Colin McFaull & Daryl Smith - Cock Sparrer - Interview Exclusive Print E-mail
Written by Johnny H   
Thursday, 26 August 2010 05:00

Sparrer_PaintingYou couldn't make up the story behind how I actually discovered the music of Cock Sparrer, but to cut a very long story short, let's just say it was through "word of mouth." Since my initiation into "Club Sparrer" it's amazing to find out exactly how many other people found out about the band's superb back catalogue exactly like I did...from someone else.  It's like they operate some sort of Punk Rock pyramid sales scheme, such is the unquestionable passion and loyalty the band's fans have for their music

 

Having never had a hit single or a hit album in a career that now spans across four decades, Cock Sparrer can sell out festivals worldwide whilst on home turf sell out consecutive nights in 2,000+ capacity venues with relative ease.

 

When Cock Sparrer's lead singer Colin McFaull contacted Uber Rock asking if we'd like a chat ahead of their current batch of European shows I have to admit I jumped at the chance, when he told me he was also bringing along band mate Daryl Smith I suddenly found myself with about four pages of A4 paper full of things I couldn't wait to question them about.

 

What follows is about one sides worth of that final list, but that felt just about right on the relatively sunny Saturday morning in Blackpool that I finally caught up with the lads in their hotels "closed" backroom bar.  As soon as I met them I immediately decided not to talk too much about the past but rather focus on the band in the here and now and what had followed since the release of their 2007 album 'Here We Stand'. 

 

Call it Street Punk, call it Oi call it whatever you want, ladies and gentlemen welcome to the world of Cock Sparrer, and your life is just about to change.... forever.

 

 

ColinColin, Daryl thanks for taking the time to talk with Uber Rock during your busy schedule here at Rebellion Festival.  I'm not going to fuck around here, so my first question is "tell me what's it like to be old?" (much laughter)

 

Colin - We get by, we get by, I mean you don't think of yourselves as old especially when you've still got the same mates around you, and you've all grown up together you don't really think about it.  It's only when some cheeky fucker doing an interview asks you what's it like to old that you actually think about it, you know what I mean? (again much laughter)

 

Oddly enough the other guys at URHQ were all taking bets that you'd just tell me to "fuck off" when I asked that but at least that's broken the ice eh. Onto more serious matters and what are you guys up to right now with Cock Sparrer?

 

Colin - Well were doing about one gig a month at the moment. And we've got that pretty much lined up until Christmas time, we're in Germany next week doing a big open air festival thing, which is good fun, and this will double as Daryl's stag weekend as he gets married the week after.

 

DarylI thought he was getting married after the recent London shows?

 

Colin - Nah we just announced it there (laughs)

 

Daryl - It's a long drawn out affair....

 

Colin - We wanted to give her long enough time to change her mind that's why (Much laughter).... Enough warning so to speak, and then we got a gig just outside Prague in Pilsen, which is a place we've never been to before, and then the Basque area of Spain which something we haven't done in a good few years now and then Glasgow of course in October.  We've got nothing for November yet but we end the year in Paris, and we're talking already about what we're going to do next year. So it rolls on.

 

You're turning into something of a real "International" band these days don't you think?

 

Colin - You know we say down one day and just realised there were lots of places we hadn't been to, and to honest coming back and playing gigs like this (Rebellion) once a year we realised just how far people were travelling to come and see us, and we just said one day "Let's do our bit".  Let's get the passports out and go to them, rather than asking for them to come to us all the time.

 

Daryl - Also there's people worldwide, they've all bought the records and they deserve that respect and attention, and not everyone can afford a plane ticket and a £100 ticket to come to a big festival. So we made a conscious decision as Col said to try an get to all these new places, and in doing that we've opened up an all new way of doing that. We've almost had like the perfect year, we've had the big festivals where you're playing to five thousand people, and we've done loads of club shows, which get it back to its roots. Like for hundred people in a club and those shows are great, and it's a good balance you know.  We don't want to known as a festival band, that only plays the big gigs.  The difficult thing for us though is we couldn't do those club shows in places like Germany or England, because you then become elitist, because you might have three thousand locked out who can't come in, and then there's the potential for trouble. And everyone is welcome at a Sparrer gig we don't want to be shutting people out, so its be hard for us in more recent years to do those small gigs, but by going to the four corners of the earth, you can get back to playing where it really matters, in the clubs to four or five hundred people and that's been really enjoyable hasn't it (looks to Colin).

