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Pussy interview


A psych classic. Pussy recorded their only album entitled Pussy Plays back in 1969. It’s a wonderful progressive psychedelic hard rock with a nice production. Quite unique and well worth a listen. After searching for many years, I finally found members of the band.

Pussy were:
Dek Boyce (vocals)
Jez Turner (bass)
Peter Whiteman (keyboards, mellotron)
Steve Townsend (drums)
Barry Clark (guitar)
Gary Peters (guitar)

Where and when did you grow up? Was music a big part of your family life? Did the local music scene influence you or inspire you to play music?

Barry Clark: Grew up in Kingsbury, Haydon Close - The local music scene did not influence me.

Dek Boyce: Hertfordshire and not sure if I am grown up yet.

Steve Townsend: Moved around quite a bit as a child – finally settled in Hertfordshire when I was just 11 years old. Family listened to Radio Luxembourg a lot – I liked to sing along with Paul Anka and Elvis. Local music scene consisted of a couple of local lads who were inspired by The Shadows.

When did you begin playing music? What was your first instrument? Who were your major influences?

Barry: First instrument: Guitar. I was inspired by Carl Perkins and Chet Atkins.

Dek: Started with school group at about 14. Played harmonica badly, but wanted to play like Sonny Terry or Cyril Davies.

Steve: As the other lads had guitars I opted to be the drummer – my first instrument was a leather chair seat and a pair of knitting needles. My first influences were Tony Meehan and Gene Krupa.

Steve Townsend about 13/14 years old

What bands were you a member of prior to the formation of Pussy? Were you originally called Fortes Mentum?

Barry: Yes I was in Fortes Mentum - Fortes Mentum had nothing to do with Pussy - totally different band.

Dek: Creepers, We Shake Milk etc. Twilly, but was that after Pussy? Definitely not Fortes Mentum.

Steve: I started off in The Zeros – and played some modern jazz at school – then We Shake Milk – then Pussy.

Dek Boyce in The Creepers (front, centre) – pre-Pussy

What was the first song you ever composed?

Barry: Sorry I don’t remember.

Dek: Has yet to happen.

Steve: I think the lyrics for “The Open Ground” were probably my first attempt.

Can you elaborate the formation of the band?

Barry: After I left Fortes Mentum I kept in touch with Fortes Mentum founder Danny Beckerman. We had thoughts about a Progressive Rock project. After many late nights at Danny’s house we came up with the song “Come Back June”. Danny and I went in to Morgan Studios to record it, I played Guitar and Bass, I think the studio sound engineer played drums, we double tracked the vocals.

The next day we played it to Monty Babson of Morgan Blue Town Records. He said go ahead make an album. A few days later I was waiting for a train at Wembley Park Station and ran into Peter Whiteman an old school friend of mine told him about the project and he said fine. Next step was to find some other musicians which we did through a Musical Publication ad.

After Pussy I played in Catapilla. Catapilla were an English band from the early 70’s who released two interesting albums of experimental jazz rock, without symphonic traces as in other bands of the moment such as Affinity, Cressida or Spring. The band had a line-up of six to seven people performing on saxophones, keyboards, bass, guitar, vocals, and drums.

Dek: No.

Steve: As I remember it, I had placed an ad in Melody Maker for a band or other musicians. I thought that Barry replied to my ad but it is perfectly possible that I replied to Barry’s ad. Barry and I had a jam in the basement where I stored my drums and we seemed to hit it off. I recruited Dek Boyce, vocals, and Jez Turner, bass, two of my former colleagues in We Shake Milk.

When and where did Pussy play their first gig? How was the band accepted by the audience?

Dek: Don’t remember. Audience (not sure if there was one).

Steve: I think the first gig was the album launch event. My guess would be that we started with “Come Back June”. The response was that of music industry people who’d seen it all before.

What sort of venues did Pussy play early on? Where were they located?

Dek: I can only really remember the Scotch of St James. Were there others? I think there were, but I don’t have any wheres or whens.

