Tag Archives: Burial

Nick Toczek Interview

A 2016 interview with Nick Toczek by Vic Wellock, with the added bonus of some questions suggested by Greg Bull.
Nick is a poet who was gigging before the Ranters but was crucial to many of the Northern Ranters in terms of support, editing, and giving them somewhere to gig. He promoted many gigs in Leeds and Bradford and the interview touches on these. He’s also a string of children’s books behind him, as well as published poetry, political books and even appeared on The Oi of Sex with Burial backing him.
He’s a top lad and is still gigging today. Quite right too.

Nick: I’m a bit excited at the moment. I recently found out that a pirate called Pew (or Blind Pew) in Stevenson’s ‘Treasure Island’ was based on my six times great-grandfather named Pew. He was married twice and had 25 children and he raised them all. Naturally, with that many mouths to feed, he was a bit of a bugger. He lived in Whitby and he used to go out at night and steal his neighbour’s land by moving their stone markers back from his boundary. The locals were always complaining about him. He did bits of smuggling and bootlegging. And whatever else he could. I think he managed to be a low enough level crook that they didn’t want him hung; they just knew his circumstances and wanted him to stop pinching their land. I’ve been written into a book with my dog, I die in the first chapter, but I think that’s a nice family tie, that we’re both characters in a book… The dog survives by the way… I’ve brought some poems and stuff, have you got any questions? Shall I just start with some general stuff? If you are ever to make any money out of writing, you have to diversify. I write music columns, and music reviews for R2, as well as doing talks in schools. I travel the world visiting schools. I’ve visited 50 countries: India, Switzerland, Rangoon (now Yang gon), Myanmar, Shanghai, China, North Korea! I still make sure that I write every day.

When did you start writing? I was given a diary as a Christmas gift when I was about six or seven, and I quickly knew that I wouldn’t write in it every day as a diary, I knew I would get bored, so I wrote poems in it. I still write every day, and I have all my old books. Throw nothing away! I have everything I’ve ever written, but I write on a laptop now. I have boxes and boxes of manuscripts. Make sure that you get involved in things. I’ve been very lucky, as well as persistent. You have to make networks. People remember you, too, if you write well. For example, I also write factual books. I wrote ‘Haters, Baiters, and Would-Be Dictators’, which was published by Routledge in April 2015. I’m re-establishing myself as an adult author: children’s literature tends not to be taken as seriously as adult stuff, so… I’m in the process of writing another book. The publisher I initially approached about my new book said that my name sounded familiar. I told him who I was, and what I was writing and he asked me if I wrote ‘Haters and Baiters’, and he offered me a contract there and then. I thought that had gone off the boil, because I hadn’t heard anything for months and months and then a contract landed on my door step to sign. So, I’m working on that a lot at the moment. I’ve got a 30% acceptance rate, and that’s really high. You just have to know who you are sending your stuff to. There is no point sending a childrens poem to a historical publishers. And if you do childrens work, don’t send your work in with illustrations, you double your chances of your work being rejected immediately. Twice the amount of editors, and they both have to agree, you see? Like I say, I still write a bit of poetry every day. Even when I am dog tired: you never know what you will write. I got my most recent poem from watching it rain late at night on a sea front. I was going to go to my room, but I thought I’d write a couple of lines at the table. (ed: Nick then recited several poems and then continues) Do you know I’m also a magician? I have thousands of magic tricks and I practice all the time. I used to have a lodger in Undercliffe, an Asian lad called Steve… He started me up with it. He turned out to be Dynamo’s dad! I practise magic often too. Anyway, alongside all that, I still do interviews and group talks like this: I like to think that it’s worth it if you inspire just one person to keep going. Plus, I enjoy it. I really like getting out there. Questions?

Do you think poetry is better to music? I only recently did the stuff with Threshold Shift. I never did poetry to music before. But it was good, I really enjoyed it. It was something new, and a good laugh. It’s all up on the internet, I didn’t put it up, but you can find all sorts on the net. That’s about four years ago now.

