Lawnmower Deth frontman Qualcast Mutilator talks to us about Download Festival, Beermageddon, Gigs, Crowds, The Sophie Lancaster Foundation and much more...
On a drive between Up-North and the Midlands, I had a chat with Lawnmower Deth frontman Qualcast Mutilator (AKA Pete Lee) about the upcoming festival season & the 25th anniversary of their album release 'Ooh Crikey', Charity gigs and more...
So, first gig of the year happened what? Last weekend, how did that go down?
You know what, it was an absolute treat. It was, it was one of those where we weren't supposed to be doing it, it was Re-Animators gig – Mosh Against Cancer event over in Liverpool, we got a phone call from Re-Animator, one of their band members had to go into hospital and well, you know how it is, everything's become “Charities are us” at the moment, so it was all for a good cause and it's a couple of weeks before Donnington – so it's a good chance for us to stretch our legs before we turn up there and you know what? We had an absolute blast – it was up there, the crowd, it was kind of... I dunno, I was talking with Steve earlier and we both said the same thing:
Firstly – quite horribly, we don't think we've ever played better and we're not sure what made that happen, but it seemed to happen.
Secondly – The audience just sang to every single word. It was really quite strange. So, we just had an absolute ball with it. Really Really enjoyed playing it. It's been about 6 months since we last played, so it was nice to do that and got to see a few interesting bands on the day, so it was quite nice to check out some new bands.
In the run-up to Download (Which we'll get on to in a minute) You guys and Earache Records have been running a Kickstarter campaign to re-release 'Ooh Crikey' for its 25th Anniversary, that's gone down pretty well hasn't it?It seems to have done, I mean these things tend to happen. I've said to you and countless others over the years, anything we do isn't particularly thought through but we do seem to be surrounded by a few people that seem to care a lot more than they probably should. What happened was at Christmas when we did the Christmas show in Nottingham, that kinda got us firmly put back in the corner with Earache a little bit, we got them in with the Sophie Charity thing and the gig itself was about 10 yards from their front door which probably made it quite difficult to avoid it, but they were there, the whole gang was there from Earache, Dig included, and then I got a phone call a couple weeks off the back of that and it was Dig basically saying “We see everybody asking for 'Ooh Crikey...' to be re-released, let's do it and this is the way you do it these days...” It's a whole new thing to us, [Kickstarter] back in the Dark Ages when we were playing, you got a record deal if you were lucky and you got a record put out.
Now you get people to pay for your record in advance apparently. But it's gone very well so far. We've hit our target, we seemed to have smashed through that and this has never been about money for us really, so both ourselves and Earache just said “Look, anything over the target, we'll hand over to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation”. So, that's exactly what we'll do – so we're pleased we've hit the target, everyone's going to get their product and if you've seen the list, it's not good product – it's a series of bizarre items that come with a product. They really went to town and we just go with it. It's still going, got about a week left and basically the more we can crank up between now and then, the more money we raise for Sophie. So let's keep it going really...
For anyone that doesn't know, you guys did a fundraiser before your last Xmas gig for The Sophie Lancaster Foundation, how have you found the reaction from the Music Community at large, in response to what you thought was going to raise a few pounds as a bit of a nice idea?
The reaction has been overwhelming really. I mean, I think it took anybody who's been involved in it by complete surprise. What started as a lovely idea of 'let's do a photograph on stage with someone who may pay £20 for Sophie' suddenly turned from some kind of noble thing to what became a 4 or 5 month consolidated campaign of let's do a raffle, we'll get you some nice prizes, you give your ticket money to Sophie... and basically what happened was we know as ourselves and yourselves and so on that the 'metal community, the punk community are just good people, always have been.
And it is a community, very much a community but both sides of those communities joined in in equal measures, so you've got the likes of Andy Copping at Donnington/Download putting all VIP passes in, all the bands and I'm talking the likes of Iron Maiden, Bullet for my Valentine, The Stereophonics - all at that level, giving... Right down through some of the people, [Evil] Scarecrow and that kind of level all putting prizes in for nothing and we ended up doing a huge raffle, you know – Beermageddon prizes and so on and so on and everybody just added stuff to the raffle finished at the Xmas show down in Nottingham which was an equal mixture of sobriety and celebration because we had Sophie's brother Adam with us as well who came on stage to say a few words, but it all kind of culminated there and I suppose the icing on the cake was the promotors at Rock City turned around and said “We're so affected by what you've done, we'll give all of the VIP contributions for the next 12 months”, so we reckon all told, from let us take a photograph, it ended up somewhere around the £10,000 mark – it just seems to have united people, it's re-awakened the awareness, because it's something that's easy to forget, it's shown everybody's best side and most importantly, it's raised some money for them – so they can do their education thing.
You guys have been quite involved in Download this year, isn't this like your 4th appearance at Donnington Park?
