Interview with Steve Diggle of the Buzzcocks

Never Mind the Pistols, Here's the Buzzcocks
By Ronnie Dannelley
Article originally printed in Pop Culture Press - Issue 40 - 1996

In the recent media buzz surrounding the almighty dollar reunions of such bands as the Eagles, Sex Pistols and Kiss, there is one influential band whose reunion has been sadly overlooked. Rather than relying on band name recognition alone and its familiar cash register jingle, this band had two recent albums of quality tunes. THE BUZZCOCKS, one of the founding influential groups of the 70's punk explosion out of England reformed in the early 90's with a new album, "Trade Test Transmissions", and a tour. Rather than resting on their laurels, the band has released a second post-reunion album, "All Set", and has set off on another tour of the states. Steve Diggle, one of the founding members of the band and the only Buzzcock who sells his likeness on a t-shirt, took time from the band's east coast tour to explain the difference between the Buzzcock's reunion philosophy and that of other bands jumping on the reunion bandwagon.

"We didn't plan on anything out in terms of, well, we could make a lot more money out of this," Steve explained. The reunion came about indirectly from an incident with Steve's post-Buzzcocks group, Flag of Convenience. In 1989, F.O.C. was playing Germany and France when the promoter started billing the shows as "Buzzcocks-F.O.C.". "That really started the rumours that the Buzzcocks were back. We just kinda thought it would be nice to see each other again and see how it would go."

The first result of the newly reformed Buzzcock's was the Alive Tonight EP, which Steve recalls came out while the band was negotiating a record deal. "We did about 30 songs at those sessions, a lot of them still haven't come out. They were only demos essentially anyway. We were starting to tour and we thought we would put something out for the time being." The official debut of the reformed Buzzcocks was the masterful Trade Test Transmissions album on Caroline Records, which Steve describes as "a sort of reintroduction" of the band. The French live CD followed, which chronicled the band's tour. As for the band's rationale for a live album, Diggle simply states that, "we hadn't done that sort of live album apart from bootlegs."

Changing record labels to I.R.S., the Buzzcocks avoided the sophomore slump with their recent release, "All Set", a solid follow-up to "Trade Test". About the move to I.R.S., Diggle explains, "we thought it would be a better move, you know, better distribution. Some people had problems finding Trade Test". When asked why he didn't contribute as many songs on All Set as he had on the band's previous releases, Steve describes a humorous incident which will send collector's scrambling to find the Japanese pressing. The band had actually recorded six Diggle compositions, but the songs were delivered late. "They pressed up the album thinking that was it and when the album came out I said, 'what the fuck's happened here? You missed three songs?' The three songs will come out on the Japanese release, since we have a different deal in Japan."

With the current resurgence of punk/pop with such groups as Oasis, Green Day and Rancid, I wondered if Steve felt a sort of alliance with these new groups. "I think it's exciting, it brings guitar back. In Britain there's a lot more guitar bands happening." Does he feel that these new groups are stealing the Buzzcocks' thunder for doing what the Buzzcocks were doing 20 years ago? "Well, there's a hint of that, but you think maybe it will develop. Everybody takes a starting point at some time."

The many recent television documentaries on the history of rock have glossed over, or in some cases, ignored the Buzzcocks part in the punk explosion, only covering the Sex Pistols and Elvis Costello. "But," Diggle contests, "Costello wasn't part of the initial thing in Britain at all. We'd formed, the Clash, the Pistols and the Damned - that was the nucleus." About television's coverage of the punk scene he rationalizes, "sometimes it just doesn't translate to these producers of TV. It's kind of nice in a way sometimes, like the general media hasn't gotten ahold of you."

As far as the Sex Pistols reunion is concerned, Steve won't cry sell out. Instead he's a proper diplomat. "We played at the same even in London and there were like 50,000 people there. Their attitude seems to be okay, people want to see it, we'll do it."

However, the Buzzcocks won't just be sitting back counting their money after this tour, like most of the reunion bands. "We signed for a couple of albums. We'll probably be touring the rest of this year, then a new album next year."

But, will the Buzzcocks ever do a Mountain Dew commercial?

Diggle erupts in laughter, "not necessarily, no!"

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