October 8, 2002 - Albany, NY


I originally met the Damned's guitarist: Captain Sensible at the Inland Invasion II concert in California on September 14, 2002 where the picture below was taken. We came home to discover that The Damned would be playing in Albany and I set up an interview. On the appropriate day, Christophe and I headed off to Albany in high spirits. (They are his favorite band after all!) The Captain was really cool and funny. He also remembered meeting us in Cali. The interview was a lot of fun. Here it is:

The Damned Interview

Tom: In January of 1976, The Damned played their first show with none other than the Legendary Sex Pistols. Now more than 25 years later, John Lydon (Rotten) has said that the show in Cali would be the Pistols' last performance ever, and The Damned is still on tour with a great new album. Way "back in the day" did you ever dream that this band, or even the style of music would last so long?
Captain Sensible: No. Basically, my girlfriend at the time, she was a nurse, she said to me, "This band will never go anywhere or do anything. You're wasting your time. You have to choose between me or them." Y'know? And I chose The Damned. A few weeks later we were off doing some tour or other y'know, so then after we did the album, I wore a nurse's uniform on the back cover, sort of a "right there" to her. (Makes hand gesture.)
Tom: She's in the "Where are they now file?" I recently saw you perform at Inland Invasion II with the Sex Pistols in California and you guys rocked. With over 65,000 people in attendance, it was listed as the largest gathering of Punks EVER. What was it like playing in front of that big of a crowd?
Captain Sensible: Blimey. Uh…. Alright, I suppose.
Tom: Would that be the biggest crowd you've ever played in front of?

Captain Sensible: I dunno. I was never very good with stuff like that. I'm not very good at judging size of crowds. All I can see without me glasses is about five feet in front of me.
Tom: At your shows, have the crowds been better in the States or abroad?
Captain Sensible: I dunno.
Tom: What is your take on the current state of Punk rock? What do you think of what it has turned into as opposed to what it was when the punk movement started?
Captain Sensible: What is me take on the current state of Punk? I don't really look at it to be honest. I just twang me guitar and get on with me life.
Tom: Who were some of your biggest influences?
Captain Sensible: Ehhh, well the Stooges, MC5, the usual suspects, and the Ramones hit Britain in '76, y'know, kickstarted the whole thing, 'cause they were a phenomenon. They still sound pretty fresh today. Jimi Hendrix, of course, made great music. The Electric Prunes, they're fantastic too, and they recently performed, they're back together again, after their last gig in '68. We did a show with them about three months ago in London, and they were bloody brilliant. Garage psychedelic at it's very best.
Tom: What bands do you like from today?
Captain Sensible: I don't know anyone to be quite honest. I bought a lot of punk records in '77 and '78, I havn't got any room for any more. I don't know what's going on. And I don't possess a TV.
Christophe: What's in your CD player, recently?

