Attak: Shock Taktics

SLOPING OFF the Inter-City at Manchester Piccadilly, I was suddenly overcome by a torrid tinge of terror.

Here I was just 37 minutes away from New Mills, in legend the Hell’s Kitchen of Derbyshire, the hardcore horror home of such ferocious street-punks as Blitz and my adversaries for today the brutal-sounding Attak, not to mention the one time rehearsal locale for those notorious Clockwork Orange punksters the Violators.

Fearsome phrases from their songbooks invaded my mind, stripping away my calm Whickerine composure like sulphuric acid on human flesh.

For even a man like myself, on nodding terms with such giants among fighting men as Tucker of Charlton, had to hesitate before plunging head first into an area that had inspired gutter anthems like ‘Fight To Live’, ‘Razors In The Night’, ‘Bleed’, ‘Warriors’, ‘Gangland’, ‘Die With Dignity’ and ‘Murders In The Subway’.

For a moment I thought of fleeing home, but then I realised the shame and ridicule such cowardice would generate, I saw contempt in the eyes of Iron Man Barton and my children being persecuted at nursery school. Surely even death was preferable to that…

Making a couple of pertinent last wishes (chiefly that if I died I’d come back to earth as Dolly Parton’s bra), I clutched a small snapshot of Lewis Collins tight to my breast and stepped onto the pre-war two carriage link train. That alone should have prepared me for the revelations to come…

To say that New Mills Central Station isn’t exactly in the same league as its similarly named Noo Yoik cousin is akin to saying the average skyrocket wouldn’t make it quite as far as a Saturn 5. It looks a damn sight more like that Hornby set on the telly, and I instantly took cover for fear of bumping into the dreaded Bernard Cribbins.

Within minutes of stepping off the train all my preconceptions had been terminally shattered. Instead of high-rise blocks there were acres of rolling greenery. Grazing cows replaced armies of disaffected youth, while dozy-looking sheep stood in for angry protestors and trade union banners, and the earthy smell of coal fires substituted for tear gar clouds.

For a moment I experienced the same sense of shock and disbelief I felt when I first visited Jimmy Pursey at Hersham. But as my stay progressed I found more and more things in favour of the town, not least the fact that it’s one place where you’re guaranteed never to get sucked into the double-dealing duplicity of the Borgias-style music biz.

DEPRESSION SETS in easily in the Smoke; I’d been depressed about Sounds and about punk. It’s only when you distance yourself from the London hurly-burly that things fall into true perspective.

Thinking rationally, Sounds is still the only music paper worth reading (with so much potential to improve) just as underneath all the backbiting and thrashing, all the ghetto-minds, nouveau hippies and talentless no-hopers, there are still punk bands who make it all worthwhile.

And not just the GBH-style Top Twenty acts either. There’s bands that haven’t broken yet of incredible calibre. Like the Crack, the Adicts, the Defects, the Abrasive Wheels, the Violators, Major Accident, Kraut, the Strike, the Newtown Neurotics, Demob, On Parole, Chelsea…the list goes on and on.

All these bands all sounding so different and meaning so much, and right up there, battling for recognition and a place in the ranks are Attak, the premiere Peak District exponents of punk-metal total noise cross-over.

I’m met at New Mills station by Attak’s drummer the lovely Lyndsay McLennan and bassist Sean ‘Chad’ Chadwick who drives his girlfriend’s motor with the sort of complete disregard for minor concerns like the Highway Code and personal safety that’d win him the undying respect of any passing Nip Kamikazi pilot.

Blinking, we miss the wonders of New Mills high street and pull up outside the house Lyndsay shares with her parents and big brother Mackie, Blitz’s blond bombshell bassist and the Brian Tilsely of New Mills.

Fighting off Lyndsay’s attempts to force me poison like chips in gravy and mushy peas, we gird our loins with a quick episode of Coronation Street and adjourn to a local boozer for our conflab. Here we’re joined by Mackie (translator) and sturdy Gary Basnett, Attak’s singer/guitarist and (curses) Lyndsay’s boyfriend.

Surrounded by leather jackets covered in CND badges and a virtual Oi history in band names, I press onto the serious stuff of interviewing.

In between pints I discover that our thunderous trio were originally a bedroom band called Energy, then Chaos, then P45, only adopting their more aggressive moniker in June 1980 when they emerged as a four-piece with Gal’s 15 year old brother Saleem on vocals.

SCHOOL PRESSURE forced Saleem to quit, though he stuck around long enough to appear on No Future’s cheap but worthy Country Fit For Heroes 12″ compilation last January. Their track was ‘Blue Patrol’, a strictly raucous demo style workout which secured them a No Future deal.

The EP Today’s Generation followed hard in March, a Blitzian youth anthem which copped the coveted Total Chaos Single Of The Week award and has clocked up over 11,000 sales to date.

