Interview:
The Levellers

The Crusaders of Crust Return

The Levellers take care of business like few other groups. Rarely does a band maintain it's identity and integregrity whilst taking care of business. A few years back the band invested their hard earned dough from platinum selling album "levelling the land" to buy a large warehouse space in Brighton called The Metway. This was converted into offices, a recording studio, a rehearsal space and a haven for their political activities and creativity...
Who said crusties were wasters?
Every week they offer local bands free studio time to develop and record.
The result has seen many successes including British Sea Power and The Electric Soft Parade hit the indie charts.
Sorry, who said crusties were wasters?
There's also a drinks bar....
The following conversation with Jeremy, spokesman and bass player really rekindled my faith in music being an integral part of the community and soul, rather than a means to stardom and vanity.

Jeremy:
You see, when we made our mark we were a righteous mouthpiece for an era dominated by conservative policy and a lack of community spirit. Everything was about succeeding as an individual at the expense of someone else. We connected with the disenfranchised, the people on the bottom rung, people searching for a direction. At its best our music unified these kinds of people and brought a sense of kindred to a dislocated youth culture.
In its title "Levelling the land" we are suggesting a social move towards equality and justice.

AD: It sounds like you had a collective consciousness in the band, a collective purpose?

Jeremy:
Exactly, but make no mistake "Levelling the land" is still a great record and I believe that our new record echoes the vibe of that.
The record industry never interested us and I think the feeling was mutual. We built our support from the grassroots and word of mouth and kindred spirits were attracted to our scene. We still have a hardcore following and we were one of, if not the first band to use the internet to communicate with a database of fans. These things cut out the importance of record company rhetoric and interferance...we have always had artistic control.

AD: So tell me how you formulated your plans?

Jeremy:
I guess it started in Brighton at our local pub, The Eagle. We all met there and would talk and talk over beers till closing time. It seemed natural after a while to put our ideals into musical expression. The Eagle was the only bar that allowed its staff to have mohican haircuts and a room upstairs for smoking joints!.
It was at that bar that I sketched out the Levellers logo that is still used today!

AD: As well as a loyal following you seem to have maintained the original team of management and label.

Jeremy: Yeah, why fix something that isn't broken. We still have the same manager and use his label Hag to release our material.

AD: Your first album was released through "Musidisc" with disastrous consequences, can you tell me more?

Jeremy : Yeah, they were a disorganised and badly run label that completely made a cock up of releasing our singles and album. The music was all but lost to the bargain bins because they couldn't sort out a piss up in a brewery.
We eventually had to buy our way out of the deal, luckily our next label China records became convinced when they came to our shows and saw 2000 people turn up, it wasn't a leap of faith for them to want to sign us.
They paid off musicdisc but that didn't stop musidisc releasing awful remixes of old tracks, trying to cash in on the bands success. We made appeals to our fans NOT to buy that record and I think it worked because it didn't make the top 40. After that nightmare we could concentrate on our own future, and the next album was the making of us.

AD: Well you've a hefty tour schedule, does 14 years of touring wear you down?

Jeremy:
Well it is emotionally tiring at times but nothing beats the buzz of a mad crowd at your gig. It's very life affirming and intoxicating, it's become our lives.

AD: How do you maintain relationships with people outside the band?

Jeremy: It's difficult, but we made a collective vow that we wouldn't put the band before our personal freedom and relationships (all in the Levellers apart from Jeremy are married!). It has meant that we always keep a perspective and the only way it's affected the band is that over the years a few shows have been cancelled!

What a nice man. Since we were talking by phone I couldn't tell you if he smelled or not, or if he had a mangy black dog on a rope by his side.
One thing is for sure though, that love them or hate them, the Levellers are owed some respect and what they do means dues are long over-due.
Punk is still alive and it may not look as cool as the Strokes but it never accepted Daddy's handouts and remembered its roots, its community.
Cue the Levellers.

Naim Cortazzi

 

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