THE JOHN BRYSON INTERVIEW – APRIL 2016
John first joined Antisect way back in 1984 shortly after the band’s first lp was released and was bassist for a number of UK tours and trips to Italy and the Netherlands. He played bass on 1985’s Out From The Void, providing vocals for part 1. Coming from a less “anarcho” background than the rest of the band at the time, his animated style brought a new dynamism to Antisect’s stage shows and his wit and humour often lightened up many more “serious” conversations and debates the band would have. This time round John was originally asked to fill in on bass for the band’s free new year show in London in 2014 and became the obvious replacement following the departure of Laurence.
Firstly, welcome back to the fold. Are you surprised to find yourself back with the band after all this time? You were originally asked to fill in for Laurence for the new years eve show in 2014/15. Did you ever expect to find yourself joining on a more permanent basis?
I’m astounded to find myself back doing this now, but I’m really enjoying it. I originally left the band in 1986 for various reasons so that’s 30 years. (Maths genius!) I was in another band in the 1990’s but since then had really given up the idea of playing in any band again, let alone Antisect. I never stopped playing guitar and bass and obviously missed the band thing. I was easily persuaded to return to cover the new year show because it was a one off and not a huge commitment. I’m very glad I did. It was amazing to be playing this kind of music again to an appreciative crowd. I had forgotten how good that felt. It did take a lot of persuading for me to return full time because I have a pretty hectic life and I wasn’t sure I could commit and make it work. I agreed very much on a ‘let’s see how it goes’ basis but I have to say it’s been a blast so far.
How have you found things so far? Just the one show obviously, but plenty going on in the background
It feels great to be playing in a band again, especially one that stretches me musically. I have had to work quite hard to keep up and meet expectations, but things are really starting to feel good now and I can’t wait to get the new set out on stage. Playing the old stuff gives a warm feeling that can’t be beaten, but the new stuff is awesome.
What gear do you use these days? (Of the music making variety, that is…) What’s your current bass set up?
My main bass is a 1976 US Fender Precision, which is very road worn from a lot of use and little care. It plays like nothing else with a really low action a great feel, but it could do with some TLC from a proper technician really, including a refret. I also has a modern Mexican made Fender Jazz bass which has a better range of sounds and is in better nick, but it’s not as nice to play as the P bass. I use a Marshall MB150 combo to rehearse at home, but when rehearsing with the band in the studio my preference is a Hartke head and cab belonging to Pete. Nice punchy sound, plenty of balls. I have a series of pedals, in order BOSS stage tuner, MXR bass compressor, BOSS BD2 Blues Driver, BOSS ODB3 Bass Overdrive and an ISP Decimator noise gate. I can get some great sounds but I really need to spend some time playing with them and trying stuff to get the best out of them. I also need to learn how to coil leads properly.
With the departure of Chris and the decision to revert to a three piece, how have you found the aspect of sharing vocal duties?
God, this is real Déjà-frigging-vu isn’t it? The last time I joined Antisect we ended up as a three piece with Pete and me doing the vocals and now it’s happened again. I hadn’t really bargained for this and I was really only just getting to know Chris, who is a cool guy. Frankly it’s just really hard work to have to learn all those words (I wish Pete could write simpler lyrics) and then to be able to sing em’ and play the bass. I think both me and Pete were worried about whether we could even do this right, but I’m feeling a lot more optimistic now. Pete is hyper critical, especially of himself, so there’s no ‘that’ll do’ with this. If it ain’t right it ain’t happening. It’s gonna be right though and its starting to sound bloody good now. Again, I just want to get it out on stage in front of a crowd and see what happens.
You’ve ended up rejoining the band at a time when the 2nd lp is actually nearing completion. No irony lost there surely. How does it compare this time round with the previous attempt back in 1986?
It’s not irony it’s just more déjà vu. Lots and lots of déjà vu. I guess the lure of playing on the album was a big part of what got me back. One of the reasons I left the band before was because we had pretty well recorded a whole album, which Pete had decided wasn’t up to scratch so needed to be done again. He was right of course, but I just couldn’t face it. I can’t say I really enjoy the recording process and playing the same few notes over and over again until they’re just right can be a right royal pain in the arse. Having said that, once you get it right and you listen back with everything there as it should be its hugely satisfying. The new LP is gonna be awesome! There’s still work to do though to finish it off, but I’m so proud of what we’ve done and to have been able to have been a part of it.
Have you had the opportunity to take any impressions of the “scene” today compared to what it was like “back in the day”?
‘Yeah, tell us about the old days Grandad!’ I don’t really know how to answer that one. ‘back in the day’ there was such a strong punk scene in the UK, but it had many facets and styles even then. You had the likes of UK Subs playing big venues and the likes of us playing squat gigs and various public halls on the ‘anarcho’ circuit. There were vegan ‘hippy’ punks in charity shop chic, vegi-punks in black canvas with big hair and studded leathered rockers with coloured spikes and mohicans. To add to the fun you had skinheads at most punk gigs too and it often kicked off. In Northampton where we lived up until 1985 there was a really big punk movement and everyone knew each other. In London you had disparate groups including crustys like the Hackney Hell Crew (big up!) and West End poseurs poncing a quid a photo from tourists in the Kings Road and Convent Garden. But the great thing was that you got to know punks from all over the UK because you’d trek around to see bands and hook up with each other. What’s the scene like today? Well I don’t bloody know, do I? There are a lot less places to play I know that, and you seem to often get very different types of bands lumped together on the same bill which confuses things. In smaller gigs people seem to go and watch their mates and then bugger off when they’ve finished playing to be replaced by another band being watched by their mates. I’ve not been back on the scene long enough to really comment though, so this is a surprisingly long answer isn’t it?
