Benefit Cheats is a really good band which plays some sort of older punk with influences from newer bands . Here´s a long interview with the group and you can see that the whole group have been answering this in the different colour schemes. February 2015.
Please tell me a little bit history of the group?
-The Benefit Cheats got together in 2012 after the singer in Jimmy Lean. OJ and Pasty’s previous band LARP, left because he moved too far away to carry on with the band. Pete was in a relationship with OJ and she said he could sing a bit and liked the stuff so we had him in for a rehearsal and he fitted right in, so we went from there. We had two songs that in truth were written for the next LARP thing but we put them down in the studio with The Cheats pretty quickly, so that we could establish that this was a new thing and get it out publicly. Those demos were our only recorded work for about two years while we got up to speed and grew ourselves as a band. We think ITCH, the first album is a fair indication of that process and you can hear the difference between the early tunes which Jimmy Lean wrote almost exclusively to the ones that Pete, OJ and Jimmy brought in to rehearsal and we worked out as a band.
Please tell me a little about every member in the group right now, age, family, work, interests and something bad about everyone? Have you been in any other punkbands before?
-Jimmy Lean Cheat plays guitar, he’s anywhere between mid 70’s to dead or 12 years old on any given day depending how he’s feeling. He’s from a Scottish family but was brought up in North West England, he has a partner who’s an artist in London who he lives with and they have an adult daughter. He’s interested in why he isn’t the most important person in the world much of the time or at least why he’s the only one who realises it while everyone else fails to understand his true significance and if you think that sounds arrogant you should meet him! He works for a charity that provides services for children, young people and families whose lives are affected by poverty. It’s hard to say something bad about him, because it’s quite a long list but aside from the arrogance we’ve already looked at he refuses to take advice such as ‘bring a spare guitar to the gig’ then he breaks a string and holds the gig up for 5 minutes. He’s also a bad tempered bastard who sulks. LARP as mentioned above.
OJ is the drummer, 37 and the youngest and prettiest member of TBC. She is married to Punky Pete and describes him as "her singer". She is a rock chick at heart and began annoying the neighbours by teaching herself the drums at the age of 11 and playing along loudly to Nirvana. OJ is proud of being a female drummer as there are few on the scene, however gets pretty angry when men say "you're not bad...for a girl", which happens at most gigs. She has played in few bands but nothing as punky as TBC, however she is well suited to this style as she has more energy than most and was often being told to play slower...she just can't! By day she is training to be a children’s social worker and hopes to save the world one day.
Punky Pete is 50 going on 18, proper punk rocker! He was born in a northern town in Lancashire, oddly the same one a Jimmy. He lived in Switzerland from the age of nine and speaks fluent Swiss-German. At 16 he was in punk band called Sploge as the singer who recorded their own homemade records from 1980-83. They had a near miss at a potential record deal and success, had they just turned up at the studio. Punky Pete fronted several other bands including Agrippa and hung out with Stephan Eicher who went on to be a well-known artist. He does his own solo thing too on acoustic guitar and sometimes sings the blues. He thinks he is the reincarnation of Joe Strummer and knows the entire back catalogue of The Clash’s music.
Pasty completes the BC Northern Triumvirate as he is an exiled son of Oldham, Lancs, currently holed up somewhere in Middle Earth. He has bassed, drummed and strummed his way through at least 10 bands over the years (although his bewildered memory may be playing tricks) and has had dalliances with a variety of musical genres including punk, goth, prog and even metal. Not j**z though. He didn’t leave school until the age of 27, although that appears to have done him little harm as he now works for the NHS in between gigs and rehearsals. Pasty’s worst attribute is his unswerving indolence in the songwriting department, as despite his English Lit O’Level, lyric writing is the cause of much testy wrath.
I can hear much Clash, Rancid and other early punkbands? Am I right?
Favorites from the past?
