This interview dates from 1993 and appeared in Weedbus fanzine, issue 4.
After several years of slogging away releasing every new album with a different record label, That Petrol Emotion are back with their first release on their own label. We caught up with vocalist from the band, Steve Mack, coincidentally the only non-Irish member of the band as they played a show in the University of Ulster's Jordanstown campus.
These are the first Irish dates to promote the current album 'Fireproof', although you were playing a lot of the material live last year.
“A lot of the songs that are on there (ie 'Last of the True Believers') have been around for about two years. The band went through a huge period of change between records. We actually recorded this whole LP and spent an insane amount of money on it and then we realised that it sounded like shit. After that the band actually split up, although I didn't know this because I was in Seattle! We got back together and decided that what we should do is what we wanted all along, to make a simpler, more direct record. We knew we had a good album in us cos we had been playing these songs for two years, so we went back in the studio and did the whole thing in ten days.
The lyrics seem to be a lot less political than the last couple of albums.
“We've been backing slowly away from that because it did us a lot of damage in the past.”
Do you think people wouldn't play your records because of it?
“Well, that's what we would like to think! We could be wrong but there were memos being passed around certain radio stations saying that perhaps it wouldn't be a good idea to play bands that have sympathies to Sinn Fein, particuarly as this was the same time as the media ban on them.”
I noticed on the back of 'Cellophane' that you have Labour MP Clare Short's address printed on it.
“Yeah, it's all very noble and everything, but at the end of the day we slit our own wrists doing it because we weren't played on the radio and therefore didn't sell any records. To be simplistic, I've never lived in Ireland, the rest of the band haven't lived here for eight years, so they no longer feel qualified to comment on the situation.”
You've now set up your own record label, after many years releasing output an various labels.
“it was pretty easy to set up and it means we can make our own decisions now. We've only been with two majors (Polydor and Virgin) and we had our own label which I ran, and we released 'V2' on that. This time around though, we have worldwide management and licensing deals, whereas when we released 'V2' we kept the records under the bed! I think it's a good experience for bands to run labels because when you deeall with majors you know how much it costs to press a vinyl record and so on. They changed their approach to us when they realised we knew these things.”
The name of the new label is Koogat which we noticed is from Woody Allen's The Sleeper. A nonsense slang expression “It's beyond cool, it's koogat!” Are you big fans of his?
“you guys are the first to notice that! We've had to explain it too everyone else, and they've just had a blank expression. We're huge fans of Woody Allen, we've been throwing that word around for years, trying to work it into a song or album title, but then we realised it would be a great name for the label.”
What about the grunge backlash and your hometown of Seattle?
“well it was bound to happen, wasn't it? That's why Suede are so well timed, they are the most un-Nirvana guitar based band you could think of, but I've been in this too long to get excited over scenes or whatever. For instance all those 'Madchester' bands, all the Thames Valley shoegazer bands, are all taking a back seat already.”
What about songwriting within the band? Did it change radically when John O'Neill left in 1988?
“Not necessarily. Ciaran McLaughlin became the main songwriter after John left, while we all come up with bits and pieces, though I write the least probably, and everyone writes in their bedrooms and are very protective about their own songs.”
Interview by Jonathan