Interview with Tony Dewhurst

Interview with Tony Dewhurst

Tony Dewhurst, features writer, Lancashire Telegraph.

Beki, I remember seeing Vice Squad play a superb gig at a tiny club in Preston called the Warehouse, next to the parish church.
You performed behind a type of fence to protect you from the crowd and I really admired your courage.
How daunting was it as a young woman to face punk and skinhead audiences that could sometimes be quite intimidating.

It’s very kind of you to say it was ‘ Superb ‘, it was certainly noisy and chaotic ! I remember that gig, the audience pulled the metal fence down!!! The only thing I found intimidating back then was the gobbing, which was revolting. No singer or musician has truly paid their dues till they’ve been covered in other people’s mucous, and it would be edifying to see some of the more brattish pop stars getting a face full !!! It really was nasty, I’d catch all sorts of infections from it, especially when we had to sleep in the PA truck so we couldn’t wash properly.

I guess I was quite lucky as at least I didn’t catch Hepatitis from it like Joe Strummer. The irony of it is that spitting on someone is an insult and Punks spat on their own bands, thankfully they don’t do it any more.

Reading interviews with you in the past, I know that you admired Joe Strummer. It was a great loss when he died. How influential were the Clash to you and Vice Squad?

I’m not sure how influential the Clash were on early Vice Squad because we were pretty inept as players compared to the Clash, who were all in their twenties whereas we were naive teenagers still living with our parents. I’m sure we would have tried to copy them a bit but it was our inability to play and sing properly that created our unique (and sometimes quite horrible!) sound. It really was a great loss when Joe died, he was a good person and they are increasingly hard to find these days.

 Charlie Harper, from the UK Subs, celebrates his 70th birthday this year. That’s a remarkable anniversary for a man who has given his adult life to punk music.
I saw him play with the Subs last year and the energy and message is still there. I’m sure it is the same with Vice Squad.
I think that is something to celebrate and be proud of don’t you?

Of course it’s something to celebrate, and if Charlie were a black blues singer no-one would even comment on his age. Born a Rocker die a Rocker!!!

Beki, do you remember the first concert you played with Vice Squad.
Your classic songs Spitfire and Living on Dreams still sound very fresh.

Yes I remember our first gig, it was at Bristol University and I didn’t know that we were playing until I got there to see the other bands and saw a little home made poster stuck to the glass at the entrance. I was very, very nervous, we’d had 2 or 3 rehearsals in our bassist’s mum’s garage so we weren’t really ready. I got quite pissed on about 2 halves of lager and black and was the big hero at school the next day. Plus all the ‘Old’ Punk guys in their twenties stopped ignoring me.

Punk had such a huge influence on music, fashion and an attitude that remains until this day. Although I’m 52 now, the movement coloured my life and still does – the friends I made and the music I still listen to. It did change a lot of things for a lot of people didn’t it?

Punk changed things for many people, it gave us a voice and a sense of belonging but also it enabled us to be individual and question conformity and society in general. It’s now a world wide movement and it’s cultural impact is huge. Punk’s influence can be seen everywhere, in music, fashion and art. In the 80s I made my own clothes or bought them from the few boutiques selling punk clothing. Now you can buy Punk-influenced clothing from dedicated online shops and every chain store sells Punk- influenced clothing.

We used to get threatened and beaten up for our hair and how we dressed, now you see gelled, spiky hair everywhere and designer ripped jeans. Punk bands were often banned from playing at all, now you sometimes see a sanitized version of punk in the charts. This has caused a new generation to listen to the original bands and enabled these bands to keep playing and releasing albums. Every day kids all over the world pick up guitars because of Punk, and most importantly they question the world around them rather than being apathetic.

I hope you don’t mind asking this Beki, but did you find it awkward as a feminist when you and Siouxsie Su from the Banshees were the pin ups of punk.

In a word, no! Everybody in music tends to be seen as a sex symbol by some of the fans of their music, it’s actually the music that arouses people. I can honestly say that no man, except for my Dad when I was a kid, has ever kept me, I’ve always looked after myself and paid my own bills. In fact it’s me who pays all the band’s bills.

You’re sharing the bill with Burnley’s Not Sensibles from Burnley. Do you remember them at all Beki?  They had a song called I’m in Love with Margaret Thatcher (Which they weren’t I’m sure) What are you memories of Thatcher’s Britain Beki?

Yes I remember the song, recently some pro-Thatcherites used it as their anthem after she died, obviously they didn’t realise that it was a piss take!!! Thatcher started the ball rolling as far as making selfishness and greed socially acceptable, but she couldn’t have done it without the selfish and greedy element of the public colluding with her, so though I have no admiration for her I sometimes think the hatred directed at her is misogynistic. I think someone like Iain Duncan Smith is worse, he has no understanding of the real world and no compassion and appears to have so little intelligence he can’t see his own glaring hypocrisy.

Though I loathed Thatcher’s policies and ideology (she was a pro-vivisectionist) I wouldn’t say she was thick.
Today’s Britain is arguably worse than Thatcher’s because we have some sections of the media encouraging uneducated, low paid workers to look down on the unemployed and blame them for the state of the country rather than blaming the bankers and tax evading corporations. This is because it’s easier to argue with an impoverished person from a sink estate than it is to argue with a highly privileged, public school educated financier. Yesterday I watched part of a TV programme about Welfare Benefits in 1949 where they bullied a few modern day claimants.

When are they going to make a programme about Tax Dodging in 1949, or a programme about parasitical landlords making a fortune from housing benefit whilst letting out sub standard shit holes to the poor? Even Old School Tories like Winston Churchill disliked landlords because most of them make no contribution to society, they just exploit the human need for shelter.
Britain is rotting from the inside today because of the huge divide between rich and poor. We are losing out on so much potential talent because of this divide.

 I remember you financed your first single on Riot City Records. How hard is it to make a living out of playing in a punk band in 2014.

We had to borrow the money to finance our first single but it was no great hardship as we all lived with our parents. Once I left home and moved to London it became a lot harder to survive, and it gets harder to earn a living from music every day. I think it’s fair to say that the economics of keeping a band together are a nightmare, which is why most musicians give up or have to compromise and get a normal job to finance their music careers. I haven’t done that yet, but sometimes wish that I had!

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