Who’s in the Spine & who does what?
Chris: There’s four of us altogether. Dave plays bass and does the backing vocals. Jay plays guitar. Ad plays drums, and I do the main vocals. We’re fairly traditional in our methods.
How long you been together? Brief history of band?
Chris: Since 1995. We grew from the ashes of other Birmingham bands. I imagine similar things have happened to a lot of bands the world over. Through playing shows in their local scene they meet new people and try different styles. This band here will g o for the slow-grooves, this band there will go for the speed thing, and this other band over here will go for a mix. Whichever style works for each member personally, and when there’s a sense of loyalty and commitment to each other – that’s usually when a band settles.
Dave: We hail from B’ham and have been together for 4 years. For the first 2 years we had a guy called Ade playing guitar, who left the band in favour of sunny Cornwall! We recorded 3 demos with Ade in the band and we were unsatisfied with all of them, however we managed to create a good following in our home town. It wasn’t until Jay joined the band that everthing fell into place and immediately we all clicked – and on a level we never could have done with Ade in the band. The last 18 months have been spent writing new material, 5 songs of which are on our forthcoming split CD.
You’ve a split CD with Primate coming out – is this your first release, how did this come about?
Chris: Our first releases were nothing more than home produced demos, and there’s two of them on tape format sill doing the rounds. We also recorded a whole set of songs that Dave produced. Our style has changed a lot over the years, I’ve toned down the hip-hop influence due to the fact that it works only over certain styles of hardcore without getting boring, and I guess it was necessary to capture the change. We recorded with Dave Chang this time, and put our own money into the recording over a weekend in September. Ian Glasper heard the results and decided to put it out on his label. Primate we asked to appear as they had a superb selection of songs already recorded, and they’re rad live.
Dave: We recorded 5 tracks with Dave Chang @ Backstage studios over two days in September ’99. I then basically passed a tape on to Ian Glasper at a Stampin’ Ground show in B’ham – the following day he phoned me and asked if we would like to release the CD on Blackfish. The split happened because we are all into what Primate are doing with their blend of hardcore/metal, and more importantly we all get on really well.
Have you played many shows? With who? How have the shows been going? What was your first show like?
Chris: We certainly can’t be accused of not paying any dues. We’ve played a lot of shows around the West Midlands ever since we started. We’ve played with Intention, Ackbar, Primate, Step Back, Set Against, Stampin’ Ground, Madball, SPS, Medulla Nocte, Agnostic Front, Unite, Divide, Engage, Ensign, Stand To Reason, Farce, Rotunda, Zero Chance, King Prawn, Harpies and shit loads of others that I’ve (temporarily) forgot! Shows are the reason that people should get in to this kind of stuff in the first place.
The energy and vibe is intense, and when the barriers between band and audience are separated only by a hand on the shoulder in the ruck, that’s when it rules. Our first show was mad. We played at The Varsity in Wolverhampton. As three of us had left two established WM bands to do Spine, everyone was there to see what the results would be.
What’s been your best and worst gig and why?
Chris: That’s a tough question. For me, gigs can be categorised in a number of ways. You can rate it on crowd response, personal feelings, quality of playing, shit, even the money you take home. You know that a high score in one category doesn’t necessarily mean a high score in the other, so I’ll just judge the ones I really look back upon with pride. We played with Ensign, Unite, & Engage in London the other week, and I thought the atmosphere was superb, and I really thought the other bands played with fucking heart, you know?
We played Coventry a few nights later with Set Against, Divide & Silencer 7, and thought our energy there was fantastic – we broke chairs and chandeliers in this room that was mad cold and small. We played with conviction. The sound was shit, but the audience was cool.
What inspires you to write your music?
Chris: I guess anyone playing this music has a lot of personal demons to exorcise, and large axes to grind about something or another. My lyrics are personal, and tell stories. I try not to take a hard-line stand on one side of the fence – neither do I sit on it. I see both sides of the argument and comment on that. It’s usually positive.
Dave: Inspiration for the music comes from the ups and downs of everyday life. As a person I feel that I am more in touch with the negative side of my emotions and the music is a way for me to achieve a positive release of my frustrations with our society. The reasons behind me becoming vegan are something I obviously feel strongly about, hence inspiration from such factors. Also, hardcore is the only form of music I feel comfortable playing and being a part of.
What’s the HXC/punk scene like at the moment over with you?
