Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster have spoken to NME about the upcoming 20th anniversary reissue of classic album ‘Hörse Of The Dög’ – a record which they say brought “danger” back to music and once brought them into the orbit of David Walliams.
The seminal ‘00s garage punks, who split in 2011 after 11 years together, recently announced plans to release an expanded edition of their debut, including a full album’s worth of additional b-side material and sleevenotes from Shaun Of The Dead and Baby Driver director Edgar Wright.
Featuring classic tracks such as ‘Celebrate Your Mother’ and ‘Psychosis Safari’, the visceral 25-minute blast of psychobilly, speed punk and gothic sludge rock helped to set the breakneck pace for much the ‘00s alt-rock scene.
The reissue marks the band’s first release since their 2010 third album ‘Blood And Fire’ and their first activity since a brief reunion in 2012.
NME caught up with singer Guy McKnight, now frontman of Liverpool’s The DSM IV, to discuss the record’s impact and legacy, the traumas behind it and why David Walliams is a “phoney”.
Hello Guy. How did you feel when revisiting the album?
Guy McKnight: “Excited, Proud. Grateful that we did it. It undoubtedly was charged with frenetic energy and madness and life force. The world has changed and consequently the musical landscape has changed so much that I’m not sure if, aside from Fat White Family, bands like ours rarely exist or get signed anymore.”
Are Fat White Family your spiritual descendants?
“Definitely brethren of some kind. I saw them for the first time in November and it was absolutely fucking brilliant. Lias [Saoudi, frontman] was such a mesmeric and enchanting, formidable frontman.”
Did ‘Hörse Of The Dög’ feel like a bold statement of a record at the time?
“It was the turn of the millennium. In the UK we’d had Britpop – some of my favourite bands are still Britpop bands, like Pulp, [but] it was a reaction born out of a lot of that pop stuff, which was sort of rebellious in its own right but had become the norm. There didn’t seem to be much danger in music. We were listening to so much different stuff. Andy [Huxley, guitar] was really into Captain Beefheart – but not to be cool. Sym [Gharial, bass] brought The Clash and These Animal Men and me and Mark [Norris, guitar] stumbled across The Stooges. Me and Tom [Diamantopaulo, drums] were listening to a lot of ‘90s stuff that was really influential – Pixies, Nirvana and then also The Doors and Love. The sound was an accident. We were probably trying to sound like The Doors or something.”
How did you stumble upon this sound?
“Andy was the only one who could really play and it ended up being this angular, clunky yet somehow visceral thing. Something more akin to The Monks’ first album. I don’t know if it was anything to do with the drugs we were taking at the time – it definitely was – but me, Tom and Andy start practising Buddhism. So it was this kind of push and pull of our lives, both inner and outer, great positivity, great negativity, a lot of teenage young men’s ego, madness, and it just kind of boiled over into this lovely toxic soup that is ‘Hörse Of The Dög’.”
You certainly brought the danger element back at your gigs, where you’d often scale bars and PA equipment and appear to have seizures. Did you have any accidents?
“I’ve fainted on stage before and I think I may have soiled myself onstage as well. But it was all made with love.”
Alongside The Libertines’ ‘Up The Bracket’, do you feel like ‘Hörse Of The Dög’ set the pace for the decade?
“I’d like to think we contributed to it, yeah. I really respected those guys, and I still do. There was definitely, I felt anyway, an unspoken kinship. We played at least a few shows together in 2001 or 2002 before either of us had broken through. It’s a curious thing, meeting other like-minded souls at that age, and then watching each other’s band take off. The Libertines became the biggest band of our generation, or one of them. And we seem to develop a rabid following, some might say a cult following. It was an extraordinary time.”
What was it like working with Edgar Wright on the video for ‘Psychosis Safari’?
“It was great. When I moved in with my dad when I was 16, 17 he was living a really unorthodox lifestyle. It was interesting, testing, always a lot of love but probably very dysfunctional also. We ended up doing a lot of drugs together, actually, he and I, but we’ve both been clean and sober now for over 10 years, so it’s a great victory to be able to share with him. It was like a cross between Steptoe & Son, Only Fools And Horses, Withnail And I and something else deranged.
“He used to watch Spaced, so that’s how I knew about [Edgar]. when somebody said, ‘He’s a fan of your guys’ band’, I was like, ‘Really? Wow.’ He made that video to ‘Psychosis Safari’ and it’s brilliant. He’s a good guy. I remember being in [Brighton pub] the Heart & Hand after we’d made that video with him. He was with David Williams, and he gave me the most disdainful look, David Walliams. I’ll never forget that. I think that guy’s a total phoney. But Edgar is a legend. We were actually in Shaun Of The Dead as zombies – I think we got edited out but he used one of our singles ‘Mister Mental’ in it. It’s a real compliment.”
‘Celebrate Your Mother’ was quite controversial… [Key line: “I wanna fuck your mother!”]
“It was really well-received, all things considered. I’m not sure perhaps if people listened closely enough on its release for them to really know what it was talking about – incest and drug-taking.”
‘Psychosis Safari’ suggests you were struggling with mental health issues at the time?
“I think we all were in the band, but myself particularly. I had so much going on from having a lot of problems in my family growing up, abuse and growing up around alcoholism and addiction. There was so much going on behind the scenes, that at the same time as doing your first UK tour, and the venues are packed, all these people your age are singing back lyrics to songs that you and your mates have written in your bedrooms.
“Having that that kind of experience, that excitement, and then trying to process years of dysfunction and trauma and becoming famous at the same time, it was a difficult terrain to try and deal with. But it made for a great record. It made for great, exciting shows. It was all real, basically, all the convulsing was real nervous energy. We were wearing our hearts on our chest.”
What are the key additional tracks on the reissue for you?
“Those b-sides could have been our second album. And perhaps in a parallel universe they were. I think it would have made sense for them to be because of the tone of them, the pace. It was a natural evolution from. ‘Briefcases For Girls’, ‘Turkish Delights Of The Devil’; they were great songs and so much fun to play live. They were sort of wasted a bit as b-sides so having them back now where people can have them all together in one place, is cool.”
There’s a great line on ‘Turkish Delights Of The Devil’ that goes: “All my friends think I’m evil”…
“There was a stage where we were all partying a lot and taking drugs, getting high. Andy stopped pretty early on, but some of us, myself and Sym certainly, didn’t stop and carnage ensued really. I was experiencing blackouts from a young age. I think I had my first blackout when I was about 18 or 19. So with the benefit of hindsight, I can look back and glean the gems out of that time, but actually going through it certainly felt like life or death a lot of the time. I can remember at one point, Mark saying to me that for a while he had been expecting to receive a call one night to say that I’d died. Addiction is a strange thing. I lived to tell the tale fortunately.”
Are there any anniversary gigs in the offing?
“There has been talk but I think the songs speak for themselves and there’s something timeless about them. The energy is still there. Things came together at the right place at the right time, and we were able to focus it enough to write and record those songs. But the mentality, for me, certainly was of a time and a place. So I’m not interested at the moment in playing any shows. To me it would be – exaggerating to make a point – David Bowie being in his 40s and getting dressed up like Ziggy.”
The 20th anniversary expanded reissue of ‘Hörse Of The Dög’ is released on March 10.