This interview was originally featured in Scootering Magazine June 2012.
The Klub Foot is still as topical today as it was back then, so I thought that this deserved another share. Read on to find out how the live Klub Foot recordings made it onto CD courtesy of Alan Wilson at Trophy Records, along with an update to bring it up to 2019.
The Klub Foot, held in the old Clarendon Hotel on Hammersmith Broadway, was hailed as the mecca for all things Psychobilly attracting several hundred punters on an almost weekly basis. Psychobillies and scooterbillies drank and wrecked to headliners such as Guana Batz, The Meteors, Frenzy, Restless and Demented are Go, supported by many bands which are still the staple diet of Psychobilly today – The Coffin Nails, Long Tall Texans, The Caravans and Frantic Flintstones to name a few.
Even if the logistics of attending the Klub Foot were against you, chances are you held at least one of the Stomping at the Klub Foot live vinyl albums in your record collection.
Trophy Records was set up in 2011 to release CD albums of predominantly unheard audio recordings from the Klub Foot gigs. I caught up with Alan Wilson (Owner of Western Star and Trophy Records) in 2012 to find out a bit more about the project.
Over the years Alan has played in numerous bands and was the founder member of iconic band The Sharks.
He now concentrates his talents on producing and releasing quality Psychobilly and Rockabilly albums through his own recording studio and record label Western Star.
He has also worked extensively for Cherry Red/Anagram re-releasing classic Psychobilly albums.
Firstly, did you have any involvement with the Klub Foot back in the 80s?
Alan Wilson: “Ironically, none whatsoever. My band (The Sharks) spilt a few years before The Klub Foot became popular and I dropped out of playing for a while to concentrate on becoming a producer.
I was aware of it, and bought the Stomping At The Klub Foot vinyl albums as they were released, in fact, I still have the albums (and the subsequent CDs), but I never set foot in the place.
Oddly enough, if I had a pound for everyone that told me they saw me play at the Klub Foot I’d be a rich man. I guess people’s memories are addled by all the years of loud music and alcohol!”
How did this project come about and how did you even know such recordings were still in existence?
Alan Wilson: “Many gigs were recorded live, and at the time they just ‘cherry picked’ a few tracks from the recordings to furnish the live compilation album series. So, most of the recordings remained unmixed and unreleased.
About 15 years ago I was approached by the (then) owners of the rights of all these recordings and asked to quote for mixing the lot. When I enquired further, I found that the recordings were all on 2″ tape.
These big old reels were all sitting in a barn in Kent where they had been stored since the mid 1980s. It was a big pallet full of tapes and they’d been stored in less than ideal conditions. Analogue tape is not very robust and the glue used to hold its’ component parts together becomes porous over time, so damp conditions are a killer.
So, my quote had to include specialist baking of the tapes and restoration before transferring to digital and finally mixing. I didn’t get the job…. this was a costly process.
Maybe 10 years later I found myself working closely with Cherry Red records, a company my old band was signed to at one point. I’d carried on doing stuff for them and still do in fact. They ended up buying out several other small labels and in doing so, the rights to all this stuff came under their control.
I was then tasked with collecting the tapes and storing them safely. It was only then that I was given a budget to start work on these. That’s why the first couple of Klub Foot albums were released on Anagram/Cherry Red.”
Why did you decide to start up Trophy Records to release the rest of the material rather than carry on releasing through Cherry Red or your own label Western Star?
Alan Wilson: “The costs involved in processing all these tapes, baking, restoration, transferring, mixing and then, of course, the actual CD pressings are colossal. The cost involved far outweighs what you would normally expect to see back in the way of sales of this type of release.
So, after a couple of releases, Cherry Red were not really that keen on spending more – and that’s fine as they have gotten to be big and successful because they know what they’re doing and they look at things with a very level head.
However, I felt emotionally attached to the tapes and the project. I had sat on these tapes for about 5 years, they’re quarter of a century old and deteriorating all the time. If someone didn’t act, they’d become a pile of dust and I couldn’t sit by and watch that happen.
