There’s a lot to be said about how a music scene starts and then how people latch on to this act or that. Take punk in the mid 70s. The Sex Pistols were the band everyone even outside of the bubble knew. They were everywhere. And then they were gone, in a haze of self indulgence and mis-management. Scroll forward four and a half decades and Fire Exit, another product of the 70s punk revolution are still going strong. They are revered within the scene by fans young and of a certain vintage. Theirs is a story of longevity through a passion for music. Aggy Gillon spoke to the band about their history, that time they lived in a van and a whole lot more.
Just to begin, for any of our readers that might not be familiar with Fire Exit can you to introduce yourselves and what you do in the band?
Gerry Attrick “I’m the singer and founding member of Fire Exit”
John Hunter “I’m the latest addition on guitar as of the last couple of months”
Gerry “Aye. George is back in. He was in the band for like 8 years, went away, and came back for another 6 years. He’s one of the old school”
When did he first join?
Gerry “He joined about 85 or 86.”
It’s absolutely mad you guys have been going for 45 years
Gerry “This is our 45-year tour. We have been touring all around, were going over to Berlin in October. So far we have done Manchester, Paisley, Glasgow, and Edinburgh. We’re going back to Edinburgh and Glasgow. We have done Gateshead, we have been all over. Because of the lockdown, we couldn’t get out of the UK, now we can get out were getting away. Been to Morecombe twice, been to Dunoon.
Fire Exit was once based in London back in the day?
Gerry “We formed in 77 and in 78 there wasn’t much activity in Scotland. We played everywhere we could play really. So the band decided we’re going to London and we also were offered a record deal with Decca Records. Who were with the Cockney Rejects at the time. They were just ready to dump the Cockney Rejects. Decca Records paid Burlington Music as they wanted to register all of our music. We said no, we keep control of our music. We knew then there was going to be problems. So what we done, we went in and done the recording. Pat Collier who was the bass player for The Vibrators at the time, he done all the engineering side of it. We kind of got talked into releasing it all ourselves. I got in touch with Scritti Politti. They released a single themselves and knew how to finance it and release it. We asked them how to go about it and they gave us loads of ideas. Basically, we just stole the tape. Took the tape over to Pie Records, got 2,500 copies pressed. We told Decca Records we couldn’t find the tape, it went missing. We released it on our own Time Bomb Explosion Records. We gave them a taste of what they had done to The Cockney Rejects…Oh, look our drummer has just come in. So aye, that was the story back then. We released it then and there. We played the Stonehenge Festival with Poison Girls and Hawkwind and all that was great. We then started getting gigs all around London and it just took off from there.
You all lived in a van at the time, right?
Gerry “We stayed in a van for 9 months. When we moved down there we were squatting and all that. When we left Glasgow we left in an old Godfrey Davis van. We basically threw a mattress on top of our speakers *laughs* if anybody needed a sleep they would go in there. When we got to London, Brian our guitarist, had known leather barrel removals. He went working a few shifts for them. So what we done was, he said come in here they have showers and all that, we’ll park the van up, I’ll do a couple of shifts for them and they will let us stay. Basically, we all went and done shifts for them. We ended up staying there so we just stayed in the van. We met loads of folk and then we got flats and all that. I came up and set up a tour in Scotland and when we came back down Brian was away playing guitar for Captain Sensible and never came back *laughs* So I got another guitarist in right away. Our bass player was getting offered slots with Gary Numan’s Tubeway Army so he went away and played with them. They went to Australia and he stayed there. So I came back up to Scotland and got a couple of guys who used to play with us back into the band and built a base again and kept the band going from there”
It’s cool how you say that you are basically going to keep doing this until you physically can’t anymore.
Gerry “Aye that’s the idea. The reason I said that was I’ve had two heart attacks and a stroke. I just want to keep going until I canny. I get speech therapy because I couldn’t speak. That’s how my voice isn’t as good as it used to be. Nothing to do with drinking wine *laughs* I try to do that to keep it lubricated that’s my story”
Have you played many Rebellions before?
Gerry “Been playing Rebellion since 2001. In 2000 we were over in Spain. Morag and myself have been to all the In The Sun and we know Daz and Jenny that run it. Daz joined us for a drink, in fact, it was his round but he didn’t know that *laughs*. We got talking to him and they played an old single of ours in the background and he goes I love this song! Max burst out laughing and said well get them on your festival. We were on the next year and we have been on every year since”
You must have a lot of friends playing the festival?
