Our Bombsite Fanzine project has allowed me to correspond with some interesting music industry people. With many years of experience in the turbulent music world Graham Sclater is one of those people.
Graham has produced records in varying styles as diverse as punk, folk, country, heavy rock and more in studios as far afield as Trinidad and Jamaica. Many of these productions were released on the Tabitha Record label in the Benelux and Spain and major or independent labels around the World. Graham’s production credits have resulted in a number of hit records by many artists.
Above; Graham Sclater Hamburg Germany 1965
Some of the ingredients of Punk Rock came from the late 60's garage movement scene and the early 70's Pub Rock scene. Was there a direct influence or connection for you? Were you involved with that period of the music industry?
Having lived and worked in Hamburg as a musician during the 60's I suppose the feelings and trends started back then. When I returned to England in the late 60's I set up a recording studio where I wrote and recorded a lot of music. It really was the beginning of musicians being able to make and record their own music without outside interference. That's how the garage scene started, rough recordings of original music and new sounds and experimentation. I recorded loads of bands who had never recorded before and it was an interesting and fast learning curve. For most it was the first time they actually heard what they sounded like and it highlighted who in a band couldn't play or even knew the correct chords, many didn't like it and spilt during or after the session.
During 75 and 76 there was a mood change on the street. Can you describe what 76 London felt like from a musician's standpoint? Were you part of the trendy Kings Road set?
I wasn't part of the Kings Road set but spent several days every week throughout the seventies in London either producing bands or visiting record labels trying to sell our music or place bands signed to Tabitha. There were loads of pub bands in almost every style at that time.
There was a sudden change in musical direction because one of the bands I managed was "Urchin" a rock band from the east end of London. They were great but when punk suddenly took off no one wanted a rock band, they were signed to DJM records but I had a real problem keeping the deal in place.
Although they had gigs all over the UK and Europe it was getting harder to find venues to book them. Adrian Smith left to join Iron Maiden and was immediately successful as one of the few rock bands to buck the trend. Look where they are now! I believe America set them up and then they came back to England.
London and the music business in general was very confused at that time. As soon as punk took off every producer wanted a punk band. I already had Martin and The Brown Shirts and we recorded their first single "Taxi Driver"
and "Boring." - Their Story Here
As an established 60's musician playing the same clubs in Germany as the Beatles and Jimmy Hendrix. How did you find an interest with Punk Rock? Many of your peers were distancing themselves from the scene. But, somehow you were not afraid of what must have looked like absolute chaos breaking out in 1976.
I had an open mind on music having played with many famous musicians Ritchie Blackmore, Elton John, Fats Domino, Christine Perfect (McVie) James Taylor at Apple and jamming with Jimi Hendrix in Sweden in 1967 as well as loads of recording sessions in London.
I have always liked any style of music providing it is played well and the songs have a quality. I didn't find the Brown Shirts any different. I got to know them very well and like all musicians they had an image to project and they did it very well, sometimes too well which resulted in personal attacks wherever they went. I don't consider the time to have been chaotic but manipulation of the system was very strong at that time.
I have written a novel "Ticket to Ride" set in Hamburg in the 60's and it is now published by Flame Books. It really gives the feel of what it was like then and perhaps why and how punk music developed a decade later.
Interview with Graham Sclater, Author of 'Ticket To Ride'
The Taxi Driver single released by Martin and the Brownshirt's has a classic sound that has tested time. The track still sounds energetic and real. The group members were from the North of England and thrown into the brutal Merseyside economy right from high school. As a producer in London, what drew you toward Norman and the band? Can you describe you first encounter
with the band?
I worked with many different bands and styles of music and can't remember how I came to meet them. I believe it was because a team of songwriters I knew wanted a punk band to record one of their songs. I found the band through the Melody Maker they had an advertisement in there and I picked it up. They came to London and recorded the song "Hey Punk." They recorded it twice but it didn't work. I still have the master tapes. After the session they told me they had original songs, I signed them, booked a studio and recorded them. Once finished I went to a number of labels until Lightning Records licensed the single for release. I then released it on my label in the Benelux - Holland, Belgium and Luxemburg. I really believed the band had talent and could have been incredibly successful and I did start to record an album at Decibel Studios in Stoke Newington and have probably 7 or 8 completed tracks.
