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15th September 1984
By Jane Simon
Photos Gavin Watson
SCREAMING BLUE MURDER!
In six days, The Screaming Blue Messiahs recorded 12 tracks. On the seventh day, in keeping with union regulations, they rested. And on the eighth day, or perhaps it was the ninth, they sold six of those tracks to Big Beat who released them as the mini LP 'Good And Gone'.
Some albums grow on you. 'Good And Gone' is more like a squadron of kamikaze pilots crashing through the french windows while you're watching Brookside. Suddenly everything changes.
Meanwhile, back in another version of reality, two of the three Messiahs, Bill Carter and kenny Harris are downing pints like there's no tomorrow. And just what, I enquire, are they screaming about?
"You're screaming for survival – that's what you're doing. People don't realise the score, y'know? You ain't got much time, and it's not a joke."
'Good And Gone' turns at 45rpm. Bill Carter's mouth runs laps with Carl Lewis every morning. "When you write this up, just print the answers," he instructs.
"This band is about Sex, Violence and Personal Freedom," pronounces Bill. "It's about the right to be individual – and it's about that with a vengeance."
"We're going to give current music the biggest kick up the ass it's had for years," vows Kenny.
It was Kenny's drumming that apparently attracted producer Vic Maile to the band, but this has led to a few odd conclusions being reached – like comparisons with Dr Feelgood – when The Messiahs have never played a 12-bar blues in their life.
"We're not an R 'n' B band," declares Kenny. "We got tied in with that because Vic was well known for producing the Feelgoods, but Jesus, he produced Motorhead as well – did'na say we sound like Motorhead, thank God!"
"It's a pity people have to look backwards instead of forwards," says Bill.
When you do look back, you discover that Bill and bassist Chris Thompson last played with Motor Boys Motor while kenny drummed for True life Confessions – but we're meant to be looking forwards here. So we'll turn instead to the story behind their name.
"It's hard to believe, really," Bill tells me. "Our manager, John, used to live in this house in new Cross – and there was this really bad atmosphere there. People who stayed there had really terrible nightmares and things. So in the end, they moved out and on the day they were moving, John felt this horrible kind of presence. They were in the corridor just about to leave and he turned around and on the top of the stairs there was this little blue gargoyle looking at him and shimmering. That's a fact."
I wonder if perhaps the Screaming Blue Messiahs are defying the occult, but they shrug it off. Magic, they say, is a big part of the band – or you could call it chemistry.
"We do things sometimes that are phenomenal. Things that just couldn't happen. A band couldn't get together an play like that – it couldn't happen."
They insist that music isn't just a product of liking other music, so where does it come from?
"What you end up doing isn't just determined by the music you've heard before." says Bill. "It's produced out of what's going on and stuff. It's not that two-dimensional."
But that's not to say they're overtly political, not in a conventional sense anyway.
"It's only political in the sense that we're living in probably the most sophisticatedly suppressed country in the western world. The power of the media is frightening. This country is flattened by the media. People's lives are RULED by media and the beauty of it is – they don't know! They're living under the illusion that it's free!"
What would you do if you weren't a Screaming Blue Messiah?
He considers the question carefully before he replies. "I wouldn't mind going to Mexico and doing a bit of gun-running – something like that. That's another thing. I think everyone in this country should carry a gun and it should be part of the education system to know how to use one. This country is ruled by bullying and it should be equalised.
"You wouldn't get people walking into MacDonalds and saying 'Freeze', because some ten year old kid who went to school and knew how to use a gun would just blow him away. I think it's part of survival. People gotta grow up."
Excuse me just a moment while I point out that this is the most ludicrous suggestion I have ever heard. For fear of stating the obvious, we don't have people walking into MacDonalds, that happened in a country where people do carry guns, and furthermore, if I had a gun right now and had been taught how to use it, that could well be the last pint you ever drank.
"Well, there's flaws in every theory," admits Bill, unperturbed.
Where would you like to be in five years' time?
"I'd like to be surprised. If I had any idea what I'd be doing in five years' time, I'd do something else."
Bill Carter gazes out of the window, contemplating perhaps, his first commandment: 'Never score dope in the All Saints Road'. The interview is over. I decide he isn't a messiah – he's just very, very weird.
20th October 1984
By David Quantick
Well not really. But while David Quantick screams about the Blue Messiahs, they relate a re-discovery of Captain Beefheart, Hank Williams and... America. Pics: Lawrence Watson
"Well he came out of nowhere, just like lightnin' hittin' a plane
Just to say, 'I'm back again'..."
(Someone To Talk To)
I know that every second week in the pop music press, someone like me is offering someone like you some unknown group, and telling you that this unknown group is unbelievably splendid. I know that someone like me is capable of offering a version of what's good that need not necessarily tally with yours. I also know that, very occasionally, someone like me sees something so good that someone like you ought to have their brains recycled for Hush Puppies, should you not agree.
The Screaming Blue Messiahs are a three-piece. I went to see them, vaguely hopeful of a pleasant night out, and was overwhelmed. While Tony (sic) the bassist and Kenny the drummer maintained a solid yet crazed backbeat, a shaven-headed man called Bill Carter ran and stuttered about the stage, playing a rhythm 'n' blues guitar that punched a line from Memphis to Canvey Island, and singing like a crazy man. For half the set The Screaming Blue Messiahs played the second Sex Pistols' single, and made me feel I was at something exceptional.
The Screaming Blue Messiahs, luckily for those who believe a word of the above, have a mini-album, 'Good And Gone', on Big Beat. Produced by Vic Maile, 'Good And Gone' is necessarily muted compared to the live Messiahs, bit it still stuns, still showcases that wild fire.
Regarding their history, Bill Carter and the Messiahs come from a variety of bands whose names and styles are irrelevant. Carter says in an accent mixing his native Teeside with acquired Cocklney "Each band you're in's got it's own kind of reason. This is a different ball-game".
As for influences, Bill Carter's list of favourite records spans Talking Heads' 'Once In A LIfetime', The Who's 'Can't Explain', PiL's 'PiL', Tom Waits' '16 Shells', Howling Wolf's 'Forty-Four', and Captain Beefheart's 'Big-Eyed Beans From Venus'. Beefheart proved a useful talking point, for this pop world is crammed with bands using either the Captain's sound, or a derivation.
Bill: "I think Beefheart's got a lot of things about him, and the things they pick out and use aren't necessarily the things I would. I can see the influences, but it's not what I like about him. I like things a bit more excitin' than that... it's the spirit. Beefheart is really an attitude.
"He's right on the edge. I like the idea that he lives in a caravan in the desert and all that shit. It's quite anarchic in a way. He's his own man."
Another figure Bill Carter has time for is Hank Williams. 'You're Gonna Change', on Good And Gone, is a (Beefheart-influenced) cover of a Williams song. The Messiahs' version attempts to recreate the spirit of the song rather than the letter of it. Only the yodels remain. Of Hank Williams Bill Carter says, as he did of Captain Beefheart, "I think he's right on the edge really. I don't think he's down-home."
The imagery of Bill Carter's world, wherein he mixes Williams with Beefheart, Vietnam soldiers with Appalachian Mountain preachers, is nightmarish. 'Good And Gone' (the song) is based on a note Viet Cong troops left pinned to dead GIs: "Your X-Rays have just come through. And we think we know what the problem is". It's set to a deranged Gun Club crash, and other lyrics in the song could be about almost anything.
"What interests me lyrically is the surreal approach," says Bill. "I like the idea of creatin' your own world in a song. That's why a record works; it's got its own reality. You can pick any classic single, and asking what it's about don't mean fuck, y'know? It's got its own presence".
Asking what Carter's songs are about also doesn't mean a lot. He admits to an interest in America – "There's something about that kind of American Dream thing, like the freedom thing, the fact that anything can happen. And also it's very photogenic, it's real glamorous. I mean, I don't want to be an American, But I just like the off-the-wallness of it. It's a big country, and you get all these way-out things going on..."
What appeals to Bill Carter, and what he finds in his version of the US is "people into testin' limits of endurance, how people react to off-the-wall situations".
And just as he admires people he sees as being close to the edge, so he can say, "How I see the band is I want it to be vulnerable, really vulnerable... I like the idea of it fallin' to bits at any moment".
Maybe it's just the end product of too many American films, but whatever the input and the ideas behind The Screaming Blue Messiahs' songs, the result is an astounding mix of unreality and powerful images.
"The whole idea of talkin' to me about things like that is to pin 'em down, and my whole idea about doin' 'em is to open it up".
Go and see The Screaming Blue Messiahs. Buy 'Good And Gone'. You'll feel like a plane struck by lightning.
