10 years passed between the very first INSTIGATORS release on Bluurg Tapes and the last one, the demo tape on Full Circle. During this time, the band recorded 4 big and now legendary albums, toured Europe and America extensively, and was considered one of the most hard working bands in the DIY hardcore punk scene of their time. Due to a major line-up change after realasing the debut “Nobody Listens Anymore” album, the band continued with the original guitarist Simon Mooney and with a new singer, Andy Turner. So there are no better people available to talk both eras of the band and check if there are any chances of the story to be resumed.
Note: the interview also appeared in a Polish fanzine called CHAOS W MOJEJ GŁOWIE. Here is the English version.
SP: The last time I did the interview with THE INSTIGATORS was when Never Has Been was to be released. Then the band returned on stage for a short time and split up again. So the question is: are there ANY chances for THE INSTIGATORS to reform? And I am asking seriously here. There are many punk comebacks in the UK these days, or one-off reunion gigs. How about you?
Simon Mooney: I recently read a comment on the band Facebook page which said how much they liked one of the records but added “please don’t reform”. I suppose the concern is it could be undignified and that sleeping dogs should be left to lie. Personally, I have an open mind and age itself certainly shouldn’t be a barrier to anything. I’ve seen the UK SUBS and THE DAMNED in the last few years and they were great but then never really went away. It would be interesting to play with some of the bands we used to, like THE SUBHUMANS or SINK.
Any Turner: Never say never but if it did happen it would have to be done right. I’ve seen a lot of bands who either reformed who never stopped and it’s a lottery as to whether they are going to blow your mind or be a massive let down. Who knows what the future may hold.
SP: Why did you actually stop? The band brought a lot of energy into the scene. So many gigs, records, then the come back in the mid 90s many of us had been waiting for. Being one of the most influential UK hardcore punk bands you decided to call it quits…
Simon Mooney: I’d been in the band for over ten years by the time I left and it had been a huge part of my life. I like change and wanted to concentrate on doing something with my design education, even if it had been interrupted with so much touring. I’m a photographer now and the first pictures I took were on tour and the whole band experience was a real influence on how I live now. Andy still wanted to do more with music and take the band in another direction when I felt I’d reached the end of the road with it.
Any Turner: Sometimes things just run their course and other things take over. Luckily I’ve been able to carry on working in music which was the reason we all got into it way back in the 70s-80s.
SP: Your back catalogue is being repressed by Skuld and Ruin Nation. Did you work on that with the labels, was it your idea? Yet another reason people want to see you back on stage…
Simon Mooney: Andy is the one working on the back catalogue and keeping something going through social media, which has kept it alive in a sense. I contribute some photographs and hazy recollections.
Andy Turner: There were three more re-issues over the past few years. The two Anthology releases on Westworld and the “Phoenix” album that Aston from Boss Tuneage did with the live set from Berlin. Aston did a great job on that.
SP: I read somewhere that the repress of the first single + the first 2 LPs to be released in one box was stopped by one of the band members. Any comments on that or it’s just a stupid rumour?
Simon Mooney: I don’t know about that but the fact that there are two Facebook pages for the first two incarnations of the band suggests a line has been drawn. And I read that Hammy, the first drummer, said the band that came afterwards should have had a new name which would have meant not playing the old songs. This would have been a real shame though and tough on Bluurg the label as we’d only just finished “Nobody Listens Anymore”, the first album, when Semi the singer left followed by the other two. I loved those first European tours we did to promote the record with Andy, Cuzzy and Trimble and wouldn’t have missed it for anything. At first I was sad my schoolmates didn’t have the experience of travelling through Europe in the 1980s when there was so much change on the continent.
SP: Yes, you see, some say the real INSTIGATORS, which is anarcho-punk, was during “Nobody Listens Anymore” era, and then the band moved to rock inspired punk band. Did you or do you consider yourselves as punks?
Simon Mooney: I never bothered much with labels. After all, IRON MAIDEN was the first band I saw in 1980. I just wanted to play in a band with something to say and see a bit of the world beyond my small town in the north of England. The politics and counter-culture I was exposed to were important influences in those formative years (I was only just 19 when we first toured) and still are.
Andy Turner: The changeover was pretty seamless really, it all happened within the space of a month after the other guys left. For Mooney it was a case of either just walk away from something that was just taking off or to see it through. He chose the latter and was fortunate to find good players who had a similar vision. From 1985 to 1988 we were virtually on tour full time. Who knows what the second album would have sounded like with the others but Mooney was the major song writer and what people don’t realise is that the songs he was bringing to the table would have always been more structured than the primal stuff he’d written in his early teens.
