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Nobody Knows… But Us—An interview with Len Price 3's Glen Page

Len Price 3
26 July 2014

“Dogged” describes corking Medway (Kent) trio Len Price 3. 10 years and now four albums in, they’re still bringing 1966 red hots kicking into our era, making us beg for more, on their brand new album Nobody Knows (JLMR). With nods to The Jam and The Chords, concurrent original late ’70s punk, and a slew of much older, great English mod bands of the mid-1960s, frontman Glenn Page‘s tight-lipped, new wave vocal offensive and gashing guitar remain fiery and committed—like his working class lyrics, all but spitting on Margaret Thatcher’s grave on the bonus track (recorded/released around her death; see their comments about that below), and extoling unique characters like the doomed, grieving, alcoholic mom in “Nobody Knows” and his WWII hero granddad I also ask about below—plus there’s the dark side of inheritance (“Vultures”) and the dangerous world of internet dating (“Praying Mantis”). Recorded analog, and sporting ace harmonies, Nobody should be known by everybody—and you can find out quite a bit more about them if you like,

I caught up with Page with help from their manager, John Luongo and got all my queries answered thusly:

It’s not possible to hear rave-ups such as “Billy Mason” and not think of The Jam’s “Billy Hunt” (and other greats of 1978’s mod revival), like this generation’s Kinks’ “David Watts” and Who’s “Out in the Street.” Do you think that’s a fair comment, in trying to get at the nutshell of how you guys work, for the benefit of those who still have never heard your music?

GLEN: We just set out to do music we like. Our big influences are ’60s bands like The Kinks, The Who and The Beatles. We like first generation punk too—*The Clash*, The Sex Pistols, The Undertones and The Ramones. That was the stuff that those Mod revivalist types were into as well, so I suppose it’s no surprise that some people will compare us with them. Apart from a few singles by The Jam, we’re not really into the ’70’s/‘80s mod revival thing.

OK, along those lines of those bands, was recording analog really, really important to you, or should we not make too much of that. I don’t mean that as a generic question—it’s become much harder to find good analog facilities, and of course, it’s much more onerous since you have to pay big money for 2” tape, overdub on tape, and if you’re doing an analog mix, work the faders imperfectly as opposed to doing it all instantly. So it often seems to me to be a particular labor of love for bands going it the older, warmer, more human sounding way (at least to these ears).

GLEN: We prefer the analog sound. It’d definitely richer and warmer than digital. Plus there’s something about the process that is much better. There’s something about having limitations and having to pull off a good performance in the studio that gives the recordings a better spirit than just rattling out a verse and a chorus and looping it with pro tools or whatever. If you compare analog recordings with digital, I just think they’re better in every respect. Having said that, you’re right – trying to do it analog is getting more expensive. Hopefully we can keep it up. If we can’t get the money together to go analog for the next album, we may have no choice to go digital. If we do, we’ll have to try to instill some of the discipline of the analog approach: using the software for recording only, not patching things up and making it too perfect. But to be clear, our preference would be to make it 100% analog.

Fair enough. And I wanted to mention, hearing your ode to Margaret Thatcher, “Maggie,” made me think of Elvis Costello‘s “Tramp the Dirt Down” from 1989’s Spike, and Crass‘s “Sheep Farming in the Falklands” 1983 single and “How Does it Feel” (“to be the mother of 1000 dead”) from 1986, and The English Beat‘s “Stand Down Margaret” from 1980, and Morrissey‘s “Margaret on the Guillotine” from 1988, and Billy Bragg‘s “Thatcherites” from 1996 and The Neurotics‘ “Kick Out the Tories” from 1982. When she was in power, there was feverish opposition to her in the music world; whereas when she died it seemed like a lot of the damage she did was whitewashed in the obits. So I was glad to hear your song. What was your feeling on that and on making your song?

