Benny from England is a really good band and they manage to mix many good styles into one punkstyle. Here they talk about trains, the Swedish government and many other things.
ANDY: The idea of Benny started in 2001 when Richard and Andrew wanted to
continue playing music as well as writing it, but having had problems
finding band members to work with in the past - on account of our meticulous selection process - they decided to move onto new instruments. Richard moved from vocals to drums and Andrew from bass to guitar. Aston was brought in to sing and play bass, but after the first practice it was decided that we had two options - (a) to let Aston sing and not plug his bass in or (b) get a proper bass player in. We decided to give Alan his show-business break and he came in to play bass, add his vocals to the mix and generally act the giddy goat.
ASTON: At the end of 2001 I decided that I wanted to record a bunch of the old songs from bands I'd played in back in the late 80s, not to release, just for myself I guess... as I pondered who I could ask who wouldn't laugh
back in my face, seeing as it had been 11 years since I last played in a band I decided to ask Richard and Andrew as we all grew up together and are probably the only two people active in the scene still who saw my old bands
back then! - right about the same time they wanted to get a new band together. After they laughed in my face, we did have one practice with me on bass which made me realize within probably 10 minutes why I hadn't tried to attempt to play bass in over 12 years!! Richard and Andy suggested getting in contact with Alan and what started out as a bit of a mess around just for ourselves has developed into in some ways a "proper" band with records and gigs, although we are limited a bit in what we can do with all living in different parts of the country these days and all having dayjobs..
Please tell me a little about every member in the group, work, interests,
age, family and something bad about every one?
ANDY:Richard is the oldest member of the band and has an impressive
collection of books in the library/office of his sumptuous Warwickshire
mansion. In his spare time Richard flies planes and often travels to the
Mediterranean.Alan has his finger on the pulse of the British political scene and recently bought a new house in the London commuter belt.
Andrew spends his days in his office managing a 15th century Hall and Museum, and this season he has managed to make the no. 4 spot in the batting line-up of Friskney Cricket Club his own, with a batting average in the low 30s.Aston used to have a penchant for wearing white Hi-Tec baseball boots and recently moved away from the hectic London lifestyle to live in a barn in the countryside.
ASTON: Richard plays the drums in Benny and is the first of us to become a father in a few weeks time. As he is on paternity leave from the band, that's why he hasn't had time to answer any of these questions! Alan plays the bass and like Peter Frampton, "comes alive" on stage, and also has an impeccable taste in cars, driving a near identical Renault Megane to my own. Andrew plays guitar and apart from my Uncle John, is the only other fan of speedway I know. I sing in Benny and haven't missed watching a single qualifying session or race in Formula 1 for over 5 years now.
Alan - I am Alan Boyce (27): I play the bass and I am a professional
Previous and bands on the side of Benny?
ANDY: Andrew and Richard were previously in Vehicle Derek, who also released an album and single on BossTuneage. All of us have been in many other bands who've practiced or gigged but done very little else. Benny has its origins in one of these bands, called 'Medford' and formed in 1994 by Richard, Andrew and Alan.
ASTON: I was in a few bands back in the late 80s (SICKBUS and DIRTMASK the main two) and we played some shows but never recorded anything - in fact, "Rolf" (on "finnish Road junction") was originally a DIRTMASK song and SICKBUS songs we have done include "Shit Yer Pants", "Anti ski jacket song" and "Hey"...all have been modified/rewritten a bit though!
You´re on Boss Tuneage, is it good??
ANDY: Very nice, thank you.
ASTON: Yes, but I would say that as I run the Boss Tuneage label!
Aston, You work there too? How come?
ANDY: For Aston to answer - he's the one who owns it
ASTON: As I mentioned above, I actually run Boss Tuneage as well as sing in
BENNY - although I put out a lot of stuff, Boss Tuneage is just me, and I have a full time dayjob as well - I think a lot of people think the label is much bigger than it actually is just because I tend to put out so many
It´s a cooperation with a japan label, or how is it? Is it japanese bands on the label there or how is it?
