Martin is currently one of the busiest drummers on the UK gig circuit and plays with Johnny Moped and The Weird Things.
Here’s a few questions we asked him at the end of last year.
SIU – How was the cult Croydon band “Case’formed?
Martin – The band was originally formed with Rob, Matthew and Mark. They were a 3 piece whenSlimy Toad, AKA Simon Fitzgerald, bumped into them at a party and said you should form a band. I went to school with Rob and have known him since he was 11. I got him into listening to the Ramones at the time. I was getting on the train one morning when I was 16/17 when I bumped into Rob and had a chat. He said he was trying to form a band and needed a drummer. I said I drum, he said I didn’t know you drummed. So I had a rehearsal with him in a local scout hut and it went from there. We did our first gig at West Wickham hall, I think. It went well and we had a bunch of songs so we booked up a studio. The studio we used the Damned had also used to record Demos. It was called RMS studios in Crystal Palace.
We worked with the engineer Andy who did a lot of work on the “Art of Surfacing”LP for the Boomtown Rats and stuff like that. So we ended up in there in 1980 and Slimy Toad came along to produce it.
We did the 4-track demo and got lucky enough to get gigs like the Star in Croydon.
We supported Max Splodge and his band there and we started getting gigs around the circuit. Then I left the band as I was told to pursue my apprenticeship by my parents, which was fine, so I left “Case” and they went on from strength to strength. They eventually faded away in 1983 but I was always in touch with Rob. We tried to bring the band back in 1985 and we went into the studio to record some more songs. These tracks ended up on the ‘Ain’t Gonna Dance’album, which were all demos apart from 1 live track. It was not really recorded for public consumption, but there was a demand for it.
We got fed up with our poor quality demos appearing on Oi albums. People wanted to listen our music so fans were putting tracks up on you tube and getting 40k hits. People wanted to be able to get their hands on more Case tracks so Damaged Goods Records took it on and its still going. Of course it has a resurgence every now and again of sales as people see us in the Mopeds and look for other stuff we have done.
SIU – How would describe the music you did with Case?
Martin – Its actually really hard because we have done so many different types, we have been called an Oi band, a Punk band and a SKA band. Do I see us as any of those? Yes, there are elements of that. To me I always thought the closest thing to us where The Ruts. There is a lot of energy in the band, like The Ruts first LP we are just a guitar based energy band. Live – I don’t want to sound big headed but not much could touch us when we were flying. We were a hard power unit we were like marmite you love us or you don’t. We just couldn’t get that live sound in the studio, like many otherscan’t.
SIU – Do you think you will ever get back together?
Martin – We did reform back in 2011 when the album came out. It was really hard work as the singers heart wasn’t in it I’m afraid. It’s a shame he just doesn’t want to do it. We were lined up to do another album, a proper album, and we as Case never did a proper album. We only really did two singles. I really wanted this band to produce a proper piece of work. But alas it never happened but never say never.
SIU – I went to see you supporting The Damned in Oxford a few days back.
Martin – The tour with The Damned was fantastic I am in total awe of them. They are professional and brilliant. The boys have been doing it forever Dave Vainan and Captain Sensible’s enthusiasm is great.
To think they have been doing it for so long and still get up and sing ‘New Rose’ and ‘Neat Neat Neat’ with purpose. They are still doing it and it’s still brilliant and the fans still love it. I take my hat of to them.
SIU – Were you involved with the band ‘Wheat from the chaff’?
Martin – No they had someone else for that they wanted me back in the band around then but theyhad been through so many managers. They asked me back but the management would not have it. There is a lot of history with Case; we could sit here for days. The rights and wrongs of it, they even threw Rob out of his own band. What the fuck was that all about. They also threw out the drummer and sax player and the management just wanted to form the band around Matthew.
He was a fantastic singer and you cannot replace him but Rob wrote the songs. They auditioned for a year to get a new guitarist could not find anyone so they had to get Rob back. When Rob got back he wanted me back in the band but they just would not allow it. Every line up they had was a great one; they did not have one bad line up. The single ‘Wheat from the Chaff’ sounded weak nothing like the Kid Jensen sessions. Still a great record but it could have been a fantastic record. That’s why I was determined to do a new Case ep for Rob’s sake as well. And getting rid of the Rob from Case is like chucking Pete Townsend out of the Who.
SIU – The first time you played the Star Pub in Croydon was it exciting?
Martin – Yeah it was exciting, with Case there was no image or agenda just 4 young boys 16/17 years old rolling up on the bus and playing our songs. You know like here’s the gig even though we were not old enough to be in the place and as you remember the nights in the Star there used to be like 4 bands on a night. It was great as well you know because we did not have an image.
