Black Wire

words: Chris Hutcheon

pics: Danny North

January 2005

L016

Feared by the good, loved by the bad, BLACK WIRE are the antichrists of Leeds music.

 

Big haired, aloof, trustafarian, fashionistas; they swan around the achingly trendy club nights of the UK beating the honeys off with a shitty stick and rubbing shoulders with devious Cowell-esque scene-jumping sycophants. Worse still this trio of Doherty-loving, crack-smoking, art-rock fakes don't even have a drummer so they barely count as a real band.
 
This is just some of the sensationalist bollocks you may have heard about the trash-punk trio and such falsehoods are commonplace when people discuss a band whose reputation precedes them like a twenty stone baton twirler.

 

So much so that if you haven't heard of them you're either exiled on Elba or haven't listened to music since the Charleston was the dance of choice at your local indie disco.

Funnily enough Black Wire are none too chuffed that people take rumours as fact and that they're arguably as well known for the wrong reasons as they are for the right ones. So it seemed apt that Sandman - one of the parties allegedly wronged by the band - should extend the olive branch and invite Tom, Si and Dan to set the record straight; a task that proved to be like shooting myths in a barrel.

"Nothing's ever come easy to this band," explodes Tom, setting the tone for a discussion that was more group therapy than a regular question and answer session.

 

"We've got far more integrity than a lot of people. The fact that the first tour we ever did we carried all our equipment on a train. So if anyone says this band has no integrity…"

Unfortunately for Black Wire people have said and indeed do say that, an annoyance that hasn't escaped their attention.

 

"We worked hard for our gigs. People think we got handed things on a plate," explains Dan, at pains to point out that they had no financial benefactor for the three-week tour, which essentially got them on the musical map.

 

"We're pissed off because people thought we were some kind of artistic statement and that our parents or some God came down and gave us money to piss people off in between our shopping trips to Blue Rinse. The reality was that we were living on a ham and cheese sandwich a day each for three weeks, begging people to let us sleep at their houses, asking train conductors if we could sit in the luggage department so we didn't get beaten up…"

"And still people will hear this and say 'yeah they did a tour on GNER and lived on a ham sandwich a day, course they did’", continues Tom, "but it is the God's honest truth. Its important to make people understand that we went through absolute fucking hell to get where we are."

Further tales of Black Wire gig woe are abundant; from conductors hiding the band away from Cardiff City supporters on a train to a gig on a boat with two strippers called 'Ten Minutes with my Dad' and a Kiss-mask wearing air guitar combo named Piss.

However, it was also on the road that Black Wire began to make more of a national impact and they were rewarded for their endeavours in a certain weekly music publication.

 

"That single of the week (for limited edition debut release 'Attack Attack Attack!'), is basically what that (the tour) was for - we had to be in everyone's faces every fucking day," points out Si, referring to the accolade, received as a result of the band's desire to put themselves out there as opposed to their willingness to part with cash for column inches.

As jobless musicians they weren't in a position to grease the palms of sleazy media-whores anyway; touring doesn't pay the bills and desperate measures were sometimes needed to keep the band afloat. Nothing quite as extreme as donning the prosthetic mug of bonkers, Muslim-hater Gene Simmons mind.

"Stealing tomatoes from fruit shops on Old Street," recalls Si of the band's criminal past. Thankfully, or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it, Crimewatch has bigger fish to fry although if plumbing the depths was against the law….


"These two ate a McDonalds they found on a train, I draw the line at that, I'd rather go hungry," laughs Dan.

Their breadline hovering didn't stop the ridiculous rumours though and with the band already under immense financial strain some of the press coverage they received was less welcome.

 

"We used to walk two and a half miles to practice carrying our gear," recalls Dan, "we'd all chip in so we could pay for practice and we were literally surviving off the food Tom's mam sent us while our student loans would cover the rent. Then you'd read in some magazine how we were snorting cocaine off Jordan's tits or something?"

It's this kind of unfounded reporting that frustrates Black Wire the most and its not just been limited to the national music press.

 

"When we've played gigs and done interviews in Leeds," complains Dan, "people have misjudged us and represented us with an ulterior motive because they don't like something they think we represent. It feels like everyone's got their agenda and they want to knock us down a peg or two because they think we're on some king of pedestal and we're not, as daft as it sounds we're just three guys in a band."

"It's a very blinkered view of what we do that people have," continues Tom, "for the simple reason that certain people who say certain things about us have never actually met us. They might have seen us live, they might have heard our records but they've never met us. They assume we're some hoity-toity stuck up morons."

"People think we're representative of some scene or fashion movement and it’s bullshit," moans Dan, "there's a popular misconception that we grace the pages of these style mags all the time. We've been in Dazed and Confused a few times and that's it. Anyway I'm grateful because Dazed and Confused gave us our first ever bit of press and anyone who says 'I don't want publicity for my band in that magazine is being a bit naïve and stupid because we got our records out in Japan from it."

"If anyone thinks that makes us less credible as a band then they can fuck off basically," snaps Tom.

Their complaints definitely sound genuine and although they undoubtedly court, ply with drinks and, frankly, get off with controversy wherever they go - not least when they played the Sandman event at the Leeds Metropolitan University - they insist it's not their fault.

