GIMP FIST – Punk rockers at heart
GIMP FIST is one of the absolutely greatest bands in the PunkOi! scene today, and in my quest to put some more quality Punk into Eternal Terror, I had a chat with singerguitarist Johnny…
Who and what are Gimp Fist? A wee introduction is usually in order.
Hi, Gimp Fist is Jonny guitar/lead vocals, Chris bass/ backing vocals and Michael drums/backing vocals. We were formed in 2005 when the ska band we were all in decided to call it a day. The three of us, for all we are big ska fans, are punk rockers at heart so we continued on with what we knew best.
You’ve released three albums so far, and I must say the progress is quite clear. From the faster and rougher songs on One Tribe to the amazing catchy tunes on The Place Where I Belong. Has this progress been a conscious one?
It is difficult to say really. In the early days I did not have any confidence in my song writing so the songs tended to be harder and faster. As confidence grew, songs slowed down and I concentrated more on the lyrics. I was not as scared of people hearing what I had to say. Also on the first album there is no way I would have had the guts to record a reggae song. When I first wrote "More War Stories", we still were not sure whether to put it in a set, never mind record it for the album. We thought that live, it might kill the set a bit. We put it in to a few gigs and the response was good. It was quite a nice change of pace and tempo. Even now, confidence in my song writing is lacking. As a song writer you get quite attached to a song and the line between good and not so good gets blurry. I rely on Michael and Chris’ opinion a lot because they hear it with fresh ears and can give a non -biased view.
I think you’ve captured a very distinctive style in your songs, especially with quite inventive melodies, which sadly is an uncommon thing among bands of today, what do you think gives GF this distinct sound?
I have no idea. Ha Ha. It is nice of you to say so. We just kind of do what we do. We have no set rules or master plan. We go off whether we would listen to the songs or buy the album and between the three of us it must somehow work.
Your recent release was a split with Last Rough Cause, how did this collaboration come about, and how has the feedback been? By the way a great great record, with material highly worthy of an album! The intro chant on "Count on You" gave me chills, ha ha!
Oh thanks. That means a lot. Well we have been really good mates with Last Rough cause for quite a few years now, both on the gig circuit and from a personal point of view. We have got a lot in common and we help each other out whenever we can. When we recorded the songs for the split, we recorded 21 songs in total in the same session, so we never specifically wrote and recorded for it. We had all these songs ready for a new album so we recorded them all (in one session which we’ve vowed never to do again!) and then began the difficult task of selecting what was going where. From these songs we selected 5 songs for the split and another 14 which were to go on the new album which is out in May. Basically, apart from our version of "The Violent Few" by Last Rough Cause, there could have been any 4 songs on there. We were on a tight schedule to get the split finished so we did not spend as much time as I would have liked on mixing and mastering but were still pleased with the results.
Are there any new releases planned for the near future? And if so, what can be expected from the Gimp Fist camp?
Yeah, we’ve got a new album entitled "Marching On and On" that will hopefully be released this May. I would like to think it is in a similar vein to our previous albums. We have tried to mix the tempo up a little so it does not get monotonous. There are couple of fast ones in there and there is the token reggae song. Ha Ha. We would like to think there are few more releases after that too. I am still writing songs and got loads on the go so hopefully they will be something worth recording eventually
Your FB banner says that GF is an "anti fascist oi!" band, is this an important part of the band? I think that songs like "Skinhead Not Bonehead" could easily be classified as an anthem against assholes…
We do not like putting labels on ourselves but it is something we feel we are forced into doing. We have always loved punk designs using the union flag but have felt like we cannot use it for fear of getting into a political standoff. To us it is all about the music, nothing more. We are sick of having to always justify ourselves. People should take the time to listen to the songs and read the lyrics and they will see where our views lie, but we are not going stand there preaching to people about it.
"Skinhead not Bonehead" was written after a comment my wife made one day. It is basically a song about stereo- typing. We have all been guilty of it at some point but you have got to try and look beyond the outer shell. There is good and bad in all walks of life.
