An Interview with The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing

For many of us, the Christmas season is upon us. It’s a time of giving and relaxation, of food, spending time with loved ones, and listening to those Christmas carols  that start playing the day after Halloween has passed. For those of us who have been  enduring holiday music since November’s inception, it may seem groan worthy to suggest the purchase of another Christmas themed album.

But A Very Steampunk Christmas by The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing is no ordinary Christmas album. Here to tell you more about the album and themselves, are the gents from The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing.

Please tell me a bit about each of your musical backgrounds, education, and influences. When and how did you start as a musician individually? How did you come together to become The Men Who Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing?

MARC: As far as our backgrounds concerned, I can’t speak for everyone with great detail, but this is what I know: Andy used to sing in a very successful legendary and all-round fucking awesome thrashy-gothy band callled Creaming Jesus. They were really influential on the UK Goth and metal scenes, and we still get their fans coming to our show today. I don’t remember them, because I’m too young (this is true, but I’m including it specifically to annoy him and make him feel old).  Andrew on the other hand was in a post-punkcore band called Sun Starved Day, who by all accounts were pretty brilliant, though I never had the pleasure of seeing them, alongside our original drummer Ben (also of Million Dead, a pretty successful band whose singer Frank Turner is rapidly becoming the voice of folky punk in the UK as a soloist). Jez has played in numerous successful bands, including a hit Britpop band called Showgirls (I remember reading about them in the NME in the 90’s!) and a stint in Gothwave legends Lords of the New Church.  I’m probably the least successful in terms of the bands I’ve been in, although I served a couple of years in an ace punk n’roll band touring under the name The Pittstops.

We all have very wide taste in music: Andrew is a Metal-head through and through, and likes a lot of Black Metal, Death Metal, Grindcore and thrash. But also The Beatles and Hendrix.  I’m very much into indie bands, Britpop, and proper alternative rock (by which I mean Pavement and the like). Andy’s taste is even more varied, and Jez probably wider than that. We all intersect on punk rock though. It’s the Centre of a Venn diagram of the four of us.

ANDY: andrew was living in our spare room and was performing his ‘spot on history of british industry’ stand-up show, we decided to do a few songs to include in the show as a musical interlude for a few dates of andrew’s tour. marc and ben (Dawson, original drummer) fleshed out the full band initially for the london dates at the cockpit theatre in marylebone…it then took on a life of it’s own and carried on whist the show withered away like an umbilical cord.

What inspired you to name yourselves after The Goulston Street graffito?

ANDY:  andrew had previously done a show called ‘winston churchill was jack the ripper’, i think it was a throwback to that… you should have heard the names we rejected, i mean ‘the guild of industrial mercenaries’ anyone?

MARC: It should be noted it turned out Winston Churchill probably wasn’t Jack the Ripper at all. But we can’t be right about everything.
What does Steampunk mean to you?

ANDY: a whole world of ‘what if..’
How, in your opinion, is Steampunk different in the UK as opposed to the US?

ANDY: more reenactment and less anime cosplay, but in essence it’s pretty much the same… the Asylum in Lincoln takes over the whole of the historic old town whereas many of the US conventions seem hotel based….mind you, when were we in michigan it was so hot you wouldn’t survive in costume out in the sun for too long and aircon was a godsend!

MARC: That’s pretty much what I’ve noticed too: the dressing up aspect seems to be more important in the States. Over here it feels a little more Grimy…more about getting your hands dirty, making things and modding. We’re also less keen to adopt an English accent… not that we do other accents. It’s just we don’t have to try.

