How and when did Concrete Bollocks form?
Ralph: Concrete Bollocks formed from the ashes of Antisocial with me originally on bass, Jack on guitar and Edd on drums. Antisocial wasn’t active enough anymore so the three of us decided to carry on making music and we wanted to mess with other sounds. I had a few songs lying around that I really wanted to get out there and Jack had some good riffs too so we tried to then find a singer – within half an hour we had our friend Ron, he did it for a bit but he didn’t show up enough so when it came to recording we had all the instruments down but no vocals. We got fed up with trying to find people to sing so I just got on and wrote some lyrics and did the vocals. I was playing guitar in Certified at the time so we got their singer Sean to play bass for a few jams, he had played bass in Braindance and The Vile before so his influences worked for the short time he was around. He helped write the song “Better Britain?” So when it came to our first gig, Tezz from Glasgow Oi band Half Charge stepped in on bass and did a fantastic job – we didn’t think he’d want to travel from Glasgow to Blackpool to practise but he’s fine with it so we got our friend Liam in on 2nd guitar and became a 5 piece. I’m the only member from Derby, we are based all over really.
Your sound is rooted in UK82, but there’s also obvious nods to No Future-esque Oi! as well as bands like Discharge and Chaos UK. What bands do you feel have the biggest influence on your songwriting, musically and lyrically?
Musically i would say to begin with Ultraviolent, Blitz, One Way System and Crux. We really like those UK bands that crossed over the Oi! sounds and hardcore punk sounds at that time with their half punk, half skin lineups. So No Future and Riot City stuff is a huge ingredient. We also really love European Oi! like Nabat, Komintern Sect and Trotskids. We also like the various different sounds from America like Negative Approach, Poison Idea and Koward (they’re not 80s but we love their sound) as well as your usual stuff like Business, 4 Skins, Exploited, English Dogs, GBH and Motörhead. At least from my personal writing perspective that is where I’d say our ideas come from, as well as the 2 you listed
Speaking of the above smattering of styles, which scene do you feel CB is a part of in your locale?
I don’t really know because in the short time we’ve been about and the gigs we played they have been diverse audience-wise and there’s been a mix band wise as well, but that was the intention of doing this band… we just wanna rock up anywhere and play punk. There are always people in the audience that just like the fast dirty stuff but they also like something catchy. We like to do a bit of something for everyone. Also, I haven’t got the talent to just write songs in one genre. Personally, I just do whatever I’m feeling like at the time. Like Lemmy used to say wherever his band played no matter what the crowd was he would say “we are Motörhead and we play rock ‘n’ roll”. Well we don’t say that but we kind of do the same thing, except with punk rock.
What are your thoughts on the state of the current Oi! scene at home and abroad, and how does it compare to the more general punk scene?
Abroad definitely has a more active scene. In the UK it tends to be the same handful of bands that keep it all going. Much respect to those older bands and I’m very lucky to have seen so many, but it gets repetitive and we rely too much on old names and reforms. Places inEurope from what I’ve seen just do such a good job, they just seem to bring out new bands all the time that make really good sound with a constantly growing audience. Especially France in the past 5 years I’ve notice – Rixe would be a prime example. They really are a defining band of this time. We have been doing our best to connect with that sort of stuff and try putting good current European bands on here like Bomber 80, Tchernobyl and Squellette. All those bands absolutely nailed it and audiences started going off, small but before the pandemic we were getting good numbers are our gigs(4Q productions in Derby) They’re definitely more dedicated and lifers, I really wish we could have the same way here. But I’ve been lucky enough to see and play with some great bands during my time in Sheffield and where i live now in Derby – Leeds and London seem to get some decent events with good European bands coming over too obviously. Canada and USA have been catching on though, there has been this brilliant new but authentic sound going on with various forms of punk and Oi! bands all over the world that I’ve really liked and have even taken influence from. The bands are definitely more stripped down in their sounds but very punchy with loads of cool little hooks and stuff. A weird kind of new/old sound which in a way is still only just taking off here.
You’ve primarily played in England but also undertook an Irish tour last year. What have been the highlights of live gigs for you so far, and was there a noticeable difference on both sides of the Irish sea?
Yes Ireland definitely had a younger audience than England, but the numbers where about the same. The audience in Galway was very young which we were definitely pleased to see. Hopefully those kids will now be making bands.
Which current bands the world over do you guys particularly rate/recommend checking out?
Phane, we played with them last year with Discharge and they were just amazing and are a top bunch of lads. I’ve been listening to Further Charge, Mes and the Terribles and I really recommend you listen to Bootlicker. Those are bands who have releases on my shopping list, anyway. Rat Cage’s new LP is good as well, I’ve just bought that finally.
Situation permitting, where would you most like to gig?
Canada, USA, Italy or France. But at this time a gig absolutely anywhere on the map would be worth playing to us.
What’s your discography to date, and how can people get a hold of releases? Any new ones in the works?
So far we have the Disasters of War EP out on Contra, and a couple more songs you can listen to on our Bandcamp page. We were in the process of getting more stuff written and recorded but COVID situation got in the way. But we are honoured to be on a tribute compilation to Nabat with some other great bands soon to keep an eye out for that. At the moment with our own material we are unsure what to do as we will be undergoing some lineup changes sadly due to unlucky circumstances. We’re also unsure about whether to do another EP or an album. But we’re excited about getting what we’ve got written recorded.
Any final comments?
Thanks Mike for the interview, sorry it took so long and I hope to see any readers of this at the gigs when this stuff blows over.