Geoff, although this interview will focus primarily on Slugworth, there is a rich musical history of yours that predates the band. Can you share more about how you started in music and the various bands you’ve participated in?
Well, my first gig in this fair city was at Colchester Folk Club at The George Hotel in 1976. Punk was everywhere, everywhere except Colchester Folk Club! We were the Arnold Budge band. Me on guitar and vocals, James (who lived in his car) on flute, and some girl from Goldhanger who added harmonies and a love interest.
The Hilarious Astral Claptrap band were next in 1979, just me and the now famous author Ros Barber. I was mainly learning to write songs and had no interest in playing covers and I still feel the same.
In 1982, I met Giles Smith, a wonderfully fluent pianist with a great sense of humour; we shared similar music tastes and spent hours in the vinyl company of Stevie Wonder, Todd Rundgren and the band that changed everything for us – XTC. Pop songs with a twist. Jagged and interesting, we were obsessed.
The Orphans of Babylon came out of this obsession. The Orphans were just the two of us & a cheap drum machine. We were shambolic, playing stupidly short songs about Lobster Pots, Milk Teeth, Boy Scouts dressed in glitter, face paints, and stack heels.
We played Colchester Art Centre in 1984, I believe, and so 40 years on…The Orphans took us to that next level, London Gigs, recording an Album “Pinch me I think I’m in Kent”.
There were other bands as the 80s became the 90s. The Desmond, Bush Kangaroos, Stretch Armstrong, The Sods & would you believe MORE.
1996 was the beginning of Slugworth. We & M’dear wife moved house to New Town in Colchester, almost opposite Stu Hill, a bass player I admired from seeing him in other Colchester bands. We got chatting and decided to form a band. We needed a drummer. Ginger Colin, who lived near me and Stu, knew one. He was Carl Pallet, young, handsome, and a darn good drummer. Slugworth are go!
I remember our conversation years ago about your music deal and the opportunity to perform in New York. Can you reflect on that experience and its significance in your music career?
Slugworth decided to push for a deal, and the late 90s was all about gigging in Camden. We somehow did this whilst holding down day jobs.
We signed initially with Ye Gods records and put out a limited edition 7” vinyl EP, The Double, Double Decker Ep. From that release, we signed with Doolittle, a subsidiary of Fire Records, and we were sent off to release our debut album, “Bigger Ba Baa.” This was a dream. Seven days away with yer mates making music. Another part of the dream was having the single & album mastered at Abbey Road. We were happy men we were.
New York, New York, all the scandal and vice, we loved it
We released a second album, “KnobTrolley.” While gigging this album, we heard that multi-media artist Lynette Kafka was performing our songs in clubs in New York, and then, like the slightly cuckoo lady she was, she booked a studio session in Soho and gigs in Greenwich Village.
This all felt very good.
There was a period when Slugworth stopped gigging. When was that, and how did it come about?
After New York, things inevitably felt flat. Carl was especially unwell with mental health issues. We had to take a break; we were in our 40s for goodness sake! Then, in 2004, my daughter Effie was born, and for the first time, I lost interest in it all.
In 2012, during my time with Colchester Free Festival, I learned that Slugworth was reuniting for a special one-off gig for your wife Emma’s birthday party. Upon discovering this, I, of course, called you to discuss your availability for Colchester Free Festival 2012. You said yes, which was amazing! How did it feel to return to public performances after a hiatus?
Just great. We even had new songs! We were greeted enthusiastically. It felt good to just play, as the pursuit of a music career was in the past. We could just meet up and have fun again.
I tried a couple of other things, Vince Petchey being one, and this was a different challenge. It did, however, produce an album I’m very proud of.
And here we are in 2024; Slugworth is gigging again with recent shows at Three Wise Monkeys and Queen Street Brewhouse, all leading to a justified return to headline Colchester Arts Centre on Saturday, 2nd March for Keep Colchester Cool’s Colchester’s Sound gig, in association with the Arts Centre. Tell me about what we can expect on the night.
Expect a FOUR piece Slugworth as the delightful and massively talented Ben Brown of Dingus Khan is on board initially to back up my guitar playing as I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease five years ago. He has done more than expected, though, adding an energy and sense of fun we’ve not felt for a while… We are 60+, after all!
Finally, do you have any advice or tips to share with anyone looking to start a band, particularly regarding longevity within the music scene?
Look to bring something new to the table. Embrace your influences, but endeavour not to straight copy. Really, it’s impossible to advise; you are either hooked or you ain’t.
Regarding Slugworth, we’re looking forward to continuing, recording soon, and playing in London and Brighton. Maybe 2024 is our year! We can do more countrywide gigs soon, as we’ll all be retired.