the red penguin

Abdoujaparov, Pharmacy, Ton Up Kid – The Y Club, Chelmsford

I’m not sure if this is my photo or someone else’s. Still, I kept it and here it is!

This was the first of many, many post-Carter USM gigs I had the pleasure to be at, at a gig venue that’s long since gone.

I’d got there early to interview Fruitbat for the radio. This was one of my very first interviews and he was still a bit of a musical hero of mine so I was a bit nervous, but it all seemed to go well, and he was very relaxed about talking to me. This was still in an era when managers/agents wouldn’t let you get anywhere near the smallest of signed bands unless you were from a station with a million listeners or more, so it was nice to find someone who wanted to talk to me!

Both support bands were good. Ton Up Kid were a great local band (what happened to them?) who gave me their CD afterwards when I told them I had a radio station. This didn’t happen very often back in 1999 for me so I found that as exciting as they did!

Pharmacy had Morty McCarthy from the Sultans of Ping on drums, but due to my inability to recognise anyone anywhere I didn’t find this out until years after the event, despite watching the whole set.

Listening to Abdou for the first time was very enjoyable – I don’t know if I expected something Carteresque, but this was still plenty punk rock, without Fruitbat’s trademark electronics added. Different but very good indeed.

I’m writing up my gig diaries a few years after the event, so what better way to describe this show with a couple of contemporary accounts?

Firstly, here’s the actual transcript of my interview with Fruitbat.

How did you come up with that name?

It’s the name of my favourite cyclist. I’m a real keen cycling fan and he’s, well he’s not a professional cyclist any more because he got thrown out for taking too many drugs a couple of years ago. He was like a kind of an anti-hero, he was pretty dangerous – always knocking other riders off. He was a good sort, I liked him, very punk rock!

Is that reflecting the music you’re playing now, as the last couple of Carter USM albums were moving towards a more acoustic and mellow direction?

Yes, it was kind of like that, although there are a couple of very mellow songs with Abdoujaparov as well. But the idea of the band is that it was going to be very raucous and punk rock and we don’t care kind of thing.

You’ve only been together for a few months but the first single is already out – Punk Confetti, which came out on mail order only. What was the idea behind that?

I actually put it out through the internet using a shareware idea – people sell a lot of computer programs on a try before you buy basis. I thought that I could adapt this to get enough money together to press the CD by getting people to download the files from the internet, and if they liked them they could send me a cheque for three quid. When I got enough three quids, I pressed it, so it was kind of like a payment in advance but people had it in the meantime on their computers and they get the real physical thing afterwards.

Any idea how many people downloaded the track from your website?

It was in the thousands. I put the files on line towards the end of November (1998) and I had enough money just before Christmas to get them pressed.

So that was a fairly good take up considering most people are used to taking things off the internet for free?

Yeah, I was really heartened by it and I’m going to do the next single that way as well.

You had your first gig at the Water Rats in November, how did that go?

It was great, it was a real good thing for me as it was the longest I had been without playing live since I was 16. The last Carter gig was 18 months before that. It was also the first time I got up and was actually singing as well instead of just playing guitar. It was great, I really enjoyed it – I was quite nervous before I went on but it went really well and the crowd seemed to like it as well.

How do you feel about playing venues like the Water Rats and the Y Club again?

Even when we had a no 1 album in the UK we were still going to America and playing clubs of this size so we’ve been doing this all the while. Mind you it takes as long to get to Chelmsford from South London as it does to get to Paris nowadays. I think this band for me is like a fresh start, if it was Carter I would think, oh shit, we’ve really gone downhill. But that was one of the reasons that we stopped Carter, because it wasn’t any fun any more. With this band, it’s a new thing, and I really enjoy playing clubs like this.

Talking of Carter, what is Jimbob up to now?

Jim’s recorded his first solo album. He’s got this new thing called Jim’s Super Stereoworld and he is talking to three or four record labels at the moment. He was going to have a record out on Cooking Vinyl, which was Carter’s previous label, but that fell through so he’s talking to other people. He’s quite hopeful to get something out in the Spring.

What’s influencing the Les Carter sound these days?

The only thing I like at the moment is Fatboy Slim! Guitar based music is really bland and boring at the moment and I don’t really get off on it at all. I’ve been going back to my old record collection – I’ve got a lot of Leonard Cohen LPs … (laughs)

What else is planned for the future?

I’m going to release the next single on the internet in mid February and if I go by how the other one went, I will have the physical CD sometime in March. In March we’re going to tour Australia – we decided to do the Australia thing very early on in the career of this band. And of course their Grand Prix’s on so can’t ask for more really!

