Young Things Don't Scream

The Joy Circuit: Giving covers bands a great name...

February 2009

Long before Bjorn Again made such things more popular, Young Things Don't Scream accidentally become the first ever Tubeway Army/Gary Numan covers band. Taking their name from a lyric in "Remind Me To Smile" from the "Telekon" album, they played their first gig on 17th January 1987 at The Flag in North Wembley, London. Over the next 18 months YTDS played gigs around the south east of England, some members leaving and others coming in, with the core of the band remaining Phil, Rog and Marc. They eventually called time on YTDS in 1989 and moved onto other projects.

A couple of times over the next 17 years the three of them talked about putting the band back together and "doing the Numan covers thing again" but it wasn't until late in 2006 that they started seriously discussing it. YTDS played their first gig with the modern line up on 11 August 2007, at Numan collaborator Ade Orange's The Vibe in Epsom, Surrey. In the summer of 2008, the guys had the idea to write to Canadian 'Godfather of Industrial Noize' Nash The Slash and see if he wanted to come over and tour the UK again, with YTDS providing support. He took a listen to the tracks on YTDS's myspace page and said yes. With Flag involved as promoter, the Numania Tour which took place in November 2008 was born.

Which is where I first heard them. An evening of joy and thrills was due in no small part to YTDS. Realising I had to abandon all previous biases against cover bands, these guys demanded to be heard by more people. A lot more people. We reviewed their gig at the Purple Turtle in Camden last November, now we present an interview with Young Things Don't Scream...

YTDS bannerHow did the band form? Can you give us a potted history of the band's path to date?

Rog: I had a debut gig booked for another band I was in to celebrate my 19th birthday, but I realised that they weren't up to scratch. Phil, Marc, and I were putting YTDS together at the time (late 1986), so we decided to fill the date. We'd already recruited Allan as a singer, we were all fans of Gary Numan and the venue for the gig was pretty much the Numan fan HQ (The Flag, in North Wembley), so we decided to do a set of Numan covers as we only had 6 weeks to the gig. A couple of Marc's friends became our rhythm section and we were in business.

Phil: We were together a couple of years originally. During that time we started including our own songs in live sets and we were asked to contribute a track to a local sampler album at one point before we went our separate ways. Funnily enough Rog spotted a CD promo of that album on eBay today! Over the years since, Rog, Marc and I moved elsewhere around the country but kept in touch and talked occasionally about putting YTDS back together, until in late 2006/early 2007 we decided the time was right for each of us. Originally, Allan was coming back as singer but had lots of family and job commitments so had to back out, which meant we were looking for a new drummer, bass player and singer. I knew Blair who lived near me who was a great drummer, a big, big Numan fan and had always wanted to play Numan songs live, then Mike turned up…

Mike: I'd put my details on the Musofinder website in the hope of joining an original band. I was contacted by a band that was interested in hearing me sing. Went down to King's Cross to meet them at a band rehearsal but didn't feel completely comfortable singing their type of songs. Their bass player at the time was our Roger. I found out that he played in a Gary Numan covers/tribute band and he mentioned they were looking for a new singer as their previous singer couldn't do it any longer. I told him I have loved Numan since 1979 and was more than familiar with his music. A few days or so later, Roger took me to meet the other members of YTDS and we hit it off straight away. A great bunch of guys who I get the utmost respect from. Been with them ever since and love being a part of what I consider to be a great band, tribute or otherwise.

Phil: …and finally Marc knew a great bass player from the Manchester club scene he was involved in, invited him along and Mat, despite not knowing much Numan material beforehand, has sat for hours learning Paul Gardiner's basslines and has been with us ever since.

Why a covers band? They're not usually known for their credibility in musical circles!

Rog: Back in 1987, the Numan set was actually meant to be a one-off until we wrote some original material. [Smiles]

Phil: And back then we did start doing our own stuff. But now in 2009, its because it fits in with our lives. Some of us write our own material away from the band - but fitting in even more rehearsals to work on and arrange original material would be a bit impractical I think - two of us are in London, two in Manchester and two around Milton Keynes! YTDS

Marc: Because we enjoy it.... period. It's worth pointing out that tribute shows had even less credibility when we started 22 years ago.

Phil: Indeed so! As I put on our myspace page - we were doing Numan covers in an era before Bjorn Again made doing covers more acceptable. And as Marc says - ultimately its because we enjoy it so much.

Do any of the members have experience of playing in a covers band before YTDS? If so - which bands did they cover?

