I got Automatics new single from the label and the group have been playing for a while. David Philp was so kind that he answered a lot of questions from me in the beginning of February 2021.


Please tell me a little bit history of the group?  Have you been playing all the time or did you have any time you didn´t play together? If you didn´t play together did you play in any other groups then? 

-I started out doing a brief stint with the Boys just as they were transitioning from being the Hollywood Brats. We recorded 4 of my songs down in their little studio in Mornington Crescent. Ultimately it wasn’t a good fit and I think it fair to say that they were a little further down the musical road than I was. However they did introduce me to 2 young tea boys at Phonogram studios. One of them was Steve Lillywhite who became my room mate and we shared the apartment close to the Nashville pub for the next few years which happened to be a great explosion of bands and ideas in London. I started putting together the Automatics rehearsing players at the old Victorian storage unit around the corner. it was next to a bacon packers which smelt bad in summer. When we started playing the pubs things moved pretty fast for us and we got a residency at the Marquee Club on Saturday night.


Please tell me a little about every member in the group right now, age, family, work, interests and something bad about everyone? Earlier bands? Other bands on the side? 

-It started out with Ricky “Rocket” Goldstein on drums who went on to play with Stiv Bators and Sham 69 and later with the Bootleg Beatles! Walter Hacon was on guitar. He went on to play with Wreckless Eric. Bobby Collins was bass. He went on to Holly and the Italians. Rick and Walter and I are still close though not geographically. Wally is in NZ, Rick in London and Bobby is MIA.

Now the band is more fluid. I have played a lot with Paul Crowder on drums- he produces documentaries- he did 8-Days a Week with Ron Howard and that new Pavarotti documentary they did. A big part of the band over the last 20 years is Jim Wirt. He produces, plays bass and does the backing vocals. He also produced Incubus, Fiona Apple, Hoobastank and Jacks Mannequin. Theres a bit Springfield Missouri connection there- Jim and sometime guitarist Brian Coffman played in a band called Fools Face while in Springfield and Paul married a girl they were school pals with. Mostly I play with whatever around. Because Jim runs a studio in Cleveland now he will add a drummer whose there. Theres a new kid called Aidan on the new stuff but I’ve never met him. I had Patrick Warren from Dylans band on Irish Blessing and Steve Ferrone from Eric Clapton and Tom Pettys band …..and whoever interests me at the time.


 I can hear much different influences but mostly good old punkrock and in Irish blessing some folkmusicstyled music? Favorites from the past?   

-Well back in the 70s we didn’t have all the categories they have now. There was only music you liked and music you didn’t. And on the radio you’d hear Slade and Bowie next to Johnny Cash and Tom Jones, the Clash, Petula Clark. Everything so rigid now but back then Wild Willy Barret, Elvis Costello, Tom Petty were in there with the Jam and Flaming Groovies and Johnny Thunders. There are times when you absorb influences mostly when you are starting out and times you repel them- I don’t want to listen to other peoples music when I’m doubling down on what it is that I do. It only confuses me. In that period when I was absorbing influence I was listening to all the usual Beatles, Bowie, Stones, Dylan but also the English folk rock band like Fairport Convention and Lindisfarne. So Irish Bless is Fairport and Lindisfarne working their way out 40 odd years later through the filter that is me. 


Automatics  are you satisfied with the name? How did it came up? You weren’t afraid that some other band would be named like this? Which is the best bandname you know?   

-I came up with the name. Then it turned out there was a band in Coventry that had the name but Island records made them change. They became the Specials and the rest is history!! 

Other bands periodically nick the name but if your first act as a supposedly creative outfit is to steal somebody else’s name, well…its not a very encouraging sign, is it? The last band to steal the name defended their case by saying it was Automatic without an “s” so nobody could possibly confuse the two of us. They had a hit with a song called “Monster” so I released a song called Monsters with an “s” …..so nobody could confuse the two of them! My song told the story of how they had spoken with me and ignored the warnings and got the run around from the label and is I think the first real conceptual song. The punk spirit lives on. The prophecy in the song came true and shortly after the label dropped them.


What´s the best thing with playing live? Do you miss it nowadays when covid is around us? 

