Crazy Arm are one of the best bands to come out of the UK for some time and we like them. In fact, we like them a hell of a lot. We caught up with Darren Johns and Tim Rowing-Parker in Manchester before they took to the stage in support of Frank Turner. As always, it got political and we may have even started an international incident.
Ian Critchley: First of all, did you name your band ‘Crazy Arm’ after the Ray Price song Crazy Arms?
Darren: Good research man, well done. Yeah, nothing more, nothing less. That’s what it is, just a subtle country reference.
IC: I like it, yeah. Some of you were in a band called No Comply before…
DJ: Unfortunately, the two of us doing the interview weren’t actually in it
IC: Oh no, it wasn’t a specific No Comply question. We just wanted to know if there was any other musical history in Plymouth, because you don’t really hear of many bands coming from there.
DJ: I was in a band called … we were huge in the post-punk scene. We weren’t huge, but we did alright. We did ok, but we weren’t as high profile as No Comply were. Tim here, he was in Loggerhead.
IC: Yeah. I’ve heard of Loggerhead. I’ve heard the name before.
DJ: You didn’t release any records though, did you?
Tim Rowing-Parker: What? No. Well, just little bits here and there.
DJ: They were a good band, I used to like em.
TRP: Well, we’d always be supporting all of your bands.
IC: At the moment, is there actually any other bands in Plymouth?
DJ: Yeah, there’s loads of good bands in Plymouth.
IC: Is there? It’s not very well documented.
DJ: Yeah, there’s loads of good bands. They just don’t tend to do much outside of the town. A lot of them don’t push themselves enough. They create records and demos, but they don’t then say “right, we must get out of this town”.
TRP: It’s a bit further away as well.
DJ: Yeah but if you go on a tour, it’s only far away for the first show. Then, once you’re on tour, you’re out and about.
IC: I read on your MySpace that some of you are vegetarian and some of you are Vegan. Is that like some are Vegetarian and some are Vegan?
DJ: Two of us are vegetraian, two of us are vegan. On tour, we’re all just vegetarian, mostly because it’s so hard to find supplies.
IC: Yeah, yeah definitely. How do you feel about people who don’t follow your views?
DJ: What, like my mum for instance or my dad? Yeah, I hate them.
DJ: I’ve got absolutely nothing against people do as I do. I’m not a Nazi *laughs*.
IC: Yeah, it’s when I go and see my Nan and she’s like “oh it’s only got a bit of ham on it, I’m sure It’ll be alright”. I’m like “no, you don’t really understand what’s going on, bless you for trying”
DJ: The only thing that I mind is when people start picking an argument with me. I used to be quite millitant when I was younger being vegetarian and vegan, but now it’s like if someone wants to pick an argument, well I’ll fucking jump on it. Especially if they’re just doing it to get some kind of oneupmanship on you. When they start thinking they’re more superior. Then it’s like, if you want to talk about it properly, go and read a book. I’ll suggest you a list of books to read. If you don’t want to talk about it properly, then I’m not going to listen.
IC: Could you suggest a book for us now?
DJ: ‘Animal Liberation’ by Peter Singer. That’s, perhaps, the bible of animal rights really. Yeah, there’s no more I need to say, just that one. Although he’s gone back on it a bit, recently. What is it he’s said? He’s said something odd about…yeah, I can’t remember what it is, but he seems to have done a bit of a U-turn on one issue in particular. That’s unusual. I’ve kinda blanked it out. If people are just being arsey, then I’ll give them a whole book list and tell them to read it. It’ll turn them on to a whole level of information. If you just want to be a twat and just try and get a rise out of me, it’s not gonna happen.
Anthony Barlow: So you’re not going to go and beat Frank [Turner] up for eating a ham sandwich before then?
DJ: Yes, I am *laughs*
IC: Actually, speaking of breating people up, last time Frank was on tour, one of his support acts was a band called Fake Problems.
DJ: Yeah, I know them.
IC: Do you think you could take them?
DJ: Fuck yeah *laughs*
IC: You seem quite a bit bigger than them. They were little guys *laughs*
DJ: I’ll tell you who could take anybody, Chuck Ragan.
IC: You could bring out every band that’s ever supported Frank and Chuck would take them all. He’s huge.
DJ: But, he’s also very, very nice. I can’t imagine him fighting.
TRP: Yeah, but I imagine if he was to, I don’t know if I’d want to be on the other side of that.
DJ: I don’t know what Fake Problems are like, I’ve never seen pictures of them.
IC: Oh they’re not big guys. They’re nice guys though. Lovely.
AB: Chris, the lead singer, looks a bit like Tom Gabel
IC: Yeah, if Elijah Wood and Tom Gabel had a bastard child, it would be him *laughs*. It is a pretty looking bastard child though.
AB: So, it’s St. Paddy’s day today.