We also did a lengthy session at my studio and I'm in the process of remastering and mixing those tapes for possible release one day. As you know Norman and Willie formed the Montellas, I had great interest in them from Japan but they decided to work with someone else. Who knows what might have been?
Bombsite knew Norman, Willie and Addy from the Brownshirt's very well. We all frequented the same record stores, bars and clubs. The name they picked began to wear on them quickly as they attracted an unwanted right wing following. Part of what I tried to do in my Brownshirt's article was to describe the band as they really were; somewhat zany and poking fun at the extremist in a Monty Python fashion. Does this agree with your image of the group?
I liked their image and I remember being with them at an audition in Warrington for a Norwegian promoter. They only played two songs and stormed off. The other bands were absolutely shell shocked but again they knew how to create a stir and get a reaction. So much so that they were the only band he wanted to book.
Part of my 2008 Bombsite project has been to explore the UK Northern Punk scene, especially the energy that existed from Liverpool through to Manchester during the period. Did you sense a difference between the London scene i.e., the gigs, the sound or the audience verses the northern parts of Britain? And did you notice a lag in the timeline for development of the scene?
I played with a Manchester band, the Manchester Playboys, for a year in the late 60's and some of the time was spent in Europe including Germany and the remainder in the Manchester area as well as London. There was a big difference compared to London and I reckon up to six months behind although there were a number of successful pop bands in the north that were already very successful. For punk London seemed to light the fuse but it soon spread around the UK and into Europe where the fans were even more fanatical picking the best of English fashion, music and trends and taking it much further. As I've said in the next section Tony Wilson contributed greatly to the Manchester scene.
I know that Norman, Addy and Willie were regulars at the now legendary Eric's club. That facility had a tremendous influence toward to the development of the post punk sound and the direction of UK music. Did you ever visit Eric's club in Liverpool, or Manchester's Electric Circus? Did you have any association with Tony Wilson or Factory Records?
I never visited either of these clubs because I was based in London for much of the time but I was very aware of Tony Wilson and his ideas and dreams. I know he made a massive contribution to the music scene in and around Manchester and I wonder if it would have been so successful he hadn't been there.
Through interviews and research, I see over and over that David Bowie and Roxy Music genre of the mid 70's added something to the UK Punk Rock recipe?
Did you find this music as an influence? Or did you see this when looking around for young inspired musicians during the period?
I think David Bowie was an innovator and responsible for driving much of the new music scene of the mid 70's and perhaps Roxy Music but they were very different people from a very different background to most bands of that era.
The Clash also kicked started what I call "well thought out songs" although at the time people didn't realise it. I met them with their manager, Bernie Rhodes, at CBS when they were getting ready to go across to America for the first time. It was chaos they couldn't find their passports or plane tickets and they appeared not to care. They loved everyone rushing around while they got drunk. A little like the Brown Shirts. The same applied to Siouxie and the Banshees they had no P.A. or transport and relied on CBS to sort everything out for her and the band just to do a gig. It was very different to what we had all been used to but I think the record companies went along with it under sufferance not knowing how big punk was going to be and how much money they would earn.
Your book "Ticket To Ride" encompasses the music and youth culture surrounding the psychedelic 1960's. The story is told by someone who was in a band and was part of the period fabric. Are there plans to compile a new project that tells the story of your involvement with the Anarchy in the UK part of your career?
I am working on a number of very different projects at the moment including a couple of films but there is certainly a real story to tell from that era and having been there could do it. I'm also thinking of a follow up to "Ticket to Ride" which could easily take my characters into the punk era after all I was there so it would be a natural progression.
"Ticket to Ride" is available from publisher Flame Books at www.flamebooks.com
"All in all, the book exudes the optimism and "damn the torpedoes" attitude of any young rock and roller from any era - definitely recommended!"
"The book itself is a breeze to read, and difficult to put down."
"Ticket to Ride" is a monument to those who might almost have succeeded."
"Ticket to Ride is a fun book to read."
"Ein sehr empfehlenswertes Buch."
"A rollercoaster ride of ambition and heartache, a thoroughly gripping and engrossing read."
Graham also notes ""Ticket to Ride" was published in 2006 by Flame Books. I wrote the novel myself and everything I write includes songs and music that we publish. Tabitha Music is still in business after more than 30 years and going strong. I also have a many records and CD's that we released for sale"