Way Out Radio spoke to Daddy Wonk, front man of Wonk Unit in the middle of the bands autumn tour with Pizza Tramp! We talked about everything from hating politicians, to the biggest freak in Wonk Unit, the DIY punk scene, his bond with Slaves and found out about his new t-shirt ideas…
Paula: Hey Alex how’s it going?
Alex: I’m a broken man today! But I’ve woken up now. We’re just on tour and we drove through the night last night. We’re now 2/3rds through our Mr Splashy tour. Mr Splashy is Wonk Unit’s new album released on September 2rd on my new record label Plasterer Records and TNS Records which is a Manchester based label that we worked with before. We’ve been touring the record since 10thSeptember where first of all we went out 2 maybe 3 weeks in Germany, then had a while off and went back on tour round the UK and we’re doing something stupid like about 25 UK dates. We finish the tour on December 17thbut we’re going everywhere, the tours been amazing, all the UK dates so far have been mega busy. They’ve all gone to capacity or sold out in advance it’s been amazing.
Paula: Nice one, you deserve it. So I saw you at Rebellion on the open air stage, it was rammed! Is that the mainstage now? I think Rebellion are moving out of the Ballroom for the bigger bands.
Alex: Yeah I think the Ballroom is bigger but outside is a 2500 capacity venue and we had about 2000 it was amazing! That gig blew me away it was so good to see so many people. I’m not into that much music in general, I like making music but I’m not much of a music listener. But there were some legendary American bands playing that I’d always wanted to see like Flag, it blew me away that we had a crowd twice as big as loads of my heroes. It was crazy.
Paula: That’s cool though because there is a whole other younger generation going to Rebellion, there’s 40 years of Punk now so lots of people in their 20’s have seen you develop as a band and haven’t seen the older bands develop, it’s another wave which is cool.
Alex: The UK punk scene has changed so massively in the last 5 years. It’s like UK DIY, the underground, in the past we were kept out of the bigger events. So we just got on with it ourselves and started doing our own festivals. So what’s happened now, the new skool are taking over. It’s amazing and the other festivals have realised we are the future of punk and for now the scene has really been brought together. UK punk rock right now is the best it’s ever been. You’ve got the old bands and the new bands sharing the same bills.
Paula: Is it true you had Ronan Keating’s Keyboard player onstage at Rebellion?
Alex: Yeah! Simon is Ronan Keating’s keyboard player! I play some Punk Rock BBQ’s in London on the last Sunday of the month just to see what’s out there and play some mellow old skool gigs. I do the door and as he was leaving he said “Are you Alex from Wonk Unit?” I said; “Yeah I am!” and he said; “I’ve just moved to England from Dubai and you’re the first punk band I’ve seen and you blew me away.” I said; “Oh right, you got no mates then? Because you can come and do merch for Wonk and I’ll introduce you to our mates, we’re a friendly bunch.” So he came out on the next weekend and it turned out he was a keyboard play and not only that but he had ONCE played keyboard for Ronan Keating! So I tell everyone he’s Ronan’s full on keyboard player but he only played once and he had to mime! He had to rehearse for a panel of judges to be the keyboard player and it turned out he was just miming anyway! When it came to the gig he just had to twiddle his fingers!
Paula: Talk us through the band members, who’s grumpy – who’s organised – what are you like on a night out?
Alex: I am known as Daddy Wonk because I am the band dad to th
e bunch of freak that is Wonk Unit. My boys, we’ve got Tommy, Pwasion and Benny, they’re my core full time members. They’re beautiful, beautiful guys who are like lambs wandering around the world getting into trouble, they are such a pain in the arse. I have to mother them and keep them out of trouble it’s very tiring. Benny’s 21 he’s from Mansfield, super super sick guitar shredder, beautiful kid. Benny nowadays causes me less problems than Pwasion who is my age and Tommy who’s 30. So the young boy is showing them how to behave responsibly these days.
Paula: Younger people are more malleable, they learn from their mistakes – older people are set in their ways and harder to change.
Alex: Yeah, it’s a fine balance but what makes Wonk Unit exciting is we’re always teetering on the verge of chaos. We’re very loving people, but make no mistake, we are fuck ups.
“The band is balanced on a very precarious line and I have to keep it balanced but its funny.”
