(Reprinted from SOUNDS FEB 5TH 1983)
LIFE ISN'T easy - especially for pioneers, visionaries
... and madmen! I'm not sure which of these descriptions
fits Abbo as he buys me a quarter of pineapple chunks
and takes me home to the Brixton flat he shares with
Andi of Sex Gang Children.
It's a trying day for Abbo - he's trying to make me a pot
of tea ("Is this alright - I've never done it before, I always
drink coffee!") and trying to explain the demise of his
group, UK Decay.
"It just seemed that the natural progression of the band was to split -
we'd just played Berlin and Paris and had two London gigs arranged,
so it seemed a good time to finish, rather than doing a cliched farewell
Throughout their existence, UK Decay strove to avoid the cliched,
the banal. the obvious. At the same time, their critics and opponents -
especially those who called themselves rock journalists - managed to
plumb new, depressingly biased depths of the same qualities.
In reviewing their first-ever release - a split-single shared with
Pneu-Mania ,, NME's cynical wags Danny Baker and Charles Shaar
Murray dismissed it with the cruel "the 'search for the two worst punk bands in Britain has now been
But Decay were much, much more than just another punk band, a fact that has consistently eluded such short-
sighted trend-setters who could see no further than the countless leather jackets which proudly bore the name of UK
Decay. usually next to The Exploited.
Indeed. Decay had more in common with near neighbours Bauhaus, as well as Theatre Of Hate and Killing Joke,
while never gaining either the attention or commercial success these others somehow snatched out of turn.
The year 1982, though. witnessed the resurgence of UK Decay.
Firstly isolated by Joke's disintegration and the Bauhaus/TOH
assault on the charts, then joined in the musical wilderness by
a host of new groups typified by Southern Death Cult and
Sex Gang Children, they found themselves as the spearhead of
a new punk movement that owed nothing to the hard-core
antics of the Upstarts, Cockney Rejects or Exploited but instead
harked back to the original inspiration of the early Ants and
Suddenly all of Abbo's dreams and nightmares were becoming
reality as the bands fortunes switched dramatically from those
of madmen losers to successful pioneers forging ahead with an
exciting, adventurous brand of alternative music.
AND SO, after two years of ploughing a lone furrow - the
tenuous links with Bauhaus et al were never enough to form
alliances - UK Decay found themselves being regarded as the
goddfathers of a brash new explosion of sound and vision,
where excitement was a drum barrage, a fiery hair-style and the
reemergence of sweat and celebration through dancing.
The first inklings of this New Tribalism surfaced around the time
that UK Decay headlined at the Zig Zag Club last April and were supported by both Southern Death Cult and Danse
Society. Suddenly there was a new optimism and exultation in the air - the groups' own vital exhuberance was more
than matched by the audience's frenzied, colourful reactions. At last there were gigs in town that had a sense of
purpose to match the rush of frantic fun they generated.
As the year wore on, UK Decay became the established and unquestioned standarddbearers - the group that all the
others looked up to and strove to emulate (without copying) - as they headlined at venues as varying as the
Lyceum, the Klub Foot and even the
Anarchy Centre in Harrow Road.
As always, they insisted on keeping
prices low, security to a minimum and
support acts the best there was ...
virtually a roll-call of the whole
movement with names like Sex Gang
Children, Southern Death Cult, Blood
And Roses, Ritual, Brigandage.
Ironically, by the end of the year
Decay had decided to quit and go on to
pastures new, while the young,
pretenders were reaping the rewards for
three years hard graft. Danse Society
appeared on Riverside, Death Cult were
on the Tube - and Sex Gang seemed
to be everywhere! Wasn't Abbo ever
jealous of all this?
"Yeah, erm (laughs ruefully) - I
remember", when we first met Danse
Society and I thought 'Christ, they've
really got something - why is everyone
ignoring them?', so we gave them a
couple of gigs, but the audience ... it
just seemed to be falling on deaf ears -
and the same with Sex Gang when
they first started, I couldn't understand
why the audience were so passive.