ANDY: Again for Aston to answer - maybe mention Bacon, Rettuce and Tomato here??
ASTON: Boss Tuneage Japan is basically my friend Kazu who lives in Tokyo and on his own over there sells and promotes all the Boss Tuneage releases in Japan - all the Cds are made in the UK and then sent over to him! The only Japanese band at present on Boss Tuneage is BABY LITTLE TABLETS, for which Kazu actually plays guitar!!
How is it to play punkrock in England?
ANDY: Harder than it used to be in the 80s as we all have to fit into certain categories rather than just be 'punk'. I think our music sits a little uncomfortably in any/all of the categories people have tried to put it in. Its much easier to release records these days too, and get gigs all over the country, although you could argue that the quality versus quantity debate has tipped too far towards the side of quantity...
ASTON: The scene is probably bigger now in the last couple of years then it ever has been, but it is much more in subsections - gone are the days when you would see a grindcore band support a melodic pop-punk band on the same
bill, I think also people are a lot more apathetic when it comes to going to gigs, whereas in the old days everyone involved in a scene would go to a show to support it, even if they weren't into the bands playing, nowadays there are so many bands people tend to pick and choose so I guess its more a "Us and them" kind of mentality...
How would you describe your own music with three words?
ANDY: Rad, Shutters and Auto
ASTON: Punk rock cabaret!
ALAN: not very good.
Is there any good bands in England right now?
ANDY: Yes - but they all formed in the 1970s
ASTON: yes there's some great bands in the UK at present - apart from the other boss Tuneage UK bands (K line, Blocko, Annalise etc etc) I also like 86, Lovejunk, Killerest Expression, Leatherface and some more!!
What do you know about Sweden? What is typically swedish?
ASTON: I guess to most people in the UK, When we think of Sweden we think of Volvos, Abba, blonde hair, pornography, Dime Bars, lingonberries and Ikea!!!
For me personally when you mention Sweden, I think of Ronnie Peterson, one of the finest Formula 1 drivers of all time, and that the Swedish grand prix in 1978 was the one and only race where the legendary Brabham Fan Car was used in the race, beating the ground effect Lotus 79s with ease, before
promptly being banned before the next race!
ANDY: Well, I (Andrew) here nominate myself as the band's official Swedish expert, having worked on a collaborative project with the Swedish Railway Museum in Gavle. We visited the museum as part of the work on this, stopping in Gavle and Stockholm, and taking occasional visits to other towns too. I found it an amazing country and had a brilliant time over there, and recommend all my friends to visit whenever I can. You also have a good speedway set-up over there too, although I'm not sure if Tony Rickardsson will be World Champion again this year. What is typically Swedish? For me it had to be pickled fish! That and some magnificent and powerful steam locomotives...Incidentally, all the photos for the 'Finnish Road Junction' CD came from the visit I made to the Finnish Railway Museum while working on the same project.
ALAN - Sweden is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. The King, Carl Gustaf XVI, although Head of State, has no political power and performs only ceremonial functions. The executive power is vested in the Government. The Government (Regering) consists of the Prime Minister and about 20 Ministers. It is formed after parliamentary elections every four years. The cabinet is appointed by the Prime Minister. The current Prime Minister is Göran Persson of the Social Democratic Party. He is leading a minority government, with support from the Left Party and the Green Party. Typically Swedish things are snus, Ikea and hardcore pornography
Have you heard any good bands from Sweden ?
ASTON: Apart from Abba, who were one of the finest ever pop bands to grace this planet of ours, my favourite Swedish punk band was IDENTITY who released some stuff on Spanish label B CORE back in the late 80s / early 90s - great melodic stuff like 7 SECONDS...I don't know what ever happened to them??
ANDY: The only bands I heard over there were old blues bands, which the Director of the Railway Museum played us while we were there.
ALAN - Abba, Roxette, Ace of Base.
How is a good gig with Benny?
ANDY: A good gig for us is one that has lots of people there, everyone in a good mood and not taking the gig too seriously, and one where Alan is a responsible drinker before we go on stage.
