The following is a copy of a very rare Birdland interview from 1989 that appeared in an American fanzine of the period. My sincere thanks to Matthew Kaplan and Blair Buscareno
for the permission to carry it here.



Every once in a while bands have the power to really blow you away. I don't mean that they were good, I mean when a band is awesome! These rare groups tend to make every other group you see pales in comparison, it becomes the litmus test for your view of what rock'n'roll is all about. One such group for me was Birdland, who came over to the States for three dates late in 1989 (Boston, NYC-CBGB's, Hoboken-Maxwells). After an undocumented period with RCA Records in America Birdland finally have their first domestic release on Radioactive-MCA Records.

The following interview took place prior to the bands sound check at Maxwells on December 4, 1989. At the time of this interview Birdland had yet to sign with RCA or MCA. The questions were asked by myself and Blair B. While at times Birdland may come off as a bit egotistical or up on themselves, after seeing them live I can only tell you this -they deserve to have faith in themselves and their future.

During your New York debut at CBGB's, what happened. Why did the show last a startling 3 minutes?

Sid: Basically the bass fucked up and that was all.

How about the previous night in Boston? Did that go well?

Lee: The guitar screwed up that night.
Robert: We only did about 15 minutes that night.

Why did you choose to come to America at this time, are you looking for an American label?

Robert: No just to do gigs, and to test the waters. And this is the last one tonight. We've already done four tours in '89 in England, so most of the equipment is pretty smashed up.

Was the audience different here than it is in England, did you approach them differently?

Robert: It's strange, honestly, we didn't know what to expect!
Kale: We didn't know if anyone knew about us or anything.
Lee: We did speak to this one d.j., Rodney on the R.O.Q. who said he was playing us and really liked us a lot.
Robert: Plus we thought a few people would show up because we are an English band, we thought people would come out to take a look to see what was going down.

The first two singles have done amazingly well in Britain and have been played a lot on college and some alternative stations here. What do you think about those releases in retrospect?

Robert: "Paradise" was a step up from "Hollowed Heart" and the new single will be a step up from that, as well. There will be a new single in January called "Sleep With Me." It will also include a song called "Wanted" and two new ones called "All over Me " and "Stay". There will also be a version with acoustic versions of earlier songs. It's coming out in a lot of different formats.
Lee: I like having lots of formats. It looks really good in the collection.

Why did all the songs run together on the "Hollow Heart" 12"?

Lee: That's how we do it live and we tried to do the record live in the studio.
Sid: We tried to record the track as a single at first and it didn't sound live enough. This was the only way to get the live energy and performance into the record.

What is the deal with the limited edition live album that you released?

Sid: You really can only get copies in England. We gave them away during our last tour. (ed: Hey guys, where are the copies of the album which you promised to send? We're still waiting!)
Kale: We just gave it to people who came along to gigs.
Robert: We wanted to put something out that reflected the way we sound, but we couldn't really release it officially because that is not the way to do things, for the first album being a live album.

Are you going to be sticking with Lazy Records?

Robert: Yeah, yeah, we're going to stick with Lazy in the U.K.
Lee: We were looking for a major deal in the beginning, but nothing suited us. They all wanted us to change, they all wanted us to sound like this to sell more records and look like some other band.
Robert: I think we would have ended up getting lost. There are a lot of bands that get signed to a major after their first indie single, and then get lost completely. Their singles never show up anymore on the indie charts and their singles only get to about 99 on the British charts.
Lee: It's really great building up on it and doing what we do. It helps that they are really small so we can keep our eyes on what they are doing.

Has working with Lazy done anything else for you?

Robert: Well, we were in this other band, but we didn't know what we were doing then. We used to wear dresses and furs on stage and Lazy sorted us out and pointed us in the right direction.

Did you enjoy wearing dresses?

Robert: Yeah, it was a lot of fun, it was just a few years ago.
Sid: Don't look at me, I wasn't in that band.
Robert: It was basically Lee, Kale, and me. Sid was just our roadie.

How many records did Zodiac Motel release?

Robert: We had a mini-album and two 12" singles and they've become like collectors items now. Nobody wanted to know about them at the time but now they are going for about ... each. There were only 1000 of each pressed at the time. We only sold about 300 copies and that was only to friends. Now kids are paying ... a copy.
Lee: That doesn't make them any better records. We thought they were brilliant at the time but we were just in school then.

