Rubella ballet return with new album ‘Planet Punk’ released via Overground Records today. Good timing then, that Ray Nicholls is on the mark to take a closer in-depth look
“They were the band who bridged the gaps between The Sex Pistols, X Ray Spex, and Crass.” TylerVile Punk Globe Dec 2014.
It’s been 28 years since your last album of new material. That usually means a band has split and decided to reform in the hope of re-living their youth, but that’s not the case with Rubella Ballet, you never stopped being a band, so why such a long delay between albums?
“Previously we needed to make a record by using a recording studio, which cost money we didn’t have. We are just ordinary people who work for a living and are in a band. It would take us forever to save money for a studio recording in the past. Our last album At the End of The Rainbow was released on One Little Indian after we had paid to record it in a studio ourselves. We have invested all our spare money on our own home studio to record in so we made a new album Planet Punk. Although Sid is Rubella Ballet’s drummer he has always had the latest gadgets and home recording systems from Atari to Mac. Sid composes and records all styles of music everyday he is obsessed with music. In the past he has also been commissioned to compose music for adverts such as the NHS, Kodak, Ferrari, Formula 1 etc and has even donated his time for a Centre point campaign to save the charity.
Also Guitarists, we were always looking for guitarists. Pete Fender, son of Vi-Subversa of Poison Girls had just left Fatal Microbes to become our first guitarist. During our history we would find a guitarist, train them up, we would do say 4 or 5 decent gigs and then they would leave for random reasons one of which was playing in front of lots of people, they weren’t used to that but it doesn’t bother Sid or Zillah.”
I look back at your history and I see three eras: a) the early 80s Anarcho-punk b) mid- late 80s more commercial period c) the ‘Planet Punk’ period. Would you agree with that general assessment?
“Yes and that can be put down to which guitarist was currently playing in the band. They all had their own sounds and ideas for writing new songs. Sid also composed music so that was the one constant that Rubella ballet had in that he would also write the guitar riffs and songs so we had a sound of our own.
Also in the early eighties our gigs where supporting Crass & Poison Girls as we where a big part of that scene playing a lot of benefit gigs. By the mid eighties we were headlining our own gigs and getting friends bands to support. New bands were forming and playing with us such as Southern Death Cult, Sex Gang Children, Ausgang, March Violets, UK decay etc who all later became known as Goth bands. We played together because Rubella Ballet were different from other punk bands our tribal drumming and atmospheric music and stage show influenced many Goth bands. Our music also became more commercial as we became better musicians.”
The band were very active at the same time as many of the Anarcho-punk bands in the scene’s 80s heyday. Sid drummed with Flux of Pink Indians. There’s a lot of nostalgia for the scene at the moment. Were these your halcyon days and do you remember the time and the scene with affection, or are people guilty of looking at it through rose- tinted spectacles?
“Yes for us it was with Day Glo glasses. We remember the time and the scene with affection as these were the days where we all grew up, made friends, built lasting relationships with other punks all over the world. The Flux story with me joining still hasn’t been told properly with even my own label not recognising me for being the person that pulled the band together and gave them their distinctive sound on Tube Disaster and even wrote the music to Sick Butchers and Background to malfunction on the b.side of the Neu Smell EP. Nothing they have done after I left sounded anything like Tube Disaster. They sounded nothing like it before I joined and sounded nothing like it when I left. So how people can forget me joining the band and giving them their distinctive tribal sound is bewildering. I joined one night at the Triad in Bishops Stortford when their drummer didn’t turn up and Colin the singer said to the crowd ‘Can anyone play drums’ so I stepped up and covered for the night that led to me recording the anthem Tube Disaster on Crass records with them and touring for over a year and sometimes playing in both bands Flux and Rubella if we got booked on the same night. When Andy and Neil and Eugene, Flux’s guitarists and keyboard player left Flux I had to pick which band I was going to put all my energy into and that was Rubella Ballet. Andy and Neil then joined Rubella Ballet after I left Flux and we recorded the Ballet Bag with them so in a way Rubella Ballet had four members of Flux playing as Rubella Ballet with the addition of Gem Stone on Bass and Zillah on Vocals. Andy R.I.P. is not with us anymore as cancer killed him as it is trying to do to me but I am fighting it with every ounce of energy I have with the help and support of so many friends.“
By the mid 80s the anarcho scene had fizzled out, but this was a particularly creative and productive time for you. Tracks like ‘False Promises’ and ‘Dream Dreamer’ were a lot more commercial and quite a change. Was it a distinct decision to distance yourself from your earlier work?