2nd March 1985
By Andy Hurt
Photos Tony Mottram
"This is the day I was not meant to see," said Mrs T in the wake of her premature fireworks party last year. By the time I got round to actually meeting the Screaming Blue Messiahs for our little early evening soirée, I'd come to the conclusion that this was one of those days.
I'd spent most of the day stamping my feet and rubbing my hands at a sub-zero Euston station, awaiting a snowbound train from Liverpool bearing another interview subject. Having thawed out, I mushed the huskies in the direction of a Waterloo watering hole for a showdown with the gun-shy threesome.
After an hour sitting at a lonely table, I actually had the presence of mind to investigate the other bars in the pub. Only then did I manage to locate Bill Carter, Kenny Harris and Chris Thompson, three disgruntled men in the company of their press person Vermillion and a decidedly less-than-ecstatic lensman, Tony Mottram.
The five were dispersed around the table in individual pockets of gloom, smiles even thinner on the ground than the terse conversation. The scheduled phot session had failed to materialise, the debate about whether or not to feature firearms having been thoroughly inconclusive. An irked Mottram was soon to leave, wagging his artistic integrity between his legs.
Introducing my own wrong-side-of-the-bed joie de vivre into this jolly company I settled down for a fun evening. In fact, so well did it go that I arranged to go for a second take with Bill the next day.
And so the bulk of the conversation occurred in a cosy Covent Garden eaterie with the loveable guitarist.
Frontman Bill Carter is – by default – spokesman for long overdue overnight sensations the Screaming Blue Messiahs. Having heard a lot of not particularly favourable comments passed about the shaven-headed Teesider, I am pleasantly surprised, not to say relieved, to discover a relatively mild-mannered and pensive (if rather guarded) personality, a man who would prefer to let his music do the talking.
Carter's somewhat ambivalent attitude is symptomatic of his fluctuating fortunes in the music world. Along with bassist Chris, Bill became immune to adverse press and frustrated ambition during their time together in Motor Boys Motor. The dismantling of that outfit and the formation of the Messiahs a mere 15 months ago coincided with an about-face of opinion by both press and public.
Why the transformation?
"I don't know. Timing, maybe. Perhaps when Motor Boys Motor were around the atmosphere wasn't right. I think that what we're doing now is a bit more refined, more definite, more personal, more human. It's a better band, we just seem to click. We're very lucky to have got together."
The evolution of what they term 'Vision and Blues' has been based upon the individual talents of the three diverse components.
"I dont't think there's anybody who can play like us – no-one can play bass like Chris, or drums like Kenny. I think Kenny's the best drummer in the world. I really do."
As a group outside the glitzy world of superfluous fashion consciousness, the men have steered an appropriately unfashionable course, their sole recording to date being their six-track mini-album, 'Good And Gone', for Ted Carroll's Big Beat label. Their live performances to date have been almost exclusively confined to the London pub circuit and, a couple of dates in Holland apart, their most exotic engagement up to the time of this interview had been in Leatherhead.
The Messiahs are in the front rank of a new wave of bands taking music back to the clubs and away from the disco dancefloor.
A prominent feature of their all-important live show is Carter's home-grown repertoire of guitar gymnastics, a contribution he's keen to play down.
"I've developed a style of playing guitar by copying others. After ten years of playing I can't really play that well – I just pick out a couple of chords and play what feels good, but I'm not good technically. I couldn't do session work. I get the sort of sound that I can tune in to without having to move my fingers too much! In musical terms I just sit on the bass and drums. That's what the band is all about – rhythm."
Quite. A large chunk of the live set is clearly rhythmic, rather than melodic.
"I don't really like 'songs' as such. I don't write songs. One or two structured numbers may result, but generally I prefer the sort of hypnotic feeling that John Lee Hooker used to get."
'Relax' is playing on the jukebox.
"This isn't a song, is it?"
So what about that John Lee Hooker influence?
"The blues influence is there, that's obvious. You can see what the influences are, but that's not important. What is important is how we use and adapt those influences."
"British R 'n' B was killed off because they just got stuck to the 12 bar blues format and thought that was good enough, but it's not. You only have to look at what Beefheart does with the blues to see what can be achieved. He takes it and moves it about, changing rhythms. He's not black, he wasn't raised in the cotton fields, but he's got his own thing to say."
"It's important to keep moving, to forget about what's gone before, to keep a clear head and not fill your brain up wth memories."
Carter rounds on me for a recent live review in which I intimated that, for the growing league of Messiahs fans, the band may just be a stepping-stone on the way to the next Sex Pistols.
"I see things differently," counters Bill. "You mentioned the Sex Pistols in your review – people have been waiting for the second Sex Pistols since 1977, but they're not going to come, the same way Jesus isn't going to come. But the Screaming Blue Messiahs are here. You have to take it or leave it, you can't sit on the fence.
"It's early days yet, and people have got to get to understand what's going on when we play. You know we don't play straight R 'n' B, there's a lot going on and it takes a lot of handling. I don't agree with the conclusions you draw, and I think you've got a negative approach."
Biff! Sock! Pow!
As to my implication that the trio are a little old to represent a new generation of music, Carter is less vexed:
"That's a fact. The only parallel I can draw is with films. You look at those films that were made for teenagers – they were crap, crap! The best films are adult films, and the best music is adult music. I never liked the Sex Pistols or the whole adolescent stance. Kids go and see films like Taxi Driver, they don't have to be led up the garden path.
"Similarly music doesn't necessarily stop being exciting once you reach 21. You've just got to look at the old blues guys – Howlin' Wolf was still playing when he was 60, and Hound Dog Taylor didn't even record his first album until he was that age."
The aggression channelled into their music is reflected in their appearance. Their intention of using firearms in the photo session was the reason for that difference of opinion with their press officer the previous night. Eventually the band's stand prevailed. But how relevant are the guns?
"We don't own them, they just present a powerful image. I see it more as a symbol of commitment, an attitude that's psychological rather than physical.
"It's not as if we're going to go out shooting people – if we were we'd be criminals and not poncing around with pop music! I'm not in the least bit violent, I don't think anyone in the group is, you can't take it too seriously."
Nevertheless, I wouldn't recommend getting on the wrong side of these lads, just in case...
The Messiahs are set to take a giant leap forward, having signed a long-term deal with WEA, which is to spawn an album (with the working title 'Holiday Home') by the summer. Meanwhile the roadshow gathers momentum, travelling to such far-flung outposts of civilisation as Brighton, Nottingham, and beyond.
Butchering the rotting corpse of disco-orientated popdom, Bill and the rhythm boys are here to stuff the guts back into a filleted club scene.
18th May 1985
By Mat Snow
THE RIGHT STUFF
Into the dizzy azure of the pop stratosphere comes SCREAMING BLUE MESSIAHS, latest test pilots of the rhythm 'n' blues beyond. Mat Snow fastens his seat-belt with Messiahs' high flyer Bill Carter and gets ready to reach for the sky. Hot shots: Anton Corbijn.
"There was such a scary thing about going out to the bush. You hit the landing zone and it's hot. That door opens up and you run out screaming. There's little rocket ships whizzing through the air. You feel you can stick out your hand and catch a round. I could have beat Bob Hayes in a foot race with all my gear. I could have hidden behind a pack of Camels with no part of me protruding. That's got to be the hairiest thing in the world. Adrenaline for days."
(Anonymous Vietnam veteran, quoted in Nam by Mark Baker)
"When I was just a baby / My mama told me, son / Always be a good boy / And don't ever play with guns / But I shot a man in Reno / Just to watch him die / When I hear that whistle blowin' / I hang my head and cry."
('Folsom Prison Blues' by Johnny Cash)
"If you're a long way from home / Can't sleep at night / Grab your telephone / Somethin' just ain't right / That's evil / Evil is goin' on / I'm warnin' you, brother / You'd better watch your happy home..."
('Evil' by Howlin' Wolf)
Lasham by name and lash 'em by nature.
A relentless northerly wind whistles down the corroded nascelles of a defunct Gloucester Meteor and gusts over desultory, dismembered wings, cables and ailerons strewn haphazardly over a field bounding a Home Counties airbase.
Grounded for good, a once-soaring Hawker Hunter and Sikorski helicopter sink slowly into the weeds. Overhead the screeching flight of a new generation of war 'plane seems to mock the ill-tended elephants' graveyard below.
Bill Carter likes Lasham.
"Actually, I did try and join the airforce when I was a bit younger, but I had bad eyes and couldn't do it. I wasn't very good at physics either, al that kind of stuff.
