Describe your style in three words?
Professionally Busking It.
What’s the best gig you’ve ever been to?
It always used to be My Bloody Valentine in New York at The Ritz in 1992 with Superchunk and Pavement supporting. But a little more recently, it’s BILLY BRAGG at the Dublin Castle in 2009 as part of a 6Music gig for the Camden Crawl. It only holds a couple of hundred of people, but bless him, Billy said he come down and do a turn and he was in terrific form. Lots of stories, lots of songs. I’ve got a bootleg of it at home and ‘A New England’ with the crowd singing a long at the end still sounds incredibly inspiring.
If you could put any three bands in history on a line up?
I guess you’d have to have The Ramones. I saw them twice, one at the Lyceum Ballroom in the Strand, where I started the gig standing in the middle by the sound desk and by the end of the first song I was over by the toilets. The whole crowd was a seething mass. And they were really back on form at the time with their ‘Too Tough To Die’ album which had all these Dee Dee inspired hardcore tracks like ‘Wart Hog’.
So The Ramones, a band called the Newtown Neurotics, from Harlow, where I lived for a while, who were the first band I ever followed round on tour and whose set always used to start with a song called ‘Wake Up’ which was a rallying cry for my fanzine at the time. And then Idles I think. Along with Shame they’re my current favourite live group. I first saw them Bristol in 2016 and have followed them ever since. They’re ruthless but embracing; ferocious but, in their own way, pragmatic. Well done.
Which subcultures have influenced you?
Punk made the biggest difference on my life. I was a little too young for the first wave, but the thinking behind it and what it stood for, definitely helped change who I was in my teens.
If you could spend an hour with anyone from history?
I think Marc Bolan would have been interesting. Although, oddly I’d really like to go back to the ‘60s and sit down with Richard Beeching. He concocted the famous ‘Beeching Report’ for “reshaping” ie closing large swathes of the rail network, which, as someone who loves a good train journey and the concept of public transport, was an awfully short-sighted plan I think. I mean, I don’t fancy my chances changing his mind, but I’d give it a go.
Of all the venues you’ve played, or visited, which is your favourite?
Crikey, there’s loads of them, all for different reasons. I used to love the little venues in north London, The Bull & Gate and The Falcon because I saw a lot of bands who went on to big things at those two. Currently, I think The Lexington in Islington is good, because even when its full you can usually see. The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds is excellent. And I went to Hebden Bridge Trades Club for the first time a couple of weeks ago and that’s got a lovely atmosphere about it.
Your greatest unsung hero or heroine in music?
There’s a lot of people who are doing work behind the scenes for the Music Venue Trust at the moment who are standing up for the future of small British venues, that don’t get the credit they deserve. But in terms of musicians, there’s a chap called Paul Howard who really should have been bigger than he is. He’s played solo and in bands, including The Tender Trap, but never got the break. Have a listen to ‘Irish Ivan’s Spirit Song’ or ‘The Patron Saint Of Heartache.’
A champion of new music since his time at NME and XFM in the early 1990s Steve Lamacq has presented programmes on BBC Radio 1, 6 Music, Radio 2 and 5Live. Like John Peel before him, Steve Lamacq has been a consistent supporter of independent emerging British artists throughout his career, shining a spotlight on talent from all over the UK.