-Probably Moth Into the Flame. Its just so rocking….that beat works. I miss playing to the fans but I don’t have a big following in the US where I live here in LA so I ‘m happy to record on my own. I enjoy the creative process.


And where is best to play? And the worst place? 

-The Best for me now is Japan it´s like the Marquee club in 1978. But I don’t play out that much and maybe there are others. The worst was probably a pub in Tilbury where it was so weird I called our agents the Dick James Agency and the secretary cheerfully informed me “Oh! No. We meant to cancel all those gigs after the last singer got killed”! We played the fastest set ever and got out of there in 20 mins.


How is to play this sort of music in England right now? Which type of bands do you play together with? Are you often plays on Rebellion? 

-I think the last time I played in England was with the Stiffs in 2006. I was going to play Rebellionfest supposedly but then covid hit. When I travel in order to avoid running at a loss I need to play with local bands otherwise the airfares and hotels kill me.  When I play Japan I mostly play with the local guys who play exactly like the record. I am pals with Philp Hendricks from the Stiffs and have just connected with the Starjets so we hope we can all tour together at some point, “The Lap of Honor” road show!!


How would you describe your music in three words?  

-Now? It´s different when you are young because you have all that energy. “When the Tanks Roll Over Poland Again” goes at a clip that you are probably not going to sustain over a 40 year period. Now my songs move slower so they have to box clever. I’m moving into an area of Punk Folk but if you listen to the first Automatics album we did with Steve Lillywhite its there already- “Wear Your Love Like a Ball and Chain” also “To the Goodtimes" and “Run Forever”. So three words that kind of some it up BE AUTHENTIC to what you ARE. Well that’s 6 but wtf.


What does punk mean to you, is it only a word or is it a lifestyle?  

-If you show a picture of Sid Vicious to anybody around the world they go “Oh. Punk Rock”. Wrong fuckers. Punk, before it became about some fairly useless kid in a dog collar was about so many different and really interesting things- Philosophy, Fashion, Music. It was about embracing the counterintuitive. Its about left footing the listener, the observer, the thinker. I think I still do that and the fact that all that got boiled down to  an image of a guy who couldn’t write, couldn’t play and was kind of a satellite personality is offensive to me.If you care about Punk it should be offensive to you too. But its typical of that Pistols-centric view of London street culture from 1976-79. Its a promtionalist lie that got repeated so often that its become the accepted version. They wrote ten songs or something. Try the Jam, the Stranglers or the Clash or so many other bands that weren’t dressed by Vivien Westwood.


Which song/album or group was it who took you into punk? 

-Maybe Lou Reed. He just took you to so many unexpected neighborhoods. The Pirates were an influence on British punk as they were very rocking in a uniquely English way along with Gene Vincent who wasn’t. Flaming Groovies predated punk and were a big influence. The Automatics got going recording at Phonogram Studios on dead time with Steve Lillywhite and the other band he had was Tiger Lilly who became Ultravox. I don’t know if John was watching what we were doing but I was certainly watching what he was doing and I was tape operator on a few of the tracks on their first album.


What shall a young guy do today to shock their parents as the way we did when we were young? They have already seen everything ;-)?  

-There was this sudden spin of styles and fashion and music from 1955-1985 and then just kind of a repeat and rinse in more polished ways. Theres nothing left to offend really. You’re a transexual dwarf fucker with a heroine addiction? Excellent, well just pull up a chair and we’ll put the kettle on.


How is it to live in England right now? Politically?   Fascists?  Brexit? Covid? 

-I live in Los Angeles. I’m a liberal who was completely offended that my adoptive country ever got swindled into the whole Trump era. Because I’m not a resident I don’t feel I have a right to an opinion on Brexit but I must confess to being confused as to how it could actually work. How are bands going to tour in Europe post Covid? Are they all going to be thrown to the wolves by the government as we all have been by them as regards the streaming platforms? Heres your 6/1000 of a cent.


Is there any good bands from England right now?  Is the punkscene/hardcorescene big? How is it in your hometown? 

