With a band name longer than most song titles these days, interviewing ‘The Men who will not be Blamed for Nothing’ was always going to throw up a few interesting answers and so it be proved to be. Discussing Jack the Rippers spelling, the fascination with dead people called Stevenson and views on the Royal family, Marc Burrows Bass player of the Steampunk band gets a few things of his chest…..
Black Flag: The first thing that strikes you, even before listening to your music, is the band’s name. Where did it come from?
Marc Burrows: It’s a reference to the one piece of tangible, and probably completely coincidental evidence in the Jack the Ripper case. When the Ripper had brutally done over Catherine Eddowes and scarpered apparently he stopped for a minute in Goulston Street to leave a piece of blood-and-poo-stained apron and write “The Juwes are the men that Will not be Blamed for nothing” on a wall. No-one knows what it means, except that Jack the Ripper didn’t know how to spell “Jus”, which is a kind of thin gravy. Baffling. When Andrew and Andy were forming the band they thought it would make a good name, and as naming a band is a massive pain in the arse, and they couldn’t think of anything better, it’s stuck. It’s a good name, isn’t it?
BF:Has having a rather long name ever caused you any problems?
MB: Only because people continually get it wrong. People tend to put “who will not be named” rather than the correct “that will not be named”, which is grammatically incorrect but historically accurate, and just goes to show Jack the Rippers grammar was as bad as his spelling. It’s occasionally irritating when you’re filling in things online with a character limit, but that hardly ever happens.
BF: How did you form?
MB: Andrew and Andy were living together in North London and both had a shared love of Victoriana, rock music and arseing around- they stumbled onto this thing called ‘Steampunk’ and loved the messing with history, and the making things and the painting things brown, but realised there was no musically identity to it, which is weird for something with the word ‘Punk’ in the name, so they decided to remedy that. It started out as the opening act for Andrew’s stand up show ‘Andrew O’Neill’s Totally Spot On History of British Industry’ and was expanded to a full band for the London dates.
BF: On your Myspace you are billed as ‘Comedy/Metal/Punk’ and on Wikipedia you are categorised as ‘Steampunk’, what genre do you see yourselves in?
MB: We tend not to bother to put ourselves into genre. Originally the point was to properly define what ‘Steampunk’ should sound like, so we picked a genre and basically invented it. Since then though it’s been about pushing ourselves into a band we generally love, and there’s elements of loads of things. We’re punk in places, metal in places, acoustic, comedy, Death Metal, thrash, Music Hall- it’s a bit of a mishmash of all of it. The whole history of popular music since 1802 to about 1987, discounting all the shit bits (most of it) stuck in a blender and wizzed about. It creates a something that sounds wonderful but looks like a liquidized squirrel.
BF: Where do you get your inspiration from for your songs?
MB: The politics and people of the 19th Century, including engineers, politicians, writers, more engineers, fictional characters, some more engineers and, er, wanking.
BF: If you were going to have a fantasy dinner party and could invite 6 alive or dead people, who would they be?
MB: Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Joseph Bazalgette, George Stephenson, Robert Stephenson, Robert Stevenson and Robert Louis Stevenson.
BF: There is an unequivocal British theme with most of your songs, are you proud to be British?
MB: Actually yes. Not in a racist way though. There are a shit load of problems with this country, but immigration isn’t one of them. The NHS and the BBC rock as well. There’s a lot to be proud of round these parts- as a country we give ourselves a bit of a hard time, but personally I quite like that about us too. It’s only when you go abroad, that you really start to appreciate how brilliant Britain is.
BF: The band has made the headlines due to a dispute with EMI over the title of your debut album, ‘Now That’s What I Call Steampunk! Volume 1’ which EMI believed infringed on their ‘Now that’s what I call music’ chart compilations. How did you’re dealings with such a big musical company shape your opinion of them and the wider industry?
MB: It confirmed a lot of things we already knew- they’re dinosaurs, they’re dying out, the central core of the UK record industry has no relationship to reality whatsoever.
BF: What do you think of the royal family?
MB: I don’t want to speak for the whole band here, but my personal view: I dislike the notion of Royalty as a concept, but I also think we’re pretty much stuck with them. I’m uncomfortable with the notion of one person being intrinsically special for no other reason than hereditary. It’s pointless. But on the other hand I enjoy the link to history they represent, and I don’t think they really cause us any problems. It’s a mixed bag. But then ‘God Save The Queen’ by the Pistols, ‘Repeat’ by the Manics and The Smiths ‘The Queen Is Dead’ are three of my favourite ever records. Individually- the Queen seems fine, the Duke of Edinburgh’s a cunt, Charlie’s a harmless berk, Harry is clearly a cunt, William I have no opinion on and I’m weirdly attracted to Princess Beatrice. Without the royal family you would not have had this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4x0K2Y7kPw which is one of the most wonderful songs in the world.
BF: If you could implement one new law what would it be?
MB: I wouldn’t implement new ones, I’d scrap a shit load of old ones first.
BF: Do you see the Steampunk genre ever breaking through to the mainstream? If so, how? And if not, why not?
MB: “Steampunk” isn’t a genre of music, it’s an aesthetic concept. No two “Steampunk” bands sound the same, the Genre simply doesn’t exist- so in that sense I don’t think it can. The style is already bleeding into the mainstream though.
BF: If the reader could only attend one gig this year, why should it be one of yours?
MB: We’re a damn sight funnier than most other bands, and there’s a lot of people in daft hats to enjoy.
Words: Brian McKay