 

That gig saw damage caused to a dressing room and a finger pointed squarely in the trio's direction, relations with Sandman were frayed on the night and yet another chapter was written in the 'How to Hate Black Wire' handbook. The band have always pleaded their innocence and, annoyed that it's still an issue, have one or two complaints of their own.

"It still gripes me to this day," begins Tom. "We were billed at the top of all the flyers and then we get there and they say we've not got time for a sound check, you're on first."

"Loads of our friends turned up late,” adds Si, taking up the story, "because they were led to believe we were on later. Technically, all the channels were taken up and it was like 'get on now' ……but we haven't got a drummer it's not as if we can keep time ourselves we need our backing track onstage. A guy from Les Flames, Whiskas, lent me his amp to put the backing track through which was distorted anyway so we just thought 'alright we're not going to be able to play a musically brilliant show'."

"Its not that we thought we should have been on later on," concludes Dan, "we didn't care, it was just that that was the impression we got."

Worse was to come for Black Wire though as post-set jollities got out of hand. However, to say it was trashed, as the Chinese-whispered version of events suggests, is a slight exaggeration.

"The real gripe of the night was.... well the ceiling got smashed in the dressing room. I know the person who did it and it was nobody in this band yet we always get blamed for it. It was somebody who was with us but we're not a fucking nursery to look after people. If somebody comes with us they do what they want its nothing to do with us. We still get the fucking stick for that."

"He didn't even come with us", protests Dan, "he came to the show and he walked backstage and smashed a ceiling panel. I'm not a security guard, I don't stop people coming backstage, it's not my job."

"The fact is at least a hundred paying customers came in to see us that night and they never saw us because they put us on at fucking half seven and they never gave us the taxi money home, it's a bit ridiculous. I had to walk home with my amp in the snow," explains Si as Tom continues, "and there were people saying - 'this is typical of you lot' and it was people who'd never actually met us before, never promoted a gig for us before, never put us on or anything. It's just these small minded fucking attitudes. I mean if that's the worse thing they (the venue) have to deal with out of everything that happens there then they should think themselves lucky."

It’s incidents like this that lead to Black Wire's unfairly unfavourable reputation and Dan is less than happy about the criticism received from certain local musical factions.

"People have said we're a bad representation of Leeds. I'm sorry but I didn't know that, if you wanted to be a band that lived in Leeds you had to get permission from a mythical God who says - 'Go forth and represent us."

"I don't give a shit about any band that plays Leeds every single fucking week. Live in your mother's house, work in a shop, play whatever venue you want every weekend and think you're changing the face of music when you're not. Get on a train tour the country, then come back and talk to me."

Nevertheless any rumours, accusations and misinformed opinions are just that and can't be compared to the actual fiction Black Wire have read about themselves. Not least when that Single of the Week was awarded as Tom explains, loosely quoting the write-up.

 

"'They're all 18 and they met trying to nick an album from HMV.' Our press guy didn't come up with that and we didn't either."

"But the quote that really pissed my dad off," smiles Dan wryly, "was '…on the wrong side of the tracks."

"My mum liked it," shrugs Tom, "because it said, 'they get wasted on white lightning and prescription drugs' and she said 'at least they're prescription.' I mean, can you imagine us on drugs, we're the most naïve people when it comes to drugs."

With comments often sailing perilously close too downright ridiculous it seems the trio have a case.

 

"If someone wrote 'Every single song of Black Wire's is shit and this is why it's shit I'd take it on board - but people write about where we get our hair cut," sighs Dan disheartened by sartorial rather than musical references and the fact that focus is constantly on the wrong aspects of the band's output.

"We put our heart and soul into our music and people say 'their politics are flawed' - what politics? And it's like 'they aren't a real band because they don't have a drummer, it's all pretend' and they'd always put 'Black Wire Live?' with a question mark as if we were miming or something."

 

"We've got little 'DIY' kids who write that we're superficial at one end of the spectrum and at the other record companies saying 'people aren't going to understand it, because it doesn't sound like this and that - you should do this. Fuck you! We're going to do our own thing and put out music and records we believe in and that's all we can do."

Amen to that and it does seem that Black Wire's, ferocious output gets overlooked amid the sniping and hearsay, especially as the three limited releases that have graced the shelves thus far have all been sleazy, sexually charged, beat-laden belters in their own right.

 

That fact that they don't get the credit they deserve for their music must be enough to make them paranoid, so paranoid in fact that they'd think Sandman were hoodwinking them into some sinister interview tryst to develop a cache of weapons grade slip-ups to throw back at them. Would we?

"We even thought it might be a set-up," says Dan, perhaps understandably given the circumstances, although his fears were soon allayed.

"We needed to have an interview in Leeds that didn't say 'Black Wire - you're a bunch of c*nts - discuss.' But I also wanted an interview that was half way there and half way towards - 'Black Wire - you're brilliant - discuss', I think your laissez-faire attitude works quite well though."

"It's the most therapeutically happy interview we've ever done," beams Tom.

Sandman is glad to be of service…now if I could just get the cash for that ceiling panel.

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