Today I'm introducing you to a (sort of) new band called The Officials. Back in the late 80's, over in The States, John Copeland was in an oi band called The Officials. Fast forward to 2019 and he was putting together a new d-beat band called Aesthetic Of Anger (who I featured on here in April https://justsomepunksongs.blogspot.com/2020/04/aesthetic-of-anger-burn-piggy-burn.html) but who fell apart before they really got going. That wasn't the only iron he had in the fire though. He was also collaborating with vocalist Nath Haywire from Haywire, Armoured Flu Unit and Distance (a band that featured on here a couple of days ago) on an Anarcho-oi project which would resurrect the name of The Officials. They've been hard at work on a debut ep so I thought I'd ask a few questions.
JSPS : The Officials. Who's in the band?
John Copeland : It’s just me and Nath Haywire. I have a friend who comes over and does some guitar work, but he’s not in the project officially
Nath Haywire : I was hugely honoured that John liked my style. It’s fairly easy and relaxed. John sends over tunes and words or I may write a few after I’ve listened to a tune. I set up my home vocal booth – bits of old carpet and blankets to stop the sound bouncing off the walls – then I send the vocals over to John for mixing. I’m trying to get John to do more backing vocals, in keeping with the Oi sound!
JSPS : You're both genre veterans, can I have a quick history of what you've done...
JC : The first band I was in was called Madcat And The Rabid Dogs. It was a four piece from the LA airport area. We had Madcat, an Australian girl who located to LA to do who knows what. Don’t even know how I met her. But we did a demo of pretty much very simple hardcore music. That was 1988-1989 time frame. After that band broke up, Steve Moore, Miguel Hell of early Generators fame and myself formed a band that wanted to do a more Oi! Influenced sound. We had been listening to a lot of Oi! U.K. 2nd wave punk, and some Anarcho stuff. We got 5 songs down and went into Mundista Humanista Studios to do our demo, we recorded and played with the likes of Dogma Mundista, Total Chaos (US), Empirismo, Golpe De Estado, and a bunch of anarcho bands from Huntington Beach, California like Autonomy, Resist and Exist, Armistice, Garblecrat, and many more. Steve and I left the Officials in 1993 to play in Dogma Mundista. We played some shows, mostly in the LA area, and were in the middle of recording an album when the 1994 Northridge earthquake hit and destroyed all of our equipment, including the Tascam 16 track recorder we were using to do the record. From 1995 to 2008 I took a long break from Music to do other things. Work, make money, build a life I was pretty much a gutter kid those few years playing in those bands. I met a guy named Rick who had just left with the rhythm section of Resist And Exist. He wanted to do more of a melodic D-Beat band so we started that in 2009, and recorded a 4 song demo that was featured on a LA comp with a bunch of other bands of different genres. We started to go into a more metal direction with some songs, but alcoholism destroyed the band. Fast forward to 2020... I had been re-recording those old Officials tracks and wanted to find a singer who had the right voice to sing the songs. I heard Nath through some demo stuff Iain Ball from Armoured Flu Unit had done, and I knew he was the guy I wanted to work on this project with. And he fits the bill perfectly. He has rewritten some of the lyrical content to make it more relevant. Since we aren’t teenagers anymore, a song about being “19 and bored” wouldn’t exactly cut it these days. It’s been a good working partnership and I have more material in that style would like to do. I would consider the project Anarchoi! With some humour thrown in. We sing about serious stuff and everyday funny stuff. The song Alcohol Abuse is a true story.
Oh, the Aesthetic Of Anger stuff. Was a guy I met at a Subhumans show who wanted to do back to basics d-beat Discharge style. We even covered “ Fight Back” but he lived 3 hours away and it was never going to be more then a project. I haven’t talked to him in months. He has severe depression and he said he went off his meds. We were recording another ep with lyrical content that had to do with mental health issues. But we never finished it. That was around the time I had approached Nath about doing “The Officials” stuff.
