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When did you first discover you had a liking for music?

Well I always was into music from a very early age. I remember hammering away on an old piano to the Beatles round my gran’s house when I was about five. I used to listens to the album Led Zeppelin 1 when I was ten years old. Then discovered Marc Bolan and T.Rex, and that was it music really became the dominant force for me. I started playing drums (or drum – borrowed a snare drum and a pair of brushes) in youth club bands and decided I wanted to be a musician instead of wanting to be Dracula, which had been my ambition up to then

Dracula?! Hahahaha! Are you a horror film fanatic then?

I was addicted to horror films as a kid especially Hammer. Yeah, I still quite like horror but it’s gotta be good horror like The Grudge, 28 Days Later, that type of thing.

Horror has always been a good movie genre but I guess it’s getting harder to scare people nowadays!

Yeah you gotta watch a Japanese horror movie if you wanna be scared.
Mind you, anything with Arnie or Vin Diesel scares the shit outta me!

Were you a punk rocker back in the day? What other bands were you listening to?

Oh! Yes I was. As I said I’d been seriously into music, mostly heavy rock for years and when punk first hit I, like most of the civilized world hated it from what I read in the newspapers. I was into Alex Harvey, Hendrix, Deep Purple, ELP, and Pink Floyd etc etc. Then I heard The Sex Pistols, God Save the Queen, at the local youth club and my world crumbled and metamorphosed into something that still has repercussion to this day. I loved the early punk stuff the Pistols, Damned, Clash, Stranglers, Devo, Penetration, The Slits and The Jam all that stuff. I joined one of Sunderland’s first punk band’s, we called ourselves The Gets, hehe, couldn't find gigs with that name so became The Cult. We supported the Angelic Upstarts when they were filmed for TV at the notorious Old 29 in Sunderland, in about 1979, our biggest ever triumph…those were the days my friends. Later I got seriously into Crass and the anarcho-punk movement.

Just to clarify things here, that wasn't the Ian Astbury Cult was it?

No just a young local punk outfit. Didn't do much, couple of demos and half dozen tiny youth club type gigs. They were my first gigs though, apart from 2 seriously embarrassing earlier ones.

Where do you see the likes of the Pistols in the evolution of rock music? Did they really change everything, or were they just in the right place at the right time?

Oh yeah…yeah yeah yeah. They did, they really did. But not all for the better I think. The Pistols were the most important band in the world. Punk rock's attitude reverberates in just about all the good music you hear now (apart from Keane that is). My whole outlook changed with The Pistols and punk, and I hated the idea of it before I heard it, I was a heavy rock fan. The Pistols happened at the right time, just as the 70’s were becoming in the really dull and dreary. They lit a fuse and so many kids thought, fuck it I can be in a band and they could and did. But I think the evil homogenized crap that gets called “pop music” now, is partly a legacy of the fear and loss of control that punk created within the industry. I think the grip has tightened and “THEY” are never gonna let “US” take over again. So they take control from the very start with all these awful “Do you want to be a star” auditions. Do I sound paranoid?!!!

I don’t think you’re paranoid at all, in fact I think you’re right on the ball there. The ‘powers that be’ will never let anything like punk happen again. Pop music nowadays is far too ‘safe’, it’s produced to shift units and I don’t think record companies are necessarily interested in a band’s longevity.

Still we do have great bands coming up like The Futureheads, AND they are from Sunderland…nice. Yeah, your right about safe music, but things are starting to look healthier just lately with bands like, The Futureheads, Kaiser Chiefs, Maximo Park etc. There’s even a band called Selfish Cunt!!!

I’m playing devils advocate here coz I love the band, but were the Pistols really that special? If you listen to the records out of context they’re just damn fine rock ‘n’ roll tunes. I always thought that the New York Dolls were far more ‘outrageous’.
Do you think punk in this country would have been so big if it hadn’t been for the Bill Grundy incident and all the media coverage that followed?

