Punk rock poet Attila The Stockbroker returns to New Zealand next month for two shows in Hamilton and Auckland. Kit Walker catches up with the Bar Room Bard in the middle of an Australian tour with the Go Set...
Hello Attila – how is Australia treating you?
It’s been great fun: MAD at the first 3 gigs in rural Victoria, then sensible and attentive at the wonderfully-named Drunken Poet in Melbourne. I’m doing most of the gigs with an ace punk-folk band called The Go Set (playing fiddle and mandola with them too) and the biggest ones are all to come, really looking forward to them. Hobart tonight.....
You haven’t been here since 1993 – where have you been?
US 4 times, Canada about 3, Australia once, all over mainland Europe and, of course, all over the UK over and over again! I was actually planning an Aussie/NZ tour in 2004, but that had to be put on hold. From 2004 till last summer my touring was more or less confined to the UK because my mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and my wife and I spent 6 years looking after her: she passed away last June and we can finally travel the world again. I’ve now done about 2700 gigs, and last September-October celebrated my 30th anniversary with a big tour. It’ll be great to finally come back to NZ and I’m pleased that some people still remember me after all these years :)
What can you remember about NZ the last time? You actually had an album released locally didn’t you ?
NZ remains the only country where both national television channels turned up to film me arriving at the airport. The sold out gig I did at the Gluepot was amazing: people invaded through the fire escape, also a first for me. I had cracking gigs in Wellington and Christchurch, did a huge one in Dunedin with your local poetic hero Sam Hunt, and just to keep my feet on the ground played to about 9 people in Invercargill. And yes, my first album ‘Ranting at the Nation’ which came out in 1983 was released in NZ that year because Cherry Red Records, who put it out, got a licensing deal. It got lots of college and community radio play: I remember getting loads of mail (you know, letters, those old things!) from Kiwis in the 1980s. As long as these two gigs in Auckland and Hamilton go well I am definitely going to come back and do a proper national tour: there have been plenty of other offers to play. I have a cousin in Hawera, my wife has a friend here too: I hope this won’t be my only visit for another 18 years :)
You’re 50 something now – is England a better place to grow up in now than it was in the 70s and 80s?
In some ways yes, but in most I’d say no. Racism is no longer socially acceptable, but the social problems of the 1970s have actually got worse, the gap between rich and poor has got bigger, greed and consumerism is increasing and the obsession with ‘celebrity’ drives me NUTS. Kids are under a lot more peer pressure to socially conform now: the underground isn’t as strong as it used to be (though it is there!) On the other hand the student riots against tuition fees are a testimony to a new feeling of militancy among young people. I’m writing this 2 days before the big London march against the massive cuts imposed by the government to pay for the crisis caused by the bankers. I have a feeling that the anger and militancy of the 1970s/80s is about to rekindle itself and that we could see an alliance between students, trade unionists and others affected by the cuts. I certainly hope so.
Has time and technology affected audiences ? And indeed your self (creatively / performance wise)?
As a self managed, self promoting, self publishing performer the advent of the internet has made everything much easier. Sites like facebook and reverbnation (which is replacing myspace, that is knackered!) make getting new material across, promoting gigs and introducing new people to my work much, much easier and of course it is much easier for people who are interested in my stuff to keep track of what I’m doing than it used to be. The internet was designed for DIY performers like me! I find learning all the new technology stuff difficult, but have mastered everything essential to run my little cottage industry...
Who are your contemporaries at the moment?
Direct performance poetry contemporaries are Benjamin Zephaniah and John Cooper Clarke of course, John Hegley, Joolz, Elvis McGonigall...then there is a new generation of excellent poets like Captain of the Rant, Pete the Temp, Luke Wright, Johnny Fluffypunk, Kate Tempest....there is a burgeoning level of interest in performance poetry in the UK at the moment, I think some people are getting fed up with mainstream ‘comedy’ and looking for an alternative...
I am so sad that my old friend and sparring parnter Steven ‘Seething’ Wells died recently at the age of 49. A great roaring voice silenced.
Are you a fan of William McGonagall?
Prefer Elvis McGonigall (see above) Scottish political satirical poet, marvellous.
You’re a long time fan of Brighton & Hove Albion football club and the Stadium Announcer ... What does this entail?
Reading the teams, doing half time scores/birthday dedications, playing the pre match music (punk/ska, as much as I can get away with!) I have been doing it since 1997, but am retiring when we finally get our new stadium next season. I won’t fit in with all the razamatazz: it’d be like John Peel trying to present Top of the Pops every week. I started doing it because I was one of the leaders of the campaign to save the club in the 1990s and moving into our new stadium after 14 years of struggle is the end of a long, long road for a dedicated group of Brighton fans. I salute them all.
And how do you rate Chris Woods?
Huge congrats on asking this!! I was hoping someone in NZ would. It’s WOOD though. He is strong and direct (especially for someone so young) and has a great future – I just hope it is with us! He is certainly the best NZ player I have ever seen (and is miles better than Rory Fallon..) I did enjoy your escapades in the World Cup – especially the Italy game...