Original punk Tom Robinson brought back his classic ‘Power in Darkness’ album last year for a short tour of the UK. Well received, the album has gone on to be re-recorded by Tom and his new band at London’s legendary 100 Club for its 40th anniversary. Tom heads out on tour of the UK with ‘Power In Darkness’ including a trip to the Sage Gateshead so Damian Robinson caught up with him for a little char.
We spoke last year before your ‘Power in Darkness’ tour when you were a little nervous about playing the album live, especially the higher pitched tracks. How did you find the challenge?
At the time I wasn’t sure if my voice could carry the whole show, especially some of the higher vocals towards the end of the album. But as a band, we weren’t going to take no for an answer and although I can make the notes, I tended to, slyly, pass one across to the band on the last song of the night. Apart from that, I think it sounded really good.
We came out to the show and thought it was amazing, as is the newly recorded ‘Live at the 100 Club’ album…
Thanks. Playing the album underlined how great the original band was and although we perhaps were never the greatest of friends, there was a spark which helped the record. The band who are out on this tour, and on the recording, are probably the best band I’ve ever played with and that gives the tracks something different. Technically, this band are immense. Just playing bass alongside Andy Treacey, who usually drums for Faithless, has improved my playing immensely.
And Richard Ashcroft’s guitarist Adam Phillips really shines on the album…
He’s one of the best guitarists around, no question. What’s interesting to me is that this band is 20 years younger than me so they’re able to relate their playing to having grown up with it. In some ways, their playing is closer to the record than mine is.
40 years on from its release, why was now a good time to re-examine the album?
It’s nice that the album made it this far, for a start, and 40 years seems like long enough to go back and take a look at it. I think in other ways some of the lyrics are relevant to what’s going on around us as well. I’ve updated some lyrics here and there, as well as the ‘Power of Darkness’ speech, reframing them so that they stand up for what I believe are the best of traditional British values, which are about standing up for the underdog and having justice for all.
How do you view the album now when you look back on it?
To be honest, I think we were a good 70s rock band who got lucky because of the punk movement. We were never really as musically groundbreaking as say Gang of Four or Wire who really pushed in a ew direction, but what we did have was radicalism in our lyrics rather than our sounds – and I’m really proud of that. As an album, ‘Power…’ perhaps took a while to catch on. In the 80s we had the second summer of love and the new romantics, and in the 90s we never really fitted alongside electronic music or Britpop. It seems ‘Power…’ only really caught back on in the 00’s when there was a rise in guitar music, and unfortunately because of the social uncertainties then and now which made the lyrics more relevant. But we must remain optimistic in the future.
Speaking of which, you were up in Newcastle a few months back as part of the Great Exhibition of the North…how did you find it?
I’ve had some amazing times on Tyneside and Wearside in my life and it was great to come back up and see such thriving young bands. I must say, Roxy girls were fantastic, as were NE Dons. The North East has a thriving scene and it’s great to see.
Tom Robinson will play ‘Power in the Darkness’ in full at Sage Gateshead on Wednesday 17th October. For tickets, or to purchase limited editions of ‘Power in the Darkness Live at the 100 Club’ find out more at https://tomrobinson.com/.