In the early 80’s remember “Nowhere Girl”, “Marilyn Dreams” and “Remembrance Day”? Dead Good and Some Bizarre? If so, you’ll want to read the following interview with the artist who has been the driving force behind the band B-Movie. With new material released in 2013 and an album slated to appear on vinyl this year, there is much to relive and (re)discover in bridging the past 3 decades with the present.
Thank you Steve for taking the time to answer a few – or maybe more than a few questions.
First, where were you born?
Worksop, Nottinghamshire, a former coal mining town on the edge of Sherwood Forest.
Do you have any fond memories of your early childhood?
Yes. I wasbrought up in a small village, surrounded by fields. The village was owned by the Duke of Portland so it never changed. We lived in an old house and I remember the blazing fires in the winter. It was so quiet – my parents liked to read books, the silence broken by the sound of my sister practicing piano. I had a great childhood – making dens in the woods and fishing on the village pond.
Are there any friends you’ve kept in touch with over the years?
My sister and I still go up there and stay in the local pub every now and then. It keeps us connected to the place where we grew up. There are many familiar faces there. It still kinda feels like home.
Do you remember any of the first 45’s or albums you bought or were given to you?
I was around 11 years old when we got a record player. The first single I owned was ‘Popcorn’ by Hot Butter. Then I bought ‘Sylvia’ by Focus. I must have been into instrumentals!
Were any family members musically inclined?
All my family were musical. My mum was a singer with a beautiful contralto voice and sang in the local choir. Dad wrote a waltz when he was young. Sarah, my sister learnt piano and would practice for hours, sometimes duets with my mum.
Steve, did you have any formal musical training?
No. I tried piano lessons but didn’t have the patience. I lasted one lesson on the French Horn.
When did you first take an interest in singing and writing music?
I had an imaginary band with my sister from a very young age. We imagined that we were incredibly famous and ran our own fan club. I wrote a song called ‘Pollution’ which was an early protest song.
What was the name of your first band?
Studio 10. We were named after a hairdressing salon in Mansfield.
Who were The Aborted? What ex-members went on to form the genesis of B-Movie?
The Aborted were one of the first punk bands to come out of Mansfield. They featured B-Movie members Paul Statham on guitar and Graham Boffey on drums. Martin Boffey played bass and Pete Boffey was the singer. I remember seeing them play. Paul collapsed on stage. I stood at the back wearing a shirt daubed with ‘I want to be a machine’ after the Ultravox song and a ripped school blazer. The atmosphere was electric!
Steve, talk about the beginnings of B-Movie. How did the band form?
I think it was early summer 1979. Paul Statham came up to me at a party in Mansfield and asked if I’d like to join his band as the bass player had left. I didn’t really get on with ‘Stat’ not to mention I couldn’t play bass but I went along anyway as I harboured dreams to be in a real band. I left the rehearsal as bass player AND singer.
Tell us how you chose the name B-Movie.
I was flicking through an art book in art class and came across a painting by Andy Warhol called B-Movie. I thought it sounded arty and cool.
Your first manager John Fritchley was quite a character. Any fond memories or anecdotes you’d like to share?
We called him ‘Yank’ due to his liking for flash American cars. He helped get the band up and running. He had a big car with a trailer we could out our gear in and before long were playing places far away from our home town like Lincoln where he introduced us to Dead Good records. He did try to turn us into Mods but we were into Tubeway Army and early Ultravox and preferred synthesisers, glittery ties and face paint. He insisted on being in our publicity shots at a later time. I think he secretly wanted to be in the band but we parted company before that could happen thankfully.
What were the circumstances that led to signing with Dead Good Records?
We played a pub called The Lincoln Vaults and came to the attention of Dead Good Records run by Martin Patton, Andy Stephenson and a guy called Tex from a band called The Cigarettes. It was a rough place and we’d get heckled by the local skinheads. Dead Good asked us to contribute a couple of tracks to a compilation album they were putting together featuring bands from the East of England.
How was Andy Stephenson’s management style different than John’s?
He famously told us “Anything is possible in the music business.” Despite it feeling far-fetched at the time we actually believed him. We were actually managed by the record company.
Talk about some of the early gigs you played while trying to make a name for yourselves.
