RAY McVEIGH in conversation with Phil Singleton November 2008
The latest interview is presented in two parts.....
Phil: Onto the album itself, (I Didn't See It Coming). How did the recording with Nigel Gray go?
Ray: The first day of recording with Nigel Gray went really good, down at Hurry Sound, sorry Surrey Sound in Leatherhead. We kind of knew more of what we wanted so it was pretty plain sailing, we liked what Mr Gray had done with Siouxsie and the Banshees and were hoping to get the hard hitting edge down on tape after having the advantage of having played the material live.
He seemed like a reasonably nice bloke for a toff and ex police surgeon, and gave the impression he was really into it. By day three however there was some mix-up over missing equipment, scandalously attributed to our leader, with threats of the police being requested etc. etc. There were always misunderstandings like this occurring when guitars or equipment were borrowed from time to time. Old habits die hard, and a man has to keep his hand in, you know!
Memorable moments were watching Jonesy on the studio camera sneaking out, climbing the local railway station fence and bunking the train back to London, all while the rest of them sat in the control room unawares, waiting for him to start a vocal take - not well received!
From that point on it felt like having dinner at the in-laws... they can't wait to get you out and spray the air freshener. We had a few moments of magic, like Friday Night Square, which was pretty much put together in the studio, but the vibe was fucked; he didn't like being in the same room as us, which was obviously a slight obstacle. Mr Gray mixed the whole record in under 10 minutes, or that's how it sounded to us. Jonesy got nabbed by the rozzers on a class A charge in Mr Gray's car. Guess that's why it's called a nark charge. Little boys in blue...
The production was very polished, but some including Steve felt it wasn't meaty enough. What was your view on the finished album?
I never liked it, the stuff had sounded so fucking majestic live, it really did. We were the armoured division, the heavy squad, I mean, come on, you had the bollocks of the Pistols, plus another guitar and yet it ended up sounding half as punchy.
The songs carry the album, great tunes; the production killed it. In comparison to the vibe on Join The Professionals with Mick Glossop or even Payola with Chris Thomas, it sucks. I didn't mind the polish so much except I thought the mixes emasculated the sound. It would be interesting to remix some of that stuff now - having produced ever since then myself - I did that first Bananarama single with Cookie - and have worked with everyone from Shaun Ryder to Duff McKagan, Killing Joke and Amen, I am sad that it stands as the only real representation of that line up. I would like to rectify that - so would Steve and Paul.
Personally I felt it was what killed us here in the UK. Everything we released prior to the album had that weight to it and then this just didn't. Oh well, milk spilt again.
You co-wrote Friday Night Square with Steve and the two Paul's. Did you have any more group compositions planned?
It was always open to anyone contributing. I liked that we had some different flavours going on at that point, everyone could have input. The band had great future writing potential to me. It was never a struggle getting tunes together, we wrote a lot on tour, at soundchecks. I thought the second album was going to be awesome, after months of hard touring of the States, the band was teutonically precise and powerful! Ask Lemmy. Or Iggy Or Weller. Or Meatloaf (laughing); there's a story!
When we played the Ritz in New York - you have something about it on the site 'Trouble at The Ritz' - more like 'Tea, Biscuits and a ruck at The Ritz'. When we turned up to the soundcheck, there was this lovely spread laid out, unusually so. A delectable buffet of fantastical fare... we dug in, me and Steve possibly less elegantly than most, demolishing the pretty tableau, picking out whichever non-Yankee tasting bits we liked... when all of a sudden this rather large goon comes up yelling “What the fuck do you think you're doing, who the fuck do you think you are?”' etc. etc., very bolshy malchick, distinctly encouraging the ultraviolence. “That's Meatloa's buffet for his record launch party, you fucking Limey pigs,” to which I believe Monsieur Jones replied, “Well that fat fucker certainly don't need it, you wanker.”
Cue ultraviolence whereby Cookie tolchocked the goon in the zoobies and broke his nose - excellently accomplished and applauded by all - not well received by The Ritz, but then we were playing the rathole that evening so what could they do? The show was a roaring success and as I remember we had Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone, Debbie Harry, Iggy and Lemmy sidestage. No Meatloaf though.
