The Bad Boyz of Rock ‘N’ Roll
by Rik Mayall Interviews And Articles Archive Blog
For Kerrang!, October 1987
They’re back – the band that make Uriah Heep look trendy, W.A.S.P. Appear namby-pamby and Snowy White seem exciting! Yeah, Bad News have returned from obscurity with a single, Bohemian Rhapsody, a forthcoming album and an imminent UK tour. Mick Wall talks to these rock fag-ends – sorry, legends – and asks the questions that need to be asked. To wit: how come the group moved from the Frilly Pink label to EMI? Why do they recommend their fans drink whooping cough vaccine? Which member is having Lemmy’s baby? And more besides…
The story so far… Four years after their ugly demise in front of the Channel 4 cameras, Bad News, those bastions of quasi-bullshit, no-hope Heavy Metal, are back in the saddle again. Moreover, this time the bastards say their here to stay.
They showed their faces at last year’s Castle Donnington Festival, of course. And very Bad News it was too, as I recall. Then, before Christmas last year, they opened for Iron Maiden at a special charity concert at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, in aid of the NSPCC, and were joined onstage at the end by no lesser personages than Jimmy Page and Brian May….
After four years lost in the wilderness, unrecognised by their peers and rejected wholesale by the fans, the original No Future band were back where they had started all those aeons ago, where a handful of visionaries say they have always belonged: propping up the bill to somebody else’s packed house.
1987 has seen the resurgence of Bad News come full circle. Recently, they have released their ‘comeback’ single on EMI, a weird and wrong-headed stab at that old Queen chestnut Bohemian Rhapsody; they have taken Reading Festival by the seat of it’s pants (or tried to, dirty bastards); and any day now the first – self-titled, natch! – Bad News album is going to be unleashed in a shopping centre near you. To back it up, there is also going to be a fully-fledged Bad News tour of Britain, their debut as headliners.
So why the sudden, unpredicted return to the limelight of the band once described, all on the same afternoon, by Ozzy Osbourne as “fucking awful”, by Phil Collen of Def Leppard as “shit”, and by Fish of Marillion as “an insult…like a Heavy Metal Sheena Easton”?
Why, just when the world had rightly forgotten that a band called Bad News ever existed, are they back to taunt us?
It began fitfully when those smart-arses at Channel 4 decided it would be a good idea to film an update of their original 1983 Bad News rockumentary. Their stated premise: ‘….to find out what happens to the boys who are sure they’ve got it right; the boys who think, hey we’re gonna make it! Then don’t.‘
The result, a thought-provoking, no-holds-barred, funny as shit look ‘behind the scenes’, cunningly titled More Bad News, traces the band’s rise from their reunion gig at the Flying Horse, a pub with no past in London, to the ridiculous recording contract they signed and then burned with the now-defunct Frilly Pink Records – an indie haven for Real Men with Heavy Talent, if you get my drift – and ending with the band’s, uh, unequivocal return to the big stage at Castle Donnington last year.
You may have seen More Bad News already, playing on the same bill as Gene Simmons/Ozzy Osbourne flick Trick or Treat that ran for all of 12 nights or something earlier this year. If, like most of us, you didn’t, don’t despair – Channel 4 insist they’ll be giving the bugger a screening early in the New Year. See it. I’m telling you. I am not a soul so easily amused, and I bust a gut watching it…. Laugh? I nearly shit myself.
So anyway, because of all this and more, I thought you might like to meet the band; like, hang out with the dudes from Bad News for the afternoon…
First and foremost (it says here), there is lead vocalist and lead guitarist Vim Fuego. A legend in his own mind, he has lead the band through every indifferent stage of their ill-starred career. Vim is an enigma who claims to be in touch with the spirit world and on first name terms with many famous names from recent rock history who have crossed over to the other side, and whose career has been dogged by worryingly persistent rumours to the effect that he is almost certainly bisexual. Charges Vim has always strenuously denied, but never very convincingly.
