We should get people from Chesterfield reviewing us. They were leaving in a state of shock and horror when we played” Stuart the deceptively innocent bass player with the posh Scottish accent tells us. Rory, the singer, elaborates. “Stu was snogging me onstage and three men put their pints straight down and walked out. They like their rock good and straight in Chesterfield”.
“Which is what I like about Glam rock,” says Steve, an ascetic, machine-gun guitar toting man with a thoughtful air, “it’s really hard rock. I mean, T-Rex came close to Black Sabbath at times, but it’s not macho cock rock. This is where we come from, let’s make the music we’re all gagging to hear but let’s dress up as well.”
“And the last thing you ever want to do is try and impress people with your musical ability. Switch your brain off and turn your dick on!” finishes Stuart.
Pink Grease are intent on provoking, and are currently obtaining, extreme reactions. Today Rory is sporting a rather fetching busted nose, “Someone thought I was trying to dance with his girlfriend.” He tells us. “Ah yes, his stage persona clashed with real life.” Stuart points out wisely. “We’re into putting down the guitars, grabbing the audience shaking with them and saying NO! You’re the stars! We want to convert the dickheads. Mind you someone on a website described me as a ‘sycophantic bass player’ because I’d been shaking hands with the audience.”
“Someone else described me as looking like Chesney Hawkes,” says Rory giving the strong impression that he preferred the assault on his nose.
Fortunately some reactions are more positive, if no less disturbing. “When we were driving away from a gig in Bath this hardcore fan who was so in love with us got his knob out and started rubbing it against the van. At another gig this guy gets on stage, goes over to Nick and whispers in his ear ‘You are God.’ Nick’s got this vast coterie of synth-nerd fans.”
Nick is the band’s very own Joe Meek. Their rehearsal space is part music room, part workshop and Nick, a very, very quiet man beavers away at both ends. On-stage he wears the analogue synths he makes himself,. They look like a cross between a hi-tech cigarette girl’s tray and a bingo callers number panel.
On a high shelf in their room is a steel sheet, a couple of square metres wide, suspended between a G-clamped wooden frame. It’s a plate reverb the band explain. It’s for recording and you can hear similar effects on old 50s records. The whole thing is jerrybuilt and homemade, a messy amalgam of old and new technologies. Part clatter and clang part sheen. Much like the music Pink Grease make.
Pink Grease are magpies. Sticky-fingered and avid, pouncing on anything shiny and pinning it all together into the glammest nest you’ve seen for a while. They are the natural offspring of that glitz-infected strand of rock’n’roll that began with Little Richard and has been regressing musically ever since. It is Pop denuded of fake sophistication and is as simple and as shocking as the word fuck. One of the best live bands Sandman has seen in the last year they are the ideal meld of smart, dumb and glittery. They are the why not? Brigade.
Let’s play the degrees of separation game; How do you get from The Boardwalk on Snig Hill to playing New York, Milan and The Face Party in little over a year? Pink Grease don’t seem absolutely certain but have taken it in their stride. Onstage Stuart wears the first sailor suit to grace rock’n’roll since Nelson was handing out sharp doses of rum, sodomy and the lash. Rory sports little more than criminally brief trousers and cheekbones and John (who arrived too late for the interview) seems to combine playing the saxophone with having a fit. They are a writhing, sweaty mess and at times it is impossible to see where the band ends and the crowds start. This month sees the release of the ‘Waiting So Long’ 12” which boils up The Ramones, The Cramps and a thousand other twisted rockers and drives it into the garage and straight through the other side. It’s a noisy mixture of low camp, pantomime and pure rock’n’roll.
‘Soul Pacco’ starts with the line ‘I left my hometown Penzance.’ which is where Rory hails from. The rest of the band have arrived in Sheffield via Hull, Scotland and Europe. “Everybody’s got to be somewhere.” They say.
“We really felt more comfortable in New York. New Yorkers pride themselves on walking past you and not noticing what you’re doing. Loads of people dress funny over there.”
“Mind you when we did the video and Nick was stripping naked on the streets they announced it on the radio and people were coming up within a couple of hours and saying ’hey were you the nude guys on the Bowery?’
“They liked us and I think the thing was our attitude, they said ‘you don’t look like these English bands who arrive and say ’we’re an English band and we’re hear to show you what English bands are made of!’, we just played.
Within Sheffield’s scene they’ve worked with some of the more idiosyncratic musicians and recorded with Invisible Spies’ Supreme Vagabond Craftsman and Fat Trucker’s Jason Buckle. Each had very different approaches to recording. “SVC is very straightforward and says the things to our faces that we only say behind each others back. Mind you he’ll stop every now and then and play you Wonderful Tonight on his guitar. His ‘Lay Lady Lay’ is very good too. Jason recorded us in New York. He led us through yoga exercises and showed us his knob.”
Our snapper, Tracey, loved snapping Pink Grease and quite blatantly Pink Grease loved her camera. These men are not afraid to pout. They point themselves at the lens rather than vice versa. “The first thing we did, before we had a note recorded, was go shopping for clothes. Steve went and bought hideous amounts of leopard skin and mohair jumpers.“ Perhaps fortunately the leopard skins have bitten the dust. As far as we can ascertain Rod Stewart was never a part of the greasy melting pot.
Rory’s favourite magazine is, perhaps unsurprisingly, Vogue while Stuart claims to garner most of his information from between the pages of Mizz, Blitz and Elle Girl. At one point during the interview he embarks on a statement that begins “we were very much a constructed vision rather than a self-indulgent…” before tailing off giggling as the others stare at him.There’s more to them than the dressing up and the flouncing though. They’re very conscious of, and articulate very clearly, how music and film and fashion work in popular consciousness and their music.
They happily occupy that middle ground where they understand the contradictions in pop culture and don’t particularly care. They know, and point out that while the foundations of Motown were an articulation of Black self-determination and Pete Waterman is a tosspot you can enjoy both. “Warhol’s Factory,” notes Rory, who looks like he could have been a part of it, “was all about surface.”
“Everything we do is in the context of new ideas and people get confused as to whether we’re 60s, 70s, or 80s retro. A record made in the 60s is still around today and so is a record made today. Why not take from both of them?” sums up post-modernism fairly nicely “We’re not consciously trying to be the Datsuns.”
“When we started we were listening to a lot of doo-wop and rock’n’roll, Girl Groups like The Shangi-Las and Ike & Tina Turner. Rather than be a shabby 2nd or 3rd wave punk band we wanted to be a tenth hand Girl Band. Live the band are augmented by the three-headed harpies known as the Greasettes. Nassa, Sally and Polly. The Velvet Underground, The Ramones, The Jesus & Mary Chain were all, in essence pop groups they’d argue. Simple songs. “Yes,” Steve agrees, “simple but effective and very powerful.” Steve wants to record the album “somewhere hot”. Rory does point out however that “we’ve still got to come back home and go to Spar to buy our bog roll.” Even the sleaziest bands have got to do the shopping.
words: Jack Tractor
pics: Tracey Welch