Is it more fun to perform with a band? It’s different. When I was doing stuff in between bands at punk gigs it was different again. My early stuff was pretty shouty then, but it fit really well with the bands that I was sandwiched in between, so it worked well. But I was in danger of being called a one trick pony.

Do you think poetry is inherently anarchic? No. The earlier stuff was stream of consciousness, and it was pretty passionate, but you still thought about the words you used. Poetry is not inherently anarchic, because every word has to carry the same weight – this takes a lot of work. A lot of organising. Some poets are anarchic, but I work and rework everything. I like that re-working of words, especially when I realise that I have to cut something that I thought was intrinsic to a piece, and then you reject it and it changes the whole thing.
I have a much more considered voice now. I’m still passionate, but when you choose your words more carefully, you start to choose the textures of your poems. You can still get away with the ‘in your face’ stuff in song lyrics. No, it’s not anarchic, it’s artistic. I sit in front of a scene and I paint it in words. It’s all true. We notice things no one else sees. I’d say I’m still anarchic, and recently I’ve been doing a lot of activism with 38 Degrees. It works: people power still does change things. I’ve been involved in a few campaigns.

Why did you hand write/design the flyers for your gigs at Adam and Eves? I couldn’t afford a typesetter! I just drew them up because I had no money. Then I realised that when I had money, I couldn’t afford to make changes… in the end, I kept them as preference. I could change them really easily if bands cancelled or moved times. Plus, I enjoyed it.

toczek oi

How did the relationship with that venue begin? They got in contact with me! They gave me £50! They wanted to fill the pub midweek. I didn’t make any money: I made sure the acts got paid. That 50 quid helped a lot, in the early days.

I was going to ask if you made any money. No! We lost a lot of money, we made some later on, but we lost a lot.

Why did you put so many gigs on? Because no one else was putting gigs on. It got to the point where people would contact me to do a show. We put a lot of bands on. And we had an open house at that time, people stayed over every night. I think we must have hosted 7000 people over seven years. And I really liked the bands; we had loads of people on before they broke through. Sonic Youth. Sisters of Mercy… we paid them £80 quid; for them and support…

Why did you stop promoting gigs? We couldn’t afford to keep going. And we’d done it.

Who was your favourite band? Wild Willi Becket, the front man of the Psycho Surgeons. He was also the Shadow Minister for Health, in the Monster Raving Loony Party. His funeral was the last show. We raised some money and released “Kingdom Come, Bring It On”, on lime green transparent record. We had his ashes mixed in with the vinyl. So you’re playing Willie if you’ve got one. I don’t think anyone knew. The Fall were supposed to be really difficult. But they just knew what they wanted and wouldn’t take any mess. We lost hundred quid putting them on, but they were brilliant. Mark E. Smith came up to me later on and said I hear you lost some money. I asked him who told him that and he just asked me if it was true. I said it was, and he gave me 120 quid, the twenty was for a beer and a curry. He said he really enjoyed the gig and the crowd, said it was one of the best gigs he’d done.

Who had the largest crowd? The Fall. Bad Brains, they had a good crowd. Bad Brains stayed at mine for a week. Good people. We had a wall that all the acts had signed. It was the last thing we painted over when we left.

Who was your favorite gig? Toxic Reasons – an American band that I’d recorded with, Subhumans – we toured Canada together. We made a lot of strong friendships.

Who was the most fun band? Toy Dolls were fun but King Kurt were the best! But they made a right mess of the venues. We had to pay for proper cleaners to come in after they had been on. They wrecked everything. The fans brought flour and animal guts, and everything got trampled into the carpets. Stuff was up the walls, it was great.

Who was most miserable? The Meteors. Paul Fenwick pulled a knife on me. John Curd was their manager, he’d also managed The Rolling Stones, and he was well known… he poured a pint on a mixing desk after an argument with a sound engineer one time. That’s what they were exposed to. It turned out alright in the end. We seemed to reach an understanding me and Paul. They came back anyway! They wanted another gig within three months. Obviously, we discussed new terms. He said sorry for pulling the knife on me when I saw him next and thanked me for putting him on again. He said, “I enjoyed that second show. You’re alright. Thanks.” He threw a tour t-shirt at me, and then went back off into the dressing room. Paul was a man with no social graces.