I'd like to talk a bit more about your adventures in America! Tell me all about the legendary night in Montreal with the Angelic Upstarts?!
It started out innocently enough, we turned up at the gig, and I realised The Upstarts were supporting us, and having had many a drunken rampage at their expense in Abbey Road Studios, I felt it only gentlemanly to give them full access to all our amenities. We were pasted by 5PM, and despite promises to get up and play one song with them I was still semi-conscious by the time we (The Professionals) were meant to play, much to Myers amusement and John Curd's dismay; it being the first show on the tour he had flown out to see.
I had a bucket next to the amp, and was projectile vomiting as we went on; much like my first gig with the band. I started Little Boys when a massive lump of spit hit me full in the face, really not the best moment. I stopped and went up to the mic, and as per Jonesy, announced that whoever thought they could do it, come down the front and do it. At which the tallest widest skinhead I ever saw shoved his way right up in front of me, and waited...
When I restarted the song he spat full in my face again. I swung my boot at his head and remember watching as my boot went up and over his head and then my head, landing on my arse, about to throw up again, having completely missed the miscreant. Wanker. “Great that's me fucked" and I looked round to see Steve, guitar already off and being swung like a mace; geezers shell like hit out of the ground. Home Run. Cue instant riot, proper riot, bottles, glasses, the whole bloody lot. We got pulled offstage and it took about 10 minutes to calm the masses down, a few thousand of them. Promoter begs us to go back on to stop a full scale riot.
We go back on, wild cheers and applause. Steve warns that any more agg and we will leave, it's not that kind of party. We restart, it's all okay...I hear PSST PSST PSST and look to the sidestage where Mensi, Decca, Mond and the Upstarts crew are standing holding lumps of wood and mike stands.. "START IT AGIN MON, HOWAY MON, START IT AGIN" Mensi is yelling... I turn back, disgusted at the brutish notion and there in front of me is self same skinhead....bandaged and bruised, grinning, giving me the thumbs up, we're all mates now... I didn't miss this time, beautiful Cantona style - immediate riot, this time totally out of control, us hitting people from onstage with stands, whatever was to hand. The Upstarts were in the thick of it, battling like tyneside yeomen, (laughling) Curdy looked like Custer, knocking out hooligans right and left, Myers was smoking, elegantly, verbally sparring with rioters (laughling)... Riot Police, News helicopters, over and out. Doubt if we got through 2 songs total.
I talked with The Upstarts not too long ago and in reminiscing Decca Wade laughed with glee and said; "The finest part of that was at the height of the rioting, people cowering, debris flying, truly scary, there was Jonesy behind the bar, hand in till, notes in hand, never happier." Cash From Chaos indeed!
The car crash in Minneapolis was a massive blow to the band. It couldn't have happened at a worse time - it coincided with the release of the album. Paul Myers remembers the incident vividly. What do you recall about it?
Firstly, the album was never scheduled for release then, it was always meant to come out later. It was our last night of the winter East Coast dates. We had just played 13 shows back to back, no night off, the next day we were flying out to LA, the sun, days off, Britt Ekland, Raquel Welsh.... It was after the gig at Duffys in Minneapolis, and as I recall we got told Prince had thrown a party for us at his club downtown to which we were obliged to go. Jonesy being Jonesy, he had already left with unidentified female so there was Cookie, Myers, me, our soundman, 2 other unidentified females and our driver, the famously named Avrum Zeron!!!!!
We were in a ridiculously long stretch cadillac, and Cookie had sat up in the front, turned back to face us as we drove. We were on the motorway, arguing about Bob fucking Dylan with the soundman when I noticed a set of lights coming at us, I said 'Don't they look just like they are on our side of the road?' Cookie turned his head and bang, the loudest noise I have ever heard. Myers and I were wide awake, everyone else was out cold. It was silent at that point and the two of us spoke. "What the fuck just happened? What time is it in London? I am going to have to call my mam and say I had a car crash, I hurt." Gibberish - we could see the other car had hit us head on, flipped onto the roof of our car and landed next to us.
