SONG FOR EWE with
JAMES JOHNSTON of
“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day.
Today’s guest is a man who is the musical link between Derek Raymond, the pulp crime writer and Paul Raymond, the king of seamy seventies Soho and beyond, it’s a raconteur of tales from both the bottom of the whisky glass, and the bottom of his heart, Britain’s own Bad Seed, member of Faust and band leader of cult and enduring London garage rock band Gallon Drunk, James Johnston…
Gallon Drunk were a big part of the early incarnation of Velvet Sheep fanzine and their early 90s records on Clawfist plus James Johnston & Terry Edwards’ score to Derek Raymond’s “I Was Dora Suarez” were some of the first I was ever sent to review.
While I lament for the slow lurching death of Soho, somewhere I still frequent for its TV edit suites, whenever I pass by the sorry looking shutters of Walkers Court, I am taken right back to the technicolour seaminess I first remembered when venturing up to London on the train from Gravesend by the imperious opening of Gallon Drunk’s album “From The Heart Of Town”. The song “Jake on the Make” has a lurching, drunken swagger than is as intoxicating as the breath of the anti-hero of its title. It’s still one of my favourites by a band that has continued, operating just off the sonar pulse but always operating on its own terms. With its end sample of a tannoy announcement “This is a call for Joe Byfield of the Gallon Drunk party” I always harboured hopes of joining that party.
Gallon Drunk have grown as I have, and have become gnarlier, more experimental and impossible to ignore as the years have continued. Like a fine wine, they’ve matured with some of their best work in the last few years, tempered by a band’s tragic loss on “The Road Gets Darker From Here” and the increasing influence both of James’ work with Faust and the latter years influence of multi-talented multi-instrumentalist Terry Edwards as full-time member on last year’s “The Soul of the Hour” which I reviewed for The Quietus here.
Over the years since the fanzine, and through MTV Alternative Nation I became friends with Terry, and through him been in touch with James.
When Velvet Sheep was an infrequent garage rock clubnight at the Whitechapel Gallery in the noughties I always dreamt of putting Gallon Drunk on live as they seem like the archetypal Velvet Sheep house band – devilish tunes, ramshackle but rollicking, primal and animalistic. Maybe one day!
In any case, I can imagine how that might have sounded by getting hold of the new GD release “Access All Hours” a live album & DVD of the band at the Town & Country Club in 1992, including the epochal “Some Fool’s Mess”…
It seemed only natural to ask James Johnston, a long time hero of mine & Velvet Sheep to contribute to our “song for ewe” feature and he’s done me proud by choosing another of my rock n’ roll idols…
Over to James:
“”Iggy Pop, Nightclubbing from TV Eye Live.
I love this version, I got the album when I was about 14. The sound is just fantastic, so completely raw. I vivdly remember staring at the label going round listening to this track in my bedroom at my parents’ house. It was on my mind when I woke up this morning, having been for some reason part of a garbled dream involving introducing my mother to a drunk Nina Simone who I carried into the kitchen on my back.”
THANKS TO JAMES JOHNSTON. “ACCESS ALL AREAS” AVAILABLE NOW – here…
CHECK OUT THE GALLON DRUNK BANDPAGE while you’re at it…