The Danse Society interview by Ed Shorrock
Arrangements for the interview were made by DJ Jason
The Danse Society have a long history, with a musical track record stretching back some 35 years into the very birth place of most modern musical genres – if not directly in musical terms then certainly in attitude – and that was punk. The line ups have changed over the years as has some of the musical focus. There have been periods of intense activity and also prolonged stretches of inactivity. The recent outing supporting Spear of Destiny at King George’s Hall in Blackburn would seem to indicate that a period of creativity. Ed Shorrock caught up with Paul Gilmartin to talk about the band’s past, what drives them and what the future holds for old and new fans alike.
What follows is a lengthy, deeply personal and very insightful discussion……stick with it, it gets intense and very revealing in places….
- The band’s history could fill a textbook, much like the changing line up experienced by the Spear of Destiny who you recently supported. The Facebook campaign seemed to have galvanised you into reforming in 2009 which led to the band’s fourth album, Change of Skin, in 2011. That clearly made people notice as you got an invite to play at Wave Gotik Treffen in 2012. What happened between then and 2014 that caused you to leave the band and start up the current Danse Society?
You’re right. The band’s history could fill a textbook. The thing is that there are only two bands that have actually made it out of Barnsley: Saxon and our good selves. Yeah, I remember when we jacked our jobs in to go on the dole in 1980 and concentrate on the music. You could do that then – it’s difficult now for kids to make music which I think is why a lot of stuff that comes out now is safe and less angry or full of angst. That is why I think it makes it more difficult for working class people to make music now.
As a result art in general suffers. It tends to be people from a more privileged background who get involved and who can choose media and the arts as a career option.
The Facebook thing helped, yeah, but let’s get one thing straight – you don’t leave your own band! I wrote most of the words and did the music with Dave for the two albums since reforming, so I’ve put a lot of time and effort into it, besides the financial investment I made.
I’ve said it again and again – I never gave up on Danse Society in my heart so for me it was unfinished business. I loved making music with Dave again. Keyboards always gave me inspiration for Danse Society tracks and I always gravitated to them.
It was great to see Steve (Rawlings) again however we did, or I did, a lot of chasing and having a bit of a childish nature could not stand the rejection. I wanted it to be like where we had left off but I had very unrealistic expectations. I realised that when I was talking to Steve’s mum once, demanding to know why he finds it so hard to commit. She said that being in The Danse Society was one of the worst periods of his life. I was like, What? I think she was telling me not to hold too much hope….I could see it….I saw it….I knew where he was coming from too.
I was driven because addicts, I suppose, substitute one obsession for another. I had come out of a six month stint in treatment. I hate that word but that’s what it is. Rehab is the cute name for it….so I was driven. Anyway, we all know Steve did not finish the album. Meth, that’s what I’m gonna call her from now on, came in and finished it.
Wave-Gotik-Treffen wanted Steve in the band – they booked us, but lower down the bill and for a reduced fee. Right, another thing…I had seen Meth and was convinced she was gonna wear the beekeeper’s veil and play the mysterious card as planned. You can see my face what a shock that fucking outfit was, tarting up The Danse Society. She just kept bending over and the smug BDSM dog collar, like a secret signal I did not give a fuck about that …we looked and sounded shit…I can’t bear to see it. I can’t believe I went ahead with it but my desire to just get playing ruled my head for a while. It was too late….damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I can tell you now we nearly called it a day then because of somebody’s behaviour…talk about diva city….and all the sneaking about with them two conducting an affair using us, the band, as an excuse at the time, it did not sit well.
You asked what happened between then and the split.
Basically I was not going to hand The Danse Society over to Meth, not on my watch. She went out of her way to make my position untenable like when supporting Spear of Destiney at the 02 in London. Somebody totters down three flights of stairs to knock somebody off my guest list because they don’t show her enough reverence. You don’t do stuff like that. You don’t embarrass yourself and us bigging it up in Italian while Spear are trying to get to the stage. You ain’t earned the right to. It was so Spinal Tap. Right, so it comes to this bloody Glory or Grace tour. First night in Bristol – I said to Dave, “I think Woody’s been appointed as sound man”. Social media is wonderful – she posts “u can get away with a bad drummer but a great sound guy is priceless”. You can’t make this up. She’s in your band as well as all this false shock horror – I just went mad. It was utter bollocks. We were firmly in the grip of amateurs thinking they are ace.
