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The Scaramanga Six

words: Mark Sturdy

pics: Chris Saunders

September 2004


Mark Sturdy meets THE SCARAMANGA SIX the world’s finest deranged operatic pomp-pop behemoth.

I meet the band in a city centre bar where they’re in the midst of making the video to their new single, ‘We Rode The Storm’. Presently, I’m gagged, bound, bundled into the back of a van, and taken to an empty office block, apparently in Hunslet, where the interview commences.

Happily, they turn out to be textbook interviewees – articulate, thoughtful and funny in all the appropriate measures. Paul Morricone (vocals/guitar) and his twin brother Steve (bass/vocals/goatee/pinstripe suit) are the band’s lynchpins and, as with many sets of twins, initially there’s little to tell between them. Watch for a while though, and distinct traits become apparent.


Paul is well-spoken, no-nonsense, and prone to personable but brutally precise ranting that will be delivered with a good-natured smile with a hint of menace underneath.


Steve has a slightly more pronounced Westcountry burr than his brother and, while retaining the same articulacy and firmness, shows more of a tendency toward Boys’ Own whimsy, revealing an in-depth knowledge of 1980s kids’ telly and arcane scientific theories at the slightest provocation.


Drummer Ant Sergant, despite being the newest member of the band by some distance (he joined late last year and is the band’s fifth incumbent on the drumstool), seems entirely comfortable with his position in the band, with plenty to say for himself.


Conversely, long-time guitarist Julia Arnez is the quietest of the lot, content to offer no more than a few sentences throughout the interview – yet the way she can send the others’ discourse off in a totally different direction with just a few choice interjections suggests a talent for pulling strings with virtually no visible effort. She’s probably the one who’ll end up writing the band’s official biography in 20 year’s time. We start talking.

So, the Scaramanga Six-How did the group get started?

Paul: Me, Steve and Julia have been playing in a band since we were 14, together. Any band we’ve been in has always really been the same band, and this particular permutation, The Scaramanga Six, has been going since about 1995. We’ve had a few drummers along the way, the occasional guitarist, but no difference really. We’ve always been a tight unit and it’s always been very focussed. It’s more to do with when you’re trying to rock against the adversity of having careers, full-time jobs and needing to make money, some people have had to leave along the way because they can’t put 100% into it. And it’s not through any fault of their own, it’s just the way it is. Anyone who’s been in our band, whilst they’ve been in the band, has always put in 100% and that’s really good.
Steve: I’ve gone up a couple of collar sizes, that’s it. We play the same racket we always have done.

What’s kept you doing it so long?

Steve: I think it’s a question of faith. I’m not talking about in any religious sense or anything, but you get so much enjoyment out of creating, out of performing, that that’s what kind of drives you.
Ant: It’s either that or alcoholism. Or both.
Paul: It’s very difficult to combine the two when you keep such a tight regime as us. Obviously we can’t get drunk, go on stage and perform willy-nilly. We need to keep up standards. So none of us drink, except for after we finish playing, then we get absolutely slaughtered. But that’s usually out of the public eye.
Steve: My body’s actually more like a pub than a temple.

Any memories that stick out from the past nine years as being especially rewarding?

Steve: We’d been booked for this outdoor festival in Huddersfield called Party In The Park. We turn up and there’s a bloke in a canary outfit, flapping along to ‘The Birdie Song’ on the main stage, and we’re on next.
Paul: There was a sign that said “Top bands, fun for all the family, The Scaramanga Six, flower show.” And there was this massive beer tent, or what we thought was a beer tent, you go in, and it was a fucking fruit and vegetable show.
Steve: In my time I’ve seen some people surprised by large fruit and vegetables, but never with the look on Paul’s face when he came out of that tent.
Paul: Doing a tour with Les Flames! was both the highlight and lowlight of what we’ve done recently. And all in one instance as well. We were driving up the M1 after a gig in London. We had our big van and a car.
Ant: I was driving my car, with Neil from Les Flames! in the back seat. And he’d been drinking heavily.
Steve: I was driving the van at this point and all of a sudden this Volkswagen Golf sails past with Neil hanging out of the window, Titanic-style, with no clothes on at all. The sheer proud look on his face. He was pissing freely into the wind. There were no other cars on the motorway, and at the exact point Neil started pissing a couple of taxis suddenly came along on the inside lane. But once he started he was committed.
Ant: Afterwards he just said “Fucking hell. Having a piss on the motorway without having to stop, that’s brilliant.”
Steve: So he thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and I have to say that in a strange kind of way it was not wholly unpleasant for everyone. Weird as it may seem.

You’ve got quite a sizeable back catalogue now – three albums and a load of singles and EPs, stretching back to ’97. What do you think of those records, looking back?