Steve: I also can only remember the Scotch of St James although I know there were others – someone did a bit of research and came up with the Rhodes Centre at Bishops Stortford.

How did you decide to use the name “Pussy”?

Dek: No idea.

Steve: I have no recollection at all.

What influenced the band’s sound?

Barry: I don’t think we had any - we just got together and put together our ideas.

Dek: Danny Beckerman.

Steve: We were presented with the basic songs – most of which were written by Danny and Barry – and then it was all our own ideas. We weren’t trying to sound like anyone else.

Did the size of audiences increase following the release of your debut?

Dek: No.

Steve: As there was a minimalist effort by the record company to promote the album it made very little impact on any subsequent audiences.

How did you get signed to Morgan Blue Town? What can you tell me about the label? How many copies were pressed?

Dek: I think Blue Town was created to get in on the psychedelic/progressive market - I believe there were 10,000 copies pressed.

Steve: Barry and Peter were already signed up – I was young and naïve enough to sign up to anything at that time. It was a big deal in those days to get signed.

What’s the story behind your debut album? Where did you record it? 

Dek: Scully recording equipment. Danny was producer. I think we did 3 x 6 hour sessions.

Steve: It was recorded at the Morgan studios in Willesden. I used my own drums (I think).

Please share your recollections of the sessions. What were the influences and inspirations for the songs recorded?

Dek: We had the times when the studio wasn’t being used - i.e. midnight to 6 (not the Pretty Things song). Andy Johns was the original engineer, but didn’t bother turning up after the first session, so Mike Bobak, who was tape jockey, took over.

Steve: Ah yes, those midnight starts! It was the first time I had ever been in a proper recording studio – and it seemed HUGE! I can’t remember nothing about the sessions – except for the time when Dek and I went down on the bus to record the vocals for “The Open Ground”. The other thing I remember was hearing the takes on the big JBLs in the Control Room – it just sounded wonderful. At that moment I would have agreed to anything!

Would you share your insight on the albums’ tracks?

Dek: I don’t have any insights.

“Come Back June”
Steve: Most of the backing track had been laid down by Barry and Danny before I was involved.

“All of My Life”
Steve: The most obviously commercial track on the album – released as a single in Italy. Great vocals from Dek – like all the other tracks.

“Comets”
Steve: We were quite surprised when we first heard the finished track – at the album launch – and heard the addition of the theramin. We had produced what we thought was a fine jazzy instrumental backing track – we weren’t sure what was going to be added to it – and, let’s say we were rather taken aback! Still, it’s a track that gets a lot of favourable mentions to me now.

“Tragedy in F Minor”
Steve: Danny’s doodlings – he was very good at this sort of thing.

“The Open Ground”
Steve: We put together a nice instrumental track but needed something vocal to go over the top – so I wrote the narration in the form of a poem, and the lines for the chorus.

“G.E.A.B.”
Steve: An instrumental workout put together on the fly.

Were you inspired by psychoactive substances like LSD at the time of writing the album?

Barry: I don’t know about the other guys but Peter and I never did any kind of drugs, our drug of choice was a pint of bitter.

Dek: I think tea was about the strongest thing consumed in the studio.

Steve: I think I had a couple of beers before reciting “The Open Ground” – I was really inspired by the fact there was a Coke vending machine in the studio foyer.

How pleased was the band with the sound of the album? What, if anything, would you like to have been different from the finished product?

Dek: Wasn’t pleased - didn’t own a copy for years. Certainly take the silly noises off the album.

Steve: If we had had a bit more time to finish a few things off properly, and if we had had more say in the final mixing, it would have sounded better. However, as the years have gone by, it’s sort of grown on me – I can see why younger people now find it representative of that psychedelic era.

Did the band tour to support the LP?

Dek: No.

Was there a certain concept behind the album?

Dek: No.

Steve: I suppose the basic idea was to take a bunch of songs composed mainly by pop-oriented Danny Beckerman and translate them into something more in tune with the psychedelic times using our varied musical tastes and influences.

