He’s Not Your Slave: A Chat with The Godfathers’ Peter Coyne

2020 has been a blowout for the live music scene in the UK. The Covid-19 pandemic assured there would be no more gigs from mid-March. It’s now August and nobody knows what the future will hold. Despite this uncertainty, there are quite a few bands making and releasing new music. The Godfathers are such a band.

Formed from the remnants of The Sid Presley Experience in 1985, They are probably most-known for their 1989 album More Songs About Love and Hate, and have undergone a break-up and more than a few line-up changes since re-forming in 2007. Their latest release is a double A-side single featuring I’m Not Your Slave and Wild and Free.

This band has always had a diverse pool of influences from which to draw including punk, proto-punk, and R&B. I’m Not Your Slave is the stronger of the two new tracks, with a punkier sound and a catchy main guitar riff. Wild and Free veers off into an area just bordering southern rock but never crossing the line. A solid effort, but perhaps not as strong as 2017’s A Big Bad Beautiful Noise, their last full studio album.

Singer/songwriter Peter Coyne recently answered my questions about the band’s latest via email.

The band recorded these two songs immediately prior to lockdown. Both deal with issues of oppression and freedom. On the one hand, they’re written to sound very personal, and on the other, they could be interpreted in the context of broader UK current events. In what way do you think they reflect what is happening in the UK right now?

I like to write lyrics that hopefully have multi-meanings…I would never want to tell somebody what they are specifically about or how they should interpret them — whatever they might mean to a listener anywhere is what’s important and that might change from day to day depending on their mood. So yes, they are songs about a personal relationship as much as a political one…I’d like to think a woman could sing ‘I’m Not Your Slave’ with none of the lyrics being changed. Lisa Kekaula from The Bellrays would do a tremendous job on that number, probably far better than me!! Both of the songs were composed in September/October last year and recorded in March this year just before lockdown kicked in in the UK — but in the strangest way they seem to chime with current events. There was another number we also wrote last year called ‘Dead In Los Angeles’ that was a contender for the double A side, but it might have been tasteless to release that song when people are actually dying in L.A. That song is, of course not about that fucking horrible Coronavirus — it’s about the final night on planet earth of a rock and roll star. It’s an exciting, epic number which we will definitely include on the next Godfathers’ studio album, which is set for release in 2021.

The two new songs are just as angry as anything you’ve ever done. Going back to your Anti-Thatcherite lyrics from the 1980s, does it ever feel like nothing has changed and it’s just as easy to write a song about everything that’s wrong with the world today as it was then?

Thank you! Well, not all our songs are political, just some of them! You can’t ignore what’s going on outside your window. That would be extremely foolish. But if you don’t do politics, then politics will do you…anyway I have always liked songs that have some kind of edgy social commentary in them, interesting. There is a grand tradition in rock and roll for songs of that ilk — ‘Summertime Blues’, ‘Satisfaction’, ‘Kick Out The Jams’, ‘God Save The Queen’ etc, etc. The Godfathers have always tried to make our contribution to that tradition with tracks like ‘This Damn Nation’, ‘Birth School Work Death’, ‘If I Only Had Time’, ‘Unreal World’ or ‘A Big Bad Beautiful Noise’. But these songs have to be fun too, entertaining — this is the true essence of rock and roll. I don’t like bands who lecture or pontificate, that is boring to me and pointless. Unfortunately, with the way things are with society, there will always be plenty of fuel for my artistic fire. I really wish there wasn’t and would much prefer to live in a utopia…but that’s not likely to happen, is it?

On your last album, you did a song called Miss America, where you paint a picture of the United States as that of a fading beauty queen. A lot has happened since 2017 when the song came out. Given all that has transpired, how do you see America now? Is the beauty queen old, on life support or is she already dead, rotting away slowly in the heat of summer 2020?

That’s a good song, ‘Miss America’! It’s definitely not about putting the USA or Americans down — I have many, many friends in America and a lot of family members there, too. America is a great country, but it has enormous problems that need resolving. It is quite clearly going through an enormous shift at present. Do I have the answers? — no, I certainly don’t. But, I wish you all the very best in your search for the very best solutions.

Has your approach to creating music changed over the years with the various line-up changes in the band?

Well, I still use pen and paper to write lyrics! I have learned though to be much more spontaneous in creating songs, trusting in my initial instincts instead of labouring for weeks and months. The guys in The Godfathers now — drummer Billy Duncanson, guitarists Richie Simpson and Wayne Vermaak, and bass player Jon Priestley — are all super talented musicians and the creation of new material with them is a total pleasure. Obviously we take it all very seriously, but we like to have fun while we are doing it too….when things become a chore or a routine that’s really the time to stop. As Paul McCartney once said, you play music; you don’t work at it,

What is the band getting up to in lockdown? Are you writing or recording demos from your respective homes?

Trying to survive and stay alive and look after our families is obviously our priority. Then waiting for the barbers to re-open so we can all get our hair cut!! But yes, we are all writing songs individually at home at the moment and bouncing them back and forth over the internet. Billy, Richie and myself live in Bonny Scotland and Wayne and Jon live in Merry Olde England and when lockdown eases sufficiently in both countries to travel we will all get together and collectively whip up all this new material. We haven’t seen each other since we finished recording the double A side single on March 19th and I miss those guys and their company! We have got rehearsals set up for August and September now though and we’re all seriously looking forward to that. We want to make the next Godfathers’ studio album an absolute killer, something truly ultra-special.

Provided the world returns to “normal” in 2021 (or sooner), what are the band’s plans both short and long-term?

To keep writing and then eventually recording some more great numbers — like I said we are all on a mission to deliver a fantastic, kick ass album and we won’t rest until we have achieved that. Then depending on the Coronavirus situation around the planet, we would like to resume touring in 2021. We had some fabulous tours, festivals and gigs all round the world planned for this year we had to postpone when this awful, shitty pandemic struck. So hopefully we will get to play all of those and much more next year. The Godfathers have had a great past, but we want to do our utmost to ensure we have a glittering future too.

The Godfathers’ new double A side ‘I’m Not Your Slave’ and ‘Wild And Free’ is available NOW in a limited edition, clear red vinyl 7 inch single and limited edition 4 track CD only from http://www.thegodfathers.bigcartel.com/

An American writer in London. I work as a personal biographer for Story Terrace.

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