Hailing from the east coast of Scotland, Joey Terrifying are among a new wave of UK DIY bands flourishing even in the face of perhaps the harshest economic climate since the 1930's. Whilst the music industry continues to suffer a prolonged panic attack as a result of declining CD sales, DIY remains as vital a tool as ever. Punknews.org's crackpotdemagogue caught up with Joey Terrifying vocalist/frontman Deeker Johnston to shoot the breeze about punk rock, DIY and Jane Austen.
First off the bat, for those unfamiliar with Joey Terrifying, how would you describe yourselves?
Iâd simply say that weâre a punk rock band, but if ye are looking for a more detailed description Iâd say we play full-on hardcore ska-punk rockânâroll, although how we actually like to describe ourselves is âanti-punk skunkânâroll coreâ, but I do realize just how ridiculous that sounds! Essentially, we are a passionate four-piece punk band from the east coast of Scotland.
You boys have been active on the Scottish scene for over a decade with other bands - some might even describe you as veterans - why did it take you so long to form Joey Terrifying?
Personally speaking, and I donât mean this to sound disparaging towards any bands Iâve been in before, but Joey Terrifying is pretty much the band Iâve been waiting my whole life to be in. Gain (guitars) and I first started playing and writing songs together almost 13 years ago. Those first endeavors eventually morphed into a high school band that Beans (bass) joined. Our band broke up when the drummer and I both left to go to university.
We were all involved in various bands throughout the years, the most notable of which being Tearjerk, Gainâs hardcore band. I sang with a band called 13 Broken Fingers and later joined The Try Hards, but it wasnât until I moved to Perth three years ago that Joey T started to take shape, in idea form at least. Even then, though, there were false starts and it seemed the band would never happen. Then, by a twist of fate, I was asked to play a festival solo last summer but decided I needed a band. It was just a one-off. After we played that show, which consisted of covers and full-band versions of my songs, we decided we should stick together, write a brand new set, re-christen ourselves and hit the road. That was how Joey T was born in August of last year. We played our first show with Fake Problems in November in Glasgow.
Collectively speaking, what musical influences drive you as a band?
Like most bands, we have wildly divergent tastes and got into music through different avenues, but Iâd say the common touchstones would be the likes of NOFX, Propagandhi, The Specials, Bad Religion, The Clash, Dead Kennedys, etc. Beans has a deep love of 2-tone and northern soul, whereas Gain would probably be classed as âthe metal guyâ as he grew up with 80s metal and classic rock. Kev is into a lot of skate-punk, hardcore and hip-hop and Iâd probably be the âobscure bandâ guy in the band. Basically, anything that fucking rips and is full off passion and honesty will undoubtedly be of influence us in some way. Somewhere from within that melting pot comes Joey T.
Your lyrics and imagery seem heavily driven by a critical consciousness / political awareness; where do you find inspiration for your lyricism?
Given the age that we are living in, with the constant bombardment of information, imagery, ânewsâ, scandals, tabloids, 24-hour digital television, invasive social networking sites, advertising, scaremongering, paranoia and the general clusterfuck of the digital age, itâs not hard to find something that makes the blood boil to write about. My mother was a protest folk singer back in the 70s so Iâve always felt a connection with the protest movement and this was further exacerbated when I was exposed to punk rock at an early age. I find inspiration everywhere in my day-to-day life as well; from characters that I meet at work, my friends, other bands, people in general. People, and the world at large, are an endless source of stories, ideas and struggles, so there is plenty out there to influence you. There are enough songs out there about girls, we try to dig a little deeper and sing about things that are important to us. I guess we try to provoke thought and debate. There is plenty out there to get upset and scream and shout about!
What comes first, lyrics or music?
It very much depends. Sometimes a song will just come from an idea or a lyric; sometimes it will come from something as simple as a song title. I am always writing so there are always words floating about and everybody in the band writes music, together and independently. Everyone brings their own ideas to the table and weâll jam them out in practice and see what works and what doesnât. Like I suppose is the case with most bands, itâs not a case of one person writing the songs then bringing it to everyone else, itâs certainly a collaborative process. That said, sometimes one of us will come up with an idea and itâll just take flight and the song will write itself. I guess thatâs when the magic happens. Other times, it can be more of a struggle than that. We are always trying to push ourselves forward and certainly donât want to repeat ourselves, so we are constantly immersed in the writing process. Personally, I feel it all comes from the same place; the lyrics inform the music and the music informs the lyrics.
There's a great lyric in "Troubled Times" where you sing "Feeling a little bit like Holden Caulfield / Transcending these emotional minefields / If you're taking a trip that goes nowhere / How're you going to know when you've got there?" - you're clearly a fan of J.D. Salinger. Are there any other authors that have influenced other JT songs in direct or indirect ways?
