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- Posted on Aug 13th 2010 12:30PM by Innika La Fontaine
Three decades ago, a stolen five-pound note bought a young punk miscreant some instant mashed potato, baked beans and tickets to see the Clash and the Damned. Influenced by these legendary groups, this kid -- Colin Abrahall -- from the streets of Birmingham, England, went on to form one of the longest-running punk bands in history: GBH.
To celebrate their 30th anniversary the four boys recently embarked on a world tour with their 11th studio album, 'Perfume and Piss,' under their studded belts. Years on, their passion for punk still burns.
"The first time I heard [the Ramones'] 'Sheena is a Punk Rocker' on the radio it just woke something up inside of me," singer Colin Abrahall tells Spinner at a punk watering hole in Ottawa, ON. "You just want to be involved in it somehow, whether you're just a fan or you form a band and do something similar."
Starting GBH seemed like the right thing to do back then, Abrahall says, albeit they didn't really know what they were doing.
"We never used to think about anything but the next day, or the next gig, or the next song," he says. "Jock (Colin Blyth) could play guitar a little bit, and the original drummer (Andy Williams) could drum a little bit. I started out as a frustrated bass player because I wanted to be Sid Vicious but I couldn't play. I ended up singing because there was nothing else to do."
Thirty years on and these punk icons are still going strong, releasing their latest 13-track EP 'Perfume and Piss' on Hellcat Records -- a label founded by Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong. Having a new home with a punk pedigree is a welcome change from their past labels, Abrahall explains.
"They [record labels] promise you the earth, but as soon as you sign that contract you're history," he says. "We kind of knew that they were bad record labels [in the past], but we got the records out and it enabled us to keep touring."
Recorded in their hometown, the short and sharp tracks reflect their roots as young punk miscreants who emerged from the streets of Birmingham three decades ago. Their songs are still about social and political injustice; anarchy and nihilism. And they're humorous, Abrahall says, with a serious message about everyday happenings we see on "pointless" 24-hour television.
One might assume most people who spun the first GBH records have since drifted away from the punk rock scene. So what has kept the band interested in a genre of music stereotyped for its appeal to disgruntled youth?
"We're stubborn bastards and we don't want to work in a factory," Abrahall says. "We don't want to work for the man. When people tell us we can't do something we tend to want to do it more."
True to their word, Abrahall says the quartet have already started work on their next album. He's adamant they'll never throw in the towel and give up recording and touring. After 30 years a GBH show still runs like a chainsaw -- they turn on and it's full speed ahead.
"There's no secret to it," Abrahall says. "It's hard to explain, it's like getting up and having a piss in the morning -- not to be crude. You do it without thinking about it."
Their uncompromising punk attitude is behind GBH's shift to cult icon status from gutter punks listening to the Sex Pistols and the Clash. It also shifted them out of the life of poverty they led during their humble beginnings.
"At one point I lived in a house with five other guys and one by one they all disappeared," Abrahall recalls. "We had no electricity; we didn't pay the bills, so we had to light candles, and ... the floor fell down into the living room. I had absolutely no money, I was going through the [garbage] bin getting teabags to make tea... I was at my lowest ebb."
Abrahall's admits his day-to-day life now consists of waking up in the early hours of the morning to make his family breakfast, walk his dog and tend to his garden. Checking email is often the most exciting part of the day.
"There's always something happening," he explains. "Like Drew Barrymore has emailed me about using a GBH T-shirt in one of her films, asking permission. Another day, Rob Zombie -- although I don't know these people -- will ask permission to use a GBH poster in a shot of some movie he's doing."
And for any young punk looking to form a spikes-and-studs band with the same longevity and status as GBH, Abrahall has some advice.
"Never give up, never give in, never compromise and just enjoy what you do," he insists. "Keep doing it because maybe one day you'll be able to afford a box of teabags."