Q&A with the Damned's Captain Sensible
"What's he going on about?" Captain Sensible, original bassist now turned guitarist for England's the Damned, asks me as P.J. barks at him.
"He wants your pizza," I say to this bleached-blond guy who looks a lot like me, except for the shorts and sandals.
"Me pizza?" he asks as he takes another bite of the stuff that the General brought over to the Punk offices.
"He likes human food," I tell him.
"Anything but lettuce," I explain. "He's got this thing against being healthy."
"That's a punk rock dog," the Captain exclaims.
I had originally planned to interview the Captain a day later. But when I heard that he and Dave Vanian, the band's lead singer, were gonna stop by the offices of Punk and maybe down some beers, well, I was there. I was also there because John Holmstrom, the editor of the magazine, has this knack for hiring cute interns. He'd probably do well in politics.
I arrive at the Punk office, where I'm greeted by John, his neighbor Frank and his intern/assistant, Jessica. Later his other assistant, Anna, shows up with this other hot chick with knee-high black boots and a sexy smile that makes the small room smell of testosterone. Oh, and also there's the General. Duh. He brought the pizza.
So we're all sitting around waiting for the guys to show up, and as we do so, Holmstrom tells me how he first saw the Damned back in 1978 when they toured the United States with the Dead Boys. I'm impressed, since the Dead Boys are one of my favorite bands of all time. He also explains to me that the Damned were cool because while all the other English bands around at the time, like the Clash and the Sex Pistols, were singing about politics, the Damned didn't give a fuck and were just punk rock and funny. My first time seeing them was at Joey Ramone's 50th birthday party, the one he couldn't attend because he was dead. I was blown away. Not only were they loud and fast, they were sloppy, funny and very cool.
About two months later, I got the new Damned album, Grave Disorder (Nitro). And it rocked, even though it's on the label owned by the guy who's the singer of the Offspring. So when I heard they were gonna be in town, I jumped at the chance to talk to them. I had a few choices. I could interview Dave Vanian. I could interview Captain Sensible. Or I could interview them both, but separately. It seems one of them shuts up when the other is around.
Being the journalist that I am, always willing to go that extra mile, I chose the Captain. The way I figured it was if I chose the singer, he'd never shut up, because singers hardly ever do. I'd have to listen and relisten to tapes of his voice for hours and transcribe it. Ick.
After about an hour and a half of some guy with a really weird beard taking photos of the Damned on the roof of Punk's building, I finally got to interview the Captain. But not before I got a good look at his singer's mouth, which really does contain fangs, and not before P.J. had a chance to bark and beg and finally get a huge piece of cheese and tomato sauce. And not before hearing from both the guys that my little terrier was from their neck of the woods, Yorkshire.
What do you think of New York pizza?
Much the same the world over, isn't it? A little bit of dough, chuck a little tomato puree on the top of it and a bit of cheese and away you go.
Yeah, but you just ate NEW YORK pizza?
Yeah, well it's pretty much the same. Oh, and that pizza wasn't really that good, was it? I was just being kind when I said it was sensational.
Look, I'm not a big pizza buff to be quite honest.
How do you feel about Eminem stealing your haircut?
Look in the mirror. Look at me.
Like he stole everything else. It's amazing how it's so easy to shock people now, isn't it really? We call his listeners Charvas in England. The baseball cap brigade. The shell suit. It's sort of like these kids from council estates [public housing] that listen to Eminem and are basically the stupid people and they go around behaving like, well, you know people say nobody takes his lyrics seriously? I'm afraid stupid kids all around the world are taking his lyrics seriously and are behaving in homophobic fashions and such. Actually, I think the bloke is an absolute wanker. But he's making lots of money.
When the Damned first came around with punk rock you shocked people?
Yeah, but we never said gay people are shit and that you should go out and beat up your wife after a few beers. Did we?
But it's kind of logical that it's come to this...things just get more extreme.
Yeah, and in five years' time, when rap has run its course, the band will go running around with nuclear bombs or something.
You were out of the Damned for a number of years, and now you're back. What's up?
I was, well, in a situation where I couldn't work with the drummer because unfortunately he had written me off.
Yeah. He managed to get hold of the rights for the first two albums. He didn't bother to pay me a royalty.
Couldn't you sue him for the money? That's "in" these days?
Yeah, but I think that's a pretty sad thing to do.
How does a drummer, the dumbest guy in any band, get control?
Well, there you go. But now it ends up that he's not in the band. Who's the dumbo now?
Why does everyone from England have bad teeth?
Is that Austin Powers or something?
I don't know what it costs here, but it's fucking expensive in Britain just to get your teeth done. I actually just had 20 years' worth of dental treatment done in five days a few months ago.
Twenty years' worth of damage. I had everything fixed. I know it doesn't look like it, but, well, I have fucking gold everywhere!
And your singer has fangs!
There ya go. We can afford to do it now because Dexter signed us.
Actually, how do you feel about that? You're on Dexter's label, Nitro. He's the lead singer of the Offspring. They made and make lots of money playing punk rock while you've been out there for years?
Whatever anyone thinks of them, they certainly have opened up guitar music again. People like them. Limp Bizkit is not my cup of tea, to be quite honest, but in Britain the country has been gripped by disco fever for the last, well, fuck knows how long?since the 80s at least. Guitars are now back in Britain and it's thanks to Limp Bizkit and the Offspring. So God bless them, I say. I was out of a job till them.
The guitar shop I go get me gear at in Brighton, the manager said to me, he said, "Look at this shit, Captain!" It was all that disco shit. Decks and samplers and such. Headphones and all that clever midi shit. He had to sell those. But now that's all out the window and guitars are back, and it's brilliant. So, ya know what? Fuck the pope.
Do you like these newer bands? Like the Offspring and Green Day and whatever?
Some of it. Some of it is all right. It's got the sound and it's got the speed, you know, and it has the production.
What about the danger?
I dunno what the lyrics are actually saying, but when you talk about danger I think of old George W. Bush.
Why is that?
Why? While everyone else around the world seems to be concerned about globalization and stuff like that, the bloke is basically an oil man. He's tearing up treaties like they're going out of fashion. The test ban treaty. Did you not know he's unpopular outside of America? He's extremely unpopular.
Did you not see what happened in July in Italy?
Look, we're proud to be dumb Americans and elect a thieving corporate business guy to run our country.
And Tony Blair is his foreign secretary.
Your singer guy, Vanian. He has these sharp teeth. Fangs. What's up with that?
We can afford to have them done now, can't we?
Do you think he's a vampire?
Does he think he's a vampire?
You'll have to ask him.
Okay. Final question. You are sitting here and wearing shorts and sandals. Now how punk rock is that?
Who gives a fucking flying bullock. Piss off.
The Damned play Mon., Oct. 22, at Irving Plaza, 17 Irving Pl. (15th St.), 777-6800. Their new album, Grave Disorder, is out now.
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