-Clash comparisons happen a lot and I guess Pete is a massive Clash fan but also listens to a wide range of music…anything goes. Pasty loves The Damned, Jimmy just checked his most played on his music system to see who he listens to most and it turns out it’s Bob Mould, old Northern Soul compilations and a Welsh band called Future of the Left. OJ has roots in grunge but also loves anything that makes her dance.
Benefit Cheats are you satisfied with the name? How did it came up? Why the circle around the A? Which is the best bandname you know
-The Benefit Cheats is kind of a way of saying we identify with the poor and disenfranchised in the UK right now and want to fight structural disadvantage. Basically we have a government and establishment in this country which watched a bunch of bankers bring the world economy to it’s knees through greed and then used our money to bail them out. You’d think that was bad enough but they then, with the compliance of a tame media, who have their own vested interest in maintaining the status quo, conspired to blame poor people for the situation and impose unnecessary austerity on them. The symbol of this for the established tame press and the uncritical and ignorant consumers of it became The Benefit Cheats, people who allegedly were causing the problem by defrauding the welfare system. We knew this was bullshit and so placed ourselves firmly on their side, taking on the name of the establishment’s scapegoat. It’s designed to offend and annoy and it has that effect on exactly the right people.
The circle is an anarchy symbol, we believe it is a real alternative solution, self government pretty much already exists for the well off in our western neo liberal orthodoxies, so why not for the rest of us? Even in the trying circumstances of power grabs, piracy and religious insurgency in Somalia, having no official government since 1991 has actually improved living standards.
The best band name OJ knows is……you’ll be lucky if she can remember the name but she can sing you all the tunes.
The Wobbly Rockers
What´s the best thing with playing live?
-A good audience, they give you energy and because we’re a pretty energetic band on stage anyhow the audience multiply this. Don’t get us wrong, we can generate this on our own pretty effectively if we have to, but when it’s coming back the other way, the whole band’s locked in and Punky Pete’s gone walkabout in to the audience with the mic, there’s only a few feelings in life much better.
OJ loves watching her band mates jumping and shoulder barging each other and Punky Pete rolling around on the floor. Love it when a gig turns out amazing when you’re thinking it will be bad because the sound engineer is a miserable twat.
Punky Pete loves to let out the punk and get away with it in public!
And where is best to play? And the worst place?
-Any place there’s a crowd. Any place there isn’t and Burnley.
Darwen Live music festival in Lancashire, UK
Loco, South West London…worst place, Nambucca, Holloway Road North London
Best: The Brighton Bar, Long Branch, NJ. Circa 1992. Worst: anywhere in the presence of bearded hipsters
How is to play this sort of music in England right now?
-Not massively astute commercially, if you want to make a buck, best to be 1 Direction. Obviously if you want to maintain a shred of personal dignity best not be. Mainstream music has largely become a dumb talent show production line of non entities with a hit rate of about 1 in 6 succeeding and the rest wind up at Butlins (holiday camp) doing theme weekends. This has made local scenes more important again and finding your way into groups of people who are like minded and want to put on good live shows has been our best experience of gigging. The other side element which happens a lot is promoters who cram evenings with 5 or 6 bands in the hope of generating enough following from each band to make up a gig audience and this is really hit and miss.
How would you describe your music in three words?
-Classic Punk Rock
Fast and furious
Punk fucking rock
None more black
What does punk mean to you, is it only a word or is it a lifestyle?
-Punk is a refusal to be governed and boxed by the circumstances of the society you live in. To be a punk is to take a different road, to question, to self determine, to tackle injustice where you see it and to believe in and trust in yourself and those around you to try and make things better for everyone. And sometimes that means breaking a few eggs and being a bit of a pirate. ‘No reason to play fair’.
The best music, entertainment, fashion and attitude that has revolutionised and shocked!
Be you, be yourself, be free!
Never lived the lifestyle, only ever interested in the music
How do you see on downloading, mp3 and that stuff?
