An Interview With The Boys Duncan Reid
‘Bombs Away’ is the third album you’ve released with this band! Where did you record the 14 tracks and how long did it take?
From starting with the drums to finishing the mixing took about 9 months but that wasn’t solid work. We were fitting it around other things like gigs. In terms of recording days it took about 2 months. It was recorded in a little studio in South West London called Black Dog which belongs to the producer/engineer Sean Genockey. All the vocals and keyboards were recorded by me at home on a computer, though, and emailed over to Sean.
Can you talk us through some of the songs and what they’re about?
Let’s Skip to the Good Bit –
Based on the age old dilemma that women are from Venus and men are from Mars. I spend every day acting perfectly reasonably and never doing anything wrong (of course), but some days my wife thinks I’m great and others I’m a complete bastard! I have no clue what I have done right or wrong. There’s a line in the middle I’m proud of based on the saying “In the valley of the blind the one eyed man is king” about inventing a one eyed gizmo to lead us men from the valley of the blind. Women: my favourite kind of people though!
The Man on the Desk –
This is about the hidden depths that people have and how we underestimate those around us. It was inspired by a male receptionist in an office I used to pass daily and largely ignored. After the Nepal earthquake he rushed back home and rescued half his family, almost with his bare hands. It turns out he was a ghurka, i.e. a trained killing machine, and will have seen some things I can’t even imagine. And there was I thinking he was just a nice man on the desk.
I Can Fly –
There’s a place I go to in France about 3 or 4 times a year on the border with Spain about 2 hours from Barcelona. But in my head I go there all the time. I love living in London and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else but it’s a release to imagine myself on the beach, breeze blowing in the early evening as the sun heads for the horizon against the backdrop of the Pyrenees. So the song is about the fact that I can fly there any time I like.
Just Because You’re Paranoid –
I had one of those calls we’ve all had from a man in India saying there was something wrong with my computer and if I let him on remotely he would fix it. In fact he would have stolen my identity or frozen the computer to get me to pay him. And then those emails about how I could earn millions if I helped someone have my bank details. First world problems, of course, but worth a little tongue in cheek dig all the same.
God Save Me Now –
“They say God saves, guess we’re both the same, both have rainy days, but does he know my name?”. This was a weird one because I’m not a religious person at all but I like the play on words that I’m the same as God, although He is saving Noah from a flood and I am saving money for hard times. The song ends with a snippet from the Irish prayer which is a beautifull piece of writing and which I heard at the wedding of a good friend who’s bride had only weeks to live. It was an emotional and unexpectedly uplifting day which inspired the whole song.
Last years Rebellion festival marked 40 years of punk rock n roll! How has your writing changed in the past 40 years?
It’s changed beyond recognition. I wasn’t a prolific writer for The Boys but it was a great school to go to for learning songwriting as Matt Dangerfield, Casino Steel and Honest John Plain were all great writers. Bizarely, having found it difficult in my early years, the flood gates opened about 5 years ago and I haven’t stopped since. Musically nothing has changed. I still aspire to write the perfect heavy melody power pop punk song. But lyrically I try to act my age!
How did you first start writing?
When I was young I would sit at a table with a guitar and hope that inspiration would arrive. It didn’t. Now snippets come into my head and I have to rush to sing them into my phone or they disappear like a plane passing overhead. Later on I listen back to the snippets and have no memory of them but know it must be me because it’s my voice. I then join the bits up like a jigsaw puzzle. Finding the “story” for the song is harder now: I’ve used up 3 album’s worth of ideas! It’s an interesting process, though. It often starts with a line and then I dig around mentally until the idea for the song reveals itself.
What would you be doing if punk never existed?
I had 17 years off from music, working and bringing up a family, between The Boys in the 70s and the reincarnation at the end of the 90s. Amonst other things, I worked for Andrew Lloyd Webber putting on musicals round the world and ran Nottingham Forest when they were in the Premier League.
Friends and peers of your band The Boys in the late 70’s include The Ramones, Pistols, Clash, Generation X. Can you give us a feel for what that time was like for you? What these people were like to be around?
It was a very exciting time to be a teenager, especially in London. Every week seemed to bring an exciting new band although it didn’t last that long. Dangerous times in many ways since people felt threatened by this alarming sight of youths with short hair. In general bands were very cool toward each other. There was a good deal of rivalry and indeed snootiness. We toured with The Ramones which was a mixture. It was great to see them at close quarters but they were very unhappy. They had a plentiful array of personal issues to deal with. Brilliant band though and determined to be as good as they could be.
What bands are you listening to at the moment?
We played on the same bill as Cyanide Pills recently and I think they are brilliant. Heavy Drapes from Edinburgh are also top notch. The latest playlist I put together is of my favourite Cheap Trick tracks. They were great. I’m really sorry I missed them recently.
What do you listen to outside of punk?
A wide variety. I like classic country (modern stuff is appalling). I was listening to Goldfrapp’s singles collection the other day. They’ve had some great songs.
You’re very busy touring this year! What do you love about being on the road?
I love being in a band that’s just so damn good! You can’t beat that reaction after every song. It’s like a roar even if only 30 people are in the room. And the feedback asfterwards with everyone bubbling and saying how great it was. It’s like a flood of love! And it’s a boost being around this band. We have such a laugh.
Thanks a lot and have a great year touring the new album. It’s a great record!