Yeah, most of the bands you’ll see on the list we’ll know them. We meet all over the world. This is a family gathering with all the bands. Canny go two steps without meeting people. This is Iain our drummer’s first time. This is their first festival but George has done it with me a few times. So they’re getting the buzz of the festival that we always have had. There is a good family in the scene. If you want to get on you have got to hold your position. If you don’t give the audience what they want you won’t get picked again to come on. Thanks to everyone for their support . It’s brilliant”
Out of all the festivals you have played and shows that you do, would you say that Rebellion is one of the ones that means the most to you guys?
Gerry “You love all the small shows but you play the small shows to get to this show. A lot of people don’t like the big festivals and rather play at their local pub. We do all of that as well but this is your ultimate. You can come here and you meet people from all over the world. We have great friends over from Germany and America and you canny just jump on a plane and go meet them and say hi. You come here for a weekend. You get a lot of promoters who see you and want to book you for gigs. It’s how we got to play Berlin again this year. Think this is our 12th year and that only came about meeting people. We have been offered Italy as well. We were meant to be in Milan before lockdown but that had to get cancelled but that’s back on the cards. From yesterday to today, same with doing an interview with you, it’s just building up a big network of people. Also, there’s a lot of people here who own small pubs and clubs and we go and support them as well”
You mentioned Berlin, you have a live album in Berlin is that right?
Gerry “Was for our 40 years anniversary, 5 years ago it came out. We done two albums that year was quite crazy. We were putting together a double album of all our old material. So everything we had in tape recorders, DAP tapes, and studio work. We just sat in the house and we put it all on an album. Didn’t touch it we just put it on the way it was. It was too much for one album so we made a double CD, 40 tracks 40 years. About a month before we went to Berlin the guys that own The Wild at Heart said why don’t you record it and we can put out a live album. We were thinking we will record it and put it out next year but we had actually sold out the 40 years 40 tracks CD so we done the live album. It sold out the week it came out. We have a great following in Germany probably better than we have in Scotland *laughs* They are right into the music.
What shows have you got coming up?
Gerry “We’re playing Berlin in October which is a benefit gig for Beano. Beano has got motor neuron disease, he’s a stage manager here and he’s still helping run The Empress. He’s here in his chair and the guys have brought him over. He was in Paranoid Visions, he’s been in every band Church of Confidence on drums. He canny play now. So we’re doing a benefit gig over there 14th, 15th, and 16th of October and there’s loads of big bands but we canny say anything at the moment. Three days at The Wild at Heart in Berlin, not sure how many bands.
Since you are one of the original punk bands how do you think punk has evolved and progressed over the years from then till now?
I don’t think people act any different. I’m 63 and I’m still here still thinking I’m 17, you know. Festivals like this, Punk in the Peninsula, The Callings they bring kids in. So you’re bringing in generations after you. Whereas before when you went to play at your local pub you only get 18 upwards, now you’re getting everybody. Saw a wee guy this morning when I was out getting breakfast, the guy must have been about 6, and he’s walking about with a Fire Exit vest on. I went over and introduced myself, David his name is. Absolutely fantastic.
You mentioned you were possibly releasing a new record next year?
Gerry “Next year we hope to. We were trying to get one this year but it was too much for the guy. We had a big problem end of May, last day of May. I got the all-clear for playing festivals, four days later our drummer didn’t tell anyone in the band just up and left. He deleted us all on Facebook and posted a status. I don’t know what happened to him but we have other people wanting to do it so… The whole thing was George wanted to play with us so stepped in right away. John couldn’t do one of the shows because he was away but what he done was he left the tracks so we were told on the Tuesday, we rehearsed it on the Wednesday. We rehearsed with our old guitarist and these guys. We rehearsed at night as well so we had an hour and a half to get a set together for the Saturday. We blew people away. People are saying now oh we seen you in Dunoon, best band of the weekend! Were like wow. We know we weren’t but to get told you are is good you know? *laughs* Everyone has their own opinions and yeah massive thanks to everybody. Just want to also say a massive thanks to the guys in the band now John, George, and Iain. They got the set together and it’s like really tight it’s bouncing. This is the way Fire Exit should be so I’m happy”.
If you could say anything to your fans what would it be?
Gerry “Massive thanks for the support. We will continue supplying it if you continue supporting it”
What is your favourite song to perform?
Gerry “Mine is probably ‘Were Gonna Drink’. We played it last night in an acoustic set. We dedicated the track last night to Fahran Short who died during COVID. Quite a lot of friends who died through COVID but I tell you Fahran was always down the front for Fire Exit. He has followed us everywhere, every gig played. We went to Germany and we turn around and here’s Fahran. He paid to get in. I would have got him on the guest list. So we played that, I love playing it but last night was special. Everybody was joining in and raising a glass for our friend”.