“Sid is a major influence on Rubella Ballet’s music always composing new guitar riffs and writing songs. So as he became a more accomplished composer our music changed. Songs like False Promises reflected the times as music became more dance oriented with a heavier beat. We always had our own unique style but we wanted our music to continually improve. By that I mean we did not start out as musicians forming a band to become rich & famous we started as punks having a laugh creating music that we could play and enjoy. I don’t think Rubella Ballet ever contrived to change our music we just developed over time as we gigged.”
“One constant through your career had been your ‘Day-Glo’ image both with your artwork and your clothes. What was the inspiration for the look and style?
“The artwork was inspired by psychedelic art we liked from the sixties album covers and flyers. We used Rotering pens with black ink that gave an excellent finish as we didn’t have computers. We liked the effect of putting the brightest Blue and green day- glo colours together without a black line to separate them and where the colours would join it made your eyes go all funny so we used that as much as we could. Strangely our sixties influence later included Leda Baker our female guitarist and daughter of Legendary Cream drummer Ginger Baker. Leda Baker played numerous gigs as Rubella Ballet’s guitarist with her unique Jimi Hendrix inspired riffs. Now she plays guitar with her dad Ginger Baker as she is an exceptional Jazz guitarist.
The Day-Glo clothes was Zillah’s idea from very early on she always made her own punk clothes. Zillah was one of the creators of punk, making her own clothes in 1976 as you couldn’t buy punk clothes no one had heard of punk. To date we have been copied by the best, Red Hot Chilli Peppers had a faze where they all went day glo, painting each other with loads of paint on stage, Fuzz Box & the Addicts dabbled in a bit of Day –Glo. Zillah has a unique look that she has all the time, unlike some who dress up to go out Zillah sees Punk as a lifestyle not a fashion statement and looks outrageous all the time and gets comments like the one at the beginning of the album where a builder shouts ‘Oi Love, what planet are you from’ and Zillah defiantly shouts back ‘I’m from Planet Punk’ This reminds me of a day I was out in East London with Zillah and she was walking slightly ahead of me and turned a corner, a bunch of builders shouted at her ‘Oi Pinky where’s perky’ in fits of laughing until Zillah shouted back ‘He’s here’ as I walk round the corner all six foot nine of me, I have never seen a group of mouthy men get back to work as quick in my life and that amused us so much I was inspired to start the album Planet Punk.”
‘All Potential Terrorists’
You always had a large gothic following, yet you could hardly have looked more different with your dayglo style. Why do you think so many of them were fans?
“Our set has changed over the years in the early days we belted out fast songs like Belfast, Unemployed, Newz at Ten, Dream of Honey but we also wrote some songs that would now be called Goth like Trial 13, 42f, Exit, Slant & Slide to name a few and Emotional Blackmail that the band have played as their last song at every gig for over 30 years. They had tribal beats and atmospheric intros and weren’t your run of the mill Anarcho punks songs. This meant that we had a wide mixture of fans. We were quoted as saying ‘Variety is the spice of life’ very early on when we were first interviewed and have tried to stick to it by being different and write songs about all sorts of topics not usually covered by most bands. Even if some of them were about darker subjects like death and suffering. To us as original punks who helped create the punk scene, punk is about being different even from other punks. So when it came to our music we would compose anything we liked we didn’t stick to a formula. The only constant in Rubella Ballet’s music is Sid who can play all instruments and produce music. Sid often came up with the guitar & bass riffs.”
I understand that Zillah has influenced the highly respected fashion designer Louis Gray. Please tell me more.
“The magazine Dazed and Confused rang Zillah and asked if they could do an interview with her & Louise at her design studio in East London with a photo shoot at the end. The magazine had been told by Louise Gray after one of her Fashion shows that one of her fashion influences was Zillah Minx of Rubella Ballet.