Paul: Everything we’ve done’s brilliant. (laughter) So many bands fanny about with different styles here and there, different approaches, because they don’t know what it is they want to do. They pander to whatever might gain them more credibility, whatever might gain them more popularity, without any consideration of what their heart is. They’ll try it under one name for a year or two, go out and get some manager, then if that doesn’t work they’ll change their name, change their look, change their sound, similar sort of band, just as crap. They’ll do it again, and again, again, until hopefully one day they’ll realise “Oh, we’re not very good at this are we?” and they’ll just stop. But until that time comes we’ve got thousands of bands that are still doing that, and we can’t wait till they just think “Actually, we’ll just stick to accountancy.”
Ant: Are we talking about signed bands here?
Paul: Not necessarily, but it doesn’t matter. If you’ve got an aptitude in music then great, you should go for it. But if your motives are to escape, to try and get out of accountancy, then the music you make is always going to sound desperate. Desperately bad. If you’re doing it purely for yourself, purely because that’s what you feel you need to do, then that’s the best way to do it. Because you’re never going to get swayed by public opinion or anyone’s opinion.
Julia: I listened to our first album the other day and I was really surprised by how different it sounded.
Paul: But it still sounds like us. There may be differences in production styles, we’ve got better at playing, we’ve got better at producing our records, we’ve got better at doing artwork for them, but the approach has generally been very similar all the way through.

The older material is a different style of songwriting, more melodrama than attack.

Paul: Well, I’ll tell you why that was, it’s because when we first started we had lots of time to do things, so we had lots of time to concentrate on the expansive arrangements. Nowadays we’re fitting everything in between hectic lifestyles, so the songs we tend to go for are quick fix, loud sort of things. It’s very difficult to capture melodrama when you’re only practising once every two months. We’ve got hundreds of songs that we’ve not yet done for the band that are equally, if not more melodramatic.
Ant: We’ve started doing ‘Unclean’ live and that’s got a certain amount of dramatic effect to it. Even with the four of us there, we’re still trying to put that element of melodrama in the songs that we already do.

So you’ve got a very definite musical stance, how did you arrive there? Who are your influences?

Steve: I think it comes from an early age – me and Paul were subjected to punk and new wave records when we were growing up. We’ve got three older brothers who were into that sort of stuff.
Paul: I remember going to primary school and thinking it odd that none of the other kids knew who Magazine were, or the Buzzcocks, or Wire, and going into our brother Neil’s bedroom and he’s constantly got on that ‘Black Night’ album by The Stranglers. This is when we were seven, and hearing all those keyboards and the raucous bass sound, and just thinking “This is brilliant!” The other thing that all that music has in common is that it’s so direct and it’s so upfront – there’s no pissing about, which is something we have in our approach.
Steve: Also, call me old-fashioned, but I like stuff to be direct, I like a good tune, a good chorus, lots of hooks everywhere. So many acts now, this topic’s been covered a million times, but there’s style over substance. We’ve got style and substance, in abundance.

Even before you set Wrath Records up, virtually all your records were self-released. Why have you chosen that approach? Has it been a case of actively not wanting to pursue a deal?

Steve: In the recent Belbin test that I took, which tells you what kind of person you are, it said I was a ‘completer-finisher’, and one of the defining features of being a completer-finisher is that you won’t let anyone else finish something for you. We’re all a mixture between completer-finishers and plants – a plant is a person you put in a group who rattles off ideas. You don’t often get the two together: a plant is normally a bad completer-finisher. But we’ve got a mixture of all of that.
Paul: We’ve always kind of been… not intentionally but always on the wrong side of everyone. We like to keep our distance from things in terms of any kind of scene. There’s nothing remotely fashionable about what we do. The music industry, in the past 10 to 15 years, has been so fickle that the likes of us really don’t stand a chance in the big hype stakes. Everything is short-term and that’s not what we’re about, we’re about making long-term plans. It’s like a job interview – “Where are you going to be in five years time?”

What would be your definition of success?

Steve: I think we’re successful now. Look at it this way: we’ve been going donkey’s years, we’re still going, still as fresh as ever, we’ve got a new album coming out, the biggest release we’ve done, all through our own work, off our own backs. We’re already planning the next album. We’ve got an absolute wealth of material that’s never even touched the band yet, there’s absolutely no signs of us ever grinding to a halt as far as I can see. I’ve just gone part-time with my job to plough more time into the label and build things up with this album later on.

What’s Leeds been like as a base of operations for you?

Paul: It’s as good a place as any. I personally think it’s got an immense amount of potential. Lots could happen. A lot of people are already making money and doing great creative things.
Ant: And it’s not London. If there’s one thing that really pisses me off it’s going down to London, just because it’s London. It’s hours down the bloody motorway…
Paul: There’s a worth to going to London if you’re doing it in the old hanky on the end of a stick, Dick Whittington kind of way. If that’s what you want to do, like the Glitterati have done perhaps. Because they want to go to a place where they can walk into a pub and bump into someone who might be useful to them. And that’s what happens in London. It’s not going to happen in Leeds. So you’ve got to take a different view of what is going to happen. If people from London want to come up to see you then that’s all right. But if not, then hey, be big in a small town.

Do you think Leeds has changed since you started? Any truth in the idea of it being the new exciting place for music?

Paul: No. It’s changed in the same way that Birmingham has, and Newcastle has, and Bristol has, and Liverpool has. Basically all these apartment blocks and office blocks that are popping up everywhere, there’s this new urban regeneration going on, and it’s not doing anything to culture. All it’s doing is making people not go immediately to London, but to stick around their nearest city. So it does enrich things a little bit, but culturally I think there’s no change.

And with that, we left The Scaramanga Six to get on with making their video. The single ‘We Rode The Storm’ should be out soon, with the album ‘Cabin Fever!’ (reviewed somewhat prematurely in Sandman a few months back) to follow by the end of the year. You should buy them.


The Scaramanga Six
The Scaramanga Six
The Scaramanga Six
The Scaramanga Six
The Scaramanga Six
The Scaramanga Six
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