-It makes it hard to make any money from recorded music if you’re a small band. Now on the one hand that’s frustrating because we spent years learning how to play, learning to write songs, getting better at it and good at playing live. We also invest money, time and effort in making a record, paying for studio time, duplication etc. If you were to ask a plumber who has similarly invested time and effort in getting well qualified to work for nothing, or even pay in order to work how do you suppose that would be viewed? So this is a frustration.
But one of the other effects is that because recorded music royalties dried up, everyone is back out on the road. So when massive bands come back out to play live in smaller venues this pushes everyone else a little bit further back down the food chain which has seen a bit of a revival in local gig scenes. But by far the best thing about digital platforms is the ability to get your stuff out there directly and connect directly with people who like your music and are prepared to contribute towards making it.
Is there any good bands from England now? Is the punkscene big? How is it in your hometown?
-Slaves are awesome, Sleaford Mods are getting a lot of attention, Future of the Left (Welsh), Fashoda Crisis, King Kool, The Amazing Snakeheads (Scottish), Girl Band (Irish). The punk scene isn’t necessarily big but there is a lot of alternative music being played in small scenes up and down the country. In our hometown we’re currently number 24 on the reverb nation local punk chart having previously been number 1 around the time the album came out in September 2014. There’s over 40 bands on that chart and this is just a small town near SW London so there’s a lot of stuff out there.
There seems to be more punk gigs up north and more of a scene up there and music is less diluted…people appreciate it and will come and see you play, whereas London is too busy and too expensive and full of hipsters.
What do you know about Sweden?
-Beer’s expensive, it produced creative pornography in the 70’s, it appeared to collaborate in an establishment smear campaign against Julian Assange when the powers that be were a bit pissed off with him. You know the standard sex charge that turns up whenever someone needs controlling, getting rid of or keeping quiet see also Strauss Khan, Robert Del Naja, ABBA obviously, Volvo obviously, IKEA obviously, The Hives obviously, Peter Bjorn and John, The Hellacopters, don’t really know much more there. Lisbeth Salander is Jimmy Lean’s favourite all time fictional female character (me too..she rocks)
People tend to get Sweden confused with Switzerland.
TV drama’s are raw and interesting compared with the UK
Only country where the clouds are interesting
Have you heard any good bands from Sweden?
-Seen the Hives live more times than is necessary, actually like ABBA
Your lyrics, who does them and what influences you?
-7 of the tracks on the album are Jimmy Lean he’s influenced by social issues and stuff he perceives as unfair or controlling, far right opportunistic politics of hate, young men performing masculinity for the sake of conformity and acceptance, deep issues tackled in a very tongue in cheek way.
OJ wrote Dumb Bums which was influenced by the riots in London in 2013 following the death of a 29 year old black man who was killed by the Police.
Punky Pete wrote Stash and Horrible…both songs draw on personal experiences, adversity and struggles in life.
Is there any subject that you never will write anything about?
-We wouldn’t self censor but there’s enough anodyne crap about cars, girls and how much money / stuff you have in the world without adding to it.
Politic and music, does it goes hand in hand?
-Name me a politician that’s ever made a decent tune?
It’s a good way to vent about what is going on in the political arena…music is good but politics is a load of shit…it’s something to have a go at.
Best political band/artist?
-Dylan, The Clash, Dead Kennedys/Jello.
The Sex Pistols
Do you think that music(lyrics and so on) can change anyones life, I mean people who listens to music?
-Yes, because it changed our perceptions when we were young and still does.
The music you listen to in your teenage years stays with you in your heart for life because it really meant something to you at the time and had relevance. …you never grow out of it.
I recognize the cover in some way, why??
-It’s an homage to Saul Bass’ opening titles to the Seven Year Itch movie. A grab of the opening title sequence re coloured to fit our colour scheme.
Is it important to get out physical records of your stuff? Why or why not?
-It’s important for gigs and for those people who like to have something physical as a memento. But the format is not so important to us the interaction between the listener and the music and getting a reaction of any description is important to us.
Please tell me a funny thing which have happened during your career and under some gig?
-Punky Pete knocked a tooth out on his microphone during a gig got it back by the end of the gig..
