1987 Sounds Interview

Published 11/04/87

“A Bloom With A View” Those leather clad lads of Leeds The Rose Of Avalanche don their shades for a bit of storytelling about life in the ’60′s, big flashy shirts, plus some bitchin’ gossip on The Mission. Kevin Murphy takes it all in. Steve Double gives it his best shot.

The Rose of Avalanche are blooming. Their arrogant entrance astride the magnificent “LA Rain” some two years ago has been followed by some sweet moves in “Goddess” and “Velveteen”, and their latest swirl “Always There”

Time has brought them a confidence, competence and a real drummer in Mark Thompson to replace the drum machine that adorned their early recordings and appearances, and was contributing factor to them being hailed as Sisters of Mercy plagiarists.

Those days are gone. Their new persona incorporates the chilled air of the Stooges and Doors, with a reverential treatment of “Waiting for the Sun” on the flip side of the new single, but their driving guitars and rhythm have the road to themselves.

And then there were five. The original three have blossomed into Philip Morris, vocals; Paul Berry, guitar; Glenn Schultz, guitar; Mark Thompson, drums and Nicol McKay on bass.

Following their tour early in the year supporting the Mission, Philip and Mark made the trip down from their home town of Leeds to the humble surrounds of their record company Fire near me.

Philip resembled the later, rounding shape of his hero Jim Morrison swamped in an outsize purple tent of a shirt, minus the beard, while Mark’s all leather look covered the Lizard King’s earlier period. they looked odd, great, and together.

Having survived the Sisters comparisons, wasn’t supporting The Mission an odd move?

Philip: “On the Mission tour we played to three times as many people as we’d ever played to before, that’s the only reason we did it. That’s what made it worth it”

But the Mission?

“We’re in the same vein as The Mission, like their influences are our influences and as far as rock bands are concerned those influences are the greatest in the world”

Those influences are at the forefront of a ’60′s revival spearheaded by the likes of The Cult, The Mission and Zodiac. It’s a path well trodden by the Roses and while they amble along in the the slow lane others take the fast lane to success. For some reason they have had to play second fiddle. Maybe their faces do not fit or, more likely, it’s that others have made the live show their priority.

It’s common knowledge that the Rose of Avalanche’s early shows were static, nervy affairs that did little to embellish the music or stir the crowd and which such extravagant competition impressionable eyes looked elsewhere.

“An image is important”, declares Phillip. “When we started out we just didn’t go for an image. It was like we were taking the piss out of ourselves for a year and no one caught on. Over the last six months we’ve realised that you’ve go to create a certain type of image that people can look up to,. so now each member represents what he likes out of music, and me…me I went and got loads of big flashy shirts”

Isn’t it unhealthy to regurgitate the ’60′s?

Philip: “It’s up to you, whatever’s your cup of tea. If you want to try and see if that works. The people that are buying records these days are not particularly aware of what happened in the ’60′s”

What do you think the ’60′s where about?

Mark: “It seems that most bands in the ’60′s – and I’m not just talking about bands like Hendrix and The Doors – had a feel to them, this kind of soul, even people like James Brown. It seems quite strange how many bands people have compared us to. It started off with The Velvet Underground, Doors, Stooges and went on to the Sisters and I’ve even heard things like Lynryd Skynyrd and MC5″

Philip: “We’d say we were a totally unoriginal band, but you name me one totally original band and they’d be shit”

Maybe: “I think the only comparison that really hurt me was when someone said that I drum like Ian Beale from EastEnders”

Pop’s history is littered with casualties, those who choose to compete do so for varying reasons, some to satisfy their ego’s, some their souls and some of their curiosity. What lure tempted The Rose of Avalanche?

“We’re in a band to enjoy ourselves, make loads of money and become famous,” smiles Philip.

What comes first?

“Enjoying ourselves, cos if you don’t enjoy doing it what’s the point. There’s a lot of bands about, especially independent bands, that say they don’t want anything to do with money and all that crap, but it’s pointless being in a band otherwise, cos that’s what it’s all about”

After many years careful study I arrived at this theory that when pubescent popsters decide to form a band the first move they make is towards the mirror. If the reflection paints a pretty picture they prepare themselves for a future in the charts. If, however, the mirror is not quite so complimentary they resign themselves to a lifetime of exile in the indie charts.

Why is it that it appears the charts are the prerogative of the handsome (Gary Moore and Mick Hucknall excluded)?

Philip; “it’s simply that major record companies don’t tend to pick ugly bands. Mind you Wayne Hussey’s not particularly good looking. Like, I saw a picture of him in this magazine next to Dennis Norden and there was not a lot of difference…at all”

Do you regard the pop business as serious?

“It’s serious” states Philip, “as long as it doesn’t become a job. That’s the main thing because a job is serious and, as far as I’m concerned, enjoying yourself isn’t”

So what’s the best bit about being in a group then lads?

Philip “The women, the drugs, the whole aspect of it”

So it’s kinda what you expected?

Mark: “I think it’s a bit better then I’d envisaged. It’s quite strange, quite strange to start getting fan mail”

Philip: “It’s good when people send in letters saying their mother thinks your voice is gorgeous. I got a good one from someone who said they when to a concert of ours and shouted out “Velveteen” while their sister called out “LA Rain”. We played “Velveteen” so they thought we must prefer them to their sister. It’s really strange.

“We got this Valentine card which said that love between two is beautiful, but love between six is unbelievable. I don’t know what the girl had in mind”

Don’t you ever worry about AIDS?

Mark; “Yes. I think it’s struck about now. It worries me. I mean, if I went aboard again and some girl, that I didn’t know, threw herself at me, I’d think twice about doing anything. When I recently got back from a trip abroad my girlfriend had received on of those leaflets, she’d written on it, To Mark, love from the government”

Philip: “Like I’m not particularly bad with groupies. I’ve got this girlfriend in Leeds and if I didn’t have her I wouldn’t give a shit, I think I’d live a total rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, and probably die of AIDS in ten years”

Mark: “When we were on tour, all these girls would come up to us and ask if we were The Rose of Avalanche and we’d go, Yes yes excitedly and they’d say Can you get me into Wayne Hussey dressing room?”

“I think the answer is to get so drunk that you can’t do anything anyway”

Drinking seems to play an important part in the Roses lives, if you get my drift.

Mark; “I’d suddenly find myself on stage, pissed and from my point of view drumming when drunk is quite difficult. But I guess with practice, it can get to the stage where can actually handling playing an instrument and be drunk at the same time, I mean the Mission have obviously got that down to a fine art!”

That’s what they call professionalism isn’t it? Mark; “We had that pointed out to us by our tour manager” He said your lacking it?

“He said we were shit” laughs Philip. “He said we were totally unprofessional and then on the last day he lost all our money, so he wasn’t professional was he!”

Is this pop game something you’ve always wanted to play?

Philip; “It is actually, cos when I was young I never actually thought of growing up. I still occasionally think of myself as not being grown up. I look at people the same age as me and I think of them as a helluva lot older and grown up and I’m not! There’s still a child in me.”

I guess that would account for his shape and loose shirts.

As the ’60′s guitar revival gathers force, hungry consumers and greedy companies will be on the look out for fresh faces, and with the Rose of Avalanche blooming, their life in the slow lane could be nearing it’s end.

Sounds 1987