By David Stroud
On March 19th, (1996) The Sultans played at The Joiners in Southampton, UK. Being a journalist, Mark roped me in to interview them for his web page.
Alex came with me for moral support and wore Niall's top that he had nicked from last year's gig.
We went down into the small basement room where the band were relaxing before the gig and Niall ushered the rest of the band out so he could concentrate on the interview.
Before I got to ask any questions, Alex told Niall that he had to show him something. `Bang goes this interview then!' I thought, as Alex unzipped his top to reveal Niall's 200 quid jumper.
Niall was not impressed, and managed to get it back off Alex despite his attempts to keep hold of it. Apparently the loss of Niall's top had caused a huge argument in the band... not a regular occurrence apparently.
Eventually, I managed to get the interview going...
Q: How's the tour been going so far?
A: It's starting to get better - it started out a bit rough, it wasn't great at the start, but yeah, it's getting together now.
We're starting to get reasonable crowds. Not big crowds, but we're ticking over. We're getting a few good reviews.
Q: How many have you got left?
A: Um, 3 this week... [turns to Alex, still sobbing about the loss of his top] ...You're upset aren't you, about that. [short argument about the posession of said top follows]
Q: How does this tour compare with your last?
A: We haven't done a proper tour in England for about a year and a half, so the last tour we were doing much bigger venues, and, y'know, we played in the Forum last time we were on tour,
so this one's a bit of a `back to basics' one, starting over again. But we're trying to build up an audience. We'll work hard to do it.
Q: Are you doing a foreign tour soon?
A: Well, we'll do a few gigs in France, but we wanna concentrate on England for the next 4 or 5 months. Just try and get our name back really.
Q: And perhaps after that you'll do a foreign tour?
A: Oh, we'll do a european tour, yeah. We tour non-stop when we've got a record out.
Q: Will you go back to Japan at all?
A: I hope so. We're having a bit of record company trouble there at the moment, but in the next two weeks that should be sorted out.
Q: The new album - are you going to release one?
A: [pauses] Er, yeah. Definitely.
Q: Why has it been so long?
A: The single was out two weeks ago! It's been so long 'cos we haven't been writing songs very quickly. But funnily enough, the minute we finish this album - it's not completely finished -
we're already working on a fourth album, so it'll be out in about six weeks. It'll be very hard for people though. People that like the other albums may not like this one as much.
Q: How would you compare it to your previous albums then?
A: This one is very very hard. They're different kinds of songs
- they're punk rock.
Q: Is there a main theme behind the album?
A: I think the main theme is a very seedy lifestyle. Kind of, I mean, living in a big city of course, and all the disgusting, vile things that go on in a big city, and go on
in our bedrooms. [laughs, followed by a slightly awkward pause]
Q: What DOES go on in your bedrooms?
A: You wouldn't like to know, you wouldn't like to know...
Q: So is this gonna be your favourite album?
A: It isn't my favourite. I dunno, it's not totally finished yet, erm, it'll be my favourite if it makes me a lot of money. But it won't, it won't.
I think it's, for now, I think we're the only band that's really playing kick-ass punk rock music, and whatever about Compulsion and Smash, basically, I think they're pussies. [pauses]
I don't think I know they're pussies. They're a sham and they're a joke because, if they're not successful at what they do now, they'll become a different kind of band next year.
I think Sultans have always been, believed in being, a ferocious live band, and um, and I think that's why we might survive. We might not though. We might go down.
Q: You said about your new album being harder than the rest - would you think that's the same about your new single?
A: Definitely, yeah. I don't think it was the best single to release, but erm, it's got a few nice reviews.
Q: Why did you call it 'Mescaline' ?
A: 'Cos I like mescaline, basically. I've been taking a lot of drugs in the last year or so. Even though I've been mostly taking LSD, I thought that mescaline had a little bit more
of an edge to it. But I think it was a word that most people aren't so familiar with, and they wanna know `what is mescaline?' `how can i get it?' And I think that the word, and the drug,
sums up exactly what we're about at the moment.
Q: What about your new guitarist, Sammy Steigers?
A: [mutters] Sammy Steigers, he's a little shit. [laughs]
Q: He's been with you for a while now hasn't he?
A: He has, yeah. He's fitting in well, he's a good player. Well, he's not, he's a messy player. But he's very bad-tempered, and very spoilt, so that kind of works. He's got an
attitude, whereas the others are a bit more bored.
Q: I was going to say, Pat always stands there on stage and never does anything...
A: Well, he couldn't give a fuck really. [laughs] But Sammy's more vigorous. I think the reason why Pat stays still is that he likes to play well. He likes to hold it up a bit, whereas
Sammy doesn't care if he plays well or not.
Q: Is that why you chose him then?
A: He was in a band that I really liked, the Golden Horde. Not really a famous band, but I liked his attitude. And we were just lucky really, to get him.
Q: Your personal own stage act - do you practice that at all?
A: Not really, no. Not at all. I practice it in that we've been doing a hell of a lot of practice kind of gigs. [mutters] Practice! Trying to get some money actually. [laughs]
Q: It must be one of the most bizarre and best acts I've ever seen on stage...
A: Well, I think people pay money to see your show, and if you're gonna go and you're gonna play the songs that they have on record already, and play them worse - they're gonna sound worse - then you're
ripping people off. I think you've gotta really give a show. One hundred per cent. And if this band doesn't give a hundred per cent, after the show there's war. All the time. Last week we
played Newcastle - they didn't get such a good crowd so they went to sleep - and there was just war afterwards. Because, people pay money, and they deserve it. [pauses] No, they
don't deserve it, but they pay money.
