Pig Bag had a bit of a monster ht in the early 80s, the ubiquitous 'Papa's got a brand new Pigbag', which found it's way to number 3 in the charts in 1982. About to return with the first new material in a while and playing at Back To The Phuture this Friday, we had the pleasure of having a quick chat about TOTP, Hitching to Bristol, Sun Ra and more besides…..
What triggered the comeback?
Fire Records released all of our back catalogue on 2 double CDs in 2011 – and this got us thinking about writing new stuff….
Cheltenham, not your most rock n' roll of towns?! I'm from round those parts originally. What was the place like back then and what inspired you to form Pigbag whilst there?
We used to hang around in a record shop listening to free jazz and dub reggae and then met up with some Bristol guys. Alot of our development was in Bristol…
How do you feel about revivals/reunions?
I have to say some of my best gigs have been reunions in the past few years; 23 Skidoo, Bush Tetras, ESG, Gang Of Four.
Do you feel a renewed sense of energy with the band back together?
Yeah its a blast. Some bands get back together to make some money but we can honestly say that we just wanted to get some new ideas out there – of course if you want to give us some money we're not going to complain!!!
Papa's Got A Brand New Pigbag went to #3 on its reissue in '82. What's it like having a top 5 single?
That was when the pop charts actually meant something!
To be honest – we went through a period in the 80's of hating the single because we played it so much. But now its great because it still has that enegy but there's a distance from the original line up and being instrumental means its always slightly different anyway.
How was playing Top of the Pops?
We hated it. Sometimes I wish we'd not done it (like the clash) but now times are different – there isnt the anger towards things that there was. When we did one show I got a bit drunk and wore a dirty mac and a groucho marx mask to the filming which was going out live. The music was mimed as always on TOTP's and I wanted to inject a bit of fun into things. But the producer went mad at me and we got banned from the show!!!! That show was introduced by Jimmy Savile – so there he was doing his vile things – and we got banned for having a good time!!!
Its argued that the likes of LCD Soundsystem and !!! drew influence from your good selves as a band. That era of music which began around 10 years ago was hugely inspiring for a whole new generation of people not born the first time the 'punk-funk' thing happened. Listening back to some of that now it stands up on its own, not just as imitations of the first wave of this scene. Would you/are/have you considered working with anyone from this scene on new productions?
Yeah – always up for new stuff.
Punk, jazz, funk, ska, reggae, afrobeat. Can you talk us through the influences that permeate your music.
The initial impetus was free jazz – Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra, Pharoah Sanders. But that was shaped by what was going around at the time which for us was punk/new wave and dub reggae. Then we started listening to Prince, Fela Kuti, James Brown and Parliament. So there was a range of influences….
I was reading about you hitching a lift down to Bristol to convince Simon Underwood to join the band. Can you tell us a bit about that?
That was Chris Hamlyn – he based his life on Jack Kerouac at the time and would travel between Bristol, Cheltenham and Birmigham and that was how we all got together -because of him knowing everybody
What ever happened to hitching eh?!
I know – dont see it at all now do you…
How did you feel about Paul Oakenfold remixing your biggest commercial success?
Great – good for him and us. There have been many remixes of 'Papa', some more recent ones a bit dodgy but I dont think it reflects badly on the single – it survives!
What's on the horizon for Pigbag. Can we expect more music in the near future?
We have been writing lots of new stuff – lots of bands reform and play all the old stuff – but a key motive for us was the excitement of writing and playing new stuff – we've learned alot since the 80's. We have a new album coming out on Sugarshack records in late March.
Do you think that politics has lot any sort of relevance or voice in contemporary music? How can we reverse this trend?
It should have more – I've never felt that musicians should just entertain and keep quiet. The pop industry chooses people they can manipulate – people who dont have ideas of their own very often. In many ways we a need a new punk revolution to wrest control away from the industry and back to people who make music. Real people who have ideas and make comments on the world and who may be challenging to listen to. Ultimately it up to people to support those artists who are trying to make a living doing this….
Do you think the internet, smartphones and the like have destroyed our hunger, attention and appetite for detail only engaging us in snippets of info, never delving deep into subjects which require full insight? What's the solution?
I dont agree with that assessment – in alot of ways the internet has increased peoples curiosity and willingness to explore new ideas. Its not the technology its the industry which is funnelling that energy into areas that it an control and make money out of…
And now for the stock R$N questions we ask everyone. Please excuse if some are not so relevant… we believe at R$N towers that everyone is techno to some degree:
Complete the sentence: I'm proper techno because…..
I have a drum machine…
What's the most techno thing you've ever done?
We played Hoochie Coochies in Newcastle recently and some of my dancing afterwards was a bit techno…
Are you a kick drum, hi hat or a snare? And why?
Dont mind as long as I'm playing a funky beat….
What are you obsessed with at the moment?
Coronation Street. Love it…
What's your answer to everything?
44. 'Cos its one better than Douglas Adams…
Anything I should have asked you that I have neglected to?
You could have asked me what I'm drinking… but there's time on Friday 😉
Pigbag play Back To The Phuture at the Half Moon this Friday 25th January. Full details here.