Interview with Steel Rules Die, when the band played the Verge in October 2003. Interviewed for Rancid News #4.
RN: Ok introduction time.
Ricky (guitar/ vox): I’m Ricky and I play guitar and sing.
Andy (bass/ vox): I’m Andy and I play bass, and a bit more singing.
Stu (drums): Yeah I’m Stu and I play drums…
R: And absolutely no singing! (laughs)
RN: OK first question. Why ‘Nostalgia For Beginners’ cause it seems like an odd title for a record?
R: It’s suppossed to be like… it’s kind of got a double meaning. Because a lot of the songs are about nostalgia in a way, is the basic answer. I think as you grow up you look to certain things that you did in the past more favourably than they might have happened! So I meant it in the way that when you first start to be nostalgic, and you start to get old, you’re doing it for the first time. So it’s suppossed to be a double entemble. It’s suppossed to be like my help book to get over it. ‘The beginners course’. And also of course the doing it for the first time thing, getting old, and just always being a beginner at it!
RN: So was that why you were writing the songs?
R: Yeah to an extent I guess. A lot of them are about other things. But you always have this thing that when you’re growing up you expect some kind of a life, and when you get older, it never really turns out exactly how you wanted it.
RN: Do you do most of the song writing then?
R: On that record pretty much. We were pretty much just starting, and I had written a load of songs, and we kind of came and fleshed them out together. Now Andy’s written a few so it’s becoming a bit more of a collective effort I guess.
A: The way it seems to happen is that someone will write a song, and then we’ll all get together and then each person will put their own little ‘thing’ to it.
R: It’s true, because when I write a song in my bedroom, I’ll play it all the way through, but then when we go to play it, it sounds different. So I’ve stopped writing vocal melodies at home, because the thing is that every time you get there, when you’re in the studio, it’s just completly different. I think it’s best to try and hammer it out together. That’s what we’ve started to do more of anyway.
RN: You’ve been playing quite a few more songs live, are you working on a new full length?
R: Yeah we’re going to have one out in November.
RN: Is that pretty much done?
A: We’ve got most of it. We’ve got most of the song structures there, but I think they’re still coming together…
R: The songs are written, they’re just not really rehearsed. So we’ve got 11 songs that we know that we wanna do. And about five of those are in actual music form, whilst the rest are kind of in waiting form.
RN: So is that coming out on In At The Deep End then?
R: No that’s actually going to be coming out on Dutch label Reflections Records.
RN: Oh yeah, I remember now reading that.
R: Yeah they’re going to do the album for us, which is cool. Especially since they’ve got better touring facilities on Mainland Europe and stuff. Cause we’d like to play over there more.
RN: Have you been there yet?
A: No we haven’t been able to go yet. We’re really hoping we can go now though because of the whole label thing!
R: It’s difficult though. Some bands go, and kind of wing it, and book shows, which is cool. But because we all have to work the holidays are pretty priceless really so we want to use our holidays properly. We basically thought, ‘Right if we can get some good distribution in Europe then we can book the shows and make more use of our time’. That’s the basic idea anyway.
RN: They’ve released the Winter In June/ Steel Rules Die split over on mainland as well right?
R: I don’t know. I know that Ignition [now Engineer] has released the split, which has slightly better distro in Europe than In At The Deep End, so it might just be that it’s found it’s way into the Reflections distro, as oppossed to them releasing it.
RN: Oh OK. Well how did the Winter In June split come about?
S: Just playing odd shows I think. They’re just friends really.
R: Those songs are actually older than the ‘Nostalgia…’ songs though. We recorded them, and we all thought that they were a little too good to just stay as a demo. (laughs) I mean people kept asking us for it. So we basically worked on the basis that if someone was willing to put it out, it’d be nice for people to buy, and nice for us to have out. I think that the songs stand up, rather than just being a demo. Winter In June also had the same kind of things, with some songs just in waiting that they didn’t really know what to do with.
RN: So was it always going to be Ignition?
A: It was originally going to be Seismic wasn’t it?
R: Yeah. To begin with we had quite a few things happening. When we started we were quite open. And we said we wanted to do something with Marc [In At The Deep End person] but the split wasn’t tied into anything. So I think that the Ignition thing actually came through Winter In June, because they’ve obviously done stuff with them before. And they said that Ignition would be interested in doing stuff with us, which would obviously be cool for us, and so we kind of said OK, and went from there! (laughs)
RN: Cool! Well the other question is how have you ended up on such cool tours? Or shows at any rate?