ASTON: For me any gig for Benny is a good gig - they are few and far between and so its always good to play live!
Which is the most peculiar thing which have happened on a concert with you, on stage or in the audience?
ANDY:I think us on stage would be seen as peculiar by most people at the gigs, as we're not exactly a 'conventional' punk band. Seeing people dancing to the Hokey Cokey in London was quite good, as was opening a gig in Birmingham with 'Kumbayah'. Perhaps top of the list would be the gig where we were escorted onto the stage by two men in caps, vests and shorts, holding a silver potato aloft to guide us through the audience...
ASTON: When the people started dancing in London to "Hokey Cokey" I was so taken aback by it I forgot the (extremely easy!) words and so the Hokey cokey that night comprised of putting your left arm in and out, then the right leg, then the left arm again, finishing off with the whole self...
Alan - I involuntarily felt the genitals of the Jesus Lizard's singer after he stage dived on top of me
How does the average fan look like?
ANDY: I don't think we have any 'average' fans? We don't have too many fans, to be honest.
ASTON: To be honest, I am quite scared to think of what any average fan of Benny would look like! They'd probably smell of Vicks Vapor Rub though, I think...
ALAN - Trousers held up with string, one shoe, scabies
How much does a group like Benny sell?
ASTON: well the new album we have started off by pressing 750 copies...the fact that even one person buys our CD I find amazing!! We have now pressed 1000 in total of "Finnish"...so we are not going to grace any charts or anything, but that's not what its about for us!!
Do you have good contact with your fans? In which way?
ANDY: We're all fairly approachable people, but either we don't have any fans or none of them want to talk to us! We tend to find that the other bands understand what we're doing more than the people in the audience, mainly based on our soundcheck performances of obscure 70s cover versions.
ASTON: well there are a few people now who bought "finnish" who have now bought the new album as well - so I guess some people must like us!! In some ways I guess we have "friends who like the band" rather than "fans" I suppose...
In which way do you think that internet can help out punkbands?
ANDY: Erm, well it allows the band members to look at 'special interest' sites, and that can't be a bad thing. A few more bands should use the net to check out if their name has already been used by another band too!
ASTON: its definitely a great way for people to find out more about bands if they have their own website - we still haven't made a BENNY website yet, but one day...
Where do you stand when we´re talking about mp´3 s, bad or good? Are you
download things yourself?
ASTON: I think mp3s are a great way to hear new bands, but my PC at home is ancient so it takes forever to download so I never do it! Also I don't actually know how to make mp3s!!
ANDY: I think we all have downloaded music, and it makes sending music around to each other much easier. I doubt we make much of a dent in the downloaded music rankings!
Please rank your five favourite records, five favourite concerts and five
most important things in life?
ANDY: Five favourite records: Sex Mad/You Kill Me by Nomeansno, Out Of The Blue by ELO, Gordon by Barenaked Ladies, Sing To God Parts 1 and 2 by Cardiacs, Ben Fols Five by Ben Folds Five.
Five favourite concerts: Nomeansno at London Mean Fiddler (1990), Cardiacs at London Garage (1998), Cardiacs at London Astoria (2002), Nomeansno at Leicester University (1994), Ben Folds Five at Leicester University (1998)
Five most important things: Cricket, football, speedway, baseball and heritage railways
ASTON: my five favourite records would probably change daily, but I guess likely contenders to be in there would be Descendents/All, Doughboys, Goo Goo Dolls, Samiam, Big Drill Car, Doughboys, Big Star, Gram Parsons, Squeeze, Husker Du, HDQ and some others I've no doubt forgot. Five favourite shows would probably be Mega City 4, Snuff & Vehicle Derek at The Boston IQ nov 1988 (my first punk show), Descendents in London 1997, The Barron knights at the Skegness Embassy centre in 1984, Bob Mould acoustic show in Leicester 1992 , and any of the shows I've organized myself as the last one!! The five most important things in life are love, family, health, Formula 1 and writing on the sole of your slipper with a biro on a Saturday night instead of going to the pub.
First, last and most expensive record ever bought?