Captain Sensible: I bought an album by Sing Sing, an excellent bunch. But it's not punk.
Tom: It has been said that what made a lot of the old-school punk bands so great is that, although they were angry about the conditions around them, they were still able to retain a sense of dark humor. What do you think of the bands that take themselves so seriously that they think that they are beyond ridicule?
Captain Sensible: Like who?
Tom: There's a lot of them, I don't know where to start. Umm. I knew who I was thinking of when I wrote this question. Now at the moment of truth, I blank. We'll skip that one.
Captain Sensible: I'm not really good at judging other bands, 'cause I don't really absorb a lot of the new-fangled music.
Tom: In the 80's The Damned were the musical guests on the hilariously funny British comedy series "The Young Ones" in the episode: "Nasty." As a fan of the show I am curious: During the shoot, did you have much interaction with the show's stars?
Captain Sensible: Yeah, pretty much, they're a good laugh. But the funniest thing was after the show, where, uh, we went to an Indian restaurant, and we got very very drunk, and we ended up marching up and down the tables, y'know, kicking the food all over the place. And people who had nothing to do with the Young Ones or the Damned were getting covered with curry. Not a good thing to get all over your clothes. And we got thrown out. And the funny thing is, is someone from the BBC magazine RadioTimes was turning up to interview the Young Ones' cast for the start of the series, y'know and by the time they got there, we'd all been kicked out.
Tom: Which character was your favorite?
Captain Sensible: I liked the one with stars on his forehead.
Tom: Vivian. He's mine too.
Captain Sensible: There's a lot of things in the world that need to be kicked right up the arse. I think he's kind of an example to us all.
Tom: I understand that you are a big fan of Formula One racing.
Captain Sensible: Well, Yeah... now I have to say, the car culture is completely out of control. The oil business and the car business is just lunacy. It's capitalism at its worst. Now having said that, and I do believe in public transport, but having said THAT, yes, I do like Formula One. (slaps himself) What a hypocrite. (laughs)
Tom: Who are your favorite drivers?
Captain Sensible: I like John Elasee, of course, I thought he had real passion. I dunno, I just think they're all really brave to do it, cause as we know, in America, people have died and all that.
Tom: What are your other leisure time activities?
Captain Sensible: I like photographing trains, and when we're out on tours I like to check out public transport systems. Like we was in Montreal the other day, and I was on the Metro, we just get a day pass and go around and check it out and stuff. Ummm… what else do I like? Architecture and stuff, take photographs of wacky buildings, with lots of concrete and steel.
Tom: Now that you bring it up, mine is the Eiffel Tower; what is your favorite architectural structure?
Captain Sensible: Oh…
Tom: Now I'm turning it around on you.
Captain Sensible: Well, I like… I particularly like bridges. We're going to do the George Washington Bridge going into New York. I love that bridge. That's a very nice bridge.
Tom: Yeah, I've been to the website, and saw that you were a little pissed that no one's answering the question "What's your favorite architectural structure?"
Captain Sensible: I like Venice Beach in Los Angeles. There's all these wacky kind of houses on the beach. Really a bit… y'know, pontsy… but lots of concrete and steel and glass, y'know. It's kinda nice. I'd like one of them, y'know? Buy my records, maybe I could make some money you bastards. Grave Disorder - in the shops now!
Tom: OK, I was gonna get to shameless pitch time in a minute, but I guess you're already there. How do you think Grave Disorder compares to the past albums that The Damned have released?
Captain Sensible: It's got a bunch of good tunes on it, so I suppose it's similar there. But it does sound more powerful, maybe, cause the old albums were recorded before they had huge drum sounds and guitar noises and stuff. So ummm… I'd like to go back, in hindsight, go back and remix some of the old albums. I think Grave Disorder just sounds
great. But I gotta say that, haven't I? But it is, it's a bloody good record, and I'm proud of it, it goes through a multitude of mood changes.
Tom: The Grave Disorder album is somewhat parallel to the Black Album in that it is a group of powerful and eclectic songs. The title of the new album seems appropriate as almost a rising from the ashes/Phoenix from the flames type of situation. Is there any metaphorical coincidence with the actual band or anything else?
Captain Sensible: Well, Grave disorder is phrase used in the House of Parliament in London, if there's a riot in the chamber and the speaker of the House of Parliament, he's got this hammer and he goes banging it "I suspend this sitting, grave disorder having broke out. Order! Order!" And he does all this stuff. We actually… I had a clip of that off BBC radio, which we used to introduce the album. So it's actually, because the first song is called "Democracy", basically saying that there's no democracy in Britain or the United States at the moment, because it seems you vote for… I mean, with Clinton and with Blair, not Bush, you expected there to be some sort of change, but nothing happened. And that's basically what happens. The voting changes fuck all. And then that loony Bush guy…