R: I don’t know actually! (laughs)
R: Yeah fortunate is one word I suppose! (laughs) Dave who’s not here – who’s our guitar player – who I suppose we should probably mention (laughs)…
A: In passing…
R: He does a lot of… he’s emailed a lot of people. And we’ve sent out a lot of CDs and just requested it.
S: I think we were just lucky that some people were willing to give us a chance. I mean the booking agent for AFI came to see us, and then because of that gave us the oppurtunity to play with them, which was awesome.
R: She was cool, and I think she really liked us. I think she wanted to give us a chance. But yeah we’ve emailed a lot of people, and sent the CDs as well, so I’d say it’s half luck, half hard work! (laughs)
RN: Were they just London shows?
R: We pretty much played everywhere. We did Glasgow, Manchester and London with AFI. And then with Stretch we played a fair stretch of the country really.
RN: How are you managing to juggle work with the band?!?
R: With great difficulty! (laughs)
RN: What do you guys all do?
R: I actually just got a new job as a writer for a website.
A: I’m in between day jobs at the minute, but work at a club at night.
S: I work for a bank! (laughs) Which isn’t exactly punk rock. But I’m bringing the system down from the inside! (laughs)
R: It is pretty difficult though. Most of our holidays, if not all of it, has gone on the band.
S: Yeah any spare time just goes.
R: And then it’s just a case of getting home late, and getting up early. Which is a bit of a bugger, but it’s worth it when the shows are good.
RN: So are you having to do the single show thing?
R: Yeah up until now, we’ve been having to do a lot of single show stuff. If someone’s asked us to play out, we’ve pretty much always said yeah. Recently though we’ve been busier, and we’ve found it more difficult to find the time, which has been unfortunate. But I think that next year, we’re going to do odd shows at the weekend if we can, but then try to get a couple of longer, more solid blocks, of shows, as oppossed to just playing all over the place.
RN: Do you guys still book your own shows?
A: Yeah, yeah.
R: We’ve had some help. I mean we’ve been lucky in so much as people have been offering us shows, as oppossed to us trying to court them or whatever. With Reflections I think it will be different somewhat because they do a bit more on the booking side of things, which should help us somewhat.
RN: Umm questions… Yeah actually why were you guys all wearing Guns N Roses t-shirts tonight?!?
All: (laugh… a lot!)
A: Umm OK I came down here last week with my girlfriend, and saw various cool t-shirts. But could only afford to buy two, so I thought, ‘I’ll go buy the other one today’. And for good or bad fortune Stu had managed to get his hands on one as well …
R: So tonight was coincidence really. But we have recently really got back into our really cheesy rock ballads.
S: Tour music.
R: Last week with Stretch Armstrong we spent so many hours in our van and I don’t think that we listened to anything other than power ballads. (laughs)
A: Four volumes of ‘The Power of Love: Rock Ballads’. (laughs)
R: It’s great.
A: It was only a fiver as well.
RN: So was that where you all came from then musically?
R: Yeah I think we all liked that when we were younger. I guess we still do! (laughs) They’re still good songs you know?
S: Yeah you can’t knock Skid Row! (laughs)
R: Yeah I mean when you’re sitting in a van… it’s just fun music, and you can have a laugh, and play air guitar. (laughs)
RN: So do you have a band van then?
R: No we still have to rent one. And I mean for shows like tonight, we just come in a couple of cars, but for tours we get a van. It’s expensive, but it’s difficult cos on tour you pretty much have to take all your own equitment. It’s cool tonight because we shared most of the equitment so we just needed a couple of vans.
RN: Do you break even coming down to shows like this?
R: Generally not. To be honest it’s very rare that we make any money, or even break even, at all. I think that AFI was the only time, just because we sold so much stuff. But I think that’s the only time that we’ve come away from a show with some money.
A: We normally just scrape together enough for petrol.
R: Yeah! And we’re such bad financial whatever! (laughs) Our money just goes. No one looks after it. And we don’t buy t-shirts well. We always buy them in little bits, and we always seem to be owing them money. So yeah we’re badly organised!
S: It’s especially funny since I work for a bank! (laughs)
RN: So have you noticed after AFI, and Stretch that more people have been interested in you?
R: It’s difficult to tell.
A: I’m not sure whether more kids are coming to see us. But I mean tonight some dude from Metal Hammer was here, and obviously he would never have heard of us if it hadn’t been for the AFI shows!
R: It definitely ups the awareness. I think people have definitely heard our name now, which is cool. But it’s surprising how much of a different audience AFI was to a show like this, or like Stretch Armstrong. It’s bizarre. We played Manchester a few weeks before the AFI show, and it was awful. It was at the bottom of a basement, and there was nobody there. There were less than ten people there.
