The Metro is deserted. Turnstiles gleam silver in the artificial light
and eerie mechanical cries echo through the foreign silence.
Occasionally a native (identifiable by their bleak dress and warts –
nearly everyone over thirty has ‘em here) stumbles blank faced past the
empty ticket office and down the dead escalator to the brightly lit
platforms, there to await trains I’m sure will never arrive.
Above the small winding streets are equally desolate, only empty
MacDonald’s cartons brave the drizzle blown along past the shuttered
tea-shops by a weak breeze.
This is Brussells and if you avoid the sex shop neon of the shopping
arcades you’ll discover a city as lifeless as a month old leg of lamb.
The few people you may see wandering about have a glassy-eyed
zombie-like appearance and it’s only the apparent lack of gaping
crimson wounds that assures you haven’t waltzed unsuspecting onto the
set of a new George A Romero fear fest.
This is Brussells, capital of Belgium and the last date on UK Decay’s European tour sheet.
It’s a dull grey city of spectacular gothic architecture juxtaposed
alongside the glum and modern, its almost Europe’s answer to the
Cabinet of Dr Calagai. The considerable contrasts reminiscent of the
forced perspectives in that classic 1919 German horror flick.
It may well be about as Rock n roll as West Runton yet it does boast a
bizarre identity all its own. And the place suits the young British
band like pine box does a cadaver. With song titles like ‘Necrophilia’
‘The Black Cat’ (based on the Edgar Allen Poe story of the same name)
and ‘Rising from the dead’ you can see that they’re not your bunch of
Abbo, the band’s engaging vocalist once told me that they had a
fascination with death (its ok he was laughing at the time). Even so
their imagery is striking and the music is thick with Victorian menace
- and Banshee/Antz spice.
Could this be the coming of Punk Gothique? With Bauhaus flying in on similar wings could it be the next big thing?
They’ve been in my estimation one of the few groups generating and
genuine excitement in what has been of late a desperately stale
alternative chart. Their last single, ‘For My Country’ was with no
exaggeration, something of a minor masterpiece, a vehement anti war
piece built around a powerful militant beat.
Now they’ve just released their fourth, a double A sided effort of
‘Unexpected Guest’ and ‘Dresden’ on Fresh Records. And what a jewel it
is, a fine successor to ‘Country’ it seems to grow in stature with
every spin. In fact albeit a contradictory one.
‘It was written at the same time as ‘For My Country’ reveals Abbo as he
tries to peer beyond a clump of beaded hair that obscures his vision
and veils his nose.
One of the two photos that apeared in the article, featuring Lol who
stood in on bass guitar after ''Segovia'' left..for a better quality
reproduction of this photo, please visit the gallery, photo copyright
owned by Sounds.
‘The first one was intended to be a passive, anti-nationalist thing,
with ‘Dresden’ we’ve taken a cynical view of passivity, like
Chamberlain’s passiveness could take twenty per cent of the blame for
World War 2. The attitude that we wanted to put over was like, if
fascists moved into England we move out. That’s a very negative way to
The flipside on the other hand is lighter fare, a typical Decay tale of
ghostly visitation, shivermetimbers. But even this has a deeper theme,
that of violation of privacy.
‘Basically ‘Unexpected guest’ is a return to the same sort of story as
‘Black Cat’ (which incidentally is the title track of their second
single; its just been repressed so check it out ghouls) but it does
have a more realistic theme. It was written after we had a burglar in
the house, he came one night while we were all asleep. I thought,
Christ he’s been through everything, from my old school books to me
sweaty socks and I don’t know who it was. And when I was small I always
used to think that there was someone hiding in my wardrobe, that one
night he’d creep up behind me and put his hand on my shoulder. That’s
all in the song too.’
The band formed some two years ago in Luton, part of a lively local
scene that has sadly run out of steam, much to Decays regret. They were
Steve Harle (drums), Spon – great name that – (guitar), and Segovia
(bass) and it was their unique stance, their preoccupation with the
macabre which first attracted my attention. Since then I’ve seen their
mildly gory horizons broaden and the music mature into the fiendish
force it is today. Frankly I’ve been entranced. Their devotion to the
movement that spawned them has been admirable. As well as trying to be
a catalyst for other local bands, they’ve run a fanzine, ‘Suss’ and
attempted to open a shop/Social centre for local punks. The latter has
been only a partial success as Decay have been too busy touring to keep
it a going concern.
One of the two photos that apeared in the article, featuring Abbo in
one of his more ''expressive'' moments..for a better quality reproduction
of this photo, please visit the gallery, photo copyright owned by
Ask them if they’re a punk band and the reply will be a loud:
‘Definitely! We all came from the seventy-six, seventy-seven scene. The
imagery, the music, everything reflects in our attitude. You don’t have
to wear bondage trousers and have Crass on the back of your leather
jacket to be a punk y’know. It’s the lifestyle we lead. Fast and happy
This is already their second tour of Europe, for a band with precious
little in the way of greenbacks it must have been something of a gamble
but it looks like its going to pay off. Interest from these uncultured
climes is growing all the time, and the crowds they’ve been playing to
have been receptive to say the least.
‘Berlin’s a strange sort of place,’ says Abbo, ‘When we played the Club
(I couldn’t quite make out the name but if you croak ‘Musical’ in a
guttural German accent you’ll be on the right lines) we got a strange
mixture of trendy jet setters, because there’s nowhere else for them to
go, and Berlins heavy punk-type movement not to mention quite a few
hippies, it’s a real cross section.
