In honor of our recent live review of The Damned, we dug back through our microfiche archives to dust off this Classic Nada interview … -Ed.
Nada Mucho: How is the Grave Disorder tour different from those early tours?
David Vanian: I am answering this just after the New York City attack so I don’t really know what to say to this one; before September 11th I would have said it’s a culmination of 25 years of hard work, now I feel like the ground has been kicked out from under me. We will all see what unfolds together. Those events are tainting everything right now. It’s a very difficult time for everyone.
NM: We live a world today that’s very different than the world we lived in when you first started making music. Why did you guys decide now, after so many years, to release a new album?
DV: I think it had to do with getting a lineup together that worked on a creative level, and was also able to interpret the new material, yet keep the integrity of The Damned’s sound.
NM: How would you compare Grave Disorder to other albums you’ve released?
DV: Grave Disorder, along with The Black Album, is definitely at the top of the list of my favourite Damned albums. Grave Disorder has a bit of each of the past albums in it.
NM: Grave Disorder is your first album for Dexter Holland’s Nitro label. How’d that come about?
DV: Sir Andrew Roe introduced us, we met up, and the rest, as they say…is indeed history.
NM: Drummer Pinch wrote the song “W” from your new album on his Playstation. Nada Mucho Columnist Sean Oliver has the same disc for his Playstation and is having trouble finding his sound. Any advice?
DV: Playstation is a total mystery to me. You would have to ask Pinch that one!
NM: The Damned’s sound really took a turn from pure punk to a more melodic sound between Music For Pleasure and Machine Gun Etiquette. Was that due to Brian James leaving, the maturation of you, Rat Scabies and Captain Sensible as musicians, or the fact that punk was dying?
DV: We were always into melody, and I think since the songwriting was shared our various influences came through. This band has changed throughout the years as a natural progression, and if we hadn’t we would never have survived just remaking the first album over and over. In the early days punk was an attitude more than one specific style of music and I feel we still have that attitude. It was there before the music was.
NM: What are some of the band’s influences, and which song do you think best illustrates those influences?
DV: Anything and everything. I don’t think you can pick one song that includes all the influences. Through the years there have been many members with many different influences all affecting the songwriting. But I do think all those influences are kind of sewn together on Grave Disorder. “Looking for Action” feels like it’s from the first album, and the others from various periods in The Damned’s career.
NM: The band has had myriad members over its career, with you being the only constant. It’s hard to keep good help around, isn’t it?
DV: This band does seem to take its toll on people! The reasons people change are as different as the people themselves.
NM: The Damned have always been considered the “first band to” in many areas, such as first to release a punk single, first to release a full-length punk album, first to break up, first to reunite, etc. Is that something you consciously did?
DV: No, we just did everything before anyone else. Before our time I guess! To use a colourful American phrase: “Shit happens.”
NM: You guys were on the famous Anarchy in the UK Tour with The Sex Pistols, The Clash, Johnny Thunders, etc. Are the stories true about the chaos? Is Johnny Rotten really as big of a prick as he seems?
DV: I think you are referring more to Malcolm McLaren, the man who thinks he invented punk. Johnny is okay.
NM: Is it difficult to be in a band with your wife? At the same time, chicks that rock are such a turn on…
DV: It’s not really an issue within the band that Patricia is my wife. She just seems to fit in as one of us.
NM: Any thoughts on the current state of music?
DV: It’s great and it stinks. There is good and bad out there, and if you really look you can still find inspired bands and people who are making their own statements without a stylist, Swedish ex-heavy metal songwriting hit machines, or record company billions.
NM: Name 5 albums you rank 10/10.
Grave Disorder/The Damned
And Suddenly Its/The Left Bank
The Planet Suite/Gustav Holst
Rusty Bounces Back/Rusty Warren
The Outer Limits/The Ventures
NM: I’m a big Manchester United fan. How about you?
DV: They were good when George Best was on the team, but I don’t follow football. I prefer tossing the caber.
NM: So you’re British. I’ve always wondered, what exactly is a crumpet?
DV: Glad you asked. It has a double meaning. 1) Crumpet: a nice bit of fluff. Totty, or 2) A small, round, rubbery, baked breakfast food enjoyed with jam. I wish to state now that there is nothing better than the taste of hot crumpet! I hope that makes it clear for you.
NM: Do you still carry that axe around? And if so, does it ever get cumbersome?
DV: Of course. No.
NM: Do you think capes will ever come back into style?
DV: A stylish cape never went out of style.
Joe Vallejos is one of NadaMucho.com’s founding fathers.