S: And we played like shit.
R: Yeah, and we left saying, ‘Oh I never want to play Manchester again’! And of course then we got offered Manchester Academy with AFI and we came back and it just went so well. We sold almost fifty CDs that night! It was crazy. And all the kids came up to us saying, ‘how come you’ve never played Manchester?’ And we were like ‘well we’ve played three times, to a combined total of about thirty peope.’ And then this was like 2,000 people asking us why we hadn’t played Manchester. It made me think. Because sometimes you think, ‘well what’s the point’, but you’ve just got to let people know. People are interested in music, it’s just….
A: I suppose it’s just there’s this divide between the more popular stuff, that’s covered in a lot more mainstream mags, and then the kind of more DIY shows, that a lot of people aren’t really going to know about.
R: Yeah I think that one of the failings of the hardcore scene is that it almost takes its self too seriously. Sometimes, to a certain extent, you’re like alienating people. At AFI, I loved it, because there were a lot of younger kids, and it was just kids that just loved music, they didn’t give a shit about who you were, or what label you were on, or who you were playing with, or any of the stuff that can get in the way. Sometimes hardcore shows can be so up their own arse, that they alienate people.
A: It makes you a bit jaded to be honest. Because we play music that you really love, and you kind of get smugged by people because you don’t sound how they expected you to, or some silly reason like that. I don’t know.
R: Yeah I think that’s definitely a failing of the hardcore scene. We kind of got lumped into it a little bit, when I think we’re kind of a bit more a punk rock band, really!
RN: Yeah well I’ve always considered you to be closer to say Avail, than say Stretch Armstrong. That’s why I thought that would be weird for you to on Reflections.
R: You’re absolutely right, and the thought had crossed my mind as well, and I asked Reflections about it. And they came back and said that, ‘When we started out this label we were a hardcore label. But we said that we never wanted to pass up on a band who we though were really good, just because of some label, or something!’ And so they were really keen to do it, and I think that Reflections will just raise our profile. And that is something that I’ve thought about with Reflections though, because I don’t want to alienate people who just like music. I don’t really care about the labels of punk or hardcore, or whatever, it’s just rock music! I’d just like to get people who like that kind of music to hear us. I do think that we’ve been lumped in with some hardcore shows just because of what we’ve done in the past, and also who we know. I guess there are some hardcore elements in the music, just because it’s something that we all like.
A: Perhaps it’s just because we listen to too much metal! (laughs) I think people must have heard us listening to Skid Row.
RN: I mean I always consider you to be a melodic hardcore band. So I suppose in that way I guess you’ve got the hardcore thing in there.
R: Yeah I think that maybe one of the problems is that punk rock, in it’s present commodity, is so watered down, that it’s now just pop. And that’s why I think – because we’ve got …
RN: Wait I think I might be recording over Rancid here… [cue intermission] Nope that’s cool it’s only Hot Water Music. Sorry, carry on!
R: (laughs) Yeah I mean I guess punk is just so watered down. I mean Minor Threat. I consider them to be a punk band really.
R: Punk was heavier. But bands like Good Charlotte or whoever, they’re just pop music.
S: With a lot of make up! (laughs)
A: Yeah I think that the definitions are just really blurred. People seem to get blinded by trying to work out what’s metal, and what’s hardcore, and what’s punk. And I suppose that it doesn’t really matter too much.
R: Yeah that goes back to my point. The fact that we’re beginning to get labelled a hardcore band might put off kids who might like you. That’s unfortunate I reckon.
RN: I think you’re right. I know one of my friends would love the Hope Conspiracy, but he won’t listen to them because he’s heard they’re a hardcore band.
R: It’s weird, because I mean they’re so closely linked. There’s such a fine line…
A: As far as I’m concerned it’s all the same thing.
S: Yeah it all came from the same place. It all started at the same point, it doesn’t really make sense for it to have seperated! To me they both mean the same thing. It’s about playing music that you love, or listening to music that you love. And you sing about whatever you like and there shouldn’t be any real boundaries or rules or whatever. You should just do whatever you like. A: Go crazy! (laughs)
RN: Well on that kind of note. There are quite a few people that think that hardcore should only be political. I mean I’ve had quite a few bands whining at me that there are non-political people in the hardcore scene…
RN: Do you ever get that kind of thing?