These are legendary bands, recorded at a legendary venue. This is material that a lot of people have wanted to hear for a long time. So, I went to Cherry Red and tried to buy the rights. After some negotiation, they wouldn’t sell me the rights but I obtained an exclusive license to exploit the recordings providing I funded all the costs involved.
My own label Western Star has a policy of only releasing material that is recorded here at our own studio near Bath. Releasing these albums didn’t really fit that criteria. So, I started a new label to handle the output from these tapes.”
Was every single Klub Foot gig recorded? And how much material do you have?
Alan Wilson: “No not every gig, but several. And each night that was recorded had several bands on the bill. Some great bands too! It’s hard to know exactly what I have at present, as often what’s listed on the tape boxes isn’t exactly what is on the tape. Also, a small number of the tapes we’ve worked on so far have had technical issues.
But so far, I have successfully re-claimed 5 albums: Batmobile and The Stingrays (for Cherry Red) and three more for Trophy – The Tall Boys, Restless and Torment.
I have also managed to extract a lot of material from various bands’ live sets which won’t make up a full album. I think we’ll be using these as a new series of Klub Foot compilations. I have only just scratched the surface until now as this all takes a lot of time and money.”
So apart from this series being mostly previously unheard material, what makes these different from the original releases?
Alan Wilson: “Well, despite all the technical problems we have had to overcome – and there have been many, I’m pleased that people are generally saying that the sound is much better on these releases than on the original Klub Foot series.
I’ll let the listeners be the judge of that. All I know is that the feedback has all been good as far as sound is concerned. It’s nice to know that the hours and money spent on these recordings seems to have paid off.
The other thing I have noticed when working with these tapes is that there was a lot of ‘crowd noise’ dubbed on and some bands had even re-recorded guitar solos, etc. in a studio afterwards. So the KF compilations back then were kind of false. I have totally ignored these overdubs and gone with the 100% true recordings. I wanted these tapes to be the nearest you could possibly get to being stood in that hall, on the night.”
What’s going to be released next and when can we expect to see it?
Alan Wilson: “I’m still working my way through this massive pile of tapes and this will probably take until the end of the year to complete. Meanwhile, I’m working on a new series of the Klub Foot compilations, which will contain these new, improved mixes and previously unheard material. So stay tuned and hopefully by this time next year it will all be available.”
I believe you narrowly missed out on all the video footage from the Hemsby Big Rumbles?
Alan Wilson: “Yes. I remembered that some of the Big Rumbles were filmed. Dell hired in a professional camera crew – I’m guessing it was back in the early 90s, I don’t remember exactly which year.
But I do remember that one of the crew was Mick from the Rapids, he worked for the film company. So what I thought was, with Dell’s permission, I’d do a deal and try to buy out the footage, edit it and release it as a DVD or a series of DVDs.
So I tracked down the company, called them up and they told me that they’d been sitting on this huge pile of tape-stock for 15 years and never had an enquiry. So just the week before my call, they had scrapped it all!!!”
Now that’s what you call bad luck!”
You clearly have a passion for keeping the history of psychobilly alive and have also released a book “Deathrow, The Chronicles of Psychobilly” which is a compilation of all the old Deathrow Fanzines from the 1990s, do you plan to write any more books, you must certainly have some stories to tell?
Alan Wilson: “Yes, my Deathrow book came out about 5 or 6 years ago. And yes, I do have a couple of ideas for some more books and someday when I get time, I’ll make them happen.
But right now I’m just so busy with the studio and label that as much as I’d love to do the books, I just haven’t got time. But watch this space.”
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YOU MAY ALSO LIKE TO READ:
* ALAN WILSON & WESTERN STAR RECORDING COMPANY
* STOMPING AT THE KLUB FOOT – A TRIBUTE TO 80s PSYCHOBILLY
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