Anyway the hardcore punks just sort of stood there and glared because
they thought we were what they call Poppers, which is like Disco boys
because we didn’t have short cropped hair and our checked trousers
The thing is though we’d already arranged to play a free gig a week
later at a place called the KZ thirty six. A squat in the Turkish part
of Berlin, a real shitty area where all the street level punks live.
The police don’t dare go there, it’s a real heavy place.’
Its later explained to me that KZ is the name of a concentration camp and Thirty six is the district.
‘It’s right by the wall,’ continues Abbo, ‘and no one wants to live
there apart from the immigrants and the punks. All these Grebos live on
one side and the punks on the other. There have been loads of riots
over there, have they shown them on British telly? They’ve just passed
a new law in Germany over squatting and they’re really cracking down on
That’s what all the fuss is about. So you can imagine why we weren’t
looking forward to it very much. We only wanted to do it as a Robin
Hood type of thing.’
The singer shudders at the memory. ‘With all those greasers and punks
in the audience it looked very violent, but it went really well, just a
few scuffles at the beginning. It was just about the most rewarding gig
I’ve ever done.’
‘Some punk came up to me the night before the gig and said, ‘Tomorrow
is zer start of zer revolution!’, confides a wry faced Spon, ‘I said,
what? And he said, ‘Oh ya, ver having der mass anarchist riot
tomorrow!’ (actually Spon related all this minus the Basil Fawlty
accent. I’ve added it purely for effect, who said creative writing is
dead?) And it happened.
Going to the gig we saw all these Police and roadblocks and stuff. Its
strange because we want no part of an anarchist system, but they used
our gig to build up the adrenalin to carry out their riot, everyone at
the gig had batons.
The front cover of the Sounds issue.
Afterwards they all piled out and smashed out the windows to the banks
and the big stores. The punks there really don’t care, they’ll stop at
nothing to bring the system down.
Thankfully this lunatic fringe seems to be concentrated mainly in
Germany, far from the pastoral delights of Neasden; I wonder if the
Regets have ever thought of going to Berlin?
‘From there we went to Rotterdam and Amsterdam, now Holland is ok but
we played this place called The Milky Way which is infamous for selling
its fifteen varieties of dope over the counter and we literally came
out to a cloud of dope smoke and spent the night choking through the
set. They’ve got cushions on the floor, the hippies dream, a different
world from England and Germany.
Holland is stuck between the two, a passive place where people who
can’t take either system go because there’s no real pressure there.
It’s so slow. Its got its own punk community but like everything else
there its drug orientated.’
Decay have just negotiated the first major whirlpool of their career. The loss of bassman Segovia.
‘The problem basically was we went full time, and Segovia didn’t want
to take the band any further. He’s got a reasonable job and a pleasant
girlfriend,’ Abbo makes it sound like a disease,’ and he couldn’t
really see his future with us or the band.
He liked playing the music on a small level but was reluctant to make
it full time. It wasn’t unexpected, we talked about it for some six
months or so and he left on very amicable terms. He didn’t want to hold
Now I liked Segovia, he had many endearing traits like after a few
pints he’d attempt to engage you in conversation not an inch and a half
away from the old olfactory organs. Such encounters would inevitably
leave you well damp with spittle. He was a fine musician too.
‘We had some trouble finding a replacement. Bassplayers aren’t that
uncommon but they have a tendency to be incompatible. We wanted someone
local, from the same scene as us. In the end we decided to go for a
personality rather than a bassplayer, we could always teach’em to play.’
The personality turned out to be Lol, a young lady of striking
appearance – destined to be a very high entry in the Sounds ‘Horny bird
like’ chart, no question – classically trained keyboardist with another
Luton band the Statics.
It was a wise choice for not only is she a bloody sight better looking
than her predecessor (no offence Seg) but a talented songwriter in her
Only there seems to be some confusion over her current/future role in
the band. Lol insists that she hasn’t left the Statics and Decay aren’t
sure if she wants the gig permanent.
‘I haven’t really left the other band.’ Explains the pink haired one,
’I’m in both of them…but I’ve had a lot of hassle with the other band
really. The guitarist is really good…’
Abbo steps in to help clarify things. ‘the Statics are a group of
people who play in a band and have nothing in common except their
Once again he makes it sound like a disease
‘Ooh, you cunt!’ replies Lol sweetly. In fact Lol has only been playing
bass for three weeks, having picked it up to join the band. ‘I didn’t
really like it before,’ she confesses, ‘I’d been playing for a week
before we had a warm up gig in Northampton…which was bloody useless,
then it was literally into the deep end in Berlin, But I didn’t mind, I
really hate Luton, it was a good excuse to get out.’
There’s been so much to do, I just haven’t had a chance to get bored.
But there all dirty sods really, they could all do with a good wash.
The only problems I’ve had really has been with Spon’s feet.
‘That’s why he wears Jackboots,’ explains Steve Harle seriously, ‘to
encase the odour. Actually having a new person in the band has really
made a lot of difference. It’s made us see things differently,
especially as she writes in another style to us. She’s calmed down our
more aggressive side.’
Like the Alien on the Nostromo, UK Decay are changing, evolving into
something….different with every killing. They are already a formidable
beast. Punk Gothique? Its looking just fine.