I was born in the sleepy seaside town of Worthing, Liverpool , conceived around the time the MC-5 brought their guitar assault to the shambolic Phun-City Festival, at the back of the town.
My childhood was spent with upright bass lessons, being dragged along to the free festivals of Cissbury ring’s bronze age hillfort and umpteen trips to the local library’s record section. It was here that I started making musical discoveries when they decided to sell off their entire vinyl collection for pennies. After purchasing armfuls of the discs I immersed myself into the world of Big Bill Broonzy, Johnny Cash, Charlie Feathers, The Cramps, Sonny Burgess, Link Wray and a host of others that seemed to have come from a different planet, to a twelve year old in Worthing. This made no sense to my friends but made perfect sense when I was watching the deafeningly loud bands up on the hillfort. This world came tumbling down when finally the police surrounded the hill and stopped the festivals forever.
My bass playing was becoming quite proficient by this stage and I started playing with much older local musicians in the bar scene that flourished up and down the seafront at the time, having to lie about how old I was to get gigs. I was obsessed by music at this time, nothing else mattered apart from this strange world I had discovered, inhabited by twang and reverb with lyrics that seemed to come from lives so much more exciting than anyone I knew.
I started up my own band with a guitar player and a drummer, we had a great time organising gigs in village halls, getting noise complaints from the council whenever we rehearsed and travelling around with the Italian drummer’s dad, a shotgun freak and trout farmer with a head for elvis, none of us was yet old enough to get a driving licence. The drummer got to sixteen and decided to join the army, we lost our drummer and wheels on the same day.
So as the 90’s broke, I was left with no option but to get the hell out of there. I strapped the bass to the roof of my clapped out Nissan and headed North to London. I joined a band called the Silver Jets and we signed a deal with Blanco y Negro records. Our gigs were chaotic, nervous, drunk celebrations of musical and personal tensions. We started touring and making records (not that many of them ever saw the light of day) and fighting but struggled on cause some of the music we made actually meant something to us. After one drunk and violent argument too many, I took off hitchhiking to visit a friend who was drumming in a strip club in Monte Carlo, he ended up moving to LA chasing a dancing girl, so I hitched back up to London after passing on an offer to act in a porn film, where I found the band had imploded. I’d also been kicked out of my house and started busking to make money with a guitar picker called Ashton from Austin, Texas. We played high speed bluegrass versions of Rolling Stones and rockabilly songs and eventually started gigging as The High Class Family Butchers. With the help of John on fiddle and high altitude harmony vocals we set up some tours in the USA.
It was on a night off in New York that I went to ‘Brownies’ and saw a gig that made me reconsider my musical options. I’d heard of Hasil Adkins through my research in Worthing Library, some kind of mountain man, rockabilly one-man-band, who recorded all of his songs himself in a shack at his home, never managed to find any of his records though.
There he was, a man of about 70, birds nest hair, beat-up guitar, bass drum and high hat, playing scary songs about ugly women and death. When the audience pissed him off he got up and smashed his guitar over the high hat and left the stage, it all made such sense. It was at this moment that the Dennis Hopper Choppers began to plant itself as an idea in my head. Hmmmm….
Anyway, I got back to London still playing upright bass, scraping by as a gig dog. I started my own band, Kid, moving onto guitar and vocals with my older sister Rachel on bass and Rob on drums, who’d recently departed from Placebo. I bought myself a 1964 Gretsch guitar and a 1969 Fender Dual Showman amplifier, probably the loudest thing I ever heard. It was designed for Dick Dale and seemed an obvious choice.
We started gigging around London taking our deafening sonic attack wherever we went. We got Will in on slide bass cause Rachel’s acting career was taking off and set up a no budget tour of Europe opening for the Hard Ons, sleeping in the van, squats, or any floor we could find, baffling the hardcore punks who had come to watch us. We put out a couple of records on D&C Recordings which found their way into the press and onto Radio 1. Rob left and Tom came over from Burbank, California to join us on drums, possibly the darkest most passionate musician I have ever graced a stage with, but then it’s some jump from the California sun to the London damp. Tours with the likes of Echobelly and Drugstore didn’t help this at all.
John from the High Class Family Butchers had meanwhile joined another band, Menlo Park, who needed an upright bass player, so I started playing with them. The first gig I did with them was without a rehearsal or even ever having heard any of their songs…. good start. High energy rockabilly mixed with east-european folk and 60’s style pop, a complicated band. Touring with Paul Simon, dark gigs in snow covered Russia, music for Guinness adverts, Glastonbury disasters, CMJ fiascos, recording in Montauk, Long Island, cockroach racing, being kicked off a gig in Belgium for starting a stage fire…all good fun.
Kid meanwhile hit a sticking point whilst various label complications were being sorted out and the Dennis Hopper Choppers plans began to be realised when I borrowed a bass drum and high hat. I decided to try and rig up some organ bass pedals and a 60’s vox continental organ as well. This gave me my voice, guitar, bass drum, high hat, vox organ and bass pedals to figure out how to whack at the same time.
After some experimentation I found a method of dividing the instruments up across my limbs whilst seated, that made this possible.
I got my first gig, opening for a boxing match at York Hall in Bethnal Green and started practicing like shit.