"If you look down the Indie Charts, most of it is punk"
proclaimed Bruce, guitarist with the Varukers, the
Leamington band who've just charted at No. 31 with their
"Protest and Survive" ep.
It was the first release on the Inferno record label,
founded by Keith and Brian who run Incredible Records
and Inferno Records (the shops that is). The Varukers
are one of three punk bands signed to Inferno, the others
being Dead Wretched and Drongos for Europe.
All three bands are charting at the moment, proof that
punk is very much alive and thriving. Inferno signed up the
'bands' because they're local and they've got a good following".
In fact, the signing of Varukers was somehwat by chance.
They'd already recorded two demos at Woodbine Studios ('We came out sounding like a
disco band' Bruce commented ruefully), Bruce rang Inferno' to see if they had the
address of Rough Trade and whoever answered the phone said 'we're thinking of
starting a record label'. So we brought one demo in and sent one to Rough Trade
and we never heard off them again. Inferno said don't bother looking round any
more and we signed". The record came out in October 81 but it's only just made
the charts - a result the band reckon of them only recently getting on the lists
from which the charts are compiled. "If you're on the list, they remember your
name, but if you're not on the list, you tend to be forgotten".
Their current line up reads: Bruce - guitar, Anthony -vocals, Tom - bass and
Garry - drums.
Their previous drummer, Gaz, was seen by Discharge when Varukers played
Stoke Assembly Rooms and as the band were looking for a drummer at the time
("they only had Bambi in the first place because they had no one else"), he left
to join Discharge. Fortunately, the band are happy with his replacement.
How did Bruce join the band? "I was living in Leamington at the time and I put an
ad in the Oxfam window in Warwick because I'd decided I wanted to leave work and
be a rock star! This guy from Flack Off saw the ad and told Anthony and Garry and
they came and knocked on my door. I auditioned in the living room and got the part.
And since" he added with a smile "I've got to be famous".
The band have signed to do three singles and an album over the year. Their second
release should be out in about four weeks. Out of "Dance til you're dead", "Nowhere to go" and
"Don't want to be a victim" they haven't yet decided on the 'A' side. "It depends which one turns out best, that'll be the 'A' side". Again, they'll
be recording at MRS in Walsall.
When I saw them last year, I was impressed by their thrust and drive. But the
lethargic audience weren't the most responsive. "We've only ever played one
good gig in Birmingham, that was with Dead Wretched and we got a really
good reaction." That was at The Opposite Lock - if it wasn't the first punk gig
there, it was most definately the last. "We haven't played Brum since".
They've played Stoke on a mini tour, Preston Warehouse, London Skunx.
"We're trying to line up a tour with Disorder at the moment, and any other punk
band that wants to do it, for June. Whatever clubs have punk bands on in June,
we'll play". (More immediately you can catch them at The General Woolfe,
Coventry on April 8).
Bruce and Anthony were somewhat scathing about the big names! "The minute
a band get a record out, they think they're rock stars and they won't help smaller
bands. I can understand that they want to headline but they should help the
smaller bands. When you get to the state of Discharge or Anti-Pasti, they try and get as much money out of the support bands as they
can. You don't need to rip off people to make money."
"We think there should be more small record companies taking a chance with bands. Inferno receive something like 10 tapes a week from
bands wanting to get on the label," Bruce told me. "I think the big record companies and the media totally ignore punk because they don't
think it exists." Yet Garry Bushell has noticed, and liked, the Varukers. In fact, he was going to send Jai down to interview the band but as
they somewhat ungallantly put it "the silly bitch got measles".
They were, however, critical of attempts to split up the music into 'Oi' and 'punk', it's all punk", said Anthony. People come up and say 'are
you a Crass fan or an Exploited fan?' and I say 'I'm just a punk'. If it had just been a fasion, I'd've been a mod".
It was partly through the Varukers that Dead Wretched joined Inferno. When the two bands played The Opposite Lock, Mik and Bazz
recalled! "Varukers had already signed. So we went down to Inferno and saw them. Then about a month later, they decided to sign us up.
The recording was done in November and we signed the deal the same day as we recorded the single". (Like their stable mates, it's a 3
singles 1 LP deal).