DJ: Fucking hell, it is isn’t it! I’m a quarter Irish, I’m not lying.
AB: Guiness is not vegetarian friendly does that…
DJ: I hate Guiness anyway.
IC: Are you on the Jameson’s then?
DJ: Whiskey or cider, yeah. Although, my veganism stops short of alcohol. I’ve never been so fussed about the alcohol side of it. We are a bit more now, but there are times when you just think “well, y’know…” Because some cider’s aren’t vegan or vegetarian friendly. I just think, I’m here and someone wants to buy me a drink, I’ll have it. I’m not religious about it. I’m not religious about anything. I’m not religious, so I can’t be religious about veganism either.
IC: Getting back onto the topic of music *laughs*, was your album a full band session recording?
DJ: Yes. As opposed to?
IC: Like, individual instruments recorded bit by bit.
DJ: Half of it was done live. Well, five songs were recorded live.
IC: I could tell that on some of the songs. I could hear, like, a drum rattle in the background and stuff like that.
DJ: Yeah, yeah.
IC: It’s good though, I like it.
DJ: You’ve done your research you, haven’t you. You’ve really listened and read. That’s good. It makes a change, doesn’t it. Yeah, we recorded four songs first, just because this friend of ours moved down to near where we were, about 20 miles away. He loves us, so he asked us to come and do a weekend of stuff. So we went down there, and we’d been recording the album first in a local studio and it was taking ages. Then when we did these four songs with Pete, it was like, we can’t go back, we have to do the album here. Those four original takes stayed on the album.
IC: It’s not like that’s a bad thing though.
DJ: No, not at all. It’s great.We did three or four really well, with click track and really made them release worthy. Then another couple, we did live. So it’s a good mix of professional and full on live. Apart from vocals, they were always done afterwards. Yeah, so it’s nice to have those little glitches in there.
IC: You’re quite a political band, you’ve got a lot of political statements…
DJ: Yeah, it’s all mouth.
IC: *laughs* Yeah, it’s all just a front.
DJ: It is.
IC: Every time we interview people, “what are your views on the BNP” just seems to crop up. Should they be allowed to say shitty stuff?
DJ: Should they be allowed to? That’s a hard one. We took part in the protest against the BBC allowing Nick Griffin on Question Time. We did a regional one in Plymouth. It wasn’t so much I was against him being on there, I just thought it was a good opportunity to highlight what he’s about, whether it stopped it or not. I was quite excited that he was on in a way. I don’t think anyone was doing anything else for that hour, other than watching him. I like the idea of using that campaign to highlight how idiotic and dangerous he is and they are. I don’t like the idea of banning anybody, but at the same time, if you don’t quash those kinds of extreme views, they rise up and then you’ve got no choice and it’s too late. Hitler used to say that if we’d have been attacked with the most ferocious force Nazism wouldn’t have existed.
IC: Who is it you’re rooting for in the election then?
DJ: I’m not. I don’t vote in elections. I have no faith in anybody. I’ve grown up being an anarchist all my life and I know it’s not realistic in every aspect of life, but that’s one thing I’ve always held true, that there is a field of irrelevance. I do understand the relevance of not getting the BNP in power. I’ll probably spoil my vote. That way it registers as a ‘spoiled vote’ rather than ‘no vote’.
IC: Just draw a picture on it.
DJ: Yeah, or just go into the voting booth and say they’re all shit. I think that’s a fair enough statement, if you want to make that statement.
TRP: You should have an ‘opt-out’ option.
DJ: Yeah. Then again, that’s pretty much what a spoiled vote is. They do get registered as ‘spoiled votes’. I mean, there’s no danger of the BNP getting in this year, so it’s not like you have to. The idea is just to expose them. If they’re not going to be banned, then the idea is to expose them and confront them and fight them on the streets when you have to. That’s my logic. Never let them get away with anything.
IC: You’ve got a live 7″ out with Frank [Turner] haven’t you?
DJ: His is live, ours isn’t.
AB: See, that’s what you get when I do some research. A bunch of lies.
DJ: It is out new single. ‘Still To Keep’ is our new single. It was a digital only release, but then the label said “how do you feel about doing a seven inch of your single with one of Frank’s songs for the tour”. That’s fucking perfect, y’know. We’d like to release our singles on vinyl. The last one we missed out, with ‘Henry Fabian Flynn’, but this one has worked out nicely. The timing is perfect for us to do it with Frank, because we’re on tour. I think it’s released in five days on the 22nd.
AB: Well, I’ve bought it.
DJ: You’ve bought the actual vinyl? Oh, bless you. It’s quite interesting, it’s nice. I don’t really see what’s in it for Frank, to have us on the other side *laughs*. For us, it’s just…
IC: It’s a big thing. As a band, you kind of transcend genre. Sort of like The Queen transcended from Nazi bitch to British monarch. How do you feel about that comparison? *laughs*. In fact, what are your views on the monarchy, The Queen and whatnot.
