The Stupids were a shining beacon of light, colour, fun and energy in the harsh black n’ white world of UK 80s punk. While all around these Ipswich teenagers bands screamed and raged with paranoia of nuclear war, depression, misery, riots and the oppressive system of government and stage, Stupids, although still caring and fearful of such matters, strapped on their skateboards, harnessed every single drop of their teenage energy and set about to have as much fun as a human being could possibly have. Songs about skateboards, food, dogshit, insects, dumb stuff, having fun and more skateboarding flowed from every pore.
Their debut album ‘Peruvian Vacation’, released in 1985 is a ferocious rush of youthful energy that detonates in every direction, setting the Stupids off on a journey that would see them heralded by John Peel, garner much-media attention and tour the world. Many members passed through their ranks before the band conked out in 1989. Various members split off into different directions and musical worlds. Feeling the punk rock itch again in 2008, founding member and Stupids guru/drummer/singer Tommy Stupid reformed the band with original guitarist Marty Tuff for the ‘Kids Don’t Like It’ album, released alongside their back catalogue on Boss Tuneage Records. Picking up exactly where they left off, the Stupids exploded into life, touring around the world for another lap of honour.
Back again on Friday 11th of April at the Black Heart in Camden, the band return for their first London gig in three years so we caught up with Tommy to reminisce and bring us up to date with arguably the most important skate punk band the UK have ever had.
When you initially reformed The Stupids in 2008 what were your hopes and aspirations for the band this time around, were you happy with how the band was received all of these years later?
I think for 15 minutes we thought more people would be as excited about our new record as we were. We were pretty astonished that we’d made a full LP that we were really happy with, but it took much longer for the message to get out there. Unfortunately other aspects of our lives took over in the meantime (both good and bad) so we had to put things on hold again about a year after we made it, at the end of 2009.
It wasn’t until earlier this year (2014) we decided to get things rolling again. With new bass player Wild Johnny Stallion in tow (John Roscoe) we quickly got back up to speed and immediately went out and toured France for 10 dates solid with an superb bunch of guys called Swine Punch from Lyon.
Why France in particular? Do you prefer cheese and wine in your older ages these days rather than dog logs?
Because they asked! We can sense when a kindred soul reaches out and extends a genuine invitation. It was 10 days solid of hardcore travel and gigs with possibly the nicest bunch of French guys you’ll ever meet. It was awesome. Seek out Swine Punch.
When you returned to playing live, did you still get the same energy rush out of it as you did as a teenager?
Of course not. Nothing beats the reckless oblivion of being a rampant 15 year old with a giant boner and on stage…..but nearly.
You cited the Stupids’ return as ‘unfinished business’, is returning to punk every so often an itch that you need to scratch?
For me, I’ve always “been a punk”. It did indeed feel like a return to the music after a decade of total immersion into dance/rave music culture in the early 90’s. Punk attitude in its base form goes far beyond the template that’s generally set out for it: Leather jackets, distorted guitar, Sex Pistols, Maximum Rock ‘n Roll etc. Rave culture originally felt very punk in its wreckless freedom of expression and ultra DIY attitude. Apart from that, yes, I desire punk rock, it is my wife.
Talking of scratching, if you look back to recording the hip hop style track ‘Stoopie Boys’ track what memories spring to mind?
Another one of those stupid 15 minute ideas where you think its going to be amazing etc and then it wasn’t/isn’t. Aside from that, it was great! At the time i was living in a squat with this guy Sean from God Told Me To Do It, on Woodstock Road in Finsbury Park and we were both enjoying the phenomena that was NYC Hip Hop. Schooly D, LL Cool J, Beasties and so on. I had recently bought a terrible drum machine to help me record 4-track demos (Yamaha RX21) so we dragged that down to RMS studios, Marty programmed it and then used an AMS delay (or was it a BEL……., can’t remember) to drop in scratches and samples, and we all “rapped”. Great fun, but shit. The Clarks Commando’s is my fave line and I still use the expression “pull a def U-ey” to this day when I’m driving.
