Articles / Reviews

The Sound - Falling Of The Dock Of The Bay - interview ( ZIGZAG 12-7-1984)

date: Jul 12, 1984



All wrapped up in a tornado with nowhere to blow. Tom Vague, emotionally charged again, wrestles with Adrian Borland of The Sound. If only the mekons would inherit the world.

"I hope you enjoyed our visit to the Natural History Museum," says the tourist guide. "Next we shall be visiting an annex of it in Soho that specialises in the fossilised remains of rockist musos, hacks and liggers." The guide ushers his party of painfully awkward Swedish tourists down Wardour Street and into the portals of one of his most tedious chores: The Marquee. He stifles a yawn and continues; "If you examine the ceiling closely you can see the holes that Pete Townsend made with his nose and there's one of the chairs that Viv Westwood threw about to get the Pistols banned.

Over there by the toilets is a remarkably well-preserved Gene October and next to him in a somewhat worse condition are the remains of Charlie Harper. "Wait a minute! If I'm not very much mistaken there's some real, live punks over there! Yes! It's Paul O'Reilly, Mick Mercer and Tom Vague! What are they doing here? They're not dead yet, not quite anway. Christ on a bike! If we're really lucky Tony D. might even be here!!" By now the group of anoraked Swedish students have totally lost interest in their guided tour and are staring aghast at the stocky impassioned little figure on the stage. The figure shouts: "Rock'n'Roll isn't dead. It's just written about and played by cynics! Bastards!!" He then leads his sweating ensemble into another physical assault on the senses. The tourist guide passes out and the now fascinated Swedish students surround Tom Vague whose body is twitching and shuddering in a most unusual manner.... (Another true story, more or less.) 

The cause of the tourist guide's demise, the Swedish tourists' fascination and this writer's embarrassing display was Adrian Borland - the mouthpiece of The Sound, who are my personal candidates for the most under-rated band of the '80s - but that's all going to change soon. Isn't it! Here's what some others of the scribing persuasion think: 

"The best unobvious and unintentional Jim Morrison rip-off there is." (Paul O'Reilly) 

"Adrian Borland is like a little tugboat pulling a big liner... and the sea is very choppy." (Mick Mercer) 

"I'd like Adrian Borland to be personally happy but it would ruin his music." (Johnny Waller) 

Now here's why Adrian Borland isn't concerned that the rest of the Class of '80/'81 have gone on to megadom whilst The Sound success wise aren't at all! "If you think about the fact that you only get one chance if you're lucky and two if you're very lucky - in that sense it was a mistake doing that first Bunnymen tour in '80. On that tour we were playing to the hippest people in England - I mean / would have gone! I just think that we weren't that good then. "I thought 'Jeopardy' was a good album, because it was naive and enthusiastic, and that was the tour of that album - so I wouldn't say that we were a bad band musically at that stage, just that we had no idea of how to put over what we were doing to a live audience... but I know, music to me, it's not a competition, it's not a question of who's at the top and who's at the bottom. That whole thing is geared towards the charts. You get a new product and straightaway you get video charts. "Unless you're really, really talented, unless you've got something really original to offer, why go into music except to make money? I mean how many bands say anything about anything?

Maybe that's one good thing about now - at least bands are admitting that they're going into it for the money and the fame and to get out of their jobs, although that's like admitting that they've murdered somebody." Maybe The Sound are meant for better things than that shallow pop idolisation or perhaps they're doomed to the occasional outburst of critical acclaim and moving gigs at places like the Marquee. It depends on which way you look at it. Either way, unless this article falls foul of Mick the Knife, you'll see that Adrian Borland isn't just a talkative articulate chap but he has actually got something to talk and articulate about. It might have been a different story at the beginning of '83 - with the release of 'All Fall Down', a morbid masterpiece in Adrian's words not mine, it seemed that even the critics had deserted them. WEA, their record company then, were not prepared to promote such a blatantly uncommercial album and they parted company shortly afterwards. Apparently this wasn't such a downer as it sounds. "We weren't pissed off that we got dropped by WEA," he explains, "in fact the opposite. We were actually glad to be out of a contract where no one was promoting us. There's nothing worse than that." 

