KNOW YOUR RIOTS
JOHN OPPOSITION GETS THE LATEST INFA-MATION FROM INFA RIOT
SO IT'S eyes down for the identikit feature
with the New Added Punk Ingredient and the
Dave McCullough Lager Top Stereotype.
Except that it's not like that, and especially,
not this week, 'cos here we've got something
different, a new ingredient indeed.
Welcome to the Infa Riot Feature -
and the Lee Wilson Interview.
Like most people with half an ear for what's going on, the
name Infa-Riot permeated my consciousness a good
while ago. I never got round to seeing them live, though,
and until recently my knowledge of their music was limited
to 'Power' their contribution to the 'Wargasm' LP, and the
recent single 'The Winner', both of which were excellent.
Then came the saga of the tape.
When offered this feature I accepted readily; not being
one to attempt an interview with a band without being
thoroughly familiar with their material, I 'phoned Lee and
requested a tape or two.
The next day he turned up at the Sounds office with what purported, to be a tape of their new album, and for the next
few days it rarely left my cassette player; magic.
When I raved about it to recently-installed Reviews Editor Robbi she immediately said 'Right!' Review it - review it!' So
review it I did, a spanking five stars it got, and then I heard that what I had was only a tape of the rough mix and a
couple of tracks were still to be added.
To say the least, I was rather taken aback. If that's a rough mix - ten star reviews, anyone? And the good news is that
the prematurely reviewed masterpiece, entitled 'Still Out Of Order' (see review) and featuring the two extra tracks, will
be released on July 29th 1982.
The main section of this article comes in two parts; Part One is the Infa Riot Feature and Part Two the Lee Wilson
Interview. The reasons for such a division will soon become apparent.
Having familiarised myself with their material, I met the band in a West End pub, hoping for some general informaton
and communication, some insights into their ideas and attitudes and a few of the other ingredients from which
interviews are constructed and written.
What actually happened was that I spent two hours in almost uninterrupted conversation with singer Lee while the other
three members of the band, Barry (guitar). Lee's brother Floyd (bass) and Mark (drums) sat impassively, obviously
contenf to let their articulate and enthusiastic front man do the talking for them.
I asked them whether they minded being so much in the background and it soon became obvious that they didn't; it
appeared to be mutually agreed that, both on stage and off. Lee was the man to get the Infas' message across.
Their elected representative, if you like.
FOR THOSE of you who don't already know, Infa Riot
formed approximately two years ago and came to
prominence in a relatively short space of time through
well-publicised support tours with the Upstarts and the
They're all under twenty. Lee and Mark being 19 and
Barry and Floyd 17; their first nationwide tour was
undertaken when the two younger members were not
yet sixteen and they're quick to point out that not
many people get opportunities like that!
Like many bands, they have had problems with
drummers - a breed much in demand - and Mark (ex
Long Tall Shorty, incidentally) is their third; Lee states
confidently that he feels the present line-up to be a
more secure unit than it's ever been before. And
that's the thing about Lee Wilson; he states most
things confidently. Not arrogantly or big headed;
mind, but with the assurance and articulacy of a man
who is pleased with the way his band's fortunes are
going, aware of the responsibility of his position and
always on his toes looking for new opportunities.
Many excellent performers and songwriters turn out to
be inarticulate clams in face-to-face conversation, but
not Lee; I was sufficiently impressed at our first
meeting to ask him for another interview on his own a
couple of weeks later. It was then that I obtained most
of the information documented below.
LEE AND brother Floyd hail originally from the Davenport area of Plymouth, a dockland area where the main choices
for a school-leaver are the docks or the dole. Many of my own relatives live in the Plymouth area and I visit it regularly;
I can endorse Lee's description of the local music scene as 'virtually? non-existent' although things do seem to have
been looking up a bit of late.
One of the problems of living in a place like Plymouth (or anywhere; really, that isn't near London) is that it is
considerably more difficult for bands to get coverage in the national music press, and more difficult to make the
contacts to get a band together.
So it was really no surprise to learn that Lee's desire to be in a band didn't really materialise until he moved with his
family to Wood Green, North London, in 1978.
Having quit school at 16, just before leaving the West Country, he spent a few months on the dole in London and did
the usual variety of short-term dead end jobs.
Then the band got under way and things really began to happen, right from their first gig which, astonishingly, was
supporting the Upstarts at the Lordship Tavern.
