Interview by Sarah Williams.
PMX are overwhelmingly good at what they do: they’ve got melodic mass appeal mixed with the technical aspects of hardcore, infused with a refreshing dose of Scottish humour. Watching them live in the past has left me a little bit awestruck.
I have not been able to take their most recent EP Dark Days off repeat (seriously, it’s getting embarrassing). The band add clever, technical guitar runs and drum fills into songs without overly showing off and, more importantly, without detracting from the accessible appeal of the vocals and song structures. It’s catchy as fuck.
That being said, PMX are somewhat of an enigma to me. Their live shows are like gold dust and it’s been over two years since their last release.
Their reclusive nature makes sense when you consider how long the band has been together. Looking at PMX now, it’s hard to believe that they have been going for over 20 years. They’re still young enough and their sound is vibrant, relevant and forever growing. I suppose that’s what happens when you get started at 14 years old; they have the experience of veteran musicians but they’re still very much in tune current releases.
I was lucky enough to catch up with singer and guitarist John Harcus to learn more about this mysterious powerhouse of a band. In Part Two you can read about the new tunes they’re writing and the live dates they’ve got planned. Firstly, though, you can learn exactly how you manage to keep a band together for over 20 years…
PMX have been a band since 1997. How the hell have you managed that?
Hey Sarah! How’s it going? Good question! To answer that in full I’ll have to cast my mind back through countless clouds of purple haze and a copious amount of hangovers. I’ll give you some of our backstory/history to put it all into perspective. Matt, our bro Paul and I started Pmx back in high school. We originally called ourselves PMT (Pre-Musical-Tension. Shite, eh?) and recorded our first record as a 3-piece back in 1998.
It consisted of nine tracks that ripped off Kerplunk by Green Day with a hint of Nirvana‘s Nevermind. We didn’t know if we were grunge or punk so we did a bit of both!
A year later, after countless shows around the Perth and Dundee area, our friend Danny joined on second guitar. Our influences were quickly changing as we started listening to bands such as NOFX, The Offspring and Lagwagon.
We recorded a four track E.P. in 1999 titled The Stroppy Bitch Project. It was the start of us experimenting with more technical and faster songs. Around that time we competed in numerous battles of the bands and started gigging further afield.
By 2000, our sound had become what is now considered skate-punk and we recorded our third EP titled Goodbye Normality. This was our first attempt at playing double-time punk rock that the Fat Wreck Chords influence had bestowed upon us.
Around 2001, we played our first mini tour down in London, started getting quality support slots at Glasgow’s metal/rock club, The Cathouse, with Household Name Records bands and international touring bands and generally playing as many gigs as possible.
Our fourth E.P. was in the bag by 2002. It featured the very first version of our track PmxTV from our first album Rise and Shine and was the start of us trolling the internet far and wide, pushing our music on any guestbook or chat forum possible.
In 2003/2004 I started recording a twelve track demo of Rise and Shine from home. During that period we played alongside bands like as Captain Everything, Five Knuckle, Skirtbox, Route 215, King Prawn and loads more. These were bands that we very much looked up to. While playing a mini tour with Route 215 from London, their lead singer, Rod, told me how much he loved our track Rockstar and basically said, “I’m going to let our label boss hear this shit and get you guys signed.”
Within months, and with the help of some of our promoter friends, Sean Patterson, owner of 20 Deck/Allstar Recordings contacted us requesting live videos as well as full pre-production demos of what we had to offer for an album. I finished up drum machine demos of Rise And Shine around mid-2004 and Sean offered to send us to Premier Studios in Corby for a twelve day recording session with Ian Wetherall. Colin Petrie joined the band on drums in late 2004 and we recorded the record in January 2005.
We toured the album extensively in the UK alongside Austrian hardcore punks Rentokill and, in 2006, Canadian label Milk and Cookies Records offered us a deal to release it overseas. We toured the east coast of Canada with Mute, Randy and Hope in 2006.
Upon returning home we won Ernie Ball’s International Battle of The Bands competition and received £10,000 worth of instruments, amps and goodies as well as getting to play on the Glasgow leg of The Taste of Chaos Tour. We also supported Propagandhi in Edinburgh which was meant more to us than any amount of prizes!
In 2007, Rise and Shine was released on Japanese label Bells-On Records.
We continued to play shows alongside Much The Same, Straightaway, Straighten Things Out and Fastlane as well as beginning demoing what was meant to be our second full length album, Cross The Void.
Around that time we were offered our first European Tour. Danny and Colin unfortunately could not make it due to work commitments and injury. Luckily for us, our good friend Kev Henderson stepped in on drums and we toured France and Spain as a three-piece with Straighten Things Out and our best pal Ben.
After that tour the band went on hiatus. Matt moved to Australia, Colin was out with a terrible wrist injury and Danny was fully focussed on family.
Matt approached me in 2012 with the idea to get back to writing again. We devised a plan to write and record a twenty-five minute song depicting the story of the film Scarface. We worked on it over the internet, me recording all the music at home and Matt writing the lyrics in Australia.
It took 9 months to write and record and was finally released by Bells On Records in 2013.
In 2014, Colin, Matt and I started jamming again. However, with the constraints of Colin’s wrist problems, we played a more reserved style of alternative rock under the name of Last Of Us to get back in the swing of things. This left me really wanting to get back into playing skate-punk. I had big plans and asked Colin and Danny if they would be up for one more shot at it but the reality was they had families, businesses and that understandably had to be their the main focus.
Long-time friends, Kev Henderson and Scott Henderson, officially joined the band in early 2015. We wrote and recorded Dark Days throughout the year and released it in September.
Back in the game, 2016 was an exciting year for us that included supporting The Movielife and A Wilhelm Scream as well as getting some great opportunities to play shows around the UK.
As soon as 2017 hit, we toured Europe twice and had a handful of UK mini tours making sure we were gigging whenever we had the chance.
And now, here we are. That’s the history.
How we managed that?
In Part Two check out our full interview where Chic tells us about PMX’s plans for 2018 (New music! Gigs! Tours!), the Perth punk scene and his audio recording career.
Shout Louder are putting on PMX with Darko, Actionmen and Pessimist at The Smokehouse in Ipswich on February 2nd. Come get your faces melted with us! Full details here. They’re also playing in Manchester on February 1st and as part of Darko’s Bonsai Mammoth Bonanza on February 3rd.
P.S. If you enjoyed this, check out our interesting interview with Darko while you’re here!
Interview by Sarah Williams.