The driver was hanging half out of the side, visibly dead, skull wide apart, claret everywhere, not nice. Our huge car was now about the size of a mini, whereas my arm was now about 4 feet long and wrapped around the roof decidely unnaturally. Myo said he thought his leg was broke, I could see it, he couldn't - sharp white bone sticking out of leather pants, definitely broke Myo. We were just saying how Cookie had to be dead when he woke up, climbed over the seat, trod on whoever and climbed out the smashed window, then went and sat down. The soundman then woke up, also climbed over whoever out of the window, ran in circles for a minute screaming and then fell over, both legs broke, the girls woke up and started screaming and fountaining fine jets of blood over us from miniscule head cuts, they climbed out. Just me, Myo and our choking death rattling driver, not nice.
Police, Ambulances, news choppers and Firemen turned up and cut us out, sparks everywhere, too near my arm for me, plenty screaming and crying.Taken to separate hospitals so we all got into theatre immediately. I was in an ambulance with someone resembling that scary guy from The Goonies, teeth smashed, nose broke, eye popped out - it spoke - IT was the soundman, who it later transpired I had broken my wrist, elbow and forearm hitting in the face upon impact. My upper arm was fractured in three other places, I had windscreen glass embedded in my head and neck, cracked 3 ribs, again with my own arm and damaged my spleen, not so important. My worst moment was when they told me they had to catheterise me (tube down inside of penis to empty bladder pre-surgery). I begged not to, then finally agreed as it was wall to wall beautiful nurses... and then Charles the intern appeared with a garden hose, not nice.
Second worse moment a week later when a fan sneaked into the hospital room with an import copy of the album for me to sign (!!!!) which is when I realised Virgin had gone ahead with a cover we had nixed; the band photo was gay, credits were fucked, and the album was out! A week after the crash, smart move, Friday 13th, no band to promote it. They did send me flowers, with a note about my leg! Proving they had no clue about us or who the fuck was who in the band. I sent them a postcard of the hospital saying "I can honestly say I fucking wish you were here" Sat in hospital, miserable, alone, sore and watching the album sink. I had the arm rebroken twice to realign, nerve damage, never right. All because some selfish twat decides to kill himself by driving into whoever is ahead. Welcome to America.
Only funny moment, Ian Copeland, our american promoter, brother of Miles and Stewart, wonderful man, sent a poster advertising the gig to me in the hospital, and wrote on it "I told you I'd break you in Minnesota."
Finally got home just before christmas, full plaster cast, no one at the airport to pick me up, no money for a cab. I had to call Curdy, who muttered about running around after useless fuckers, then drove at traumatisingly high speeds into London where I was bedridden for another month. Broke over christmas, not nice.
Myo got home later, permanently fucked leg, the pair of us were not happy and broke. Cookie with fucked jawbone and skull, was amazingly lucky; no belt, hit the windscreen and lives ! Jonesy guilt ridden that he wasn't with us - now the drugs don't work, they just make you worse - but we have to go back to finish off the tour the next spring.
How did you feel it affected the fortune of the group?
It killed the group in so many ways. The physical damage was bad enough, we were out of action for months, I broke my right arm and couldn't play for almost 4 months, Myo couldn't walk without a stick till the end of the second tour, Cookie couldn't speak, eat or hear properly, had constant headaches.
The album, which was so overdue anyways, Virgin decided to rush release in the hope one of us died, and sales could jump. Nice idea but in reality it meant there was no band and no promotion in place at all so it sank; a follow up to Never Mind The Bollocks and it fucking sank!???
The aftermath totally soured how me and Myo viewed the situation, the management and the record company; we were left out to dry. Steve and Paul had no idea how badly we had been treated, the worst christmas ever, the management let us down badly, we ended up with the most bent shithouse ambulance chasing twat on the planet representing us over the accident. I had hospital bills of over $100,000, but sadly, probably the worst and most indirect result was Steve ending up alone, with no band, no mates, feeling bad about it all and falling into bad habits worse than ever. Myo succumbed too, after months of painkillers, so the second tour was more about damage control than anything else. Heartbreaking really, because despite all that the band was still fucking amazing and we laughed constantly. We still had more bollocks than anyone else out there, then or now. Ask anyone who did see us. Imagine us clean and healthy!
The end result was The End. Steve couldn't face coming back to England, and the same old narcocycle. Myo just wanted to be back in that same old cycle. Cookie and I were just battle weary and tired of shit never materialising and dealing with them both in that cycle.
