June 10, 2020 Interview – John ‘Eddie’ Edwards of The Vibrators
When Punk Rock arose in the 1970s there were plenty of bands to come and go. However, one of the few to have continued on since their 1976 inception are The Vibrators. Right up there with other UK Punk Rock icons such as The Clash, The Damned, and Sex Pistols, The Vibrators are undeniably pioneers.
Supporting Iggy Pop on his British tour in 1977, and having their debut, Pure Mania, be considered one of the 50 best Punk albums of all-time, The Vibrators are the epitome of influential. These factors in mind, they are set to celebrate their 45th anniversary in early 2021 and show no signs of slowing down. Taking the time to reflect on the wild ride, co-founding Drummer John ‘Eddie’ Edwards chatted about the scene, plans for a new album, and a whole lot more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been an intricate part of The Vibrators for over 40 years now. Considered one of the most legendary Punk bands of all time, how would you describe your journey as a musician, as well the band’s?
John ‘Eddie’ Edwards – Long, long. (Laughs) Like any journey, it has had its up hills and down hills. I think it’s been great fun, though. I think we’ve moved forward and, personally, I think, playing wise, you get better and better as you get older. Forty-four years now, 45 coming up next February! At the moment it’s one of the low points because you can’t go out and play. We’ll keep going and see what happens next year. I take it one year at a time now.
Cryptic Rock – It certainly has been a great, long run. As mentioned, one of the pioneers of Punk, what was it like being a part of that original Punk scene when it was ‘real’ and meant something?
John ‘Eddie’ Edwards – It was really exciting, to be honest. We were very bored with all the bands playing in the pubs who were playing slow, dreary stuff. The charts were full of things like “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen and all these sort of pretentious eight minute songs. It was dreadful! We wanted to get back and start playing the Rock-n-Roll that we grew up with in the ’50 and ’60s; that was our aim in life.
Once we started that, we realized there were other people across London, and indeed across the world, thinking the same thing. They didn’t want to be part of long-winded solos, they wanted to see a band that could really rock out and have good fun; like when you originally went to see bands like The Who. That’s what we wanted to do and we set out to do that on our own. Then we found out there was a bunch of other like-minded people who had the same influences and interests. Amazingly, a lot of those people are still around making music today like us and The Jam.
Cryptic Rock – Right, bands such as yourselves provided an alternative. It seems like the modern music scene could use an alternative now too.
John ‘Eddie’ Edwards – Yeah, I think we really do. In those days there was a lot of dreadful Prog Rock; some of it I liked and some of it I didn’t. The problem these days is everything is done by computers, so you are not listening to a drummer. You have artists going on stage today, they drop their mic, and the vocals still keep coming out. You think, who wants to go see that? People dancing and miming to their own records – it’s a rip off. People do go see it, though, but that’s not the part of the world we operate in. We operate in the real world where we go out, meet people, and play.
The part of the deal doing the live album in New York was it was just live. There were no overdubs on it, we never got the tracks back, and we never went into the studio; it was just recorded, mixed, and put out. It’s all pretty much as it was on the night, which is great, that is what you want. When you come see The Vibrators, you come and see the real thing.
Cryptic Rock – Absolutely. The live album, Live In NYC (At The Bowery Electric), came out on Valentine’s Day in the USA. It was recorded at The Bowery Electric, which is not too far from the original CBGB’s.
John ‘Eddie’ Edwards – Yeah, it’s about three or four doors down. The original CBGB’s is now a clothes store. They have all this stuff up about it; they want to keep it like it was when it was CBGB’s and make it a historic thing. If they were that keen on it, why didn’t they open it up and keep it going as a music venue instead of selling bloody jeans or t-shirts? It’s a disappointment. It was a great venue, we played there several times. We almost closed it, as well, but I believe Patti Smith was the one who ended up playing the last ever show there.
The Bowery Electric is a great gig now. We’ve played there a lot of times and it’s always a lot of fun playing in the cellar where it’s packed out, hot and sweaty. (Laughs)
Cryptic Rock – It is a cool venue, right in the heart of The Bowery where New York City’s Punk scene began. The show recorded at The Bowery Electric was a part of the band’s 2019 USA tour. You were scheduled to tour the UK and Europe in 2020, but obviously that has been put on hold for now. Are you going to be picking up where you left off once you are able to?
John ‘Eddie’ Edwards – We are just waiting to find out what we can do. We did most of the European tour this year; we did 12 out of 15 gigs. We didn’t play in Milan because it looked pretty suspicious out there and they were not letting people back into Switzerland if you played there. We had to cancel that, which is probably a good thing, because that is where this virus kicked off in Europe; at a football game in Milan.