"I like it when it's a bit exciting, when it gets unusual. Like when we took this train journey from Ostend to Stockholm, 35 hours. That was really atmospheric, at night you go through goods yards and all that kind of stuff. It can get quite disconcerting really..."
Exciting. Unusual. Atmospheric. Disconcerting. Good words for The Screaming Blue Messiahs, rightly regarded by many as the most dynamic British band to emerge in the last year. Even WEA, the Arsenal FC of record companies, have endorsed this view with a handsome cheque to woo them off the small but enterprising Big Beat label. Thus last year's magnificent 'Good And Gone' EP is re-released with moderate hooplah and an encore of rave reviews. The buzz of those three USAAF Thunderbolts on the sleeve is getting louder and louder...
THEY CAME OUT OF NOWHERE
Fifteen years ago the still youthful Bill Carter quit his native Teeside seaside town of Redcar for the Bohemian life as an art student in London's suburban Bromley. That much we know...
"I didn't murder five families and do a runner, though some people might argue. I don't keep old pictures; I like to keep going forwards. I've had situations in my life but I don't really want to talk about my... everyone has their own story of situations. If I told you, say, this happened to me and that happened to me, and that's why I feel like this, I wouldn't feel it, it would take something out of me.
"I'm actually getting a lot out of ordinary things, which is, for me, quite refreshing. Very exciting. Sometimes you get so screwed up you can't see further than your feet. I'm enjoying being alive, I s'pose I find that quite fulfilling at the moment..."
GOTTA FEELING INSIDE - CAN't EXPLAIN
"You're always looking for excitement, you're always looking for it. But it's a matter of finding something that fits your capabilities otherwise you feel out of place. This is the most exciting thing I've done, being in this band."
"Looking back, I never really liked it. It was all right, you know, same as anybody else. It was a bit frustrating really, I didn't understand it. You don't understand what you're supposed to do. It gets a bit kind of... meaningless.
"This band is the first time since I've been playing that I've really believed it. It's an unusual sort of outfit."
That it is. The Screaming Blue Messiahs are the sort of band that one thought had become extinct by the early '80s, fallen pray to the same lack of fashionability as did for Bill's only previous name group, the highly-reputed Motor Boys Motor. For if the Messiahs have an obvious ancestor, it's Dr Feelgood, a lineage reinforced by their EP being produced by Vic Maile, who in the mid-'70s powerfully vinylised the Canvey quartet's classic cuts.
But thought The Screaming Blue Messiahs look more like a darts team than a pop group, their appeal lies not in beer-bellied good nature; rather, a far more sulphurous gut reaction. If Wilko Johnson's pudd'n'-headed psycho-chopping put an edge on the Feelgoods, then the Messiahs take that mania all the way. They are harder, heavier and sharper by far. And not a little bit stir crazy.
"I like the effect we're starting to have, the way we feel, the atmosphere of it. I do feel that what we do is something that everybody wants. You have things in you which don't necessarily work in a normal kind of situation, but work well in another. It's a good way of channelling a way of being that I find very exciting. That hour on stage makes a lot of things make sense to me.
"I suppose it's performing, but I don't think of it as performing. I think of it as being. It's not a circus, it's a meaningless thing. It don't mean nothing to nobody but at the time it's great."
Zen-like but true. The record is ace, but live is where you catch these guys in full flood. Chris Thompson on bass and Kenny Harris on drums have taken the foundations of R&B backbeat just about as far as they'll go. Did you know there are infinitely sophisticated patterns you can play whilst still socking out a massive drive? Chris and Kenny do – immaculate foils for the virtuoso smokestack lightning of Bill Carter.
White shirt, blue suit, bald head, bug eyes – Bill Carter is simultaneously hilarious and menacing. Whereas most players become as one with their guitars, all natural phallic protuberance and fluid grace of movement, Bill bashes away bare-fingered at a battered Telecaster as if it's some curmudgeonly old blunderbuss likely to backfire at any moment. Add to that the agile choreography of a jut-arsed bear on rollerskates and you have a performer plainly not of the common run and thus all the more riveting to behold.
:I saw the Sex Pistols at the Nashville. I didn't like 'em at the time but I'd probably like 'em now if I saw them. I had a different attitude then, I liked rhythm 'n' blues – to a fault. I didn't like anything else at all. People used to say at the time that Dr Feelgood were better than the Sex Pistols. I used to think they were – miles better. I always saw the Sex Pistols as a teenage rebellion thing, and personally I'd been through that with The Who and people like that. It was a bit secod time around for me. So maybe I missed the point.
"Pete Townsend originally. And old Wilko. And Howlin' Wolf stuff. I liked Hubert Sumlin. I like Jimmy Vaughan of The Thinderbirds. I like it when it comes over really definite. Not so much musical as personal. Which I suppose is why I like the blues, because it's got a lot of feel to the vibe of it."
"I like Beefheart, the way he's personal. I like the 'Clear Spot' album. I like the guitar-playing in a lot of Beefheart stuff, the odd rhythms. It wouldn't surprise me if Wilko had given a listen. Some people say I play like Wilko, but I don't think so at all. People like to place things, it makes them feel more secure."
'Tracking The Dog' always gets a big cheer live and has proved a surprise dancefloor hit. Lyrically it trespasses on Gun Club territory with some crazy rant about shooting 'God's little Elvis', bringing to mind that story about Jerry Lee Lewis trying to break into Gracelands armed to the teeth in order to put a few holes through Elvis, just months before he died anyway. What's it all about Bill?
"I don't know, really. I'm more interested in the mood of things. I like it when things float, when it's not really too earthly. The idea is to get off the ground and create a kind of atmosphere which I can get involved in and, hopefully for other people, will touch on something.
"I am trying to avoid saying what it's about because I think that takes away the magic of it in a way, the mystery of it. Sometimes you think of things but you don't quite know why. The fact is, if it's that moveable. it's got a bit of life about it, and once you start putting it into boxes you kill it."
Talking of boxes, "If I die in a combat zone / Box me up and ship me home" and "Your X-rays have just come through and we think we know what the problem is", both Vietnam War catchphrases used in your songs? Is Vietnam a special interest?
"Yeah, I went through... I'm interested in any situation which puts... I'm interested in how people behave in extreme situations. Endurance and what it does to the mind. How people are affected by the horror of it all... and just getting up in the morning, really. You see these extreme things and sometimes it helps you understand about yourself, things you have to deal with. You get a certain amount of strength from knowing that these people did that, and how people cope."
Your song 'Someone To Talk To' contrasts wartime deathwish scenarios with the plea "I need someone to talk to". Macho vulnerability?
"Yeah, well I think that's being brutally honest about it. You've got to be vulnerable otherwise you never hit on situations. Contact's easier said than done, real contact is a rare thing. It's like Voyage Of The Damned sometimes. It's not a deathwish; I don't want to die.
"Violence is part of life, but there's ways of using violence. That was one of the motivations for starting this group, to get the violence into a positive kind of... er... I s'pose it is harmless. Not actually hurting anybody. Violence is a very exciting thing. That's why people are fascinated by war and killing and all these films. Violence is their norm. Inside you it's a fascinating thing, to be able to get on stage... I see it as creating a workable reality for it. There's no blood, it's not a negative violence. Like an exorcism type event, it's more than that. It's quite creative. Things happen that are beautiful through the violence in us, in people. A feel..."
Fact: '19' is Britain's number one single.
"I'm not really interested in rock 'n' roll. It's only a couple of things I've seen that have kept me in that vehicle. I really don't like rock 'n' roll. I don't like most people in groups. I don't like most people in the business. I don't like the values and I don't like the music. I think most of it's crap, the level of fuckin' living is worthless. I am not a rock 'n' roll fan."
But we like the smell of napalm in the mornings?
By Lee Edmond (Fast Eddy)
THE SCREAMING BLUE MESSIAHS
Courtesy of FAST EDDIE...
This caper all started after seeing The Screaming Blue Messiahs live, then buying their six track mini album entitled `Good and Gone` (ACE Records NED7). The album is produced by well known record producer Vic Maile, who is responsible for the good stuff you`ve heard from the likes of Dr. Feelgood, The Inmates, Motorhead and even The Anti-Nowhere League. The Messiahs are a three-piece band comprising of Bill Carter (lead guitar and vocals), Chris Thompson (Bass and backing vocals), both ex-members of Motor Boys Motor, and Kenny (we don`t know his surname; Drums), an ex-member of True-Life Confessions. The Messiahs have been together for about 18 months in which time they have had live gigs broadcast on both Capital Radio and Radio 1, and a John Peel session in 1984 to boot, not to mention a major recording deal with WEA. Liking both what we`d seen and heard and being nosey little sods, we wanted to know more, after numerous phone calls to the bands P.R (Public Relations) Officer, who turned out to be a very helpful gal called Vermillion. A date was duly set for an interview with Bill Carter, chief face with the band.