How did the other kids in school take the fact that you had a record released?

Kale: They were about to murder us.

Were any of you in bands before Zodiac Motel?

Robert: I was in a few bands in school, we would get a singer, guitarist and a drummer on tape and think that it was going to be number one in the charts.

Now that you have made it to number one in the charts how does it feel?

Robert: It's brilliant, but it was a lot of hard work.
Kale: It hasn't been quick, we had three years with the Zodiac Motel and a few years before that, so its taken us five years to get there.
Robert: It would have been really easy to give up at any time, but we didn't.

When did you change the name of the band?

Sid: We started the group about a year ago in November of 1988.
Robert: We stole the name from a Patti Smith song called "Birdland."

How has the audience response changed to the band over the years?

Lee: When we started it was mostly guys hanging out at the front of the stage. Now there are more chicks up front.

I've read a few places that on a couple of occasions you've gone after members of the audience with guitars and mike stands. Is this true?

Lee: You should stand up there sometime, they abuse us. You go to so many gigs where the band is being spat at by the audience and they do nothing about it. It's really great to have a guitar to knock them over the head with sometimes.

Do you consider yourself primarily a live band?

Robert: Yeah.
Lee: The studio is really important to us, but live is the greatest.
What do you like best about being in a band?
Robert: Just being in one, getting on stage and playing for people.
Lee: If we don't play a gig for a month all I want to do is get on stage and smash up a guitar.
Kale: When we are in the studio for a long time sitting around listening to the same song about 10 times it feels really good to get on stage and play.

What are your influences?

Robert: A lot of punk things: Patti Smith, the Clash, the Ramones.
Lee: We have everything from the last 25 years to choose from.

What were the first records you ever got?

Robert: The first album I ever bought was the Ramones "Leave Home" I think, and the first record I had was "Touch Me" by Gary Glitter. He's just like a decrepit druggy today getting on stage. It's really scary. Sweet are the same way, they play heavy metal versions of all their hits.
Lee: The first single I got was by Mud (ed: a '70s English glam band) and the first album I got was the Specials first album. I was a late developer with albums.
Sid: Well I wouldn't want to do what the Buzzcocks did-break up and get back together five years later.

What do you think about the other bands in England that are doing similar types of music?

Robert: Like who?

Mega City Four and the Senseless Things?

Lee: We really don't have anything to do with any of them. There is no scene in England except for in Manchester, you know the Stone Roses and all that rubbish. The whole Manchester scene is about taking acid and ecstasy and things like that. There is no rebellion going on there, dancing is no rebellion, and wearing flares again, my god they think that's rebellion. (ed: they say this as they are dressed all in black with needle sharp Beatle boots).
Robert: There is no movement or scene in England today. Kids that like us don't like the Wonderstuff and vice versa. People who like us probably hate Mudhoney. Everyone seems to be on their own trip and nobody is united.
Lee: There is no scene in England, when we play with bands they hate us. They say yeah have a good show and stuff but they still hate us. When we come off the stage the other bands are like "you bastards." What it comes down to is that they are just jealous of us because they've been playing for years in piss halls and we haven't.
Robert: Mega City Four had been playing for years all around London and when we played there for the first time had to support us. They were just livid and every time we walked past them they were giving out looks which could kill. They became our enemies.

Didn't you start at the indie local level with only your friends coming to shows?