Please tell me a bit about your most recent release, A Very Steampunk Christmas. Where can people purchase a copy of the album?
MARC: You’ve got me to thank/blame for this one. I have a thing about Christmas music, and I try and write a new Christmas song every year. Last year was my first Christmas in the band, so I tried to write something that would work as a Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing track, Ebenezer’s Carol was the result, It’s actually my first proper writing contribution to the band… I wrote the basslines on our first album (‘Now That’s What I Call Steampunk’) and helped arrange the songs, but Ebenezer’s Carol was pretty much all me. We tried to record it for the album but ran out of time (although we put out the demo as a free download last year).  We kept the song in our back pockets though and the intention to do a Christmas single was always there, it captivated me more than the others and I kept bringing it up. I think they agreed just to shut me up! I wrote a whole blog about the genesis of the song, including links to the original bedroom demo I made and the bands early recording of the song here: http://marcburrows.co.uk/2010/12/09/this-is-the-story-of-old-ebenezer/. I can’t remember whose idea it was to do a Christmas EP, although I’m pretty sure it was me that pushed for it.  The idea of doing punked up Christmas Carols was Andrews, as was the idea of doing ‘Silent Night’ as Rammstein-style industrial metal. It was Andy’s decision to do it in German though.

Doing genuine Victorian Christmas songs re-interpreted as modern-rock was a no-brainer really- what’s more steampunk than taking Victoriana and giving it a modern twist? God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman is also musically a little nod to the ‘Oi!’ punk genre of the mid-80’s, characterised by very short very loud shouty songs for the masses.

Fox, by contrast, is a song Andrew has had for a while. He’s included it in his stand up set (especially on the rare occasion he’s performed childrens gigs). It’s probably the least Steampunk thing we have (there’s not really a Victoriana connection), although it”s such a good song we’ve played it live. It was included here partly because of the amount of fans who wanted to hear a proper version, and partly because of its handy relationship with the traditional English Boxing Day hunt. Fox Hunting is something we’re all very much against.

We decided to put it out as a 7″ for several reasons. Partly as a talking point, partly because we liked the idea of simultaneously releasing something on vinyl AND download -embracing the very old and very new at the same time is very much what we enjoy about Steampunk- but mostly, I suspect, because Andrew and I have never been on vinyl before and it’s been something of an ambition for both us.  I’m sure for the other two, who are old hands at this ‘music’ thing it was pretty old hat.

It seems to have struck a nerve with people. There’s a guy in the UK, a writer who writes official Doctor Who novels (which excited us all immensely) who set up a Facebook campaign to get it to Christmas Number 1 (a huge deal over here). I had to point out to him that it takes around 400,000 purchases to do that, but we appreciated the effort. Sadly Simon Cowell beat us.

You can get it to download on iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, Rhapsody, Spotify and a few more. The best place to buy the 7″ is from our own store: www.freewebstore.org/blamedfornothing. We’ll throw in a download version for free.

Any upcoming events, releases, or tours planned for 2011?
MARC: We’re working all of this out now. It’s tricky as we have to work round Andrew (and to a lesser extent my) Stand up schedule, and Jez and Andy’s other musical plans, not to mention everyones actual lives.  There’ll definitely be another album in 2011, hopefully before the Summer. We’re halfway through writing it now, currently including such diverse topics as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the Whig Party, Cthulu, Seaside Holidays, and a return to the horrors of war we covered on a track called Blood Red on our last record.   If I have my way we’ll do another Christmas release too.  As for touring, we’re definitely over at the World Steam Expo in Michigan, and hopefuly a few other Cons across the pond, we’\re curating our own room at the Asylum, the UK’s biggest Steampunk event, and we’re hoping to do a lot of our own dates in London and across the world. It’s all very much up in the air just now.

Anything else you’d like to add?
MARC: I’m continually astounded as people continue to discover the band. According to Facebook we have fans in Brazil, India and Russia. I’d love to meet these people! It’s a genuine pleasure to found people like what we’re doing. I’m really thrilled people like the Christmas EP too… please do go and investigate if you haven’t heard it. People can sometimes be quite close minded about what Steampunk is… one of our missions is to show another side to it, keep searching and discovering new things. Oh, and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from us all.