Marc: I played in a general 80s tribute band called SOHO in the 80s. Everything from the Cars to Thomas Dolby to Adam and The Ants.

Mike: Since 2000 I have been working as a David Bowie tribute artist. Fronted two bands. Avid Bowie and The Diamond Dogs. I still work as a Bowie tribute but have to say that my commitment now lies with YTDS.

Phil: …and Blair used to play in a Blues Brothers tribute band.

Which other bands to the members work with outside of YTDS?

Marc: I play for BC Sweet (Formerly Brian Connolly's Sweet) and The Glitter Band. Rog: I play in bass in Hungry & The Hunted, guitar in Elmoncho and do a few other bits and pieces.

Phil: Rog is just trying to point out that he doesn't just play keyboards… ;-) Mat, our bass player, was asked to play with The March Violets when they reformed for some shows in late 2007, and Blair plays in a band called The Pimples who play covers. Me, I compose music on my own in my home studio when time allows.

Does the band collectively have a favourite song to perform?

Phil: Tracks I think - we reworked the ending so we get to let loose a bit; and the outro to We Are Glass which allows us to do the same - judging by faces on stage while we're playing those, I would say we're having a good time on those! For me, I would also say We Are So Fragile. I love the solos on the chorus and it rocks out a bit (on a good night!). [Smiles]

Which song or songs do audiences generally go mad over?

Rog: Bombers, The Joy Circuit, We Are So Fragile, Tracks, Listen To The Sirens, Films.

YTDSPhil: I'm An Agent, My Breathing and Fadeout 1930 all went down well when we did them first time around - I suspect more than one of those will be making an appearance again this year, plus some new tracks we haven't played before.

The emphasis on every component of the songs actually being played live rather than rely on a backing track is something YTDS seems particularly proud of (and rightly so!). Can you tell me something of how the decision to do this came together and what the challenges are as a result?

Marc: It was a common decision from day one and the challenges obviously increased as Numan increased his use of technology in his later recordings.

Rog: When we first started no-one else we knew of was doing Numan covers and it never really occurred to us to do it any other way than totally live. We even had two female backing vocalists for a while, making us an 8-piece band. Over the years, the majority of other bands doing Numan covers have used backing tracks, so we've maintained our 100% live stance to make us stand out. Playing some of the keyboard parts can be very demanding, as most is sequenced when being recorded by Mr Numan. What we've tended to do is work out the most important parts of the arrangement, and make sure we cover them. I play second guitar when required, and at times we've had other band members playing basic keyboard parts or electronic percussion.

Phil: It would be quite easy to have stuff on tape to fill out the sound…and many people perhaps wouldn't notice…but we do prefer the freedom of being totally live - if Tracks is going particularly well for example on the outro, we can lengthen it; if it's a bad night it might end up shorter! [Smiles] Can't do that with tapes - you're stuck with the same length every night which does restrict you a bit. And we all like the buzz of knowing its completely live - and it does get commented on by people who've come to see us..

The focus seems to be on the live performance rather than in the studio. What are the reasons for this?

Marc: We are a Gary Numan covers band/tribute show. The studio really has nothing to offer us other than to record a promo tape for getting gigs.

Rog: As a covers band, it's always going to be more about the live performance.

Phil: Although its nice to note that some people who have come to see us have asked if we'll be recording the songs too. We did put out the Numan Days cassette release back in 1987 but there aren't any plans to do anything similar at the moment although we may be putting together a dvd of a live performance from the tour - we did record 1 of the gigs on multitrack audio and with several video cameras.

Have you ever received any official recognition from Gary Numan? If so, what did he say?!

Rog: Back in '87 Gary gave us clearance to release Numan Days - which was basically our live set. I got a positive response when I spoke to him about it at the time.

Marc: All of his band and Gemma (Gary's wife) came to our Manchester show in March 2008 and were highly complimentary afterwards. Back in '87 we understood Gary's girlfriend at the time was seen parked outside one of his gigs with a copy of Numan Days sitting on the passenger seat.

Phil: Ade Orange, who worked with Gary for over 20 years and runs a venue in Epsom, Surrey called The Vibe - he asked us to play there when we got back together and was very complimentary - there's a bit of him at the end of the recording of Are Friends Electric? on our myspace page - those recordings were taken that night.

Rrussell Bell who was in Gary's band from 1979 onwards for many years came to see us at Camden on the Numania tour - he apparently said afterwards we gave him goosebumps when we started our set; he felt like he should have been out there. Which was fantastic really!

