Interview with Jacko of the Jermz by Alex Ogg
March + August 2007
JACKO: I was an assistant archaeologist in 1978. In the 70s, if you’d been unemployed for a certain amount of time, you qualified to go on what was a forerunner of the Job Creation scheme. It was in the Job Shop, and it said ‘Assistant Archaeologist’. So I decided to go for it. It was one of the best jobs I ever had! I used to sieve Medieval cess pits! For about £28 a week, at what is now the York Viking Coppergate Centre.
AO: I visited that as a kid, I think!
JACKO: You might even have seen me in the mud! We found all sorts down there. Great job, loved it, but it got really cold in winter. The reason why the finds were in such good condition was cos the site was waterlogged, so it was freezing cold water you were working in. We did find a Viking coin die – which is how they stamped out coins. That was a total fluke by me and this other guy who were walking back from lunch – he thought it was a scaffolding clamp that had fallen off! It was this remarkably rare find that had never been discovered in England. And it was just there. Noel Edmonds had this short-lived live TV show. They got a whole bunch of people n the studio, and the public were supposed to phone in – they all had the same thing in common, and they had to ring and guess what we did.
AO: You were with a bunch of archaeologists?
JACKO: Yeah, we were volunteers, but there were proper, bona fide archaeologists. The thing about the phone-in - I remember a ‘supposedly’ live phone-in that came in, but it was a studio based person who was prompting the idea – Do you work with soil? It was something as stupid as that.
AO: Ah, so the BBC phone-in rip-off tradition was going strong even then.
JACKO: We were there the day Top Of The Pops was
recorded. I remember seeing the Members getting into a lift. They’d charted with
‘Sound Of The Suburbs’ and they were getting in the lift to do Top Of The
Pops. I was going – that’s the Members! I saw you two days ago in York! And
they went, yeah, and the doors shut and they were gone!
AO: I thought you were going to segue into their song ‘Elevator Love!’
JACKO: No, they were just piling into this lift to get to the studio, but they looked absolutely fucked! They were riding high in the charts, doing a lot of running around and drinking and abuse. Anyway, on to Los Germos!
AO: How did the band (which featured Jacks on vocals, Kelvin Knight on drums, Ozzie Spitfire on bass and Mike Gibson aka Mike Normal on guitar) come about?
JACKO: I formed the band and was the main motivator to getting it done. Kelvin Knight and I both enrolled at college together, found out we were born on the same day, month and year as each other. We both loved Mott the Hoople and Dr. Feelgood (he'd seen them live but I hadn’t). He was very aware of the new scene too. He said yes to starting up the band, and drummers were hard to find then. But the best thing that Kelvin had was a garden shed/summer house with power in it. Space to rehearse! Not so much a garage band but a summer-house band (with ornamental pond and birdbath). We spent most Sunday afternoons down there, practising - what a bloody racket it must have been. Bet it brought down the property prices. Kelvin’s old man was all right about it though. It was the advent of punk, it was that ‘you don’t need to be a fantastic guitar player or anything’, that ‘get up, do it’ spirit. A lot of us had that then, and youthful aggression. The opportunities were there. York was a great town for music. Always has been, I don’t know why. But there’s a lot of quite hip people here. All our chums were well into their music. And from the first birth pangs of punk, we were there.
AO: What was the first gig?
JACKO: The first gig we ever did as the Germs – initially it was spelt that way until I found out there was an American band with the same spelling, so I changed it to avoid any complications –was at Archbishop Holgate School, a school disco. We did a 50-50 set of our own material, and covers like ‘New Rose’ and ‘London’s Burning’. Then we slowly got on to the pub scene. There were two pubs in York, one called the Grob And Ducket, and another called the Munster Bar. They were free entry places, but they put bands on, and the band would get £20 or £25 for doing it. There was music on there at least five nights a week, and always local bands playing there. Because it was free to get in, you had 15 or 16 year old kids going down there. They shouldn’t have been in there really, but it was fine, there was never any trouble. So we started playing there. We sort of hooked up with the Doctors Of Madness, and started supporting them in other locations, like Sunderland, Doncaster, Coventry etc. Out of town gigs.
AO: And the single (Power Cut/Me + My Baby (A Love Song) 7-inch (One Way Records EFP1 February 1978) come about?
JACKO: Initially the recording came about because of another York band called Cyanide. At the time they had done some recording at a local studio called Pollen. I believe they were going to put a single out by them, but then they got the Pye deal, which meant there was a gap for someone to make a record, so we stepped into the breach. We recorded the single with Urban Blitz, the Doctors Of Madness violinist. It was all done in, I think, four hours. And those were our only ever studio recordings, but there are some live tapes knocking about. They put that single out, and I had to plead with them to do a picture cover – you NEED a picture cover on this! They were saying, ‘We can’t afford it’! I said I would pay for it. Basically the band paid for the sleeve, because it was so important to have a picture cover in those days. I thought there were 1,000 pressed, but I read there were only 500 – I don’t know what’s true. I know we had 1,000 sleeves done and we pasted them ourselves, it was that primitive. There was zero distribution for it, we had no distribution. And that’s why I believe it’s become a collector’s item – it didn’t sell more than 100 or 200 copies. But it stands out as a good example of those times.
AO: After the single, Ozzie left?
JACKO: Yeah, Ozzie split to be replaced by Charlie Francis. Also, we had a second guitarist and viola player Mark Jones.
AO: A viola player? That must have gone against the grain?
JACKO: Yeah, we went more art rock than punk rock. It completely changed the sound of the band from a snotty little punk band to an art rock type thing. I saw Charlie about two years ago, he’s still in the industry. He runs a recording studio in Cardiff. Charlie joined Patrik Fitzgerald’s band, then Toyah. He works with REM now – not playing, but as a sound mixer. He’s still in the industry. Kelvin joined the Jerks, then joined Gang Of Four for a day, then Delta Five.
AO: Then the revitalised Chameleons?
JACKO: Is that true? I think he toured with them. He was a massive fan of them. Mike went on to join the Godfathers.
AO: And is doing solo stuff now.
JACKO: And Mark Jones – where did he go? He got into doing mosaics. What did I do? I went down to London.
AO: You did the Eight Track Cartridge Family?
JACKO: That’s right, but I worked at Rough Trade Records in distribution for several years. I worked at Red Rhino before that, when it was a shop, and then into distribution. I moved down to London, ran a shop there for a bit, then got into Rough Trade when they were in Blenheim Crescent, then when they moved to King’s Cross, I was there as well. Pre-Smiths and during the Smiths as well. I still know a few people from those times.
The Eight Track Cartridge Family have their roots in Brick Lane market, London. One Sunday morning myself and Clara were there at about finish time and one stall had packed up and gone but had left in the gutter several seven inch singles lying around. ‘48 Crash’, Suzi Q, ‘Tiger Feet’ by Mud, ‘Rock On’ by David Essex were some of them. I was appalled that my youth’s soundtrack was just tossed away like this. So I decided to form a group to preserve these 70s sounds and try to inject some fun into the mid-80s music scene. We wore satin suits, platform shoes and debuted at an Xmas party at the Fridge in '84. The reaction was great. Poor audience, they were shocked, confused and unprepared, but thankfully a few people got it so we got more bookings. We were glam alright, and we brought a few grins to the most unsmiling faces - but the Eight Tracks is another story.
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