R: (laughs) Well actually I did an interview the other day for some German zine, and the guy asked me a similar kind of question, but it was a bit more leading kind of saying, ‘you’re not political why not?’ And the other question was, ‘do you think that kids should be politically aware?’ And I mean my personal opinion on that is that kids kind of jump into politics without really knowing what they’re talking about. And I also think that it’s naive to think that bands don’t use politics to get where they are. And…
A: I think that you need politics in music. But then at the same time, I think you don’t need it as well. It’s like…
R: You’re band should be political as you are, and if you’re not really political then you shouldn’t be in a political band. I think that a lot of people label themselves as being political, without really being very well read. I did an A-level in politics, and I certainly don’t think that I know enough about politics to really be able to spout off about it. And it does bother me that some people seem to spout of without really thinking about it. I think that people should be encouraged to read and be aware befoer they start making judgements.
A: Keep an eye on stuff.
R: I don’t see… I can see the correlation. I mean I can see that you’ve been given a platform on which to speak, but I don’t think that you necessarily have to. I think that politics is a really complex issue, and I’m not even entirely sure what I believe. To be honest I think that most of the time that people are full of shit! So I find it pretty hard to trust people.
RN: Well if you think that certain political bands leap frog themselves up what do you think of bands that put ‘x’ on either side of their name?
R: Yeah I think you’re right. There are some bands that have done that and have leapfrogged their way up by doing that. I’m not straight-edge, and my personal belief is that if someone doesn’t want to do something all power to them I say. But I think that it’s an individual choice. So I’ve always been sketchy on how it really has anything to do with music.
S: I think it’s like anything if it’s personal choice then I’ve got a lot of respect for them, for straightedge, for vegan straightedge and stuff. But it’s like anything I wouldn’t press my views on anybody, and I wouldn’t expect anybody to do the same on me. I just think that it’s all about personal choice, and the way you want to live you’re life. And I can see where the link with music comes in – obviously – but I…
R: But look at all the bands where it originated from, and look where they are now.
R: You won’t find many of them still doing it. And that makes me cynical in a way. I think that it’s great, I think it’s great if you make the choice to not drink, or do drugs or whatever. It surprises me why you need to label yourself, because if you decide that it’s not who you are anymore then you’re a hypocrite. I think, great make the choice, that’s your thing, and then you can’t do wrong by yourself. But when I see bands who have made statements like Straight-edge for life – like Youth Of Today for example – you just think that… I just think it makes anybody cynical.
RN: Going back to the preaching thing. Stetch Armstrong did that a fair amount from the stage, and I personally thought that it was pretty awesome. But I mean what did you guys think?…. And I have just realised that I’ve name dropped a band so whatever you say you’re going to drop yourself in it. Sorry!
A: I think actually a better example would be this kid who we took on tour with us, who was edge. And before we went we explained that we weren’t.
R: It was this German kid who had just emailed us and asked if we had space on the tour, and we did, so we said yeah.
A: And he was cool, because he said it was more important about being a good person, and he wasn’t outspoken about it, and it was just great.
R: Yeah it was really great. And we all really respected him for that. He was a really good guy, and it was never really an issue. He kind of bought it up just at the beginning saying, ‘I’m straight-edge by the way’, and it was just like ‘cool’! But anyways, we kind of ignored your question.
RN: I kind of expected you to.
R: No I want to answer it. I personally thought it was cool as well. It was good. He had a platform to speak from and he used it, and what he said was sensible. I have got a lot of respect for that. He had something to say, and he said it, and I thought it was good. The problem though is, where I fall down on the preaching is, what would you have done if he had said something that you disagreed with. I mean it was his right to speak, but it would still have made a lot of difference if you had disagreed with what he was saying. It was cool with him because he said something that was really sensible. But if he had come on and said things that had offended lots of people, would you still be defending his right to speak from stage. And that’s where I think it gets complicated.
RN: I mean one thing with hardcore bands, especially if you don’t have the record, the lyrics are generally impenatrable. So if it’s a political band do you not think that they should try and explain where they’re coming from.
R: Yeah I think if you’re an overtly political band then you should print lyrics! (laughs) I like lyrics anyways. I mean it sucks when you’re listening to something, and you finally find out what they’re singing about and it’s just like, ‘hold on a minute!’
S: I like it when I see on a CD, at the end it saying, if you want further explanation then write to us, and we’ll send you whatever.
R: Yeah I like that too. And I mean if anybody emailed us I’d try and do my best as to where I’m coming from.
RN: I guess that’s just the way it should be.
R: Yeah I mean if you’re putting your music out there to be listened to it’s cool if you let people know what you’re singing about. Especially if what you’re singing about is something that is important to you.