Original ’77 punks 999 make a welcome return visit to Drummonds later in February. FnS scribe New York Johnny recently caught up with singer/guitarist Nick Cash to get some insight into how life is for the veterans 34 years on.
Good afternoon Nick. Can you tell the unenlightened a wee bit about 999. Who does what in the band?
Nick Cash – Vocals/guitar, Guy Days – guitar/vocals, Arturo Bassick – bass/vocals, Pablo Labritain – drums and vocals on the albums.
When did you start up and how did you come by the name (cos I know you tried out a few didn’t you)?
Formed on Sunday 5th September, 1976. Other names : 48 Hours, The Dials, Gene Carson’s Fanatics and finally 999.
You must have seen some changes in the punk scene – and the music scene in general – since you started out. What’s better, what’s worse?
It was great being in at the beginning. Things changed a lot and it was great to be part of the Punk scene at the start and to take your music around the world. It was more DIY in the beginning. Some people for example did their own artwork so it made for a very strong, believable image. The public knew it was real – unlike today.
Your last album Death In Soho has been described as your best since Separates (which came out in 1978!). Would you agree?
Yes, I agree. In fact Pablo said to me just after we finished the recordings that it was our best album since Separates.
I liked it a lot myself. What were the main differences in how this one was written, recorded, released compared to Separates for example?
It was much the same really. Perhaps that’s why it’s turned out the way it has. There was a great atmosphere between the band, and Pat Collier (ex Vibrators) did a sterling job engineering for us.
Did it sell OK?
It’s selling well and has just got a worldwide release last month. We will be touring again to promote the album this year – so yes.
Cash/Days in the writing credits. To me it’s right up there with Jagger/Richards, Strummer/Jones. How easy is Guy to work with?
Well it’s Cash/Days and Cash/Days/Labritain on the song Last Breath. Pablo wrote the lyrics – great words – more please Pablo! Guy can be hell to work with but in the end you get the results and here we are 34 years later.
Someone once told me you were brothers but I’d thought you’d just been classmates at school. Who is right?
So are you working on more new material at the moment?
In a former life, you played with Ian Dury in Kilburn & The High Roads. What was that like?
He was my tutor at art school in Canterbury where we formed Kilburn and the High Roads for the end of term college dance. I was with him for a four year period. He was a good teacher and a lot of fun and then not a lot of fun. I was always pleased I left when I did to form 999.
Have you seen the new Dury biopic, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll yet? Is Andy Serkis’ portrayal of Ian accurate?
Haven’t seen it yet. I was going to a private showing the other week with Russell Hardy, the piano player/songsmith in Kilburn and the High Roads, with whom I have remained firm friends over the years. Sadly we couldn’t make it. Saw the trailer though – Serkis is great. Almost like Ian is alive again!!!
You all do other stuff outside 999 these days. What does everyone do and how easy/difficult is it to fit tours and recording around your “normal” lives? Do you still get the same thrill from it all?
It is difficult but we get there in the end. More touring in 2010 – hopefully in Uruguay, Chile and Brazil.
So what plans do you have for 999 in 2010?
More touring. Writing.
For those who haven’t seen you play before, what can they expect at your Drummonds show?
A fast paced show including songs from our latest album Death In Soho and a selection of our earlier favourites – classic 999 stuff.
Anything else you’d like to say?
Come along to the Drummonds show.
And one last thing, what’s your favourite flavour of crisps?
I’ve stopped eating these bastards for health reasons – but I did like cheese and onion!
Thanks for taking the time to talk to FnS Nick. See you down the front.
999’s excellent latest album Death In Soho is out now on Overground Records.
They play Cafe Drummond on Friday 19th Feburary with support from Toxik Ephex & Malfunction.
Official site : http://www.nineninenine.net/