You’re my only friend, and you don’t even like me – sometime in April 1994

I don’t like no-one, well except for you

A wild and willing 16-year-old, somehow I got into town and searched out like-minded comrades in teenage delinquency, knowing they would be gathering at Capones, a hotel room situated atop a dirty multi-storey car park in the centre, up from the church where you’d find green-haired youths sitting on gravestones with their bottles of Merrydown. Like joining any cult I knew no one but was accepted immediately as a member because I had already made the choice, they recognised the signs, the ripped clothes, the safety pins and messed up hair, so they joined me as much as I joined them.

So I talked to someone who had patches on their sleeves of names that I recognised and made friends. I told of my knowledge of American bands of this hardcore genre and this guy suggested I meet his friend and so started at long close friendship, that very night him being recruited to play bass guitar in the band Shock To The System and me later joining them when they changed their name to Atrox (shock); all through this friendship that started in that dim hall.

Young and rebellious we rejected the ways of our parents (ha!) and strove for a better world (in our ignorant teenage minds). Through dramas and drugs we were close in outlook and preferences, taking trips down to Bournemouth in the evenings of our early twenties to look back and wonder where this new new generation was going wrong. (I later realised it was us who were going wrong but that’s a longer story).

Proud and cynical we thrived off each other’s dark outlooks, revelling in the glory of life’s disaster. Myself the more adventurous of the pair I took initiatives when needed and we helped each other through several bands and a couple of publications. To look back now and see the tiny streams of change is easy, though I didn’t recognise them as such then, they soon turned into rivers which would not be turned back and this year would be the crucial year in our separation as friends.

The emotional heartache I went through was tough but I realised that by trying to remain friends was like paddling the canoe against the tide, no matter how hard I tried to make it up the river I was always pushed back, and what kind of friendship is that, when all effort is countered? I turned the canoe around and found myself in the vast oceans of love and warmth that others offered me. Myself as Mr Cynical was no more.

pic: screenshot from this video taken in January 1984 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNll6PtC9qM – where I bounce around in front of the band Confessions of Sin, proudly showing off my hand-made Better Youth Organisation t-shirt. I thought I was really something – I was really something else.

Hate That Smile – Energise – 14th June 1988

Alex Vann: Drums 
Rich Waitland: Guitar/Vocals 
Paul Chambers: Bass/Vocals 
Paul Simmons: Guitar 
Shaun Hemsley: Vocals

26th Feb 2021 – Not certain about the date for this but 1988 would be correct. This was the first iteration of Hate That Smile. Rich left fairly soon after recording this as we started to want to play more shows and I think he had young kids at the time and wasn’t able to commit his time. If I remember correctly I joined the band a little later after formation and still wasn’t sure about how to sing some of Paul’s lyrics so he and Rich ended up singing their songs in the studio.

Alex, the two Paul’s and I had all played together in Atrox which disbanded after Dave Redfern and Charlie Mason went off to university. I’m not sure of the genesis of Hate That Smile anymore. I think the Paul C came up with the name though not sure what the meaning was behind it. This was the time of the rise of Acid House music and raves which adopted the smiley face symbol and I found an image that was similar but the smile had been manipulated into something a little more sinister. I got 500 stickers made up and spread them everywhere I could around my little town. I don’t think they had any impact.

I still enjoy listening to these songs and we felt part of the much larger punk scene of the time though musically sometimes it’s hard to see where we fit in. I was always critical of my vocal skills, especially as this band needed a strong singer and not so much a shouter (which I also wasn’t particularly good at anyway) but considering how badly I sing these days I think I gave it a fair shot. The music holds up as interesting and I was happy with the lyrics I was contributing.

Atrox – West Indian Club, Southampton – 19th September 1985

12th Feb 2021 – A Thursday night, no less. Not being too familiar with Southampton after having only been there a couple of times, we often got misdirected by the locals, whether by accident or folks not appreciating these scruffy young punks in their city.

We did establish many life long friendships from these times though. The West Indian Club was a magical place (in my mind now) though I had no real idea of the workings of organising shows or even understanding how sound was mixed in a live situation. I just stood on the stage and shouted as loud as I could and hoped I could be heard. Folks seemed to enjoy it, either way.

Atrox – Live in Dorchester – 15th March 1985

Atrox, Disciples of the Elder, (A poet), Other Side Of The Fence at the Cornwall Hotel, Dorchester

28th Aug 2022 – Disciples of the Elder, I think was Andy Andersen’s band at the time. I had tried previously to get a band together with him called Violent Rubbish or possibly Satan’s Children (which I self-tattooed on my left wrist) along with Justin Butler on bass and Simon on drums. We had one practice at Justin’s school somewhere in Hamworthy but never got it together for another as we had few transport options and all lived in different towns.

This was my first show singing with Atrox, having finally begged my way into my favourite band and convincing them that having two singers wasn’t a bad thing. It was pretty unusual at the time. I say singer but I always correct myself to say vocalist. I was so stoked to be up on stage with my new friends and in a band that I considered far superior to Andy’s.

Other Side Of The Fence was Rich Waitland’s band I believe and a couple of years later he would play a small part in my life in another band.