 

Colin - Fantastic, we played in Belgium a couple of weeks ago, and even though its only across the water, we hadn't been back there since 1994 or something and they were due a visit.  As Daryl says, eight hundred or nine hundred people in this little hall and everyone had a great party.  It was really good fun, and we really enjoyed ourselves you know.

 

cock-sparrer-glasgow-webDo you really need to play Scotland when most of them are here in Blackpool right now on holiday? I thought I'd woken up even further North of the border this morning with haggis being served on the breakfast bar in my hotel.

 

Colin (laughing) - You know it's funny the number of people saying, "Thank goodness you're coming to Scotland", and then we seen most of them at London, and as you say they do all travel, but its us doing our bit really and lets go and play on there doorsteps.

 

Daryl - And it's another one off the list. The nice thing about being in a band, and going back to that what's it like to be old question, is that when you are older you appreciate your lot a bit more.  You know when you're young you're taking it for granted, and all a bit gung-ho and "I'm in a band" and let's get pissed and play and whatever.  Maybe the one thing I've noticed as I've got older...not old I might say (Laughs) you become a bit more reflective and you start to appreciate what a band can do for you.  I would never have got to travel to all these places off my own back in your normal run of the mill job or whatever, and the band has been a vehicle to go to really great places and meet really great people and we've got almost like a not like a shopping list but we'll go "right where next?"  We've got this wonderful thing that is our music let's not just sit on our arses, lets get out and lets go to Serbia, lets go to Denmark, Norway Sweden you know...We can do this through this vehicle which is the band which was started by him (pointing at Colin) and a bunch of mates in a bedroom in the East End of London. And we've become really appreciative of the power of that, and we certainly don't want to take it for granted...before one of us keels over.

 

Colin - That's the beauty of it, people ask us when we are going to stop, and when do you think you'll finish, things like that, and we just don't know.  We haven't put a date on it, but while we're still enjoying it and while people are still coming and still want to hear the songs, why not?

 

Well walking around in there (The Winter Gardens) there are probably more Cock Sparrer shirts than any other band, and you aren't even playing this year....

 

Colin - God bless 'em. (laughs)

 

Yeah but how does that make you guys feel though?

 

Daryl - I'm thinking where's me royalties they're all bootlegs (much laughter).  Who's bootlegging our shirts now?  Nah it's great you know.

 

Colin - It makes you feel quite humble, its humbling, because we still pinch ourselves, because if we look back however many years to when we were eighteen or nineteen, when we really wanted it people wouldn't take us seriously and we couldn't get gigs that sort of stuff.  So for us to be able to be at this stage of our career and our lives and to have so many people showing an interest and liking it, that's pretty humbling, and we don't ever want to become the sort of people who don't appreciate these things.

 

Here_We_Stand_launchIt's been three years now since the release of 'Here We Stand' given the benefit of hindsight how do you feel that now fits in with the Cock Sparrer legacy?

 

Colin - Personally I think it's a great album, it's one that we're all very proud of and it also enabled us to get Daryl more involved in the song writing and the production of the album and things like that.  Because the history of the band is, that we would be given a lump of money to record an album, we'd piss half of that up the wall and then think "oh fuck we'd better go and record something." So they'd always been either half written or half produced, with a sound we never really wanted.  So this gave us the opportunity to do it right and get Lars Fredericksen involved and stuff and "we like it."  We had the opportunity to do an album before that but we've always said we'll only do it when we're comfortable with the songs that ultimately will make us proud of what we put out, and that's how 'Here We Stand' turned out.

 

For me it's definitely your most 'complete' sounding album.

 

Colin - Yeah, thank you for that, a lot of people have said that actually.  I like to think there are no fillers on it, and in the past it might have been "shit we've got eleven songs, we need fourteen" and "quick Burge go over in the corner a write a few songs quick".  And that's how it's happened.  "Here We Stand" was different, we knew beforehand we had the songs written and rehearsed and we planned it, so once we were in the studio we knew that 's how the song should sound now.

