Cock Sparrer Interview

I have got to know the Cock Sparrer guys really well and last year they played Glasgow for the first time in 27 years. It was a totally awesome show, one of the best I’ve ever seen. They also have a song featured in the new Jackass movie. Lead singer Colin McFaull kindly agreed to answer some questions.

Cock Sparrer

How did you come into the music scene and who influenced you?

It was just at school. Loads of little bands trying to get the attention of the girls. We were in a couple of separate bands who just decided it would be a good idea if we stopped being rivals and got together. I had loads of influences including two older brothers who brought home the latest Stax and Tamla releases every week, put them on the record player as soon as they got in and played them all night. By the time you went to bed you knew every word!!  As far as any band influencing me it would have the Small Faces in the early days. Steve Marriott remains my favourite singer of all time.

How long have you all known each other? How did you meet?

I seem to remember that we might have been aware of each other before we actually met but it would have been around when we were 14 or so. I’ve been mates with Will since Infants School, so from when were 5 years old.

When did you form your band? What inspired you to make music together?

Cock Sparrer in it’s earliest form was created in 1972 and consisted of me, Burge, Micky and Steve. As soon as we formed the band it was as though it was meant to be. The earlier bands we were in seemed like you had to work at it, with these blokes it just seemed to fall into place. We had fun from day one.

Has the line up changed any over the years?

Our first rhythm guitarist was Garrie Lammin who stayed for a short while, a couple of years I think. Then Chris Skepis, who is a lovely fella but a total nut job joined and played on “Shock Troops” and “Runnin’ Riot in ‘84” and then Shug O’Neill joined to replace Micky for a while. And finally Daryl came into the fold to join us at The Astoria in 1992 and we’ve not been able to get rid of him since ha ha. Seriously it has given us the line-up that I think Cock Sparrer was destined to have. He’s been the final piece of the jigsaw for almost the last 20 years. Unfortunately he was only 5 years old when we first started otherwise we would have found him earlier ha ha.

How did you come by the name Cock Sparrer?

Like all bands we had a couple of terrible names initially but I think we chose Cock Sparrer because it’s an old East End phrase and we had no better suggestions at the time..

Who writes your material?

Burge has written the vast majority of the Sparrer songs with the rest of us chipping in from time to time. Daryl got involved with the band’s songwriting for the first time on “Here We Stand”.

What has been your biggest challenge as a band?

Remembering where you put stuff!! It’s an age thing. Seriously? I think it’s been doing things our way. Not taking shit from anyone and not short changing anyone in return. Unlike other bands we don’t have to work at getting on with each other. We really enjoy spending time with everyone’s families away from the gigs and when we get together to play somewhere as Steve Bruce once quoted “It’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on!”

What is your favourite Cock Sparrer song to play?

A tough question this because it changes with my mood and it’s surprising how different songs get different reactions in different places. Any song that goes down a storm automatically becomes a favourite for that split second. I suppose if I had to choose based upon audience reaction then it would have to be “Riot Squad”, “Because You’re Young” and of course “England”.

Cock Sparrer

Where have you performed? What are your favourite and least favourite venues?

Over the last couple of years we’ve made a conscious decision to try to get out to places that we haven’t been to before or been back to for a long time and I think we’ve pretty much covered most of Europe now. 2011 will mainly be a bit further afield with plans for returning to the USA, getting out to Japan – which has always been a personal ambition – and there’s also some chat going on about South America and Australia. Favourite venues? Probably too many to mention but we’re returning to Blackpool for the first time in 3 years next August for the Rebellion weekend, which we love. But it’s not just the Sparrer show that we love Blackpool for, it’s the whole atmosphere that has been created by the promoters and punters alike. It really is totally unique.  I find it strange that you still get people whingeing about Rebellion. There really is nothing else like it anywhere in the world and if you speak to people from the States or elsewhere they really are envious that we’ve got it. Also looking forward to Rebellion next year because The Jons – who include my son Tom and Burge’s son Jack – are appearing for the first time.

Is there any country that you haven’t played that you would like to?

There are still loads of places that we haven’t been to that we’d love to visit. Whether we’ve now got the time is another matter.

How come you only play a handful of shows and don’t do a full tour?

We all still work and have jobs to pay the mortgage. 20 days holiday a year doesn’t go too far.

What is your funniest band story, I’ve heard the one where two guys were fighting and stopped to pose for a photo when they recognised Daryl in the crowd?

Yeah that’s a true story and they carried on having a tear up after the photo was taken. I think it was in the Czech Republic but he tells it better than I could so I’ll have to leave it to him. There’s quite a few written down in Steve’s book but a recent one was in Antwerp in the Summer. Most of Will’s work is done by the time we get on stage and as always, a couple of songs into the set he settles back on the side of the stage, lights a cigar, reaches for his beer and leans back against the wall. Only to find it’s not a wall it’s a curtain. He goes backwards arse over tit and falls 10 feet to the concrete floor. The funny thing was no-one notices until we spot a pair of white knuckles as he’s trying to pull himself back on stage. He obviously gets no sympathy from the rest of us but a bollocking for deserting his post.

How much do you think punk has changed in the last 30 years?

I actually think it’s a healthier scene than it’s ever been. There are more gigs, more venues, some great coverage in both magazines and fanzines and some cracking young bands coming through. Punk hasn’t changed, it’s still evolving. It’s brilliant to see just as many young kids as original Punks and Skins at our gigs.

How do you think you have managed to gain nearly unprecedented world-wide appeal? People come from many different countries to see your shows, how do you feel about this?

It’s obviously the sex appeal involved ha ha. There’s nothing like 5 fat, bald blokes to get the pulses racing. Listen, we’re always very flattered when people take the trouble to come and see us and we’re amazed at the distances that some of these guys travel. We’ll never be anything but grateful for those fans turning up. When they stop coming, that’s when we look to hang up the Martens. I think it’s also testimony to Burge’s songs that so many of them can have a relevance to so many people from so many backgrounds, countries and cultures.

Last years Glasgow gig was the first time in Scotland for 27 years, how did it go for you?

It was brilliant, we had a great time. Everybody made us very welcome. Again, going back was definitely a box that we wanted to tick and it was great to be able to do it. Lot’s of thanks go to the boys from Fire Exit for their help in making it happen.

Did it cross your mind to leave out “England belongs to me” when in Scotland?

No not really. Anybody that understands what the song is about would realise that we’ll play it everywhere. You still get the odd occasion when it gets misunderstood or misused but that won’t stop us playing it.

What’s your outlook on the music industry today?

The Music Industry is still shit. It still rips off young bands and just like football clubs, builds up kids’ expectations with promises of fame and big offers before they drop them without a second thought. It’s big business so we shouldn’t be shocked and it will never change which is why when I look at our scene I’m grateful that outfits like Rebellion, Captain Oi and Pirates Press exist.

Cock Sparrer

I saw the Jackass 3D movie it was great to hear one of your songs on the big screen. You went to the premier, did you get any pranks played on you and were the Jackass boys cool?

They were much too cool to talk to us ha ha. We had a chat and a photo with Johnny Knoxville afterwards who told us that he was pleased that he’d been finally able to get the song in one of their films. He had wanted it for the first film apparently. We had a good night, with free beer, strange food on a stick and lots of midgets. Will had his chest hair waxed to read Jackass 3D – don’t ask!

Thanks a lot Colin, and hopefully we’ll see you back in Scotland soon. Ska Dude.

Cocksparrer MySpace

You can read a bit more about ‘Sparrer on the bands own (aged!) bio page here.

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