Are there plans to repress Peaceville records with Hammy?
Simon Mooney: He’s done a few things in recent years but I’m not aware of any more plans. Surely there can’t be any interest in 40th anniversary reissues?
Andy Turner: The album that Hammy put out was actually supposed to come out in Brazil. Off the top of my head I can’t remember the label although somewhere I have the artwork for it as they wanted us to re-record tracks from the first two albums which we did but the label went bust. Hammy wanted to do it on Peaceville and as Shockgun had never been released on CD at that point we did it both on one disc. Hammy was involved in the studio to an extent in mixing some stuff.
SP: BTW, what do you think about this Fuck Peaceville campaign among some punk bands on that label back then (Doom, etc). Did you also have the reason to say the same?
Simon Mooney: Don’t know anything about that. I was involved briefly with Peaceville when Hammy started it in his bedroom around 1981/82. He did incredibly well to take it so far and encourage so many bands. I I still have the first tape he released here on my desk.
Andy Turner: I’ve worked at labels since the the band finally called it a day and you quickly realise that it’s a tug of war between label and bands. I worked at Peaceville for two or three very happy years helping with press and tour managing bands like PARADISE LOST, MY DYING BRIDE, ANATHEMA, AT THE GATES and many more, all of which went on to do groundbreaking stuff and are now seen as seminal.
SP: Your first recordings (tape and records) were released by Bluurg. Looks like you got along alright with Dick and the label. How did it all start? Did Bluurg approach you or it just came out naturally? Did you often play with The Subhumans back in the days?
Simon Mooney: We supported THE SUBHUMANS a lot though I’m glad we never had to follow them on stage. I think they must have offered to release our first single after one of the shows. Hammy had probably been in touch with Bluurg before that as he was the one posting tapes out to people while I was stealing tunes from TV shows. I think we did three records with them and each has quite a different feel but then I was still learning.
Andy Turner: SSUBHUMANS are one of the most under-rated bands from that era. A phenomenal live band who did some groundbreaking studio stuff too. Come on, who else had the guts to do “From The Cradle To The Grave” – anarchy prog almost. Those guys were mentors to the band and I’m glad to say they are still out there and reaping some of the accolades they rightly deserve.
SP: Playing with other legendary punk bands such as ANTISECT, FLUX OF PINK INDIANS and many more must have been an experience …
Simon Mooney: I was only searching for pictures of ANTISECT the other day. I remember how they used to turn up to venues like a scene from Mad Max and seemed to have loads of kids and dogs with them – they looked incredible.I stayed at Derek from FLUX’s house with Hammy in the very early days and it was all so different from my life at home with my mum and sisters.
Andy Turner: Not sure it was the first time I ever met or saw INSTIGATORS but we booked them to play Huddersfield with FLUX OF PINK INDIANS in 1982 on Bonfire night I think. Over the next couple of years the band me and Andy Turnbull were in XPOZEZ shared a van with them up and down the country playing with a load of those bands.
SP: Back in 1985. Your recordings appear on „Cleanse The Bacteria” compilation album released by Pushead from SEPTIC DEATH. It was probably the time when lots of people heard of you internationally. Then the Maximum Rock’nRoll interview. Did it all make things develop pretty fast? Did you get a lot of interest out of that?
Simon Mooney: 1985 is certainly the year things really changed for the band as the other three all left. I’m not sure of the chronology but, now you’ve reminded me, it seems odd that the band almost fell to pieces with so much going on. Andy is the best one to gauge the interest the American exposure brought but we were over there the following summer.
Andy Turner: I’m guessing it was early 1985 that Cleanse The Bacteria came out on Pushead’s label Pusmort so before the first album but maybe after the first EP. On there you have 7 Seconds, Poison Idea, Siege, C.O.C., Mob 47 and loads more. was it Pushed who did the Maximum rock N Roll interview??? – Before his work with Metallica doing artwork and writing for Thrasher mag he did an INSTIGATORS logo for the band.
SP: After „Nobody Listens Anymore” the band practically split up and came back with a new line up. I think it was only Simon Mooney left there. Then I think was the time with the arrival of Tez when the lyrics became less politically oriented to those of a more personal touch? Why? Remember reading Hammy accusing you of becoming rock band and commercial…
Simon Mooney: That’s why I daren’t read Hammy’s new book. And talking of commercial, I haven’t received my royalties yet for the 30th anniversary reissues…
Andy Turner: Things just developed. There’s political stuff on “Phoenix”, plenty of it but you just had to dig a little deeper into the lyrics. The sloganeering had been already done on NLA so why repeat that? We wanted people to think a little bit. Actually thinking about it all that stuff is super political just seen through different eyes. Computerage was years ahead of it’s time!!