The Beasties were killing it on the hype front at that time, you’d hit the cover of the NME on 22nd August 1987 with a great big feature on skateboarding, shit kicked off…
It’s pretty crazy thinking back on it all. Nothing was planned, no pre-conceptions of any kind, just teenagers going nuts doing what we thought was cool and reacting to what we thought was cool. There have been a handful of moments in my life where “pop culture” – for want of a better term – just spins into overdrive and everything seems to come together all at the same time and you have total synergy. 1987 was one of those times. It was completely random that 3 dorks from Ipswich were being courted by the cream of society, from Big Audio Dynamite to David Bowie to Smash Hits centre spreads and NME front covers. It beggars belief – a bit like a Chauncey Gardener situation, but we didn’t think about it for more than 30 seconds and thought it was a laugh a minute. I know it upset the old Vicars of the UK Hardcore scene at the time as it went against the punk rock rules, but we all seem to be able to have a civil conversation these days.
Ph: Tommy and Stevie from the NME cover shoot in 1987 shot by Lawrence Watson.
Do you remember playing on the side of Mon’s ramp in Oxford back in the day whilst a skate jam went down? What other spots did you skate back then, Meanwhile 2?
I definitely remember playing Mon’s Ramp Jam, that was NUTS. I’ve forgotten most about it and I would love to hear more about it. We never played Meanwhile 2 but we were there almost every day in the late 80s skating the shit out of it. That is absolutely my all-time fave spot. I love the fact it’s still there. One side sharp, the other round with a small curved transition at the bottom and then FLAT. Very odd set up but i love it and would be happy to go and skate it tomorrow. You need wide trucks though to be able to grind it. Totally unique spot.
What rig did you ride back then?
Oh there were looooads. The first “wide set up” I had was a Sims Kamikaze with Indy’s and Kryptonic Blues. I made the mistake of swapping the deck for a Vision Agent Orange which snapped about a week later. After that a Santa Cruz Rob Roskopp 3 mini, a Madrid John Lucero Jester, a Bullit mini that I copped off Pushead, an Alva Malba, a Madrid Bill Danforth, a Caballero with Boneite, a Hosoi Hammerhead………………..I could go on.
We have been working on a lengthy Latimer Road vert ramp feature here with Dan Adams, Lance Mountain and many others in the last 6 months that should be ready soon. Did you delve into any vert at the time?
I didn’t. Vert skating was boring for me cos I was scared of the height. I could sometimes manage a backside grind or an edger if the ramp wasn’t too big. For a time Latimer really was the primo UK skate spot. I do remember going down and watching Lucien Hendricks skating but I always preferred banks. Even to this day I prefer banks and bowls.
Reading an old Stupids interview in Kerrang! Magazine recently from 1988 you are very critical of bands at the time (Anthrax, Suicidal Tendencies) that used skating to make their image look cool but didn’t actually skate unlike the Stupids members. Do you still skate?
I do still skate, however the Stupids haven’t written a skate song for a very long time. We stick to relevant themes like organic produce, divorce and those annoying dicks who go to festivals and bring bongos.
Have you checked into what skateboarders are doing lately?
I do, I love skating. For me it’s about the flow rather than the tricks and I enjoy watching someone skate with style and energy rather than micro technical tricks. Saying that, Rodney Mullen is my all time skate hero.
The punk scene is very different now to how it was when The Stupids were first around as we enter an era of nostalgia and reissues, but what do you think is better about the scene now? Or worse?
Obviously I’m older so I can afford to buy more records and go to more gigs. Personally I think punk is a wholly nostalgic scene these days. There’s no real descent, no real attempt at subterfuge.
So, let’s talk about this deluxe re-issue of ‘Peruvian Vacation’ that is due out soon. It’s an epic record and a firm favourite for us in here. What will be included on it? Will any more of your back catalogue be getting luxury re-issues?
