Chaos UK were / are a rather noisy punk band from Bristol who, alongside Disorder and perhaps Amebix, were proponents of the now world-famous ‘crust punk’ scene, and Kaos is one of their longest standing members, being the bassist and ( later ) vocalist, taking the band all over the world until finally calling it quits upon arriving back from a tour of the USA with just four pounds left in his pocket. Now, we meant to interview him a while back, but Andy at Organise and Arise had already done a great job in 2018, but he’s been up to a bit since then, as it happens, so here we are, asking, how’s the new band FOTK, and label Deathpint records? How’s business? How does he feel about the past, and how will he react when we ask a Rebellion Festival question? And, even though he’s punk rock royalty, looking back, was he actually at his happiest fronting a WURZELS tribute band? Perhaps the secret to fulfilment is making hot chilli sauce and having a blog about his grumpy cat? Well, we grab this nice short to middling chat with the very chap to find out, and with profanity in abundance, be assured this is probably not ‘safe for work’. So, let’s take a trip down Somerset way, England – warm up your vocal chords with some rhotic ‘Rs’, hop aboard the punk rock combine harvester, and get yourself a cider and Gaviscon!
“And yes, I am a miserable f****** c***!”.KAOS 2021
Hello Kaos, what’s up in Bristol these days? ( I assume you’re still there? ). Have you had any dealings with Covid ?
Hello Scott, and thanks for the interview. It’s not often these days, us old and decrepit, out of time punk rockers get an airing! First things first. I am not living in central Bristol these days (who the fuck is? Have you seen the prices!) I’m safely ensconced in a large semi rural village on the outskirts, called Winterbourne with my partner Kay. As for Covid-19, it’s not had a huge effect on us out here, apart from all the obvious lockdowns etc. Friends have had it, a few didn’t make it, and others are in recovery. We are lucky in many regards, living where we do. The both of us are horribly anti-social, so we were kind of in a self made lockdown of our own choosing long before the pandemic.
So, readers might like to know…as an ( ex?) punk rock star, what’s your daily routine these days? And what’s a perfect day for you?
The daily routine? Well, one doesn’t emerge anytime before noon. The maid will arrive with brekkers, usually accompanied by a large and beastly Bloody Mary. After an hour or so, of checking the market, the butler will arrive, and depending on the weather it will be the usual plus fours, or maybe tweed. Next stop will be the Mems. (If the old gal isn’t up already watering the livestock.) Then it’s a light lunch, followed by a trip to the club, a few Metropolitan’s, a quick gander up the high street. Then home in time for dinner, a few brandy alexanders, then off, back up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire with a new town and country! A perfect day, is a nice and warm countryside ramble with the Mem followed by a 600 year old country pub with friends.
You are writing a book? How’s that coming along?
Well I wouldn’t call it ‘writing’ exactly. Meandering, is more the operative word. Yes I have been trying to put everything down for over ten years now, and as of yet, I have only got about halfway through. The problem isn’t the writing of it, it’s remembering it all!
How is the hot sauce business going? I wonder how you developed a taste for it? What made you decide to do it? Maybe you can go on the Dragons Den TV show?
One word, ‘slowly.’ The original business I started with a friend, no longer exists, as after five years of hard toil, we both decided that breaking our back, at our ages, was an incredibly stupid idea. My business partner though did decide to carry on, and bought out our ‘suppliers’ shop in Bristol. This is the shop, most people seem to still associate me with. Though I have no say in that business at all. Capital Nourishment was my own online hot sauce business. Bit of a cottage industry, growing the chillies (Kay my partner can grow anything.) and then making and selling the sauces. Unfortunately, the market now has been saturated, and it’s increasingly difficult to carry on. We shall see. Oh and as for those cunts on Dragons Den, I wouldn’t piss on any of ‘em if they were fire. No we don’t need that kind of publicity thank you. I’d rather the business went to the wall. To answer your second question, I’ve always been a fan of all things hot and spicy. My mother would make curries and various spicy dishes in the 70’s. I progressed from there.
UK’s Brexit – a left-wing revolution? Right-wing power grab? Scotland leaving the union and Trident being put in Hartlepool? Mixed feelings?
Brexit. I’m sure you’d not be surprised to find out I was against it from the very start. A narrow minded, xenophobic, and incredibly dangerous idea. We do not progress as a species by creating barriers and fanning the flames of misplaced patriotism. I’m old enough to remember the bad old days of touring in the EU, the strip searches, the harassment, the hatred and delays. When we were allowed free travel, this all stopped over night, and many of us felt that we had finally become proper neighbours at last. Brexit is the direct result of a few incredibly racist individuals given far more publicity seeking attention than they should have been. Nothing spreads faster and quicker than prejudice. Once that particular box is opened it’s notoriously difficult to close it again! Just look at how it has even weaved it’s vile tendrils throughout the punk rock community.
