In this interview Martin Cowan from Belfast punk band The Outcasts explains how they created the beautiful but brutal sounds of their classic album Self Conscious.
In 1979 The Outcasts released an album called Self Conscious – a sublime and immersive record full of fantastic lyrical phrases and brutalistic textures.
Nova Crónica was lucky enough to catch up with guitarist Martin Cowan and in this interview we get to the bottom of their sound.
Nova: Where did your interest in music come from?
Martin: Listening to the radio when I was young and we got a record player in 1962. My dad bought Elvis’s Return To Sender and we also had the Beatles 1st album in 1963.
I loved The Beatles, Stones. Who, Kinks and Small Faces.
Later I loved David Bowie, when he released Ziggy, I also koved T Rex , Slade and Sweet.
When I heard Anarchy in 1976, it blew me away and made me want to form a band.
M: When I write a song, I usually get a few chords that work together or a chord riff, then usually an idea comes for the theme of the song.
It is more difficult than when I was younger, but I am pleased with the new material, Petesy in the band helped provide some good input into my basic ideas to make them sound better…
What’s one of the most important qualities for a guitarist to have?
M: A guitarist in my opinion does not need to have a brilliant technique, but he should have or develop some sort of originality, that makes his guitar playing different than anybody elses.
M: I love playing our old songs live, but the only time I would listen to a recorded versions is when a new, remastered version is being releases. I don’t revisit the past that much, but occasionally I do play old records.
You’re A Disease
Justa Nother Teenage Rebel
Self Conscious Over You
The Cops Are Coming
M: Colin was great to work with, so easy going, but he wasn’t a great drummer, but he made us all laugh.
My best memory of him, is knocking his drum kit over in the middle of a gig, because he was making mistakes and then having to put it back together so we coukd continue playing!
M: I love a lot of the people, they are friendly, but I hate the politicians, because they are self serving and corrupt and have made a mess and are still getting paid even though we have had no government for nearly 2 years.
M: Self Conscious, was made in 1 day, so we didn’t have much time to get songs right.
We were crap musicians and very inexperienced, so we made an album with lots of mistakes, but somehow our spirit shone through!
M: Self Conscious, was me looking back to when I was 13 and going to school on the bus.
I used to fancy this girl who was going to a different school on the bus every day and used to dream of asking her out, but I never did.
Justa NotherTeenage Rebel, was me saying that being a punk and thinking you were great was nothing special, you were just one of many, hence the title just another teenage rebel.
M: The punk era in Belfast was different, there were army and armed police on the streets, people would try to beat you up or worse because of the way you dressed.
But playing in a group, helped kids from different religions mix together when the came to see concerts, I’m proud of this!
What went wrong?
M: We came from a violent place and some of the people who followed us were violent, so many times there were fights at our gigs, in the early days.
We also missed out on many opportunities, because we didn’t take being a group serious enough, we just wanted to have a good time.
I think the songs have stood the test of time.
M: I just wish we had some help from a producer or someone who knew about the making of music when we started to record, the songs were good, but the recordings were made by people who did not like our music.
M: I think we have recorded some great songs, that people still go and buy today; we have a double album of all of our singles, both sides and a few sessions being released in Japan and the USA next year, so people are still interested in us.
What do you make of the 21st Century so far?
M: It is a confusing time, terrorism is on the increase, the technology is unbelievable, what you can do on your phone. The difference between recording now and when we were young is unbelievable.
I must admit I’m a bit out of touch with a lot of new music.
There are so many cult/ genres of music, but it good to see young people coming to see us play. they must have heard our music through youtube etc.
How would you like to be remember?
M: I would like to be remembered as a song writer and for writing a couple of good songs.
By the way we are releasing a new ep with 3 new songs on Violated Records, USA, next year.