Steve Cast Iron Smith from the wonderful red Alert have taken his time here in January 2015 to answer a lot of questions from me. Red Alert have been the inspiration for many punkbands around the world I can think and I´m really happy to present them here.
Please tell me a little bit history of the group? Have you been playing all the time?
-The band began in early 1979.After 5 years of releasing records on the No Future record label and touring round the UK we decided to split in 1984.This was due to a number of reasons,3 of us became fathers etc and we felt we had done all we could, the interest was gone. In 1989 we decided to do a one off gig in our hometown of Sunderland and it went so well we decided to continue and have done ever since, releasing more albums and touring worldwide.
Please tell me a little about every member in the group right now, age, family, work, interests and something bad about everyone? Are you in other bands on the side?
-I am Steve Cast Iron Smith,singer and only original member. I am 51 with grown up kids, one recently made me a grandfather for the first time. I am married to Cath, for 7 years, now and again I work as a painter and decorator. My main interests are music, football and my XBox. Only bad thing I can think of is that sometimes I drink too much but I’m sure the rest of the band could think of more things! Guitarist is Mick Jones, he is 33 years old, he works as a builders labourer. Apart from music I don't think he really likes much else. He shares the same bad trait as me by sometimes drinking too much and becoming a real menace. Bassist is Micks' brother, Dave Jones, he also works on buildings with Mick and main interest is also music and the drinking can get outta control. Drummer is Andy Wilkinson but sometimes he is unavailable and we have a German lad from Keil who takes his place. Both are really into music and again the drinking gets outta control, I taught these lads well!!
What´s the difference of playing nowadays if you compare with playing in the beginning of your career?
-There isn't really a great deal of difference apart from the fact that it ain't new anymore. The gigs are similar in that some are big some are small but we play in different countries now which we didn't back then. The enjoyment and excitement still exist and while that's there then we'll continue.
Have you ever get complains from the computercompany who makes/made the computergame with the same name?
-No, never, and at the end of the day we had the name first. There are a few bands with the name also but none that have released as many records or toured as much as we have so I think we pretty much have that name as our own.
What´s the best thing with playing live?
-The'buzz'as we call it. Total escape from lifes shit and a level of excitement only people in bands would understand. The audience is an important part of it too, whether it's 5 people or 5000 its just as important to us, big gigs and small gigs are all the same to us, it's nice to do the big festivals with lots of people there but we prefer the smaller gigs with a better atmosphere.
And where is best to play? And where is the worst place?
-There's many great places to play but we've had most success over the years in Germany, particularly in the mid 90's and it's still our favorite country to tour. There isn't really a 'worst' place as we get well treated in all countries we play and the people are always great.
How is it to play this sort of music nowadays. Is it anyone interested?
-It seems to go in cycles, some years it has a high and others there's a lull and there's less interest. I think if you write good songs, which we do, they are timeless so this kind of music will always have an audience. I still get excited to sing songs i wrote 35 years ago, they still mean a lot.
How would you describe your music in three words?
-Real punk rock.
What does punk mean to you, is it only a word or is it a lifestyle?
-It's a lifestyle, an attitude. If you're in it for real you can never leave it and it can never leave you .I'm 51 years old, seen a lot, more wise but still have that rebellious seed in me that's been there since I first heard the Sex Pistols. A lot of things have come and gone in my life but punk is there for the whole journey.
How do you see on downloading, mp3 and that stuff?
-Progression, it happens. I haven't got a problem with it though personally I prefer to have the physical product, be it vinyl, cassettes or cd. It's cool that you can have thousands of songs on an ipod, especially when you're touring with the band, it's good that you can escape and listen to your own favorite music whenever you want.
How is it to live in England now? Politically?
-Well,16 months ago I moved to Barcelona but from what I hear nothing much has changed. I never particularly liked living there, especially after I started to visit other countries. Politically I guess it’s the same as most places, there'll always be a government in power who everyone blames for everything wrong in their lives, it's how it is. It's interesting here now with the Catalans striving for independence, something that's becoming stronger by the day, time will tell if it happens.
Is there any good bands from your homeland now? Is the punkscene big? How is it in your hometown?
-Yeah,there's loads of good bands in England,too many to name. The scene is ok but most people tend to just go to bigger gigs and festivals, it's a tough place to tour for a band like us, not so many people show up and the hospitality from venues is not so great. In Sunderland, my hometown originally, the scene is ok but not many places to play and you kinda know who will be there and how many.
What do you know about Sweden? Have you been here and played?
.Know a bit about Sweden, I used to have contacts there in the early 80's and have quite a bit of oi and punk cassettes which I was sent, some good stuff too. We played there once, about 10 years back. Not so sure about the name of the place, the gig was organized by the Pretty Shitty Town guys. It was a good night. We'll be playing again in May this year, in Malmo, this is still being organized but the latest I have is that it's on 23rd May, a kinda small festival with a few other bands.
Have you heard any good bands from Sweden?