ANDY: First: Sweet Talking Woman by ELO (single), Out Of The Blue by ELO(album)
Last: Dial-A-Song Anthology by They Might Be Giants
Most expensive:The last Benny album cost me a fortune, as my car got broken into and smashed up.
ASTON: First record I bought was when I was 5 and was the "live in trouble" single by BARRON KNIGHTS (who were a UK comedy band who used to sing comic versions of recent pop hits back in the 1970s. the last record I bought was
the Foo Fighters album, which was a present for my girlfriend's birthday – I don't really buy records anymore, I get a lot of the stuff I want by trading with other labels for Boss Tuneage stuff, and all my spare cash (and then some!) tends to go into financing the label..!! The most expensive record I bought was a SQUEEZE 6 CD boxset about 5 years ago!
ALAN - First: Doctorin' the Tardis - The Timelords; Last: We're Only In It
For The Money - Frank Zappa; Most Expensive: No idea
Are record collectors pretentious assholes?
ASTON: no, I just think they need to get out more perhaps!!.
ANDY: Well, it's not too bad if they listen to them, but if they don't ever
The records I have with you are the ones at Boss Tuneage ..have you done
anything more and how can I get it if you have?
ASTON: At present (apart from a couple of tracks on comps) all our releases
have been on Boss Tuneage but hopefully someday someone else will want to
release something by us! I think a lot of labels maybe don't approach us to
do anything for them as they know I run Boss Tuneage.. well, maybe its that
or its just because we aren't very good or they don't like us!!!
ANDY: We're a loyal BossT band! Of course, there's all those recordings me,
Richard and Alan are holding back that we've made in secret without Aston
If you should give an advice to a young band which has started right now,
which advice will it be?
ANDY: Just play and play and play, and don't try and sound like anyone else - Benny is just what the four of us sound like when we play together and nothing else. Oh, and listen to as much music as possible and absorb every influence you can, regardless of what it is.
ASTON: Try and do something original! There's too many bands out there still trying to do the whole ska/punk or NOFX thing and the amount of demos I get sent in these styles is quite scary...I guess the main thing is enjoy playing!
Where did the name Benny come from?
ANDY: From the most childish joke I'd ever heard, which Alan sent to me once in an email.
ASTON: I think a few people in the UK who don't know that normally assume that we are named after a central character from an old soap opera over here called "crossroads" - the character called Benny was a grown man with the mind of a child, and his name Benny became a derogatory name used in the school playgrounds in the late 70s/80s!
Do you do any covers when you play live? Why or why not?
ANDY: Yes we do, but the 4 or 5 covers we've done live represents about 1% of the amount we tend to do in practices.
ASTON: Doing cover versions is definitely fun - we spend most of our time in rehersals doing covers to be honest - we have as much fun I think sending emails to each other suggesting cover version ideas between practices as we do actually trying them!!
What does a cover good?
ANDY: It has to be fun to play - and if you can play it properly and it's a good song in the first place then it should sound good no matter how you play it.
ASTON: I guess we try and think of a good cover version that no one has done before - having said that, it was only after we released "finnish Road junction" that we found out PENNYWISE had also done "down under" and
SPLODGENESSABOUNDS had done "Two Little Boys"!!
How is it to live in Great Britain right now, politically I mean?
ANDY: Alan knows best on this one.
ASTON: definitely a question for our political analysing bass player!
ALAN - I think that British people are gradually being made more and more helpless by the Government encroaching into more and more areas of their lives. From taxation of practices the Government disapproves of, through to
'advice' on how to be a parent - and now plans for ID cards - the state exerts an authoritarian influence over everyone that saps the people's ability and willingness to think and do things for themselves. Combine that
with a media that makes the public believe that society is about to collapse - due to immigrants, terrorists, crime, GM crops or whatever - and you have a vicious circle, where the public is becoming ever more helpless, and looks to the Government to do more and more for it. It's not overt, it's not fascistic - but it's a creeping disenfranchisement, that ends up...where? That's not a view from any particular explicit political position, and I apologise if it's not your conventional punk rock analysis of politics - it's just what I think, living in the UK and working in the political sector.