Guess what? Our sound man could not work the desk at The Fleece and the set list was shit. Her and her boyfriend’s performance was embarrassing. We sounded nothing like The Danse Society.
I’ll tell you another true story.
Five months later me and Bri are in the Hope and Anchor in London and we are supporting Modern English up the road at The Garage. We get talking to this lady who says “Are you the band?”. We say “Yeah, but not for here.” Her son is the promotor and she tells us to hang on and he will show you the refurbished downstairs. He turns up, recognises me and says “Bloody hell….Danse Society…seen you in Bristol recently [he was a Claytown Troupe fan]…you were a joke.” I said “I fucking know that…that’s why I’m reincarnated baby.” He said “Good for you” and the whole pub shouted “Hurahh for you” and lifted me on their shoulders and carried me to The Garage up the road singing Heaven is Waiting. I made that last bit up about the hurrahs but it sounds good doesn’t it?
You know, it all sounds petty in hindsight but it’s not when somebody covets what’s not rightly theirs and makes everything difficult while pretending to be so nice. You think you’re going mad.
I am a loyal person and would have gone down with the ship if Dave had stayed. He didn’t so Martin and I thought to ourselves “Why give a load of new songs to be ruined?” Ruining them…it’s my job!
The proof of the pudding is in VI. It’s not a bad album, it just should not have The Danse Society on the front of it because it’s nothing of the kind. You want to sing Sound of Silence? Put it out under your own name not use that name as a vehicle.
- The departure of Bri Shaughnessy was clearly on amicable terms and he had clearly given you great service and been immensely loyal given his other commitments. Jon Cridford [Jay] has joined you now and you have referred to him as being “more aligned to the classic sound of The Danse Society”. What does that mean and how has he contributed to the band as a whole?
Bri was fantastic and we had some great times but eventually things clash and being third in line was becoming tiresome. Everything started to clash. Initially Bri was just going to sing on the album and I persuaded him to go live.
We had been mates and kindred spirits. I even had a stint in Seventh Son, his other band, for a while. One thing is you can’t take away memories and who would have thought the two Barnsley lads would have been rocking it up in Parma, Italy with the Chamelons Vox in our mid-fifties under The Danse Society banner again. Just magic, yet it was touch and go if we could get over it and it had to be addressed.
I was also aware the ‘rock thing’ was not to everybody’s taste. However, it was time to look round for a permanent guy and Jay fitted the bill. We had a gig with 1919 but Bri could not do it. Jay had three hours’ rehearsal and did the show. It was just like Steve, it was uncanny, so it kinda worked out to everybody’s benefit. The reincarnation becomes complete…we sound like us again. Elliot’s miles more melodic and inventive, Ade’s a machine and Darran is amazing getting the 80s synth sounds so it’s all good.
- It is a matter of public record that the split in 2014 caused, and still causes, you a lot of difficulties with tussles over the band name and associated legal rights. The phrase ‘musical version of Fatal Attraction’ was used by you recently. Have you noticed a split in fan base between the two bands or does the adage ‘There is no such thing as bad publicity’ apply and you have thrived?
Yeah, Fatal Attraction. When your wife gets letters from my supposed lover of two years there is something wrong. It’s so sick to do that. What if my marriage had been in trouble? Luckily she knows I’m a selfish bastard and only have eyes for music. When somebody just lies all the time over stuff normal folk don’t think to do. I mean I’m just not surprised by anything anymore and good luck with that Mr Nash if you ever want out. All I’m saying is that anybody who knows me will totally agree I’m a dangerous man who is violent and stalks people, that I never want to clap eyes on again in my life.
I will say it again, when Danse Society split up three people left two without any written agreement in place. Partnership law states all members have rights to use the name. End of. Be it the Paul Nash /Meth version or both. One thing for sure is that it does not belong to whoever shouts loud enough and say “It’s all mine now”. I never gave up my rights to the band.
