South Shields original punks, Angelic Upstarts, have been sticking it to the man for nearly 40 years. To mark its 40-year anniversary, the band will be playing their ‘Teenage Warning’ album in full for the first time at Sunderland’s Independent so Damian Robinson caught up with guitarist Neil ‘Newts’ Newton to find out more.
We’re over the moon that you’ll be playing ‘Teenage Warning’ in full for the first time ever. What was your thinking behind this decision?
It’s to mark a 40th anniversary. Keen-eyed fans will no doubt point out that the album wasn’t released until 1979, however, all of the songs on ‘Teenage Warning’ had been written by 1978 so the decision to play the album in full was more to reflect the anniversary of their original conception than the release of the actual album.
Being a band that has always been forward-thinking, has revisiting the album felt against your natural instincts? And if so, what have you needed to do to be okay with pausing for a moment and looking back?
I don’t only happen to be The Upstarts’ longest-serving (I think) guitarist, but I’m also a long time Upstarts fan. I loved punk from the moment I first heard it but I didn’t understand punk until I heard The Upstarts. I grew up in South Shields, where the Upstarts are from, I knew about Liddle Towers and had seen and later experienced hassle from the local coppers; so the Upstarts slid everything into view for me and helped instil a ‘question everything’ attitude, which is no bad trait to carry with you through life. Take a look at the track listing on ‘Teenage Warning’; are the songs still relevant today? I’d suggest they are.
Can we expect your show in Sunderland to be a one-off? Or will you be taking ‘Teenage Warning’ on the road as part of its 40-year anniversary?
The Sunderland show will be the first of a number of UK dates where we’ll be playing it in full.
Looking to the future, have you been working on new material? And how’s that been progressing?
Me, personally, I’d love to do another album. I’m a songwriter so it’s only natural to me to want to write songs, which I have been doing and continue to do so. I remember something Ginger Wildheart said about songwriting, that: “your best tunes are always ahead of you”. As for if there will be another album following 2015’s ‘Bullingdon Bastards’?, well, the answer to that lies with Mr Mensforth.
Finally, what do you think of the current punk scene? Does it still provide as much inspiration to you as it did back in 78?
I believe the punk scene is still very healthy. There are new bands and relatively new bands popping up all the time like the Barstool Preachers, Chaos 8, System of Hate, Gimp Fist, Evil Blizzard and Dirt Box Disco. Of course, there’s still the ‘old guard’. For example, I saw the Damned recently and they were excellent, then you have UK Subs who consistently deliver the goods live, the Buzzcocks, SLF and, if I may be so bold, The Upstarts. The one crucial difference between the current era and back in the day though is that there are fewer and fewer venues to perform in. The constant attack on music venues and unprecedented numbers of closures of said venues is evidence of that. I reckon guerrilla gigging and pop-up punk shows would be a great way to counter this. Punk isn’t just genre of music, it’s an attitude or ideology and long may it continue.
Angelic Upstarts will play The Independent, Sunderland on Friday 30th March. Tickets, priced at £12.00 (plus booking fee), are available from seetickets.com.