By Vanessa B
In 2022, the light-hearted yet thoughtful musings and concoctions of Leicester-based, punk-influenced garage rock outfit 9 O’Clock Nasty are a brilliantly bracing gust of fresh air. According to them, they stand for resistance to “almost everything political happening at the moment” and their immense energy and enthusiasm for what they do are self-evident.
Their latest release I’m Bent is a gutsy, gritty, yet rather heartwarming “anthem for the different”. In a world where it seems to be drilled into us constantly that there are certain parameters you should fit in order to be an acceptable human – things like appearance, age, race, gender, sexuality – 9 O’Clock Nasty gamely tackles these narrow standards, flips them on their head and poses the question “Can someone different love and be loved?” The answer is an unapologetically and defiantly shouted affirmative, accompanied by wailing guitars, growling bass and tight, energetic drums.
Make sure to stream the rambunctious feel-good riot that is I’m Bent below and read our interview with the band where they give us a fascinating insight into their creative process, what makes them tick, and what they can’t stand.
What inspired the creation of “I’m Bent” and what was the process like?
Most of our songs start life with a hook. With a phrase or a riff that grows and builds. Usually once we have part of it in place it explodes from there as everyone throws in ideas. Ideas get tried and rejected. It is usually quite an intense process. For a while we had been listening to a lot of Roxy Music and the song Streetlife in particular thinking of doing a cover version. The way that Bryan Ferry times key words in a lyric is fascinating. There is a real joy in unpicking how something you love is made, although it is never quite the same after. Once you’ve taken it apart, it never sounds quite the same. So we had a hook and we had a lot of Roxy Music vocal tics and it all fell together in a weekend. Pete was away in Wales and the lyric was written as a series of text messages, each of us throwing out an idea and the other trying to outdo them. There were a couple of moments where we both died laughing as we came up with ideas and that is always a good sign we are onto something.
Once we have a rough demo sorted we like to leave it a few days and then the process is layering new things and stripping back down again. Build it. Break it. Build it. Break it. We have kept the first rough demo of I’m Bent, we may release it one day, because it has a real simple charm with just a voice, an acoustic guitar and a box for drumming the beat, but it is almost unrecognisable from the final version.
Your band is a new addition to the crayon box, what color would you be and why?
Black. Always black. There is only one colour. Black. Black for clothes. Black for walls (yes our house has black walls). Black allows colour to flourish. Black is a backdrop. It removes distraction and allows you to focus.
How did you come up with the band name 9 O’Clock Nasty?
Well, we are from Leicester in England. Round here there is an urban myth around the “nine o’clock horses.” They were the scary monster parents used to persuade their children to go to bed. “Go to bed or the 9 o’clock horses will take you away.” The origin is to do with the wagons that came in after 9 o’clock from the fields to collect night soil and take it from the city. Agricultural labour was hard to find, so the wagons had a reputation for stealing any children they found in the streets after dark to make them work in the fields. There may be some truth in the legend. Anyway, we loved that and wanted to call ourselves the 9 o’clock Horses, but then we kicked around a lot of other ideas and Nasty made it through to the finish.
We like the name because it is memorable and perhaps stands out from the crowd.
What issues make you angry?
Intolerance. We’re tolerant, liberal people. We want to live and let live. We believe in social justice and a society that educates, cares for and supports its people. Anyone who tries to impose their beliefs on other people, anyone who decides to make profit by making others poorer, well they are our enemies.
That translates into resistance to almost everything political happening at the moment. We genuinely don’t understand why more people aren’t standing up to be counted.
What is the most trouble that you ever have gotten into?
That is a difficult question because some of the funniest stories probably are best kept secret. For reasons we cannot disclose Ted annoyed the other members of a band he was in so much that they drove off and left him during a tour. He had fallen asleep in the venue and they took all the gear, and as it turns out all his personal possessions. So Ted woke up in Prague with a bass guitar, an Ampeg SVT amp, a 4×10 cab and very little else. A fanzine writer, who now calls himself Danzig Krupp, took pity on Ted and they took his stuff to Danzig’s flat in a tower block near Barrandov. Ted went into a serious funk and refused to leave the apartment for more than a week. Eventually Danzig persuaded him that an English band were in town and that he should bring his bass and try and join the group. Ted failed to join the group, but he did end up on the road crew – Pete and Sydd were in the band. Danzig tagged along too and never went home. It was exactly like being in a movie. Danzig probably owes a lot of rent on that flat and we hope Ted’s cabinet is still there.