-Recently I started listening to Nations Radio UK and United DJs radio station and they have a thing called the Heritage charts. The format is older bands who make new music and so I’ve heard really good records from the Starjets, the Vapors, Phil Hendricks from The Stiffs, The Chords, John Rossell from the Glitter Band. They are still true to their punk origins but they are making more accomplished records. So much of what the Punk audience want is for you to play the same set you played 40 years ago. I’ll do a bit of that but if you are still doing what you did 40 years ago when you were learning, you might want to ask yourself what the fuck you’ve done with your life!


What do you know about Sweden?  Have you been here sometime? 

-I have been to Stockholm and I have Viking blood. Theres a pic of my Great Grampa in the NE of England and he looks like a Viking straight out of Central Casting. Casino from the Boys was a pal and he tells me it is a major rock capital though I have never played there. Yet. I married a woman who is a quarter Swedish.


Have you heard any good bands from Sweden? 

-Well Abba of course but I’m sure if you are living in Sweden you have been hit over your head with a hammer with that stuff. It was interesting to me because they never wrote lyric until the recorded track was finished.  I think that got me thinking of recording as part of the songwriting process. You have to be light on your feet. You can’t stay stuck on what your initial idea might have been if you want the story to grow with the telling.

Your lyrics, who does them and what influences you?  

-Me. I don’t think I ever cover songs except very rarely. It’s my tale and I’m telling it. I’m making a dark little movie or telling a twisted little story. It’s not just the words and its not necessarily poetry. Sometimes it’s the sound and the rhythm of the words. Its where the emphasis of the word lands in the narrative of the melody.


Is there any subject that you never will write anything about? 

-No nothing. Ever. Lou Reed taught us all that. Except for Hello Kitty. You must never write about that!


Politic and music, does it goes hand in hand?  Which is your most political song?  Is it important to get out your opinions in music? 

-To make your music political is to abandon or at least postpone the songwriters art in order to highjack it as a vehicle for whatever you want to proselytize about. So I don’t do that. Except for sometimes…..”Cardboard Kingdom” is about homelessness but it observes more than it tells you which side you should be standing on. I have a new one called “Daylight Robbery” that’s about how streaming platforms rape the artists. That´s as close as I get on political songs.


Best political band/artist? 

-Clash did it probably better than anyone. But it´s a bankrupt ideal that somebody who is good at one thing- in this case making records- has authority to lay it out for everybody else. Maybe I don’t object so much on principle but it is very hard to do well.


You had Johnny Thunders on a song from 1978 on guitar, howcome he played with you? 

-When I was living with Lillywhite we went to go see Johnny when the Heartbreakers first came to England. They were brilliant and they were TIGHT. All the English bands we knew were loose goose because we were making it up as they went along. None of them had toured playing the same thing the same way every night which is how bands get tight. By the time Johnny got to record “So Alone” we had dragged him down to our level and he was loose and making it up again and that’s what made it great. We became friends in the days before Johnny became unknowable as all junkies inevitably must. After he moved out of Oakley Street he got a flat in Soho so he’d come down to watch me soundcheck at the Marquee and we did a few gigs together and he played on the first Automatics record. Leading up to “So Alone he borrowed my vinyl LP of the Shangri Las on Red Bird Records. He was obviously influenced by that as he covered “Great Big Kiss”. He played Downtown by Petula Clark which he thought was a secret song about heroine on my old Gibson in my bedroom and ended up writing his own Downtown that was on the record. He knew I was a Bolan guy so he asked me to sing “He Was a Wizzard” with him which was his tribute after Marc died suddenly.  Johnny didn’t play with many other bands so I was pleasantly surprised when he played with us.


Do you think that music(lyrics and so on) can change anyones life, I mean people who listens to music? 

-Music has powers and the writer is the just thes unwitting conduit of that. I´ve heard from people who say this song of yours changed my life but its hard for me to imagine how it might. But I remember singing “Run Forever” in Japan and watching these two girls at the front just weeping. How does that work? But I think a good song, a genuine song can change moods, evoke things. I try not to be manipulative.


Your favorite recordcover alltime?  Who does your recordcovers?  And do you have any good recordstores in your hometown? 

-We had several good record stores. They’re all gone now but there are ones hanging on in places like Silverlake. Jeremy Kidd has been doing my most recent covers and I enjoy his work. He is an artist in his own right. Marnie Weber did the Jukebox of Human Sorrow artwork and Sting did Britannia.