Robert: No, not really, we did not go through that phase because we never had any friends. Everybody hated us in England.
Lee: They hate us because the rest of them are in such shit bands. They are all doing what we were playing two years ago. In Birmingham they hate us because we have the nerve not to play that shit anymore.
Kale: When you're nothing everybody else thinks that you're a joke, but as soon as you do anything, like getting a support with a bigger band, it's like "you bastards." So that is the attitude of the people from where we are from.
Robert: Yeah, fuck 'em. We managed to get out of there. You used to never see any of the other bands going out to see touring acts when they came to town and we did. When Patti Smith and The Ramones came to town, none of the other people would stand in the front of the queues, and those bands were brilliant.
Lee: We would never play locally because all there are are piss halls. When we would go down to London nobody would know us and we didn't have any friends. We would really have to work hard to go over with the audience.
Robert: When most bands would go down to London from Birmingham they would bring along a coach load of their mates. When the other bands would finish their set the audience would go yeah, they would all come back thinking that they had done really well there. What they did not realize is that they were only being cheered by their mates. When we would go down there people would clap for us, but at least they were people who actually liked us for our music and not because we were friends with them.
Lee: The only friends we ever had were the other guys in the band and our girlfriends and maybe four or five other mates. One of the problems with playing in London was that the gigs would ask us if we could bring down a coach load of friends. And if you couldn't they would not book you and you couldn't play. (ed. Things are the same all over) Now we play to about 2000 people in London.
Robert: That's our basic audience now. Our audience doubled in the last four months of '89, what with the NME going mad over us and putting us on the cover. When we gave away the (live) album it got us a lot of press. We were amazed at how large are audience had gotten. It was incredible to play before that many people.
Lee: We've played gigs in front of 60 people and had the same intensity as at the Astoria, we play basically the same gig. In the states we have to start building our audience.

Has your sound changed as your audience and the venues themselves have gotten bigger?

Robert: Well the songs are progressing but I don't think the actual sound has changed. I think the sound is still pretty exciting and we still get a buzz from going on live, there is still loads of energy.
Lee: We have two amps now instead of one and at that is about the extent of the change in our sound. We still have to patch up our guitars before we go on every night. Whenever we go on tour we seem to be perpetually patching up the guitars.

Is it true that major labels paid you money just to hear the demos of your first single?

Robert: Well, most of that is true. WEA paid us $4,000 to hear it. They do things like that because they are stupid. That is the major label attitude. Our manager puts together those kinds of deals and that's where we got the money to record the live album and that is how we could afford to give it away. But all the major labels are looking for is the next U2 or band to stand on a barren cliff and pose for the camera. Most of the bands who the majors are picking up don't realize that it took U2 ten years to get where they are. They think that they can get an instant U2 package together. It's no different with pop bands like Duran Duran. Its just that real major label mentality which we don't want to have any part of.

Would you ever play a place the size of the Wembley?

Robert: Yeah, of course, but we don't want anyone else telling us how to get there. We just want to progress and see what happens. We don't set out to get a certain sound, we don't go into the studio and say that we want a really smooth guitar sound for the next single or get some big rock producer. We plan on continuing to just go into the studio and record the songs live. We don't spend hours on the production, that would be just crap. Who needs an over produced sound in the studio, two weeks on just the vocals or something. We're really just not into that, we just want our live sound. The excitement of the live sound is all we want.

Where do you see yourself going with music?

Robert: I can see this going on for two years or so and then I want to try something else. I don't see it going on and on and on. There will be a point when Birdland will just collapse and die, when we all think that it is just shit. One day we will just feel it inside and when that happens we will just stop. I don't see this going on for ten years. There won't be any twenty-five year reunions like the Who, they are just crap. My dad was out at a train station and there were a group of Who fans there and he started talking to them (because that's the kind of guy he is) and he mentioned us and all these kids in Who t-shirts said that they really liked us. My god, that's really terrible. Are we going to turn into a band like that, I really hate them! I've always hated Roger Daltrey and his fake American accent. When I have to start acting to earn a living or doing adverts that will be the end of it all.

Are there any other art forms which you would like to try your hand at?

Robert: I would not mind being a director, but I would never be an actor. I would rather be behind the camera as opposed to in front of it. We did a video for "Paradise" and we will be doing one for the new single. For "Paradise" we were just playing but at this point I don't know what we will do for the new one. I can't stand acting videos, all those Duran Duran videos, they were total bullshit, like Spandau Ballet videos - they were total shit, spending $2,000,000 flying the band over to Siberia for a shooting or on top of a camel. Those kinds of things are total bullshit. You could do a million better things with that kind of money. Most of the time in England they don't even show those videos, if you do get on Top of The Pops, which is the major pop show on the air, they have you live in the studio. Even on the Chart Show where they do show videos they only play a short part of them. What a waste of money.

They do show lots of Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan videos there.

Robert: Kylie is the pop crime for the masses.