Acid Jazz top dog Eddie Piller is well known for embracing Mod from a young age. His record label were branded as the new mods back in the early 1990 and indeed it is this era along with earlier and later periods that a new box set is focused on, celebrating a period in music were it was frowned upon to wear baggy clothes, rather a Ben Sherman Shirt, with Tailored trousers with a Levi cord jacket with some slip on shoes was all the rage.
Eddie sat down for an interview with Gigslutz to discuss his latest project, The Mod Revival box set which features a wide mixture of bands, all closely associated with mod revival periods:
Hi Eddie, can you tell me about the first time you heard about Mod?
Actually it should really have been from my mum who was the Small Faces fan club secretary in the sixties but to be fair it wasn’t. She never mentioned mod to me once growing up. My epiphany came when my dad asked me why I was wearing a parka to school. I told him that it was because I had become a mod and he laughed! I’d met some mods on a train after a Stiff Little Fingers gig and they took me under their wing and three days later to a Chords gig. I was hooked….
What was it about this movement that caught your eye the most?
Well, as a 15 year old punk who was vilified by the older generation, I loved what was known as punk music but absolutely hated the look. 999, The Lurkers, The Saints, Stranglers, Buzzcocks, Ruts, Mekons, Gang Of Four, Angelic Upstarts, Crass – these bands shaped my early life but I certainly didn’t want to look like a Kings Road Sid Vicious clone. When The Jam came along I fell in love with the new look and the new sound. We were punks in parkas but I loved it. We wore parkas as a badge of identity. We weren’t punks, we were mods…
Was Paul Weller a big influence on your liking of the aesthetics of Mod?
Paul Weller was in his own world – from about 1975 he was living the mod aesthetic, literally on his own. It was a forgotten world, ignored from the late sixties after the last of the original mod bands like The Love Affair called it a day. There was certainly some interest around the 1973 release of the Who’s Quadrophenia album and the photo booklet that accompanied it – but – mod had been forgotten. Weller actually embraced the concept and reinvented it on his own. He never planned or even wanted a mod revival but to be fair, kids that were going to see the Jam in 76 and 77 formed their own bands and ended up sounding like their inspirations. But The Jam weren’t alone. Manchester’s Buzzcocks were just as mod as Weller’s outfit and embraced genuine modernist philosophy with thier artwork and angular punk pop anthems. The Jolt from Scotland mirrored The Jam’s style and even Billy Idol’s Generation X had more than a touch of The Who’s pop art image to them. By early ’79, a mod revival was certainly on the horizon…
Was being a mod just for the weekend or was it an 24/7 ‘occupation’?
The whole thing is a way of life. It’s the shoes and socks you put on in the morning, it’s the books you read, it’s the music you listen to. It can become all encompassing BUT to be fair, that is actually a good thing. It can inspire people who are 17 or 70. It spans the generations – my dad was a Lambretta riding mod in 1958 but I often meet kids who have embraced the philosophy as a totally encompassing thing off the back of Oasis! It is a very broad church! I think Weller agrees with me, he famously once said ‘you can bury me a mod!’ – me too…
The box set covers a mixture of revival bands from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, some that might not be thought of as being directly linked to mod but have mod reverberations in their fibres. Was there any qualifications for the bands that feature on the box set?
I spent the years from 1978 to 1987 going to see these bands three times a week – it certainly shaped my life. But mod and its influences went much further than that – Just ask Oasis and Blur. Or David Holmes, or The Beta Band, or Miles Kane…. We thought that these bands had something mod about them but we (mods) liked them at the time. It’s a delicate thread but we actually lived the life whether they were mods themselves or not.
Are there any of the tracks that feature that you have had direct involvement with?
As I mentioned before, most of the bands on the box set, or actually almost all of the bands on the box set, I saw live and as part of our scene. I mean Dexy’s supported The Purple Hearts and The Teenbeats, Madness replaced The Fixations at the Camden mod night at The Dublin Castle – they were all part of the same scene and I saw all of them and loved the whole thing. I also interviewed many of them for mine and Terry Rawlings fanzine all through the 80s
I want to concentrate on a few tracks, the James Taylor Quartet, their early material including the soundtrack stuff, has become iconic mod anthems. Do you have any direct memories of seeing and being around the band at the time?
James Taylor was a member of The Prisoners who were one of the last of the 80’s mod bands. When Stiff Records went bust The Prisoners split but I managed to persuade their organist to make a solo record. Fortunately JTQ were loved by the legendary John Peel and he helped catapult the band and the burgeoning Acid Jazz scene into the spotlight. Peel ranked JTQ’s Blow Up as one of his festive fifty annual chart records for five years in a row. I worked with James Taylor for many years and produced or co-produced several of his records. He is the most talented British organist since the legendary Brian Auger in 1966
Some of the mod revival bands including Secret Affair appeared to some to be less authentic than others. What’s your view on such bands?
I really don’t go for the ‘who’s cooler than them’ thing. I released records by The Merton Parkas and was in videos by The Style Council and Secret Affair – mod is whatever a youngster wants it to be. If you don’t like it, then check out something else… People always have their own opinions and that’s cool – there were hundreds of mod bands at the time and I loved all of them.
The Clique, a much underrated band that saw many different band line ups, but who recorded an album for Acid Jazz that was shelved until years later. What’s your memories of The Clique?
They were a great young mod band of the third wave. I did indeed produce the album but to be fair it coincided with the Acid Jazz explosion and things with the new label just got on top. The mod thing seemed a little ‘old fashioned’ at the time and in the end Galliano took precedence. I actually loved the Clique record and was glad when Dizzy at Detour gave the record a release. It actually sounds incredible today and very Prisoners influenced.
What’s your plans for the rest of the year?
Acid Jazz has had its best year for 25 years. Last year we launched our own radio station, Totally Wired Radio with incredible shows from seminal broadcasters like Jason Solomons, Dr Bob Jones, Ashley Beedle and dozens of other legendary specialists. From a label perspective, actor, musician and polymath Matt Berry has a great new studio album called ‘Phantom Birds’ released this month, The Spitfires are back in the studio and my third rare jazz compilation with the actor Martin Freeman has done brilliantly too and we will come with a new one next year. On a personal level, I have just finished a follow up book to Modzines called Punkzines which is out in 2021. I am presenting occasional shows for Sky Arts and have two scripts in development.
Finally, what’s on your turn table at present?
I always end up returning to Gil Scott Heron – I worked with him in the late ’80’s/early ’90’s and he is the master of understated poetry, soul and jazz. I can recommend everything he ever did. Check it out. Did You Hear What They Said?
Eddie Piller presents The Mod Revival is released via Demon Music Group on 25th September.