How does your audience look like? Which people do you miss on your concerts?
-They look mainly like middle aged punks with the odd younger one thrown in. That’s down the front the rest of them usually look like they’ve just come from work because they usually have. We get the odd dog as well.
Please rank your five favourite records, five favourite concerts and five most important things in life?
It’s Alive – Ramones
London Calling - Clash
How To Stop Your Brain In An Accident – Future of the Left
Bruce Springsteen – Manchester Apollo 1981
Joey Ramone Birthday Bash – NYC 2005
The Specials – Brixton Academy – May 2009
Most important things
La Cabronita Telecaster
Nevermind – Nirvana
Every album – Michael Jackson
A Night at the opera – Queen
The Real Thing - Faith No More
Billy Idol at Brixton Academy
The prodigy at the Isle of Wight Festival
Nirvana at Reading Rock Festival
The Levellers at Glastonbury Festival
My job (I know…weird)
The Clash - The Clash
First album - Nina Hagen Band
Brave and Stupid - The Bucks
Breaking Glass - Hazel O’Connor
Rocket to Russia - The Ramones
The Sex Pistols at Brixton Academy
Billy Idol at Brixton Academy
P.I.L at Brixton Academy
Iggy Popo at Hammersmith Apollo
The Stone Roses in Manchester
Stiff Little Fingers – Inflammable Material
Ramones – Ramones
X-ray Spex – Germfree Adolescents
The Damned – Machine Gun Etiquette
Sex Pistols – Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols
The Wonder Stuff – Manchester Boardwalk, 13th May 1988
The Ramones – Manchester International, 4th October 1989
Nirvana – Bradford University Communal Building, 26th November 1991
Stiff Little Fingers – Brixton Academy, 17th March 1991
The Damned – Leeds Rios, 11th December 2007
The Rickenbacker Guitar Company, Santa Ana, CA.
Le Champignon Sauvage, 24-28 Suffolk Road, Cheltenham
SINT SIXTUSABDIJ, Donkerstraat 12, B - 8640 Westvleteren
Has Bean Coffee Ltd, Ladfordfields Industrial Estate, Seighford , Stafford
Anolon Cookware Ltd, Riverview Road, Bromborough
Is it boring with interviews? IS it much interviews??
-No love them. We don’t have enough interviews.
If you could choose five bands from the past and the history and nowadays and both dead and living bands to have a concert together with your band. Which five have you been chosed?
Iggy and the Stooges
The Sex Pistols
A supergroup comprised of:
Poly Styrene – vocals
Lemmy – bass & vocals
Johnny Ramone –guitar
Ralf Hutter – moog
Me – Drums
Is punk a good way to get out frustration and become a nice person outside the punkmusic??
-Nope, if you aren’t a nice person in the first place punk won’t make you one, Jimmy’s living proof of this.
People always ask OJ if playing the drums helps to get out anger or frustration…the answer is no…I just fucking love playing and get a massive high from it..there’s no anger there, just pure enjoyment.
Punk music is where Punky Pete is truly comfortable and can be himself on stage, whereas he struggles with normal life.
Which is the most odd question you ever have got in an interview?
-Do you think it’s bad that young people are mixing alchopops with cough medicine?
Which is the question you want to have but you never get. Please ask it and answer it?
-What advice would you give to other punk singers who want to be as good as you?
It will never happen..ha ha
Futureplans for the band?
-Release two more albums and a live album, break up due to musical differences, slag off each others solo output, get back together for a lucrative anniversary tour and smile on stage while secretly hating each other travelling in separate buses and coping with each others chemical dependencies.
Play lots more gigs and stick with the punk roots, do a tour around Europe..agreed
-Some peace, freedom, love and company.
Write my book, sell some art, stay free!
Keep rockin, finish my social work training, write more songs
Ah ha ha ha stayin’ alive
-Love Love is a verb, love is a doing word.
Be a thinker, not a stinker
That’s what rehearsals are for
Have a good time, all the time, that’s my philosophy
Something to add?