“The life of a Repo Man is always intense.”
It was “candy night, y’all” at The Grapes. Well, it wasn’t that name. It was a gig night that the people of Pisco Sour Hour had curated. They always put a good gig in that joint and there was always some kind of decoration theme going for the night. Sugar Rush! I think that was the name. That night, there was a lot of free candy. Amidst the glucose filled UFOs and lollipops, Cats:For:Peru, Dr. Robeatnik and RepoMen, who opened the night, played their tunes in the now gone place. It was a great gig, it was a great night, as I met one of my best friends, Lili, that night.
Back then, RepoMen had been together for 19 years. 19! You think about the passage of time and it works in two ways: it’s a linear progression that always follows a rule, no exceptions allowed. Conversely, memories and feelings can make time move in weird ways. This probably hit me when they were performing ‘Stella’. Why stay together for so long if you don’t “make it”?
Perhaps because they really love what you do. And frankly, that’s one of the best reasons to stick to any venture. Fame is a fickle mistress, it can be bestowed or ripped in a New York minute. Whatever you bring to fame can become tainted. Whatever you have leftover after fame skipped town will be imbued with terrible memories and what if maybes.
A couple of months later, I was coming home from a terrible bonfire celebration at the Don Valley Stadium. I felt ripped off, and I got out of the tram near The Grapes. It was a Friday night, and The Grapes had announced they were going to close down their gig room. A pear cider and a slow walk upstairs and I took a place, near a wall, waiting for the bands to play.
RepoMen had a lot of stories about The Grapes that night, and to be fair, it was a necessity to be in a reminiscent mood: the place had a great history. The pain of it closing down could be felt amongst the crowd. Fret not, RepoMen‘s punk music never let the moods go down and our gray faces stroke a few smiles as they weaved, pogoed and moshed.
Denzil Watson, the lead singer of RepoMen then asked: “who’s never been on stage in this place?” Dunno if it was the pear cider or my frustration, but I lifted my arm. I expected to see a few more arms, but no, I was the only one. I was surrounded by goddamned musicians and I felt blood rushing to my face. When I turned my head towards the stage again, Denzil was already in front of me, with a tambourine in hand.
I took the stage. I recall being in a Liam Gallagher pose, petrified, trying to follow the rhythm, so I turned around and tried to follow whenever the snare was struck fiercely. Sorry if I ruined the night, tambourines are a particularly evil instrument. Harmonics and all that.
RepoMen have always favored EPs, with just five albums for a 25-year career. Maybe EPs are their groove? I recently got in touch with Denzil, looking for an answer. Are they partial to EPs? “More to do with time – to record a full album you really need to be either a full-time band or work on it over a number of years. We’d rather do a little often rather than a lot very occasionally. This is the first year in about ten that we haven’t been in a studio.”
Since I had Denzil on the line, well, on the chat, I did ask him about the origins of the band. “I’d just left Sheffield goth band Poisonous Little Creatures and put a “musicians wanted” notice up in a London Road music shop. That’s how I hooked up with Ric. We then put up notices for a bassist and Simon got in touch. We completed the first line-up when a friend introduced us to our first drummer Jason. That was all in 1991. We split in 1992. We reformed briefly in 1996 for a few gigs then again in 1997. When we wanted to do the same in 1999 Jason had sold his drums and wasn’t interested. Hence we got James who was a friend of a friend and from there on in, it all got a bit more serious….dare I say it…intense!“
I’m pretty sure I saw them live a few times more. Lescar for sure, Shakespeare maybe. Never disappointed with their punk, influenced by Wire, Buzzcocks and Petrol Emotion. They are still knocking about and although this might be asabbaticall year, studio-wise, we can always look forward to more music from them to get us through this lattice of coincidence we call life.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López.