Interview: THE CRUNCH (March 2015)

The Crunch play a compelling brand of punk-infused power rock and power pop, drawing on all their years of collective experience in bands such as The Clash, Cockney Rejects, Sham 69, Lords Of The New Church and Diamond Dogs.

Sulo Karlsson (vocals and guitar), Mick Geggus (guitar), Dave Tregunna (bass) and Terry Chimes (drums) spoke to Dave Atkinson after the sound check for their opening slot at the UK premiere of the biopic “I Need a Dodge: Joe Strummer on the Run”. Gig review here 

What have you got planned for the next few months music wise? e.g. tour plans, recording and promotion.

Mick:  The single ‘Neon Madonna’ is coming out now, and the album ‘Brand New Brand’ has got a release date of 30th April. Before that we are going to Spain for a short tour and if that all goes well we hope to go back there in the Autumn for a longer tour in bigger venues. The reception over in Spain has been fantastic and we’ve got mainstream media interest, which is great. They have very much taken to the band, as they have in Scandanavia.

Sulo: Yeah, The Crunch are starting to go well in Sweden. We are getting on the national radio playlist. It’s amazing for a band like us to break through that mainstream wall. You know what it’s like in Sweden, we are the home of Eurovision! I think we picked the right single. We think it’s ridiculously catchy!

How did ‘Brand New Brand’ come together? Any stories behind the songs? What’s the songwriting process?

Mick: Because of the way The Crunch initially came together almost by accident, the first album was very spontaneous. We had only planned to do a few tracks and then rapidly it became an album. It was done a little bit piecemeal, we were just laying down tracks when we could snatch time together according to our schedules and other commitments. The process was a bit disjointed because we hadn’t planned anything. We were pleased with the way it hung together though.  So we decided to have a bit of continuity with this one. We went to a studio in Sweden and laid down the backing tracks and most of the overdubs in a week.

Sulo: The studio was in the countryside, in the middle of nowhere, so we couldn’t do anything else. No distractions!

Dave: Sulo writes the songs and send us demos and we work out our parts around that.

Sulo: On the first album, I was thinking about Mick’s background in the Cockney Rejects and Dave with Sham 69 and me with Diamond Dogs, thinking how could I write something that would bring all that together. But you don’t know how it is all going to sound until you play a few times and then you work it out. So the second time around it was much easier. I don’t think we’ve had that ‘second album syndrome’ that some bands talk about.

‘Brand New Brand’ moves on from where ‘Busy Making Noise’ left off. Is there a touch more power pop than power rock this time around?

Sulo: Maybe. We have gone for a balance. The harder songs are there, but the softer songs come through as well.

Dave: There’s a reggae feel that comes through in Neon Madanna and a couple of other places on the album as well. Although we’ve never done a whole song that’s completely reggae. We get a vibe for it and then do something different.

Mick: And apart from that, I like to stick the powerchords in the middle of everything!

Sulo: There’s always a pop chorus in the middle of every song and we want to have that hook, even in the reggae-influenced songs. In ‘Neon Madonna’, there are two hooks, two choruses. It’s the “Shine a light on me” hook and then the “Neon Madonna” chorus.

More keyboards and extra vocals seem to add an extra dimension with Idde Schulz now a full member. How did that come about?

Sulo: She played with us on the first gig we did at The Garage and then she joined us on every gig because we thought that it made us a little different with a female keyboard player and singer. She sings fantastic background vocals and live we have a duet called ‘Little Bit of Grace’ which works well.

Mick: It was only a matter of time before she joined full time. She’s a great addition, and now she has a song of her own on the new album.

With your collective track record, your sound might surprise a few people – how do you manage to come up with a distinctive sound?

Sulo: Yes we have Sham 69 and Cockney Rejects in our track record, but it wouldn’t make sense to record that style with this band – because they are still doing it! Mick, Dave, me with the Diamond Dogs, we are out there live with those bands when we are not doing this.