Our first ever show was a ‘Rock against Racism’ gig. It was held in a room at a local swimming baths. I had visions of thousands of placard waving demonstrators chanting slogans through the streets before a big rally with us playing. I was terrified. In reality there was just us, Fritchley’s family and another band called Xerox at the venue. It was a bit of a let-down but at least we’d played our first show. We played local gigs as a three piece band in the early days. The response from the audience was mixed to say the least. I can remember one person shouting out “You’re rubbish!” halfway through our first song. Thanks to Fritchley we got to play in Nottingham supporting the Angelic Upstarts at The Sandpiper club. I can remember being scared for my life. The place was full of skinheads who flicked cigarette ends and threw bottles at us as we played. It was more scary having to share a dressing room with the Upstart’s singer Mensi who was renowned for his hatred of students and I was one at the time. He prowled around shirtless, spitting on the dressing room floor and swearing with us cowering in the corner. We played the Sandpiper again supporting The Smirks which was less stressful. It was through playing at The Lincoln Vaults that we got our break.
“Remembrance Day” was one of the first songs you recorded. Recall the early experiences in the studio.
We recorded it at a 16 track studio called Studio Playground in Wragby, Licolnshire. Wragby was famous for being the toilet break stop for Mansfield people bound for the seaside resort of Skegness. I can remember pulling into the driveway in this quiet rural town and being met by a man with the most amazing mullet hairstyle. He was very laid back and made us feel welcome in our first proper studio. The recording process was quite simple – a live take followed by a few overdubs then off to the pub. ‘Remembrance Day’ was probably the trickiest as it was quite long and had this instrumental bit at the beginning. I never imagined that it would ever be a single. I thought it more the closing track of side two of an album.
Were you pleased with the ‘Take Three EP’ and being aired on John Peel’s show?
Definitely. John Peel was an icon. It was amazing just holding the EP in my hands let alone getting it played on his show. He made some nice comments and supported us through the early period. We were out there in a musical wilderness and he brought us to attention of a far bigger audience.
You realized you needed a breakthrough hit. Enter “Nowhere Girl”. Were you a fan of Angela Huth?
No. I never read the book. The lyrics came from personal experience.
A few years ago I found a cd copy of “The Dead Good Tapes” released on Wax Records at a local record convention. Was this the only cd comp you know of with Dead Good material?
There were two albums released in the early 90s on Document Records called ‘Remembrance Days’ and ‘Radio Days’ which were put together by Martin Patton, the former boss of Dead Good. Cherry Red also released an album called The Dead Good years.
From Dead Good you signed with Stevo Pearce’s label Some Bizarre. Did this come as a surprise to the band?
We released a six track vinyl EP on Dead Good in the summer of 1980. Nowhere Girl on the A side at 45rpm and five tracks on the b-side including Remembrance Day at 33rpm. There was a problem with pressing the EP and there were only a few copies made. Luckily John Peel got a copy and played some tracks. I had one copy and a cassette version of the songs. I was conscious that we needed to play further afield than the East Midlands and saw an advert in Sounds for an event at The Chelsea Drug Store in London hosted by a DJ called Stevo. He was looking for bands to play there. Coincidentally he was DJ’ing at our local venue The Retford Porterhouse. On the bill that night were Cabaret Voltaire and The The. I went along with my girlfriend and after the show I sheepishly gave him a cassette of the EP with my phone number on it, thinking nothing would come of it. The next day I got a phone call from him saying he really liked it and it reminded him of Hawkwind. He offered us a show in London at The Canning Town Bridge House. I wasn’t sure to begin with as this guy had a real cockney accent. I wasn’t used to dealing with Londoners. We did the show at the Bridge House with Blancmange as support. Soon after he became our manager and Some Bizzare records was born. It was a smooth transition as Martin and Tex from Dead Good were also involved.
I actually still have a vinyl copy of The Some Bizarre Album. It was my first exposure to The The and Blancmange. I was already pretty well acclimated with Depeche Mode by the time I secured a copy. B-Movie’s contribution was “Moles”. What was this track all about?
There was a lot of fear around in 1980. Unemployment was rising, the Iranian hostage seize, Blair Peach, the IRA hunger strikers, the threat of nuclear war, the Yorkshire Ripper. There was suspicion and paranoia everywhere in Thatcher’s first year. There seemed to be dark forces stirring up discord, the antithesis to Thatcher’s declaration that she would bring peace and harmony. I was growing up in a mining area. Moles signified underground dwellers but also there was a clash of cultures on the way.
At the time did you get to hang out with any of the other artists on Some Bizarre or have any interaction with them?
Not really. We’d met Blancmange at the Bridge House gig and Matt Johnson from The The who was a mate of Stevo’s. We also did a show with Naked Lunch at The Clarendon Hotel in Hammersmith. DAF were headlining. It was a great feeling because Siouxsie Sioux was there and members of Ultravox!