I don’t necessarily think that the Pistols were really about being outrageous. I think John was just really really honest. I mean yeah the others members were really nothing more that yobs really but John brought an honestly and awareness to the band that was far more important than the actual music, which was really pretty orthodox.
I think punk woulda took off even without the Grundy incident, it just went BANG with the Grundy thing that’s all.

So, how did you end up joining THE TOY DOLLS then?

It’s a long time ago but as I remember it Olga got my phone number (he’s good at stuff like that) and just rang me up. I was playing with the Cult just the odd youth club gig really. Olga was always nicking drummers and I was just another one. I wasn’t really into the Dolls music, didn’t really consider them PUNK…but I did it on a temporary basis. After a while I got to like playing regularly and thought I might stay with them…then I got the phone call from Olga. Out with me, in with Trevor the Frog. Bastard

In retrospect, were you disappointed with that decision?

I was hurt at being replaced, especially as I had just bought a new snare drum and Olga came with me to get it… the swine

But I joined as a stand-in, then thought I might stay. I’d never been kicked out of a band before so it really pissed me off. And we had only just been on the TV for the first time ever. I felt a bit cheated.

How aware of the band were you prior to joining?

I’d seen Straw Dogs, Olga’s previous band, and thought they were crap. Olga was great even then but I really didn’t like the rehashed old rock n roll, as I saw it. Later I saw THE TOY DOLLS a few times and same again. Olga was brilliant to watch and a superb guitarist and front man, but I still didn’t like the music much, most of which were covers. Probably had a lot to do with jealousy as well because Olga was just so good. But when I joined I liked playing in a known band and things were obviously going to happen for the band, so ‘I thought this is it, we are going places, the big time, I’ll buy a chocolate coloured Roll Royce… wow’.

So Olga’s always has been that damn good then?

Yeah he really was/is. Just superbly entertaining and a brilliant player. It’s probably a little more slick and rehearsed now but the early days at the Old 29, and the Wine Loft, was the real stuff

What sort of covers were they doing at those early gigs then?

A lot of R&B, Dr. Feelgood, The Motors, The Move, a little bit of punk stuff like, The Ruts, and the usual standard rock n roll stuff

So you started playing drums, left, then rejoined as bass player. Why the turnaround?

After drumming with the Dolls I never wanted to hit a drum again, unless in anger, it was just such hard work drumming with them. I switched to guitar and played in a few local bands, one of which supported The Toy Dolls at a gig at Dunelm House, Durham University about 1982…
And they didn’t pay us

There was a band at the time called Patrick. Previously Patrick had been called, High Speed Hero’s, and they supported a few times when I played with the Dolls. I got to know them, became friends, and ended up standing in for they errant bass player. Things were starting to look really good for Patrick, we did some TV and had record company interest when Olga put his size nines in again and phoned me once more. The devil finds work for idle bass players hands to do!!!

I really liked Patrick but there were personality clashes i.e. I thought the singer was a tit. And I was still only a stand-in bass player. After pissing around a bit I agreed to audition with Olga at Pete Practices Practice Place. My audition consisted of wearing a Gibson SG Bass and doing the Toy Doll leaps. Olga said I looked good…that was it I joined again… for my sins.

You mentioned Peter Practice there, what exactly was it like at his Practice Place, and was he as tight fisted as he’s made out to be?!!

Well yeah he probably was that tight fisted but it was all in fun. Pete is a great character and he almost single handedly kept the music scene (sic) in Sunderland alive when there was no where else to practice but Pete’s. I take my hat of to him.

Since you’ve mentioned it, the leaps and jumps and the ‘choreography’ was something I wanted to ask about. Was it a ‘contrived’ thing or was it naturally borne out of the nature of the music? It looks great seeing it done, but did you find it difficult in remembering all the ‘steps’?