Has your world view altered very much since your original time in the band. If so, how?
Yes of course. I was a 25 year old punk rocker back then; and now I’m not. I am less tolerant of a lot of stuff than I used to be, and more tolerant of other stuff at the same time. (This isn’t very helpful is it? ‘My first is in squirrel but isn’t in tree…’ OK, I’m a lot less ideological and more compromising but that happens to most of us. However I’m still almost as angry as I’ve ever been about the way the world is run and I think this is really polarised in the UK right now. Those at the top are getting richer and hiding their money away in off shore accounts, whilst those who are most vulnerable are having their benefits taken away and people working on low incomes can’t afford to pay even social housing rents. It’s a national disgrace. I am proud to work in a job for a non-for profit company who houses and supports the most vulnerable in society, but yes, I do work and I do pay taxes. You’ve got to eat right? I pride myself as being a problem solver but the world has such complex problems now. The world is such a different place with the instability caused by extremism for example; and guess what? I don’t have the answer to that one. Then you have the clunky process of globalisation and probably biggest of all, the internet. It is a totally different world that’s all and I understand about as much of the way it works now as I did then. Very little.
Bearing in mind that Antisect has always been a politicised band. How do you reconcile the differences of opinion that occur from time to time?
By respect. I think the most important thing is that there is respect for one another and our beliefs and a willingness to engage in the debate without rubbishing the other person’s viewpoint. I have always had enormous respect for the band’s political stance and agree with 75% of it, but there are big areas where we just don’t agree. But in some ways I think that’s exactly as it should be. There is nothing more frightening than a group of people who share identical views at the exclusion of all other viewpoints. That is the way of totalitarianism and extremism. It’s the root of destructive religious cults and intolerance. Keeping an open mind is essential and challenging your world view and your place and actions within it should never stop, but it isn’t productive to beat yourself up because you aren’t 100% living a lifestyle and holding a set of values that you think you ought to. We all go as far as we can, but we all compromise. All of us. One way or another we all ‘feed the machine’. I am proud to be in a band with something important to say, and I am equally proud that I can reconcile the fact that I will never and should never agree with all of it.
Are there any particular memories that stand out for you from your first time in the band?
I don’t want to do an ‘Abe Simpson’ here but it might be hard to stop me! I have so many crazy memories from those days, many of which I wouldn’t be comfortable committing to a public forum. If you want to hear those stories you need to get me in a bar and buy me drinks. No really, get me in the bar and buy me drinks! A lot of my favourite memories are about things Pete did back in the day, but they are his anecdotes so I’ll leave them for him to tell you. Some of my memories include….
– Me and Pete being lost in the fog in Milan for 3 hours before finding an English guy to drive us back to our squat.
– Me and Pete getting picked up by the Police just before a gig in Belgium for no reason and then released without charge just in time to go on stage and play. Polly had some cymbals nicked at that one too!
– All the madness of the gigs at the Ambulance Station, a squat in the Old Kent Road south London. They were always crazy.
– Doing benefit gigs to raise money for every good cause going and then not having enough money to replace guitar strings or get our gear to rehearsals. We used to lug it there in supermarket trollies!
– When I went AWOL after a gig in Oxford and walked all the way back to Northampton just in time to get a train to London and then down to Brighton for our gig the next night. No, I don’t get that either, but I think alcohol was involved.
– Tearing down the banner mid gig and then smashing my bass on stage at a gig in the north of England somewhere because I was very, very drunk and the PA hadn’t turned up. Neither had the audience come to that.
– OK, one more before they bring my medication – The very first gig I played with Antisect was in Luton where we enjoyed a skinhead invasion of the stage just as we got started. I had a skinhead girl sat on my amplifier through the first half of the gig sharing her bottle of cider with me between songs (which was nice). They had all marched on stage doing Nazi salutes and ‘seig heiling’ but we just kept on playing and once they were there on stage they didn’t really know what to do, and gradually sidled off again.
What bike do you currently ride and why do you like it? What’s been your favourite bike out of those you have had down the years and why?
Now you’re talking! Motorbikes, God I love motorbikes! I have been mad into bikes since I was 13 and have owned and ridden them since the age of 16. I have owned 22 bikes and currently own a brace of oldish Yamaha XJR 1300s. (That’s two to you). The newest of these is my third XJR having owned another before these two and I just love em’. I do around 14,000 miles a year, mostly in and out of London so I need something that’s big and heavy enough to feel stable on motorways but nimble enough to chuck about in the City. They have a good whack of power and they’re a nice old style tubular framed in line four, naked, retro machine. That’s what I like. Probably my favourite bike of all time was my rigid framed low rider, powered by a GS1000 lump bored out to 1100cc with K&N filters and a straight through pipe. Man that thing was loud! It didn’t turn heads. It shook bones.
If you had to choose between being an invisible tree or a goat that could recite poetry, which one would you choose and why?
I got this wrong first time. I thought it said if you had to choose between ‘having’ an invisible tree or a goat that could recite poetry. Then I would have said the tree of course. You could climb up it and be just sat there in mid-air. Plus you could eat its invisible fruit and make invisible stuff out of its invisible wood. What the fuck do you do with a poetry reciting goat? But that’s not the question; I have to ‘be’ one of them. I have to ‘be’ an invisible tree or a poetry reciting goat’. OK, the goat. Then I can eat the invisible fruit from the invisible tree and recite limericks. Do you know the one about the woman from Ealing?