How was it working with producer Mike Thorne? Did you like the end result of “Nowhere Girl”?
It was our first experience of working with a name producer in a big studio. Remembrance Day was recorded pretty much live. He’d altered the arrangement as the original version was quite long. We improvised the ending in the studio. He was very professional and open to ideas.
Steve Brown produced Nowhere Girl. Yeah, I think it’s great. It would have been interesting to find out how different it might have been if we’d recorded it with Mike Thorne as the follow up to Remembrance day. I don’t think the piano would have been there. The track would have been more rocky perhaps. But we’ll never know!
Who was Paul Boswell?
Boswell was our first proper agent. He sorted out our early shows supporting Duran Duran and put together our first European and American tours. He used to come to our shows and was part of the gang.
Did you like the direction the band was headed?
We wanted to record an album. It would have been more in common with Echo and the Bunnymen or early Pink Floyd perhaps than the new Romantic thing. We became conscious of our image and I think it was perhaps the wrong move to get associated with the New Romantic scene.
How was the internal relationship of band members? You must have been pretty good mates, eh?
I wouldn’t say we were great mates back then. We were very young and treated being in a band as an extension of a Friday night out. There were tensions that occasionally boiled over. We probably could have been more united on certain things. I think a strong manager would have helped.
What material were you most proud of at this point in time?
For me Remembrance Day was my proudest moment but the John Peel session was brilliant too as we were allowed to experiment and let go.
Did you enjoy performing live more or recording in the studio?
To be honest the live work at the time was both scary and exhilarating. I loved both.
Next came the “dream” sequence in song. First came “Marilyn Dreams” and then a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Julia Dream” which is one of my favorites. Did this latter track ever see the light of day on vinyl?
We did record it in the summer of 1982 as a possible b-side for Marilyn Dreams. Unfortunately it seems to have disappeared.
How did you feel for the printed media, i.e. NME and Sounds portrayed the band?
Generally the press was positive. We didn’t get the level of exposure that we needed or perhaps deserved.
Tell the story of Lou Codemo.
I think Lou got the job more because he looked quite cool rather than his bass playing. He toured Europe with us in Decemer 1981. He was a little crazy. I remember him running naked through the forest with snow on the ground in Holland.
What venues did you most enjoy playing in the early 80’s?
Retford Porterhouse was a great little venue run by a real character Sammy Jackson who referred to us as The B-Movies in his thick cockney accent. We played there many times. We played the old Marquee on Wardour Street in London many times too. The Blue Note in Derby was good, The Limit in Sheffield and of course Rock City in Nottingham. Anywhere abroad was good!
Any interesting stories surrounding other bands you shared the bill with?
We supported The Comsat Angels at Sheffield Top Rank and when we got there, there was a dispute about us being able to put our our light show. Their tour manager said we couldn’t. I remember watching our manager Stevo disappear with him behind a curtain in front of the stage. The next thing we know, the curtains are bulging and the main light rig is in danger of caving in on everybody. Stevo had decided to use his fists to settle the argument which he was quite fond of doing.
Was there such a thing as “college radio” during this time since you had a pretty large university age following?
Not so much in the UK. It was college radio that ‘broke’ B-Movie in the States. We did have a big student following and played many colleges at the time.
You had your first European tour in December of ’81. What memories do you have?
Chaos. There were four of us plus a guy called Pete Buckley and a tour manager Martin Cole. We drove from gig to gig in a mini bus with our gear in the back. The funniest story was when we played the Bains Douches club in Paris. Paul and I went there the night before to check it out. We were given a little card on entry. We ordered a couple of beers which were about £10 a bottle even then. The bartender waved away my cash and took my card punching a hole in it. We assumed that this meant we were VIP guests and the drinks were all free. We continued ordering more beers before moving onto Champagne and we were ‘buying drinks’ for a group of people that had tagged onto us. It was only when the rest of the band arrived (Rick could read a bit of French and could translate the back of the card) that we realised we had to hand the card in at the end and pay. Each hole was £10 and both of our cards were shredded. It all ended with a showdown between the promoter and Martin. The drinks bill was deducted from our fee and we did the show the following evening.
I find it very interesting reading about the Steve Brown produced version of “Nowhere Girl”. This version has remained timeless for myself and I’m sure I wore many a deep groove in vinyl while spinning at local night clubs years ago. I mean the song still sounds great today as it did when it was first released. Not knowing the origin of the female voice(s) on the song, I had assumed it was from one girl. But not the case, right?