Which bands do you wish you had booked but didn’t? Almost too many to mention! In 1976 I went to see The Clash in Birmingham, Barberella’s: there was 20 people in the audience. You couldn’t get near the following year. They were a brilliant band. I wanted to put on everyone I’d seen. The Ramones, Talking Heads, The Slits… The Prefects, later The Nightingales… I remember their gig very well. I don’t know how he managed to keep singing but he did. He [Robert Lloyd] had a mic and a piece of paper in one hand, and he was pushing his glasses back on. He wore a shirt and tie, the tie was loose and his shirt was ripped. There was this fella in the audience who was spitting at him. You know, cos it was a punk gig. He kept spitting. Bob told him to fuck off, but he just kept spitting, so at one point, bob had a piece of paper, the mic he was singing into and this lad by the scruff, all in one hand – every now and then pulling him in so he could push his glasses back on, then with his other hand he’d punch this fella in the face. Ha!


The Burial – Live

This review from Hard As Nails, No. 4, 1984 is of one of the Miner’s benefits that Red Action put on during the strike.
These were notable in that the put on many bands that the mainstream left wouldn’t touch, yet these were the bands that working class kids liked and who had something in common with.
I was at this gig, as the review says, it was a belter.


Newtown Neurotics/Action Pact/The Burial – at the London School of Economics

I’ve never had reason to visit the LSE before, and I really expected the audience to be made up of trendy leftie middle class posers, but I was in for a pleasant surprise – as we turned the corner a couple of tanked-up skins cheerfully skipped by and disappeared into the Strand. We paid our money and wandered in, we were early so the bar seemed the best target. Once there we discovered that this was one party that wouldn’t be gate-crashed, such was the feeling of unity, not to mention the question of numbers. . . by the middle of the evening the beer induced chanting of the Red Action faction had risen to choir proportions, the number of shaven-headed herberts increasing steadily with the arrival of teams and individuals from all over London and the home counties. it also highlighted the broad cross-section of skin style in ’84, from polished heads, army greens and 14 high steels to polished brogues, sharp suits and side-partings. Skins together, skins forever – magic!
But what about the music? First on were The Burial, so rightly described as being under-rehearsed and over-excited. Despite some obvious shortcomings they managed to bounce through a lively little set, and went down well with the stomping skins and pogo-ing punks. Somewhere between Suggs and Gary Hodges frontman manic Mick took us from the beefy O! of Blockheads to the lilting calypso of Sheila…but they seemed to end all too soon. Still, next time…
I managed to miss Action Pact completely, being otherwise engaged at the bar, but I did get good reports of their set later. Last band on were the Neurotics, whose set was tighter than street bard Gal’ Johnson, but not quite as funny. Anyway they hit hard at all the right targets, the great Mindless Violence was only bettered by it’s vinyl A-side, Kick Out The Tories – which truly got everyone going. later on it took several cups of strong tea and burnt toast to get the buzz out of my head, this gig was a talking point for days, and it deserved to be. The real McOi!


