We love music, we love the people who love music and naturally we love the people that make music.
So what about those people that make music? What sort of people are they? They like music as well, right? What were they into as kids? Was it the same sort of music we were into? What are they listening to now? What songs did they wish they had written?
We wanted to discover the “music fan” inside these artists, so we decided to find out using a similar format to our Meet The Community feature. By firing a series of short questions at a selected indie artist we wanted to get a bit of an insight into what makes them tick musically.
In this edition – Bob Collins
I can clearly remember the combined look of awe and dismay on the face of the man behind the counter at one of Manchester’s second hand record shop as I walked in with the brilliant orange sleeve of The Dentists’ debut album poking out of a semi-transparent carrier bag. “Oh wow!”, he enthused; “Where’d you get that?” I told him: one of his shop’s competitors a couple of hundred yards down the road. His facial expression turned. “Oh,” he said, “I’d had my eye on that copy…”
The album in question, Some People Are On The Pitch They Think It’s All Over It Is Now, is regarded by many indie afficionados as something of a gem. Song after song of gorgeous, 1960’s-infused guitar pop carrying mysterious and sometimes just daft titles, hooks aplenty and sufficient to launch the Chatham-based band into the upper echelons of the alternative music world, far beyond the Medway scene they otherwise celebrated.
Except it didn’t quite work out like that, and despite having released two albums on a major US label in the mid 1990s, for many the band remains something of a hidden treasure. Those of us who do know however can nod sagely whenever there’s a social media discovery of perhaps The Dentists’ most famous song, ‘Strawberries Are Growing In My Garden (And It’s Wintertime)’, or a mention of the classic ep track ‘Where’s My Chicken, You Bastard’, and coo over the delicate beauty of such songs as ‘Rivals For The Hand Of Isabel’ and ‘A Strange Way To Go About Things’.
It is something of a crime that to this day the vast back catalogue of The Dentist’s material is a challenge to find at the best of times. The aforementioned debut album was afforded a re-release via Cherry Red a few years ago, and at the turn of the last decade a compilation of outtakes and rarities – If All The Flies Were One Fly – was self-released. Both of these are available via iTunes, the latter also on Spotify, but if you want to dig deeper (and you most surely will, once you’ve dipped your toes in the water) and hear such gems as ‘House The Size Of Mars’, ‘Water For A Man On Fire’ and ‘I Can See Your House From Up Here’.
Following the demise of The Dentists in the second half of the 1990s, Mark Matthews and Bob Collins formed the Treasures Of Mexico, a band who continue to excite members of the Everything Indie Community (not exclusively, of course; their appeal extends beyond even our reaches!). We asked Bob Collins about his view from the stage…
So over to Bob….
Q1 – Where did you grow up?
A – Gillingham, Kent. One of the Medway Towns
Q2 – What posters did you have on your bedroom wall as a teenager?
A – Various Smash Hits centrespreads, the Jam, Blondie, Elvis Costello, Undertones etc.
Q3 – What was the first record you bought?
A – The first record bought for me (which I assumed I asked for) was ‘Sugar Sugar’ by the Archies. First one with my own pocket money I think was ‘Helen Wheels’ by Wings.
Q4 – What moment made you want to become a singer, artist and musician?
A – At age 14 when my friend Bill Bishop let me try out his older brother’s electric guitar.
Q5 – How much did you get paid for your first gig?
A – Almost certainly nothing. We just spontaneously supported a mate’s band in a pub (The Stable in Strood)
Q6 – Do you have a particularly memorable gig which you performed at?
A – Too many to mention, but a very special place goes to the Dentists reunion gig at the Beacon Court in Gillingham in 2010. Packed house, totally partisan audience and a vindication of everything we’d ever done.
Q7 – Who would you most like to perform with onstage?
A – Teenage Fanclub – covering ‘Strawberries…’ with me guesting on guitar!
Q8 – What’s the best venue you have played at?
A – Well the best is not necessarily the same as (Astoria) nor most legendary (Marquee, CBGBs). So I’m going to go recent here and say the Concorde2 in Brighton where Bob Collins and the Full Nelson were lucky enough to support the Long Ryders in 2016.
Q9 – What song would you liked to have written? (Not your own)
A – Hmmm, I genuinely don’t think in that way and obviously there are lots of great songs that I love but I would never have written. But, songs I could have written? Maybe ‘There She Goes’ by the La’s.
Q10 – If you weren’t a singer / artist / musician, what would you have been?
A – Difficult. Literally my entire life, outlook, friends, relationships since the age of 18 have been shaped by my being a musician, so I just can’t imagine the alternative.
Q11 – What are you listening to at the moment? Any recommendations?
A – At the time of writing the latest Comet Gain album, which is ace. More generally my favourite bands in the here and now have got to be Field Music and the Orielles.
Other great bands I’ve seen and heard recently, Squid, Mammoth Penguins, the Claim, Jetstream Pony, Broken Chanter, Hand Habits, Theatre Royal, Seazoo, Omni, Modern Nature.
Q12 – What are you up to at the moment?
A – Playing guitar in two bands – the Treasures of Mexico with Mark from the Dentists, and Stuart Turner and the Flat Earth Society with a new album out this year
Thank you Bob
John Hartley is the author of “Capturing The Wry”, an autobiographical tale of the unsigned side of the music industry and “The Great Leap Forward” available here, both published by i40Publishing. After spending the best part of twenty five years trying to write the perfect pop song he has also turned his attention to writing about those who have done a much better job at it. He tweets as @JohnyNocash and gives away his music, generally for free, at Broken Down Records.