Vic Godard is running late, and former Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook isn't happy. It's three nights before tonight's live Subway Sect session on Marc Riley's BBC 6Music show prior to a long weekend of Scottish dates, and, after driving across London, the band's veteran crooner and wordsmith has been put well and truly in the dog-house by his new musical director. More to the point, in true punk rock style, Cook isn't in the mood to talk to the Herald, and would rather set up his drum-kit. Godard blames himself.
“He's not very happy with me,” he mutters sheepishly as a big bass drum appears to explode behind him along with it's owner's temper. “I'm not the most popular person in the room. Paul's really keen on punctuality. He says we need every minute we can get.”
By Godard's own admission, Cook might have a point. Subway Sect played a London show the other week as part of what's proving to be a prolific patch for a band originally nudged into action by the Pistols late manager, Malcolm McLaren. Taken under the wing of Clash manager Bernard Rhodes, Godard and co went on to support Rhodes' more celebrated charges along with The Slits on the White Riot tour, with Subway Sect's performance on the tour's Edinburgh Playhouse date effectively inspiring what came to be known as The Sound of Young Scotland.
“We weren't at our best,” admits Godard of last weekend's show. “Paul's a bit of a hard task-master, and I don't know if it makes the others nervous, but there were definitely problems between the rhythm and the non-rhythm section.”
Given that the other half of that rhythm section is original Subway Sect bass player Paul Myers, who really ought to know songs such as Ambition and Nobody's Scared as well as Godard, this is saying something.
“Paul Myers was in [Cook and guitarist Steve Jones' post Sex Pistols band] The Professionals with Paul Cook, and he's musically incompetent. He says he can only exist in the group if Paul's in it. He totally relies on him for everything, but it works, because before Paul joined we were really lazy. If we didn't have a gig we wouldn't practice, but if there's not he insists on doing it anyway. If we had a gig, we'd have two practices, which was unheard of. Now we practice all the time.
Despite the McLaren connection, Godard only began working with Cook on the Edwyn Collins-produced The End Of The Surrey People album, his first collection of new material for a decade, and released on Alan Horne's briefly revived Postcard label in 1993.
He was the only drummer I knew at the time,” recalls Godard. “I hadn't kept in touch with anyone, but Paul was playing in the Post Office football team where I worked. There's a bit of a family connection as well, because my wife's dad was Paul's family's doctor. You used to see him going about in this really distinctive car, an old BMW with all the doors painted one colour and the rest of it another.”
Almost two decades on, Caledonian connections have long been confirmed via releases on the Creeping Bent label as well as occasional collaborations with former Fire Engine Davy Henderson's Sexual Objects outfit, who support Subway Sect at this weekend's Glasgow and Edinburgh Sounds of the Suburbs promoted shows. Meanwhile, Godard, Cook and Collins are also back working together again. The project in question is 1979 Now, Godard's great lost Northern Soul album, made up of old songs recorded, as with its predecessor, 1978 Now, as they were intended to be heard. The first fruits of the 1979 Now sessions look set to be released as a double a side seven-inch single on Collins' Analogue Enhanced Digital label, while the album will also feature Holiday Hymn, a Godard song covered by Orange Juice. Again, Cook's presence is very much to the fore.
“He has to get involved in all the arrangements,” says Godard. “He cuts it up and makes it presentable as an experience rather than just a song. We recorded the single at Edwyn's studio, and Paul arranged it and did a new intro. We just have to put a sax solo on it now, but it sounds like really authentic Northern Soul or Tamla. Edwyn's beaming about it.”
Which, as drums crash around Godard, is more than can be said for Cook.
Vic Godard and the Subway Sect, the Accies Club, Glasgow, March 23rd; The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, March 24th; Beat Generator, Dundee, March 25th.
Originally commissioned by The Herald in March 2012, the piece was spiked after Paul Cook didn't want to talk...