Is it important to get out physical records of your stuff? Why or why not? Vinyl, CD, cassette, what do you prefer if you could choose whatever ? 

-I do. It might be my age but the commitment to the artist doesn’t seem real until you have something of theirs in your hand. West of Wherever is on vinyl most of the others are on cd and I just got copies of “A Grand Swandive into the Void” which as you know is my latest. 


Please tell me a funny thing which have happened during your career and under some gig? 

-In the very early days we used to do Guerrilla gigs where we would put a generator on a flatbed truck and load up our instruments and gear and just appear places. Nobody else did that. We played down the Kings Road at the height of the Teds v Punks war and got stuck in traffic right outside the Teds pub. It was like poking a hornets nest and then finding that your feet were stuck in concrete.  There was no more playing now it was just fighting. Guitars were swinging along with mic stands and bar stools. The driver who had no idea what he had been getting himself into was having a hysteria fit in the front cab. Then just as it looked like we were all going to be beaten to death by an angry mob the traffic cleared and we got a clear run down to Sloan Square. I remember that as I looked behind me all the cars were pulled over onto the curb and the mob of Teds were charging down the middle of the Kings road. Wally got a broken finger on the left hand which is bad for a guitarist and that night we were playing the Marquee so we shot it up with pain killer and played anyway.

You’d think we would have learned our lesson, right? Think again because only a few weeks later we……well that’s a story for another day!


How does your audience look like? Which people do you miss on your concerts? Which is the biggest band you ever have played together with?  

-In Europe they are all the same guys who were there 40 years before but fatter with less hair but in Japan its a whole new generation. I think there are young fans who are getting into what we did back then. What else is there? Rap, hiphop, Trance, Electronic? Come along with us lads and lassies- this a lot more fun. The Jam, the Clash- they big enough for you? LOL We did Reading Festival in 1978 and that was a big deal. People as far as the eye could see.


Please rank your five favoriterecords, five favoriteconcerts and five most important things in life? 

-That Clash one with Spanish Bombs on….Jam “Setting Sons”…theres a Waterboys one I like…..Pogues “If I Should Fall From Grace with God”….more these days I like Brian Wilsons “Smile”.

Greatest shows? Well that first Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers was fantastic. Eddy and the Hot Rods were great in the early Nashville gigs. I remember seeing the Police getting booed off supporting X-Ray Spex. I used to go with Lillywhite to clubs to see acts he was interested in producing so there were so many….Members, Ultravox, Rockpile.


First, last and most expensive record ever bought? 

-The one from the bargain bin that I never played.


Is it boring with interviews? Is it much interviews? 

-No but this one´s going on a bit. LOL I can talk about music easily. I have some great memories from great times. 


Do you care about reviews? Which is the most peculiar you ever had, with this band or any other band you have been to? 

-I pretend I don’t but in truth how can you not?. I´m always happy when somebody “gets it". I learned to live with bad ones a lot in the early days because the British music press hated punk. They hated it! Then I realized why- they were all Progrock bass players who didn’t have a gig anymore. And they were mean as cat shit about it. Read any of the reviews of most punk acts from those days and they are all incredibly dismissive and mean spirited. Across the board. They’re probably down the boozer now telling all their mates how they single handedly enabled Punk rock!! 



-Good luck with translating all this into Swedish!!


Something to add? 

-For a moment I’d like to address the new bands, the next generation of punkers. There are bands who can get by on their musicianship alone but they are few and far between. Learn to distrust virtuosity. Its all about the song. A good song goes more or less how you expect it to go with a few important exceptions. You have to provide the exceptions. You lead them along but then you have to left foot them. Take it somewhere they were not expecting. Then reward them with the familiar. Tune. Tune hard. Bring the intro riff back over the end in a different way. Have a prechorus imbetween the verse and the chorus. Always have a middle 8 even if its not 8. Brush your teeth. Clean behind your ears. Make allowances for the artists seemingly endless capacity for self deception. Delve deeper into what you are until one day you wake up and it´s time to avoid all other influences. Remember this above all- its more important to be different than it is to be good.