NH : I first joined a band when I was 16 called SOS and we were all still learning how to play. A few gigs but no recordings. Things really got going when I joined Haywire in late 89 as singer. Then in 92 took up bass as well. Things ground to a halt in 94. I rejoined Haywire 9 months later on bass and later vocals, playing up until about 10 years ago (2 tapes, 1 CD, 2 singles). I had also briefly played bass for a straight edge band for 6 months in about 1991 (me being a big drinker! haha). I played guitar for Whole In The Head 2005-2010 (3 singles) and have played guitar for Liberty since 2012. Then Armoured Flu Unit came into being in 2016. And in 2019 I joined Abrazos on guitar. I've played in a few covers band and stood in on the odd gig or people but they don't warrant a mention.
JSPS : I was going to ask what it's like to start a band in 2020 when there's no chance to play live but I suppose with you and Nath being on opposite sides of The Pond anyway the lockdown hasn't really affected you in that way. Do you envisage hooking up at anytime in the future to play a few gigs or is this just a recording project?
JC : I’m not sure. I will be going to the U.K. for a few months next year assuming the vaccine works as intended so I won’t rule it out. I think it's a sound that’s sorely missing in punk rock these days. I would be fun to get a real band together with Nath and do a few shows.
NH : Never say never. The way Armoured Flu Unit came together was originally just home recording and then with the offer of a single we assembled a real band which led to gigs and the development of a bigger sound. I’m sure we could find a couple of willing punks if John wants to play live when he’s over! Perhaps borrowed from AFU!
JSPS : How important are the lyrics? Do you find that the angrier you are about a subject, the easier it is to write about it?
JC : It’s partly cause I'm pissed off at social media, and people just kinda floating through life. We have two songs that deal directly with those subjects. But for me it’s more about writing a good tune in the style of the bands I grew up listening to. I learned how to play the drums by listening to Wilf from Charged GBH and mimicking what he did, so my style of music is based around those drumbeats and how they fit together to make a cohesive track. I generally don’t get involved in writing lyrics cause I can’t. But I do express what I think the song is about, and I let Nath take it from there.
NH : I find it is definitely easier for words to tumble onto the page if you’re angry about something. I spend a lot of time shouting at the TV and radio so I’m sure my partner would prefer it if I wrote it down instead!
JSPS : It's been over 30 years since the first incarnation of The Officials. Obviously it's a lot easier getting your music out there nowadays, albeit into an over saturated market place, but do you think people value music less highly nowadays than back when it was solely a physical product?
JC : I think so because it’s more accessible. Just look at Bandcamp. It’s loaded with stuff. Some releases do have physical media, by there is always an option to get the digital version with artwork included in the download. It’s also very important to me that the band has 100% control over the content. From recording to releasing. I dealt with one record company and I will never do it again, unless it’s a company like Grow Your Own Records. Or Dr. Strange here in the states. We take the DIY ethic and go full in with it. All music was recorded in my house.
NH : There is so much great music out there. It’s difficult to keep up with everything and I definitely respond better to things I have a physical copy of. They stay in the conscious part of your mind. Saying that there are some great releases I have downloaded and play a fair amount but they tend to be things that have struck a chord with me through seeing the band live or knowing them as mates.
JSPS : You've just released your debut ep, what can people expect?
JC : Some good old fashion U.K. '82 inspired pogo music with a message and some fun. Imagine Blitz on 45rpm with a bit of Partisans thrown in for good measure. That about sums it up for me.
NH : If we could come close to Blitz or Partisans I would be a very happy chap. I think there is a bit of an Infa-Riot and Oxymoron vibe to some of John’s songs too.
The ep is titled X Ray Vision and it boasts 4 energetic blasts of raw, in your face punk rock. You can get it here : https://theofficials.bandcamp.com/releases
It's nigh on impossible to choose a favourite song to highlight as all the tracks are great so I'm going to go with the title track. This is Xray Vision...