What influences you when you write lyrics, do you do the best lyrics when
you´re mad or when youré angry?
ANDY: Erm, most lyrics come from Del watching old films. Can't speak for the others, but songs me and Del have done lyrics from tend to be influenced by tiredness (we usually write them at midnight the night before practices) or desperation, and a large back catalogue of old black and white films.
ASTON: The thing is all of us contribute bits and pieces to different songs so there's definitely no set way or themes or moods when the lyrics are written.. "theme from benny" started off from an idea by Alan, he suggested
a couple of lines of lyrics by email we all thought were fun, and then everyone else suggested others and then we put them all together! Personally ideas for lyrics come to me at the most unusual times, usually an idea for a couple of lines, that I keep an then put together with other ideas later on...
You sound a little bit different in some way, why do you think you do
ASTON: I guess because we don't set out to write songs that sound the same...I like the fact with BENNY that all four of us contribute to the songs and we all have different ways of writing and coming up with ideas..also we haven't set out and decided we wanted to sound like any particular band...
ANDY: We take it as a compliment. We sound like the mix of all our influences, most of which aren't punk bands, but a cross-section of 70s, 80s and 90s music, all played with our limited musical technique!
Which bands are you being compared with in reviews?
ANDY: The majority of bands we're supposed to be influenced by or sound like are ones I've either never heard stuff by or in some cases even heard of! Personally I think we sound pretty unique - I know who *I* think I've been
influenced by, and can hear bits of it in songs I've written, but no-one's ever picked any of those up in reviews.
ASTON: we seem to get compared to very many different bands, some of which I just don't understand at all!!...so far we have been compared to early SNUFF, STUPIDS, HDQ, ABS, DEVO, BLACK FLAG, FISHBONE, SPLODGENESSABOUNDS, MISFITS, TOY DOLLS, AFI, WAT TYLER, DR AND THE CRIPPENS, HUSKER DU,
GRUMBLEWEEDS, BARRON KNIGHTS amongst others - its strange as usually with doing the label I think have a fairly decent idea if a band is good or not, or who they sound like, but with my own band I find it impossible to do!!!
Do you care about reviews? Which do you believe the most, the bad or the
ASTON: its great to see reviews, both good and bad! I'm always interested to see what people think of us - I think we confuse a lot of people!!!
ANDY: We care about them if they're nice, and if not we tend to convince
ourselves that they were written by bumptuous fatheads.
Futureplans for the band?
ANDY: We can't even organise our next practice, let alone do any long-termplanning!
ASTON: I'm not sure really - I certainly want to play more shows and I think next year we'll do that - after that I would like to do some more recording when we have some songs ready to do, we've certainly been asked to do a few things so hopefully we'll be able to do those at some stage - as I mentioned earlier, the fact that we all live at least 2 hours drive away from each other doesn't help!
For your self?
ASTON: Not sure really, I guess just continue on with boss Tuneage for as long as I can, continue to watch Formula 1
ANDY: Well, my museum is closing for renovation in a few weeks, so my future plans all revolve around getting the collection packed and ready for moving out, and then I have lots of research to do for our reopening in 2005.
ANDY: "Mr Grimsdale!"
ASTON: "I can't swallow pills.."
Something more to add?
ANDY: Yes, visit Gavle and especially the Railway Museum, and get out and see all those wonderful museums in your country, especially the Vassa Museum which was amazing. And if you get the chance, take a trip on the Railway Museum's theatre trains which are great fun...
ASTON: : A bloke keeps ringing me and singing "Stand And Deliver" down the line. I keep telling him he's got the wrong number, but he's adamant. Thanks for the interview Peter! To contact us you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . If you want to buy
something from us, the best places in Europe to buy our stuff from is either from Flight 13 in germany ( www.flight13.com
Self made maniac in Belgium ( www.selfmademaniac.com )or Positive Action in France ( www.positiveactionrecords.com )- hopefully soon Boss Tuneage releases will be available through some cool distro in Sweden as well...