But for a more realistic appraisal of the sound the band are currently aiming for, check out ‘Big Brother’ on the new Oi album or even better the spanking new single ‘Murder In The Subway’, replete with furious pace, murderous bass and hoarsely hollered vocals. As I write it’s the week’s biggest Indie Chart climber leaping an impressive 22 places to number 17 and climbing.

Gary’s well chuffed. “That’s more the sound we’re going for, that punk-metal area.”

What’s the song about?

Gary: “It’s about being a punk in Manchester. If you’re walking through and you see a group of Perry Boys on the corner you don’t walk past ’em.”

I’d always thought the Perries were like Manchester Herberts, like Scallies in Liverpool and Dressers in Leeds, but apparently they’re a much deadlier anti-punk animal. Lyndsay recalls a time the local punks had packed into Manchester HMV for a visitation from Adam Ant (pre-pop star status) only to be attacked with beer crates by Perries on the way out.

“We’re much happier with that than ‘Big Brother’ – that was a bit rushed,” Gal reveals outrageously.

Lyndsay: “That only took 40 minutes to do.”

Call that rushed? Sabbath took 3 minutes for ‘Paranoid’.

Gal: “I got the impression all the Rejects wanted to do was to get out to the pub. We had to use their gear too and I can’t use cheap guitars…”

Scathe, scathe…The song’s obviously 1984 rather than Mackie inspired.

Gal: “I’d just read the book. The lyrics go ‘Run for cover for your lives/There’s no hope when our country dies/Can’t you see the power they’ve got/What’s for you? There ain’t a lot…”

Do you see yourselves as political commentators?

“No,” yell Lyndsay and Chad as one.

“We did at first,” admits Gary, “all our songs were political then, but we’ve tried to get away from it on the newer stuff mainly because everybody’s doing it and also because if there was a General Election tomorrow I wouldn’t vote for anyone. Labour are in a real pickle, and the SDP are just a joke.”

Chad: “Our latest song’s called ‘Frankly Son You’re A Pain In The Bum’.”

Gary: “It’s more in the GBH vein, a little bit silly. Their song titles are more reminiscent of Heavy Metal, just a good laugh. There’s not much difference between new metal bands and basic punk bands.”

WHO D’YOU rate on the punk side?

Gary: “GBH, Blitz cos they inspired us, we wouldn’t have started if they hadn’t. The Exploited’s last album was good…but you can’t beat Iron Maiden.”

“That’s not PUNK,” screams Lyndsay.

“Yeah, Maiden and Motorhead,” agrees Chad.

“And Venom,” Gal adds.

“Shut up,” Lyndsay yells, clearly distraught at such unbridled mayhem mania, before adding strangely but truthfully: “Lenny Miller rules! Lenny the New Miller, the pissed-up swine.”

“I like anything with a bit of guts,” says the usually quiet Chad now glowing with enthusiasm. “I’d like to see an HM fan with ‘Attak’ on his leather.”

“There’s too many punk bands trying to do the same thing,” muses Gal, “there’s just not enough good ones about.”

“You think back to ’77,” adds Mackie, momentarily pausing from just merrily being stunningly good-looking to add to the debate. “Then there was the Clash, the Pistols the Buzzcocks all with their different sounds – now everyone sounds like Discharge or Crass.”

Yeah, well, perhaps if some of the good bands got out and played a bit more things would change, I reply, tellingly I feel. But it turns out the reason for Blitz/Attak/Violators inactivity is the closure of their local rehearsal rooms. But at least Attak are hiring a recording studio at a massive £12 a night just to practise and knock their set into shape.

“We’ve done a dozen gigs at the most,” Gary admits shamefully. “But when we headlined Skunx we only got paid £12 – it doesn’t exactly encourage you. The most money we ever got paid for a gig was £25 and that was for a Right To Work Benefit. We’d love to tour but the income we’d get from it just wouldn’t be enough to support us. Our wages just about keep us.”

Gary, it transpires, is a 20 year old corn winder in Macclesfield, while 17 year old Chad has an even more mind-boggling job in a toffee works. Lyndsay, also 20, claims suggestively to “stay in bed all day”. Such dubious undercover activity will come to an end soon if Gary gets his way.

“We’ve got to get moving soon,” he says with gritty determination. “What I’d like to do is a series of weekend only tours, so we’d play Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays if possible. We definitely wanna play Scotland cos that’s where most of our letters come from.

“Once we’re rehearsing properly and playing around we’ll be able to drop the slow stuff like ‘Today’s Generation’, we’re into much faster stuff now as the album will prove.”

Album?

Gary: “Out in January we hope. It’ll be a belter.”

I don’t doubt it.

© Garry BushellSounds, 9 October 1982

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