What happened after the band stopped? Were you still in touch with other members? Is any member still involved with the music?

Dek: We got Gary Peters (on guitar) and the band started moving in a different direction.

Steve: I carried on playing with Dek and Jez, with Gary Peters on guitar, but we all lost touch with Barry and Peter. They relocated to America where they carried on playing together in various bands. The three of us had a sort of reunion chat with Barry in 2005. I have had more contact with Barry since starting this interview process – he is still playing guitar and has his own very successful musical instrument retail business. I am still very much involved with music and have been playing more-or-less continuously since the demise of Pussy.

Jez Turner in Bleak House (back row, left) – post-Pussy – a very well-thought of band in the New Wave Of British Metal

Looking back, what was the highlight of your time in the band? Which songs are you most proud of? Where and when was your most memorable gig?

Dek: Dunno.

Steve: I suppose my highlight was being in a proper professional recording studio for the very first time. As to the songs, I think two or three have stood the test of time – “All Of My Life”, “Come Back June” in particular. And I can listen to the rest without actually cringing. And of course I am quite proud of “The Open Ground – it’s something I did and there are people who actually really like it. As to the gigs, as I don’t remember any of them, they can’t have been that memorable for me.

Steve Townsend in the early 1970s

What are some of your favourite memories from band and the 60s in general?

Dek: Windsor and Kempton Park festivals. Bath festival. Sunday nights at the Saville theatre. Woburn festival. Led Zeppelin in a pub. Free Hyde Park concerts.

Steve: In addition to the items listed by Dek, I was at the two big Isle Of Wight festivals – Dylan and Hendrix. And the Hendrix shows at the Saville, and the Royal Albert Hall, were absolutely amazing. The thing about the 60s was that we were all young – coming to adulthood – and all the music was new. Most of it had never been done before in that way – or at all. So we sort of grew up with the music.

What were some of your favourite bands?

Dek: Hendrix, Family, Zappa, The Who.

Steve: All of the above, plus Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Tomorrow, Pretty Things, Fairport Convention.

Is there any unreleased material?

Barry: Some time later we started a second album but they can’t find the tapes.

Dek: You could consider the Twilly Acorn Studio sessions, which I prefer to the Pussy album.

Steve: I do remember recording some other material – and adding Gary Peters on guitar – but I have no idea what became of it.

Let’s end this interview with some of your favourite albums. Have you found something new lately you would like to recommend to our readers?

Dek: Lather – Frank Zappa, Passion And Warfare – Steve Vai, The Believer – Remember Shakti, Music In A Doll’s House – Family, Are You Experienced – Jimi Hendrix. New stuff: Loud Hailer – Jeff Beck, Live At Ronnie Scott’s – Jeff Beck

Steve: Pink Floyd – Piper At The Gates Of Dawn; Hendrix – Electric Ladyland; Alexis Korner’s Blues Inc – R&B From The Marquee; Colosseum – Live; Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. More recently: Muse – Absolution; anything by Placebo; Defences – Might And Main; stuff by Idles, The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing, Subways, Eliza Carthy – there’s a lot of really good music out there at the moment.

Steve Townsend in 2018

Thank you for taking your time. Last word is yours.

Dek: I still don’t really understand why some people think that Pussy Plays is good.

Steve: I think I understand it – to people looking back it sounds totally representative of their idea of that era. And with everyone having access to all music at the click of a mouse or the touch of a screen, the lines between different ages and genres of music are becoming increasingly blurred. Regardless of how we might have felt at the time about the finished product I am pleased that people listen to it now, actually like it now, and are interested enough to ask me about it and my part in it. For me it is a tangible bit of legacy – and, yes, I am very glad I was involved in it.

- Klemen Breznikar
© Copyright http://www.psychedelicbabymag.com/2018

1 comment:

The Triumph of the Thrill said...

Boy, that Dek sure has issues. Another obscurity given the spotlight here. Nice.