Sultans of Ping interview, July 2006
I proudly promoted the Sultans of Ping's "comeback" show at Grays Working Men's Social Club and Institute (locally known as the "Fat Surfer" after the Friday night indie/rock club nights of that time) back in 2005 and then set up and ran the Sultans' official website from then until 2012. I didn't do a great deal other than maintain the site and its mailing list but I did go down to the south bank of London in the summer of 2006 to do a words interview (as opposed to my usual audio ones), mainly with questions from the website's forum members.
The website has now been transferred over to the band, the site long been revamped and the interview has gone but just by chance I found an archived copy on the Repeat fanzine website. So I have pinched it back, just in case it disappears from there one day too.
It's a sweltering summer's evening in London and I'm in a pub just round the corner from the studio where the Sultans are currently rehearsing for the forthcoming Irish and German shows. I'm sitting at the table with them all, armed with a big file full of zany questions from Sultans fans. Here's what they made of it all ...
Tell us what your favourite Sultans song is.
Niall: Definitely Michiko.
Morty: That's a tricky one. I'd say 2 Pints of Rasa.
Pat: Kick Me With Your Leather Boots. That's my live favourite.
Sammy: Let's Go Shopping. It's got a unique sentimental quality and a universal theme in its lyrics!
Ian: U Talk 2 Much.
What would you say was your favourite Sultans gig?
Niall: Around 1996 when Good Year For Trouble came out we played a gig at the Camden Underworld and we really lost it that night. I think it was our last London show until 2006. It was really chaotic, we played all the songs faster and wilder than we had done before!
Morty: There were two gigs where I remember there was a fantastic atmosphere. One was when we supported Carter USM at the Barrowlands in Glasgow in 1992 around the time that Veronica came out. The other was at the Hultsfred Festival in Sweden in 1993 - the crowd were mad on both occasions.
Pat: There were a few gigs we played with Sammy's old band, the Golden Horde, in Dublin and Cork in 1989 and 1990 which stick out for me. And also Dublin in 2005 - that gig had an amazing atmosphere.
Sammy: As much as I enjoy playing with the band, it's all hard work isn't it? So my best Sultans gigs were the ones when I was in the crowd watching them before I joined!
Ian: I agree with Pat about Dublin in 2005, that was my favourite one so far.
What kind of music are you listening to at the moment?
Niall: A lot of French pop, France Gall, Francoise Hardy, that kind of thing. Oh and Elvis, I always say that!
Morty: I'm into a lot of 80s post-punk stuff at the moment. Gang Of Four, that kind of thing. I also like the Postal Service and Death Cab For Cutie. Oh and Lily Allen, she's a big Sultans fan. We're listed on her Myspace as an influence on her music!
Pat: A lot of 70s new wave like Talking Heads, and also Simple Kid's new stuff.
Sammy: Bande A Part by Nouvelle Vague - it has a great cover of the Cramps' Human Fly on it. I would also highly recommend Nuggets - Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968.
Ian: A lot of Americana - Wilco, Sparklehorse, Lambchop, that kind of thing.
Who are the most underrated band of all time?
Niall: The Ramones and the New York Dolls although now they're dying off they are becoming more appreciated and less underrated.
Ian: There was a great band in Cork in the mid 80s called "Without The".
Everyone else: Good question. Can't think of an answer though!
When are you going to play London/the Midlands/Scotland/Ireland/Holland/Israel/Japan/insert your country's name here?
Niall: We're planning a few more UK shows in the autumn of 2006. London, maybe Glasgow, maybe Nottingham, maybe somewhere on the South Coast, we're not sure just yet.
Morty: As for everywhere else, if you organise a gig for us, we'll come over!
What's your favourite pub in the whole world?
Niall: The Lord Palmerston in Tufnell Park, London.
Morty: Cronin's Pub in Crosshaven, Co Cork.
Sammy: Any one that serves a decent pint of cider.
Ian: The Phoenix in Cork.
Pat: The Troubador in Earl's Court is good. I also used to like the Liberty in Cork but that's long gone.
Niall: Yeah, that was a great place.
Sammy: It was a great place. It was also a fleapit. I think they knocked it down as it was a health hazard.
Are you disappointed that Alan didn't join in the reunion?