"So I tried to evaluate it I wondered if
the people were just following us blindly
and that maybe we'd become some
sort of pseudo-trendy thing simply because we were so unfashionable.
"And these new bands were coming out with all the same things we'd said -'we want success on our own terms' - and
I could see then that just a very small
compromise by them would take them up the next step on the success ladder. like doing TV things,
"Whereas. at the time we started, for us to do that would have meant totally restyling the music, changing the band
and everything. So now it does seem a lot easier - but I don't feel envious of them, I just feel happy that it's come
about. For me. it's like 'I told you so' - it can be done like this! And they're doing it,"
How much did the rapid success of these other bands play a part in Decay's decision to split?
"Well, although everything we were doing was still true to the original aims we had, there were these other bands
around perveying a similar medium for their ideas - not necessarily similar ideas - and I don't think it's enough
justification to carry on just for the pleasure of saying 'well, we're doing it better than anybody else', because
obviously every band thinks that'"
But with all the bands getting increased acceptance, couldn't you have kept going so that you could use the
increased attention and influence to put your ideas and ideals to practical use?
"Yeah, but the music and ideas are still there for reference- and, as I say. other bands are doing it!"
Did you feel you'd achieved part of your job because these bands have come through in your slipstream, actively
encouraged by you?
"Well, yeah - yeah definitely!"
Was that the most important thing Decay did paving the way?
"Well, I don't see that we paved the way really ... that's not for me to say without making myself sound too self-
important. A lot of it was down to us doing the groundwork in the North of England, because the style of music we
were playing was highly unfashionable in the North, all they wanted was hardcore punk!
"So at the time, we had to really FIGHT to get in there, cos it was all punk bands like the Exploited or mod bands.
We'd get an 18-date tour lined up, but by the time we'd come to do it, the Exploited had already played the same
gigs, the week before and we'd be down to just a 8-date tour because punk had been banned!
"But we always thought - without being too pretentious about it - that we were a punk band, but in another world to
But your name screamed out from a thousand black leather jackets alongside The Exploited - you had the same
"Yeah, those leather jackets - that's what put a lot of people off us, I know."
You used to get compared with Bauhaus a lot, since both of you came out of Northampton at pretty much the same
time - are you pleased at their recent chart success?
"Yeah, I really am! Cos that's what they wanted to do - they always wanted to be on Top Of The Pops, but also I feel
a bit sorry for them in that they haven't fulfilled themselves. I don't feel jealous of them, but I think that 'Ziggy' mantle
will always drag them down now .....I teel happier at the end ' .... of the day with UK Decay, than I would do if I'd been
But didn't you ever feel the temptation to make concessions to gain that sort of mass success?
"Yeah, yeah ... (pause) ... obviously the temptation was there - at some points it was almost irresistible, but luckily
every time we walked through this garden of temptation, we saw things happening to other bands that warned us off,
and we thought 'shit, we just can't do it - it would be ridiculous'.
"Some people saw that as bad for us, they thought 'oh, Decay are in the wrong place at the wrong time again - if
they'd been there, they'd have done something', but the temptation was there, contracts with blank cheques were
dangled and it's the same now, which is why I'm happy to be doing a new band."
TALK OF blank cheques leaves a bitter taste in Abbo's
mouth - here, have one of my pineapple chunks! - after
Decay's iII-fated 'liason with Fresh Records who' went
bust after releasing the band's debut LP 'For Madmen
"It was a big set-back" recalls Abbo shaking his head.
"We put our trust in Fresh because we liked them as
people, even though they were a joke in the business
because everyone said what inefficient businessmen
"When the time came round to getting paid, they
couldn't pay us, so we gave them another month to get
the money ... and on the twenty-eighth day they went
bankrupt! So we were left staring at a faceless wall of
auditors and receivers - and we were left in the
wilderness ... "
Enter good Samaritans Crass, who agreed to put up the
money to release the epic 'Werewolf' 12", even though
the two bands had had a major disagreement years
back over poor security at a gig they'd played together
"It was just great, to me, celebration, and we'd seen the
way they lent us the money when there were such
inconsistencies between us, even though we have a lot
of similar ideals"
says Abbo. "It was really brave of them and it rules out beyond any possibility the question of their integrity.