Matthew would turn up in Farah trousers and a cardigan. There was just no image with us, we gave our all and that’s what it was with Case. The songs were good but we gave everything. Matthew would be bleeding I would have bleeding blisters on my hands and Rob and Marc played their hearts out. I think that’s why we had the following we did. It was the sheer energy and they were great times.
SIU – Were you at all nervous?
Martin – No I never get nervous, even doing the Damned tour I never get nervous. I just love to play so much and it’s easier for a drummer you are at the back and you cannot see anyone anyway. Its just sheer adrenalin.
SIU – It’s a pity some of the old venues shut down like the Marquee.
Martin – Yes. The Marquee is the one that we all miss. Johnny Moped played there when Kirsty McColl sang with Johnny and Captain Sensible came backstage with a big cigar for Mr Moped.
There is a venue closing down called The Scream Lounge in Croydon where I had done gigs with the Weird Things. That’s got that old Marquee feel about it. The first gig we played there it was rammed solid and it was really hot outside. The air con was not working so it was just like the old Marquee Club with sweat running down the walls dripping of the celling and it was full everyone was jumping about and I thought this is great. I have been transported back in time. It’s shutting down now its losing money, people just don’t come out and see bands anymore like they used to. The 12 Bar shut down too its getting harder, people ask where to go to listen to music there is nothing now.
SIU – At your last Moped show at the Koko Camden it was a pity that the he main group led by Billy Childish would not let you use all the sound system.
Martin – I was not happy about that, I had a few words. He is a lovely guy Billy and a Moped fan;he just didn’t want us to blow him away I think. But it was a great night and we played a good set and Billy was brilliant as always. As long as the punters leave happy that’s all that matters.
SIU – The comeback gig at the 100 club for Case?
Martin – Yes that was Rob and I we put the band back together to get the album out. Great gig.
SIU – With Case why did you think you had such a following?
Martin – I think it was just the energy as I said before and we did have good songs. I think because the punk thing had happened and we were the younger generation, we were like 16 and 17 and people our age followed the new bands of the same age. I think we were one of the most exiting bands around and they can identify with us. There were other bands around but we looked like everyone else like four people picked out of the crowd. The songs had to be good and the live shows as well. It was just the honestly and the fans did start graffitiing everywhere which was quite amusing.
I think the graffiti did help as people started wondering who is this Case? It’s still out there some of it near New Cross I think.
SIU – How did you feel about not releasing a proper LP?
Martin – Gutted mate. Also as we got older we still had the energy there but we could all play better that we did when we were kids. I don’t feel that we could cope with getting the band back together. It really did become hard work and when that happens it’s not fun. It just is how it is. But a shame.
SIU – How did the ‘Ain’t Gonna Dance’ CD happen?
Martin – Again I had been on at Rob for years, absolutely years, about getting the stuff together as other people had been putting out the wrong stuff. When I was in a band on tour supporting the Tubes I was out in Germany and had a few hours to spare so I went to a record shop and found an LP with Case on it. I also found us on the jukebox, so I said to Rob we have to do it and get it done and put out a proper collection of Case tracks. We should get the money, as every other bastard seems to be earning from us. All the wrong stuff is out there. So he finally said yes we trolled through reels of tapes and finally selected some decent demo’s that would make a good album.
We took them into RMS studios were we did our first two demos. We picked the best tracks which we thought covered the various line ups and put it out. We went to Captain Oi first as they always asked us but they wanted to only release it digitallywhich we did not want so damaged goods loved it and put it out on vinyl and CD. People have always asked for a Case album and now they have it.
SIU – Did you also play with the UK Subs?
Martin – Yes I did a gig with Charlie and the boys. I got a call from them. They said our drummer cannot make the gig in Ipswich are you free, I said yes. I asked where did you get my name from, they said it don’t matter where. It was great. It was the first time as a musician I felt I could drum properly. Normally people come half pissed and say you’re good which is nice. But learning a Subs set and Charlie coming over and saying you’re a good drummer mate.
He is such a lovely man and he fired up my enthusiasm to form another band. I remember he came bursting in the studio saying quick give me a guitar had actually thought of a song on the way in on a bus. That’s the good thing about the Subs they are always doing new stuff because Charlie cannot stop himself. I thought if your still doing this at your age I have to stop being lazy and get into this properly. I started talking to Claire who played bass for the Subs. I wanted a girl bass player and spoke to her and she said that she was looking for a drummer I have a singer and a guitarist. I also had a guitarist so we all got together and formed the band ‘Dirty Love’
They were one of the best bands I have been in. We released a great album and gigged a lot and we should have done better than we did. I have to say alcohol caused a problem with the line up lol,
SIU – How did the Weird Things come about?
Martin – Basically Jan played in a covers band, he saw me play with Case at Rebellion, I had written a few lyrics I wrote some about my girlfriend who has rheumatoid arthritis and she see said I will never get hear it. I was a bit pissed and said of course you will get to hear it. So the pressure was on to do it. I told Jan about the song etc. he said for me to send him the lyrics and he would write some music for it.