Sydd used to work for Peter Gabriel, they are still friends and he appeared in one of our videos covered in mud. For a big record company party Sydd was asked to help the great international star of prog rock play a practical joke on Roger Daltry who famously has no sense of humour whatsoever. While the Who frontman was asleep by the pool, Sydd shaved his legs and drew huge eyebrows on him with a permanent marker pen. Roger Daltry was so angry he pushed Sydd into the swimming pool but afterwards was really sorry for his hot temper and to this day he sends Sydd a freshly caught trout every year on his birthday. Sydd’s birthday, not the trout’s birthday.
What is your favourite song to perform?
Darker Star. It’s an opportunity to just let go and pour everything out into the world. We can only ever rehearse it once because after we’ve done it we all just want to go home and have a lie-down. It is a song you have to utterly commit to.
Your biggest influences?
That is a harder question than you might think. We are influenced by literally thousands of musicians. The heart of what we do builds on a lot of the stranger alternative music from the last 50 years, from the Fall to the Cramps to Electric Six. We’re also very influenced by punk, which is somehow lodged in our heart deeper than anything else. But beyond that, it can be anything. Literally. We have been inspired by an advert. By an overheard conversation. Most of all by each other. If Pete picks up a guitar and starts a riff I will want to play along. If Sydd starts banging out a beat on the table, I’m reaching for my bass. We’re a unit. We influence each other.
What was it like collaborating with Golden Plates on “The Holy Wars” and what can you tell us about it?
Elder is a joy to work with. We have been chatting online for a while and wanted to collaborate. He shared with us a song he had got to a certain point that he couldn’t advance further. He had a title and a really strong drum, bass and guitar part. It was totally unlike anything we would do, for a start it was more than twice as long as anything we’d consider. Pete immediately had a guitar break to throw in and I had a vocal melody. I tried to do it, and wrote the lyric that ended up in the final piece but there was no way my way of delivering it could work. I’d written a song about the war in Syria and the media and it sort of worked but it was incomplete. Pete is a master of layering massive harmonies and built a chorus we loved but… it wasn’t there. Golden Plates are busy and there was a long delay before we heard back, but Elder took my very basic vocal idea and performed it in a way that only he can. He hears timing and delivery in a way that I can’t quite work out. It’s clever and never obvious.
So he sent it back to us and that was it. No more changes. Done.
What was interesting is the way he found new depth to the song. Before it was quite one-dimensional. Now he’s taken the same words and made it more relevant. He’s woven in the Supreme Court, the battle for privacy and liberty. We are of course seeing the rise of a massive superpower governed by evangelism rather than democracy and that is frightening. If you are not frightened of what the US could be in 10 years, well you should be.
What do you think has motivated you to be a band that is passionate about kindness, respect and inclusion?
Irritation. Constant annoyance. We’d love to be lazy. To kick back and have a good time. Drink with our friends. Go for long walks. All the good stuff. But the world keeps putting stones in our shoes. We are lucky to have been in a generation that saw life get better and better with the years. As a child I would be stopped in the street by the police and given a hard time. Then I lived in a world when that would not be acceptable. Many of the things we cared about got better. It felt like the happy ending to history. And so…. Slowly the world started to creak and swing back the other way. Now kindness, respect and inclusion are things that you have to fight for. Not to extend them, to defend them.
What live venues and dates are you playing in the near future?
We said we would never play live because we write songs without planning them for gigs. We have played in live bands for years and written songs to play on a stage first and then adapted them to record. Now it is all backwards. Our comrades The Qwarks persuaded us to do a concert with them and so we’ve been on a bit of a journey to rewrite material and perform it. We’ve worked very hard so that on the night it will look easy. We’re playing a venue called the Brunswick in Brighton. It is a small cellar with only room for 100 people or so. The gig is on 19th August. If that goes well we have a chance to play a festival before the summer is over and will be doing small gigs in places where we can put on a proper show. We’d rather play very rarely and make it absolutely amazing than be a regular gigging band. The dream is to play in the US where actually most of our audience is. That will take some sharp business planning, but it’s the goal.