Interview: John Robb

The Gold Blade frontman holds forth on music, Manchester, Prague in the 1980s and why the internet is punk rock

With his band Gold Blade, John Robb plays the Punk Aid CZ festival at Abaton on Friday night.

There's far more to the muscular Englishman, though, than three chords and an attitude. Formerly with cult 80s band The Membranes, he's also a music journalist, a TV and radio presenter, and a documenter, in biographies of The Stone Roses and The Charlatans, of Manchester's legendary music scene.

Trying to keep all that in mind, PTV dropped him a line…

PTV: Isn't punk dead?

John Robb: Not particularly. I think the mainstream media and music business have been trying to bury it from day one, but it is the ultimate rock 'n' roll music so it continues to have a mass appeal and it continues to inform and create the attitudes of bands as big as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Blink 182 who, despite not being punk bands in the strictest sense of the word, are working within its constraints.

In fact, it could be argued that any group operating now in the world with some sort of consciousness is informed by punk rock. And as a music it means something to a kid with a mohawk in a poor part of Prague or a college student who wants to change the world or any crazy person who wants to get off on fast exciting guitar music and that's its great strength.

We have toured all over the world and seen its positive and life-affirming effect on so many people and watched it become a huge movement with young people again, which is brilliant.

PTV: More old British and American bands seem to play Prague than younger acts. Is this a healthy trend?

JR: Age has nothing to do with music - if you still have the energy and your songs have a resonance then they are valid. A lot of those older British bands, the so-called second wave punk bands actually mean more to the new generation of punk kids than the first wave. A lot of them have been highly influential and a lot of them are still great bands. After all, no one knocks the old blues guys for still playing!

Having said that we are always keen to watch and hear new bands and are looking forward to seeing the Czech bands play the festival.

PTV: Have you visited the Czech Republic before? What do you know about the music scene here?

JR: In 1987 I was in a band called the Membranes and we were meant to play in Prague on a European tour, but all the promoters got arrested the night before the gig and it got cancelled. We still made it to Prague and stayed overnight...

Because of the arrests we thought it was going to be like a really heavy police state but it, on the surface, seemed like a relaxed city! We were there for 24 hours and met some great people. I have heard some Czech music but not enough. In the UK it's hard to hear music from countries outside the UK and America and I'm always looking. I know there is a big punk scene in the Czech Republic and I'm looking forward to seeing some of the bands at the festival and looking forward to meeting up with Czech punk rockers!

PTV: Which of the bands at Punk Aid CZ have you played with before? Who would you particularly recommend?

JR: The Damned are always great entertainment and a great band to play with. We have played with them several times. Alternative TV and TV Smith are also really good. The rest of the bands are as new to me as they are to you and I'm looking forward to seeing some great stuff...

PTV: You're playing Prague on the same weekend as James Brown. Will you be tempted to go and see him?

JR: James Brown is brilliant. I've seen him a few times and he still does an amazing show. The music is godlike and his energy is immense for a man of his age. He is one of the true masters.

PTV: What's your view of the British music scene at the moment?

JR: There's always great bands just beyond fashion... Of the bigger bands I really like The Libertines.

PTV: You've written a lot about the Manchester music scene. Why do you think a city like Manchester develops an exciting music scene while other places don't?

JR: It's a big working class city but also has a big college scene and students like to pay to go to gigs! Which supports the scene! Lots of people move to Manchester from all over the country, especially creative people and after punk, where it was the second city of punk, it's kept a great tradition of bands going.

PTV: How would you describe Gold Blade's music?

JR: It's rooted in punk rock. We are a punk rock band. We are high-energy guitar rock 'n' roll. We are a life affirming, wild, adrenalized kick-ass band. What more can I say!

PTV: You've traveled widely with Gold Blade. On your travels, which local bands have caught your eye?

JR: Gawd, I could go on forever! Russia has got a great and massive music scene...

PTV: Do you use the Internet?

JR: Constantly. It's punk rock... Free information which is not tainted by the big corporations!

PTV: And finally, which do you prefer: cats or dogs?

JR: Dogs, of course. I had a dog for 17 years and it died on me last year, the bastard! It was the worst fucking day imaginable...

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