Sid Vicious said, ‘ I’ve met the man in the street, and I think he’s a c***’. Given the events of the last five years of so, what with populism, psy-war, conspiracy theories etc, what is your current opinion of the ‘man in the street’?
I’ve met the Sid Vicious in the street, and he was equally as much of a cunt. The entire world has been leaning more and more right for decades now. It’s a direct result of capitalism and exploitation. The system is broken. We’ve been here before, many times, and it doesn’t end well. As for conspiracy theories, there are no doubts that certain military and government agencies have tried to cover up various misdemeanours, MK-ULTRA is one such example. None of it remains hidden for long. Nonsense about the flat Earth, 5G, vaccine’s etc, is easily debunked, with just a little common sense, and research. Of course there are those who will go to their grave believing Bigfoot is an alien that controls the royal lizards who rule the world. There is a lot of money, to be made from bullshit. Just ask David Icke. Why vaccinate people to control them, when you can just poison the entire water supply. The problem with the men in the street, is that they are all cunts!
Bristol used to be one of the more violent places to live in the 80s and 90s. I remember walking between pubs and having to ‘stick together’ or you’d get picked off by locals wanting to ‘box your ‘ears’. Birmingham was bad, but Bristol was something else. But apparently it’s somewhat gentrified these days?
Great question. Not so long ago, I was invited to a sort of panel driven retrospective look back on Bristol and it’s musical culture. We sat and heard how Bristol was this great mix of musicians and music, and that the musical culture in Bristol had always been multicultural and supportive, of each other. Well I dare say. But I remember a Bristol that was far from supportive. If you were part of the ‘alt’ Bristol punk scene, you took your very life in your hands if you ventured anywhere, the violence was incredible. You were attacked on sight by ‘Blads’ (casuals/football hooligans), Ted’s (old men), Mods (obviously), various inner city gangs, Skinheads, the police, Bikers, other Punks, even fucking Hippies. You really had it tough in the early 80’s as a young ‘crusty’ punk rocker in Bristol. Most of it, was a no-go area. Of course this all went hand in hand with being universally hated, feared and loathed by the local media. Who to this day, either refuse to except or understand the influence, Bristol punk had on the world before Portishead, Tricky and the Wild Bunch. Nowadays Bristol as you say has been gentrified. Now I’m not going to hand off all responsibility for that here, onto others. In certain ways it was also thanks to us. We and the whole Bristol punk/squat/anarcho scene quite obviously contributed to all of modern Bristols failings in that regard. People moved into Bristol from all over the world at the height of the Bristol punk scene. Many to be part of it. Bristol was in no doubt very very ‘cool.’ Venture into Bristol city centre now, and you’ll be hard pressed to find an actual Bristolian, most are wealthy imports from London, outpriced by housing there. Or students. Bristol University has been allowed to run riot throughout Bristol, snapping up building after building in their insatiable greed for more money. But, I digress. As I mentioned it wasn’t until trip hop came along, that this ‘cool,’ became “The Bristol Sound!” It was all downhill from there on, for the other Bristol sound.
I see Chaos UK as having four distinct eras – the early Riot City sound, crust punk, the hardcore era ( where the band wrote some great stuff ), and the Wurzels / punk rock cabaret era. Is that about right? Which was your favourite time?
I guess you could see it like that, although the whole Wazzuks (Wurzels Cabaret era) thing was a little project, that shall we say, got somewhat out of hand. Not entirely unpleasantly, but out of hand, none the less. I never really equate CUK with any eras as such, to me it was all one long trip on a uncontrollable speeding bus, plummeting downhill, and getting faster and faster, and when someone tried to slam their foot on the brakes, the brakes were missing. As I mentioned in another interview, by the time the second album, was released, I was already getting fed up with it. For me the whole thing was this incredible pantomime, filled with all these amazing characters, that if you sat down to write about them, you couldn’t make it up. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Speaking of which, did you ever meet any of the Wurzels? I guess they knew about you?
Yes I even met the original Adge Cutler, though I was too young to remember at the time. I’m originally from Pill, the spiritual home of The Wurzels. Tommy Banner, was a friend of the family. They thought our Wazzuks ‘ensemble’ was brilliant, and they were all behind it all the way. Thus via The Wazzuks, we then spawned a whole new wave of Scrumpy & Western bands.