Lee is the first to admit that they were incredibly fortunate to get such an opportunity so early; while countless excellent
bands spend months and sometimes years plugging away unnoticed in obscure venues, the Infas were on a winner
(no pun intended) from the word go.
Let me chronicle, for a mordent, the activities and achievements of Infa-Riot's energetic vocalist.
He writes the band's songs, deals personally with most of the publicity and acts as front man and manager for the
band. He negotiated their record deal (with Secret records) and publishing deal ("I just got hold of the various
contracts which we were offered, decided what I wanted, read them through and decided which was the best one").
He looks after the band's financial affairs ("So many bands just sign and think oh, great, and then when they get a five
thousand pound tax bill a couple of years later they don't know what to do").
All this on top of the usual round of gigs, tours and '. recording, and interviews like this one.
Lee stresses that there's no way he wants to be seen as (or is) some kind of single handed hero or super
businessman, and his message to other bands is that it is eminently possible for everyone to run much of their affairs
themselves and to achieve a fair deal of autonomy.
"Everyone complains about rip-off managers and dodgy record and publishing deals, but in the end it's down to you to
make sure you don't get ripped off. If you get done, you've no-one to blame but yourself.
"And in this day and age it's very hip to sign a deal and then spend half the time slagging off your record company,
saying what a bunch of tossers they are.
"I don't agree with that at all. I signed to Secret because I was in agreement with the deal they offered us, and because
I knew I could talk to the people there. I think it's stupid to sign if you're not sure, and then spend hours complaining
It does seem to me that I there is often a massive conspiracy between record companies (who churn out long,
incomprehensible contracts often containing rip-off clauses), lawyers (who I ask hugely inflated fees to decipher them
for you) and managers (who promise the earth with an Albanian tour thrown in for 25% gross).
How good it is therefore to meet someone who, at the age of nineteen and with little or no formal legal education (Lee
claims CSE's in Art and English) is (prepared to do the necessary groundwork to take on the wide boys at their own
game. It just goes to show that O land A Levels are no real judge of ability and often mean very little in the real world,
and that determination, belief and passion count for a hell of a lot.
THE ORGANISED way in which Lee approaches his various tasks as general motivator of Infa-Riot is testimony to the
fact that both his feet are planted firmly on the ground, and that there is no way that a certain success has changed
his basic attitude to life.
"Leaving school at sixteen and experiencing life on the dole and in the working world has given me a strong sense of
how privileged and lucky I am to be able to earn a reasonable living doing something which I really enjoy, especially in
the present situation.where so many kids are either on the dole or doing boring, low-paid jobs.
"So many bands become really blase about touring, recording or whatever, 'Oh, no, another tour, another album', and
I think that's really disgusting, 'cos they don't realise how lucky they are to be doing what they do.
"It's like at our gigs. The most fantastic feeling in the world for me is when I look out of the window and see all those
kids queueing up and I think 'Christ, they're coming to see me, they're coming to see our band', I feel really flattered.
"I think it's really terrible when bands start to take all that for granted, and as far as I can see nobody who has ever
worked in some dead end job and then got the chance to live from playing music could ever feel like that."
And how I agree with Lee when he says that, I feel it too. All of us doing jobs we really enjoy are really lucky in
Thatcher Britain '82; we should never take it for granted. Lee is so involved with and committed to his work with the
band that when I ask him about interests outside music his answer is quite simple; "All this satisfies me so much I don't
look for much outside of Infa-Riot. I've got loads to do and I love working under pressure."
His musical tastes are mostly punk, but he also likes Alice Cooper, T. Rex and the first Dexy's album (another fan!) He
gets sent loads of tapes by up-and-coming bands and lists The Expelled as one of his favourites at the moment.
As for influences and helpers; Mensi and the Upstarts of course, and his dad ("He's a real rebel, he's in his sixtieth job,
he's more out of order than most of the punks are!")
And a special mention to our own Bushwacked(Garry Bushell).
"He's made sure we kept our feet on the ground; a bit ago, when things started to go well, we got a bit snooty and full
of ourselves and Bushel! saw it and put something about it in the paper. I read that and thought, he's right. It made me
think. Gal's done far more than anyone else for punk over the years."
SO WHAT'S the movitation behind Infa-Riot?
"Well, it's a youth rebellion thing I suppose
and I'm a kind of political commentator, I look
at a situation and write about it, without taking
sides (I'm not too sure about the 'not taking
sides' bit. Lee, what about 'You Ain't Seen
"And there's something else I'd like to say;
none of this group have got a criminal
record. . ."