TIME:- 7.00pm LOCATION:-BAYSWATER POSITION:- THREE FLOORS UP….
OOZ:- In a recent NME gig review, Matt Snow tried to link you with the new American Hardcore movement. Do you agree with the comparison?
BC:- Yeah, I read that interview, but I didn`t really understand it.
OOZ:- No, neither did we! It seems to us that the basis for what you are doing is R&B.
BC:- Yeah, I see it more like that, but it`s got a heavier sound than most R&B. You could pick up a band like The Gun Club –I mean, is that a hardcore band ?, I wouldn't recognise a hardcore band if I heard one !, I actually see this band as being a one-off phenomena. I`m not being egotistical about it or anything like that, I just think it`s a great band, and in the end it has to be recognised on it`s own merits. It`s got nothing to do with that (hardcore) music. Whatever you can say our music is like, in the end people have to turn round and recognise it for what it is.
OOZ:- How do you like being compared to Wilko Johnson?
BC:- There must be a reason for it, because it keeps cropping up!
OOZ:- Is it possibly the way you play?
BC:- Yeah, I suppose the style is similar, but the music is totally different. I mean, if you put the two together you`d never connect them, unless you`d seen the way that I play.
OOZ:- How do you go about writing material?
BC:- I like to make the songs slightly hypnotic if I can... if we can. I like it when it just feels... even though it`s the same thing over and over again, you want to hear it, some times it works, sometimes it doesn't.
OOZ:- What about the format inside the band. Are the Messiahs a democratic band, does everybody have a say in what goes on?
BC:- It`s fairly democratic, but anything that’s too democratic I don`t think works, everybody works just as hard, but someone has to make the decisions.
OOZ:- Have you got any gigs lined up?
BC:- Well, we`re doing some college around the country, and we`ll be supporting ZZ Top in August on their European tour.
OOZ:- Will you be doing any UK dates with ZZ Top?
BC:- I don`t really know, I think they are just doing a heavy metal festival over here and the promoters just want HM bands, it`s a pity really, because we`d do it, we`ll play in front of anyone!
And so you shall boys... so you shall.
21st December 1985
By Neil Perry
Photos Gavin Watson
MESSIAHS TALKING SENSE
Who killed the cat with his guitar and gave Neil Perry a kick in the thalamus? Bill Carter of The Screaming Blue Messiahs owns up as Gavin Watson gets him up against the wall.
We are, believe it or not, a race with two brains.
The thalamus is a small, pinkish cluster of nerves and cells which lies at the bottom centre of the brain.
The thalamus – Greek for 'hidden chamber' – is a legacy from our animal ancestors, and it is thought that here is seated our 'sixth sense', powers of telepathy, and (yes, there is a point to all this) our appreciation of music.
It is on this extremely sensitive organ that music makes its unique effect, and when the reception of music is good a kind of 'brainwashing' takes place.
In other words, when you hear some sounds and your heart leaps or your spine tingles, your thalamus has decided this is it and isn't going to let you forget it.
The sound of the Screaming Blue Messiahs did that to me not so long ago, and when I met Bill Carter, their singer-guitarist, a few days later we talked of the same thing, that... naked singularity if you like.
"It's gone anyway, you can't analyse it the next day, it's gone." says Bill. "People try to write a book about it. Some people are up for that spark, and others just wanna fuckin' knock.
"Some people don't want nothing good, because it makes them feel insecure... a lot of people have got their own little world, and they don't want nothing to fuck with it.
"But if you're still hungry and up and looking for things, life can be a lot more exciting."
Bill is intense in his conversation, as he is with his music. The figure he cuts on stage conjures up all sorts of images – 'vicious', 'hypnotic' and 'disturbing' are the words used to describe him.
"It's getting in a sort of mood. I've got ideas about how I feel. You know like when you see Mohammed Ali and he starts mouthing off, well he probably doesn't know what he's going to say and that's how I feel, I look back on it and think, what was all that about?
"It's just that I know it feels right when I'm doing it, it feels right, you know that you're hitting the spot. It's a powerful form of music, it's a... feeling, a feeling."
Brought up on a diet of The Yardbirds and Geno Washington, without his music Bill says he would be "staring at the walls."
With their next album dues sometime early next year, the Screaming Blue messiahs have reached, he says, "the end of an era", with the new direction leading off with the recent 45 'Twin Cadillac Valentine'.
Does the physical release stop you killing the cat?
"I've already killed the cat, I dropped my guitar on it." (That'll teach me not to be so clever.)
"No, it makes a lot of things make sense, that's exactly it. It's a bit of everything. Sometimes I think it's funny, sometimes I think it's quite sinister. But it's a powerful way of communicating.
"You can do what you like, say what you like. It's nice manipulating that situation and taking advantage of it, it's interesting and exciting."
Is it ever a waste putting out that much emotion to people?
"The problem is, you gotta play the record to people, and if they don't have that emotion – and i don't think a lot of people have, 'cos it's sorta been beaten out of them – then you wonder who you're playing to. You wonder who's out there who could be possibly interested."
And what of the people who come to see you?
"I think the audience is great. I like them, because I think they're up for it. You're not there to hurt people or to teach them a lesson. I don't know..." (very long pause) "... I just think they're not cunts."
The incredible tightness of Kenny and Chris, drummer and bassist, tells of a compelling fusion of ideals.
For all the positivity, i still get the feeling that you could be a heavy bunch of characters if the urge gripped you.
"It is unusual to find three people who get off on the same thing, and can do it together and help each other do it.
"We don't socialise that much or anything, everyone's got their own lives to lead. I don't see the others that much apart from when we play, and when we do it's like all of us jumping off a building together.
"There is a chemistry there, and we're all hungry... all hungry. I've started believing in myself a bit more. Anyway, it's only a guitar, you do what you fuckin' want with it.
"I think I'm playing less and less as well, which is good because it gets less musical.
"I can see how that comes across, but as people we're more than reasonable. It's channelling that side of yourself, that part of you which is in everybody.
"It just happens to be that's what we want to channel. It is a heavy thing, it's a heavy thing for me to do, it's psychologically heavy. That's one of the beauties of it, because you don't have to walk down the street like that."
But for the people who can't...
"Exactly, that's why there's so many rapes and murders and stuff, that's why there's a lot of screwed up people."
I compare Bill's stage persona with the man who's sitting in front of me, and unwittingly open a flood-gate, as if he'd been bottling it up.
"When you're on tour and you're doing that every night... it's a fine line, a fine line. You can get well psyched out, but I try to keep my feet on the ground.
"You can get far too involved with what you do on stage, and you start behaving like that in real life and become a cunt.
"It is a powerful position to be in, and you could quite easily start to believe in it.
"I like music, I like the feeling, and to me that's more about being alive than rules, or society... I don't understand most of it. I'm not being deliberately obtuse, I just don't get it. So you end up thinking, what can you do? So I play my guitar and do that. It's a job.
"You can sit next to a footballer and say, well you're not kicking a ball around now, are you? He's good at it, so he plays on Saturdays, and that's what I do. I can't walk down the street like that. I'd get put away.
"It's an exaggerated situation, and that's the whole point of it."
We sit in silence for a while. I remark, perhaps rather flippantly, that he doesn't relish doing interviews and in a brief moment of frustration he retorts: "Well, would you? A fuckin' relative stranger asking you loads of questions. Fuck it..."
He left me with a few words that have made a lasting impression, words that cut through to the very centre of all we'd talked about, and more.
"You know, I love and respect my parents, I've got some good friends, I try to be a reasonable person.
"I'm not out to prove anything, but I'm a human being and there's a lot of violence in human beings. You have to put brakes on your own personality, because it's endless.
"Someone once said this to me, when we were well involved with this and I was well off the case.
"They said, 'don't mess with the infinite...!"
17th May 1986
By Carol Clerk
BITING THE BULLET
Kicking against complacency, The Screaming Blue Messiahs have won acclaim the hard way. Carol Clerk applauds their conviction. Jon Blackmore snaps.
It's sad but true that the pubs and clubs of this country are dying on their feet – with their slippers on. The complacency, the politeness, the awful sanity with which musicians entertain their audience and with which their audience respond has turned a traditionally bustling breeding ground into a nursing home for the terminally unimaginative.
Things have never looked so hopeless. Once, and it wasn't so long ago, you were spoilt for choice, you could hop around the small venues every night of the week and quite reasonably expect to stumble across the future of rock 'n' roll. Now you're more likely to to find it alongside the chicken in the eternal basket than you are in Dingwalls.