No, it was totally contrived. I mean there was probably some natural exuberance early on, but the jumps were practiced and there were places in songs where we both had to make sure we got the jumps together. It does look great though, and it’s just a bit of the bands showmanship, that’s what The Toy Dolls are all about. It’s about putting on a good show even more so than being a punk band.

I think that’s what sets The Toy Dolls apart when it comes to live shows, they really do set out to entertain and put on a show rather than just playing the songs.

Did you feel you had anything to live up to (on both occasions) given that the band was already established?

Yeah, I mean first time round they had a record out, Tommy Kowey’s Car (self financed) and that was like "My God a record…big time here I come". They were really well known and playing every weekend so yeah…3 weeks of practices later the scary gigs started. The second gig I did was at The Empire Theatre, Sunderland. The Beatles had played there for God sake. It was a real Theatre and very big. That was terrifying.

I bet the buzz you got was amazing though right?

It was a buzz being asked to join the band because they were the group everyone was talking about in Sunderland. The Empire Show was terrifying, and a couple of songs in, during Finos, Olga stops mid song and said to me, over the PA “What’s with this crap singing” I was way out of tune so he stopped and made us practice it mid set. There wasn’t too big an audience there but I still coulda died, and I don’t know how he (Olga) didn’t as I thought “he’s dead I’m gonna kill him dead”
The biggest buzz was doing the TV thing though with John Peel though, I loved that.

That was a damn shame about John passing away, I don’t think we’ll see his like again. How does that make you feel when you see the greats like John Peel, Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny Ramone and Joe Strummer passing away at relatively young ages?

I already lost my two greats at a young age, that’s Bill Hicks and Frank Zappa (32 and 52) respectively. Two of my greatest hero’s gone within months of each other, and Toyah still walking, that’s not justice. I’m still grieving the sad loss of Ian Curtis sigh. But yeah, John and Joe were both real shocks as they were still so full of life and Joe was getting back to some sort of form with The Mescaleros. I was never really a Ramones fan (to yankie for me) but it is sad almost all of the band now gone. It’s always sad when old punks die.

(Back on track now!!!)

Second time (i joined) they were really established on the live scene. They had just come off the back of Nellie the Elephant, lots of TV, chart success and proper tours booked. Again in at the deep-end first show was Munich Alabamhalle, a live TV show broadcast to an audience of nine million or something; and I forgot to take my bass on stage. It took me two years to really settle down and realize I’m not going to get sacked any day now. I always thought I would.

Did you never feel like it was going to last then? Always looking over your shoulder for your replacement?

I did think I’d be replaced again cos I know that Olga puts the band first and maybe I thought I wasn’t up to it. I dragged my heels joining the second time, almost didn’t join and I never really intended to stay that long....... again
It’s weird, I was just really unsure about it, so it took long time before I kinda settled and accepted the band. I guess I was a bit embarrassed.

Olga's notoriously critical of the band's recorded output, what's your opinion on how the albums turned out and do you have a favourite?

The first album is the best for me, but I don’t have a real favourite, I don’t really listen to them much anyway. When I was with the band, we always treat the recorded output with a bit of micky taking derision, not that we disliked them but it was just easy to kinda laugh at yourself. That’s how the band was; nothing was taken too seriously, apart from playing our very best at the gigs. We knew our weaknesses. I’ve heard more TOY DOLLS stuff over the last few months, (due to becoming a board-member on this site's excellent forum), than I ever really listened to at the time. I like some of the songs, but listen more for the guitar work and arrangements, which are often superb.

Did you have any input into the writing or arranging of the music, or was that all Olga?

No that’s all Olga he has complete control. I can see why. It’s his world view and no one else is quite that mad.

Obviously you’ve played in bands and you’re a musician, but are you a song writer too?

Well I don’t really play now just acoustically at home like an old hippy. I’ve written songs for years though in most of the bands I’ve played with. The only band I really considered my band was Downloaded. I was the singer/songwriter and guitarist and loved that group. Maybe not a greatest ever band… but I loved it and that’s the band I wish I’d had some success with. I still come up with odd little instrumental stuff now and then.

