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Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine have lived up to their name. When all and sundry thought they were dead and buried, the English agit-poppers have returned Lazarus-like with a brand new batch of songs. Interview: john walshe.
John Walshe, 02 Apr 1997
reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated. Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine are back. Having disappeared from the limelight a couple of years ago, Jimbob and Fruitbat have returned with a full band, a new mini-album on a new label, and are ready to take on the world. Again.
There s something undeniably odd about interviewing Carter USM in Gael Linn Records. Carter, one of the most unashamedly British bands of the last decade, are seated in the offices of the distinctly Irish label, where everybody I bump into greets me with a friendly Dia dhuit . It s a funny old rock n roll world. The six lads are seated around the room in a haphazard fashion, but it s mainly vocalist Jimbob and guitarist Fruitbat who answer the questions, the others obviously new to the whole band thing.
Carter s last LP, The Worry Bomb, didn t live up to the success of its predecessors, 30 Something, 1992: The Love Album and Post Historic Monsters, and the lads felt disillusioned with their then record company, eventually opting to leave.
They didn t do what they could have done with it, explains Jimbob. We had spent ages making it: it was in the shops for a week and then it just died a death. We spent the next year and a half trying to get off the label, which involved releasing a greatest hits album, and then everybody thought we d split up.
Undeterred, the band eventually parted ways with their record company by mutual consent, and began writing and recording a slew of new material, before signing to Cooking Vinyl.
There weren t a lot of people desperate to sign us, admits Jimbob. It wasn t a signing war. It was basically between Cooking Vinyl and some other bloke (laughs). We didn t like the other bloke cos his eyebrows were too close together.
Jimbob obviously hasn t examined this interviewer to closely because I myself have been accused of having a Gallagher uni-brow on occasion. He notices his gaffe when I start to obscure my face, and the whole room breaks out into peals of laughter. Oh fuck. Oh shit, he stutters. But you re not running a record label, are you? Oh fuck, I can t get out of it, can I?
He goes on to sing the virtues of his band s new home, which he admits is an unusual position for the band to be in. This is the first time we have ever been able to sit in interviews and say how great our record company is, he avers, which is probably a bad thing. Personally, I don t trust them (laughs).
For a band that were once the next big things of the British media circus with the phenomenal success of 1992: The Love Album, Carter seemed to deliberately rail against their new-found fame with the radio un-friendly follow-up, Post Historic Monsters.
Our great plan then was to destroy ourselves as a commercial entity in a very clever way so that everybody bought the record anyway, but it didn t work like that, Jimbob smiles.
We were going to call the record Commercial Fucking Suicide. It was all part of this great plan to make a record that you couldn t sell in the shops so that everybody would want it. But then we chickened out and changed the title.
We didn t really enjoy the pop bit, he adds. It was a bit like being Boyzone.
We don t really want to appear on kids TV, sums up Fruitbat.
There s nothing worse than bands moaning about the fact that they re really successful and have loads of money, but it was boring, Jimbob sighs. When I first joined a band, I wanted to be David Essex. I wanted to die of a drugs overdose, and sleep with groupies, and have loads of cash and drive cars into swimming pools. I was only 14, so I was a bit naive.
He readily admits that he hasn t yet realised his teenage fantasies: I can t even drive, he laughs.
But now the band are back in the limelight, with A World Without Dave, their brand new mini-album: six songs about the demise of England and the miserable states of life and love. The band had enough songs recorded for a batch of albums, but they felt a mini-album was the best way to reintroduce themselves to the public.
The band, having now expanded to a six-piece, are itching to get out on the road, because they feel that the present line-up is the best live band they ve ever had, and they hope to play at some of Europe s bigger festivals this summer.
We feel like we ve started again, and we have a new band, explains Fruitbat. Some agents and managers think that we shouldn t play certain festivals because we are lower down on the bill, but we are quite confident that we can blow anybody away.
Certainly, the songs that made it onto A World Without Dave are more than capable of winning audiences over, none moreso than the epic And God Created Brixton , are proof positive, if any were needed, that Carter s cynicism and bitterness towards the Conservatives and the state of modern Britain, are still very much intact. Yeah, we are bitter about that, and about what Labour are going to do to Britain, agrees Jimbob.
So if Labour win the next British general election, as looks very likely, will it make a blind bit of difference?
Yep, laughs Steve. There will be no more crime, no more poverty. No, they re all bastards, anyway.
One of the worst things that the Tories did to Britain was that they made the Labour Party into Tories, states Fruitbat.
Since I was 18, I have always voted Labour, and now I just couldn t bring myself to do it, admits Jimbob. They re all just obsessed with getting power at any cost to the rest of us. I could do without that. I feel obliged to vote, even if I just go along and write Fuck Off on the ballot form, so I will vote, but I won t vote Labour.
Carter USM have never been afraid to express their political views and opinions through their music, but can music be an effective medium for communication of this sort, or do people just switch off and listen to the melody?
Most people who are really into Carter are into the lyrics, Fruitbat avows. It s the same with the people who really hate us: they hate us more for the lyrics and the fact that they re political. They re the kind of people who think that a band shouldn t be political and should only write songs about love.
I get put off by some bands, admits Jimbob. I hate Rage Against The Machine, and that s probably as political as you can get in a band. I found it offensive, and marketed. If you re selling a lot of records and you re signed to a big organisation, then it can all be seen as hypocrisy anyway. You can say that you re fighting it from within, but that s bollocks as well. You re fighting it from the back of a big flash car, surrounded by cocaine. n
A World Without Dave is out now on Cooking Vinyl Records, and Carter USM should be on the road later this year, without either the limousines or the cocaine.