The mere fact that he feels the need to say
such a thing is a sad testimony to the attitudes
of some bands (mentioning no names?) who
think that the ultimate test of street credibility
whatever that is - is the number of convictions
you've got, and how nasty you look on your LP
Bloody ridiculous if you ask me; music is an -
alternative to violence and general mayhem,
not a bed partner as some people seem to think. Lee is also at pains to stress that he doesn't touch drugs (same
here) and never drinks more than three pints a night (can't agree with him on that one).
His ambitions; to tour the States, which is in the can ("I've never been abroad, indeed, I've never had a proper
holiday in my life") and generally to see the band rise to still greater heights. Which I'm sure they will, although he'll
never have his head in the clouds.
And this is an important point. Lee Wilson is a very intelligent, articulate and clearsighted bloke, and he is nearing
the position where he could conceivably be elevated to the position of 'spokesman for a generation' or some other
such pompous rubbish, the kind of thing that happened to lan Page or Jimmy Pursey.
But Lee sees the pitfalls ahead and is determined to avoid them.
"At the moment I want to see how the album goes, and then make further plans, I'm very pleased and flattered by
what's happened, but I've got it all in perspective."
And so I ask him what he thinks he'll be doing when he's fifty.
"Running my own record company, I expect."
Ambition and foresight. You bet he will.
(SOUNDS JULY 31ST 1982 - reprinted from the PUNK ROCKER archives)
STILL OUT OF ORDER
Secret SEC 7
IF Infa-Riot have been ultra-quiet lately, it may be a
deliberate calm before the storm; a calculated tranquility in
order to allow this album its maximum impact. It will make
its impact if justice is done, because it proves conclusively
that you can be a shit-kicking, dirt-digging,
hell-raising punk band while at the same time offering
thought and versatility and melody and originality... and
maybe even commerciality!
Infa-Riot on "Top Of The Pops"? It could happen. If The
Exploited can be invited to make their rabble-rousing way
to the Shepherds Bush studios with "Dead Cities", then
there are tracks here that could send the bus scooting off
towards West London with Lee Wilson and his merry men
inside, tuning up.
"The Winner" won't be the one to do it. It's been out as a
single for too long, although that's the sort of number we're
talking about. Brashly aggressive and immensely tuneful in
a simple kind of way (a worthy achievement - it's no easy
task to create something new out of ideas so inherently
fundamental), "The Winner" carries the kind of chorus you
could sing in your sleep, all the more effective for the
exchanges between lead and backing vocals.
"Emergency" is distinguished by the same sort of devices
on its refrain, the rest of the song leaping from one crisis
point to another with racing guitar and bass and drums that
give an earthy and atmospheric foundation.
It's by virtue of their singalong-shoutalong hooklines that
Infa-Riot can hope to net a broader cross-section of
listeners than many of today's other punk-rockers. And
they drive them home with punching rhythm-bursts that
hammer these nails of songs into your head -a refreshing
change from the groups who can rest content with a few
vocal and chord variations over an unchanging
If all this is what makes Infa-Riot accessible, then there are
other things that make them interesting. They've put a lot of
effort into sounding different to their competitors,
developing track arrangements as intricately as they can
without losing their essential urgency. The guitar, in
particular, aims for something more worthwhile than the
clanging chords that would've got it by.
This attention to detail asserts itself most noticeably on the
comparatively slow-paced "Catch 22" with its touches of
piano and harmonica and an uplift on the rhythm lines that,
in other hands, could've turned into a leaden thump.
Among the most immediately likeable numbers are "In For
A Riot", which wrenches itself from a soft and melodic
intro into a hurtling pace with a memorable yobby chorus,
"Power" with a tuneful whip-it-up appeal that Wolfie Smith
would be proud of; the arms-in-the-air chantability of
"Boot Boys'; the spirited "Each Dawn I Die"; and "Friday
Oh Friday", which gives us Infa-Riot joining the anti-disco
league with lyrics about people who go out to "dance like
If there are two tracks that pale alongside the cracking
standards of the others, its "Catalogue Kids" and "The
Drug Squad" which display a lesser amount of imagination.
A little criticism too of the production (by the band) which
in places, fails to bring some of their brightest moments
into sharp enough focus.
On the whole, though, it preserves the balance of chaos
and organisation on an album which proves that Infa-Riot
are... still out of order!
(MELODY MAKER June 1982).