SP: End of 80s The INSTIGATORS come to Poland. Do you remember the gigs? Was it the most east you’ve travelled?
Simon Mooney: Sadly I missed that as I left before that tour. Andy?
Andy Turner: That was 1988 and was quite an experience. You know better than me but Poland was one of the first, if not the first, Eastern Bloc countries to get some sort of national freedom from their Soviet invaders. I think the UK Subs had been there as far back as 1982 and probably more so we weren’t the first but we did around 6-7 shows across the country. We had a great time but it was hard going, the roads were still a bit scary and the gigs started really early like 5-6pm and finished quite early. After the venues closed there wasn’t many places who would let us in to either eat or grab a beer but the people were exceptionally warm and we made some good friends while we were there.
SP: After this tour “Recovery Sessions” was released on tape in Poland. It was then when you seriously became popular in Poland…
Andy Turner: That was the first release on my Full Circle label and was a collection of two radio sessions we did for the BBC. It was out on 12” and CD in the UK but Ziggy who ran QQRYQ asked if he could put it out on his cassette only label in Poland which we did. Ziggy was our tour manager and translator when we toured Poland and he got us out of a few scrapes (and possibly into some too ;))
SP: THE INSTIGATORS music evolved through out the years. I would say from classic early anarcho-punk, via melodic hardcore punk to US hardcore inspired hardcore (“Never Has Been” demo). Can you comment on the changes and do you actually feel the same? How much style oriented were you back then?
Simon Mooney: Well, I wrote a lot of the tunes and hardly ever listened to American music, except for Tamla Motown. As a musician I was influenced by English rock guitarists like Steve Jones, Jake Burns, Nicky Garratt and Adrian Smith. I’ve always been a very basic player but the big change in the band came when Cuzzy joined on drums after working as roadie for the first line. Trimble, who came in at the same time after driving us around was a great live bass player but then Bob Gorlik and after him Keith Whiteley, who replaced Trimble, took us to another level as musicians and towards the end of my time with the INSTIGATORS, I was only the third best guitarist in the band.
Andy Turner: Not sure that it inspired us any more than the other stuff we were listening to at the time. I loved the early US stuff but the early eighties were a massive melting pot for music as punk splintered into various sub genres and what was originally deemed as alternative underground music went overground. We were all listening to some much varied stuff. While DEAD KENNEDY’S might have been an influence they were no more so than say THE CULT, IRON MAIDEN or SMALL FACES.
SP: What was the real reason for releasing “Never Has Been”? The more I think about it (and I gave it a listen again and again) the more I don’t understand the purpose of the CD. A weird mixture or Full Circle/Toshi stuff + live + a poor recording (in my opinion) of the new tracks.
Andy Turner: Not sure myself but the guy at Retch Records wanted to release something so we collected up all the rare and unreleased stuff and that became “Neverhasbeen”. Maybe everything isn’t great soundwise but the source material was sometimes direct from cassette as the masters had long since disappeared
SP: By the way, how did the idea of EP with Toshi come about? Did you write the music together or was it just a spontaneous thing to do once in the studio?
Andy Turner: Toshi got in touch and asked if he record some songs with us and put it out in Japan. e flew in and we recorded two tracks at Beaumont Street Studios with him, me, Cuzzy and Keith and they came out as a 7”on his label in Japan.
SP: Andy, most of the photos of you catch you mid-air flying very high. Did you learn it, did you have a gift for it, did you do sport and would it be possible for you to do it today on stage?
Andy Turner: It just happened. We were a high energy band. Of course i can still do it 😉
SP: Which of the records you released you were most happy with soundwise? And which INSTIGATORS period is your favourite?
Simon Mooney: I like them all for different reasons. The single is rough but Semi is great and I always liked “Ugly People”. “Nobody Listens Anymore” has maybe the best guitar but “Phoenix” has it moments.
Andy Turner: Probably “Phoenix” for me. Great mix and captured the band firing on all cylinders. Check the live set on the re-issue for proof of that!
