the fabulous nobody interview
(January 2001)

The Fabulous Nobody's debut single, Love and the City, was played an awful lot round our house. It's hard to say quite what it was about the record that made it so wonderful. It could've been the bakelite radio sound, a mixture of sedate jazz, AM transmission and valve technology; it could've been the charm of Laurence Dillon's heartfelt lyrical devotion to the metropolis; or it could have been the way that every time it played I could see Fred Astaire leaning nonchalantly on a lamp post, smoking a casual fag and waiting for the whistle solo. The music could've come straight out of a post-war remake of a 1930s stage show and as such is not only retro, but so far back in time by pop music's measure that it makes bands like Yes and Genesis look like newly-hatched spring chickens.

This is the full transcript of Laurence's interview for the Where Did It All Go Wrong? feature.

What are your first musical memories?

Blimey! I think it might be I Heard It Through The Grapevine by Marvin Gaye, probably about '68 or '69. I also remember watching a programme on TV one evening with two piano players and an audience draped over some scaffolding. The piano players sweated, their hair flapping over their faces as they banged out a wild and strangely infectious music. Many years later I saw a clip of this show again on TV and realised that a young toddler had been transfixed by Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard (in black and white).

When did you start listening "seriously" to music?

When I was about 15. Up to this point (1978) I'd been quite indifferent. The term New Wave was current as I remember 'indie' as a term didn't start being used until later in the early 80s. Stuff like Elvis Costello, Blondie, The Undertones - the big names of the time - and also lower profile bands like The Del Montes.

Did you read the press? What papers?

I read most of them. The NME was the one to read at the time.

Was there a tribal NME/MM thing between you and your mates?

A little bit, but then (1979-81) it was NME vs Sounds.

What was the difference between the two papers?

NME was much cooler whilst Sounds was a bit more 'rock'. Heavy Metal was getting popular around this time.

Do you remember particular writers or pieces?

Yes, a few. I remember when NME had I'm In Love With A German Film Star by the Passions as it's single of the week about 20 years ago. I often disagreed with the choice, but not that time! I also recall Edwyn Collins doing an interview when Orange Juice and Postcard Records were making a name for themselves. He attacked a sacred cow of the time (and now) when he said that the Sex Pistols were just a crap heavy metal band. To me, this was akin to the little boy in the fable of the Emperor's new clothes who made the observation that the Emperor was in fact naked.

 

Love and the City sleeve

When did you start to become disillusioned with what the music media was offering you?

Some time in 1981, because it was part of the current music 'scene' which was wrapped up in fashion, style and image bullshit - and a lot of the music was a bit dire.

Was there a point at which you thought "I could do this better myself"?

I don't know about "better" but different, certainly. I played all sorts of stuff with various people just for fun for years and only recently thought "hey, why not start a label."

Why do you think other people have moved on from the weeklies over the last few years?

I think that there is a lot more choice in WH Smiths of magazines and other publications. A lot of these do overlap into what was previously music press territory. People do still buy records - or CDs I should say - and music press journalism was not any better in the past. The internet has not has as big an impact generally as some people claim. Is the music any worse? Mm, it's certainly been absorbed into the corporate consumer culture more than before.

Has there been a larger cultural shift of which music media consumption is just a part?

Yes. Perhaps more of cultural stagnation. In the past, 'new' music movements were associated with social change and the younger generations of the time where a prime force driving this, most particularly in the 60s. At the moment, things appear to have reached an equilibrium where consumerism is the major factor. The wind of change is a mere whisper of a breeze now and this may be reflected in the mainstream music scene.

Do you find as you get older that your tastes spread out or crystallise?

In a way, both. I do definitely seek new flavours for a jaded palate but still like what I liked before. If people ask what kind of music I listen to, I always say "good." When I see their pitying expression, I explain that as long as it's good, I like it. Some people stick with what they know they like and some are always looking out for something new. A matter of individual disposition, really.

How long do you think the NME will last in its present format?

Not too long in its present form. If it takes a lead from some of the new magazines that've sprung up in the last few years and broadens its coverage/format then it may regenerate itself but then it would be something completely different to what it is now.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Yes. There is a gap that fanzines can fill, perhaps in the future we'll have a couple of major 'professional' zines such as has happened in football - witness the national status of When Saturday Comes. Who knows?

Laurence is interviewed about his band, The Fabulous Nobody, and his Kitchen label, here.


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