Having exhausted all the gigs they could do in Aberdeen (huge Hogmanay celebrations, odd support slots at the Music Hall etc), they decamped to Glasgow in 2002 for a change of scenery and to refocus on honing their craft. Johnny Wolfe (drums/vocals) and Dave Dixon (vocals/guitar) tell DiS it wasn’t initially their plan to become students.
Dave: “Paul (Curtiss, bass/vocals) became a student because nobody would give him a job.”
John: “It took a year for Dave to do that too.”
D: “Well, they kept asking me for all this MONEY, and if you’re a student you don’t get asked for as much money. They GIVE you FREE money.”
Who was asking you for money?
D: “Oh, people. The government. I went to expand my mind and horizons, learn about the wonderful worlds about the history of art, and things like that.”
J: “And avoid paying Counsil Tax.”
Would you say Glasgow is seen as the epicentre of the Scottish music industry?
J: “Apart from Stonehaven, yeah, I’d say so.”
D: “A lot of the bands in Glasgow aren’t from there originally. It’s probably got the best atmosphere for gigs. We’re just wandering rock ‘n’ roll pilgrims, you can’t stick a place on us; we’re from hell… I don’t half speak so much rubbish…”
You moved to Glasgow, then what? Things seemed to go quiet for a while.
J: “We spent all our money practising and couldn’t do much else.”
D: “In the last year, we’ve been getting established in the Glasgow scene. We’ve been going down to London a lot, and in-between that just working on songs. We’ve been taking songwriting a lot more seriously in the last two years – not that we didn’t before – but we kinda waited for them to HAPPEN before and probably got drunk a lot more. Not that we don’t anymore. We’ve been working on our album with Dennis (Smith, Dangerous Records).”
J: “All our friends were in Aberdeen and we hung around with them…”
D: “It’s forced us to become more focussed and I think that’s shown in the new EP compared to the stuff we’ve done before.”
But the new EP has ‘Teenage Bomb’ on it! That first came out in 1998!
D: “Frank Sinatra did ‘Night And Day’ eight-million times! And he’s Frank Sinatra (flicks the V’s on both hands in DiS’ face). It’s just a classic little tune.”
J: “We can’t let go of it.”
D: “The re-recorded version sort of came about by accident. We were jamming at the end of a session and the guy went ‘What’s THAT one?’ and we went ‘Oh it’s one we released quite a while ago’ and he made us record it. And we did. It’s a more rockin’ version though and at the end of the day, you can’t knock the rock. If it’s happenin’, just let it happen! You know what I’m sayin’!? You can’t fight it. There’s no point in even trying. It would be sssstupid. When you got the bomb, the bomb, the teenage bomb, it’s still there, detonating away. It’s a slow-burner, but BANG! They’ll know about it soon enough. OH, YOU WILL KNOW OUR POWER. The Fly didn’t like it though. I don’t know who wrote it – it’s like those people who write in toilets and don’t leave their name. But… we’ll find them. It was a ‘The’ band thing. They didn’t like us being a ‘The’ band even though we started before ‘The’ bands were popular, and now they’re unpopular again. It’s just swings and roundabouts, isn’t it?”
I HEARD you made your ‘comeback’ when The Strokes were getting popular, and you thought OOOH, garage rock is back in fashion, better get into gear again.
J: “Who said that?”
J: “We’ve never gone away. We hadn’t even stopped playing.”
D: “I suppose at that point we were still in Aberdeen and it got a bit stale, and at that point people started to get interested in that kind of music again. We didn’t change, we’ve always been into different kinds of things outside of basic rock ‘n’ roll.”
Do you think you’ve grown up?
D: “How does one know when one’s grown up? It’s unavoidable in a way. I guess The Needles always want to hold our heads in a special place where you’re just bashing out Eddie Cochran songs. Badly. In John’s bedroom. You’ve got to find your way back to that place. We could be playing at the (Glasgow) SECC…”
J: “And bashing out Eddie Cochran songs. Badly.”
D: “There’s a system at work here. I’ll explain it. It’s a very profound synchronicity of things (John cringes). It would be best if I drew you a diagram. What happens is that when we’re 15 or 16 in John’s bedroom, we’re imagining being at the SECC, playing Cochran songs. Badly. Then we’re AT the SECC but in our minds we’re 15/16 in John’s bedroom. Do you see the system?”
DiS’ buddy: “It’s denial!”
D: “THERE’S NO DENIAL AT ALL. The two are WHOLLY inter-dependent things. Do you see?”
DiS’ buddy: “It’s a co-dependent denial!”
D: “There’s no denial involved! We speak the truth and only the truth. We have no fear of the truth. It’s simply curiosities of the universe over which we have no control, and you just go with it, and it’s a beautiful thing. What do you call that when two things are in tandem?”
Parallel universe, or something.
D: “They’re divided by time but exist in the same spot. It’s getting that spot and that spot is between those things.”
D: “I’ll get my brother to explain it. He knows about these things.”