You know, at the risk of vanity and stroking my own ego, because we just don't do that, I'm reading 'The History of Donnington' at the moment, partially because we're playing there in a few weeks, and partly because it's history – so I'm reading this book at the moment and bizarrely we're in it which is really weird reading a book with yourself in it – but it's full of glorious statistics and the amazing thing reading this book is... We've now officially played Download as many times as Metallica, I think we're one ahead of AC/DC – so technically I'm bigger than AC/DC now (laughs).
Based off the reaction since you “Came back” a few years ago, and how things seem to have built, do you think that momentum will carry on at Download – are you expecting a busy tent on the Saturday?
I'm hoping so, but we're not presumptuous. We're playing earlier this year than we ever have before. Usually we've only been given what can be politely described as “The Midnight Slot”. You know, off for a couple of cucumber sandwiches afterwards, but this time – quite dangerously I would think - we're gonna be on slightly early afternoon. I don't think there's any major clashes, but it's a festival. There's what? 5 stages these days. There's always going to be a clash, but it's a choice thing, if you wanna come and see us and have a party – that's what we're gonna do. If don't wanna come and see us, that's fine – go and watch someone who's gonna shout at you. It's absolutely up to you but I would hope to have a pretty busy tent.
The last few times, we've expected one or two, one man and his dog... I remember following ManRaze - which is Phil Collen's band, I remember following them on the first time we played and they were playing to about 30 people and I thought 'well, this is what it's obviously like', I'd never been in the tent so we came out to not only a tent full, but about 30-40 people deep outside the tent as well and it's been like that every time we've played. I dunno, maybe we're just something a bit different on the day – I think that's possibly what it is, I don't necessarily think we're a good thing, but nobody else is doing what we do.
And then after that you've got a couple of months off and then back to the Midlands for a Saturday night headline slot at Beermageddon.
Mmm, yeah, sorry – suppin' on me coffee... Yeah, it's like a World Tour this year isn't it? I mean, what are we on? 4 gigs this year... which is more than we did last year, so it can only be seen as a tour really. But yeah, we finish Download and carry on the Festival Season and we're gonna do Beermageddon this year. Really really looking forward to that one. Jim Beerman's a top guy and he's put together a nice little festival. I'm hearing it's the place where the Lawnmower faithful seem to hang out year in year out – so I think they were probably quite pleased with the announcement. It's just gonna be a right ol' knees up that one. It's gonna be the complete opposite to Download, which is great isn't it? I mean, Download I love to pieces and we get to play to thousands of people who either don't know who we are or would never go and see us on a normal day – Beermageddon, we're gonna play to people who would go and see us on a normal day, so I'm really looking forward to that – anything that's got the word “Beer” in it, it's gonna keep us pretty happy and let the chaos commence for that one.
Is there anything on the festival circuit or gig-wise that you're really looking forward to, other than playing?
Twisted fucking Sister. That's the easiest question you're gonna ask me all day son, that one. I've said this ever since and I use the term loosely, the comeback thing – it never was a comeback, but since we dragged out of 'retirement' to do the occaisional show – the band I most admired was and still is Twisted Sister. They just... have done it right. They've not come back and said 'we're 40, 50 or even 60 years old and trying to bring something back, we're just gonna do 2-3 gigs a year. Do you like our product, there you fucking go – let's just go out and do what we like to do'.
They're coming to party & that's their attitude and they've stuck to it. I've seen them a couple of times and I'll tell you now – they're as fresh as Daisies them boys. They absolutely knock itout the park. A Lawnmower Deth band we all unite on is Twisted Sister, big anthems, massive fuck-off choruses and I'm gonna be slinging my beer at that point. I can't wait. And then I've got [Status] Quo on afterwards is just – and, even if it's cabaret Quo, who cares? I was born and bred on Quo and I love the Quo – so I'll be in there with everybody else.
Rounding out the year, you've got the Xmas show in Camden this time, that's quite a line-up isn't it?
Isn't it just... I think we're getting better at this Will. We did a Xmas show in London a couple years ago and we got together with the Beholder boys and so on – I love playing in London and we'd not played there since the Ally Pally, then we just got a taste for it, everybody knows we're only doing the 3 or 4 gigs a year so we tend to be festival centred, and we like festivals and were never offered them before (or not as many) and you get to play to a lot more people at a festival, you know but we kind of got the taste for doing a club show every year as well, so the Xmas thing – it's kinda what Lawnmower is isn't it? It's a good old fashioned jolly boys day out, knees up and a party. So why wouldn't you want to play at Xmas I suppose. The London show was great, so we thought why not do this again, so we did Nottingham last year. Nottingham was great. I really enjoyed that.
