Vice Squad are a punk band formed in 1978 in Bristol, England vocalist Beki Bondage has been with the band since the original line-up. She is often cited as being the first punk pin-up featured on the front cover of a number of influential music tabloids such as Melody Maker, NME. They currently have a new album out called ‘London Underground’. They write their own songs, record and manufacture their own records independently. Making his fns interview debut Ska Dude caught up with Beki just as the Christmas Tree was put to bed for another year.
Did you listen to punk before you started Vice Squad?
Yes I was obsessed with music as are a lot of kids at that age. I used to listen to ‘Penetration’ and ‘X-Ray Spex’ as I liked the voices.
How did the name Vice Squad come about?
I just thought of it after we’d formed the band, it seemed slightly risqué and I liked the ‘squad’ part as it sounded like a group of soldiers (or Punk Rock Terrorists!) and the other band members all liked it so it stuck.
Was it hard being a woman in the music business when you started?
It was harder in some ways but it could be argued that we got press attention more easily because we had a female singer at a time when female singers were a lot rarer than male singers.
Who influenced and made you want to take up the guitar and sing?
I sang from a very early age, I was in a primary school band at age 9, so I was on the road to ruin pretty early on. Slade, Sweet, Suzy Quatro, Marc Bolan etc were bands I saw on Top of the Pops as a kid so they must have had an influence on me. I’ve always had a thing for men in make-up and Kaizer Bill helmets so that 70’s glam thing has a lot to answer for! I was fascinated by the sound of electric guitars even as a toddler so it’s no surprise that I ended up in a band.
How much do you think the punk scene has changed in the last 30 years?
Punk’s influence can be seen everywhere, its impact is huge, whereas years ago it was seen as a youth cult that would fade away. I have a theory that everything connected with Rock and Roll will be around as long as the human race because it cannot be surpassed, hence a new generation of kids are into punk, not just the music and clothes but the politics as well. The scene is more open than it was at the beginning, when it was very elitist, and now we have people of all ages into it so it’s quite unifying.
What originally attracted you to the music scene?
The music itself and all the characters involved with it. I never liked main stream music and it’s followers very much, I always wanted something other than a boring job and marriage. It was also less sexist than the mainstream, which seemed to be all about trying to snare some smelly, spotty herbert and breed. I was more into under age drinking, seeing live bands and wearing ‘strange’ clothes.
How long Has the current line up been together?
Paul the guitarist has been with me for over 20 years and Tone the drummer was with us for seven years then left, but now he’s back with us. Bassist Wayne has been with us about 18 months, he joined after long time bassist Mildred moved to Brazil to have his sex change operation.
Who writes the songs?
Paul and me. We’ve been writing a long time and came up with some great stuff for our latest album ‘London Underground’. Basically we shelved the previous album and started from scratch under pretty bad circumstances, circumstances where most people would have just given up and quit music.
What’s your favourite Vice Squad song to play?
At the moment it’s ‘Ordinary Girl’.
Are you still fans and of who?
I’m still in awe of amazing singers and guitarists, but with other bands of our ilk it’s more like mutual respect and understanding than being a fan.
Where have you performed? What are your favourite and least favourite venues?
Shepherds Bush Empire is a great venue as is the Key Club in Hollywood, and we like smaller venues like the Thatched House in Stockport. Cbgbs has the worst toilet facilities.
What’s your coolest band story?
Beki –I don’t have any cool stories, all my stories are about defecating drummers, projectile-vomiting drummers, pissing-in-corridors drummers etc etc.
What do you think about downloading music online?
Well it’s destroyed large parts of the music industry which is good as a lot of it was shite, but it’s also damaged hard working musicians and songwriters which is not good. Unfortunately now the music industry has found new ways of hyping it’s manufactured product so the usual suspects are finding a way to cash in, they always do!
What’s your outlook on the record industry today?
We write, record and manufacture our own records so I don’t feel we’re a part of the record industry as we’re completely independent. There are no big bucks in it for bands any more, in fact record companies now offer what they call ‘360 degree’ deals, where they get a chunk of the band’s merchandise and performance money. So all these manufactured bands are basically slaves to their labels. I’d rather be poor but free!!!
What makes a good crowd?
A collection of enthusiastic nutters.
What music do you listen to chill out?
Beki JS Bach.
Finally any last thoughts?
Yes, please visit our website, and support truly independent Punk Rock and buy our new album ‘London Underground’.
Interview and pics by Ska Dude.