-My old cassettes are still in storage since my move to Barcelona but I saw Agent Bulldog here a few months back, still a good band.
Your lyrics, who does them and what influences you?
-I write all of the Red Alert lyrics, always have since day one. The same things influence me now as they did back then, just everyday life, my observations and experiences. Some is serious, angry stuff whilst others are just stories of the band and drunken times.
Is there any subject that you never will write anything about?
-Probably not, I’ve never been one for keeping quiet about something that bothers me.
Politic and music, does it goes hand in hand?
-Sadly yes. It's unavoidable when you're in a punk/oi band. Some bands prefer it this way and we have been associated with anti racism more or less since the start, more so after '89 when we reformed as politics seem to play a bigger part in the scene now. Whilst we're 100% anti racist/anti fascist etc we're primarily a band who are about having fun, getting drunk and just having a good time. I'm a punk rock singer not a politician.
Best political band/artist?
-Would have to be Angelic Upstarts. Yeah, these guys are good friends and I’ve been in bands with most of them but Mensi's views are genuine, no hidden agenda, and I respect that a lot.
Do you think that music(lyrics and so on) can change anyone’s life, I mean people who listens to music?
-Most certainly, I think this can apply to any kind of music and any kind of person. We all listen to certain music at certain times depending on how we feel right then. Some music helps to relax you while some can get you fired up if that's how you wanna feel at the time. Lyrically this applies also, I’m always hearing a lyric and thinking 'man, I wish I’d wrote that'. They can be appropriate to anyone at anytime, be it good or bad, lyrics can have a powerful effect on people, I know this myself, even from some of my own lyrics. People often tell me how they can associate themselves with what I’ve written at times, it's a nice feeling to hear that, especially when it's positive, i don't wanna be responsible for the next serial killer, hahahahaha.
Many old punkbands is still playing/or have been starting to play again? Any favorites from those bands nowadays and which bands does it best ?
-This is the music that I grew up with, the music that shaped my life so it's hard to pin it down to one. I'm a big fan of most of them and most of them still do it great. If I was pushed I’d say the Damned and the UK Subs do it best from those older bands.
Is it important for you to get out your records physical also?? Something new on it´s way?
-Yeah, very important. When I was a kid there was nothing more exciting than having that vinyl in your hands, taking it home from the record shop, reading every piece of the artwork, great times. I hope this option always exists although it didn't feel that way when i had to transport thousands of them from Sunderland to Barcelona, haha. There will eventually be something on its way from us. We're constantly writing new material and a new release shouldn't be too far away but nothing is recorded yet.
Please tell me a funny thing which have happened during your career and under some gig?
-A lot of things, even right back to our very first gig in '79. We played at an open air carnival in Sunderland, it was more of a thing with stalls selling things, a bit of a fairground atmosphere with just us in a small marquee in the middle of it all. During our set a group of drunken guys came from a nearby bar and started giving us abuse which I returned in plenty. Unbeknown to us they went round the back of the marquee and loosened all of the pegs and ropes keeping it up. Right in the middle of a song I just saw the big timber post start to sway then it began falling. Everyone ran for their lives. Looking back I can laugh about it now but someone could have been killed that day, crazy.
How does your audience look like? Which people do you miss on your concerts?
-Our audience varies but it's mainly people around my age who have followed punk all their lives. We do have younger people also, which is essential for the future of the scene. There's no one I miss at our concerts, Red Alert has always been an open door for everyone, either walk through it or walk on by, it's that simple.
Please rank your five favorite records, five favorite concerts and five most important things in life?
-To name only five is tough but albums that had the most influence on me are Never Mind the Bollocks-Sex Pistols, The Clash first two albums, It's Alive-The Ramones and Another Kind of Blues-UK Subs. Favorite concerts from when I was a kid mainly happened in 1978 in Newcastle City Hall, The Jam, The Buzzcocks, The Ramones were memorable, another was first time I saw the Angelic Upstarts around that time and more recently was the first time I saw Dropkick Murphys around 2000,i was blown away, they've been my favorite band ever since. Most important things in my life are my wife, my kids, my Jack Russell Terrior, Charlie, family and friends, football, music and my Xbox.
Is it boring with interviews? Is it much interviews?? Which is the most stupid question you ever have got?
-Some interviews are interesting and some not so much with the same old questions about when we formed, discography etc which is available on the internet all over. I like doing them though, it keeps people aware that you're still around and informs them what's going on. Hard to pick the most stupid question, there have been a few.
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 chose?
-The Clash are probably the only band we haven't played with who I would like to have. We've played with most of the bands I wanted us to play with.
Futureplans for the band?
-Usual stuff, touring and recording new stuff.
-I live a very fortunate life here in Barcelona, a very happy life too so for that to continue is more than enough for me.
-To anyone thinking about forming a band never forget that it's meant to be fun, forget about the money, I’ve seen greed kill many a good band.
Something to add?
-Cheers for letting us have our say and to any fans of the band reading this, many thanks for the years of happiness and fun we've had, see you next time, RED ALERT