To answer your question, there is such thing as bad publicity because I have been dragged into a world of nonsense by somebody on a laptop in a kitchen pretending there is some big legal wrangle so people can’t book us and it damages both bands/versions. People just think “I can’t be fucked with that” and that’s the strategy. Just complete utter chaos because reputation does not seem to bother these people. The thing is there is a saying “What a tangled web you weave when you endeavour to deceive” and it backfires on you. I got bored of the tit-for-tat reactions after about six months, yeah I admit it.
I was starting to think it was normal. It’s been nearly three years and it don’t stop. The choice is simple one: If you prefer the band that tries to retain the integrity of the past or the other one which doesn’t give a shit. I try to stick to Danse Society territory not because it’s a conscious decision but because it’s all I can do. It’s a case of “Cut me open…it says Danse Society…dark doom music.” All the guys in the band have embraced that feeling also, so it’s not contrived. It feels right. People can choose and they will, that’s choice and it’s a great thing. You need a dark heart musically for TDS and it can’t be learned. It’s in you or not.
- The early albums Seduction and Heaven is Waiting undoubtedly carried a distinctly post punk feel. The terms dark punk and latterly gothic have also been applied to The Danse Society. A listener comparing Seduction and Reincarnation would clearly hear the difference in approach, Reincarnation having an altogether darker, more guitar driven feel. How conscious have you been or even cared about this shift?
Elliot’s got a very ethereal big sound compared to the spikey guitar sound of the last two TDS albums, Change of Skin and Scarey Tales, an almost weeping sound, so it’s very easy to go darker now.
Yeah, Seduction and Heaven have, in my opinion, stood the test of time as albums and still sound OK, which is ‘job done’ in my book. I wanted Reincarnated to have that feel. I suppose it was no different to making the others really, just me and Dave again, but using different vox and guitar which made all the difference. Bri gives some real vocal performances and I always heard Bowie/Astbury rather than all out rock. Séance and Heresy is very dark…All Things Shine….Glory or Grace. It’s goth but not in a goth formula. I’m so pleased you sense its brooding hiding places. Things like this make me happy. A contradiction is it not?
- Following on from that which bands influenced you musically in the early days and have any particular bands provided inspiration to you during the quieter times or now. Or have you just ploughed your own furrow?
TDS have always had such a varied influence musically and that’s a good thing, but may have contributed to us not being ‘out of just the one box’ so to speak and so we sort of fence-sit in genres. We could go from Hawkwind to Level 42 to Killing Joke to Cure to film music to Kraftwerk…New Order, Joy Division….the list is endless. We were all music fans and let’s not forget Bowie, Eno and 70s albums before and after punk, Magazine, Ultravox and PIL.
Quieter times? I liked Kasabian…I know, into the naughty corner, but you see I like synths in bands used well. I did not mind The Killers at first. They sort of reminded me of us in Seduction. I don’t know why but it must be the bloody synth again.
- I can identify with what’ve you’ve just said. For me some crazy Tangerine Dream doesn’t go amiss either. Keyboards and synths can work in a goth context if used correctly.
- One of the inevitable markers of a Danse Society track is the use of keyboards. These are always a strong theme, right through to Reincarnation, from Lyndon Scarfe, Dave Whitaker and now Darran Guy. These seem to me to be distinct nods towards your post punk roots. Is The Danse Society going more towards a post punk future, a gothic one or one which defies definition or labels? Does Jon have a part to play in that?
Funny you should mention keyboards. I think I opened that door in an earlier question but I have been lucky to have worked with Lyndon and Dave, and now Darran so, yeah, keys are important and they are the staple ingredient of Danse Society. They set the mood vibe. It’s an area I like to be involved in because I’m a sad fucker and it means a lot to me. They are not meant to be just in the background tooting away half hearted. Mind you we have done shows without keys and Elliot’s sound has allowed something that the last TDS could never have done. We sounded ridiculous. I have the rehearsal tapes minus keys to prove it. With Danse Society when you press the keys down it shakes the stage. That’s a requirement. It’s got to be Jupiter Calling the Pyramids meets Alien and you’re in the right ball park – always. It’s an ever-present thing and will always be I reckon. This next album has everybody’s contribution, not just everything I want to hear, like Reincarnated was. It’s the band’s album and will have all the influences of our maturing years. Jay will have a part to play in that because, fortunately for us, we have an old head musically on young shoulders so it’s a win-win-win situation for us.