We got to Louise Gray studio and the place was a hub of creation with sewing machines and over lockers whirring away furiously. We were welcomed by one of her assistants and led to a room with the whole line of clothing she had recently created on a rail next to a wall of photo’s of inspirational women that had influenced Louise to create her new designs, Siouxsie from the Banshee’s, Debby Harry, Madonna and a picture of Zillah Minx to Zillah’s amazement.”
‘Louise Gray our hottest British designer, has credited Zillah Minx as an influence on her designs some of which are in Top Shop in London’s Oxford Street.” Zillah Minx of Rubella Ballet – she was one of the originators of punk in London. She wore colours and used UV paint to make her clothes and sets for gigs so everything was illuminated! I LOVE HER” Louise Gray, Elle Magazine May 2013.
And also her own Day-Glo make-up and hair colours. I can’t think of any other punk artists who has done that, how did that happen?
“Zillah Minx nail varnish and fabric paint made by Zupperpaint an online company who make super bright day glo paint. Zillah buys all her Day-Glo materials from them, we met in Blackpool when playing at Rebellion a couple of years ago to view some new coloured paint that glows in the dark. Zillah now gets a discount for putting her name to the products she buys. People always ask where she gets her Day-Glo paint from so now they know.”
The New album ‘Planet Punk’, seems to be something of a concept album. Would you care to explain that concept?
Planet Punk is our way of addressing some of the points we feel strongly about today and feel it is needed more today than 30 years ago. We don’t expect everyone will agree with what we are saying on the album, that wasn’t our point, we hope you will feel strongly enough about some of the points we have raised on the album that are happening to us all right now to do something about it. That’s why we called it Planet Punk because we discuss global issues that are affecting people on a daily basis.
The album seemed to develop into a kind of concept album on it’s own due to the issues in our lyrics. We found ourselves with more songs than expected because there are so many issues of concern to us. But we realised that the songs we had written and recorded so far for this album are darker and heavier than usual. We did have lyrics about other lighter issues such as Star ship Transporter so we wanted to end the album on lyrics with an optimistic future the song explains our beliefs that the future is brighter as WE ARE THE ONES WE ARE WAITING FOR.
“WE CAN ALL MAKE A DIFFERENCE. WE CAN ALL CHANGE THE WORLD!”
The video for ‘Anonymous’ suggests that you are supporters of that organisation and if so I assume you’re supporters of the Internet being free of government control. True?
The internet will never be free because the NSA believe we are all potential terrorists so they will monitor us on the internet forever.
People are having to become anonymous to voice their opinions with out fear of being arrested. Therefore it is no wonder people like us admire the actions and information available from anonymous sources. “Anonymous hacktivists, information terrorists”. We also found it funny that giving out information makes an information terrorist, will they soon go around arresting teachers ?
It also leads to the question we ask in the song ‘What don’t they want you to know’ the fact that governments are hiding technology and information from the public and expecting we would all accept their lies and remain silent when they are in fact generations ahead. Anonymous are possibly the biggest most powerful organisation capable of crippling multi billion dollar corporate industries. Governments have no idea who they are as there are no members, no offices, no trace. This could also work against Anonymous as anyone could claim to be a member and infiltrate releasing disinformation. We all could be Anonymous is what scares the authorities. We are Anonymous, We never Forget, We never Forgive, Expect us! Who ever we are!
You’re also a 9/11 conspiracy theorist? What makes you suspicious and whom do you point the finger of blame at?
Before an interview with Mad Maz for her show Anarchy on the Airwaves on Total Rock Radio, we met William Rodriguez the caretaker for the twin towers. He told Zillah and myself personally his account of the day. He was the only one of five master key holders on site the morning of 9/11. Larry Silverstein, owner of WTC who always without fail ate at the restaurant in the sky every morning, but that fateful morning he suddenly was reminded of a dental appointment by his wife, he obediently went saving himself from an agonising death. William recalls complaints of constant drilling on empty floors in the weeks leading up to the attacks and the movement of heavy machinery. For the first time ever on a weekend leading up to the attacks the security system was turned off and bomb-detecting dogs were withdrawn on the same days. On the day of the attack William said he heard an explosion in the basement, before the first plane hit and saw people escaping with skin hanging off them.