SP: Any records that you would re-record? And why Shockgun, ha ha? (this is what Tez said to me in the interview in 1996)
Simon Mooney: I don’t have many regrets but not sticking around for the mix of “Shockgun” is one of them. I like to think I’d have put the bass fader up. It’s certainly my favourite album in terms of songs and has some incredible bass playing from Bob.
Andy Turner: “Shockgun” definitely as it could have had a thicker sound in general. I think Pete Jones at Beaumont Street was aiming for some sort of minimalist feel by leaving off a lot of guitar tracks but it isn’t fat enough really in my opinion and detracts from the songs which were really off the wall. Again another step forward from the previous release.
SP: Has any of you been ever involved in any ideological activities within the punk movement (animal rights, political, anti-fascist, etc) or was it only the band, Full Circle label and getting the message across via these medias?
Simon Mooney: Those days are still a big influence ideologically in many ways. I recently won a long legal battle with a corporation after it infringed the copyright of some of my photographs. My attitude in fighting it came directly from my time with the INSTIGATORS. The do-it-yourself ethic we learned has also been important and I certainly support local political campaigns with my photographs and films whenever I can. It balances the commercial work I do for big business (and which is where the money comes from).
Andy Turner: We all took what we learned from the days in the band and used them in positive ways throughout our lives. People just seem to be more politicised back then as there was a real threat of another world war breaking out at any moment. Some of the things we we were warning people about back then took decades to change and unfortunately pretty much all of those things are still happening and there seems to be less activists and more complacent people happy to escape into their iPhones.
SP: Speaking about Full Circle. The label released a few decent bands that played an important role in hardcore punk in Europe apart from the INSTIGATORS: SPERMBIRDS, 2BAD, HDQ, SINK. Was it only your project Andy, or you worked in a form of a collective in Huddersfield?
Andy Turner: Full Circle was my label. After being taught how to run a label the logical progression was to get stuck into doing one. We started with the INSTIGATORS release and then licensed SPERMBIRDS and 2BAD from them for the UK. SPERMBIRDS were really popular in Germany but hadn’t really had a crack at the UK so hopefully this and the tour they did to promote it here helped. HDQ were old mates of ours (as were LEATHERFACE and they’d done their previous album “Sinking” on Positive Records the Huddersfield based label we did “Shockgun” on and they stayed at ours while they were recording. When it came to the next album a French label were putting it out for them but they wanted us to do it here. SINK we knew from THE STUPIDS days so we did the single for them but when it came to doing the album I couldn’t afford the studio costs so we sorted them a deal out with Edward Christie at Abstract who did that. After that the next 4 releases were newer bands CRINGER, SANITY ASSASSINS, DECADENT FEW and FROGS OF WAR. Also at this time we were booking Monday night shows at The Wharf in Huddersfield and had most of the good up and coming bands on there like SNUFF, LEATHERFACE and tons more. We moved to Top Spot Snooker club and was reminded just recently among others we actually booked GREEN DAY first ever European show!!
SP: And again, looks like Full Circle could be a very good platform to remind younger generation of the bands and perhaps start a new catalogue. Don’t you feel tempted to start the label again?
Andy Turner: As most of the bigger released were licensed there are only the second batch we could really re-issue. Boss Tuneage did the FROGS OF WAR not long ago. Would be great to do a label again but would need a sugar mommy or daddy to chuck the money at me especially now
SP: How much touch do you have with the hardcore punk scene in UK or worldwide. How up-to-date are you? Anything bands you would point out that are worth recognition?
Andy Turner: I still get out occasionally to see punk and HC bands, sometimes old friends from years back and less so to newer UK stuff. It’s good to see so many people who lived that life still doing positive things both with punk and in other fields. It really was an incubator for people with positive ideas to go and follow their dreams.
SP: What do you do these days for a living? I guess Tez and Stephen are somehow related to music? Simon, you do the photography, I notice big names in your portfolio like McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Sony…
Simon Mooney: There goes my punk rock credibility. I did graphics at college and wanted to be a commercial artist working with industry. This led to jobs in advertising agencies, which is of course ridiculous so I packed that in aged 27 to be a photographer, shooting life and football. Advertising can pay well though and gives me a certain freedom to do other, more worthy work.
Andy Turner: And the England football team, so lots of pictures of dejected weeping players in his portfolio!!! Cuzzy has been an in demand drum tech and tour manager for loads of bands including the Sex Pistols on their world tour. I’m still working in music with a load of record labels and bands so hopefully all that we learned back then has been used to benefit others as well as giving us the opportunity to live some form of alternative life to the norm we were kicking against.