Aston and Julie at Boss Tuneage Records have made a huge amount of money over the last few years, especially with the Stupids stuff. I believe it’s kept them in Ferrari’s. Anyway, their way of thanking us for elevating their lifestyle was to re-issue the re-issues in an even more decadent and luxurious fashion. Peruvian Vacation is a double LP affair with the various demos and extra tunes from that era and the first time on vinyl in most cases. It’s going to be fucking amazing! Next up will be another one, no idea what but it’s going to be velvet and gold and just ultra lush.
Peruvian Vacation has a very memorable intro with its ghoulish bells, ripping guitar solos and the sound of you shouting ‘fucking shit’! Explain the setting of how that album was recorded.
At the time cross-over metal was the absolute THING in hardcore and we wanted to take the piss. We were in Andrew Fryer’s parents attic in Stutton, Suffolk, (Treetop Ave Studios) and we made use of his tape echo and his copy of BBC horror sound FX. We co-opted Ed Shred, (or Wenn as he was known in those days) to act as Satan and we did it all very quickly…….you know, 36 hours. Peruvian Vacation was insanely cheap and fast to record. I laugh when I read stuff like “the first Ramones album cost $1000 to make”, well, Peruvian cost less than £100. So piss off.
Recording in a house must have had its limitations then, it must have been a blast…
Yep. We caused the ceiling to collapse onto Andrew Fryer’s parents bed. Other than that……jeez……we used Dolly Mixtures equipment without asking them! All the drums and guitar amps…..Dolly Mixture. We also recorded over Andrew’s sister’s show tunes groups master tapes, which you can hear at the beginning of This Is the Norm…..that might have someone from Dolly Mixture in it too! So, all you hipster dicks that shop at Rough Trade east and buy Dolly Mixture re-issues….piss off.
Did Bruce Springsteen ever get in touch by the way?
I think he might have touched Wolfie at some point.
You’ve had a lot of people come and go over the years. You now have Ipswich legend John Roscoe on bass (formally of bands such as Perfect Daze and Sink). How did that come about?
Our last bass player finally left about a year and a half ago and at the time I was up to my neck in a Klute LP and running my rather shit drum and bass label, Commercial Suicide, so I said to Marty, I can’t be arsed to look for another bass player but if one falls into our laps then I’m up for it. That weekend I was up in Ipswich, bumped into Johnny, mentioned we’d stopped because of the bass player and he just said “I’ll do it” without even asking. So, for the first time in my life, a bass player fell into my lap. I think he seriously regrets it now.
What part of the Stupids career so far are you most proud of?
`Peruvian Vacation’ and ‘The Kids Don’t Like It’, because they’re both two very real, full on band albums, the rest were kinda studio albums.
Do you intend to record a new Stupids album any time soon? Any new tunes in the works?
We do, aye. This ones going to be a dub step album with a touch of hipster house.
Hipster house is so next year, can’t wait for that! We guess you are still a keen punk record collector and listen to a lot of new bands. Who’s on your recommended list at the moment?
Whether they’re new or old, I don’t care, but at the moment I’m bang into Pusrad, Deep Sleep, punk or not I love the Sleaford Mods, they’re about the most truly punk band around at the moment. Ummmmm, there’s a Die 7″ I quite like. I loved Tremors, dunno what they’re up to. Of course there’s tons and tons of other stuff.
What can we expect from the Black Heart gig on the 11th of April, you’re first London gig in 3 years?
45 minutes of sweat.
And lastly… have you ever seen a grown man naked?
Yes, one time and I’m afraid the details must remain with me.
The Stupids play the Black Heart venue in Camden, London next Friday 11th April. They will be joined by Leeds’ Jaded Eyes, who feature members of Voorhees, The Horror, John Holmes, Dead Pets, Geoffrey Oi!Cott and many many more. Grab the remaining few tickets left from here.