Tom: You recently took part in an anti-war rally about the situation with Iraq. What are your views on the subject?
Captain Sensible: Well they're gonna kill a lot of people over there so they can grab the oil. And that's the bottom line. Nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction 'cause they haven't got any over there. They were destroyed by the inspectors over the last, like, ten years. They're gone. They've got nothing to threaten us with. There's no Al-Qaida link whatsoever. Otherwise, you'd be reading about it in the papers. It's disgraceful. In my life, I've never seen anything like it. People are gonna die, just because of oil, because he's an oil man.
Tom: Kinda like the Dead Kennedys' "Die for Oil, Sucker".
Captain Sensible: Yes, it's disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful. And they're gonna get away with it, too. Cause you can fool most of the people most of the time, if you've got ALL the media on your side, and I've been tuning into a lot of news broadcasts, and it's just sickening.
Tom: Let me get back on the Damned topic here. (laughter) Over the years there have been many personnel changes in the band, but the most prominent members have been you, David Vanian, and Rat Scabies. What happened that caused you to part ways with Rat?
Captain Sensible: Well, Rat stole money from the band, so he had to go. Rat by name, Rat by nature. Hey! We should have known. (laughter)
Tom: Do you see the band as more stable now than it has been in the past, or do you still expect chaos at every turn in the road?
Captain Sensible: Well Dave's theory is the name of the band actually imposes itself onto the daily happenings. A lot of stuff goes wrong. But, that makes things interesting.
Tom: The last ten years have been relatively quiet for the Damned with the exception of Phantom Train and Not of This Earth, which were both sort of hushed in the promotional end. Grave Disorder seems to have been well received by the public. Do you see this as a resurgence of The Damned?
Captain Sensible: Just a continuation of whatever it is that we do. Shit-kicking music with good tunes. A loud guitar, a thrashing drum kit, and a bloody good melody. And a lyric worth putting on paper. And that's all it's about. And also we're gonna wipe boy bands off the face of the planet. (Laughter)
Christophe: Right on!
Tom: It's about time!!! I'm glad someone's taken up that torch!!! (Laughter) Do you feel that the lull over the last ten years has helped strengthen this album due to the culmination of built-up energies?
Captain Sensible: Oh yeah, cause umm… we did accumulate a bunch of tunes. We had about three albums worth of songs. Actually, we chose the ones that sounded like umm… fairly grungey.
Tom: The Damned have had plenty of 'Pop" oriented songs over the years, do you think that the band will ever break into the mainstream? Not by compromising their sound, but in the promotional and radio end of the spectrum?
Captain Sensible: Blimey. There's no chance... no chance of that ever happening. Not on Nitro anyway.
Christophe: You had songs on the charts, though, haven't you? I mean, you've been up there.
Captain Sensible: (hushed) They did, but not when I was in the band.
Tom: Shhh. We'll edit that part out. (laughter)
Captain Sensible: Disgraceful. I couldn't believe it. I turned on the TV and there they were doing some bloody pop song.
Tom: Do you see the band as more matured musically, if not mentally, and do you see yourselves getting back into the swing of things and producing more studio albums at a steadier rate?
Captain Sensible: Yeah, that's what I'd like to have. I'd definitely like to put more stuff together. I mean I quite like this band called Stereolab. And they're bloody prolific. They produce an album every year. That's great. They're really good.
Tom: You have done a lot of solo work outside of the Damned, but it never got much notoriety. Did you do them because you thought that the material was not right for the Damned, the rest of the band felt that it wasn't right for the Damned, or did you just want some artistic freedom to do what you damn well pleased?
Captain Sensible: Well they were all Damned rejects. So when you sit down with a guitar you just never know what sort of song's gonna happen. And occasionally, you write these wistful, these plaintive kind of folky songs. I mean what can you do with them? You either throw them in the dustbin, or you record them yourself, so that's what I did.
Christophe: Like "Freedom". That's a great song, by the way.
Captain Sensible: Thank you. Oh "Freedom", that was all about the Berlin Wall coming down. Yeah, I thought that needed to be said. 'Cause all these people were rejoicing, and y'know six months later all their children are prostituting themselves out on the streets and there's homelessness and no one can afford to buy bread and stuff. Yeah, that's capitalism and freedom for ya.
Tom: Ok, we always have a weird question, so here it goes: Save the Sumatran Rat Monkey or Nuke the Tibetan Whales?
Captain Sensible: (laughter) No. I haven't a clue what he's talking about.
Tom: Ok,( Laughter), Any final words?
Captain Sensible: Umm… just thanks for coming down and seeing your old mates the Damned and one day maybe, we'll be accorded the respect to which we are deserved. No, I'm only joking.