The plan had been after that first American tour, to come back to the UK, and really tour here properly, release the album to coincide with that, and take it from there. We had been offered several killer deals in the States after the success of the tour and things were looking rosy. Oh well, milk spilt. As Ronson always told me; "You can't move forwards if you're always looking behind you."
Ray, you given some passionate insight into the fortunes, not to mention chaos, surrounding The Professionals. It's amazing you achieved the amount you did - at least you got the album recorded, despite your misgivings about the end result. I just wanted to mention an unrecorded Professionals song which I've sent you, possibly called "Around The World." Does this bring back any memories?
After yourself and the two Paul's returned from New York in the summer of '82, did you really think it was all over, or did you still hope you might re-group?
Initially we had no doubt we would be getting back together. The tour had been a massive success, sold out almost everywhere - we had done double bills with The Jam, Siouxsie and The Banshees, played some huge headline gigs, including one in LA, The Florentine Gardens, where there was a street riot by over 1000 kids who couldn't get in - Police helicopters, riot squad, the whole bloody lot.
It felt like we had really proved a point, especially Stateside - after the disappointment of the last Pistols show in San Francisco and The Professionals car crash in '81, we had returned and played over 100 shows, played in every state and every major town. We had played to and with Iggy Pop, Blondie, The Ramones, R.E.M, The Pretenders, Motorhead, David Johanson, The Stray Cats and The Police amongst others, all giving us huge props and praise afterwards.
I just thought Steve needed a break, it would be good for him to be out of London and that vicious drug cycle for a while;
As it turned out Steve went even more off the rails and was untraceable for a while, during which we had offers of shows come in that we had to blow off, including headlining a festival in Malta, mine and Myers homeland, to an audience of 150,000, a major disappointment.
The management stuff had come to a head with heavies turning up to 'borrow' equipment, Jonesys' treasured Les Paul mysteriously being sold, no money in the band account suddenly, all despite a hugely successful tour - it all started to smell very ominously sinking ship like, and then there was the ongoing court case over the car crash (something that went on for 6 years and ended as unresolved as the band did). It just got too messy and Myers and I decided to take a leave of absence. It just lasted a little longer than anyone anticipated.
I was in about 40 different bands at the time, (laughling) one with Mick Rossi from Slaughter and the Dogs, one with Kirk Brandon, Raven and Big Paul from Killing Joke, another with Rat Scabies and Paul Fox and Segs of The Ruts, I was in Black Elvis 2000 for a couple of months (laughling). I did lots of recording and production, ended up on a whole slew of records, including some stuff with Billy Currie from UltraVox, Derek Forbes from Simple Minds, Geordie from Killing Joke; formed another band called Wild Crash 500 with Bob Kingston and Gary Long from Tenpole and Koozie Johns, who later ended up playing in The Philistines with Glen (Matlock) and I.
There was an ironic period when I joined half of Bow Wow Wow with Dave Barbe and Leigh Gorman in Atomage and Cookie joined the other half with Mathew Ashman in Chiefs of Relief, separate paths but parallel. Early 90's I was inhouse producer and head of A & R for Immediate Records (Jimmy Pages first job back in the 60's!) and was unbelievably lucky enough to have Mick Ronson take me under his wing to educate and inspire me about production and composition, right up until April '93, when tragically young, he finally lost his fight with cancer - the bravest, most talented person I ever met and the hugest impression on me as a man following his own path.
After he had gone London really depressed me so I headed east to Japan and on to Los Angeles, following up on work and collaborations I had made with the industrial mob, through Raven and Immediate. I got much more heavily into production from '94 onwards, especially in Japan, and ended up in Los Angeles working, then living there, while I produced the Zilch stuff, with Hide, genius Japanese guitarist and singer. (*1 *2 - see index at foot of page for YouTube clips). Zilch ended up being the most innovative thing I produced, with Paul Raven in my corner.