I’ll look forward to that. Anyway, you finally did get to play the SECC, supporting Muse. I bet you went down really well.
J: “I detect a sarcastic tone in your voice, Adie. We went down OK. It wasn’t jam-packed when we were on but there was still a good 5,000 people there. I dunno if we were nervous…”
D: “Bewildered, more like.”
J: “Oh, we’re onstage! Oh, we’re offstage! How did that happen? Oh, I’m back at work! How did that happen?”
D: “It was like being in a car crash or a major accident – your memory catches flashes and your memory doesn’t work in a way where your mind relates to it. That sounds terrible cos it’s a serious incident but it’s probably to do with your adrenalin or something.”
J: “We’re really quite different to Muse so we weren’t sure how people would react. They must’ve liked us cos they threw some money at us. Or was it OFF us?”
Coins or notes?
J: “Bricks with ‘50p’ written on them.”
Were you signing autographs afterwards?
D: “Paul Needles was. He was going up and bullying girls.”
Is he the ladies’ choice in the band?
J: “Dave is.”
DiS’ buddy: “Who’s the men’s choice?”
J: “That’ll be Dave as well.”
Who’s the gay icon in The Needles?
D: “Hmm. I wouldn’t know about that. Richey Wolfe (keyboards) though, with his beard. Ooh.”
I suppose we have to talk about your new EP then.
D: “It’s great. Go and buy it. It’s very limited. 999 copies. There will be a lot of frustrated Needles fans out there. ‘Johnny Victory’ is my favourite track on it because there just aren’t enough songs about 1940s Dundonian music hall comedians. I was quite proud I managed to fit that in a song.”
J: “’Back Where I Belong’ is my favourite – it’s just a good fast rockin’ song, and the lyrics are quite clever.”
D: “It does sound a bit unhinged. We’re quite genuinely unhinged.”
When do you embark on your world tour?
D: “Well (here we go again), what is the world? All five continents? If it’s not, it’s just some PLACES in the world and you might as well just be playing in Stonehaven. We’ve always been on a world tour!”
J: “It’s just taking longer to get to some places.”
D: “We’re not as fast as we used to be.”
Why do you play London all the time?
J: “Cos it’s so friendly and easy to get around.”
Are you still chasing that six-album deal with… Sony?
D: “It would help matters, certainly. We write songs and play gigs because we want to, and believe we’re good at it. We don’t just want to do it in our bedrooms. We want people to know about it and get our music to the people and unfortunately in Britain that’s very difficult without the help of the music industry proper, as it’s known.”
J: “And that very rarely leaves London. But we played Derby and Nottingham the last couple of nights!”
D: “We do a lot of gigs out of the way as much as possible. Someone – an agent or a manager – has to get you gigs in those sort of places in the first place, otherwise it’s difficult getting people there. Chicken and egg business. Bill And Ted got it right – you need the cool video to get Eddie Van Halen, but you need Eddie Van Halen to get the cool video. The fact of the matter is, I’ll reveal this to you now – it’s a world exclusive. You’ve known us a long time, so it’s only right you get to break it instead of The Sun.”
I’ve got a hard-on in anticipation.
D: “(pause) Uh huh. (pause) Right. Well anyway. We’ve not been entirely straight with you – we’re actually Bill And Ted style travellers from the future, who’ve come to save pop music. Cos in the future, the people have very flat souls. Flat. Souls. The knock-on effect is devastating and the key to this is the death of good pop music.”
Who killed pop?
D: “It’s not entirely dead. It exists in a very small colony. We built a spaceship ourselves and invented time travel and here we are – back to the point where it started to go wrong. The souls started flattening.”
Are you going to go back to the future?
DiS’ buddy: “And can you tell us the lottery numbers?”
J: “2, 12, 6, 4, 34…”
D: “Well if I explained the complexities of all these time conundrums it would have an affect on your whole perception of existence itself, and you wouldn’t be able to get on with anything. So for your own safety I wouldn’t like to tell you that information.”
I’m glad I’m the one to break that information.
DiS’ buddy: “Dave’s actually your son.”
J: “And I’m my own grandma!”
J: “Next question, please.”
You’ve been through garage rock, brat-beat rock’n’roll… what are you now?
D: “Just. Good. Music.”
J: “I can’t believe you just said that.”
No, come on. I’m not finishing on that. Bratbeatrock’n’rollteenagepunk. Let’s invent a genre. Wahey!
D: “I’m working on it… give me some seconds here… I don’t know about genres but we just strive to entertain people to a stand-still, and back it up with songs so immaculate and perfectly conceived, so strong, that nothing can… (lots of hand movements going on here) timeless creations, like the Mini Cooper, or the atom bomb. Or something. Things that will outlast mankind. And when you have something like that, any argument just makes the person look like an IDIOT. Enough said.”
You might still be able to pick up the EP. If not, you’ll have to wait for the next one, '1, 2, 3...5!', which is out on June 14th and is “bloody great.”