I’d sell the bus station to the Chinese

The Monochrome Set had an image of being pop aristocrats which you played up to a bit with some of your lyrics, for example : ‘my old man’s a viscount’ in your song ‘The Ruling Classes’ and photos of you in a suit and bowler hat.

Friday, 18th October 2013, 3:57 pm

Did this have any basis in reality or were you just trying to stand out from the dull 2nd generation orthodox punks?

Yes, it does have a basis inreality and I suppose yes we were trying to stand out too. The upper classes angle has been picked up by previous press people that worked for us, but I didn’t really like it, so try not to talk about it any more. I don’t mind being part of Posh Peel though!

This MS show in Preston is part of a season of shows featuring people who did John Peel sessions. Do you have any memories of the three sessions you recorded?

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Did we do three? I thought it was just two (according to the BBC site, The MS did two sessions in 1979 and one in 1980, three in total) Anyway, the first one was when we met Bob Sargeant, who subsequently produced our first album ‘Strange Boutique’. The BBC studio was very good, and a higher level than we’d been used to, so it was a good experience. Not too much to say, really, just a very pro setup there.

When your record label folded in the early 80s you were one of the biggest unsigned bands in the country, but your profile in the UK stalled. Were there any compromises that would brought you more recognition that you baulked at?

Yes, but then we would have been a different band. Zis vould not haff computed. I think we could have easily carried on, as we had a huge live audience, but I was tired of it at that point.

There’s an apocryphal story about Morrissey having pared his record collection down to just 10 singles when Johnny Marr visited his flat before they formed The Smiths and that they bonded over the Monochrome Set ones. Johnny Marr also seems to listened to a lot of your Lester’s playing. Is this story true and have they ever acknowledged it their debt to you.

Apparently, Morrissey did write to me circa 1980 for lyrics, but I didn’t open the non-perfumed envelopes – I left that to our assistant manager. I don’t know about debt, exactly. They were a good band, and deserved their success. I won’t ride on anyone’s coat-tails.

I saw a list of your top ten albums recently and the most contemporary ones were Genesis and Lou Reed from the mid 70s. Do you listen to much contemporary music?

I don’t pay attention. As soon as I started writing songs I stopped listening to other bands. They are the competition.

There is a big debate in Preston at the moment about the fate of Preston Bus Station. It’s an iconic brutalist design, but expensive to maintain and the council want to demolish it. Have you seen the Bus Station and would you keep it or exterminate it?

It’s very annoying that you’ve drawn attention to it, as I was planning to sell it to the Chinese.

What is your connection with the main support band in Preston, Would-Be-Goods?

Andy (Warren, the MS bass player) and I played on the first and second W-B-Gs albums, and I produced the latter. Jessica is a very talented songwriter, but the Chinese aren’t interested. They want a bus station.

Your last album was inspired by your period in hospital after an illness (Bid had a stroke in 2010). Does the new record, Super Plastic City, have any themes which link the tracks?

The title track alludes to my neuroplasticity, which is my brain re-wiring itself to keep my language functions going (I no longer, or very rarely, suffer from aphasia), but at the cost of my walking coordination. It’s not normally noticeable; only when I’m tired and stressed.

The album as a whole isn’t themed, exactly, but it does have a thread of personal powerlessness running through it – time wasted at bus stops, a constant stream of wars on TV, good deals slipping out of my hands, sort of thing.

What are your plans for the future?

Currently, plans for 2014 are for a 2nd UK tour, Italy, Germany, Paris, Japan. It won’t be a shed-load, as the band aren’t collectively available for more than about three weeks (of weekdays) per year.

First come first served. Lester (MS guitarist) is the head of the art department in a girls public school, that’s why we do so many gigs in April, because it’s the school holidays!

Posh Peel at The Continental in Preston sees The Monochrome Set, Would-Be-Goods and Rapid Pig all take us back to the 80s. It’s on Tuesday, October 22, 7.30pm Tickets £10 from the Continental’s bar (01772 499 425) or Action Records (01772 884 772). Enrico La Rocca spoke to singer Bid