I did my undergraduate degree in English/Religious Studies/Philosophy so my writing is always going to be influenced by literature. I find that I take inspiration as much from the things that I donât like as I do things that I do. I mean, Iâve pretty much read the entire Jane Austen collection, but I fucking hate Jane Austen with a passion, you know? âTroubled Timesâ has the only direct reference to any literary figure, but I do strive to write lyrics that are articulate and thought-provoking. Personally, I guess the authors who have influenced me the most would be the likes of Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson, Bukowski, Burroughs, Ginsberg, Christopher Brookmyre, etc. That said, I also have a deep love for ye olde English classics, poetry, Scots writing, the gothicâ¦I wouldnât say these are direct influences on Joey T, but they certainly inform how I try to approach lyric-writing and storytelling.
You embarked on your first UK tour earlier this year; what kind of state is the d.i.y scene in at present? What bands have been getting you stoked?
Tour was fucking deece [awesome]. There are a lot of people in the UK who work really hard to keep the DIY punk scene going. It seems there are pockets of people in every city who put on punk gigs and with the UK being so geographically small, after a few years you begin to create networks throughout the country and will always bump into someone that you know pretty much wherever you go. For example, I went to the last day of Rebellion the other week and the first person I bumped into was Bry from Elgin (a bleak Scottish town way up in the north-east) and he was wearing a Joey T shirt. I then met people that I know from all over the UK, so Iâd say the DIY scene is in good health. Itâll always be swings and roundabouts, but there are always good people willing to help you out.
Musically, Iâve never seen such a wide range of top quality bands across the board. Personally, Iâd recommend that folk go and seek out The Hijacks, Black Rat Death Squad, Gong Fei, Kaddish, Inches From The Mainland, Taking Chase, Billy Liar and Torturo Nervosa from Scotland. Weâve also made great friends of the road with The Emos from Bolton, Blackjacket from Canada, Acid Drop from Leeds and ICH from Colchester. There is plenty of good music going about! There is a wealth of talent in the underground scene.
How does the current economic climate impact upon what you are and aren't able to do as a d.i.y band?
Iâd say itâs more the economics of time that poses us problems, rather than financial constraints. We never got involved with this shit for monetary gain in any way and have always harboured the expectation that itâd be a loss-making exercise. Itâs a labour of love and a privilege to be able to go on tour and share our music with people across the country. We were absolutely gobsmacked when we got back from our 2-week and had pretty much broken even. We are lucky also insofar as we have a practice space at my work. Scotland is such a small country that there is no place you canât reach on one tank of diesel and most people will always ensure that this is covered for you. Obviously, weâd love to be able to take off and tour constantly, but weâve all got jobs and responsibilities so itâs just not that easy. As long as people can access our music and see us perform, thatâs the most important thing. We also do âsubbiesâ every week, putting a fiver each into the fund, so that helps pay for everything that needs paid for. We also have a friend who does us top quality merch for cheapness! I think weâre lucky in that we are a self-contained unit and have the support of our friends. Iâd say the biggest knock-on effect of the economic situation is that less people are going out, so that effects the number of people who consistently come out to shows.
So far you've only recorded a three-track demo, but your live set consists of over an album's worth of material - when do you plan to hit the studio again?
Itâs very frustrating that weâve only got the first demo done thus far. We aim to head into the studio in early September to record some of the new songs. Like everyone else, we are all incredibly busy. I work 3 jobs, Beans has 2, Gain has just become a father for the first time and Kev lives in the middle of nowhere, works and plays in Sunset Squad, so just getting the four of us together can be a struggle sometimes! Our next batch of recordings should be available soon. Weâll be putting the CD out ourselves on Make-That-A-Take and will be available at shows and online. You can download âThe First Demoâ for free if you follow the link from our mypuss page.
Whatâs next on the horizon for Joey T?
Weâve got a load of shows booked for the rest of the year. Weâre heading down south for a long weekender from Sept 17-20th and will be playing our first headlining shows in Durham, Peterborough, London and Brighton. I cannot wait to get out there and rip it up again. Weâre playing with North Lincoln in October and then will be spending another weekend in the north-west of England with The Emos. To round off the year, and to celebrate our first birthday as a gigging band, weâll be touring with The Cut Ups around Scotland in November. Then I think weâll play a Christmas show at our punk club in Dundee, then hole up, record all the new shit and come out swinging sometime in March.
Any last words?
Thanks very much for the interview. I think weâve done quite a lot over the past year and would like to thank everybody who has helped us out and been so accommodating of us thus far. Keep fighting the fight and express yourself clearly! Up the scuts!