Arm Yourself

Richard Jobson, Russell Webb, John McGeogh and John Doyle are responsible for some of the best music of the past decade in groups like The Skids, Siouxsie And The Banshees and Magazine. Small wonder that half the music industry turned up at an Armoury Show gig at Heaven last year to see what their new venture was like.

The new formation proved to be a successful one, but then the lads surprised everyone by virtually disappearing for a year before emerging in August with a new single, 'Castles In Spain'. I recently visited Jobson and McGeogh at the latter's Cricklewood home to catch up with the latest news.

DEBUT: Why has it taken so long for the Armoury Show to release a record?

Richard: "We've been biding our time. A year ago, when we didn't secure the record deal we wanted we were very disappointed, but it's worked to our advantage. We've become a lot better. We have a con sistent flow of good songs now."

DEBUT: Why do you think you weren't signed up immediately?

Richard: "Well, we could have been. There were offers."

DEBUT: Do you think people were suspicious of you? You all have reputations for being hard to work with.

John: "Absolutely! The industry was very suspicious of us. Nobody was going to sign up four difficult guys..."

Richard: "I wouldn't have!"

John: "Until they'd proved themselves, that is. We knew we had good prospects but it's another thing trying to prove to people that you're not just a bunch of old mates out to whip out an album and stitch up the record companies."

DEBUT: So how good are The Armoury Show now?

John: (Laughs) "We still have our shakey moments.

Richard: "I think we've got the potential to be the very best. In the last few months it's been there."

DEBUT: Were you ever disheartened this last year, Richard? You were doing pretty well as an actor.

Richard: "I wouldn't say disheartened. I was worried because my acting was flourishing and looked like leading onto greater things in the future, whereas The Armoury Show wasn't. I did panic a bit, wondering whether I had done the right thing."

John: "That's right, because you turned down a few acting things at that time, didn't you."

DEBUT: Why was that?

Richard: "I just wanted to be in a band again, that's where I'm happiest. I was very happy with The Skids. I tried my hardest to save that group but it was beyond saving. But even when I was acting it was always in the back of my mind that I wanted to be in a group again. I just had to find the right personalities to work with."

John: "So he looked under the arches and found us dossers, and we played Heaven, and we were crap!"

Richard: "We had a bit of post mortem after that gig. We knew we were better than that. But its an incredible thing from that despair came a kind of self belief. We were always sitting on our backsides, doing the old boys act and getting favours off people. We couldn't anymore and we were also totally broke. But we had to believe in something and the group was there.

DEBUT: How do you maintain your enthusiasm?

Richard: "I think because we have other areas that we can go into. Like we recently wrote the theme for the new series of Omnibus..."

John: "Catch it on Sunday nights, folks!"

Richard: "Things like that give you a little breather to come away from the intensity of The Armoury Show. It's nice just to relax and do something lighthearted - I think we actually did it in John's bedroom - and then go back to the group refreshed. Be cause The Armoury Show isn't a light group. Big sounds, big approach!"

John: "I find that when you,re working hard you do tend to get little gifts, little consolations like that."

DEBUT: Making your own luck?

Richard: "Right. It was like that on stage when I was acting. It I could just concentrate on getting my first line out right, then the whole night was brilliant. It you can just get into the feeling early."

DEBUT: Many people must have wondered why you were so quiet at a time when guitar groups were doing so well. Echo And The Bunnymen, U2, Big Country and soon are all doing very well now.

Richard: If you're suggesting that you think we've missed the boat, I don't agree. Obviously there are parallels with those groups but we're not inclined to think we're part and parcel of what goes on in that whole thing. We feel that what we're doing could have fitted in with what was happening six months ago, or even six mounths from now!''

DEBUT: Is it Important for you to have other interests, such as acting, writing themes, or whatever?

John: "Yes, as long as you don't over diversify and spread yourself too thin. In any rock band only about six months of the year are spent working on the group. You can either go on holiday to the South of France if your budget stretches, in our case Clacton, or you can work on other things. I personally paint. I'm one of your actual art school musicians. But if things do crop up, like this Omnibus theme, then you should...ahem...go for it!"

DEBUT: Does doing something like that theme give you an extra kick, it not being something you're expected to do?

John: " It certainly gives us extra cash! Yeah, it is good."

DEBUT: Is there anything you'd like to do in the future?

Richard: "At the moment it's important that we don't look much further ahead than 'Castles In Spain' and the album. To look ambition wise ahead of that is very dangerous. If you got a little bit bored with what you were doing then you'd be off immediately doing something else. That's what happened with The Skids. Stuart (Adamson - now of course with Big Country) and I weren't getting on too well then suddenly I was off doing the acting. You should take things one or two steps at a time in a specific direction. But you should arm yourself with these projects for when the time is right, then if you have a little spare time you can do something else."

John: "The band is the most important thing. You may have a quiver full of arrows but it's best to fire them in the right order."

DEBUT: Your songs seem a lot happier than they were in The Skids.

Richard: "I'm very pleased with my songs. Over the recent period of...improvement I was going to say brilliance, but I'd better calm it down a bit - I haven't needed to think about buying a flashy shirt to divert attention away from how crap the songs are. What happened in the earlier writing was that the band was playing these big sounding things and I was writing despairing lyrics because I was going through a bad time in my life at that period. Now, I'm happier and the songs are showing it."

DEBUT: Such as?

Richard: "Well, 'Thomas Everyman', which was a really sad song about a young guy who kept going for everything and kept getting slapped asunder. Then, I kept the theme but instead of being slapped aside, he rose and overcame the odds to succeed."

John: "What do you think, Richard, of that old thing that when you're in town you write about the country, and when you're happy you write sad songs and so on? Do you think that when we've made our for tune you'll start writing doomy songs?

Richard: "It's funny you should say that, John, because the most recent song I've written isn't full of gusto, even though I am."

DEBUT: What do you think of the current crop of guitarists, John?

John: "I like what people such as Robert Smith and The Edge are doing. They are trying to do different things with the instrument. Too many kids are content to knock out old blues numbers."

DEBUT: It's a bit like the Bad News Tour when Vim says "I could play 'Stairway To Heaven' when I was 12." He didn't write it until he was 20. That must say something.

John: "Yeah, we are responsible for trying to advance the use of guitar. I mean, for the record, I could probably play 'Stairway To Heaven', but you must think seriously whether that's really what you want to be doing."

DEBUT: Have you ever dreamed about becoming a great guitarist like John, Richard?

Richard: "Nah, it's not for me. I'd just be content if I could improve the structure of my lyric writing. Over the last five years I've improved tremendously, but like everything else in The Armoury Show, there's always a little more room for improvement."

DEBUT: Thank you.

 

Words: Paul Bursche

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