The Black Time

Sometime way earlier this year I received an LP sized package from the UK in the mail unexpectedly. I didn't recall winning any Cock Sparrer import LP's on eBay recently, so I figured it must be a promo for the site. Great, more bullshit cock rock from Europe, I thought. I opened the package up and pulled out a sealed LP from a band calling themselves The Black Time, and who'd named their LP 'Blackout'. It actually looked kinda cool. Then I read the back cover and insert, filled with ramblings about Black Randy, and vampires of the night, and other shit so unexpectedly strange and goofy, I became more and more intrigued with the prospect of listening to it. The first time I put it on the turntable I didn't know what to think. It was one of those moments where you know you just heard something either completely genius or completely crap, and you're still unsure of which. One more listen and I decided squarely on the genius side, and soon after the Black Time were the band on everyone's lips, whispering comparisons to Crime, Pussy Galore, The Fall, The Real Losers, and more. I made contact with one Agent Lemmy Caution (formerly Billy Nameless), who turned out to be a good 'bloke' and have corresponded with him since about many things British and punk. Last month I had the good sense to finally ask him for an interview so I might be able to share some of the mystery behind the Black Time with the world.

TB: Who are the Black Time?
Caution: Winter 2004 team is Lemmy Caution, Janie Too Bad, and Mr.Stix.

TB: How and when was the band formed and why?
Caution: Spring 2004: boredom, anxiety, cheap alcohol, a broken 4-track - y'know the usual things...sitting round listening to old soul 45s and wanting to make our own dance tunes but failing due to lack of ability...wonder at the ugliness of the consolation prize. something else to distract us from dribbling in front of computer monitors/checkout tills for minimum wage.

TB: You made the bold Supercharger-ish move of recording an LP before playing a show. Why did you do this, and did it work out?
Caution: It was kind of necessity; I'd burnt my face in a horrific welding accident and couldn't go outside without the fresh air making what was left of my skin fall off, so had to find something to do round the flat.

TB: When was your first live gig, and how did it go, and how much have you guys played out since?
Caution: First show: Halloween - a big party with our friends the Ulcers, the Motherfuckers and the Mor Paranoids. Great fucking night. Two more shows since then, but we're not in any big hurrry. Most bands in London are stuck in this NME fantasy world where they're gigging round the shitty rock club circuit 5 nights a week desperately trying to get 'signed'. It just means nothing to me. I'd rather stay at home and sit round drinking and listening to records than try and impress some crowd full of haircuts. We're just gonna carry on recording our stuff in as fucked up a manner as we can manage and doing the occasional show. I mean, we'll play a show if we get offered something by one of our friends bands, or we organise our own party, or we get to go and tour some new place, but I just don't care to burn myself out by doing a 10 hour round trip to play an indie-disco to ten Black Rebel Motorcycle Club fans, which is what most gigs are like over here. Maybe I'm just not entering into the spirit of things...

TB: What happened to touring Europe?
Caution: ARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHH...well, the booking agent had trouble fulfilling all the dates promised. Shit happens I guess, though I had a bit of a sense of humour failure about it as I'd been looking forward to going ALL FUCKING YEAR. Maybe next year.

TB: Is the LP sold out yet?
Caution: Nearly. There's still a couple of boxes knocking round somewhere but I'm surprised how fast it shifted. I only did 500, but back in April when I had them all stacked up in my living room I was thinking "ohmygod, WHAT HAVE I DONE?!!"

TB: Were you surprised at all at how well the LP was received?
Caution: Yeah, very fucking surprised! I've been playing in shitty bands and doing shitty self-released records for years and years and nothing's got the attention this has. I just sent a bunch of records out to all the usual places and by some weird fuck-up in the space-time continuum - they all liked it! The new LP of jazz standards should fix that though...

TB: Was Blackout recorded in one weekend? What kind of studio trickery was used to get that perfect no-fi sound?
Caution: Well almost...I have been known to be slightly liberal with the truth on occasion. It was basically just a 4-track in my bathroom with a bunch of instruments and almost no clue how to use it. I'd just borrowed it from the bass player in my old band as I'd never had a go on one before. I'm really an idiot - I couldn't work out how to put an effect on a single track of the recording after I'd taped something, so I'd just feed everything through the fuzz pedal/echo or whatever - made some cool sounds though! When I work out how to use it, it'll probably sound awful. After I'd recorded the album and realised it sounded exactly how I wanted it to, I kicked myself up the arse 'cos I'd been wasting so much time and money in studios over the years trying to patiently explain to engineers with pony-tails how I wanted it to sound and being crushingly disappointed with the results, and I could have been doing it myself all along! Fuck!! I'm an even bigger idiot! The next record will be recorded in LA with that Korn guy though and feature lots of session musicians.