The laughter at the beginning is a different person to the harmony in the middle. We literally dragged someone in from the street to do the laughing bit. I have no idea who she was. The harmonies were done by a friend of ours Maria.
I thought the piano part was what really set the song apart from anything else I heard at the time. Who tickled the ivories?
That was Rick Holliday our keyboardist. He really can play!
Lou Codemo exits and Scottish bassist Mike Peden enters. How did this pan out?
We’d seen Mike play with Everest the Hard Way at the Poly Bar on Great Portland St. His bass playing was amazing. Anyhow we contacted him after ETHW split. He had to fly down from Edinburgh for rehearsals. It was tricky accommodating his fluid bass playing style into our classic sound which was more post punk. I think this eventually led to problems when his bass playing became too dominant. He was a nice guy though and we had some good times together.
What happened on your American Tour in 1982?
The shows themselves were OK. We played Danceteria and Peppermint Lounge in NYC, The 930 in Washington, The Eastside in Philadelphia, Clutch Cargo in Detroit as well as The Glace Club in Montreal, but to be honest it was an ordeal.
Back in the UK, it was decided to get rid of Graham Boffey? Reasons?
We wanted to go down a more techno route and Graham had struggled a bit with the programming side of things, plus Mike Peden’s style was beginning to dominate the sound. In hindsight it was a stupid decision. Graham was the engine room of B-Movie and a founder member and a great drummer too.
Andy Johnson and Martin Winter joined the band. Did you know these guys previously?
No. They were in a local band called the International Drum Club. I hit it off with Mart, not so much with Andy!
Then Rick left to work on a solo project. How did this news affect you and the band?
It was a blow but not completely a surprise. He had been an integral part of the B-Movie sound but had drifted away. I wasn’t sure whether to carry on but Stat was very positive about continuing. So we did with him moving to keyboards.
The band was quiet until “A Letter From Afar” appeared in ’84 with Al Cash on drums. I still have my vinyl copy of the single. I was always intrigued by the cover art. Reminds me of a TV series I watched as a kid – “Rat Patrol” set in North Africa during WWII.
We’d played Israel a few times and I was still into the army chic vibe. It was meant to have some Lawrence of Arabia meets Apocalypse Now kind of look to it.
At the end of 1985 the album ‘Forever Running’ was released. Unfortunately “Switch On Switch Off” didn’t actually turn on the record buying public nor the press. Any speculations as to why?
I don’t know. We made an expensive video for it so there must have been an expectation from the record company that it could do well. We hadn’t really made much ground since Nowhere Girl first came out in the UK, although abroad it was a different story.
Then came the moment most bands hope will never arrive – the breakup. This must have been a very difficult time for B-Movie. Was this a democratic decision to disband?
Stat was moving onto other things. We lived in a basement flat in Peckham and were getting legal bills from America. Our deal with Sire was terminated. We had no means to keep it going. It was time to move on. I remember feeling very sad as B-Movie was my life, my identity and living without would be difficult.
But Steve, you were not ready to retire from the music business. At the end of the 80’s you formed a band called One with Seven Webster and Bob Thompson. Fill us in on how you met up and decided to join forces.
Seven was a DJ at a club called the Pigeon Toed Orange Peel at the Comedy Store in London. He knew my sister’s boyfriend and played Remembrance Day at the club. He was also looking to start up a band and asked whether I might be interested. I headed over to his house and we sat there strumming acoustic guitars for a bit. Seven was quite a character and we decided to meet up again and keep it going. Bob joined later. He was a friend of a friend. He was a great drummer and top bloke.
As One, you released an album of material and 2 singles, “I’ll Wait” and “Son Of The Sun”. Did you enjoy this creative period?
Yes I did. We had use of a studio in Soho and there was a rush of songs being written, probably too many in hindsight. I was really into DH Lawrence and nature and the music was quite rocky and acoustic and very different to B-Movie. I suppose it was a reaction against the synthesised pop I’d been used to.
After One, you began performing solo acoustic performances with tracks such as “England My England”, “Artificial Trees” and “The Execution Song”. Was there a bit of therapy in this and perhaps less stress than performing with a band?
I was exploring being a lyricist and writing from the heart about my life and what it felt like to be English. My voice worked well too in sparser context.
In 1994 as Laughing Gas there was just one 7” single “Baroque Chick”. Double meaning in the title?
I was living near Portobello Road. I don’t know where the pun came from but it sounded good.
