Trying to get my drum chops back, I recorded a quick cover of "Sick Of This And That" from The Damned's incredible and legendary 'Black Album' (40 years old this year!)
Serious face as I'm concentrating. Also, I now have a strong urge to invest in a double bass drum pedal. #mostunderratedband The Damned
Video: Tam plays "Sick Of This And That" written by Christopher John Millar/David Vanian/Paul Gray/Raymond Ian Burns © BMG Rights Management. Originally recorded by The Damned on the 1980 album, "The Black Album."
Update: April 13th.
Before January 2020, I didn't know much about The Damned, bar the first album and a few mid-Eighties singles. That all changed when I received an email - forwarded by my friend Lene - from The Damned's management to say that they were looking for a new drummer. I sent them some links to my work to which they kindly responded saying they'd have a listen.
And so began the process of familiarizing myself with their back catalogue and - fuck me - what a catalogue! I inhaled all the albums, singles, E.Ps, B sides, documentaries, live gigs and interviews I could find and wondered how this band could have escaped me all these years. What an absolute national treasure they are! I hadn't experienced such an exciting, daring, creative, varied and frequently bonkers body of work since XTC's output. It was right up my street and the deeper I dug into their catalogue, the more I wanted the gig. I began channeling my inner Rat, even furnishing my drum kit with black dot heads.
I was worried I hadn't sent them enough material so, I hit upon the ridiculous idea of recording three of their songs, playing all the instruments myself (videos below.) I haven't auditioned for a band in a long time - and never imagined I ever would again - so, I kept listening to the records and practicing, occasionally peeking at fan forums for clues and getting myself fit while I waited to hear from the band's management.
For two months, I swung like a temperamental pendulum; "can I do this?"/ "fuck yeah, I can totally do this!" and back again and then the lockdown happened. The thing is, it got me back into really enjoying drumming again when I'd fallen out of love with it so, it's been worth it. Drums were my first love and this voyage of The Damned has been a journey back to my five year-old self, bashing the shit out of my drum kit and pissing off the neighbours.
P.S. RE: the double bass drum pedal, I bought one and it's loads of fun!
Tam plays "I Fall" written by Brian James © BMG Rights Management.
Originally recorded by The Damned on the 1977 album, "Damned Damned Damned."
Tam plays "Dozen Girls" written by Billy Karloff / Christopher John Millar / David Vanian / Paul Gray / Raymond Ian Burns © BMG Rights Management. Originally recorded by The Damned on the 1982 album, "Strawberries."
This week I have been mostly digging out old recordings and videos from bands I used to play drums with, dating back to the '90's. This is just a smidgen. Enjoy!
Paint was a band formed by ex-members of Starclub who I auditioned for and became great mates with. "Whitey", their original drummer, left to join Oasis and I stepped in. Lots of Camden gigs (you know the ones), some great recordings produced by JJ Burnel and a deal with Sacred/Sony. It all fell through as these things sometimes do. Shame because, as you can hear, we kicked serious arse.
After all this time, I still find it a bit difficult to talk about Glass Shark. It exploded very quickly for us - albeit on a local level - and then, equally quickly, it fell apart. As is often the case with difficult life lessons, I wish I'd dealt with it differently. What can I tell you? I was young and reckless. Looking back now, I'm incredibly proud of what we achieved and, to this day, people tell me how much they loved the band.
Between 2009-2013 I lived in Dearborn, Michigan. A covers band from Detroit called, Fifty Amp Fuse approached me with a view of bringing me over to work with the band. Since I was a kid I'd dreamed of living in America and this seemed like the right time to go for it. Towards the end of 2010, I hatched a plan to spend the next year making a song and a video every week, partly out of restlessness but, mainly to sharpen my songwriting skills and learn how to make videos. I called the project, Tam Johnstone's Song Explosion. I've taken the videos down now because they're not that great but, I'd like to remix all the songs and re-edit the videos someday.
PAINT London, 1995-1996 / Drums, vocals
"PAINT: three peroxide geezers, dressed in black, forging a tune-tastic post-punk strop. Yikes! They froth. They ferment! Their guitar goes "dagga-dagga!! Paint are precisely the kind of ragged rompers you fall over at 11pm away from the fashionable spotlight. Smashing!" NME (1995)
GLASS SHARK Cornwall, 2006-2008 / Drums, lead vocals
"The chorus power of prime time Nirvana, the danceability of the Gibb brothers on E and the 21st century techno-nous of New Yorkers like The Rapture. They have rapidly become one of the best live bands in the South West" Cornish Guardian (2006)
TAM JOHNSTONE'S SONG EXPLOSION Dearborn, 2011 / Instruments, vocals
A song and a video every week for a year. 13 of the 52 songs became my 2012 album, Fantastic Animals which was put together in order to help with my O1-Visa reapplication. Is this the first album to be released for such a purpose?