I was able to have Jonesy come in and play on the record, along with almost everyone I was ever mates with; Ian Astbury, Shaun Ryder, Duff McKagan, Brian James, Lemmy, Jaz Coleman, Geordie Walker, The Professionals best mate and security Youngy, his son Shabba D was on the record! We had a stack of American mates play on it too; Cypress Hill, Kool Keith, Joey Castillo (now with Queens of The Stone Age), Dave Kushner (now with Velvet Revolver), Chris Vrenna, NIN and Marilyn Manson, Scott Garrett of The Cult, Jerry Cantrell from Alice in Chains - it was like the ultimate open door sessions - Strummer, Scabies, Mani, Michael Hutchence all came by. It was great and oddly enough, nearly everyone had some strange affiliation or connection to The Professionals.
Duff McKagan is a great example, while recording with Zilch he told me how the first gig he ever played was as a 16yr old drummer, in a support band for The Professionals in Detroit back in 1982, which inspired him to get onto guitar, form Guns N' Roses and never look back! A bonus from these sessions were several tunes Steve and I laid down with Duff in the studio, which were so blatantly Professionals material that they were kept for a possible future album, to this day!
It was also great because I finally saw Steve on a regular basis, he had gotten clean and sober and was a different geezer - still the same humour but didn't filch everything you weren't sitting on! We were a regular double act in the local gyms in Hollywood (laughing), routinely mulling over putting The Profs back together. It made me realise just how much I had missed the silly sausage all those years, he was and still is one of the most important influences in my life, musically and spiritually. How he has battled his personal addictions and problems the past 18 years continues to be a huge source of pride to me. Top geezer.
I produced a few American acts, including Danzig, Amen, Space Age Playboys, and played guitar on Perry Farrell of Janes Addiction's solo album, but the Zilch thing had blown up enormously in Japan after Hide tragically and inexplicably committed suicide in 1998. Out of respect for him and his family I toured there to show how much he had meant to me as a musician - again with all my mates - which resulted in some incredible one-off live performances with Steve, Ian Astbury, Duff - doing some killer tunes; Anarchy, Bodies, New Rose, Problems, Roadhouse Blues etc. There are some killer pics of me, Jonesy, Ian and Duff smashing it in Tokyo. (* 3).
It also afforded me the chance to pay back one of the people who had given me my first ever break - I had Brian Robertson of Thin Lizzy, who gave me my first job, (and how I met Steve and Paul) come out on tour with Zilch in 2001, along with Matt Walker, drummer with Morrissey, Smashing Pumpkins and Filter.
2003 saw me with 3 daughters, who I wanted educated in London not LA, so it was time to come home, and in The Philistines with a certain Glen Matlock, someone I have been close mates with ever since those early early days of 80/81 (Rich Kids - Ronson produced). The Philistines 2003 sounds like The Profs to me with 2 guitars and has been a blast playing live - we had Cookie and Myers at all the London gigs heckling, and a certain Mr Jones onstage with us in Los Angeles when we played there a year or so back. (* 4 * 5)
t's a funny old game, you end up almost right back where you started out from. I am back in the same flat in Kensington that I was in when I joined The Professionals in '80, hanging out with Cookie, Myers and Jonesy when he's in town, down the pie and mash shop, nothing changes, well, some things do, we pay for the grub these days! It feels just like the old days but better, more to reflect on and be proud of.
This year has been the strangest yet, after my dear mate Paul Raven passed away last November, I had a couple of major scares and ended up having some rewiring on the ticker myself, since then, it's been like I was back in 1981. Steve was here all summer because of the Pistols, and we hung out continuously, catching up on all the times in LA, and Cookie too, strange I had forgotten how close he and I had been back on that last tour in '82.
It seemed like everyone I was ever mates with, or worked with, has reappeared in my life, I saw Richard Jobson last week, amazing, Duff played here the week before and Brian James got up; Killing Joke at The Forum with Youth on bass, just like 1981 when Cookie took me to meet them, and then Decca Wade from The Angelic Upstarts called me yesterday!
If it ever felt like the right time to give the old squad another run out, being a proper paddy, I would stick a few quid on it happening this season, I guess we'll see. I was talking with Cookie about it the other day and we both laughed at how it still sounds like the bollocks today. Never say never!
Ray, thank you very much. Fingers crossed for some Professionals action in 2009!
Ray McVeigh's MySpace http://www.myspace.com/raymondmcveigh
All material ©Phil Singleton / www.cookandjones.co.uk 2008
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