Marc:...and Nash The Slash thinks we are awesome! [Smiles]

Phil: He's not bad either… [Laughs]

YTDSI understand the band was instrumental in getting Nash The Slash to return to the UK for the first time in more than 20 years for his UK tour last year. How did that come about?

Rog: We're fans of his, so we asked him. [Smiles]

Marc: I decided if we were going to ever tour (as opposed to doing one off gigs) we needed an angle.

Phil: Marc mentioned this to me one day on the phone and said wouldn't it be great if we could get Nash The Slash over here and tour with him? I agreed of course and said "Well, why not email his website, it can't do any harm..."

Marc: I mailed him and asked if he fancied coming over to gig. He nearly tore my arm off. He paid his own way over and was up for everything from day one. I built him a touring rig and converted my office room into a bedroom for him for his month stay to keep touring costs down. It ran like a dream and the guy went down a storm. He also sold TONS of merchandise. Look out for Nash back here in the UK this autumn.

What was YTDS' experience of the Nash The Slash tour?

Rog: Very hard work, but ultimately very enjoyable.

Phil: Brilliant. Really good. Weird getting used to not getting to bed until 4am and driving hundreds of miles almost every day but it was fantastic and none of us would have missed it for anything. We all came away from the tour closer than when it started and were all sad when it ended - on the last night at Manchester, more than one of us had tears in our eyes on stage at the end.

Did you meet any heroes on the Nash The Slash tour last year? What tales do you have to tell??

Phil: Heroes… well there were rumours that Mr and Mrs Numan were going to come along on one of the nights - but not sure how true they were and anyway, that didn't materialise. However, at Camden Rrussell Bell turned up as I said - and he was great. We were waiting back stage before we went on and he came to say hello and wish us well. And he was there afterwards to tell us how much he'd enjoyed it. Lovely guy. He had been due to come on and jam with us on our encores with Nash at the end of the night but unfortunately something cropped up and he had to leave early. He has apparently said through a mutual friend that he'd be happy to work with us sometime so that would be really cool.

As Marc said, he had Nash staying with him while he was in the UK - in the middle of that he stayed with me for a week. Taking Nash The Slash to put his famous white suit in at the dry cleaners after a gig was strange - I took it back again myself for a second clean a week later and the woman there remembered him frpm the previous week. But the most surreal moment was when he asked if we had a Boots near me - I drove him down there and it was only when he said "Now, I need to find the first aid section" I realised he was shopping for his trademark bandages…! One of those 'pinch me' moments - 'I've been buying his records since 1980 and now in 2008 I'm taking him shopping for his bandages...'!

As for other tour tales, well we have a blog on our myspace page (see below) and I did keep a tour diary of sorts on there so may I redirect you and your readers to that?

YTDSAre your audiences purely/mainly Numan nutters or does the band have a broader appeal and audience?

Rog: Mainly Numan fans, but we've had people attend who aren't really into Numan and they've been pleasantly surprised.

Phil: I had friends come along who are really not into Numan and were coming to support me - and who then said they'd had such a great time they'd be happy to come again. Which is just the best compliment really - shows we must be doing something right.

What I particularly like about YTDS is you don't take yourselves seriously but you totally take the music seriously. The result creates a great atmosphere.

Marc: We cannot really influence the music, just play it the best we can. The only thing we can control is the quality of our performance and we like to think it's of a great standard. We work incredibly hard at what we do.

Rog: We're more of a covers band than a tribute band. We don't slavishly copy Gary Numan, or attempt to sound like him. What we do is try to present his songs in a manner that we enjoy and we hope that audiences enjoy. If people are paying to see you, then you have to take what you're doing very seriously, but it has to be fun.

What do you want to achieve with YTDS - if achieve is the right word?

Rog: To have a good time playing music I enjoy.

Phil: To get on stage as often as possible and entertain the people who have paid to come and see us. And to enjoy doing it! Preferably with the five people in the band with me at the moment - the band we have now are just the best guys to work with.

Marc: We want to use the tour as a launching pad for doing bigger and better tribute gigs. Maybe some tribute festivals and touring 80s electronic shows with other similar tribute bands. The band have made it clear they have no desire to write original material so it kind of is what it is and always will be....... If that makes sense.

Thank you for your kind words about us. It's greatly appreciated!

[Interview by Rob Dyer - All photos of YTDS from Numania Tour gig at The Purple Turtle in London - 28 November 2008]



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