Which is why The Screaming Blue Messiahs are so important. They are inviting us to get excited again about a night in The Marquee, stomping mercilessly all over the nice-boy bands, and revelling furiously in the recklessness of their own instinct, impulse and emotion.
We want this, and we need it. It's obvious. Complimentary reviews of the the Messiah's new album, 'Gun-Shy', have been coming from the most unlikely quarters and, all the time, the group's live following has been growing bigger and more devoted. At The Marquee a couple of Saturdays ago, attendance reached a stifling capacity, although the guest list, significantly, was minimal. Unusual as it may be, the whole place was packed with paying punters who'd arrived not to lig at the bar but to feel the power of this three man band, to be part of its drama, to thrill to its intensity, to belong to its urgent rhythm, to answer its challenge and finally, spontaneously, to invade the stage because this really was one of those occasions where the group and its audience connected and stayed connected until the moment that the lights blazed in and the spell was broken.
The Screaming Blue Messiahs are out and about in a world of their own. Comparisons won't do because there are no comparisons. , This is an uninhibited, untamed, almost primitive outpouring of individuality, a 60-minite utterance from the heart, soul and mind of a man who may have his influence but won't be messed around by them.
Bill Carter, vocalist, guitarist and writer, doesn't listen to charts, doesn't own a record player, doesn't have a TV either. What he gives to the Messiahs, and what they in turn give to us is something he can feel but not explain, and I think the key word is danger – the kind of danger that has always turned good bands into great ones, the kind of danger that you sense when you realise that the music you're listening to is bigger, much bigger, than the guitar, drums and bass that are making it.
"Our music is totally emotional and it's to do with some sort of power, psychological power," agrees Carter, a two-day shadow bristling over shaven head as he sinks another vodka and orange in the Frog and Firkin and hopes, in vain, to drown his flu.
"It's a bit like a drug – or what I've heard about drugs. I can't dwell on it too much because it's dangerous, psychologically dangerous. It used to affect me badly because I found it hard to recover from the effect the gigs used to have on me. I would end up not knowing where I was really. In a way that's why I try not to talk about it too much. I try to keep it at a distance. It is a powerful thing that we do, and it can become too important in your life. I want to keep it on one side so i don't have to live it.
"We're not trying to be heavy or anything like that, but the shear force of the band, plus the kind of vibe of it, sometimes does get a bit, maybe not dangerous, but very, very exciting. You just could not live like that. It wouldn't be a balanced way of living."
He may not want to talk about it, may not want to think about it, but Bill Carter, at the same time, recognises that this X factor, whatever it is, is the spark that illuminates the Messiahs, sets them apart and ultimately drives him forward in a business that he actively dislikes.
"I think we've got a bit of magic, which is what real bands used to have," he muses. "I can't say what it is, but it's special and it's priceless. If it was just music we were doing, I wouldn't be interested."
It seems, however, that the things which are special and priceless to the band and their fans are the very things which are most perplexing to the record company. The Messiahs' very singularity, their eccentricity, their refusal to conform to any convenient music style, makes them difficult to gift-wrap and sell to the public.
"I get the feeling that WEA think of us as their token 'rock' act, and don't really have a grasp of the band's potential," says Bill, removing his shades for the first time. "I could be wrong, but I'm usually right and I've yet to be convinced that they have the capabilities or the commitment to do this band justice.
"It's almost like they have to see things in writing before they believe them. Record sales would convince them, or a very good write-up would cheer them up. I wish they had the same enthusiasm that we have. I don't think they quite understand what we're doing.
"But having said that, I don't want to do a hatchet job on WEA. We know how it's gonna go. We're not The jesus and Mary Chain. This band is building a slow but genuine following, and it's a long job. Keeping the excitement all the time, keeping things moving is part of it. I like the conviction of our band. The fact that it knows what it's doing.
"I also like the fact that it's probably an unlikely looking band. We go to places and they think we're the roadies or the managers or something, and afterwards they have to change their minds."
It's true. The Screaming Blue Messiahs couldn't look anything less like a band on the road, and yet this works to their advantage. Bill Carter, blustering around the stage, apparently in the grip of some uncontrollable mania, offers outrageously spectacular viewing. But performance – like every other personal aspect of his career in the band – is something he's reluctant to analyse too closely.
"I try not to think about what I do onstage," he insists. "I don't want to be a performing clown. We're not a travelling circus.
"People say it's like an ugly, anti-pop type of thing we do, but I don't think of it like that. I think it's a charismatic band. I think it's quite glamorous. When the Stones and The Who came out, people said they were horribly ugly. It was only when they were successful that everyone said how glamorously ugly they were. It's just people. There's different kinds of glamour.
"It doesn't have to be glamour with glitter and stuff and camping around. There are all kinds of glamour in the world. Cars can be glamorous, politics can be glamorous and politicians can be glamorous without wearing spikey hairstyles. Maybe glamour is the wrong word, but it's just I find something untouchable there which is what charisma is all about and, to me, that's worth all the fancy clothes and hairstyles and nice-looking people in the world."
The Screaming Blue Messiahs are asking us only for an honest hearing. Honesty's a strong point with this bunch. Ask Bill, for instance, about money and he'll tell you bluntly; "I need money. I'm miserable if i haven't got any money. I can spend more money than anybody I know if I've got it, and it's all on petrol. That's what I need it for. I don't buy anything else. The only thing I buy with money is freedom/"
At the same time, the Messiahs will say there are some things more important than money, and you believe them. Bill; "I suppose, ideally, I'd like to see us getting somewhere where we can really do what we want without worrying. I don't want to see three frustrated people at the end of five years. I'd just like us to fulfill ourselves. If everybody in this band achieves their maximum potential, we all should lead pretty exciting lives. That's all I want really."
31st May 1986
By Gavin Martin
Twin-guitar rock 'n' roll accelerators flat to the floor! And all that stuff! THE SCREAMING BLUE MESSIAHS are motoring well past the turn-offs to their teens. GAVIN MARTIN gets in the firing line, CINDY PALMANO sets her sights.
To the passer-by, the badly scratched, beat-up 1968 Chevrolet Camaro 350 SS may not look like much but next to his group The Screaming Blue Messiah it is Bill Carter's biggest thrill, a blue dream on wheels.
Sometimes just before dawn he gets in the car, fires the engine and, as the fitfull sputters give way to a reassuring purr, he'll set off out of London. Where he'll end up doesn't really matter, it's the getting there that's important, just as long as he's moving.
There's not many people around at this time of day but gradually they start to appear; heading to the shop, the office, the unemployment exchange, cogs in the machine that keeps sleepy old England ticking over. Sometimes when he thinks about it long enough, it can all seem a bit depressing to Bill. He moves faster; he may not know where he's going but there's much he wants to leave behind.
For a while at least he is cut off from the grind, the obligations, the sheer numbing monotony of the daily struggle. It's as if he's watching a reel of film unrolling before his eyes. He doesn't feel aloof or superior (Carter's spent enough of his 35 years on what they call the social scrapheap to know better), but being in the driver's seat gives him an independence and sense of control that is hard to find in a world where things are rapidly slipping out of anyone's control.
"I think being in a car, the whole feeling of it must be one of the last forms of freedom available to anyone," he says, earnestly.
At 35 Bill Carter is not exactly a young white hope but The Screaming Blue Messiahs – a group it has taken him ten years to put together – are currently one of the most obsessively atmospheric and vital live acts in the country. For a power trio they make an incredibly broad and calamitous noise. Carter builds waves of guitar over the pulverised funk and booming detonations of Chris Thompson's bass and Kenny Harris' drums. It's a sound trapped at the point of self destruction and implosion.
There's links with the past, certainly – the speed-sharp adrenalin rush of early Who and Wilko-era Feelgoods – but The Screaming Blue Messiahs move these influences into the '80s – nuclear age rhythm and blues. Because just as surely as the group keep a surging beat, Carter has definitely got the blues.
His songs are filled with loathing, frustration, fear, psychosis, and a weary resignation; scatterfire visions of a world embroiled in it's own destruction. Not that the Messiahs are miserable gits, far from it – seeing and hearing them push the limits of extremism rebounds with a big belly laugh. Maybe the last laugh.
"I've never seen it as an old-fashioned band, I've always thought it was streets ahead of most bands; I really thought we had our finger on the pulse, and I don't mean on pop music, but what was happening all around. That's why 'Good And Gone' had war stuff and things in it – you have that sort of thing thrown at you every day."