Then there is the sickly Colin Grigson, bass player, sort of, and self-confessed banker. When the band collapsed out there on the road in 1983, the story goes that Colin went running home to mummy and daddy, cut off his hair, promised to keep the music down in his bedroom and divided his time over the next four years between working in a bank and collecting a stack of Ladykillers pin-ups… A real prat in a wig, onstage or off.
The other guitarist in the band is Den Dennis. Den, wisely, never did give up his job as a self-employed painter and decorator. It’s the only really smart thing Den’s done since he joined the band. He is also a ‘Krusher’ Joule lookalike. Poor sod.
And last, but hardly least, there is drummer Spider Webb, Bad News’ very own wild man of rock. “The only person I’ve ever met who can throw up exactly half a pint into a half-pint pot with no spillage,” as Vim likes to put it. A good man who like his drugs.
Together they are Bad News, the band who, to quote the More Bad News film, always dealt in ‘delivering the excitement and escapism that so few bands do these days… violating voltage and volume, outraging parents and erecting rock dreams against the world!‘
We meet up with Bad News in an abandoned studio hidden in the heart of London, where Ray ‘Snakehips’ Palmer has been getting them to blow kisses and other things into the camera. ‘Krusher’ Joule, a life-long Den Dennis fan, accompanies me on the promise that he won’t start snivelling and asking for autographs.
We help ourselves to the stack of Budweisers lined up against one wall and take a hit each from the (unopened) bottle of Jack Daniels they have been posing for Ray’s pictures with. Then we make a circle of chairs, Bad News, ‘Krusher’ Joule and I, and we get down and get dirty.
Fist question. We want to iron out a couple of things straight off. Stuff the readers of Kerrang! will want to know upfront about the band. OK. Which one of you is queer, and which one of is still living with his mother?
Vim: “Well, that’s a bit of a leading question, isn’t it? Perhaps Colin should answer that one…”
Den: “Yeah, COLIN! You better answer that…”
Colin: “I live with my mother, it’s true – as a joke! A sort of rock and roll joke, which I’m sure most of the Kerrang! readers will appreciate…”
Vim: “But you’re not actually queer, are you? You just want to be.”
Colin: “I am NOT a homosexual! I have had sex. OK, it was with a magazine, but it was a girl in the picture!”
So there’s absolutely no truth in the rumour that Vim Fuego is having Lemmy’s baby?
Vim: “No, no, no! I mean, obviously me and Lemmy are big mates, we’ve both got metal in our souls, but that bulge in my belly isn’t Lemmy’s baby, it’s his beer and his Jack Daniels! I can feel it kicking around inside…”
Spider: “I know what you mean, though. I’ve come back with a sore head after a drinking session with Lemmy, and not been able to remember a thing.”
Vim: “That’s the trouble with Lemmy – he drinks so much that you end up getting completely plastered when you’re with him, and then when you wake up the next morning and feel a bit sore you’re not sure whether anything’s actually, you know, happened or not… But saying I’m having his baby is probably one of Lemmy’s practical jokes.”
Spider: “He means well though…”
Tell us about your appearance at the Reading Festival this year.
Spider: “Reading was brilliant, absolutely brilliant…”
Den: “Yeah, brilliant…”
Vim: “Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!”
Colin: “Reading was a triumph for the band; for the fans; and for the world of Heavy Metal in general… The best gig we’ve ever done. There were something like over 300 bottles thrown, which is a personal best for the band…”
Spider: “Yeah, we kept all the bottles round Vim’s house and now we never have to go to the pub again…”
Colin: “Or the toilet… We’ve still got loads of bottles filled with piss that we collected from the stage after we finished playing.”
What is it, do you think, about the band that draws such a violent reaction from people?
Vim: “When the fans throw things at us it’s not because they feel violent, it’s more like a sign from them that they’re witnessing the second wave of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal…”
Den: “Yeah, it’s a sign of deep love and appreciation, done in recognition of kindred souls, fellow travellers along the rocky road…”
Spider: “It’s like the kids just want to shower us with gifts. That’s the way I look at it.”