Paula: Back in June you had a music video shoot for ‘Told You So’ how did it go?
Alex: It was funny, I wanted to do a ‘This Is England’ old skool disco. It was in a social club in Bromley and we just had a mixed audience of about 40 people and I cracked the whip and made everyone copy my choreographed dance moves. Mark Richards did that video and he’s so good at editing. Mark created the magic. We shot the video from lunch time till 5pm but I heard that after we wrapped it up quite a few people stayed in the social club till 2am drinking and partying. It was a fun day!
Paula: So you had Maid of Ace cameo in your video and you were in a Maid of Ace video?
Alex: Yeah they’re in ours and I vaguely remember being in theirs, I smile at a newspaper in ‘Death Proof’ I love the Maid of Ace guys they’re good people, the Hastings family, there’s a good scene there. The old town is like San Francisco England! I’ve been gigging in Hastings for 20 years, my old band The Flying Medallions, we were gigging down there for the old back yard BMX jams in the 90’s and all the years we used to just gig at The Crypt and I never knew that the old town existed. I thought Hasting consisted of the train station, the one way street down to The Crypt and that was it. Turns out Hastings in the most beautiful Seaside town…. in the world! The old town blew me away so thumbs up for Hastings!
Paula: Were you in the Slaves music video ‘Cheer Up London’? Because I saw a picture of you with Barry dressed as an Ice Cream man!
Alex: Yeah we went down to the video, I ended up leaving early but I was sat on top of a double decker bus but I got a bit bored so I left. I think you can see Benny and possibly Pwasion in the parade shots at the end.
Paula: Awesome I’ll look out for that. So you’ve done a limited edition split release record with Slaves which has Wonk Unit – ‘We Are The England’ on one side and Slaves ‘Take Control’ on the other side.
Alex: It’s quite funny that’s on Virgin records, a split release with Slaves and generally when you work with DIY punk labels you don’t get paid but they give you 20% of product. The label press your stock and give you 20% of the product that’s how it works. Virgin records originally said; “This record will be sold at £9 so we will sell the record to you at 20% less than retail” and I said; “No that’s not how it works!” So Slaves lovely manager Matt sorted it out, I wrote to them and we got 10% of the stock because it was a split. So I have 1000 records and we’re allocating about 4 per gig.
Paula: I’m coming down to the High Wycombe gig so I’d like to get my hands on one of them.
Alex: I’ll hold one for you!
Paula: Nice one! So has fame changed Laurie (guitarist from Slaves)
Alex: No, no, Laurie has always been very grounded from the word go. He’s the one who has always steered Slaves ship. I’ve always been impressed with Laurie, he’s was only 18-19 when I met him but he’s always been very strong. He’s never been afraid to speak his mind and he’s a man of his word and a man beyond his years. I love him very much, fame hasn’t changed him at all he’s straight up, legit. Obviously they’re so massive now, they get mobbed and the pressure of that is crazy and Isaac is a very shy boy and he struggles to deal with it. They’re famous! Isaac is a crazy beautiful man he’s so shy and sweet so he’s always been the quiet one in the corner anyway. They haven’t changed at all except now they’re selling out thousand capacity venues every night of the week. It’s amazing and its brilliant.
Paula: Yeah they’re incredible and they deserve it! So… any new t-shirt’s coming out?
Alex: Yes I have actually! I’ve done one recently – Wonk Unit are not a shouty political band but we tackle politics in our way. We’ve never gone down the line of typical punk rock blah blah politics. But I’ve got a t-shirt out because I’ve never hated the current crop of politicians quite so much. I’ve never hated anyone more in my entire life! I’ve got a t-shirt that had Boris Johnson on it and he’s inside a target and it just says ‘Damage Control’ on it! I was thinking about having Therisa May hanging from a tree…
Paula: Yeah I’d buy that! I’d wear that!
Alex: No, it is quite hateful and that’s not what we’re about. I am a live wire and I do shoot my mouth off but I really should try and practice what I preach, which is love. But Boris in the crosshairs is coming!
Paula: Great well I have to have you on the show when you’re less busy!
Alex: Yeah man I’ll have to come and do an acoustic show for you! Nice one Paula it was really good chatting to you. Don’t forget we have Wonk Fest on July 1stso get yourself down to that!
Wonk Unit’s album Mr Splashy is out now.