We had another American tour which was supposed to be in September, but we are going to put that back into May of 2021. We thought it might be a bit risky coming out in September, so we will be back out in the USA in April or May of next year. We keep saying it will be the last tour, but then you finish, and say, “That was good fun, let’s do another one next year.” Although we won’t be back this year, we will be back next year.
Cryptic Rock – That is good news. With so much original material recorded throughout the decades, how do you decide what you want to play live?
John ‘Eddie’ Edwards – That’s always a big problem. It’s down to us three and someone will say, “We haven’t done this one for eight years, let’s put it back in the set.” We do try and change the set every year; there are four or five songs that stay in the set every time, though. We try and do some old stuff, and if we have a new album coming out we will be doing a couple of new songs off that, as well. Then you get fans coming out asking us to do such and such, so we dig that out. We try and keep making changes so we don’t do the same set year in and year out. It will be a different set next year, but we have to make sure we can get back next year.
We have also done another album with Chris Spedding, which should be out later on this year with Cleopatra Records. His record company wanted to put out a bunch of old sessions that he did on the radio back in the ’70s. We did one with him for the “We Vibrate” single and he asked if we mind if that goes out and we said sure. They liked it so much they asked if we would like to do another album. We went in, did three songs, and the record label said, “We don’t have any money.” So Pat Collier, our original bass player, has a studio and he put it all together. We did about another 10 tracks, phoned up Chris, he came in for a couple of days, and we finished it all up. It is the first time Pat has played on a record since about 1985, we had to dig him out. (Laughs)
We will keep going as a live band of Nigel (Bennett) on guitar and Pete (Honkamaki) on bass, though. We can’t get the original band back on the road, that’s completely impossible; too old, gray, and tired. I think there will also be one more studio album with the live band, as well.
Cryptic Rock – It will be exciting to hear the new music. You also have a remastered edition of 2002’s Energize out on July 17th. The live lineup of The Vibrators has been together of some time. What has it been like working with Nigel and Pete?
John ‘Eddie’ Edwards – Nigel has been on and off; he joined us in the early ’90s. He’s been on and off; he dropped out a couple of times when he had other things to do, but he always keeps coming back. Pete is the new boy, he’s only been in the band for 17 years. (Laughs)
It’s good fun, we all get on pretty well. You have your ups and downs like you do with any band or anybody. We have gaps, so we can get out of each other’s hair. That way every time we come out on tour it’s always good fun.
Nigel is a fantastic guitar player, plus Pete’s a really good singer and excellent bass player. It’s a really good band, you can tell that from the live album. I think the other thing I enjoy about it is you have Nigel, Pete, and myself who all sing a little bit. You haven’t got the one singer all the time and not many bands do that. I think it always makes it more interesting live when you have different singers on different songs.
Cryptic Rock – Agreed, bands used to do that a lot more back in the day. Playing gigs as long as you have, do you find younger fans are coming out to check out the band too?
John ‘Eddie’ Edwards – Oh yeah. That’s one of the really good things about The Vibrators, we have a really widespread audience, all the way from 18 to 80. You have a lot of the original Punk rockers all in their 60s, but you still get younger kids coming out. They get tired of all that America or Britain’s Got Talent stuff. They want to get back to something exciting, fun, and real. People come with their dads too, it’s really cool. We’re also are one of those bands that have girls and boys coming out. We always have a real mixed bag of audience. It’s really cool.
Cryptic Rock – That is great to see the band has such a wide audience spanning over generations. Last question. If you are a fan of Horror or Sci-Fi films, do you have any favorites?
John ‘Eddie’ Edwards – Most of the Sci-Fi films I like are from the ’50 and ’60s. They were more imaginative: everything is a bit wobbly and things don’t look quite right. I prefer that to the slick, modern stuff that is all computer-generated; I don’t like all the CGI stuff. Like Forbidden Planet (1956), what a great film that is! That’s the kind of stuff I like.
When I was a kid I used to go and see all those Hammer Horror films with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. That used to be really good fun. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) is a great film too; they did a remake of that and it was just rubbish. The original The Fly (1958) is a great film, as well.
Cryptic Rock – Those are classics. The CGI makes a lot of films look cartoon-ish or like a video game.
John ‘Eddie’ Edwards – It’s too perfect, isn’t it? The original King Kong (1933) had a much better plot than the remakes. Although it’s not quite perfect, it’s still more fun and has a homemade feel about it. The original still stands to the best version after a half a dozen films they made of it, at least for me.