TB: What is the Rhythm Hive?
Caution:The Rhythm Hive is a club night in London where we get to spin our favourite punk, soul, reggae 45s and put on bands. It used to be a regular night a few years ago but we just do it very occasionally now, like one-off parties.

TB: What other bands were you in?
Caution: I was in the Hotwires, which personally had similar influences to Black Time, but as a band was very much a sum of it's parts, and the other 3 were into different stuff, so it ended up sounding a lot more rawk and less trashy than I'd have liked - was good fun while it lasted though. Before that I was in the Action Time, who were kind of mod/soul/garage. Years ago I was in this band called Liechtenstein Girl who were like early-Mary Chain taken to it's illogical extreme. We'd play 10 minute sets, and released a one-sided 7-inch with eight 10 second songs on - John Peel was quite keen on it for a period. Most recently I was in the Quickies who were a band designed to only exist for a month. We had a couple of rehearsals, made up some songs on the spot, played 5 shows, recorded the set on 4-track and split up - it was the best band I've ever been in!

TB: What other bands are you currently in? Sexaphone? Subway Slims? Where can we get records by these bands?
Caution: Yeah, Sexaphone is Janie Too Bad's band. She released a 7" on her own label recently which we dis-engineered right here at Rocket Reducers. It's fucking great, apart from the song she made me sing on! People can e-mail her (midnighttosix--at--hotmail.com) to get a copy I guess. Janie is a mysterious girl and resides in between sunny California and rainy old London town depending on her mood. I play drums in a trio called Los Raw Gospels, who are kinda of Gories/Cramps blues-trash (with the odd heavy metal guitar solo) - we have a 7" coming out on Dull City records of Norway sometime in the new year (I think they have some kind of website up). The Subway Slims are me and GG from the KillKillKill (another great band based in the UK) - I play bass - it's more sleazy and grindey than Black Time - we don't get it together very often though.

TB: What is your favorite Dangerhouse single and why?
Caution: 'Solitary Confinement' by the Weirdos is just a classic punk rock record full stop. Lately I've been really digging that Deadbeats song off the Frontier comp ("Let's Shoot Maria") -it sounds like the Monks if they'd survived into the late 70s- though that wasn't a single so I guess it doesn't count.

TB: Who would you rather get drunk with: Kickboy Face or Black Randy?
Caution: I think Kickboy would be more interesting, as he alway had something to say, but I ain't no intellectual so I'd have to plump for Randy for kicks.

TB: Can you explain the phenomenon where there were few good UK bands (aside from Childish/Medway bands) for years, and now there are a bunch (Black Time, Ulcers, Real Losers, etc.)? What the hell happened?
Caution: I dunno - the UK's wierd. A lot of bands are caught up in the aforementioned NME/trying to get signed vortex of doom. The punk rock scene that does exist here is a lot more concerned with ska-punk or pop-punk or hardcore. If you're considered 'garage' you're not considered 'punk' which seems fucking stupid to me. There have been decent bands but not many of them have got their music out of the country. The web's probably made a difference with dissemination of information. Having said that it does seem a good time for bands at the moment - The Losers and Ulcers are amazing, and there's also the Priscillas, Lunar Jet Man, Illegal Movers, Motherfuckers, Wet Dog, The Rebel, The Battys, Dirty Switches, Thee Exciters, Parkinsons etc.

TB: Who is your favorite Real Loser?
Caution: HOT DOG!!!!

TB: Let's just say 1977 is happening all over again. Would the Real Losers be the equivalent of the new Sex Pistols?
Caution: Nah, the Real Losers are the new Vibrators, the Ulcers are Chelsea, and we're Eater - hahahaha!!

TB: Do you think you sound like Crime at all? Cause we do.
Caution: You're making me blush big boy.

TB: What art-punk, post-punk bands have been most influential?
Caution: I don't know about influential, but I like stuff like the Fall, Swell Maps, Mekons (before they went country), Screamers, Suicide, Pere Ubu, Joy Division. I was actually listening to a lot of hardcore punk when I did the LP (Discharge, SSD, Bad Brains) but it didn't really come through. I keep coming up with songs which I think sound like it could be an early Dischord records type thing, but after I've recorded it and listened back it just sounds like all my other bloody songs!!

TB: Do you have any records/recordings coming up? Wasn't there supposed to be a single coming out?
Caution: There's a tape of songs we did in the summer that P.Trash are gonna be putting out as a one-sided LP in the new year, though that might turn into a full album. A few labels have asked us to do singles - we're recording stuff right at the moment. We've got a session booked at the end of January with a guy who has an 8-track (woo-hoo!) so we'll be entering whole new realms of hi-fi sound in 2005!


Thanks to Agent Caution for the answers to the questions. And if you don't have the Black Time LP yet, please get your head out of your ass. It's one of the best things I've heard all year. Hopefully the new year brings more from these young professionals...

Interview by Rich Kroneiss
Pics by unknown British person