Also at the interview were two ex MI5 whistleblowers, Anne Mahon and David Shayler with William when we met at a BBC studio, where William Rodriguez was finishing an interview with George Galloway, before Mad Maz show. They came over to talk to us as they recognised us “How’s the band?” the woman asked and then went on to tell us about files held on Crass & ourselves. So all of our time in the early days of Rubella Ballet we were being monitored by the British Secret Service, everything we said in our lyrics, every protest march we where on. We were in a privileged position to meet William and be told so much unknown to the public information regarding what happened on 9/11. It led to us doing a lot more research and writing new songs.
Since writing the song, scientists have found traces of nano thermite which is only issued to the military, there was also tritium found which caused scientists to conclude that some type of cold fusion energy weapon was used and that there is no question that two huge planes even full to the brim with fuel would not cause two buildings to turn into dust. Why was all of the metal shipped out to china to be melted down without a forensic analysis? We are just pointing out things that we find weird, where did 1,250,000 tonnes of rubble go?
It was Milton William “Bill” Cooper (May 6, 1943 – November 5, 2001) who said the US military are at least 50 to a hundred years ahead of what they tell us they are in technological advancement.
Most people don’t know that a third building fell at free fall into a cloud of dust? “Building 7 that housed the Cia, FBI & the Mayor who had a sealed office created for emergencies such as 9/11. W.T.C. Building 7 was not hit by a plane, there were only two small pockets of fire documented in the building but later that fateful day it fell into it’s own footprint at free fall.”
“More disturbingly in the stock market ‘put options’ were purchased on the stocks of the airline companies in great volume in the week before the attack. Huge surges in purchases of put options on stocks of the two airlines used in the attack — United Airlines and American Airlines, Surges in purchases of put options on stocks of reinsurance companies expected to pay out billions to cover losses from the attack — Munich Re and the AXA Group, Surges in purchases of put options on stocks of financial services companies hurt by the attack — Merrill Lynch & Co., and Morgan Stanley and Bank of America, a huge surge in purchases of call options of stock of a weapons manufactures expected to gain from the attack.”
The Bloomberg News reported that put options on the airlines surged to the phenomenal high of 285 times their average. Well did you here about that ? “No because they choose not to tell us because it would give the game away, that certain people KNEW about the attacks and profited millions from the deaths of those innocent people. They only tell us what they want us to know, to confuse us and hide the real truth. If you mention anything other than what the official report has in it you are berated for being either unpatriotic or a conspiracy nut. Making it deliberately impossible to talk about anything to do with How, Who and why. In the song All potential terrorists the chorus asks ‘why can’t we just ask some questions, why can’t we just get the TRUTH’. It would make a refreshing change to be told the truth for once not mass manipulation and brainwashing.”
The album has a much heavier sound, a mixture of punk, Goth and industrial music. Most bands get softer in their old age, but you seem to be getting heavier and darker. Are you angrier now?
“Yes, if you look back over the last 30 years, we are not better off, we are worse off. Wages have not gone up with inflation they have been frozen for years, zero hour contracts giving employers all the rights and the worker NONE, Food has tripled in price, utility bills have tripled, money has been devalued, people have been devalued. It has made us angry enough to write this album.”
“The heavier sound is mainly due to the guitar sound, I use the Rammfire plug-in for Guitar Rig 4 that’s what gives the album a heavier sound. I also had for the first time total control over the recording and especially the production this time round and it is exactly how I wanted it, Punk, Goth and Industrial. Rubella Ballet have been asked to play the Alt Festival this year in the Goth tent with Rubella Ballets new line up and new sound. Details at the end of the interview.”
One of my favourite tracks on ‘Planet Punk’ is ‘Hellbilly Heroin’. Having recently seen the film ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ which showed how the best medicines for aids were withheld from public use by the big pharmaceutical companies, you seem to be suggesting that there are cures for cancer that are also being suppressed? What do you know about this?
“The song is my story about how the pharmaceutical companies all around the world are making people who suffer pain into addicts with medications like Oxycontin. I was diagnosed with Leukaemia 7 years ago and in the last 5 years Multiple Myeloma both of which my specialist told me would kill me and there isn’t a cure. I have been using alternative remedies that are finally making a slight improvement to my overall health.”