In the New Millenium B-Movie reformed and played one-off shows in 2004 and 2006 in London, the UK and Germany. Was it good to play again with the old gang?
Yes it was and you’re right to say it was a gang. I’d kept in touch with Paul over the years but hadn’t seen Graham or Rick for years. There was a bit of bridge building to be done as the band had broken up acrimoniously back in 1982 but once we started playing together again the old spark returned. We have a good laugh together and love the gigs. I think maybe a couple of the guys took a bit of convincing it would work when we first reformed but now I think everyone looks forward to rehearsals and meeting up.
In 2012 came a new track “Echoes”, the first single in 22 years! I’m guessing I won’t press my luck speculating this was a cover or tribute to Pink Floyd? “Echoes”
Ha! No, it was more a tribute to B-Movie! It’s about how we soak up melodies when we’re young and then how we associate certain songs with significant moments in our lives. We hear certain songs or albums now and we’re transported back in time. Music keeps you young, it’s like the fountain of youth.
Last year saw the advent of 2 releases, an EP ‘Distant Skies’ and an album ‘The Age Of Illusion’. Talk a little about how the songs came together and how you felt about the end product.
Paul and I were very keen to record a new album. We have similar influences and reference points. It began I suppose in 2010. Paul sent me a track he had been working on that he thought would suit my voice. I listened to it a few times then a vocal melody would emerge and a lyrical idea. Finally the song would take shape. I live in Cambridge and Paul in London so we would swap ideas via email. The core of the album are songs that were written this way. We also recorded some of the songs live as a band and some the keyboard and drum parts were done separately. I think Paul and I had a pretty clear idea of where we wanted to go. We ended up with sixteen brand new B-Movie songs which I am very proud of.
Also in 2013 you recorded in France with bass player Emmanuel Defay as The Fountain Of Youth. How did you meet and decide to work with Mr. Defay?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iLJmNBi–hc “Days of our Lives”
Manu lived a few doors down from us in Cambridge and his kids went the same primary school as my son Ben. We were brought together to perform at a fund raising concert for the school. We learnt some cover versions and the show went well. I’d been writing some songs since moving to Cambridge and was desperate to see how they would sound with other musicians. Manu was up for continuing and we began rehearsing every week at The Muller Centre at Churchill College where Manu is based (he is a physicist). The songs sounded great with his melodic bass playing style. After about a year we decided to record the songs and I went over to Manu’s home town of Le Puy-en-Velay. We recorded the album in a couple of days in the drummer’s studio. It was so easy as the guys were such accomplished musicians. The album was finished off at Paul Statham’s studio in London.
Now aside from music, along the way you took up an interest in the wine business. In 2006 you wrote a book and I love the title – ‘The Grape Escape: One Man’s Journey From Vinyl To Vine’. Within these pages what fruitful lessons might the reader digest?
This was an adventure. I love wine and wanted to have a go at making wine. The gist was that making the wine was like making a record. It was a personal statement and to challenge my comfort zone. The book features flashbacks to my life in music, the highs then the lows and the two stories come together towards the end. Lessons? Get a good manager or mentor who can look after your career when you’re young. Anything is possible in the music business. Wine is the next best thing to rock and roll. If you set your mind on something then you can achieve anything. Don’t give up!
You also are a big football fan. Do you still keep up your blog “Will The Pleasure Never End”?
This was a tribute to my home town football team Mansfield Town. I just tried to examine why I supported such a team rather than Arsenal or Man United. I’m obviously a masochist at heart. It’s light hearted and funny.
Steve, tell us about your family. Any kids?
Yes one boy, Ben 13 years old. He’s shot up in the last year and is now as tall as me, similar deep voice too. He’s just won player of the season for his local football club so we’re very proud of him. Who knows he may one day play for Mansfield (I hope not!) Louise and I have been together for 18 years and we live in Cambridge.
Are there other hobbies/interests you have – or have time for?
I go cycling quite a lot. I even got into bird watching at one point. I like the peace and the big skies and some of the land is very wild. I love the outdoors. I like cooking too and crosswords. God I’m so exciting!
What’s on the horizon for Steve Hovington?
Keep on defying the sands of time being creative, playing gigs and making music. Maybe move abroad in a few years.
And, how would you like to be remembered? Your legacy as it were?
A true believer! I didn’t give up. I swam against the tides and followed my dreams!
For more info and insight into Steve Hovington, his past, present and future, be sure and check out his website www.stevehovington.com/ And for more on B-Movie, please visit the official website here http://www.b-movie.co.uk/