Secondly, here’s Fruitbat’s actual gig diary from the show. He used to write all of these up on the Abdou website and I really enjoyed reading them. The page has long gone but I managed to retrieve it from the Wayback Machine.

It has been a bit of a struggle this week. I woke up on Monday morning with a really bad stomach ache and spent the whole week trying all sorts of pills and potions vainly trying to make it better. I thought that I must have an ulcer or something, it just wouldn’t stop hurting.

We had band practice on Tuesday and it just wasn’t gelling, we tried our hardest, but somehow it wasn’t come out right. If you ask anyone in a band, they’ll tell you that sometimes this happens, I know it always used to happen with Carter. So we just put it down to luck and hoped that Friday’s rehearsal would turn out right.

Indeed, Friday’s rehearsal was much better, despite the fact that I was still suffering from my aggravating belly, I had a bit of trouble remembering the words, but I put that down to the huge amounts of Ibruprofen that I had been swallowing over the previous four days.

Saturday, the day of Abdoujaparov Gig #2. I didn’t really sleep much the night before due to nerves and stuff, so I woke up feeling pretty shitty. I’ve never been much of a nervous bloke, but this singing lark is a lot more difficult than it looks and I’m terrified of forgetting the words.

I fired up my trusty Laptop and printed out the setlists, then we went to pick up the van – load up the van and set off for Chelmsford. Thanks to the superior navigational skills of veteran roadies ‘arry and Micky we found the Y Club with no difficulty at all and we soon had the equipment loaded in and ready to Rock ‘n Roll.

Whilst the guys were setting up I squeezed in a quick interview with Radio Phoenix (the station is due to be on air for 28 days in March). It was my first interview for a while so I rabbited on for ages, but I think that some of it made sense.

We had a pretty good soundcheck helped by the friendly and efficient venue soundgeezer. We soundchecked with Baby Food, Aren’t We All, Rose and Queen Bitch.

After the soundcheck we went out to get some chips to line our stomachs for the impending alcohol intake. When we got back we did a quick photo session with the lovely Miriam, who politely bossed us around and snapped hopefully at our best sides.

Before we had time to get settled into the dressing room, Pharmacy were on-stage sounding like they had been playing for years, despite the fact that they looked like they weren’t long out of short trousers (that’s a compliment, people). They are a really good band with some great songs and I recommend that if you get the chance you should go and see them.

As per usual, I had a billion things to do in the hour before we were due to go on stage so I managed to miss most of Ton Up Kid. What I did hear though, sounded pretty pro and raucous. I guess that they should be huge pop stars as they are already acting like they are.

Abdoujaparov wandered on-stage unceremoniously at about 10:30 and we quietly went about our business. I have made a mental note to sort out an intro tape for the next gig as our entrance isn’t the most exciting I’ve ever seen for a band.

I still had my bad stomach (yes, it’s boring for me too) so I had a bit of difficulty concentrating and as a result forgot half of the words for the first song, There’s Nobody Less Rock ‘n’ Roll Than Me. We quickly followed that slowie with some faster songs and the set began to take shape and momentum. My favourite part of tonight’s set was the quiet and slow acoustic bit in the middle, somehow the louder songs sounded a bit leaden.

I felt a little uncomfortable up there on-stage as there was quite a bit of space between myself and the crowd. That is apart from Rob, Mark and Kenny who were right up next to the stage and dancing like mad things for most of the set. Thanks to Rob who helped me with a few lyrical prompts.

I noticed loads of folk with assorted cameras and tape recorders so I expect that there will be a shed load of bootlegs flying around before long.

So to sum things up for the gig: Not as good as the Water Rats gig – must do better – can do better – will do better at The Garage next Saturday.

By the way, thanks to Essex Police. We were stopped in our van just outside Chelmsford and our passengers in the back were told to get out or our driver Micky would be charged with dangerous driving. This meant two hefty cab fares back to London and an extreme emptying of my wallet (Boo Hoo).

Don’t worry, I won’t let the bastards grind me down,

love fruity xxx


  • There’s Nobody Less Rock ‘n’ Roll Than Me
  • I Don’t Know
  • Punk Confetti
  • Aren’t We All
  • Losers Walk
  • Rose
  • Birthday
  • Queen Bitch
  • Murder On Dalberg Rd
  • Baby Food


  • Abdoujaparov Theme Song
  • Maria’s Umbrella
Saturday 30 January 1999, 260 views

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