In the way that American bands of the late '60s were tagged 'post Vietnam', The Screaming Blue Messiahs come over as post-Falklands or post-Belfast. Their sound has a pervasive violence and mania.
"Well, it's hard to ignore all those things isn't it? It's not so much political as a bit extreme but I think it's harmless enough.
"What happens when we play isn't what would have happened if we sat down and thought about it beforehand. It's just three people who make a helluva noise and they've got a lot of something inside them that they want to come out, and when it comes out it makes this funny atmosphere which is dead exciting. I try and use imagery to channel that energy but the images are just my preoccupations. The power is from the people in the band. It's quite unusual these days to get a band that does that, a band that has a feel. Like the way Bo Diddley used to have a feel, well we've got that only now it's more modern."
Naturally suspicious and taciturn, Carter is not the most forthcoming of interviewees, shying away from discussing specific songs and, by his own admission, not overly articulate.
"What I do is emotional, tempered with a little experience, basic intelligence, perception and awareness of the world I live in. But I wouldn't want to analyse or intellectualise on it to the point where I knew what I was doing because I think once I knew what I was doing I would panic."
When you first catch sight of Carter with his pug face, blubbery bottom lip, devil pointed Pixie ears and the shaven head, he looks a little like his band sounds – obsessive, punchy, slightly unhinged. Even after two meetings it's not an impression that is completely eradicated. His answers to questions are filled with long pauses usually broken by a desultory "I don't know". Occasionally he makes an obscure joke and breaks into a bout of nervy laughter. But he's keen to accommodate, taking time both over the photographs and the interview. After years of seething with frustrated ambitions, smashing against endless disappointments, he's aware that The Screaming Blue Messiahs are at a fever pitch which only comes once in a group's career.
"It's like a trip, it's something that's hard to duplicate in any other way. I didn't realise until the band started getting exciting how good it really was and I'm sure it won't last, but it's a very special feeling. I suppose it's selfish really but the fact there's a lot of people there and everybody's involved – it's not adulation, we don't get that, we're not that sort of band – sort of justifies it for me."
Born in rural Teesside, Bill remembers his childhood as a happy one. It's no surprise to learn that the man who appears on the cover of his new LP, 'Gun-Shy', pinpointed by a rifle target, enjoyed many hours setting fire to his toy soldiers, constructing battlegrounds in his back garden. When he took to wearing an eye patch, with a subsequent debilitating affect on his sight, the family GP recommended he should be encouraged to use hi eyes in anything that required acute concentration. His parents bought him several guns and rigged up practice targets in the garden.
"I didn't really do my eyesight any good bit I think the birds got a bit worried."
Does this maybe explain his fascination with military machinations, the three fighter planes cruising on the cover of The Screaming Blue Messiahs' debut mini-LP 'Good And Gone', the lyrical allusions to battle, life seen through a combat zone?
He had a drum kit at first but then Bill went to see The Who. The sight of Pete Townsend smashing his guitar, eyes burning, while all around the group crashed and rose in cacophonous fury somehow set things in perspective for him.
"I was just a kid but I found the whole thing incredibly glamorous, exciting, everything I was looking for. Unfortunately it's hard to sustain that, people only have a certain life but at the time they were absolutely fucken' phenomenal, just really fucken' exciting. It wasn't like considering their musical qualities or anything, you just got off on them – to me that's what music is all about."
A soon-shattered illusion that life would be more exciting in London lead Carter to Bromley Art College when he reached 20, but while friends now paraded in flares and kaftans, he clung fervently to the sound and style of the early '60s.
"Not so much mod as conservative, sensible. I sort of missed the boat. I always miss out. I think I had the wrong attitude. Y'know, I didn't like anything, I wouldn't like anything but The Who for five years, I wouldn't even consider anything else."
For most of the '70s Carter stayed on the dole, did a few driving jobs, got fucked up on drugs and remembered the glory days.
"I don't know really, I mean I like people but I don't like to get too close."
By now he was listening to Captain Beefheart, Howlin' Wolf, a little Hendrix, all elements that would eventually emerge in The Screaming Blue's frenzy – from Beefheart's bug-eyed lyrical jabber to Hendrix/Hubert Sumlin's splintered electric minefield. But it was Dr Feelgood's live appearances around 1974 that made him realise "I can do that, gis' a job."
It wasn't the quick easy ride he expected. Not until the end of the decade did Carter start to make headway with the grungy Motor Boys Motor, but by then the vagaries of style were working against him.
"We used to play in pubs but nobody wanted to go to pubs then. It was all your new pedantics or New Romantics; people wanted to go and see people in Habitat."
Confused and depressed, the group split after one LP. Piecing together The Screaming Blue Messiahs months later Carter had to overcome some nagging doubts.
"If you were picking people to be in a band, we'd be the last ones you'd pick. When I started I just felt I don't look right, I don't feel right, this just doesn't seem right. But if you do it 200 per cent, do it the best you can, something comes that hopefully is worth having and if not you'll soon know."
The mini-LP 'Good And Gone' in 1984, proved Carter had indeed something special to offer and it's a promise consolidated by this year's 'Gun-Shy' – delayed in the making by a bust up (and a subsequent litigation) with two producers. On 'Gun-Shy' the maverick spleen of Carter and hurricane dynamics of the band are fine-tuned and channelled without losing any of their fearsome edge. Embodying an old rock 'n' roll ethos, their music is purely cathartic, much more frantic, more dangerous, than anything that's gone before.
"It's a fine line trying to keep an edge without being malicious. I see it more as mischievous or teasing... I think of it personally as being a little bit dodgy to do it night after night. Standing on stage having a lot of people watch you while you smash a guitar and shout your head off is not a normal way to behave. I wouldn't like to have to do it 24 hours a day or you'd end up feeling very ill, I think.
"It's sort of psychotic music and if you take it too seriously you'd end up believing it; you have to laugh at it. It's like you can laugh at bits of 'Apocalypse Now' like Robert Duvall surfing on the beach, you can't take things too seriously."
Is the possible misinterpretation of the violent undertones something that concerns him?
"I care what people think but I don't worry about it. Like I met somebody in Germany who said 'you're a fascist band' because we had three aeroplanes on our cover. As far as I can see that's just a fascist reaction to a nice picture. If you're talking about politics and military stuff everyone thinks they know everything about it.
"They ought to be looking at people with who there's no room for misinterpretation – it's just a bullet in the head. This is just music, it's toytown.
"I'm quite aggressive in my approach to things but I'm aware of the position I'm in and I've seen bands I thought were harmful and I didn't really like that abuse.
"You take Sigue Sigue Sputnik; I found their use and appreciation of violence a little off the mark for this day and age. It's a little bit tasteless, there's something wrong with it, it's evil. What we do is an exorcism of violence, it's not a love of violence. It's the opposite, really. I mean, I'm not... malevolent, but you have to get that out of you."
Like this year's other great rock record (PiL's 'Album') 'Gun-Shy''s drive and power draws on Carter's cynical iconoclastic stance, free of any dogma or prepacked ideology. 'Smash The Market Place', the LP's single, has been tagged as his first directly political song. It's not a suggestion that he welcomes.
"I never really think of it like that. I suppose it is, but who cares? Politics is a sickness y'know, it's like putting on someone else's jacket. Life's got more to offer than that. It seems to me that everybody wants to tell everybody else what to do. If people just got on with their own lives, tried to be creative and fulfil themselves, the world would be a much better place. When you get involved in politics and music then you start to think, and you're not supposed to, that fucks everything up. Musicians are just meant to play music and get people excited.
"I mean, there's a lot of things I feel strongly about but I just try to put forward a beautiful picture really. I want it to be evocative, I don't want to be a politician or a preacher. I want it to be intangible, shifting, exciting and moveable, like a phenomenon, eternal. A vibrant shimmering fucken' thing the excites. It's not about anything that I want to be categorical, it's about nothing at all, 45 minutes of meaningless nothing.
"I'm not that happy about the way things are. It's terribly depressing, ball crushing, this country can kill people y'know, it takes all the life out of them. The only way you could happily live here is to be on the right side of the fence or you're fucked."
Apart from his car, Bill Carter – who hasn't been to the cinema in five years, can't stand lifts, has been trying to read the same book for a year – has little to interest him outside the band. Being in it, watching it grow, and developing his responsibility, has definitely changed him. Character development he calls it. Previously he lacked motivation, he missed many chances, failing to turn up for gigs and not getting it together to write songs. That's all different now. He doesn't do drugs any more. He says when he's on stage and the band are in full flight it's ten times better than a drug, a real flying natural high.