Speaking of which, it seems like there are lot of dodgy politics in the scene today, almost a revival of sort, with bands sort of doing their own thing, putting on alternative gigs and such, is this a problem within the scene in the UK?
Yeah, I think there is. Sometimes it can be a problem. You kind of know about which bands are dodgy and you steer clear. But like I have said before, were just three working class lads trying to make some music. I hate how it has come to this. Maybe I am just naive and it has never really gone away.
You’ve played the Rebellion festival the last few years as well as a number of club gigs around the UK. Which do you prefer, the small intimate club gigs or the festival ones? Any bands in particular you’ve played with that you feel is worth a mention?
Personally it is the smaller gigs I prefer. My brother Michael and I get really nervous and this is amplified at the bigger gigs. Ha Ha. But saying that, the fact that we get asked to play these bigger gigs like Rebellion and the Durham Punk Fest really means a lot and to see how many people have turned up to watch us these last few years is quite humbling. We really appreciate the support and feel it is because of the support that we are getting asked to play the bigger gigs, so thanks a lot to everyone. We have done a lot of gigs over the past year or two with The Business which is quite an honour. Mickey Fitz…what a bloke. Supporting the street Dogs in London was quite a highlight. Also to play alongside the Old Firm Casuals and then Rancid at the end of last year was amazing. It is nice to meet these people you have looked up to for years and then find out that they are really nice and just the same as the rest of us.
There are couple of small venues locally where we love playing too. The Three Tuns in Gateshead is one of my favourites. It is only a small place but the atmosphere is always brilliant. Likewise there is a place in Carlisle called the Club Victoria which has a similar atmosphere. Great mates and great gigs, particularly when Last Rough Cause are playing too!
A question I ask a lot but that is of a huge interest watching todays scene and not having being part of it in the old days, is what’s the difference between Punks and Skins of today? Seeing as they’ve been in the same music scene for the last 35 years, are they the same breed in different clothes? What does being a Skinhead mean to you?
I suppose the scene is so small now that punks and skins have to get along or else there would be no gigs to go to. Obviously I was not there first time round and generally they get along fine. Like I mentioned earlier, there is good and bad in all walks of life no matter if you are a punk or skin. Now and then you get the odd fight amongst a punk and a skin but I have found that it is normally a personal matter not a question of what kind of clothes they are wearing. You are just as likely to find two punks or two skinheads fighting against each other. Michael and Chris are skinheads. I am not. I have always classed myself as a punk. To me it is about what is in your heart rather than what you are wearing or how long your hair is. Oi! was supposed to be, and to us will always be, punks and skinheads united.
What bands have been most important to you both as a musician and personally?
For me personally, one of my biggest influences is the Clash. From the hard hitting punk songs to the reggae. To me they are the whole package. I am also a massive Blitz fan. Blitz are what punk music is all about, simple catchy songs, no messing about just straight to the point. I love Billy Bragg too; I think he is underrated as a guitarist, to play and sing some of the things he does is pure talent. I cannot deny that Rancid have been an inspiration both as a guitarist and as a song writer. I love the fact Mickey Fitz and Charlie Harper are so down to earth, this has an impact because they are just ordinary blokes like us trying get by and still doing what they love after all these years.
From my point of view, the scene in the England seems pretty strong these days? At least there’s a lot of up-and-coming bands around as well as tons of gigs being put on… How’s your view on the scene today, both UK and worldwide. Do you think is owed to the political climate, or perhaps a new generation in search of something different? There’s this theory that musical genres comes in"waves", I think we’re witnessing one of those right now…
There are a lot of up-and-coming bands in the UK and this is good as the scene will eventually die without new blood, the old bands cannot go on forever, although a lot of them will try ha ha.
The actual scene in the UK is pretty small though, gig attendances can be poor unless the old name bands are playing. Worldwide, the scene definitely seems to be getting stronger, when we play over in Europe support for the gigs is excellent and we are treated really well, we rarely get the same treatment in the UK.