I’m not just saying this, but Idle Gossip is one of my favourite albums. That whole era of the band is kinda special because it evokes some good memories for me. I think it had a lot to do with the both of you with the red hair, and the promo videos that were done at the time.

Thanks, I enjoyed that red hair period it was real fun

Who dyed their hair that colour first? And who copied who?!!!

We got it done at the same time, the hairdressers in town stayed open late for us.
Olga suggested it, but I’d had my hair all kinds of colours before being a bit of a punky type so it was like “YEAH…I’ll do it”…Teddy just said, “get lost”

How did you find filming those promo videos? Where were they filmed, and did you enjoy them? They looked like a lot of fun to do, give me the full rundown...

I only really did the one. Some of it was live and you don’t even notice your being filmed when playing live. The live footage turned out crap and most of it was unusable that’s why there’s only a tiny section on the Idle Gossip video. The other stuff was in our local park just around the corner… not very glamorous… or expensive… but totally Toy Doll.

Ahh, that’s the stuff I was talking about, the stuff in the park and round the town!!! How was it filming with a load of school kids passing by?! And how did you get the drum kit into the climbing frame?!!! Tell us everything!!!

Not much to tell really. Umm we just went to the park with Jettisounds and messed about feeling really embarrassed. The school kids were great though. They were passing by giving us a bit of stick so we thought; get them on our side to shut them up by putting them in the video. The sad thing is, not many people will have seen that video and I bet no one believes those kids to this day when they tell people they were in a pop video with a punk band in a park!

What's your opinion on The Toy Dolls fans, and did you like being in the spotlight like that?

Toy Dolls fans are the best in the world I really mean that. It’s different in Britain and takes a lot to be a Toy Dolls fan because the band became pariahs after the hit single. The Toy Dolls became very uncool, things changed and we lost the crowd in Britain. In Europe, and the rest of the world, cool isn’t as important, it’s having a good time that’s important, and the Dolls are THE good time band. The fans are so dedicated, loyal and damned nice. I’m gonna put a hat on just so I can take it off to them

Yeah I liked being in the spotlight. I’d wanted to be in a real successful band since my early days and now it was starting to feel like I was. I mean The TD’s were always a small cult band really, but we still had the trappings, you know tours all over the world, fans, gigs, TV, records all the stuff a real band does. It felt great and I enjoyed my time yeah.

Do you miss that kind of thing, that kind of attention, now?

Yeah I think I do in all honesty. I’m really not into this star thing. We weren’t stars of course by any means but I wouldn’t wanna be either. I always wanted to be known for making good music…sigh. But I do kinda miss some of the attention no matter how much I played it down at the time. I think we were pretty naïve and very blasé about the whole thing; it was all part of being a Toy Doll. I didn’t realise I could maybe have had a long career with the group. I gave it up maybe a little to easily.

If Olga were to ask you back into the fold do you think you would you be tempted?

I think I would…well maybe…possibly…just for one gig!
I’d like to just do a couple of songs with them. It would be even more embarrassing now though doing all that leaping around and singing about soap stars and elephants!!!

Do you think the band was (and is) treated fairly by the media in general? How did the media coverage compare from country to country?

What media??? In England they get absolutely none, and if they are mentioned it’s with derision and/or ridicule. I hate the way the band was treated in England by arseholes like Gary Bushell once the band had a hit (albeit a novelty one). Most people that do remember the group remember them for THAT one song. But there are loads of albums and the media had no interest in reviewing them or letting people know there was more to the band. So I think the treatment at home, which is the most important to band members, was really awful.
The coverage in other countries like Japan and Brazil was brilliant; it’s a completely different world. It’s less judgemental, more fun and more about letting punters know there’s a band playing in their area.

