Nick Cash, 999 talks Ian Dury, Generation X, 77′ Jubilee at Undercover Festival

An interview with Nick Cash, 999

22nd September 2013

Paula: Hey Nick, how are you and how does it feel to be at Undercover festival?

Nick: We’ve been going for a long time, its great to be here and it’s a great show here at Undercover festival!

CJ: Lets wind back to that Jubilee year! Wind back to the formation of your musical trajectory.

Nick: That was the beginning of Punk really and we used to put adverts in the back of the melody maker: ‘Wanted: Punk Musicians for a band’ and all these great people turned up like Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) turned up and John Moss from Culture Club, Tony James (Generation X) and Dolphin from Stiff Little Fingers. All sorts of people came to the audition and it was a big melting pot.

Lots of people who were interested at the time. We all started rehearsing together and various bands got formed and everybody went off and did it you know? Some of them fell by the way side and others have done very well, but some of them have kept going like us. Here tonight we’ve got TV Smith, 999, Chelsea and its great, it’s a good atmosphere! But it’s a melting pot we’ve got reggae here as well!

Paula: No doubt about it, great atmosphere! I love the ethos of that 77’ time, I love the idea that certain magazines would have adverts in the back of them and certain people like the ones you’re talking about would come in, jam together and find that trajectory. 

Paula: When Exactly did 999 form and how did that come about?

Nick: Well I was playing with Ian Dury and Kilburn and the High Roads and that was like a pub rock thing and that style was coming to its end. Dr. Feelgood approached me and asked me if I wanted to play guitar for him to replace Wilco Johnson because he’d left. I didn’t really wanted to step in and do that because there was a new buzz and a new thing happening. So I played with people like Brinsley Schwarz and Chicken Shack, but I wanted to do something new so I started 999. From there we went on and played all over the world.

Paula: Tell us about the rest of the band?

Nick: Well, the Drummer Pablo Britain he also writes some of the songs. He was the original drummer in The Clash who went to school with Joe Strummer and he’s just recently been in a film about his life. But they have stayed very good friends and Pablo has contributed a lot to Joe Strummers book and he’s in a film about his life now.

But obviously he didn’t want to capitalise on that to form 999. It was about getting up there in front of those kids and playing and proving yourself. We’re still doing that today!

Paula: I want to ask you about the fan base, how important is the audience? How important is it to be able to achieve that live status?

Nick: Well its very important, I suppose really we’ve always been more of a live band really, we used to survive by doing it. We were luckier then a lot of the bands at that time because we got to play a lot of shows we played every night of the week and we did massive tours in the states, 56-70 dates on the trot so we could learn exactly what we were doing. We weren’t just some over manufactured thing, we learnt to connect with an audience and we learnt what that meant. And that’s one of the best things in the world, if you can get through to an audience and then take off and go somewhere else where you can’t always go.

Paula: Yes well it’s such a different vibe that’s created today then the money making that goes on behind the scenes and the creations that they think will sell to people. But the 999 ethos is to take it to the people.

Nick: I think it’s a shame what’s happening when you’ve got all these talent shows I mean alright God bless those people but you’ve got other acts out there – there’s bands, there’s an underground but that will always be there because there will always be an alternative scene. Not everybody just believes what they’re fed on the television man and that’s what happens so that’s what we’ve gone for and we’re glad we went there and stayed there. Because its 36 years later and here’s to the next 36 years!

(laughs)

Paula: I’m totally with you! How would you describe the secret to that longevity?

Nick: I mean just playing the best you can and if you enjoy what yore doing you can go all round the world and do it! This music hits it on the head, I mean I was speaking to someone the other day and said where did you come from man? And he said well I come from Venezuela to see you.’ You know, I said ‘that’s a long way!’ he said ‘yeh but its been worth it you know?’ and its great to see you can touch somebody in Venezuela the same as you can touch someone in bisley. Not saying one is more important then the other, but its fantastic you know?

And they like it because of the music. What it is, the underground, the power of it, they know all that. They’ve studied it, they like it.

Paula: That’s an interesting point you’ve touched on there, the fact that people are studying the foundations these days. What do you think about the studying of it?

