a gimmick.
If we split then staged a come back we would do the comeback the day after the farewell concert. That would be our style, take the piss out of all that showbiz shit.
I won’t tar that whole genre with the same brush because we have had hundreds of great experiences with many promoters – and bands and audiences - over the years and remain on great terms with them all socially as well. We certainly wouldn’t have achieved anywhere near as much without that scene support that’s for sure - we owe a huge debt of selective gratitude, but we also know where to direct it.
Apart from getting back in touch with some promoters - if we’re planning to hit the road and their location would fit in - we don’t really chase gigs and work by invite only, maybe that’s part of it but I do like to think we are good to work with and we have had some promoters actually writing thank you letters and offering themselves as references over the years.
We’re aware that some fucking clueless posers accuse us of slagging off psychobilly to stir up some contempt, but they’re obviously talking out of their arses. I mean, seriously!? Stir up contempt against us by all means – but stick to the facts. THE HANGMEN pre-date them, out-distance them, out-gig them and will probably outlive them. Fuck ‘em.
Personally I enjoy playing out of the comfort zone, pulling off a good gig to a non-Psychobilly crowd is very rewarding, you have to walk without crutches and prove yourself as a band like it’s your first ever gig not the 800th. We don’t try any less for any type of crowd, it’s always the hope to play our best ever gig - but it’s good to feel unknown and still rock a place. Punk and biker promoters and audiences have been great to play for in particular, we suit rowdy types. We have interest and compliments from all walks of life and tastes of band watchers, it surprises me sometimes.
I’ve heard people say they don’t like psychobilly but they like THE HANGMEN, and then there are some that will say the exact opposite! It’s a hate us or rate us type of thing, which I like as it means we’re judged as a band not on how comparable we are with the rest of the pack. To be incomparable means that we are distinctive and if we weren’t we’d be wasting our time. You either get The Hangmen or you don’t. Either way is good, it’s good to challenge peoples tastes and conceptions and be too much for them to understand!
If we pleased the masses we’d be getting it wrong, we’d be part of the lowest common denominator like pop music. Interchangeable and devalued. Pointless.
What’s interesting to me is that most people who like our stuff like all of it to some degree despite the evolvement, whatever is at the core of it works - no matter how far apart some stuff is you know exactly who you’re hearing from the word go. As Kill 'em Gillham prefers to say it just is what it is, and I’ll say we are all in agreement.

What’s been your best experience of being in the HANGMEN?

Where do I start!? Had shitloads of great experiences. The real reward is just playing the bands stuff really, and not having to put on any pretence for the sake of a show or answer to anybody. I’ve tried out playing in other bands, I still get asked fairly regularly but it does nothing for me. A few ex-members have also commented that they had never had, nor have found since anything like playing in THE HANGMEN. Hard to describe but we all know what we mean! It’s kind of it’s own entity. For better or worse maybe!
Another perk is seeing some great bands that through no fault of their own will probably never be heard of outside their locality, nor get a release deal or even last more than a couple of years but they were great, the underdog bands who send out hundreds of demos and fight to get on bills because they just want to play their own thing in some dive of a club. A band from New York pestered a promoter in Toronto to be on the bill with us, well they got the gig, bottom billing, unpaid and drove all the way there and back and still did it and they were great. They probably split a long time ago but like many of those bands I still remember them! I’ve enjoyed and admired a lot of bands I’d never have been around to see if it weren’t for The Hangmen getting out there. We seem to attract weirdo eccentric rock n roll bands as supports, maybe that’s the secret – birds of a feather and all that. Unfortunately me liking a band seems to be the kiss of death for their popularity, but whenever I could get a demo or something off the really good ones I would. And I still play them.

Would you change anything?

No. Even when hindsight shows that something was a bad move, it obviously had to be tried. The bad bits, the challenges you don’t need, they help you appreciate the good bits even more.

What does the future hold for THE HANGMEN ?

New material same as always, when the new material is all fired up and in the can we’ll want to get out more and deliver it live as it should be. Personally I’d like to be out playing live more but not to the insane schedules we used to try and keep to, a hundred gigs a year or something isn’t going to happen.

Where would you like to play that you haven't?

Hells Vagina. As resident band.