Sometimes Bill Carter thinks if he had money he'd just get in his car or on a plane and head off somewhere. Then he remembers his recent holiday in a little island off Libya just a few weeks after the American raid on Tripoli. He's booked the holiday before the hostility and it was too late to bottle out. It wasn't that the people there gave him a hard time, even though he looked like an American soldier on leave, or that the prayer calls coming from the loudspeakers outside the Mosques at dark made him think of the film 'Midnight Express'. It was just that after a couple of days he was at his wits end, didn't know what to do with himself. He needed to be back with the Messiah monster machine.
He puts it down to inadequacy, that's why he has to do this, why he needs it. But he's convinced that the effect of this searing, tensed noise is for good rather than evil. In between dual-edged love songs like 'Twin Cadillac Valentine' and mock-hard raps like 'Killer Born Man', there's snatches of soul searching, depictions of faith under fire while everything else is falling away.
"I believe in something. I believe there's a devil, I've seen evil, you can see it all the time, just look at the news. For that not to take over completely there must be good. That's why people like Martin Luther King or anybody doing good always get shot, they always do. But the fact that there are people doing that keeps the flag flying otherwise you'd get your Hitlers and people like that taking over because they're all there. Just waiting."
Summary and translation by Kåre Naustan
Bensin i blodet (Petrol in the blood)
The article "Bensin i blodet" (petrol in the blood) claims that the harsh situation in the mid-80's UK, is not reflected in most British rock music. However, The SBM is an exception and must be described as an angry band, based on rhythm & blues, rough funk and pure adrenaline. The band members look like bad guys, found in dark alleys in police TV-shows, and the risk of this band to become trendy, seems minimal.
The band started to impress live, and have now also proved that they can deliver aggression on record, ref. "Good and gone" and "Gun shy". Bill Carter agrees to the view that there is a violent tone in all SBM material, but he says it is not violence for violence sake. It is addressing a way to defend your personal freedom towards the pressure that we all are exposed to, and it is a channel to release frustration. BC describes the music as very powerful and emotional. There are no calcuated plan or consept behind the band aggressive apperance.
BC's previous band, Motor Boys Motor, did not match the audience of the time. People were more interested in music videos, rather that live bands at small venues. When starting the SBM, BC says, I realised that the odds were against us. We were a live band and not exactly pin-ups. But at the same time I did think that people would understand us if we convinced and delivered in the same way as those who inspired us, such as The Who and Dr. Feelgood.
Live, the band could remind you of a hazardous car-chase. BC also has written a song called "Twin Caddilac valentine" for the new album and he owns a 68 Chevrolet Camaro. To me, the car is not a luxury item, but a necessity. Driving is a way to be in peace and feel freedom, BC says.
If you think SBM is another retro-band, think again. They have some similarities to Husker Du, but with even more rage. BC continues the heritage from Wilko Johnson, and the way he combined rhythm and solo guitars. I do think this band has the potential of becoming really good, BC says, and that is the most important.
26 July 1986
BILL CARTER of the Screaming Blue Messiahs on the MM couch
About two years ago I used to be really into guns, but now I've gone off them. I think they're a little too close for comfort. I'd protect my flat with a gun, and I suppose I'd like one, but I always feel if you've got one, you're gonna use it.
It's normal to wear hats in America, but you can't really wear a hat here. I think people deem them to be too outrageous nowadays. People won't tolerate them. We live in self-conscious times.
The first thing that comes into my head is Joe Strummer. The second thing that comes into my head is disappearance. That's politics for you, innit?
That's the one. It's quite elusive. I think money can help you compensate for a lack of freedom. I think it can buy you a bit of time, but it never compensates for what's in your head. It helps if you have no aspirations and no ambitions. The amount of money you get to a certain extent dictates what you are able to do with your time. I'd love a lot of money. Then I'd just piss off somewhere. I'd keep moving – a bit smarter than gypsies – one of the few wandering Conservatives!
I do fuck all with time I have to myself. The nearest I come to doing anything is washing my Porsche.
The smallest things seem dangerous to me. I find getting up the most treacherous part of life. I was in a plane that hit a storm as it was taking off and we all thought we were going to die. When we eventually landed I slid off the seat. I like things to be exciting, but not life-endangering. The hour or two hours we play on stage is the only time I really enjoy anything. I suppose that's a form of freedom.
There's nothing else I could do that would give me what I've got. Well, there is something, but I don't want to depress anyone so I'll keep quiet about it. I like doing what you shouldn't do, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone.
They've become very cheap now. I still don't have one though. I find wearing one too claustrophobic.
It used to be a nice place before the town planner poured a lot of concrete all over it. It's a nice accent still. Dartmouth is my favourite town – a good naval base.
I'd rather sail. I don't like being locked up in a plane. There's always some drunk with marriage problems sitting right in front of you!
Life's great problem. I shave my head because I think it looks better. I suppose shaving adds a much needed dicipline to life.
The one place I never want to see again.
I'd like to read more, but I can't concentrate. I always find books get on my nerves after the first couple of paragraphs. You end up not liking the person that's writing them. I like Raymond Chandler – it's about the only author I've ever got through.
Funnily enough, I suggested selling ads on our last album last year, but the idea didn't go down too well with the record company. I'm always trying to find ways of getting more money. I also thought that anyone who bought our album and it got into the charts, they get a free album. Nobody listens to me about that sort of thing because I've never worked it out right.
You've guessed it. If I wasn't in a band I'd be a policeman, fighting crime. I'd have to be a detective. I wouldn't like to wear those stupid hats, I only like the flat ones with checks around it, like 'Z Cars'.
I think I'm really boring. My car isn't.
You're either for them or against them, really. I don't know what I feel, I haven't sussed them out yet. It's a bit like 'Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers'. I'm not sure if I want to be one of them.
It's a bit like dying really. It's all part of rotting away.
International Musician & Recording World
By Jim Betteridge
Band: Screaming Blue Messiahs / Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction
Venue: Town and Country Club, Kentish Town
Date: June 5, 1986
PA: Raper and Wayman
The last time I saw Mick Anthony was in 1983 at a college ball in Oxford. All around was total chaos. Due to a miscommunication I had turned up a few minutes after the band I was meant to be reviewing had finished their set. A fine and drenching drizzle blew across the college quadrangle threatening every electrical connection in sight and collecting in deep sploshy puddles on the uneven tarpaulin protecting the well kempt grass beneath it. However, any cause I thought I had for concern dissolved into insignificance as Mick related how some unfortunate assistant had managed to drop something heavy on the stage-to-mixer multicore before it had been properly strapped down, thereby ripping the vast majority of the mike and line leads from their XLRs. His hands were a mass of blisters and the soldering iron was still hot from its work, but even so, not all lines had been fully restored and only part of the rig's bottom end was working properly. An ironic smile had cracked across my face thinly concealing a strong urge to return to the warmth and civility of the local restaurant from which we'd come. But no, this was, after all, a P.A. Column and I needed the money. And so it was that I got to see the excellent Higsons and to witness Mick's consummate engineering skills. You'd hardly have noticed that the rig was depleted; the sound was full, tight and punchy. I was unusually impressed.
More than three years later and his card's come up again. He was at the `Town an Country Club with his rig, and engineering for the two support bands and setting up everything for The Screaming Blue Messiahs who had their own engineer. It was a 5kw three-way rig crossing over at 250Hz and 2kHz as follows per side;
Two JBL 2350/2445
One JBL 2385/2445
One JBL 2345/2425
One Court Acoustic 2x12
Two Court Acoustic 1x12
One Court Acoustic 2x15 (Gauss 4582A and JBL E140)
The main desk was a TAC 32:8:2 grouped as follows:
3&4 Bass and Guitar
The monitor desk was a Soundcraft 400B 24:10: with 10 Rane 27-band graphics driving the following cabs:
Eight 1x5 wedges (E140/2425 pepper pots)
Two side fills E120x2 and EV1829)
One drum fill (JBL 4560 + Gauss 4583A + HF4000 on 2395 lens)
The mike list was a s follows;
Bass drum: Sennheiser 421
Snare top: Shure SM57
Snare bottom: Sennheiser MD421
Hi Hat: AKG 451
Toms: Sennheiser 421
Guitar: Shure SM57
Bass: DI and Sennheiser 421
Vocals: Shure SM58s
Mick did the sound for Zodiac Mindwarp and I have to say that once again it was really excellent. Big, tight punchy drum sound, mental guitar raunch, weighty but cutting bass and still with the vocal really clear and well out above everything else. Amazing.