They recorded at Outlaw, though they admitted they weren't altogether happy with the result. "It's lost a lot of balls in the pressing, but we
hope to make up for it in our gigs and the next single".
They're happy about the way it's selling though "No hope for anyone" steamed into the - Sounds Charts at No. 10.
Bazz - (guitar) started the group with Des - (drums). The first singer left because he wanted to get married" - so' Bill handles vocals now.
They been as their current line up since July 29th when Mik joined them on bass. " I was quite honoured when they asked me to join them
because they were an up band". Originally they were called, simply, The Wretched but when they discovered there was a Newcastle group
called that too, they changed to Dead Wretched.
Incidentally, the chorus on the single is by Rob and Icky. "They're two of our greatest fans. They've been following us since we started.
Rob's in a group called Obsessed."
They've played with the Drongos at The Co-op (Rainbow) Suite and been on
the Apocalypse tour with Exploited and Infa Riot. "We went down to Digbeth in
the day and asked if we could play with them and they said 'yes'. They're good
"There aren't many places to play in Brum but when The Exploited play, you
get the the little kids coming along and it packs the place out". Birmingham
audiences came in for a bit of flack. "GBH said it all. The audiences just stand
there. Like the Cedar on New Year's night, they just stood there. It disheartens
you". Walsall, by contrast, 'was the best reactioon we've had. We were
supposed to do it with Exploited and Black Flag but they didn't turn up. A
Walsall band, Death Rattle, supported us. It was really good up there, you only
have to touch a guitar and they start dancing".
They're hoping to take in Wallsall again soon. And in May, Dead Wretched will
be supporting Exploited at Digbeth Hall. "We're supposed to doing a short tour
in April, we've got to work lt all out". Skunx Club is another possible venue."
Like the Varukers, they don't believe in breaking down their music into narrow little divisions. "Garry Bushell made the trouble by splitting it
up in the first place. He's just callin it Punk now. Anyway, a lot of the original Oi groups have split up".
Basically, Bazz does the writing - slowly. "I like to wait and see if I get a decent tune". Occasionally Bill tries his hand at it too. Whether that
has anything to do with Bazz's reputed lust for power, I don't know. (Mik, they claim, would sulk for inordinately long periods. Bill, was late
arriving because, the other two claimed, he spent so long doing his hair). Bitches' abuse time over, I asked them about their ambitions. "To
get rich, to make money and enjoy ourselves while we're playing" they told me. On the record front, their next release will probably be a
double 'A' side "Convicted" and, tentatively, "Infiltrator". No doubt they're hoping that too will have a big impact on the charts. The third band
on the Inferno Iabel Drongos, have also charted now with their ep Drongos for Europe, but, unlike the other bands, this isn't their first
release. They'd gone to Quill's studios in Erdington, "we recorded in January last year and it didn't get pressed until July. We paid for the
recording and borrowed some money from Tony (A tattoo artist in Erdington who was just down the road from where they were living at the
time. He was a personal friend who often used to drop round the band's place). "We didn't want to go sniffing around people to get a record
out, we thought we'd rather do it ourselves". No, they didn't regret the decision "it was a good experience". It really was a 'group effort, they
even did the sleeves. Steve recalled "we stuck the first lot together - all one thousand of them. Some of the records were glued to the
It was when they were taking their first record around the shops, trying to sell it in, they came across Inferno.
"They said they would sign us up and they offered us some money to pay off some of the debts". So, Drongos signed on the dotted line last
September to do 2 or 3 singles and an album in the year. After that? "We'll see what happens in September. It's up to them (Inferno) if they
want to continue".
Drongos formed late in 1979 The line up reads: Steve - (guitar) Tom, - (vocals),
Ezz - (bass) and Gebs - (drums). They've been concentrating on writing rather
than gigging lately partly because "Gebs parted company just before Christmas
but he's back with us now." Referring to Gebs' near-legendary drinking, they said
"He'd do about five songs and kick the drums over but we've patched up our
difficulties now". They also, for about six months, had a girl vocalist, Marie Maris
(she, in fact, wrote the words for "Splitbreed" on the ep) "but it didn't sound right
to have a girl vocalist".