GLEN: My family were always dyed in the wool Labour [Party] supporters. At least they were when the Labour Party really were the Labour Party. In 1983, the Tory Government started pulling the plug on the Naval Dockyard in Chatham—where my dad, along with thousands of others worked. That cut off the economic heartbeat of the Medway towns, sending them into a spiral which I’m not sure they ever recovered from. That period meant several years of my dad struggling for a job. I remember the hardships and the frustrations bitterly. Then, when I think of all the stuff that went on around the Miners’ strike, the Hillsborough disaster, and the way that she kind of ushered in a period of money-driven, individualist nonsense that is still with us, it makes me feel really sick. I wasn’t mourning her loss greatly! Maybe that’s a bit uncharitable—after all, she was just one person, there were plenty of other Tories, but she was the figurehead, I suppose, and the reason I could never vote Conservative—even if they were the most reasonable party on the planet. The song is just about my childhood recollections from that time. I don’t think all the obituaries whitewashed her story – it just depends on what angle they were being written from of course.

Did you ever get any pushback from trendy bands for an older song of yours like “Rentacrowd?” [The title track of their 2007 second LP.] Alternatively, what bands or artists have you played with you felt the total opposite about, that their music was as honest as a summer day is long, and they didn’t give a fig whether they were in fashion or not? Billy Childish would be one of those for me, a friend of mine even has a bunch of his art on his walls in Michigan. But there’s a lot of them who are really dogged and never give up.

GLEN: We just get annoyed by bands that are all about image and poses rather than the music. We have seen/played with lots of bands over the years that have nice clothes, lovely hair, a bit of money behind them, and even lots of followers, but their music is dreadful. We always want to just cut right through that: no posing, no lies, just honesty, spirit, and hopefully some good songs. I suppose there’s something there that comes out in Billy’s approach, although he thinks we’re a bit commercial and in it for the money, which is a bit rich, considering he’s shifting paintings for 15K these days while we’re lucky if we get 300 quid [$509.16] for a gig. Come to think of it, last time we supported Billy, he paid us £50 [$84.86]. I think our approach is partly borne out of our surroundings. Where we come from, you’re never allowed to get ideas above your station – people are always ready to knock you. That’s awful in some ways but good in others.

Yikes. Which reminds me, “dogged” is the word I use to describe you in my introduction to this interview. Do you think that’s true, or is that romanticized?

GLEN: We have had to be dogged at times. There was a time when we were playing 2-3 shows a week to very small and disinterested audiences, but we kept going and that’s what made us what we are. Other than that, I would say that we’re just unconcerned with what other people think of us. We just want to do what we enjoy and if other people like it that’s a bonus. I think people will always prefer honesty anyway.

Speaking of honesty, was “My Granddad Jim” 100% true, and if so, what does your family in general think of that song. It must be their favorite. If that’s all true, he sounds like quite the character.

GLEN: Yes, it’s all true and yes he was a character—a bloody legend! The family like it I think.

And are you guys as working class as you seem? If so, how much does that color your view on rock ‘n’ roll history? Over in America, too many people view music as pure escapism and put no value in bands’ ideas, politics, themes, outspokenness, etc. etc. they just want them to shut up and party on dude.

GLEN: I’m not sure if working class means anything any more. As far as rock ‘n’ roll history goes, all I can tell you is that I look back at the ’60s and I see a more naïve time, when things weren’t as airbrushed as they are now—bad teeth, funny clothes, no stylists, and simple music, and it was just so much better for all that. The ’80s come along and everything’s so much more cynical: music with business plans. Rubbish. Our music has no political message, and if it provides someone with some escapism, that’s a great thing. We sing a lot about death, loss, love—all stuff associated with being a human, but there’s no philosophy behind it. If people dig it and they want to jump around, I feel honored.

Lastly, speaking of money behind a band and promotion, etc., has changing labels [from Wicked Cool Records to JLMR after two albums, Rentacrowd and 2010’s Pictures; the first, 2005’s Chinese Burn, was on Laughing Outlaw] and everything worked out well or have you noticed much change in things? It still seems like such an uphill battle in what passes for the music biz these days, especially in the digital era. It all seems so much more ephemeral and ADD/short lived to me now.

GLEN: I don’t know that our experience has changed massively. We make a record, we go out and play shows to promote it, get some airplay and magazine/web coverage, make a couple of vids, etc. We don’t make any money really—all three of us have day jobs. We’ve been doing it 10 years, so we don’t expect to make a living from it. With Pro Tools and stuff, I suppose anyone can make music and put it out. This is a good thing in a way—very punk. On the other hand, I suppose the world is full of stuff, and maybe it becomes cheap and disposable—but then, it’s only music. We all pick out the bits that have value for us. Quality shines through I think.