 

Pilsen_CarWhat was really good about the London shows was the fact you split the newer songs over both nights.

 

Daryl - You know it's really nice you noticed, (Colin starts laughing) because you wouldn't believe the amount of fucking rows we had over sorting those set lists out.

 

Colin - Actually John you got it spot on in your review where you said you feared that there might be a case of Punk Rock déjà vu going on. And we had the same conversations, you can't go and play the same twenty five songs both nights running to the same people.  So we had to chop and change it a little bit and that's when the problems started.

 

Daryl - So then the flipside to that was if you were only going to the Friday or Saturday will then be saying "why didn't you play....whatever?" And for them that could be their first experience of a Cock Sparrer show, and you can't cheat them out of the ultimate set.  And we've got a set that just works and flows and people expect to hear, so why should somones first experience be diminished for those coming for two nights? So I'm pleased you thought it worked beacues that was hard work getting that balance right.

 

Colin - But to give you an example, someone came up to me about a week after, and said 'Thanks so much for playing 'A.U'. that's my ringtone." And we hadn't done 'A.U' for years and probably wouldn't have done had we not had to chop and change things around over the two nights.  It was one of those songs that we done it live it didn't really work so we put it to one side, and now it's in the set full time.

 

Daryl - It's had a new lease of life, I think sometimes you can play a song at a gig and if it doesn't go down well its all too easy to drop it it doesn't mean  it won't go down well everywhere forever. So what we've got now is a few songs that can be interchangable, and mix it up a bit.  You're always going to get the regulars that will always be where they should be.  But its nice to do songs just from 'Here We Stand' but 'Guilty as Charged' as well.  We hadn't done 'Bird Trouble' for ages.

 

Cock_Sparrer_SeptColin - Or 'Last Train to Dagenham'

 

Daryl - Yeah then 'Last Train' went straight out of the set, and 'Bird Trouble' stayed in for three more shows, now we're not doing it at the moment, so it's interesting for us, as there is a danger to become complacent running through the same thing and I think It's important to mix it up to keep you on your toes a little bit.

 

Colin - But then we've also tried to change things around and it hasn't worked.  Like the last time we played in Blackpool and we said lets not start with 'Riot Squad' again, everyone's going to expect that, let's do 'Runnin Riot'. And we had a mate who brought his wife along and she'd never seen us before and he's saying "one thing I can guarantee you is when 'Riot Squad' starts it'll go mental", and we start with 'Runnin' Riot' fucked him completely.  His wife is going "I thought you said you knew this band?" (laughs)

So the lesson there is it doesn't always work chopping and changing things around, but have to keep things fresh.

 

So will you still be playing 'England Belongs To Me' in Glasgow?

 

Colin - Absolutely. When we played it in Venice recently I was speaking to Jeff (Turner) from the Cockney Rejects and we were talking about exapcly the same subject. He said that if they play Glasgow and they don't do 'Bubbles' they get a fucking bollocking for it.  So I said OK on your advice be it then. So if we get done in Glasgow for playing that, I'll be straight around to see Jeff (laughs). But we play it everywhere and everybody sings it, and I don't think Glasgow will be any different.

 

BPflyerThe last shows you played in the UK were in Wolverhampton and London, we obviously now have Glasgow to look forward to in October, but do you have any other shows planned for the UK in 2011?

 

Colin - Rebellion 2011 will be the only UK show for us next year.

 

Daryl - Yeah and tickets for that are available already via Rebellion's website.  They do this really cool thing now every year where they release a few hundred 'Early Bird' tickets a full twelve months in advance that are really at this years prices, then they go up in price stages as the line up is announced and it gets nearer to the festival. So they start selling these this weekend I think from the box office and they will then be on sale online.

 

So with that in mind then, can we expect a new album from Cock Sparrer in 2011?

 

Daryl - Ahh!!! Now there you go, will there be a new album?

 

Colin - Ever since 'Here We Stand' people have been asking that question, and as you know we're not that well know for working too quickly, we tend to put things off for a couple of years.