Chris: I’ve never felt part of the whole UKHC thing, yet the bands I’ve heard coming out of that are really good. The scene where we are in Birmingham is strange. I travel to Newcastle, or London, Sheffield or Cardiff and I see a lot of youth really getting into their local scene for the hones t y and integrity. It’s like they’re part of it for the right reasons.
In Birmingham, the local following seems to be a fraternity of people who are always around, and the rest are made up of passing strangers – there’s nothing wrong with that, how else can a scene move forward without new input? However, it appears fragmented. I’m sure this is true of other local scenes too – particularly the ‘one-step-ahead’ mentality.
Dave: Hard work??! There are a handful of really good bands who could do mush better if they were prepared to put in some effort and get involved. Personally I think B’ham – probably the same as every other city – has a big drugs problem, and as a result more and more kids would rather stay in and get fucked up than go watch a band and release their frustrations that way.
Are any of the band sXe – what do you think of sXe?
Chris: Dave is Vegan, and supports a lot of causes regarding the treatment of animals – his has been a process of acting upon self-education in this area. I remember meeting a chap called Foster from a band called Slavearc, and was impressed by his attitude, too. As a vegan he was committed to the lifestyle, yet didn’t let that interfere with his choice of friends. The mental and physical discipline to remain totally vegan is incredible, and there are issues regarding the lifestyle of many that need addressing.
Straight edge is a noble path when walked for the right reasons. The militant issue I find disturbing, and Old Testament values regarding exchange of life for life have in no point in history ever worked for any ‘leader’. I prefer to judge someone by their character rather than the strength of their convictions, so it’s difficult to make assumptions of people who ally themselves to one label and the perceived ideals it beholds.
Dave: What is straight edge these days? I am vegan, I don’t drink or use drugs – this is through personal choice and certainly not so that I can label myself Straightedge! I am not knocking the principals of Straightedge, I just think that Straightedge kids these days may not understand its real meaning and instead use it as an excuse for violence and to set themselves above everybody else – this to me is a form of Nazism! As for the other I don’t think you are likely to see them X’d up at a show.
Who influences you and who are you listening to these days?
Chris: I thought the last DJ Krush album was amazing, a lot of atmosphere and very subtle. Dr Octagon’s Ecologyst album is fairly old now, but the imagination behind that was great. The Dr Dooom sequel is good – but I don’t think the music behind the lyrics is that great. Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage is great, really peaceful. Rude System by the Ballistic Brothers is on a similar, yet more modern feel.
In terms of the band setting, I think the bloke from Spirit of Youth has a great voice, along with Pierre from Knuckledust. Rick Ta Life’s voice is really inventive for such a restrictive style. In terms of music, I really like Snapcase, 25 Ta Life, all the UK stuff is great. Anything where the groove slows down or flows together.
Dave: I grew up listening to bands like Metallica, Anthrax and Suicidal Tendencies. I got into Hardcore when I was 16 with bands like Life of Agony, Sick Of It All and Biohazard. These days I DJ at my own Hardcore night every Saturday at the Rock Café B’ham and therefore my CD collection has grown somewhat. AT the moment I am listening to the latest releases from Snapcase, VOD and By A Thread.
How important is music in your life?
Chris: Very. Many people take music for granted. Its links with personal feelings and mood are quite awe inspiring – it’s no wonder that people into hardcore usually have scars somewhere. I’ll play music all time, even if I’m without equipment. I’ll think of tunes and follow them through in my head
Dave: Almost as important as Star Wars!!!!!
What are your plans for 2000?
Chris: We have our tour and split CD with Primate that will see us through to March. After then we’ll concentrate on new material and more live shows.
Dave: Release our first full length CD, UK tour with Primate in February. Possible UK tour with Stampin’ Ground, more shows.
Dave: Thanks to Ian Glasper + Stampin’ Ground, Chrissie Yiannou, The B’ham Hardcore /Punk scene, Fallout, Primate, Paul + Medulla Nocte, Ensign, Mark + Freebase, Unite, Set Against, Silencer 7, Divide, Engage, Pete + Marie at Art ‘n’ Anguish Tattoos, Woz at Musical Exchanges, UKHC and everyone involved
Spine have a split CD out with Primate on Blackfish Records. It costs £5 / $10 from: Blackfish Records, Po Box 15, Ledbury, HR8 1YG, UK. or Blackfish