After lengthy negotiations with other majors, The Sound eventually found themselves a home at enthusiastic indie label, Statik. The people at Statik have that indie attitude where they actually care about their bands and give them the freedom and space that bands like The Sound need. Statik also released The Sound's much overdue 'Shock of Daylight' six-track mini-album, that has been firmly attached to my turntable ever since I blagged a copy off them. Adrian continues: "The Down period for us was more in the summer of '83, when we had all these songs that we knew were good but would they ever be heard? Most of 'Shock of Daylight" is over a year old but I was just very glad that it was coming out at last. It was a pretty bad time for me/us; I'm surprised we made something that sounds so 'confident' and 'positive' out of it. The lyrics aren't all that 'up' at all really but people have been using words like that which I think is funny really. It's not that it's not 'up' but something that's somber, if it's tempered with a strong melody, something carries it through. It doesn't wallow like we used to."

I think The Sound have always created a similar feeling to what Joy Division did. Something that should be depressing about pretty depressing things but at the same time it's uplifting and inspiring. Adrian tries to explain it: "That's because it's sharing something. It's like being in detention at school. If you were on your own it was a real piss off but if there was a lot of you it could be great. It's sharing -something that's bad. When you realise somebody else feels like that as well, you don't feel so alone.... "But we were never happy to be unhappy. We would rather be happy but certain things get in your way, if you've got a conscience. Our music comes from different moods that we're in. I just write what I feel and that's that, I can't really explain it either. I think in a way if a song doesn't explain itself, it's not worth explaining, it's not like 'this one here, what it really means'.. .all the mystic crap." The Sound- always preferred the more direct approach. Songs like 'Who The Hell Made Those Missiles?' and 'New Dark Age' obviously come straight to the point; but avoid being corny at the same time - a rare thing. This bluntness by and large wasn't appreciated. 

"We don't do those songs anymore because we're deliberately trying to say that it shouldn't matter what political viewpoint you've got -but on the other hand I am decidedly left wing, "All the bands that really tried to shake people up, like the Pop Group, got nowhere. I think that's a real shame because that's what music should do and that's the reason why the Simple Minds are so big. People want something hopeful, even though it's hollow. "What I don't like is the patronising aspect of left-wing bands, the sort at attitude that they know better than you, which is a load of crap. What we try to do is say look this is how we feel. How do you feel about that?" Although Adrian sees The Sound of 1984 as a more balanced, fresh, even romantic outfit than it has been in the past, there's still that manic edge of old, that always threatened to explode. They're still as angry and emotional as they were on 'Jeopardy' but they haven't gone all bitter and twisted as they could so easily have done. "I'm not a typical 'angry young man' although I have got labeled like that because of some of my lyrics. Some things that people do really piss me off.

The way people treat each other and lie to each other. It's not that I've lost that, I just see no point in harping on about it, there's no point in obsessing yourself. I'm striving to get a sense of balance and proportion in my lyrics. This might sound like pocket-book philosophy but you can only know that something is bad from experiencing something that's good. So you can't say there are more bad things in the world than good. How can you arrive at that condition? When you're born you get a shade of colours, you can't say the middle's there. You can't go round being completely objective about everything. Bearing all that in mind though, I still have moods. "The Sound's biggest flaw is we can't exclude those extremes, in an hour's set by The Sound you're going to get beauty and ugliness. You're going to get gentle music and then real violence. By having both ends of things I think a lot of people find us too intense, find the emotion a bit draining, maybe not what they'd classify as entertainment. " I don't want it to be a struck anymore. Like 'Winning' was more to do with not winning. "Can you imagine anything worse than being surrounded in a band that people like because you're struggling?! It's like having a chain round your neck. It's almost like martyrdom." 

ZIGZAG magazine July 1984 

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