When I first heard No Security ( John Peel radio show, under the duvet on a school night ) I thought it was the most amazing sounding punk rock I’d ever heard, and was looking forward to finding more bands that sounded that powerful. To be honest, apart from maybe Discharge’s Why?, I never did! I wonder if it was the pummelling basslines that helped it sound so loud. What do you remember about recording it, and did you realise you’d made something unique?
I do remember recording it, and yes I did think at the time, that it could have the makings of something special. Credit goes to Simon though for the massive “aaaaaaaaaargh” at the beginning, which most definitely set it apart. I didn’t like it at the time, and wanted it removed. Thank fuck they didn’t listen to me. To this day, it’s still one of the first things punk rockers I have never met before yell at me! I remember playing it live with the original line up, for the first time, and the entire gig screaming it along to Simon, that was when I knew we’d hit the spot. Drop out of school kids, drink cider, take drugs and never wash!
There’s a theory that cultures go into a state of decadence as they approach ‘the end’, with nothing truly new being invented – this guy reckons that if you look back at the 80s and 90s, people pretty much still look and dress the same today. So given that, can we begrudge the 12 year old kid ( alas, his video was taken down by his mum, I think ) who did a drum cover of ‘No One Seems to Really Care’ with his tongue sticking out? Maybe the old stuff really does still sound good to young ears?
I think I saw that video! To be honest I wouldn’t want to be a kid growing up these days, as tough as it was for us, at least we had our own solid identity and community. We also felt that we were part of a bigger whole, and we all felt like we were achieving something outside of the norm. We knew we were going to kill Thatcher at some point. These days, you have got to be careful, that you don’t accidentally call someone, them, that or something else, within your own peer group, without a million people screaming for your death over social media. I can’t begin to imagine what kind of pressure that puts onto a sixteen year old. It’s also nigh on impossible today, to make music that is socially repellent. (Though Drill did a pretty good job.) Punk rock music, especially, was absolutely detested by mainstream society and the media, they couldn’t understand it at all. All that anger, rage, stupidity and politics. People in the 80’s were still saying, “you can’t understand the words!” This was incredibly empowering, when you were 18 years old and waving two fingers at the establishment. Now I’m not saying young people today are clueless automatons, far from it, quite obviously many are not. But, the only tribes you’ll find are waving scarves at football matches. The great musical tribes of the past are gone, long gone. If our music has influenced and bought joy to anyone under 25 today, I’d be over the moon.
“…but when all the punks started going to raves, well that was that. Nothing worse than a f***ing rave”.KAOS 2021
Have you talked to young people about drugs? Seems they can go on all night listing the different ones...very different to the old days.
“Ecstasy killed the anarchy.” Yes we grew up taking a shit ton of drugs, mainly dope, alcohol and speed in my case. Though I wasn’t adverse to taking ‘good’ acid, cocaine, uppers and downers. But we paid a big price for it. Two of my friends died from heroin overdoses before their 25th birthdays, how the fuck can you begin to understand the grieving mother, when your all completely binned out of it at the wake. All of us were so fucking blasé about it all. The amount of people who OD’d and who shouldn’t be here now. It’s terrifying. Of course the violence in town subsided as a side effect of all the idiot ‘blads’ caning Ecstasy, but when all the punks started going to raves, well that was that. Nothing worse than a fucking rave. The government scrambles to shut them down, and the police break them up en masse. Big mistake. While they are at a rave the entire crowd are as complacent, and moronic as cattle in a pen. Malleable, stupid and compliant. Shit, if one twat in a fucking stupid hat can control, thousands of pilled up gonks, simply by playing, fucking awful records, imagine what an entire government compartment dedicated to propaganda, infiltration and fairy lights could do! Can’t help but think they missed a trick there.
The ‘golden glow’ of being drunk on West Country cider is to be in a fantastical world that cannot really be described without experiencing it. I wonder how much that informed the Bristolian punk sound? ( Mind you, if that’s the case, then Discharge got their sound from drinking Stones Bitter…) Do you still like a scrumpy these days?
Cider had a massive influence on Chaos U.K. I’d also include Disorder, in that. But not so much the Amebix. Remember we came from small country towns and villages, where a gallon of scrumpy, would cost 50p (a pint in a pub was 70p) in 1983, my giro was £27. Of course we were going to get fucking bolloxed! We’d all been drinking it since we were knee high to grasshoppers. Mind you, even at those prices, you spent the lot in a day or two. These days I can take it or leave it, mostly leave it. I’ve drank more than my fair share, and it gives me acid indigestion.