I’ve always had a big gripe about the UK media in that it loves to build something up, only to shoot it down again at the first opportunity. And like you say, the media in other countries tends to be more celebratory than derisory.

Yeah I’m not keen on how the media work their magic.

What would be the highest and lowest points of your time spent with the band?

Brazil and Japan were just so unbelievable; I mean just such a different feel it was incredible. I went to Japan four times I think and it was amazing every time, but just playing live in general was great. Another specific high was the first French tour we did with “I hate you, you are the fattest man in the world” Marty. A private joke there

We just had such a laugh on that tour and after a few upsets with drummers coming and going we finally got Marty who was a mate of mine so of course I was really happy about this.

How did you know Marty then? Were you responsible, either in full or in part, for his joining up with the band?

I knew Marty via mutual friends, The Evil Mothers, who he used to play with and I later joined. I liked him as soon as I met him…well you do with Marty don’t ya? I did a lot to get him in the band. I suggested him, Olga wasn’t keen, then ran around after him lots to make sure he got his arse in gear, cos it’s hard to get Marty going. He still almost blew it but it worked out in the end.

Can you let us in on that private Marty joke?!

Well it was Marty’s first tour in France at a gig in Brest, there was this completely mad girl fan chasing me around all night with passion d’amour. She was a real nutcase, I was shit scared and appealed to Marty for help. He locked both himself and me in a tiny cupboard so she couldn’t get us, she was trying to smash down the door and shouting “Marty I hate you, you are the fattest man in the world”. We were pissing ourselves laughing inside this tiny cupboard it was surreal!

How easy was it for the band it to keep their spirits up during tours? Obviously there’s a lot of travelling involved, how did you keep yourselves entertained and stave off boredom?

Well you don’t, you go a bit insane and become a little gang. Play a lot of Led Zeppelin and Nick Cave tapes, get obsessed with tiniest details of everything, try to sleep upside-down in the van, drink Ballentines, become a brooding homicidal maniac and wash ya socks a lot.

Low points for me was some of the crowd trouble in those days. There was a fairly strong violent contingent in certain locations and even specific gigs, and that really contributed to me deciding I’d had enough. For me the Oi association (whether it was wanted or not) really worked against the band, and encouraged some of the more violent elements in the crowd. Oh! and Carlisle, Stars and Stripe club. And freezing cold Swedish hotel rooms.

Did anything get particularly nasty then? How extreme was the crowd trouble?

As soon as they saw I was a mad, brooding, homicidal maniac they all backed off

No really some of it was pretty intense. Certain places would have lots of dickheads and it’s hard playing to these people who are only there for violence. It sickened me seeing decent fans have their evening spoiled again and again. I started to dwell more on the few dickheads in the crowd that were ruining some of the shows. At times it was really really scary, even for the band, we were threatened too sometimes.

So why, exactly, did you leave? Were you pushed or did you jump ship?

Quite a bit of the above, just sick of crowd trouble, together with the fact both Olga and me were getting tired of playing the same ridiculously fast music and dressing like clowns. Olga was getting really down at times; I guess it was the start of his first breakdown although I had no idea at the time. We, or definitely I, wanted a change of direction, not right away from punk but just a bit less manic and childish. I’d already told Olga a couple of times I was thinking of jumping but thought I’d see if the music would change just a bit. It didn’t and I didn’t really want to play the same stuff forever. I was disappointed that nothing was gonna change after all. Olga gave me time to think about whether I wanted to do the next tour and asked me to ring him when I’d figured it out, but you know what? I just didn’t bother to phone him back. I didn’t jump I just walked quietly

I loved being in a touring band, but just thought I couldn’t play those songs forever. I don’t mean this to sound demeaning to the fans, but that’s how I felt at the time.

What have you been up to since leaving?