Tell us about the ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ single. Why did you choose to cover Queen’s most famous hit?
Vim: Basically, because the original is so crap. It needed pepping up a bit…”
Spider: “EMI wanted to re-release the original, but they came to us and said it really needs somebody to do it properly this time… Cliff wouldn’t do it, so would we?”
Colin: “And we got Brian May to produce it because he’s actually the only member of Queen who can actually play… did you know he came onstage with us at Reading? It was an accident; he was actually looking for his teeth. He’d left them there the year before…”
Did Vim ‘have words’ with Brian May before he came on the stage at Reading?
Vim: “Yeah, I mean, he came on, immediately turned up his guitar too loud and tried to blow me off the stage, and the silly old bugger obviously can’t play any more and it was just embarrassing watching him try. He just gets in the way onstage; his ego’s too large for his talent…”
Spider: “We were going brilliantly, and then he came on and everything took a dip from there. People stopped throwing things and the whole mood of the crowd suddenly changed. The moment he stepped onstage he bought everything down…”
He joined you onstage at the Hammersmith Odeon before Christmas, didn’t he? He must like you…
Colin: “Yes, him and Jimmy Page just barged their way onstage in the middle of our set… They’d obviously both broken out of the old people’s home, stolen a couple of guitars, and turned up expecting to jam with us onstage…”
Den: “The truth is they were both begging to join the band, and they saw that gig at the Odeon as their sort of audition…”
Colin: “The only reason Jimmy wanted to join the band was because he’d heard about that bottle of Jim Beam on our rider, so he broke into our gig at the Hammersmith Odeon to help us drink it…”
What’s the truth behind your move from the Frilly Pink label to EMI? Is it, as rumour suggests, because you were trying to lose your gay following?
Colin: “You’re talking about that gig at Heaven we’re not allowed to talk about…”
Den: “Look, we NEVER played that gig at Heaven, ALL RIGHT?”
Colin: “Anyway, according to EMI, we were never on Frilly Pink in the first place… Never mind that we had to do three gigs at the Hippodrome wearing stain boxer shorts! We were forced by the record company because we couldn’t get work anywhere else…”
Vim: “Anyway, don’t put any of that in the piece you’re writing. We’ve already been stitched up by two documentaries that make us look like a right load of prats…”
Den: “Yeah, they cut out all the best bits…”
Colin: “If you ask me it’s all part of the global movement to stamp out Heavy Metal. You know, all those book burners that belonged to the Moral Majority… They burned Ozzy Osbourne, didn’t they…”
Den: “And Sheena Easton…”
Colin: “They tried to burn Michael Jackson as well, starting with his hair…”
What’s the best thing about being in a Heavy Metal band?
Den: “Doing interviews like this with you and reading Kerrang!”
Spider: “It’s also something you can talk about seriously over dinner…”
Vim: “… But mostly, it’s the chicks!”
Colin: “One does keep having to go out to the countryside though, just to stand in a field away from the city all those dreadful working class people making a racket. And, of course, sometimes we have to go to one of those horrid recording studios and sit around all night with a bunch of dreadful drug addicts listening to people arguing. That’s the downside. Then occasionally we get a television interview, which is rather nice. I’m actually hoping to get into some sort of career in television when all this is over…”
Like a lot of great Heavy Metal bands from the past there seems to exist a certain amount of friction between you, the members of Bad News. Is that creative?
Spider: “No, there’s no friction between the members of the band…”
Vim: “That’s right. We present a totally united front to the world.”
Den: “Well, there is a bit of friction between us…”
Spider: “No there isn’t, Den…”
Den: “There is sometimes…”
Spider: “No there fucking well isn’t, Den!”
Den: “There is…”
Vim: “Look Den, I’ve just said we present a united front to the world and if you don’t shut up about there being any friction in this band I’m going to smash your face in!”
Colin: “Listen arse-nose, it says in our contract with EMI that there’s no friction in the band!”