"And I must admit, it was really tempting to sit down and write a letter to Sounds in support of them at the time, cos a
lot of shit was going on between Crass and Bushell and Steve Arrogant."
That record, in all its magnificent unholy noise, seemed to rejuvenate the band.
"Yeah, when we finally got 'Werewolf' out, we got rid of all the frustration and we regained our momentum - the first
time we played it live was at the Zig Zag Club'" gig ... and it was obvious that something was happening.
"There was a renewed these other bands around were getting condemned by the critics for being 'death, doom and
gloom', which we so obviously weren't! They saw it on face level, they'd never been to any of our gigs and witnessed
the celebration of it all ... and I get a bit sad that some groups take it all on face level too - I've got demos here from
groups and it's all titles like 'Doom Valley' and 'In The Graveyard At Midnight'. They agree with what we're saying, but
they're writing the antithesis of what we're actually about!
"But I found I was writing more songs from meeting our audience, instead of stealing ideas from books by Neitzche -
and 'Werewolf' is a song that's very much about the audience, seeing people transformed.
"You speak to them before the gig and they're really quiet, but when you come on stage, they're down the front and
they're trying to rip you apart and ripping each other apart - all in good fun! - and then you see them after the gig
again and they're really subdued, they seem really shy even if they talk to you."
You told me you got similarly ecstatic reactions in Berlin and Paris - yet that was the moment you decided to quit.
"Well, that was part of the reason for us splitting! The Berlin gig had just been so frantic ... Hamburg, the night
before, was supposed to be really subdued and hat was equally frenzied. 800 sweaty bodies just ripping each other
apart. It was unbelievable, because Paris actually is very chic and cool. And I could feel that unleashing of tension, I
didn't need anybody to tell me that doesn't normally happen in Paris. There were a thousand ways it could have
developed into a brawl, but it turned into a rebellious celebration and we'd seen that happening at every gig we'd
done in the last twelve months.
"But we wondered if that was enough - maybe we should be doing something else."
These seeds of doubt soon became .magnified by personal differences with
guitarist Spon and an overall feeling, that the new brand of groups were
somehow better equipped to carry on the fight Decay had started.
But isn't this split just a clever way of edging out a guitarist that Abbo no
longer gets on with?
"But it's not that at all - if we wanted to do that, we could have gone to
Iceland and got a nice holiday out of it! I mean another group did that
recently" he comments, referring to Killing Joke, while refusing to actually
'name them, "and they're still playing the same old set with five new songs,
which - to me - isn't the way to do it.
"If you're gonna say to people 'this is a new band', then you've gotta be NEW!
And that's why we're writing a totally new set and in a very different style."
SO IT seemed obvious to quit, there and then?
Drummer Steve, who's just joined us, admits it wasn't an easy decision, but
they were all convinced it was the right one. "It's inevitable that every band
ceases to exist at some time, and the time seemed right, even though a lot of
our fans are pissed off that we stopped - they ask 'what are we going to do
now without you to follow', but this new group will be even better."
While Steve never had any doubts about joining Abbo in the new (as yet, still
un-named) group, bassist Eddie took a few weeks to agree to join and then
brought his guitarist friend Pat into the fold.
The three of them are fairly quiet when confronted by questions about the
new venture, short of agreeing that "it won't be rock'n'roll", as Pat has a
classical training! They're happy to let Abbo do most of the talking
- "that's the best thing about him, he's articulate, he can explain things better
than us, but we talk through our instruments."
Far from abdicating and ducking out of the flourishing "alternative" punk scene they helped to encourage, Abbo and
his new group are taking a brave step somewhere ... well, BEYOND. Whatever the new sound is, they promise
not to merely do Decay retreads.
Their aim, their glorious goal, lies hidden in the lyric of their' newest song, called 'Bravado'. Quite simply, "to ignite
Light blue touch paper - and watch out!
(SOUNDS FEB 5TH 1983 reprinted from the Don't Care Archives with added imagery)
For a great resourse of information go to the reformed UK DECAY website.