Nick: Perhaps the people who listened to it initially have grown a bit older. But their young kids and new people listen to it and say ‘that’s for me’ that’s different that’s alternative so therefore that’s what I like. That’s the nicest way for something to go on. For people to like it at the grass roots and go on. You’ve only got to look at the people here and what it is, culturally it’s a good blend We were one of the first bands to play rock against racism you know?

CJ Dread: Respect, respect! I have to salute you on that my brother that’s solid!

Nick: We played that, it was a wonderful thing to do. Hard times, we needed to break that and after that we could go anywhere and meet anybody, you know what I mean? Music breaks down the barriers and the more barriers it breaks down the better and that’s the best thing I’ve done with my life is to break down, perhaps a few barriers and just to play and to get off on that.

Paula: My dad and me are both big fans.

Nick: (Laughs) That’s the thing normally people hate what their parents hate!

Paula: Punk taught me that although society tells us we are not supposed to get along with our parents – music unites us and tells us that there are bigger things to conflict against.

Nick: I think you’re absolutely right you know what punk did was say ‘stand up for yourself and have your own ideals’. Dress how you like, Do what you want, free your mind. People always say what an evil thing it is, or it was a fly by night that was only gonna last ten minutes…

CJ: Yeh 36 years later people! Live and hardcore!

Paula: Here we all are!

Nick: You liked your music from your dad and that’s the best way for it to go on because if your daughter likes it that’s fantastic!

Paula: Yeh its wonderful

CJ: BIG UP DAD

Paula: If you take yourself back to your first gig how old were you?

Nick: Well my first gig I played with a band called Pentagon, in Molton so I was about 14 years old.

Paula: Wow yeah, that’s brave!

So I got together with these Maltese people and we used to go around and play covers and things like that and I ended up on a comeno hotel playing to Roger Moore in Blackburn

Paula: Standard!

Nick: And they were making a bomb film at the time you know? So that was my first thing you know and that was pretty good! They liked it and they were dancing about down the front you know. So obviously that was a good time.

Paula: So if you take yourself back to when 999 first formed you’ve got the first gigs and the punk scene fully thriving. How did that feel?

Nick: That was fantastic! We were one of the first ones on the scene you know? It really exploded quickly you know? I had Micky Most calling us asking to sign us tomorrow. We said ‘Well Micky we’re really not sure what we wana do… Chin and Chapman you know? We feel like you’ve done for music what MFI have done for furniture. No offence but we want to do it on our own. We want to produce our own music and we want it to sound like we want it to sound not like you want it to sound like.

Paula: There were always fakes on the scene I loved the way the punks dressed, a lot wore torn clothes because it was all they had.

Nick: The punk dress was such a good fashion there was no better street fashion then that. It said so much and its influenced fashion to this day. Somehow when you see it copied by some people and now you see people dressing up like punks to take money from the Japanese tourists to take photos – that’s not what it was about it was much deeper – much broader appeal and it goes through everything you know; rockabilly, psychobilly, right through every type of clothes it sold stacks of absolutely everything. And the real good people who do it have got all those types of influences you know?

Nick: Theres a bright side and a dark side. I always preferred the darker side of things that’s why I wrote songs like nasty nasty.

Paula: Ok so with everything that you’ve been through, can I just ask, to you – What is punk?

Nick: It’s the freedom to be able to do what you want, when you want. The freedom of choice to be able to break away from what society was and what people thought and to live your life how you want to live it – which is what I’ve done and I’m lucky, I’m one of the lucky ones you know.

Paula: Yeh, it’s a good life.

Nick: And in this generation I’ve been round the world, I’ve seen things, I never regret, I’ve met so many brilliant people Paula, all sorts of people from all countries and to be able to play music with them and share a feeling – get off on a theme – that’s the music, that’s hitting hard, bang bang bang bang – lets go with it you know and you find something in one another. Where else do you get that? You don’t get it from buying a Louis Vitton jacket! You can’t buy it!

CJ: It’s not commoditised is it? You can’t download it you gotta turn up man you gotta be here!!

Nick: The things you can’t buy are the best things in life. I’ve got to go on stage!

Paula: That’s right!

CJ and Paula: (Laugh) 

-End of Interview-

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