All the bands we gravitate around, or at least did, Jay does so too. That will show through without us having to think about it really and it has. These new songs are built from the bottom up, just like the old days. Me and Ade just went in the studio, just me and him, and knocked out some backing tracks, which is great. Mad or genius the others will be inspired to add their bits and it’s worked I think…..phewww.
- The opening track of Reincarnation started with a religious incantation – how much does religion influence the lyrics of your songs?
For me you can’t go wrong with those semi-religious undercurrents. They are almost as staple as the keys – a very important element I think. Love and hate; good and bad…this is standard TDS fare dished up time and time again just in different formats. I found that going to the darker side in life helps you write a bit deeper because you can just build on that. I space a lot in my head so I just transfer it to words. I mean I have been in places where God has abandoned you, Séance and Heresy. Young kids in drug dealing homes…so sad…friends dead…people beat up; the dark side; so if you see it, it helps you transfer your self-pity to words and inject the pseudo-theology treatment. It works with the music. More than dreams, we all want things, more than dreams; and all things shine…good and bad.
Except in this case it was a guy in rehab who never made it went back to the dark side. I used to play drums on the sink when he used to wash up and he would say, “Look at it shine” in a Rasta voice. He was a brother friend, the one I walked with for a while. Anyway you gather all this information and store it. Glory or Grace – I got that from the movie, Zulu, with young warriors fighting for their homelands, so all good romantic gibberish that I like. It is not difficult when you know how/
I have been lucky that Bri and Meth interpretations have been good. I am Roman Catholic so I have a sort of love/hate thing with religion as do lots of us I suppose. Yes, we’re all looking for something. Did he come in spaceship? Hope he did lol…..
- Social media – you are avid users of it as I can tell from Twitter, running competitions, announcing dates and generally interacting with fans. My experiences with social media in this kind of music scene are that Facebook tends to take priority over Twitter. What is you feeling on this and do you feel that you spend as much time running social media as you do rehearsing and focusing on the music? Is it a necessary evil for bands who want to get their names out there?
Yeah, we use social media. Jay has really done well with Twitter recently. We would like to link our account to Facebook but sadly we have admin issues which can’t be resolved and it is not helping the band.
Initially we were at a real disadvantage in this area and I had some help from an old friend who got stuff up and running for me which did allow me to concentrate on the band. I will always be grateful to this person even though we don’t speak now, which is silly. I’m not saying I’m always right either. I reckon I could get on people’s tits very easily.
We’re supposed to be flaky to still be doing this…you have to be…but it’s all good stuff for the book “I NEARLY MADE IT”. We would be dangerous if we rehearsed. We don’t do as much as we should do. We just do the bare minimum
Maybe it is a necessary evil, social media, but the stark reality is a cold night in Crewe and a venue with no punters in it. Don’t believe your own press…it’s not the real world. All the other bands of our ilk seem to be doing well. I hope we can slide in again. We did a lot of damage and really it’s nobody’s fault. It’s just how it happened.
A handy note to other bands: It’s always handy to have your original lead singer when reforming!
- You have referred to your new album as being ‘a game changer’, why? Will there be a tour to promote it?
Did I say that? Fucking hell I’m a drama queen…a game changer. Well it sounds good, maybe it will, maybe it won’t, yet I have such a good feeling about it (the music that is). It’s gonna be just six tracks, maybe like Seduction but retain all the elements from that. Post punk dark with a hypnotic vibe, this album will be for you just like the old TDS stuff. Play it loud in a dark room vibe and try not to be too happy. Think Bauhaus, Chameleons with keys and it’s this.
A tour? That would be cool but could be impractical due to planning and life commitments of the band but yeah, live dates yes hopefully…Europe calling. When we played Italy I was surprised how much people still loved the music, so it would be real nice to play some shows over there in Europa-land.
