GBH formed in 1979 in Birmingham, England, after the local club where the original members (Colin Abrahall, Colin “Jock” Blyth, Ross Lomas, and Wilf Williams) was closed down and the band had nowhere to go after hours. “We thought we’d form a band to entertain ourselves,” claims Abrahall. “It’s still entertaining us, so we haven’t quit playing.” Though the lineup has changed over the years, the sound has remained pretty much the same, from their first release on Clay Records in 1981, to their newest album, Punk Junkies , on We Bite Records in 1998.
“What does GBH mean?” must be one of the most frequently asked questions that the band gets asked. When I was in 7th grade (oh so long ago), some 8th graders picked on me because I dared ask that question — and never answered it. For years, I thought the answer was “Great Big Hairdos,” and then, “Gone Bowling, Honey” (I’m not making this up — I’m really that big a moron.) In actuality, it’s UK police code for “Grievous Bodily Harm”: in the eyes of British law, there are several degrees of assault on another person for which you could charged if arrested for such offenses. “ABH” — Actual Bodily Harm –would be leveled at you for breaking someone’s nose, while on a sliding scale, GBH — Grievous Bodily Harm — would be for a more serious offense.
When GBH first started up , they discovered that a heavy metal band in London was going by the same name. Rather than change their name, the band added “Charged” to their moniker. The other GBH disappeared into obscurity, and eventually, the “Charged” was dropped (circa 1984, at the end of the ‘Clay’ period).
What do you think is the big difference between the US punk scene and the UK scene?
There’s not a lot of difference, really. It’s all just kids doing it for themselves. I think the club system in America is better — there’re more venues for punk bands to play. You can either play big, huge places, or little pubs.
What do you think is the difference between the scene now and the way it was 20 years ago?
It’s not so much of a fashion anymore. There are a lot of people into it back then just because it was in fashion, and it’s now more of an underground thing. Everyone involved knows what’s going on now.
What do you think of all the little subfactions of punk there are now, like straight-edge, etc.?
Oh, it’s all rock and roll. People can fool themselves into believing what they want about it, but there are only two kinds of music: there’s good music and there’s bad music. That’s all there is.
What’s your personal life like? What are you when you’re not playing music?
I look after my children. I have two girls, 7 and 5. I like to play football, gardening — both vegetables and flowers. I like more landscaping-type gardening, the more physical stuff. Building ponds. I like to listen to Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Bob Marley — anything but rave and dance music. In England it’s terrible — it’s all dance and rave music everywhere, all the time, all the boy bands, the girl bands, all of them dancing. My daughters are huge Spice Girls fans, but I don’t like them.
On Acting: “I have acted in Hollywood, actually. It was a very small part in a very small movie. The band played a party — our guitarist’s wife’s sister was studying film in Hollywood when we were staying there, and she was involved in this show that was supposed to be the American version of The Young Ones . There was a nasty landlord, and all these kids living in a house, and they were going to get thrown out, and we did a gig for them to raise their rent. It was all filmed in one take, and we did the gig bit in a garage full of cameramen and extras. It wasn’t a very good movie, but now I can tell people I acted in Hollywood.”
About Minneapolis’s First Avenue Nightclub : “Someone told us once that Prince had a secret room where he could watch the bands playing where no one could see him, through a two-way mirror or something like that. So every time we play there, we always joke that Prince is watching us, the little midget. But you can’t call him Prince anymore.”
“What do you think Prince’s mom calls him?” I ask.
“Oh, I don’t know–‘The artist formerly known as my son?'”