You said in your last interview that you did video production work for pop bands – what was that like, and do you still do it? Was there any schadenfreude involved in seeing young eager talent that you knew was just going to be crushed? Or has the bottom fallen out of a lot of that work now?
Only very briefly, a friend of mine set up a film company, and had a lot of early success thanks to Radiohead picking them up for the track There, There. I would them help them out every now and then with sets etc. It was certainly an eye opener. Yes kids the pop industry really is, as controlling, narcissitic, and damaging as you’d expect it to be. My friend (who set up the business) has gone on to become a success. 99% of the bands who he made videos for though, did not.
A health professional recently said that over 50s should only work three days a week. How much do you work? Maybe you are semi retired now?
I retired the day I left school. I have no idea, what you are talking about!
I went to Rebellion for the first time ever in 2018. It was a very interesting cultural experience, rather like a giant art installation. But, to me, punk rock rarely seems to work on big stages….I always thought it was better as young people’s music, and the naivety and self belief you have as a youth comes across in how you play it, and the chaos and sloppiness of it all is what makes it ‘punk’? When you get old, and play your instruments properly, it kind of sounds different… I dunno….maybe we should just never grow up?
Growing up has nothing to with it. Rebellion though is, as far as I’m concerned, is the anathema of punk rock. I get a hell of a lot of stick from my peers for constantly crapping on it. “Oh Kaos, it’s a social event!” “Oh Kaos, it’s harmless fun!” “Oh Kaos, it’s a festival for punks!” “Oh Kaos, you’re just a miserable fucking cunt!” (that’s my fav.) I agree it’s all of those things, and yes I am a miserable fucking cunt. I also have a very good personal reason for disliking Rebellion. (It will all be in the book.) Elderly punks, it seems, like the Teds of old, are destined to head to decrepit holiday camps and tacky seaside towns for their entertainment! It’s Carry On Oi, come true. Of course there are those, who just have to be there because some ancient fossil is appearing, and you know..”they supported The Damned in 1977!” Or something. No it’s not for me, and I know I’m in a single figure minority when it comes to these events. But I also don’t have a single tattoo either. Now that’s punk!
You have been recording with your new band FOTK, complete with loveable punk rock rogues such as Steve from Disorder. How’s that, and DeathPint records, coming along? Any talk of gigs? How does it feel shouting again? Cathartic?
The truth is out! We are headlining at Rebellion next year! I was pretty much retired from the ‘scene’ when Steve messaged me out of the blue one day, and asked me If I’d like to do it. I thought why the fuck not. It was a pretty cool idea, we’d all record in our own homes, then put it all together, without so much as a single rehearsal. (this was before any lockdowns either). I was sceptical, I will admit that. But once Steve had introduced me to some modern tech. I saw very quickly how it could in fact work. Steve had also spoken to Andy Lefton from War//Plague, and Tom Radio from Frustration (both in the US) and in our hunt for a drummer I had spoken to a few Japanese friends, who mentioned Yuji Kawaguchi from Rose Rose (Japan) and now ST Drums. The guys all started knocking some riffs together, until we had the semblance of various songs and I broke out my old song book, and fitted some lyrics in. So far it’s all going very well, though I think the original publicity artwork went a bit above peoples heads, including our own. At first we were going to release a single on our own label, Death Pint Records, but it made more sense to release with Phobia records. The first single is out in September 2021. Meanwhile on our label, we have released a digital only compilation album called Three Fingers In The Air Punk Rock (Bandcamp) in aid of Food Not Bombs in Myanmar. All the bands on it, threw in tracks for free, and it sold a shed load. Now that again, is punk rock, and making a real difference in other peoples lives. As for Cathartic, no I’ve always been an atheist.
To bring this to an end then, what would you say to your old self, if you could go back in time? Anything you would have done differently?
What would I say? Well, I’d most definitely kick my arse for starting smoking. (quit now for 16 years.) And I’d also leave a reminder to not throw out the £7 million quids worth of bitcoin on that old hard drive (seriously!) Everything else, I’d leave exactly how it was.
Most un-punk things you do these days?
Most un-punk rock thing I do? Everything I do is punk rock.
It’s an honour to chat with you Kaos. Any last words, advice ( or insults ) for the world?
In the big scheme of things, you are alive for a lot less time than it takes for me to blink both eyes. I know it’s difficult, but if it’s at all possible, try to be nice to everyone, especially cats!