Morty: Not at all, we're still really good friends and he's been at a few of the gigs. Sometimes people want to move on and do new things and the music he's doing at the moment is very good.
Will you be playing more stuff from Good Year For Trouble at the forthcoming gigs?
Niall: Possibly, maybe Rubberman or something.
Morty: Looking back it didn't go down too well when we released it because it didn't fit in with the music that was coming out at the height of Britpop. We're getting a fantastic reaction to those songs now though.
Read any good books lately?
Niall: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. It's a wonderful book which makes my prose look like smoke signals. Oh and my favourite film is Moby Dick.
Morty: I'm reading an old book on the history of Dresden.
Pat: I've been reading a lot of stuff lately. At the moment it's Disgrace by JM Coetzee.
Sammy: A book about cult leaders, Rogue Messiahs: Tales of Self-Proclaimed Saviors by Colin Wilson.
Ian: I'm reading The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster.
Any chance of a new CD?
Sammy: Definitely maybe!
Niall: A few new and unpublished songs are floating around and we have been rehearsing some of them. It's something that we'd like to do. There's no firm plans and if it doesn't happen it will be because of time and other commitments.
What happened to the Sultans' acoustic side project, Sexy Shop?
Niall and Pat: (several hours of laughter)
Niall: The public decided our fate on that one!
Pat: We did one terrible gig in a small venue in Cork in around 1987. I remember we got about 60 quid for that. Looking at the faces in the audience we realised that Sexy Shop was not meant to be.
Niall: We also entered a busking competiton in Cork. We were one of three entries, and we came last.
Pat: Even the old man beat us.
Can my band support you?
Niall: Send us a tape! But it's got to be a tape, none of this mp3 rubbish.
Who designs your wardrobe, Versace or Roberto Cavalli?
Pat: Oh definitely Versace! (Falls off chair laughing)
Who is the biggest Langer you know and are there any plans to write a follow up to Dowtcha Boy?
Morty: The biggest Langer is obviously George W Bush. I haven't got any plans to write a follow up - I think the History of the Sultans of Ping volume 1 is more likely.
(To Ian) What's it like joining the greatest rock and roll band in the world?
Ian: It's an honour and a privilege!
(To Niall, in reference to the now-legendary XFM interview) Are there any plans to record a duet with Nana Mouskouri or Antony and the Johnsons?
Niall: More likely with Nana as she is in better physical shape.
Is that Michiko with the lollipop on the cover of Michiko? And if so could I have her phone number?
Niall: Yes, it is. And yes, you probably could!
Can we have the full lyrics to No More Nonsense as no one seems to know what they are!
Niall: The first line is meant to be "I'm a pretty goofy guy, I come from Sweden". I'll give you the second line next year.
What is the inspiration for the song "Clitus Clarke"?
Niall: I can't claim responsibility, the main lyric isn't mine, I wrote the verses. The song was inspired by a guy who sold T-shirts for us. He's now a poet and novelist.
So you didn't come up with "pole-vaulting taliped"?
Niall: Oh yeah, that was one of mine!
Why are Forest the shit side in Nottingham? (I think we need to point out that Nottingham Forest have finished their league campaign higher than Notts County every season since 1975/76. So this question is highly erroneous).
Niall: (laughs) I'm not getting involved!
Would Ian like to play with the lads from the Power of Dreams again?
Ian: The drummer lives in Arizona now so it's going to be difficult unless we get some kind of satellite linkup going. The band ran out of steam in the end but the parting was amicable. I saw Craig last year but I haven't seen the others for a while. And yes I have seen the Myspace site!
What do you think about the live clips on Youtube?
Morty: We don't put them up but we think they're good. It's nice to see the fans are interested enough to take and share the clips for the whole world to see.
Here's a question about leather boots.
Niall: (enthusiastically) I'll answer that!
It goes on for ever. (Shows pages and pages of long, complicated question)
Niall: Erm, pass!
Where do you get those trousers from and are they a sweatbox?
Pat: Let's put it this way. When we toured with Radiohead in 1993 they gave us a present of a big box of talcum powder at the end of the tour. That came in really useful.
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Last updated 16 November 2013 07:46
I think I'm meant to do an "About" here but I think you'd be more interested in seeing a random seagull.