I was out on the piss that night that night and got up in the morning and there was a MP3 file in my email. I then sent it to my mate Simon who said it was interesting so he agreed to do some recording. I did the vocals, Charlie did backing vocals. After that we decided to form a band. We recorded and wrote 12 songs in 3 months. We put Charlie on lead vocals and there it was. The Weird Things were formed just like that. Dick Crippin from Tenpole Tudor and King Kurt produced it and.
I cheekily asked him if he would gig with us and play rhythm guitar and he said yes but he did not want to be in a band full time…now you try stopping him. He loves it. I was gob smacked he said yes. The first year or so we went out a 7 piece but now we stripped back to a 5 piece. That’s how we formed from just doing a song for my girlfriend. So it was quite a nice little surprise rather than a planned project. The song has never been released and never will be. But as you can tell the 12 songs on our first album is a mishmash of songs. There is not really one style. I am proud of this band. I have never felt this positive since Dirty Love. The Weird Things are the most creative band I’ve been in to date.
SIU – How did you get involved with the Mopeds?
Martin – I’ve known the Mopeds for years… When they started doing more gigs Rob was doing all the driving so I said that would drive and roadie for them to give him a break. I started driving them to local gigs and they were rehearsing in the studio Rob has on the Real Cool Baby album and Dave could not always make rehearsals so I would sit in and rehearse the Real Cool Baby tracks with the band.
Dave then listened to the rehearsal recordings and went in to the studio and recorded it.
Dave then really could not be bothered with playing drums anymore and he was fed up of gigging etc. He started playing bass as well as he is really talented, he was also writing stuff for himself. It got to the point where they were turning work down because Dave was not interested,
I did a gig with them then Dave come back and did a few more. Dave really had had enough by this time and wanted to leave the band. The record company asked if I would drum for the band. I told them only if Dave leaves on his own accord and is not pushed. You cannot sack someone who has formed the band. It’s just wrong. But of course I would do it. They are my mates and its Johnny Moped for fucks sake. Dave told the band he had had enough. Rob asked if I would do it and I said yes of course I would. I thought there might have been a bit of backlash from the hard-core fans but there hasn’t been. Which I am very grateful for.
SU – What was the tour with the Damned like?
Martin – It was fantastic, it was a pleasure to spend time with them and watch them. It was also good to get the Mopeds out of London other than doing Rebellion. I was shocked as a support band that we played to packed houses every night. It done this band a power of good. We are getting asked to play all over the UK now and we are playing in Europe a lot, which is something they have not really done since 78. We are back out in Europe in April for 10 days. We are playing Hamburg, Berlin etc. We did 19 gigs last year. That’s more than they ever done I think.
SIU – And there’s a new LP coming out?
Martin – Yes we are mixing that now. The boys were in there yesterday doing some final mixes. I will sort out my drum bits in the week. Very pleased with it, it’s something different. All new material. There is a lot of stuff going on with the band at the moment.
Someone is doing a book on Johnny at the moment. The film ‘Basically Johnny Moped’ by Fred Burns was amazing. I think you can still download it. There was a problem with the BBC because there was some footage from Top of the Pops of Captain Sensible and I think, and if he sold more than 300 copies of the DVD he had to pay them) BBC) something like 15 grand!
There is so much footage of Johnny they could take that 30-second of footage out and replace it with some of the hours and hours of footage of Johnny. Everywhere we go we are asked where can I get a copy of the film? I am sure Ian from Damaged Goods records would put it back out. It really is a great film one of the best I have watched from that genre. You can down load it from the site. It’s funny and sad. There are some good bits of Fred on there, he wrote one of the best punk songs ever with Darling Let’s have another baby. It’s on a live Mick Ronson LP. You cannot get a better accolade than that.
That’s how I met Maggie Ronson. We spoke and she told me Mick loved it and used to play it to her a lot, she came to a show and I asked her if she would like to do some backing vocals on the next Weird Things album and she said yes. Which is just amazing.
SIU – Of all the bands you have seen have you any favourites?
Martin – Yes, David Bowie he blew my head off each time. In the later years the likes of Iggy when he came back. The Ramones never a let down. Recently seeing the old boys like The Pretty Things that was incredible. The first band I ever went to see was ‘The Sweet’ at the Rainbow when I was 11 that were pretty impressive.
SIU – Any bands you would have liked to see in their heyday?
Martin – Yes The Who. I would have liked to seethem with the original line up in the very early days. Maybe early Dr Feelgood, Eddie & The Hot Rods and bands like that and Ducks Delux. When they were all gritty and nasty. I would loved to have seen the original Alice Cooper band in the early 70’s.
As for punk bands? That’s hard as they have all got better as they got older. A bit like myself.
(Lots of laughter)