I interviewed Alvin of U.K. Subs recently to get a story done for The Prague Post. Check it out here:
What’s the key to longevity in the music business? A healthy dose of punk, according to UK Subs bassist Alvin Gibbs.
These British punk pioneers have been performing and recording since 1976, and show no signs of stopping. Their latest album – their 23rd – was released earlier this year to widely positive reviews. Work in Progress coincides with UK Subs’ tradition of ordering their album titles alphabetically. Once they get to “Z,” they plan to start over. But even with such a scheme for guidance, it’s no easy task to keep a band going for three decades. Gibbs tells The Prague Post UK Subs simply want to continue.
“Necessity, the love of playing music, the understanding that we are very privileged to be able to travel and live the life we do,” have been the band’s motivations, he says.
Along with The Damned and the Sex Pistols, UK Subs helped establish punk rock in Britain, earning seven consecutive UK top 30 hits between 1979 and 1981. The band is also credited with paving the way for the more outlandish sub-genre of “street punk.” Gibbs says that times have changed, and today’s punk bands “cannot achieve the same impact as The Ramones or the Sex Pistols did when they emerged back in the halcyon days of punk.”
“Seeing The Ramones play in London in 1976 changed the course of my life. Due to that experience, I’m the person I’ve become today,” he says. “For me, it wasn’t just about the bands in the 1970s but also about the atmosphere of the times, the excitement of seeing a new and direct form of rock music being conceived.”
UK Subs’ longevity sets them apart from other legendary punk bands like The Clash, who stayed together from 1976 to 1986, and the Sex Pistols, who lasted only three years, from 1975 to 1978. Believing that “being a musician really can be a great way to spend a life,” as Gibbs says, UK Subs have literally taken punk rock around the world.
The band has performed throughout Europe, South America, North America, Australia and Japan, and not just the major cities. UK Subs make it a point to perform at venues off the beaten track. In 1983, for example, the band toured Poland for two weeks, becoming “the first punk band to play behind the Iron Curtain,” Gibbs says.
“Our last gig [in 1983] in Warsaw saw us playing in front of 20,000 people in a massive ice-hockey stadium. Martial law had been lifted in order to let us play, but as soon we left the country, it was reinstated. We must have been perceived as some kind of decadent threat to the moral fiber of Poland’s youth,” he says.
UK Subs comes to the Czech Republic on a European tour that will continue through the summer. The band will play shows in Prague, České Budějovice and Olomouc. With such an intense tour schedule – kept up for more than 30 years – how does the band keep from burning out?
“Nothing actually stops us from becoming exhausted. You really need to conserve all your energy for the shows,” Gibbs says. “We seem to be able somehow to connect to people via our music and the performance energy we put into our shows.”