Consumed: Hindsight, Hopes & Tony Hawks [Interview]

Skate-punk legends Consumed discuss regrets, releases, the modern music scene and how their families are part of it.

Article by Sarah Williams. Photos by JJ Photography UK.

Consumed have been a huge influence for nearly two decades, having originated the classic UK skate-punk sound back in the late 90s. They’re known for their the two records they released on Fat Wreck Chords (Breakfast At Pappas in 1998 and Hit For Six in 1999), both of which showcase their solid, fast, hook-laden punk rock style, which has often been described as quintessentially British.

They went on hiatus in 2003 and reformed in 2015, after much cajoling from Steve from Vanilla Pod. Since then they’ve been popping up across the country and there’s exciting news of a new EP in the works. As I said when I saw them recently, old-school Consumed fans are in for at treat – then new material sounds like classic Consumed, but it’s even fresher and more exciting.

I met up with guitarist Will Burchell and drummer Chris Billam in the backroom at London’s New Cross Inn, just before Christmas. I quizzed them about their past regrets and future releases, how they’re briging their families into music, and how they feel the punk scene has changed in 20 years.

You reformed for Podstock in 2015 and you’ve done a few shows since. What’s kept you going?

  • Chris Billam (drums): We just enjoyed playing Podstock. Also, when we played Podstock we were shit, so a lot of it was wanting to exorcise that demon! It was awful. Awful. I know the two of us were really nervous and I think it showed. We were out of our comfort zone. I was using the house kit, which was pretty shit, we were rushed for time, we had issues with the sound… we’d built it up to be this huge thing: The Return Of Consumed.

You’ve done a few shows since. I saw you at The Black Heart – that was great.

  • Will Burchell (guitar): That was when it started to feel like a proper gig. After Podstock we were like, “Thank Christ that’s over.”
  • Chris: We even started in the wrong key.
  • Will: Yeah. We started with a song off a compilation that was never properly released. I don’t know why – there were loads of these really weird decisions. We started playing that song in the wrong key and it was just sloppy.
  • Chris: It went downhill from there.
  • Will: We’ve probably done 30 shows since then? 25?
  • Chris: No… more like 20.

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You’ve got a couple of shows lined up, particularly the skate-punk all-dayer in Ipswich in February.

  • Will: It’s murder getting anything booked in. It’s a miracle we do anything because of the laborious internal dialogue we have just to get anything agreed.
  • Chris: Yeah. It’s hard enough trying to get four of us in the same room. It’s not because we hate each other. It’s just life.
  • Will: That’s the reason we’ve only got Liverpool and Ipswich and murmurings of this Japanese jaunt, although I’m not convinced that will happen. I feel like I’m tempting fate by saying it out loud.
  • Chris: Also, we’re a bit jaded with it all. If we did play too much we’d lose interest in it all, and we don’t want to lose interest. As soon as we’re back to the dark side of playing we’ll probably say, “Nah, let’s not do this anymore.” Because why would you? We’re all established in our own lives and weekends are precious. At a weekend you have time to be with your partners and kids, or you can go play in a shitty venue somewhere to five people. You’ve got to get it right.
  • Will: We’ve also taken gigs when it’s been a bit of an adventure. We’ve had a couple of jaunts over to Austria and Germany and those are fun travelling with friends.

You said three of you have kids. What about your taste outside of these gigs? Do you still listen to punk or have you matured into slower, more age-appropriate fare?

  • Will: How dare you!
  • Chris: I’m not going to lie. I put Kenny G on the other day. But then, by the same token, I took it off after about 30 seconds. I do still listen to punk but I’m very selective – I don’t mean that in an elitist way, it’s just that over the years you hear so much that you pare it down into what you’re really into.
  • Will: I think you do reach an age where your music taste calcifies.  When you’re a teenager you just consume music. We always talk about a record shop in Nottingham called Selectadisc. When punk was sort of breaking, you’d literally just devour new music. You’d learn about things from ‘thanks’ lists on record and you’d go in and say, “Right, I want all of the new whatever.” And then it would take three weeks to arrive.
  • Chris: Now with the fact that you can download and stream things, it’s so disposable. Whereas if you’re doing it the way Will’s just described you’d think, “I’m going to like this record, so I’m going to give it as much time as I possibly can.” Whereas now you can just go, “Ah well, it sounds alright,” and move on to the next thing. Propagandhi are still doing it, they’re great. There are always going to be some great bands doing it.
  • Will: There’s a handful. Clowns was the one I was thinking of – Bad Blood was the last album that really made me go ‘fucking hell’.
  • Chris: That album just took my face off. It’s fucking amazing.

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