teething wellsbw

Me at the gig

Skinhead Culture

From Sounds, November 10th, 1984

The recent Desmond Dekker show at Dingwalls was something of a revelation. Down the front were a score or more skanking skinheads, not yer usual clods in combats with a tube of Airfix stuck in their back pockets and ‘cut here’ temptingly tattooed across their Adam’s Apple.
No, these sharp-dressed droogs were sporting whistles and brogues.
“The blokes were in Dogtooth, Prince Of Wales check or Tonik suits,” wiry Hard As Nails fanzine co-editor ‘tattoo’ Paul grins in delight at the memory, “and the birds were in Trevira, proper penny loafers and lacey tights. They looked the business.”
Just one of the many signs of a skinhead renewal taking place in our green and pleasant. Not so much a case of ‘Skins are back’, more a re-emergence of original skinhead ideals.
The degeneration of skinhead as a style over the last two years can be traced directly to the dissipation of 2-Tone and the failure of Oi! to rebuild after the Southall disaster, in particular with the demise of the original 4-Skins, the original Business, Blitz and the Violators.
As the skinhead scene turned sour, the cream of the last generation either went casual or straight, while the gumbies stayed as dumb as ever.
The new emerging skinhead scene is too sussed to dabble in dodgy political extremes, just as its exponents are too smart to settle for the scarecrow look when there’s still decent Ben Shermans and ox-blood Royals to be had. Best of all, it’s not just a London thing.
The main bands are Burial from the Scarborough area, and Red London from the North east (who are much better live than their wishy washy Razor vinyl outings would have you believe).
There’s also the Oppressed from South Wales (who are spirited but too derivative and stuck in 1980 for their own good) and most intriguing of the lot the Marylebone Martyrs, a South London soul/ska suedehead band kept out of this round up only by their lamentable lack of a guitarist.
Mobs to be proud of include the legendary South End Clockwork Patrol, the Britannia Scooter Club, and the Cardiff skins who populate the Lexington where the juke box jumps to the sounds of Trojan, Sham and the Cockney Rejects, the new skin scene remembering its roots enough to think as much, if not more, of ‘Tighten Up’ and 2-Tone as the sharper Oi! bands.
In London, sussed skins have congregated over the Autumn for the Wednesday night Revival Express at Gossips, featuring selections from the Trojan, Sue, Studio One, Coxsone, Stax and Motown catalogues, not to mention new cropped personalities like French Cyrille and Millwall Trev. having recently parted company with Gossips, the Revival Express will be re-opening at another central London location shortly.
Peaceful co-existance with Mods is another healthy development (doubtless fuelled by the on-going phenomenon of scooter skins), and the movement’s equivalent of Sniffing Glue (or Maximum Speed) is Hard As Nails produced by a couple of rogues from Canvey Island called Paul and Ian.


The front of the next issue is headlined ‘Sussed skins against the scum’ and features a smart skin with a neat Ben Sherman and a Trojan Reggae tattoo having ‘words’ with a typical ’84 scruff.
“I genuinely hope sussed people can take skinhead back from the scruffs,” says Ian over a pint of ben Top.
“Most so-called skinheads today are just bald punks. Skins had nothing to do wit bald heads, sniffing glue and birds in 18 hole docs.”
Both Ian and Paul are British Telecom workers in their early 20s and they insist that HaN is a style mag. They first started their ‘zine in August 1983, inspired by the Phoenix List, the weekly Mod news sheet/event guide.
“We wanted to create a focal point for sussed skins,” says Paul.
“In many ways it was a reaction against the skin scene, ” adds Ian, “which was dominated by the Last Resort or the Sun idea of skins rather than the real ’69 skin-ideals.”
“Even the TV reflected the glueheads, the bald punks rather than real skins,” says Paul.
Why do you think the skinhead movement went wrong?
Ian: “Because of punk. In some ways it was positive, it brought about the revival but too many people followed the wrong line.”
Paul: “Skinheads became just an extension of the punk shock thing with the bald heads and the tattoos on the forehead – it doesn’t make you look hard, it makes you a laughing stock.”
Ian: “Real skins have got more in common with Mod than with punk. The bald punks, the Last Resort skins, picked up a real moron element, people who think it’s hard to be ignorant.”
Paul: “Being working class doesn’t mean being a thick gumbie, that’s what’s been wrong with skin ‘zines before.”
Ian: “They’ve been patronizing, they’ve talked down to people. Y’know, pages with one big pic and twelve words. Or that Chris Ryan book with print like a Janet And John book.”
What about the positive side of skins?
Paul: “My great hopes for the future are Burial, the Redskins, and the Oppressed, even though their lyrics are a bit caricature.”
Ian: “Whether you like their politics or not, the Redskins are the only band with real chart potential at present, the only ones who can appeal to a wider audience like the Specials did. Sussed skins like the Redskins more for their music than their politics.”
Paul: “The Specials AKA are the only relevant 2-Tone band left – there’s always got to be room for reggae and ska in any skin movement.”
And the future?
Ian: “There’s a small healthy revival, or should I say continuation of skinhead ideas. There are pockets of people all over the country, but I hope it never becomes a mass thing again because then it’d become commercialised. Hard As Nails is about skinhead style first and foremost. We’re the Face of Oi! and the voice of ’69.”
Hard As Nails has appeared three times, firstly as a limited experimental run of just 75. The second issue sold 250 copies and the last one has sold 300 and will probably run to another print (send large SAE and 30p to PO Box 11, Canvey Island, Essex SS8 9RY for a sample). The next issue, the Xmas edition, comes out soon and pride of place inside it will be an interview with Burial.