Jah Pinkie, the Messiah's engineer, had a fairly unpretentious start to his career, helping his mate's band set up for pub gigs with 12 channel stereo MM desks and simple 1kw rigs.By means of "keepin' on goin" and "being in the right place at the right time" Tim and his mate finally got their own 1kw rig and convinced the management of the 100, Club to give them a virtual residency doing reggae bands every Thursday night; that's where he got the name – well, it's got a bit more colour than Tim. From that came a lot of work all over the country including a good many gigs with the Morrisey Mullen Band who apparently always declined the offer of a soundcheck irrespective of the size of the venue. That's Jazz/Funk for you. Then in 1982 he gave it all up to look after his 12 year old son who wasn't appreciating his Old Man's late nights and early mornings. The Messiahs is his first professional gig since.
"I did one gig for them as a sort of a stand-in for someone else, but I explained that I'd given up and that I couldn't do it on a regular basis. Then they wrote to me asking me to do the sound for them at Hammersmith Odeon, supporting Ian Dury – I just had to say yes. And that was that really; since then I've been here. They're the only band I do, so it's kind of part time which suits me with my son."
Mr Pinkie has to make the most of whatever gig he's given which can still range from 2kw to around 10kw.
Mick had set everything up in terms of mikes, compressors, gates and basic eq so that Tim could just come in and sub-group it as he wanted it and add a few effects if he felt like it. He has no great theories or systems by which he drives a board, he's undoubtedly a 'feel' merchant, which suits the Messiahs. Drawmer gates were all over the kit, Drawmer compressors on vocals and bass and for effects there was a Yamaha SPX90 multi effects until across the stereo outputs of the desk, plus a Roland SVR2000 digital reverb and a Yamaha D1500 DDL.
Bill Carter plays a couple of Fender Telecasters in series through an HH amp, a Gauss 2x12, and a WEM Copycat tape echo machine – we are not talking fancy. That is to say he plays one while his guitar roadie repairs the other. He isn't a man overly concerned about cosmetic perfection or technical precision. He plays without a pick, crashing the flesh of his fingers into the strings with little regards for it's mortality. Blood can often be seen splattered across the scratch plate – or the place where the scratch plate would be if it hadn't been removed. The Telecaster I saw was only a few years old, but there was very little paint on the thing and only the bridge pickup remained, the other having been taken off the week before and not replaced with anything. It wasn't that he never used it but more that it stood as another obstacle of destruction to his much abused mitts. Though his nails are largely things of the past, he does coat his fingers with clear nail varnish before gigs to mitigate the carnage, but to little avail. Now that's what I call a Rock 'n' Roll manicure (hey!). To avoid completely razoring the top of his fingers off, and I suppose also because he likes the sound, William uses unusually heavy bottom strings; Rotosound (and nothing else will do) 56, 48, 28, 16, 13 and 12. But he gives 'em such a sound thrashing that one string breaks every couple of numbers and often one a number, and I don't just mean the top strings; Es and As cop it an' all. In the words of his roadie, "He goes fooking bonkers!"
It's always best if you can.
New York Times
24th September 1986
by Jon Pareles
THE SCREAMING BLUE MESSIAHS RAISE A RUCKUS
"It came out of nowhere, just like lightning hitting a plane," Bill Carter sings on the Screaming Blue Messiahs' debut album, 'Gun-Shy' (Elektra). That might describe the band itself, which will perform Saturday at the Ritz (119 East 11th Street), as well as 'Gun-Shy', one of the year's most powerful – and raucous – major-label albums, blunt and muscular and implacable. With twanging, squealing guitars and walloping drums, 'Gun-Shy' comes on like a pickup truck full of Furies.
The Messiahs' songs, written by the guitarist-singer Bill Carter, hurl fragmented phrases and enraged shouts; now and then, there's an echo of the Rolling Stones, the Clash or Link Wray, but most of the music has its own careening momentum. In the opening 'Wild Blue Yonder', Mr. Carter announces, "All the things that I can see are breaking up around me", and he goes on to demonstrate. At their more coherent moments, the songs are about "busting loose", seemingly just ahead of some cataclysm; elsewhere, they are just plain wild-eyed.
"I'm a reasonable person," the soft-spoken Mr. Carter said the other day. "But these things have to come out of somewhere, and it's a harmless way of getting that sort of stuff out. There are far more sinister forms of the use of the media, like TV news."
Along with a burgeoning movement of grassroots American bands, the Screaming Blue Messiahs have taken raw blues and country guitar licks as ammunition against the well-groomed, synthesizer-trimmed pop that dominates the airwaves. On 'Gun-Shy', the band pays tribute to the country singer Hank Williams with a rough-hewn, snarling version of 'You Gotta Change'.
"I know the kind of feel I like: that outback feel," Mr. Carter said. "I think our music has a bit of edge; otherwise, it wouldn't be worth it to be in the band. So much of the music is levelled out now, to be the acceptable face of rock-and-roll. It used to be rebellious to be in a rock band, but these days, it's probably more dangerous to be an accountant."
Mr. Carter, like many other innovative English rock musicians, is an art school graduate. He used to make "big, screen-print paintings, pictures of the country, everyday things," he said. "I don't know if they had much to do with my music, but I always tried to make them quite hard and exciting and atmospheric."
He started the Screaming Blue Messiahs after the break-up of his last band, Motor Boys Motor – a name that reveals his obsession with driving. "I've spent spent every penny that I've had in the past three years on my car, an old Camaro," he said., "fixing it up and fuelling it. I think driving is the last form of freedom – I'm surprised the government lets you drive at all."
The sound of the Screaming Blue Messiahs, he said, just grew. "All my songs start off really quiet. They all start off like country ballads, and then I take them to the band – and they ruin them."
Los Angeles Times
17th October 1986
by Craig Lee
BILL CARTER IS HIGH ON HIS MUSIC
You could say that Bill Carter is a driven man.
The bald-headed singer and guitarist for England's Screaming Blue Messiahs, Carter is a weirdly compelling performer utilizing an off-the-wall mixture of fury and vulnerability as he flails mercilessly at his guitar, wails in a high-pitched manic voice and stumbles about the stage with a slightly glazed look in his eyes. While there's nothing insular about the spontaneous combustion of the Messiahs' music, Carter's eccentric appearance makes it seem as if he's truly in a world of his own.
It's no pose. In an interview before a show last Tuesday at Bogarts in Long Beach (the group plays tonight at the Roxy), Carter was polite but withdrawn. When asked the meaning behind songs from the group's recent album, "Gun Shy," Carter shrugged his shoulders and laconically replied, "I dunno."
Doesn't Carter write the songs?
"No," the man with the shiny dome replied, "It was someone else in my body."
Later, Carter attempted to explain himself. "Look, it's very difficult to relate to all that stuff. I don't know where it comes from. It's a real odd state of mind. It's nothing that I can really justify. I just know if something floats. I only know if it's working."
Carter may not be able to explain just what his songs are about, but he's quite lucid about what he goes through when the Messiahs perform. That far-away glint in his eye is not something he got from practicing in front of a mirror.
"Rock 'n' roll is like an altered state for me, really," Carter softly explained. "It's a totally irresponsible place that has its own reality for that hour we're on stage. It's got powers that only work in that environment, in that time. That's what attracts me to it. It is like a drug, that state of mind."
Carter seemed particularly concerned with the notion that the Messiahs, which started from the embers of the group Motor Boys Motor in 1984 and also features drummer Kenny Harris and bassist Chris Thompson, might create a morally questionable atmosphere through its performances.
"I don't think our music is evil," Carter stated. "I wouldn't do it if it was evil. When we first started, the initial reaction we got with the name and the music was very intense. We literally had to be taken out of one gig because the whole place was wobbling. And I thought, 'Hang on a minute, this isn't right!' I've had to tone things down just to keep my sanity."
Though Carter cites influences like British pub-rockers Dr. Feelgood, the Messiahs' sound has a distinctly American edge, with it's Southern swamp rock shading and loping western rhythms derived from blues, country and rockabilly.
"I don't want to make any enemies," Carter replied, "but I think that being in America is like walking into a cartoon, a real-life cartoon. It's as compelling as a cartoon, it's as seductive as a cartoon, it's as tacky as a cartoon, it's as shallow as a cartoon. It's just a totally alien environment to me and yet it's fascinating."
Fascinating in an alien way is a good description for Carter himself, and he reluctantly confirmed the impression that his world is . . . well . . . different .
"Weird things happen to me all the time, really heavy things," Carter claimed. "The past three years have been the most traumatic years of my life. It's all got to do with the band - we seem to bring a lot of stuff out of the woodwork.
"Sometimes I think that rock is sort of like false gods," he said. "You shouldn't be doing it, getting up in front of people. I think I'd rather be a policeman. Or a pilot."