Also, a good song is a good song, you know? I don’t think we have made a conscious effort to be this or that. It’s a very natural process. Often people are surprised that we have so many good songs. I think we still have that edge, that punk rock edge. But pop music has been here forever. You need to have a good chorus. Is that pop music? Or what is it?

Dave: They are all short songs. Punchy, stripped down with a big chorus. You can’t help singing them. It’s always a sign of something good. It’s natural too. I didn’t have to sit down with Mick and worry about the bass part clashing with the guitar part or with Terry’s drums. It all came together very naturally.

So with 35 or 40 years of experience behind you, how easy is it to motivate yourself to do this again as a new band?

Mick: For me, personally I just like it. The band, and what we do, is very organic. We all slip in to our roles very easily and we get on well. That’s a big part of it. We had an instant chemistry between us. When we did the first songs together we went ‘Wow we’ve got something here!’ It really worked and it still does.

Dave: We have a good time making the music and it sounds great to us. What more can you ask for in life?!

Terry: The whole is more than the sum of the parts. We can all do something individually, but when you put it together you get that special feeling.

Turning to tonight’s premier of the ‘I Need a Dodge’ biopic, how did you get the opening slot? 

Mick: A friend of mine, Richard England from Cadiz Music is a film producer and he’s does a few rock ‘n’ roll cinema events. He also did the Cockney Rejects film ‘Babylon East’ and did the Feelgood’s picture, ‘Oil City Confidential’. He got wind of this film and he decided to do the distribution for it. Of course us having Terry in the band who was The Clash’s original drummer, that’s part of how we got involved. A lot of people have given their time for this tonight and so let’s hope it’s a success. It deserves to be.

Can we expect any classics from your other bands in the live set list tonight?

Terry: Well tonight’s a little bit different because of The Clash connection. So we’ll be playing a few of the old ones. We just finished the sound check with Janie Jones and the snare broke. It’s funny because I remember doing that song years ago with The Clash and the snare drum smashed then. So I just had to get through it. The band looked at me as if to say ‘what the hell are you doing’. It sounded like I was hitting coconuts!

Dave: Normally, we do play a couple from our other bands: one from The Clash, one from Sham 69, one from Cockney Rejects, one from The Lords of The New Church. Nothing from Diamond Dogs ‘cause they are too complicated! [laughter] I think people want to hear some of the tracks that show where we’ve come from. But we’ve got the new stuff, which people rave about as well, so hopefully people don’t think of us in a narrow way, but appreciate the punk side, the pop side, the ballad side and just get it.

Sulo: I’ll tell you the biggest secret – it’s the energy. A good song without energy just wouldn’t work.

The film covers an interesting period in Joe Strummer’s career during his time in Spain in the mid-1980’s.  Any reflections on that?

Terry: I’d come back in to The Clash to do the ‘Combat Rock’ tour. But I’d left by the time Joe went to Spain and wasn’t really in touch with him.

Sulo: Yeah, his band had just recorded Cut The Crap with a new line up and it was all falling apart a bit.

What sort of legacy do you think Joe Strummer has left?

Sulo: Very strong legacy for today’s music fans. People are still discovering The Clash and Joe Strummer for the first time and the impact that he made in punk and beyond punk.

Mick: He made a big difference because he wasn’t afraid to try any sort of music. I think that is a very strong ethos. The world music influences he was bringing in weren’t being done anywhere else. That ‘Give it a go’ idea was really important. And he had music and lyrics with something to say.

Message for the fans

Terry: Thanks for supporting us. We like the new album, ‘Brand New Brand’ and we hope you will too. It’s out at the end of April. Also check out our pledge page where there are all sorts of special offers and limited edition items. See you on the road somewhere soon. The Crunch Pledge page  

The latest Facebook Live session from Canadian singer-songwriter Josh Taerk Sunday 21 February, 16:00 EST, 21:00 GMT

More about Josh:

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 7 February 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 26 January 2021.

Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
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