PUNISHMENT OF LUXURY
“Of people who are forever trapped in debt"
Interview by Robert Pally
Thirty years after 7, their last album as Punishment Of Luxury, the band around singer Brian Bond (real name Brian Rapkin) released a new album called 5. The five songs recall their first album, the masterpiece Laughing Academy (1979): an unique mix of punk, art rock and theatre elements. In this interview, Bond talks about the past, inspiration, the fun of making music again and the future of Punishment Of Luxury.
PSF: When and why was POL formed?
BR: 1977. Initially for Mad Bongo Theatre Group based in Newcastle. We got together for musicals – one based on Orwell’s 1984, another for a nasty factory owner in Cumbria.
PSF: What inspired the name Punishment Of Luxury?
BR: A painting of the same name in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool by Giovanni Segantini.
PSF: What musical experience did you, Jimmy Giro, Les Denham, Neville Luxury and Red Helmet have before POL?
BR: Jimmy played clubs, others had played bits and pieces. Red H played in another band, the Big G.
PSF: What was the first song you wrote as POL and what was it about?
BR: Puppet Life... about puppet people!
(Side Note: In a 2008 interview, POL bassist Jimmy Giro said the following: “But Puppet Life ['Wires stick through my soul, my actions are controlled'] was about state oppression because that's how people ruled. It's no different today. Look at Zimbabwe.")
PSF: From where did you get your musical inspiration?
BR: 10CC, Sparks, Roxy Music, Bowie, Robert Fripp, Zappa, Todd Rundgren, Devo, Iggy Pop, Sex Pistols, George Formby, Charles Trenet. Very mixed!
PSF: Did you see yourself then as a punk band or as something else?
BR: Not a punk band, no. Just something different, we hoped, but influenced by those inspirations named above.
PSF: Laughing Academy was released in 1979. Was there a kind of main theme on it?
BR: Not really, except the idea of people trying to do something different being laughed at, and a bit of science fiction.
PSF: What do you think about Laughing Academy today?
BR: Most of it is very good. It works I think.
PSF: What is your favourite track from Laughing Academy?
BR: Maybe “Obsession" and “All White Jack."
PSF: You had a pretty extraordinaire live show. Brian Bond performed with face paint and wore rubbery gloves that made his fingers look like jellyfish tentacles. Where did you take the inspiration from for the shows?
BR: Performers I’ve seen like Bowie, Iggy, Ian Dury, Elvis Costello and John Lydon,
PSF: Your 2nd album 7 (1983) was more quiet, almost tame, at times even depressing (“The Bird and the Elephant") compared to Laughing Academy. What had happened?
BR: I left in 1980 – maybe EMI dropping us was demoralizing for the band, and our material for the 2nd album didn’t have some of the sparkle of Laughing Academy.
PSF: The next album was Feels Like Dancing Wartime (1984) under the name Nevilluxury and without you. Do you know how this album came together?
BR: No I don’t – you’ll have to ask Nev (POL guitarist). (Side note: Nevilluxury did not want to talk about it.)
PSF: What happened with the band members after Feels Like Dancing Wartime?
BR: Separate ways I think.
PSF: In 2007, you did a reunion show. Now, a new album has the original line-up. What triggered all of that?
BR: It was Jimi the bass player's 90th birthday, sorry, 50th birthday - he wanted to have a party with us playing. He and others persuaded me to do it and I'm glad I did. I don't know if others needed persuading. Sometimes, whatever happens, we need to move on, forget our differences and look at what we have in common. I discovered that I still enjoyed playing the songs and playing with the other 3 guys. So 6 years later, we're still doing gigs.
PSF: Your new 5 was written 2011. Why did it take so long to actually release it?
BR: We all have jobs, families and other lives - it took a while to write it, finance it, record it, mix it, send it in the correct technological format and get the CD's made successfully in Europe and sent back. There were a lot of hurdles to jump over but we got there in the end.
PSF: How different is your approach to writing songs today?
BR: Almost exactly the same: some songs are 50/50 Nev and myself (“I Rang Yvonne"), some are mostly his (“Mamonanimal") and some are mostly mine (“Cry").
PSF: What is the opening song “Mamonanimal" of your new album 5 about?
BR: Bankers and credit card companies who live only for amassing more and more money, charging exorbitant interest rates on loans, imposing late payment penalties etc., cheerfully benefiting from the abject misery of people who are forever trapped in debt.
PSF: What are your next steps as Punishment Of Luxury?
BR: To continue writing better and better songs and look for ways of developing those songs in different areas and for different situations - e.g. gigs, theatre, films etc. And we want to go on performing, as long as audiences like us. And they still do.
The Punishment Of Luxury CD 5 is available from Ted Blair at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Samples can be heard here
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