 

Daryl - Yeah for a couple think ten years like there was between 'Two Monkeys' and 'Here We Stand'.

 

Colin - We had the conversation a couple of months back and we said "lets get the ball rolling", and if it comes together it will be fantastic, but as I said before if we fell the songs ain't there or that we have to pad it out by putting some fillers in we just won't do it.  We don't feel obliged to do another album, and I think after 'Here We Stand' was received so well, we could also be shooting ourselves in the foot by bringing another one out, because I think we surprised a few people with that album.  I think people we perhaps expecting us to fall on our arses with 'Here We Stand' and we didn't, so yeah there is a risk also of damaging what we had done so far.  But in saying that, the process has started, songs are being circulated, CD's are being dropped through letterboxes, so we'll just see where the process take us.

 

Daryl - If it doesn't better 'Here We Stand' we do have to think "is there any point?"

 

Here_We_StandBut you do have a knack of writing the fucking catchiest of songs though guys. 

 

Colin - Yeah you know we talk openly and honestly amongst ourselves about having a formula, and writing a "Cock Sparrer" type song, and even Daryl making his writing debut on 'Here We Stand' wrote songs for Cock Sparrer rather than writing songs for Argy Bargy or one of his three hundred other side projects (laughs) and there is a formula and we do worry about it, and we do concern ourselves about the fact that have we got enough hooks, or is It catchy enough?  So we do work hard thinking about all that stuff.

 

I think it's almost like the appeal you would have got from a band like prime time Slade where every song that's written has the potential to be a hit single.

 

Colin - Well what a complement, thank you for that, Burge would love that.

 

Yeah,  or maybe someone like the Heavy Metal Kids or Rose Tattoo.

 

Daryl - You're not Watford Jon in disguise are you? (all laughing), you've just listed his two favourite bands there.  Well the thing is there was no punk when these boys started.  They started the year I was born, that's how old they are (laughs), anyway.  So if you go back to all the first generation Punk bands whether it's the Pistols or whoever they couldn't have been influenced by anything other than what had gone before, be it The Face, Bowie or whatever, so I think it is impossible to get away from that as it the band's heritage, rather than the second generation scene that had something to build on, whether it be Punk or Oi or whatever.  So Argy Bargy my other band, our influences would have been Cock Sparrer.

 

Shock_TroopsTalking a little bit about the history of the band, I notice that there are a load of vinyl reissues coming out of the band's back catalogue via a label called Pirates Press some time soon, is this endorsed by the band?

 

Daryl - Yeah one hundred percent, we've been overseeing this quite intently, as there is a lot of stuff coming out. They are a fantastic company that specialises in vinyl, and they are really passionate about it.  They also press a lot of vinyl up for major labels, and that's their core business, but their passion is Punk Rock.  So they are able to go that extra mile on their products.  They've got box sets coming out and every perceivable way of packaging an album, but not at a stupid price.  So we've licensed the entire back catalogue to them, so everything will be available.

 

Colin - The thing we also liked about Pirates Press was, when 'Here We Stand' came out, we couldn't get it released in the States for a number of different reasons, and they came to the front and said "we'll do it for you", so over that period of time we've developed an open and honest relationship with them.  Like our relationship with Captain Oi in this country, we've now found ourselves in the luxury position of having two record companies we can work with, who we know we can trust and who will look after the product, and put out at the right price so people can afford it. 

 

Daryl - Captain Oi will also be having their own pressing of these reissues, so the UK ones rather than going all the way to America to be shipped back will be shipped direct from these guys.  We'll have only one hundred of each title on clear vinyl and that's it when they are gone they are gone.

 

Best_Seat_JpegAlso available from Captain Oi is the 'Best Seat In The House' book from your drummer Steve Bruce.  What's the reaction been like regarding this?

 

Colin - It's been very good. I'm already waiting for the second edition and the stories that didn't make it this time around.

