Doctor And The Medics
Vic Springer clashes paisley shirts with the psychedelic medics
The Doctor and his merry band of Medics look set to finally reinstate the Summer Of Love. Our paisley correspondent Vic Springer has the story so far.
So tell me, Doctor. It's five years on since the last psychedelic revival, and you're still going. How do you feel about that?
"Listen: five years ago, Doctor and The Medics was the psychedelic revival!"
Uh-huh. Forthcoming sort of bloke, the Doctor. We're standing on the set of the video being shot to accompany his band's latest single, a cover of the 60s one hit wonder Spirit In The Sky. The set is a tasteful ensemble of vertigo inducing black and white Pop-artisms. The Doctor presents a trifle more colourful vision – scarlet crushed-velvet loons, eight tons of tack jewellery, six inch stack heels, a superabundance of brown hair, confidence to match. The face, under the kind of make-up I haven't seen since Roy Wood was fronting Wizzard, is younger than you might expect. Yet this man was earning a crust as a DJ on the fledgling second-time-around psychedelic circuit half a decade ago, and since that time has seen his own band rise from obscurity to cult status and beyond, with the signing of The Medics to major label MCA. Still one of the best live acts on the scene, a sure fire sell out at clubs like Soho's Alice In Wonderland, or Greenwich's Tunnel Club, the Doctor is about to dispense a little medicine to a wider audience than ever before; with an LP and a major national tour in the offing, it could just be starting to happen in a serious way. A time for reflection perhaps...?
"Yeah, we've changed a lot since then. In those days me and Steve and the girls (Wendy and Colette) used to play a nice mesh between latter day Jazz funk and Rockabilly. Sort of like Abba played by the Wurzels. We used to do covers of stuff like Home On The Range and White Horses. In fact we were a lot sillier, and not the intense, serious, musical band we are now."
If it were not for the absolute straightness of the Doctor's face, I might even believe him. But seriously, Doc, how do you label yourselves?
"I don't think it's for us to label ourselves. That's your job, as journalists. We've been called a Pop band, Heavy Metal, and a crock of shit. Put all three together, and you'll be getting close."
Let's try it another way... Tell me about your new single.
Guitarist Steve interjects: "Our new hit single."
The Doc again:
"We chose it for religious reasons, unspecified religious reasons... we're all very spiritual in one way or another. It's a song about Jesus, and Jesus is different to all of us. I mean, to Wendy, it's the little man who delivers her milk... No, that's not true...
You surprise me.
"No, we did it because we wanted a song that's accessible. We also did it because the guy that did it originally, Norman Greenbaum, he did the original Rock'n'Roll swindle... went out and produced this hit single, got a massive advance for an album from United Artists, and used the money to buy a chicken farm. He fulfilled his contractual obligation by getting Ry Cooder to come over his house with a guitar and a tape deck. They made this gatefold-sleeve album full of songs about chickens and goats."
The Medic's own album, provisionally titled Laughing at the Pieces, which probably won't feature chicken and goats, is hitting the shops as you read this. Any tips on recording, Doctor?
"Yeah – I usually try to press the Record and Play buttons at the same time."
"We've been called a Pop band, Heavy Metal and a crock of shit. Put all three together and you'll be getting close"
Fine. In fact the button-pressing involved was a little more complex – 24-track SSL more complex, to be precise, at Redan Studios and Britannia Row, the choice of producer Craig Leon, whose previous track record includes acts liked Suicide, Flesh For Lulu and the Ramones. The Doctor explains: "I think it's always right to use the studio your producer uses, because they know the desk and equipment. Also the SSL makes it easier from our point of view, because none of us are able to flick our hand across the desk and say 'Aw, no, tweak it up in the 2K region.' We just say to the producer 'Oh, it sounds a bit bassy, or trebly, or naff... 'We're not competent yet to produce ourselves!"
But it is something that you would like to get into?
Opinion on this seems divided: Wendy would, Richard feels the band don't trust each other enough – and the Doctor, as ever, explains: "If I produced it, the vocals would be right out front, if Steve did it, it'd be a guitar album, Richard'd turn it into a Level 42 album, and if the girls did it, it'd sound like a choir of angels with a strum strum, bang bang, blah blah blah in the background."
Opinions toward gear are a little more unanimous: The Doctor speaks for the whole band: "We spit on Trace Elliot!"
Why? I turn to Richard, the ex-Trace Elliot user.
"It was just crap. Spent more time in the factory being repaired than it did working... I use a Marshall 50 watt stack now, and Fender and Rickenbacker basses. You can throw the Marshalls in a swamp and they'll still sound alright afterwards."
Guitarist Steve uses Marshalls too, with his Gibson SG, truly vile paisley-finished Tele, and a marginally more tasteful pink Squier Strat for home use. Drummer Vom waxes lyrical about his Premier drums and Paiste 2002 cymbals "because they might give me a load free!"
And the Doctor?
"Ummm... crushed velvet, Boots hairspray, throat lozenges, and Rennie indigestion tablets, but I'm open to offers of sponsorship."
And how does everyone feel about the question of playing technique? Steve?
"I've had to practise hanging my guitar low enough so it doesn't get caught in my beads."
"I've progressed to playing two tambourines at once. I've had some singing lessons too, but I don't think I've been to the right place because I can balance the ball on my nose and clap, but the singing's still terrible... Mind you, one thing musicianship-wise is that after four years together, we're tight... Steve was tight before he joined the band, and he's even tighter now."
Must be all the cider he drinks.
"...In fact, it's because we're so tight that we are going to be the greatest Rock'n'Roll band in the world... We're so tight that if you put the Medics next to a duck's arse and asked someone which one was the Medics, they'd probably say the ducks arse because it was slightly better looking. And didn't come out with as much shit."
You said it.
Interview by Vic Springer
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