Once again, the old problem of suitable Brum venues cropped up. "There's
nowhere worth playing in Brum except Digbeth Civic Hall and it's too expensive.
The Festival Suite's, closed. The Cedar Club was a piss off for rnost people but
they all miss it now. In case any promotors are reading, Steve did say "We're
available to play anywhere!"
The Varukers were telling the Drongos of places to gig. "They know lots of
places that put groups on out in the sticks". But Drongos aren't too sure about
doing a package tour with Dead Wretched and the Varukers though they hope
to "get a tour together for the summer time - round April and May and string together as many gigs as we can. We're supposed to be playing
at Skunx which should be part of the tour". At the moment, they haven't played out of Birmingham much. So how did they fare with Brum
audiences? I wondered. "Great. They're quite responsive towards us and and cooperative when we get a chance to play to them. They've
always been good to us" said Steve. "Because we're brilliant" interjected Tom.
The Drongos too, like their compatriots, do a lot of their own organisation. This wasn't always the case since at one time they were handled
(that is not meant to be a pun) by Dave Edmond. "He was useful to us, he did a few good things but he did it for the pose". So now, Dave
concentrates on his shops in Oasis and Drongos work out what they can. They're definitely at Sutton Coldfield (supported by Cert X) on
April 30, by the way.
Like Dead Wretched, the Drongos used Outlaw Studios for this EP. Were they happy? "It's not the best we've done. We can see a lot of
things, like theres room for improvement but it's better than the first one."
They're back in the studios quite soon now. And, as for the release date? "It'll probably be out 'in about 3 months to coincide with the tour".
Did they, I wonder, have any ambitions. Steve - "I'm personally devoid of ambition, but I'd like to sell a lot of records". "Well" said Tom "It
keeps us off the streets".
If the interest shown in these three bands is anything to go by, Inferno Records could be a roaring success, it seems certain that Dead
Wretched, Drongos and the Varukers will become regulars in the Indies. If the proposed tours get off the ground, then it should go from
strength to strength. For two people who began 6 years ago in the music business "because It seemed like a good idea at the time", Keith
and Brian know what the punters want. And they're providing it.
Given the opportunities for venues and the right exposure, this punk prial could follow GBH as the next big names from Brum. Proof positive
that punk never died. That it's more than alive - it's absolutely flourishing good and loud and proud.
THE INFERNO RECORDS DISCOGRAPHY...
|FIRST PUBLISHED IN BRUM-BEAT APRIL 1982
|The Varukers -
The Varukers EP
Protest and Survive, No Scapegoat,
Soldier Boy, Never Again
(Inferno/ Tempest Records. Hell 1).
|Dead Wretched -
'No Hope For Anyone'
No Hope For The Wretched, Time
To Die. No Justice, Recession
(Inferno/Tempest Records Hell 2).
|Drongos for Europe -
Death's A career, Splitbreed,
(Inferno/Tempest Records. Hell 3).
|The Varukers -
Don't Wanna Be A Victim EP
Dont Wanna Be A Viction, Dance Till
Your Dead, No Masters No Slaves
(Inferno/ Tempest Records. Hell 4).
|Dead Wretched -
(Inferno/ Tempest Records. Hell 5).
Considering the Varukers impact making debut EP 'Protest And Survive' (which had sold well over
8,000 copies by 1983).
The bands relationship with Inferno gradually waned - (mainly due to lack of forthcoming readies
from the label to the band!) The Varukers took the lead and decided to look out for a new signing.
Finally, they chose to go with the ever excellent Riot City, and continued with regular releases
throughout the 80's and beyond. For more info go here....THE VARUKERS
Dead Wretched and The Drongos although were pulling in big local crowds didn't seem to capture
much national interest and they both soon faded into obscurity. Dead Wretched went onto
become The Burning but had little success. There have been rumours of em reforming and they
actually did start playing a clutch of gigs in 2009 which were great to see after all this time but its
gone a bit quiet again.
The Drongos however have made an impressive resurgance recently releasing new material and
gigging all over the world. So go and check out their site for the full story at THE DRONGOS.
Christmas 2004 The Drongos and The Varukers get together once more for a Christmas party in