Bloody hell… Played guitar a bit, erm Evil Mothers, Christ, Entropy Guild (Oh! Sorry that was drumming) and my own and most favourite of all bands Downloaded. I went to college, then Film School, then University. Got two gorgeous little girls now Eva 4 years and Lucy 7 months, and work at the same local college as Gary (Dunn) Funn.

Downloaded was the band that gave me more joy than any other, I loved that band. Small, local, but boy, that was my band and I miss it.

When putting together the member profiles for this site Olga remembered you best for “flying across the stage and colliding with the mixing desk”. Can you tell us the story?

Bloody hell…3 years in the band and that’s what he’s remembers?!!!
Yeah I fell off stage at the Club Foot in London. It’s the live bit on the Idle Gossip video but they didn’t catch (pardon the pun) me falling. I took a big long run, went a bit mad, tripped over a socket board flew through the air and landed at the side of the stage behind the PA dazed and confused with my bass going buzzzzz. Fat Bob picked me up and asked if I was ok, I said, ”yeah” he said “Grrrr…THEN GET BACK ON THAT STAGE YOU STUPID F*****G TOY DOLL”. I was so scared of him I climbed all over the monitors mixing desk to get back on, the monitor man said “Grrrr…YOU STUPID F*****G TOY DOLL. It’s the only time I wanted to stay on for just one more encore

You touched on this earlier but do you consider The Toy Dolls as a punk band nowadays?

Punk has changed a hell of a lot now; it doesn’t really exist in its original form. It was about individualism it was political nihilistic and unconventional; well the best of it was anyway. I don’t think the punk bands of today are anything like early punk. That’s not an indictment; it’s just different and definitely more commercial. I think people who weren’t around for the early punk days will think of bands like the TD’s as punk. I don’t think they have ever really been a punk band in the true sense. Not as I think of punk anyway. But they are unique, there’s no other band quite like them and there’s no who can touch Olga. I agree with what Olga says, “It’s Toy Dolls music”.

Did you think that the band would still be going now? Did you think that they’d have this sort of longevity?

In a way I’m not that surprised because I know how driven and determined Olga is and he deserves his career in music. It is surprising that people still want to hear these, you know, fun but lets face it, pretty juvenile and inconsequential songs. It’s hard to imagine still playing stuff like Spiders in the Dressing Room etc for all these years. But good on them, they deserve it, and they deserve a bit of respect for all the years of really hard slog.

If you could have changed one thing about your stint with the band what would it be?

Well…I would have liked to feel more a member of a band and not just a live player; do you know what I mean? Obviously the band IS, Olga. When I was with them I really had no say I was just an employee. I didn’t really feel involved and that isn’t a real band. As leader and manager Olga took all decisions and we were simply told what was happening. I would like to have been involved in recordings. I only did a tiny little bit on Idle Gossip and Olga did all the rest, apart from drums. So… the one thing I would have changed is to make us more of a real cohesive unit and real band I guess.

Do you think this album is really the last we'll see of The Toy Dolls?

Well if it really was the end I think Olga would do the honourable thing and bring it back home by playing where it all started...Sunderland. I reckon Olga owes it to all the original fans to play just one more time in the town. I think it would be a really popular gig, could even maybe double-head with the Upstarts, they have played in the North East recently and it was really well attended, and get Leatherface on the bill as well. It would be great, I'm sure some of the board members would even make an effort to see the band on home turf so go on Olga, forget the money and do it for the fans just one last time...lets get a petition going TOY DOLLS to play the sunny realms of Sunderland one last time. Maybe even a few ex-members could guest on a couple of toons

Go on Olga, go on my son

Finally, are there any parting words that you’d like leave us all with?
Yeah… 25 years of TOY DOLLS, you must be bloody mad you lot J but keep the madness going cos it’s you lot that keep this band alive kicking and sweating. TOY DOLLS fans are the best and when you lot see Olga next time tell him it’s time to play his hometown were it all started…then I might get to see the band for the first time in 22 years.

Chill out
Keep smiling