Q: You dropped the `F.C.' on the second album... have you dropped the `Ping' now?
A: Yeah, we've dropped it all.
Q: What was the whole meaning of `The Sultans of Ping F.C.' ?
A: It's hard to know really. I mean, it wasn't really my name in the first place. I didn't really think of it in the first place, so I never really knew what it meant.
Q: It's certainly a bizarre name!
A: It is, yeah. I think `Sultans' just sounds more like a garage band, and we're happier with it. And it's got a kind of Arabian...
Q: [Alex interrupts, obviously unable to contain his curiosity!] `Give Him a Ball and a Yard of Grass' - was that actually dedicated to Nigel Clough?
A: Yeah, it was. When he was in his hey-day and playing well.
Q: So you are Nottingham Forest supporters?
A: Yeah. No, I am.
Q: Is Mortie Sunderland?
A: No, Mortie supports Liverpool. Celtic. [look of disgust]
Q: Why do you like Japanese girls?
A: I think they're gorgeous. I like the way they are obsessed with dressing. [smiles]
Q: Where do you get your Rasa?
A: It's a cordial. It's like concentrated orange, except it's raspberry.
Q: But can you get it over here?
A: You can't, no. But you mix it with all sorts of alcohol - it kind of takes away the nastiness of it. Also, ravers drink it a lot in Cork, 'cos they dehydrate.
Q: Do you reckon you've changed a lot since you first started out then?
A: I think we have. I think we've changed a lot, because, I mean, when we came over we didn't really understand the music business. We had an idea - we thought it was fair, that it was gonna
be fair, and that, y'know, when someone interviewed you, they weren't gonna stitch you up. So when they were asking `are you wacky, wierd...' we were going `of course we are, whatever you want to hear...' We've
learned that it's much more of a business than that. Even though we haven't changed to suit that, but we do understand it's a much more cynical game. And REALLY, it's cynical, I mean, it is. Y'know, things
happen in the music industry that are disgusting, disgraceful. There's a lot of blowjobs that go on to send people into better places than they deserve to be.
Q: You seem to have a really big support, underground. Even people that aren't into the music still know The Sultans, but it's never taken off...
A: Well, it took off to an extent. I mean, there was a time when we were selling quite a few records. But you can't maintain it by just playing live. You want money behind a band, and
you also want people in the music papers to say `it's great, it's good...'
Q: That's what I've never understood... I went to one of your gigs, and the review I read said it was a pile of shit, but I thought it was great.
A: Yeah, I have to agree with you. The Ramones played in London - we supported them a couple of months ago - and there was a review in one of the papers saying `The Ramones know that they
make no difference whatsoever, and they know what they are doing is pointless...' and I was just thinking, `some kid is gonna read this and believe it!' It's disgraceful, 'cos without that
band, you never would have had punk rock. You never would have had The Sex Pistols, The Damned, or any of these bands. You never would have had Sonic Youth! And she can say that in two lines, just
like that. A little lie, and it's got so much weight. It's a disgrace. I think that it's a disgrace. I've been to a lot of gigs that I thought were great as well, and I read
about them and they say they're crap.
Q: Is it good playing with The Ramones?
A: [pauses] It was hard work. They've got a big cult following, but it was good fun. They're going on tour again believe it or not... we won't be with them, but just when you come
off stage, and one of you favourite bands comes and says, `hey, good show' - that's a good feeling.
Q: What do you reckon's so different about your band from everybody else that plays heavy music?
A: Erm, I don't think we're so far up our own arses as a lot of them. I mean bands, especially the metal bands, think that their music is EXTREMELY important... [someone runs into the
room holding a bag of chips] - chips anyone? - [realises Niall is in the middle of an interview and ducks out again, looking embarassed] ...But I think we are obsessed with what we do, but we're not
going to go into incredible depth about it. The music's gonna stand out for itself. I think we enjoy it.
Q: You seem to like being insulted on stage?
A: I don't mind it at all. I think it's... I always enjoyed bands that communicated with the audience. I always enjoy violence even... with the audience. Because I think that that's
what it's all about. It's about people being able to explode. And hopefully we can give people a chance to do that and do it ourselves. I've never enjoyed being laid-back, and I never enjoyed
laid-back audiences that much. I think that kind of rapport is very important. Enjoyable as well. And I think that kind of aggression, even if it's humourous, I think that's very much a
part of what we do.
Q: Is that the difference between the British crowd and the Japanese?
A: Japan aren't very aggressive, apart from the boys. It's different everywhere really. Irish crowds can be absolutely bananas, then you can go to Germany and they'll just stand looking
at you - they want to see the show. As they would.
Q: What's your favourite place to play in?
A: I don't really have one. I can't really er... one of my favourite gigs was to play in New York, last year. Just because it's New York, y'know. It's exciting.
Q: And what's your favourite song?
A: My favourite... I don't know. I think... I really like `Good Vibrations' by The Beach Boys. I think just for one brilliant song, I think that's a song that's really perfect.
Q: Right, anything else you'd like to add?
A: No, you've done a good job. Very good.
The Sultans. Interviewed by Dave (Turnip Fish) and Alex (Little skinhead boy). March 19th, 1996. Copyright.
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