 

Daryl - That's because they'll all have to wait until they are divorced (lots of laughter)

 

Colin - It's been well received from people who have bought it, umm Steve thought long and hard about the format of the book, didn't want to make it three hundred pages of words, wanted to try and break it up.  He is the collector in the band, always has been, always will be, he's got a room dedicated to it, he's got a Cock Sparrer shrine round his house.  And I think he's just about got everything anybody's ever produced about the band, and kept it. We was in Belgium the other week and one of the merch guys has done a poster, and Steve's there "I must have one of these", pays for it mind you, but he has to have everything Cock Sparrer produces.  And that's enabled him to put that book together. And he was certainly best placed to do it.  Everybody in the band got to read it after it was finished, no one read it beforehand, which was a great move, because we'd still be sat around arguing over the fucking title now. This was something that needed to be done because we hadn't done it; it's not necessarily the definitive story, it's his recollection of what happened, that's his history, and there's a lot of stuff in there that didn't really involve any of us, it's what Cock Sparrer means to him. So I guess when we do finish and we hang up the Martins we'll sit down and write a proper one between us you know.

 

Just a couple of quick ones to finish off with then guys, how did the Dan Hardy collaboration come about?  (The band re-recorded 'England Belongs To Me' with the UFC fighter)

 

Colin - He got in touch with us first of all and just said "I go into the octagon to the sound of 'England Belongs to Me', are you guys OK with that?"

 

Daryl - And we thought we ain't going to argue he makes a living beating people up so we just said "YEAH!!!! Do whatever you want mate!" (all laughing)

 

Colin - So we'd been toying with the idea of re-recording the song for a number of different reasons, and we all felt that just like with 'Because You're Young' we didn't really do the song justice when we originally recorded it.  So a little bit older a little bit wiser, knew our way around the studio a bit more, we said let's re-do that, and at the same time we said to Dan if we do a new version would you like to use it for your walk on, and he said absolutely. Then while we were on a roll we said why don't you come down to the studio with us and you can sing a few choruses in the background which is what we ended up doing.

 

Daryl - You know this lad is a champion in the making, he had his shot at the title but he's only just started in the UFC.  He's a confident and above all nice lad who believes in his abilities, and he fits Cock Sparrer perfectly because there's something just a little bit cheeky about him. 

 

Sparrer_co_Sam_Bruce_1So talking about being cheeky, if you were to rewrite 'Take 'Em All' right now, who would you put up against the wall and shoot?

 

Colin - Umm good question, (at this point all I can hear is Daryl cackling like some demented demon in my ear) no I won't go there. You know to be honest these days we don't tend to come across people who rub us up the wrong way, we tend to be able to get things sorted out fairly quickly and easily.  We also tend to work with people we know and trust and have worked with before, and we have relationships now, like I've said before with record companies, promoters and agents who've spent a long time getting to know and getting them on board they are all part of the Cock Sparrer extended family.  They look out for us.  It's like any business, people are out there to make money above all else, and they don't mind fucking you over you to get what they want, and that was why 'Take Em All' was written all those years ago, and we came across some many people who in the past who weren't interested in us, as a band or individuals, they didn't care for us, we are now in the luxury position of surrounding ourselves with friends, and that's honestly a place we like to be.

 

 

At this point the interview turned into just three guys chewing the fat over the state of the music industry today, our mutual love of football, and the old adage of never meet your heroes. So I decided to turn the machine off at this point and just enjoy the conversation.

 

I have to admit that although I might be a late convert to the Sparrer cause I have nothing but the utmost respect for the guys in the band, and after spending nearly and hour and a half in their company I can cofirm that the never meet your heroes adage certainly doesn't apply to Colin and Daryl.  Before I could leave the interview though a sneaky voicemail message to one of our very own writers was set up that involved Colin and Daryl and a nasty rumour doing the rounds that this certain Uber writer was planning a covert trip to this years V Festival.  Top marks indeed to the Sparrer lads for going above and beyond the call of duty on this one. 

 

So, if like me only a few years ago, you've never heard Cock Sparrer, simply click on the link below to hear some of their choice tunes.  But trust me when I say the only way to truly discover the band's power is when you submerge yourself in one of their live shows.  Go catch Cock Sparrer at a venue near you soon and tell them Uber Rock sent you.

 

Oi! Oi!

 

http://www.myspace.com/cocksparrerpunk