Thirty-seven years after releasing their classic debut Can’t Stand The Rezillos the Scottish band has finally gotten around to cutting a followup. Frontman Eugene Reynolds explains.
BY JOHN B. MOORE
For a band whose nearly four-decades-old debut is still cited as a first wave punk rock classic, you’d think The Rezillos would have put out it’s follow up sooner. And no, 1979’s live record does not count.
Granted the band, the pride of Scotland (assuming The Bay City Rollers haven’t stolen that title), broke up in 1978, just months after they put out that first LP, Can’t Stand The Rezillos. But in the years since, they have mended fences and been playing together again since the early aughts. Why so long for a proper follow up, then? According to frontman Eugene Reynolds, when your only other studio album is considered a classic, the pressure of expectation can be a tad bit intimidating.
But sometime last year, The Rezillos managed to finally muster the courage to head back into the studio and pull together a stellar collection of new pop punk songs. The members may have turned into much better musicians over the years, but the playfulness that made their first record so appealing is still felt throughout the 12 tracks that make up Zero.
Prepping for their first U.S. tour in three years, Reynolds was kind enough to take some questions about the band’s legacy, their new album and why it took so long to finally put it out. And as he makes it pretty clear below, he was not responsible for the band breaking up in 1978.
Well, no one can blame you for rushing into this album to follow up the last one. What finally made this the right time to put out another album?
There’s always been a desire to make another album. But the band did break up – not my idea, I hasten to add – in 1978 soon after the album was released and only reformed in the 21st Century. Then it took some time for the band to find its feet… you know, we vaporized in the heady days of the Punk Rock explosion and then rematerialized a quarter of a century later and things don’t look the same! Or taste the same. Imagine if you had been frozen for 25 years and then re-emerged. AAAAGH Bright light!
However, it has still taken far too long, I agree. Part of the problem may have been that in the in-between years our first studio album had come to be regarded as a classic, and we thought there might be heightened expectations from us, so until we felt we were in the right mentality to deliver, it happened that it would be better to wait until then. And it looks like we were right to wait. It’s amazing to see so much interest and positivity. It’s been a bit of a surprise for us all, I think.
You mentioned you had plans to put it out earlier time, did you have songs that you ended up scrapping?
Yes, there were plans, but for every song that makes it on to an album, there are many that don’t… for various reasons; sometimes we get bored with a song, or it might not fit with the other tunes, whatever. So it can be a benefit in disguise to take time to consider things from all angles. Even with this album, we originally planned to put 14 tracks on but decided against that towards the end of mixing because we thought there was more to be developed before releasing. Some songs have been abandoned, others are not dead, only “sleeping.”
You’ve had reunion shows and tours over the years. Was it difficult to find time to come together to write, practice and ultimately record? Do you all live relatively close to each other now?
We did “reunite” but since then we have continued to exist as a band. It’s not been reunion touring. It can be hard to find the momentum sometimes, but once we got on a roll, it came naturally. The worst thing is writer’s cramp – the inertia of that. But like they say, the best way to write a novel is to start the first line of the first paragraph! Fay (Fife) and I live just a few miles away from each other in the same city. Jim (Brady) and Chris (Agnew) live about 40 miles distant, but Angel (Paterson, the original Rezillos drummer) lives in Germany, so this is a bit of a logistic challenge. We have hundreds of song ideas, concepts floating around and the trick is to work on a song at the right place right time etc. I tend to work impulsively and of the moment, whilst Fay chisels away at an idea for days, weeks. I can’t work like that but each to their own.
How long did it take to pull this latest album together? What was the experience like?
How long? Too long! A couple of the songs have been written many years ago, and by contrast, the title track “Zero” was written in the studio which was a real departure for us. Actually, playing live for such a long time before recording has definitely helped. It was important to try to capture the essence of a real live band within the limits of a recording studio situation. I think we’ve managed that. As for the experience, well, I personally found a lot of the recording and mixing mind-numbing. People tell me I’m a perfectionist, so maybe that’s why. But the funny thing was that once the mixing was truly complete (and when I say mixing I mean mix-remix-remix-remix until you go crazy!) when it was completed, Fay and I were proud to play the stuff to others and felt we had “done right.”
What was behind the decision to split up the first time?
I have to say I was not behind that decision! I always thought it was the dumbest thing to do, and that will always be my opinion. It was the most ill-conceived idea. Sometimes, it’s been explained away as “just being young” or whatever. But I think it was such a stupid move. NOT my idea.
That first album is still talked about highly by many – decades and decades later. Did you realize at the time you were making it and right after you released it, that it was an important record?
It was hard to see that from the inside. It was recording with 100 percent commitment certainly. If we all knew exactly what we did was right all of the time then “Whoa, Alright!” But seriously, it doesn’t feel like that at the time. We had no idea when we went to New York to make the album that the Power Station was probably one of the world’s best, or that the producer, Toni Bongiovi was so talented and experienced, and especially that we were working with an engineer by the name of Bob Clearmountain whose skills would soon be recognized as legendary, world class. I don’t think anyone has a clue as to whether their new record will be considered important or irrelevant. That’s for others to decide… maybe not immediately; sometimes much later.
When the band first started out, you often got lumped in with the punk groups at the time like The Sex Pistols and The Damned. Did you feel a kinship to those bands or do you think it was just lazy journalism to throw all of you in the same category?
I think the Damned and the Sex Pistols are great bands. One of the reasons they are is because they did not sound like anyone else, only themselves. And some fantastic songs too! Punk Rock can only be seen as a loose genre. Yes, it can be lazy journalism to seek pigeonholes. Punk should never have been about categorization- the very opposite in fact. But I guess some folk seek order in chaos, especially when it comes in seven or twelve inch squares and sits on a shelf. The Rezillos need their own velvet-clad shelf.
Are there plans to tour the U.S. again?
Not only plans, it’s real. We are coming to the West Coast this May, from Seattle down to San Diego, and over to play the Punk Rock for Bowling Festival in Las Vegas. Then back again in July to cover the East Coast. We’re posting the dates on our new website now-www.rezillos.rocks
Do you think you will you make more music in the future?
Now we have the new Zero album out, we have crossed a significant hurdle. There are plenty more songs to uncork from the Genie’s lamp and we are in the mood and place to do that from now on. It won’ be such a long this time around, there’s not enough time to wait.
What’s next for the band?
I’m going to make a few videos of some of the songs from Zero. I’d like to direct that. As long as it doesn’t dilute my focus on promoting the new album and writing new material. The band has gone from strength to strength and we are going to keep that energy up. No question of that.
Band photo credit Robman94 (via Wikimedia Commons); Reynolds live photo credit Dod Morrison, Reynolds stock photo credit E Gabriel Edvy. Below, watch a complete live show from 2013.