Doctors are not looking to prescribe a plant that has been proven to cure cancer because there is no money there yet and the pharmaceutical industry is propped up with money making toxic medications that doctors are forced to prescribe.
The film Dallas Buyer Club it is a true representation of how the big pharma companies will make big money from the sickest of people without any conscience as they watch the sick die from their medications for their profit. When they know there is a cure such as THC from cannabis they suppress the facts and treat those helping like drug dealers. This is similar to my experience, I have been referred to Tony’s Holistic centre in London where patients are treated with THC remedies which work. However recently Tony’s centre was raided and all medications confiscated, Tony is again facing criminal charges and I can’t get the treatment legally in this country that works. I don’t have the funds to go to where it is legal to get the treatment so instead I suffer pain.
Most prescribed medication will make you totally dependant and have terrible side effects that can kill. THC has been documented in scientific studies that prove that THC cures cancer. I had ulcers all over my feet for 3 years due to the medication I’m given for the Leukaemia and Multiple Myeloma I have, one of my toes actually went black and self-amputated. At Tony’s Holistic centre I used a THC cream that stopped the spread of ulcers. The number of ulcers decreased from sixteen to now eight and my toes have stopped self amputating. But now the centre is closed down and I have no longer got a supply of the medications I need that worked on my illness, THC is a cure. “The cure has been here for years the Illuminati planned it, THC cures cancer that’s why they banned it”
There is a woman on the You Tube who was going to die and she cured herself by juicing cannabis flowers, check for your selves don’t take my word for it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xPmR8j4plw this blew me away when I saw the recovery this woman made.
The Illuminati get name-checked a lot on the album. Do you believe that secret elite controls the world?
“They tell us they do! We cover this issue in the song Killuminati. They are called the Bilderberg Group and they represent all the power and money in the world, about one-third is from government and politics, and two-thirds from finance, industry. Some on the left accuse the Bilderberg group of conspiring to impose capitalist domination and to render millions homeless and starving while some on the right have accused the group of conspiring to impose a one world government. The songs Run Run & Sedition are about how 1% of the people run the world and how 85 of them own all the money. How we are being manipulated like slaves to blindly obey and conform. These people collectively are called the Illuminati and control the brainwashing we call the news we see on TV and read in the vacuous tabloids. Our message is to research issues yourself don’t believe everything you see & hear.“
On the album there are a diverse number of issues, but if I had to pin you down to just one that really concerned you, which would it be and why?
“Losing our freedom in so many new ways. People are afraid to voice their concerns, friends have commented on the issues we have raised in our album Planet Punk. Some have even jokingly asked if we are not worried about our lyrics & the threat of prison through new laws monitoring the population. The population has various forms of control used against them. Governments often use this information against us and force us into war. Everything is happening in plain sight right in front of us we just have to be clever enough to spot it.”
And lastly, what’s next for Rubella Ballet?
“We are in discussion with the BBC to release both of our John Peel sessions on special limited edition coloured vinyl album later this year.”
We are also releasing The Ballet Bag on Vinyl in America on Dark Entries record label.
Sid is as usual writing new songs on a daily basis so we already have some tracks recorded for a new album for release next year.
Sid concludes “I have had some of the best times as a drummer for Flux of Pink Indians, Rubella Ballet & X-Ray Spex. The change of instrument has come from a love of playing guitar and writing music that I have enjoyed for years. The new album has given me a new lease on life and I have even booked some gigs this year so come and check out the new sounding Rubella Ballet with me joining Zillah front of stage to create more Ultra Violet Mayhem, look forward to seeing you all there.”
Freedom Of The Cities 4th & 5th of July https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152247901970102&set=a.286286610101.143012.138491775101&type=1&theater
Rebellion 7th to 10th August http://www.rebellionfestivals.com
15th – 17th August The Alt Festival http://www.alt-fest.com/index.html (Day not confirmed yet)
‘Planet Punk’ Track listing:
Planet Punk/ All Potential Terrorists/ Run Run/ Killuminati/ Pandora’s Box/ Anonymous/ Hellbilly Heroin/ Bio Hazard/ Silver Or Lead/ Wonderful Life/ You’ll Be Sorry/ Sedition/ Victory For The Victims/ Vampire Wedding/ Starship Transporter
Overground Records – www.overgroundrecords.co.uk