- Being a participant in the music scene what is your view about the general state of the non-mainstream music scene and what could be done to encourage it?
I’m too busy moaning about mainstream like an old fart to listen to new stuff. Christ….what is it with these whiney vocals? It drives you mad. It’s all shiny with no substance. The non-mainstream seems very healthy. Went to see PIL – it was rammed and great. The Mission doing good. Chameleons Vox, Sex Gang are out – all the old bands are back. It seems pretty stable at the moment with all the usual suspects
On personal note it’s been nice to do shows with old favourites, Skeletal Family, Modern English, Sad Lovers & Giants, Spear of Destiny, Balaam and the Angel. We even played with the Hawklords but I don’t think they liked us much, but that’s another story.
If I want new stuff I just see what Lyndon is listening to. I have to admit I have not heard of a few of these bands he digs but he has good taste so I generally give’ em a listen. I don’t know what could be done to encourage it other than not being like everything else that IS mainstream. That is the biggest help I would say. Anything that’s a bit left-field is totally welcome to anybody with half a musical brain because let’s face it, put Radio One on in the car and it’s shit. I mean, at least in my day, lad shit had class
Just put Radio Two on or a local radio station and you can smell the difference. See I’m back to slagging whiney vocals with shit lyrics written by a kid for kids who don’t want to think. It sounds a bit like social media put to a drum beat and sequencer….!! “you went out with him…. I love you…. I want you back….I’m crying….I’m sad”. Never has the word ‘you’ been dragged out into such anguish and sung in different ways for four minutes in the history of pop as it has recently.
Still what do I know? I play Kate fucking Bush’s first album still…..
- Where are the hotspots in the music scene as far as you are concerned, both in terms of bands and locations?
Hotspots? I don’t know. Maybe that answers one of those previous questions about social media and the web. That’s where the hotspot is…online….it’s mad because think about it, half the time everything is so quick and accessible you don’t bother to find out that much in depth and just go on to the next thing, or at least I think I do.
I’ve just realised it, I don’t take that much time to find out more. Maybe it’s age as well. I tend to stick to the cats I know and love. They don’t disappoint. You ain’t gonna find a cooler bass player apart from our man Ade than Simon Gallup so no point trying.
Who does angry symphonic better than Killing Joke? I can only say Parma in Italy, dark Italia, was amazing for us and the Chameleons so that’s a hotspot. Bristol and Glasgow for us and not forgetting Leeds. Dave has a studio there so lots of young musicians are ready to come through there to ruin their life chasing the dream.
No, I would not change a thing. As John Miles used to sing “I’ve got the music in me” and so have lots of my friends still, so I salute you all that are still out there doing it. Long live HMS Rock and Roll and all who sail in her
Thanks for the interesting questions. I hope I have made sense to somebody……..
Love Paul Gilmartin…
- Shortly after this interview was concluded Paul kindly let me have a listen of a new track from the forthcoming album, which had yet to be mixed and which would (inevitably for Danse Society!) probably have more keys on it according to Paul.
The track is called Tears and in my view it more than works as it stands. I have a feeling that this might become a staple of the goth clubs. It is more goth than post punk if you will forgive the genre classification for a moment. Partly that is down to Jay’s vocals which are dark and brooding. However, the guitars, the melody and the shape of the song have melancholy written all over it. This one has a cracking misery about it which I really enjoy and appeals to my gentler, less gothic rock, demons.
If this is a reflection of the rest of the album this could well be, as Paul said in interview, Danse Society’s proper 4th album as opposed to its 7th.Finally, I would just like to say what a pleasure it was to work with Paul on this interview. He is a man whose heart and soul is embedded in music of many stripes and that shines through everything he says and does.
Danse Society on Twitter : @DanseSocietyLtd
Danse Society on iTunes
Danse Society’s Official Site: www.thedansesociety.org.uk
Danse Society on Facebook
Upcoming Live Dates
SATURDAY 29th OCTOBER ~ THE TIVOLI ~ BUCKLEY
SATURDAY 12th NOVEMBER ~ O2 INSTITUTE ~ BIRMINGHAM
FRIDAY 18th NOVEMBER ~ GULLIVERS ~ MANCHESTER