DJ: What the hell is this question? It started off about music and now it’s about the queen.
AB: We’re saying you transcend genre
DJ: Yeah, like The Queen. I think that’s a bit bizarre. I think the monarchy is ludicrous, it’s outmoded, it’s a waste of money and it’s quite offensive. The other part of the question…
AB: Basically, how would you describe your sound?
DJ: We try not to describe it really. We used to have the little tag, ‘Hobo-core’. We used to use that. I liked it for a while and then it became like a joke and we left it behind. Now, I quite like it again.
TRP: I like the Fugazi with banjos, but without banjos.
IC: I’ve actually got this written down as a question, Fugazi are fucking mint aren’t they?
IC: I don’t know if that’s a question or more of a statement.
TRP: I think that’s more a statement.
DJ: A statement disguised as a question.
IC: I think I wrote it and then tried to make it a question. Yeah, they’re really good.
DJ: This is it, trying to sum it up is hard because a lot of our songs are different from each other and you’d have to have about ten different tags. I do like the ‘Hobo-core’ thing. ‘Roots punk’ is one I like to use a lot. Folk roots, that’s where we draw a lot from. We’ve got influences from the sixties and seventies in a folk roots style. So yeah, it’s ‘Roots punk’ music, not reggae roots.
AB: You’ve got some mad vocal harmonies in there as well
DJ: Yeah, absolutely. There’s progressive tenancies to it as well. Yeah, we like to mix it up.
IC: So for each of your specific roles within the band – vocals, bass e.t.c. – can you pick out someone that specifically influenced you?
DJ: No, I can’t do that *laughs*. I find it really hard. The others might be able to do it, but I can’t. I was obsessed with Fugazi from like 1989 until 2001, when they split up. I think that informed a lot of my style, but you wouldn’t see it in this band. You would have in my other band, but you haven’t heard it in this band. I still feel that kinship in the way they structured songs and the ideas they had, but you won’t hear that in this band. Baroness, I think, are the band that we aspire to be like. I absolutely fucking adore them. We all do. They’ve influenced us recently, more than any other bands. You won’t have noticed it yet. You won’t notice it until maybe another six months time, when the new stuff comes out. Have you heard of Baroness at all?
IC: No, I’ve not. I think I’ve heard the name, but…
AB: Yeah, I was gonna say I’d heard the name
DJ: They’ve got a few similar scenarios to us and they’ve got the Southern thing going on. They’re quite heavy, they’re very heavy and they’ve got a lot of sixties folk elements in their breakdowns. They’re all over the place, but I think they’re a bit more music based than we are, but I don’t mind that. They’re more music based than vocal based. We’ve got loads of words and they use sparse amounts of lyrics, but they are amazing. There are too many places to draw from really. In the past, The Clash were my favorite band. It’s songwriting that I care about more than how good a guitarist or a drummer or a bassist is.
IC: You’ve been quoted as being: “The most exciting band of the past few years” how do you feel about that?
DJ: Who by? You? *laughs*
IC: Ok yeah, honestly, it was me.
DJ: Really? *laughs*
IC: How does that make you feel?
TRP: I’m flattered
IC: Surely it’s not as good, because it’s just me
DJ: Every review is only another individual opinion so…
AB: I completely agree, by the way
DJ: Oh really? Cheers mate.
IC: I just think a lot of new bands lately have been the same old shit. There’s been some good ones, but…
DJ: That’s the thing. We’ve had a lot of reviews be the same, if not more glowing. Someone said our album was the best of the last ten years. I’m thinking “are you sure?”.
DJ: I mean, I’m gonna take the compliment, but have you heard all the albums of the past ten years? There’s been some great albums. It’s amazing, honestly. All the hard work has paid off y’know.
IC: We’ve got one last thing to ask you. Have you seen that advert with the guy going to the football?
DJ: I knew you were gonna say that. Green Army!
AB: How many times have you been asked that, by the way?
IC: When my mate found out you were from Plymouth he was like, “get them to do a Green Army” *laughs*
DJ: This isn’t gonna get heard though, is it?
AB: No, but I’ll make it look cool in print.
DJ: You have a go at it then
IC: Green Army!
DJ: Green Army! You do it better and it’s my accent anyway.
IC: I’m glad I impressed you *laughs*
AB: That’s it I think, yeah thanks a lot for letting us sit in a room with you and slag your accent off *laughs*
DJ: That’s alright.
IC: The ‘exciting band’ thing was nice though, wasn’t it?
Thanks a lot to everyone in that room, especially Darren and Tim, for being such good sports. The best thing is, the “Green Army” thing did catch on and we’ve been informed that the band used it on stage every night after the show in Manchester. Very cool indeed. Do yourselves a favor and download Crazy Arms’ debut album, ‘Born To Ruin’, here