Den: “Fucking well is… We have arguments about the band, about whose turn it is to buy the beer, about the guitars and whose going to use which amp, and we have arguments about Colin not being very good on bass…”
Vim: “And we have arguments about you talking your stupid head off to the press!”
A question for each of you individually. Firstly, Colin: that thing you do with your tongue (Colin has a very Gene Simmons-esque way with his tongue), is it a gift or did you have to practice in front of a mirror for years to perfect it?
Colin: “Well, of course I was born with the tongue, nobody gave it to me. Shall I show it to you for the readers of Kerrang!… Look, here we go: LALALALALALALAHHHHHHH! I regard it as one of my major contributions to the band.”
Your question, Vim: have you been in touch with anyone interesting in the spirit world lately?
Vim: “I’m in touch with all the rock greats that have passed on through the years. Who in particular do you want to know about?
Well, what about John Lennon: in the More Bad News documentary you claim he wrote a song for you, don’t you?
Vim: “Yeah, ‘Imogen’… it’s a girl’s name, you know? But we didn’t use it on the album because of the ridiculous claims of plagiarism… I hate it when people go around saying this band has ripped somebody off. I mean, take that Pet Shop Boys single ‘It’s A Sin’; obviously I hate the sodding Pet Shop Boys, but there’s no way you could say that their single ripped off ‘Wild World’ by Cat Stevens, although some people do say that… So it just shows you that you can’t be too careful about what you release. As John Lennon’s always the first to point out…”
Spider, your question. What drink is the best accompaniment when listening to the Bad News album?
Spider: “Anything you can get your hands on… the strongest drink possible would be my answer to that! Anything to dull the senses… There’s this rather nice whooping cough vaccine that’s come along which is quite good to listen to our stuff with. I recommend you try that.”
Den, we want to lay a word association thing on you, OK? ‘Heavy Metal’, Den!
Den: “Um, yeah! Heavy Metal is, well, Heavy Metal, innit?”
Colin: “So that’s your big statement on the subject of HM, is it?”
Den: “All right then, what about: Heavy Metal is… great! Heavy Metal is fucking great! Heavy Metal is…”
Vim, why do you cross yourself before you go onstage? You’re not a Born Again Girlie, are you?
Vim: “No, nothing like that. It’s just the new Heavy Metal sign. I mean, people used to do that (holding up hand in Ronnie Dio warding-off-the-devil-eye pose, little finger and forefinger aloft), didn’t they? But nobody really knew what the hell that meant!”
Colin: “I think it means ‘only two notes in this number’… Or perhaps, ‘these are the two fingers I’ll be using…’! God knows why the Pope does it, though!”
Why did you have such a small hospitality tent backstage at Reading?
Colin: “I don’t know. It was embarrassing for us. Everybody else had huge marquees with bars and restaurants and tables and chairs, and all EMI gave us was a two-man bivouac with a can of larger in it!”
Spider: “There wasn’t even any room for the chicks…”
Vim: “Sometimes I think those bastards at EMI treat this band as a bit of a joke…”
Tell us about your debut album. Are you pleased with it?
Colin: “Frankly, we’re not very happy with what the record company have done with it…”
Vim: “Yeah, they kept the tapes running the whole time we were in the studio, and left everything we said on the album. Stupid bastards said they thought it was all part of the deal.”
Colin: “And there was a certain amount of unpleasantness throughout the recording of the album. We spent the first three months working on one number…”
Vim: “… And then all EMI do is forget about our music and record us arguing!”
Do you ever get the feeling that people in the biz don’t take you very seriously sometimes?
Vim: “Yeah, most people treat us like shit. I put it down to jealousy.”
Last question. As this is the first time you’ve been interviewed by Kerrang!, we wondered if you would like to take this opportunity to send a message out to the vast legions of Heavy Metal fans who read the magazine?
Spider: “Just watch out for the real Bad News…”
Den: “Tell them the four horsemen of the rock apocalypse are back…”
Vim: “Yeah. Our message is this: there’s a lot of Bad News on the way…”
Colin: “Can I go now, please? I said I’d be back at the bank by five…”