Impressed by the merry Madness/early Specials style ska of ‘Old man’s Poison’ balanced by the bite of the more Oi-some ode ‘Friday Night’, I recently journeyed to Scarborough’s Elvanhome Club to catch Burial’s live act, which showcased a similarly spiffing split personality.
Variously consisting of nifty bluebeat beauts and beefy Oi! excursions, the highlight of the set came with the crazed calypso of ‘Sheila’, a number already described by one expert as sounding ‘like a head-on collision between a sulphate-charged Kid Creole and Bad Manners on a beano’.
Earlier we congregated for a conflab in guitarist Barney’s bedsit, attractively decorated with old Sounds skin features. As well as barney and Chris, there’s vocalist Mick, bassist Ashley and drummer Charlie. Also contributing live is moonstomping man-mountain Nick, a cross between Chas Smash and H from the Rejects days. He’s 22 and a shop steward, four years older than the others who are variously dole boys, industrial butchers, and in Chris’s case, ‘part time God’.
Inspired by 2-Tone and early Oi!, Burial hailed from neighbouring Malton and first gigged in 1981 as a four-piece, with Upstarts fan Barney (from Lefthouse near Middlesborough) completing the line-up in ’83 after leaving his first band England Today.
“The skinhead scene was a great laugh back in 1980,” says Ashley, “I don’t think it’ll ever be the same again.”
“It was dance music, ” says Mick, “and that’s what Burial are trying to bring back. I like everything from Rod Stewart to Motown. The 4-Tops and Diana Ross made the best music of all time – apart from Sham. That’s why our set consists of punk, ska and calypso. We’ll play anything that appeals to us, and our songs are all about everyday life.”
What about thrash?
Chris: “We’d never play that, it’s too boring.”
Barney: “Some of the message is good, but I don’t like the medium they use.”
Mick: “We did used to write songs about the bomb and that, but it got too bleeding miserable. My attitude is while we’re here, let’s have a laugh. Only about a hundred people have got any say about dropping the bomb anyway. I’m no coward but if I ever saw a mushroom cloud, well, I’m a butcher, I’ve got a knife on me all the time, and I’d cut me throat straight away.”
Their chief concern is the decline of skinhead music.
“The music declined because the bands got bloody bad, ” says Chris, “and so much crap was coming out. Too many bands were copying GBH and couldn’t play a note. There’s not one band left from ’81.”

Currently the band are trying to link with Weller’s Respond label and/or the Madness Zarjazz adventure – the nutty ones apparently being on the look out for a ‘really good’ skinhead band.
“We don’t want to sign with some two bob outfit,” says Barney, “just as we don’t wanna be confined to one sort of music. We won’t be categorised.”
Charlie: “We ain’t aiming to be pop stars, but we don’t wanna get stuck in a rut either. We wanna get across to people.”
And that means all people – no spurious North/South, black/white divides with these boys, who, like the HaN herberts, happily co-exist with Mods and admit to hankering after scooters when spondulicks permit.
“A lot of misleading crap has been written about skinheads,” says Barney, “due to an ignorant minority, and we’ve all got tarred with the same brush.”
Mick: “At our Stockton gig the other night I talked to a lot of skinheads and during the gig I made this speech.”
Barney: “What was said, right, was ‘You read in the papers that all skinheads are thick fascist thugs. I’m not a thick fascist thug. Are there any thick fascist thugs in here?’ There wasn’t one response. And Mick said ‘The way to do it is not fighting among ourselves, it’s unity.’ All the skinheads were chanting: ‘UNITED! UNITED! UNITED!'”
Music to the ears and the only way, repeat ONLY way, the new skinhead scene will survive and thrive.