We managed to put the old school back into 2013 really. We had the Xentrix boys, the Re-Animator boys and Line of Fire got to open up, that was a lovely bill and just everybody wanted that bill because it hadn't been seen since about 1991. It was really great to be able to do that, but now it's like Eurovision or Tour de France on tour, who's gonna get the starting stage? So we jumped out there again and it could have been anywhere in the Country but London it is (again) and the beautiful irony is the Promotor from London is actually our old agent from about 1988. That's a beautifully turned circle right there, back into London. We're gonna do the Underworld – it was a real quick decision to get the [Evil] Scarecrow boys on with us – as the natural usurpers to our crown. To be quite honest the Savage Messiah thing has all come about because when I was at Earache in December (2013) they slipped me a CD of the new Savage Messiah album, said check this out, and I don't tend to do a lot of new stuff, I'm quite retro for that, but the new Savage Messiah album is un-fucking-believable. It really is. It's just monster metal. So, that was a fairly easy phone call to get those boys on really. So when you include Bull-Riff I'm really chuffed we've got them all together on this.
Bull-Riff Stampede are doing two gigs that night aren't they? One in London, one in Gloucester...
I didn't know Bull-Riff – I mean I don't know the band. I've known Rod Boston for years (the bass player) because Rod's a Nottingham boy and like myself, he's born and bred on Quo. So, when me & Rod get together we just bore each other about the merits of drumming or something like that. It just goes on for hours. Rodders is just an all-round good guy. We could see Bull-Riff coming up the Wacken/Bloodstock/Beermageddon thing and they're doing well – good on them, so it's just a nice thing to be able to do to stick them on. Then I got a really sheepish email from them a couple of nights ago – and this is how good Rod Boston is – he told me you know... Now, I've been brought up properly, so you just talk to the other bands, it doesn't matter who the headliner is – there's no room for ego's in the dressing room, so just talk to people. It's nice to have a bit of support. Look out for each other. So, yeah – I got this email, I feel so embarrased because we are doing two gigs and we are playing in Gloucester the same night after we play with you, and I feel really daft and I hope it's not a problem. I just thought that was lovely. Fair do's you know – it's kinda like Phil Collins doing Live Aid back in the 80's only instead of London to LA, it's London to Gloucester. They're like the UK version of Phil Collins. (Laughs) I mean, if they want to be that stupid and do two gigs & at the end of the night be that knackered, good on 'em.
(Laughing) Can't believe you just compared Rod Boston to Phil Collins...
Well, between the two of them, I know who I'd rather have a pint with... And it's not Phil Collins.
I'm really sorry about this, but I have to ask the question. It's the question I get asked most to ask and (as we talk a fair bit) get asked myself. So, are there any plans to record anything new?
I think this is probably the one question we get asked, time and time again. Ummm, you've got 'Ooh Crikey...' coming out again with some stuff that you're never gonna get to hear again this time. There's some unreleased stuff in there, which is just horrible. Could it happen? Yeah – 'course it could. Will it happen? We said 4-5 years ago after we got dragged up to play with Bullet for my Valentine, we thought we were going to play one gig. Fast Forward 4-5 years down the line, talking to you – we've played all the big stages in the Country now at the festivals, ummm... I dunno. We just can't say yes or no at this point. I know it's a real politicians answer, but I'd say hand on heart we don't have any plans – but, we're always a Punk as Fuck band anyway, as much as attitude. In fact the greatest compliment I ever got was after doing a little warm-up gig in Harrogate before Download years ago, and we had a load of hardcore bands from around there as well, and one of them came up to me and said “I've gotta tell you, you are the punkest metal band I have ever heard”... and that was the biggest compliment anyone has ever paid me, but we've always been like that. The whole record company and management thing, I dunno... It was always a thing, but it was never a thing that we necessarily courted and I think at the moment we're just enjoying what it is.
There's no politics, there's no jockeying for position because that 'scene' isn't there – so you don't have to do that 'my band is bigger than your band' thing or 'we played a bigger stage than you' and all that bollocks. I don't know if recording would bring all that back again – you know the whole thing about who you have to talk to and the whole formulated thing again. I like the fact that, and I'm probably speaking for us all, we're a bunch of old mates – getting to make a bunch of new mates and seeing some old mates at the same time and just having a damn good time out of it. We never expected anything, no expectation – no pressure. It's a lovely place to be, but I also understand how lucky we are to be in that position because you've got new bands that are up and coming who would probably give their hind-teeth to get into some of the places we get into – and they are doing their dues and they could be self-recording and trying to slef-release or struggling to get gigs or playing the same places & it's difficult to get audiences into clubs these days, and everybody says how tough it is today – and we're a bunch of old knackers who can't play very well and here we are doing major festivals, so we appreciate how fortunate we really are. I suppose I don't want to abuse that and none of us want to spoil it either.
Thanks ever so much for your time mate & I'll see you in a couple of weeks at Download.
Thanks buddy – speak soon.
For more information on the Lawnmower Deth Kickstarter or Sophie Lancaster Foundation fundraiser – please visit www.facebook.com/ldauction
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