Q&A with the Damned’s Captain Sensible

Written by George Tabb on . Posted in Miscellaneous, Posts.


he going on about?" Captain Sensible, original bassist now turned guitarist
for England’s the Damned, asks me as P.J. barks at him.

wants your pizza," I say to this bleached-blond guy who looks a lot like
me, except for the shorts and sandals.

pizza?" he asks as he takes another bite of the stuff that the General
brought over to the Punk offices.

likes human food," I tell him.


but lettuce," I explain. "He’s got this thing against being healthy."

a punk rock dog," the Captain exclaims.

I had originally
planned to interview the Captain a day later. But when I heard that he and Dave
Vanian, the band’s lead singer, were gonna stop by the offices of Punk
and maybe down some beers, well, I was there. I was also there because John
Holmstrom, the editor of the magazine, has this knack for hiring cute interns.
He’d probably do well in politics.

I arrive
at the Punk office, where I’m greeted by John, his neighbor
Frank and his intern/assistant, Jessica. Later his other assistant, Anna, shows
up with this other hot chick with knee-high black boots and a sexy smile that
makes the small room smell of testosterone. Oh, and also there’s the General.
Duh. He brought the pizza.

So we’re
all sitting around waiting for the guys to show up, and as we do so, Holmstrom
tells me how he first saw the Damned back in 1978 when they toured the United
States with the Dead Boys. I’m impressed, since the Dead Boys are one of
my favorite bands of all time. He also explains to me that the Damned were cool
because while all the other English bands around at the time, like the Clash
and the Sex Pistols, were singing about politics, the Damned didn’t give
a fuck and were just punk rock and funny. My first time seeing them was at Joey
Ramone’s 50th birthday party, the one he couldn’t attend because he
was dead. I was blown away. Not only were they loud and fast, they were sloppy,
funny and very cool.

About two
months later, I got the new Damned album, Grave Disorder (Nitro). And
it rocked, even though it’s on the label owned by the guy who’s the
singer of the Offspring. So when I heard they were gonna be in town, I jumped
at the chance to talk to them. I had a few choices. I could interview Dave Vanian.
I could interview Captain Sensible. Or I could interview them both, but separately.
It seems one of them shuts up when the other is around.

Being the
journalist that I am, always willing to go that extra mile, I chose the Captain.
The way I figured it was if I chose the singer, he’d never shut up, because
singers hardly ever do. I’d have to listen and relisten to tapes of his
voice for hours and transcribe it. Ick.

After about
an hour and a half of some guy with a really weird beard taking photos of the
Damned on the roof of Punk’s building, I finally got to interview
the Captain. But not before I got a good look at his singer’s mouth, which
really does contain fangs, and not before P.J. had a chance to bark and beg
and finally get a huge piece of cheese and tomato sauce. And not before hearing
from both the guys that my little terrier was from their neck of the woods,

What do
you think of New York pizza?

Much the
same the world over, isn’t it? A little bit of dough, chuck a little tomato
puree on the top of it and a bit of cheese and away you go.

Yeah, but
you just ate NEW YORK pizza…

Yeah, well
it’s pretty much the same. Oh, and that pizza wasn’t really that good,
was it? I was just being kind when I said it was sensational.

It was…

Look, I’m
not a big pizza buff to be quite honest.

How do you
feel about Eminem stealing your haircut?

Did he?

in the mirror. Look at me

Like he
stole everything else. It’s amazing how it’s so easy to shock people
now, isn’t it really? We call his listeners Charvas in England. The baseball
cap brigade. The shell suit. It’s sort of like these kids from council
estates [public housing] that listen to Eminem and are basically the stupid
people and they go around behaving like, well, you know people say nobody takes
his lyrics seriously? I’m afraid stupid kids all around the world are taking
his lyrics seriously and are behaving in homophobic fashions and such. Actually,
I think the bloke is an absolute wanker. But he’s making lots of money.

When the
Damned first came around with punk rock you shocked people…

Yeah, but
we never said gay people are shit and that you should go out and beat up your
wife after a few beers. Did we?

But it’s
kind of logical that it’s come to this…things just get more extreme.

Yeah, and
in five years’ time, when rap has run its course, the band will go running
around with nuclear bombs or something.

You were
out of the Damned for a number of years, and now you’re back. What’s

I was, well,
in a situation where I couldn’t work with the drummer because unfortunately
he had written me off.

Rat Scabies?

Yeah. He
managed to get hold of the rights for the first two albums. He didn’t bother
to pay me a royalty.

you sue him for the money? That’s "in" these days…

Yeah, but
I think that’s a pretty sad thing to do.

How does
a drummer, the dumbest guy in any band, get control?

Well, there
you go. But now it ends up that he’s not in the band. Who’s the dumbo

Why does
everyone from England have bad teeth?

Is that
Austin Powers or something?

I don’t
know what it costs here, but it’s fucking expensive in Britain just to
get your teeth done. I actually just had 20 years’ worth of dental treatment
done in five days a few months ago.

What the…

Twenty years’
worth of damage. I had everything fixed. I know it doesn’t look like it,
but, well, I have fucking gold everywhere!

And your singer has fangs!

There ya
go. We can afford to do it now because Dexter signed us.

how do you feel about that? You’re on Dexter’s label, Nitro. He’s
the lead singer of the Offspring. They made and make lots of money playing punk
rock while you’ve been out there for years…

anyone thinks of them, they certainly have opened up guitar music again. People
like them. Limp Bizkit is not my cup of tea, to be quite honest, but in Britain
the country has been gripped by disco fever for the last, well, fuck knows how
long–since the 80s at least. Guitars are now back in Britain and it’s
thanks to Limp Bizkit and the Offspring. So God bless them, I say. I was out
of a job till them.

Punk rock!

The guitar
shop I go get me gear at in Brighton, the manager said to me, he said, "Look
at this shit, Captain!" It was all that disco shit. Decks and samplers
and such. Headphones and all that clever midi shit. He had to sell those. But
now that’s all out the window and guitars are back, and it’s brilliant.
So, ya know what? Fuck the pope.

Do you like
these newer bands? Like the Offspring and Green Day and whatever?

Some of
it. Some of it is all right. It’s got the sound and it’s got the speed,
you know, and it has the production.

What about the danger?

I dunno
what the lyrics are actually saying, but when you talk about danger I think
of old George W. Bush.

Why is that?

Why? While
everyone else around the world seems to be concerned about globalization and
stuff like that, the bloke is basically an oil man. He’s tearing up treaties
like they’re going out of fashion. The test ban treaty. Did you not know
he’s unpopular outside of America? He’s extremely unpopular.

I, um…

Did you
not see what happened in July in Italy?

Look, we’re
proud to be dumb Americans and elect a thieving corporate business guy to run
our country.

And Tony
Blair is his foreign secretary.

Your singer
guy, Vanian. He has these sharp teeth. Fangs. What’s up with that?

We can afford
to have them done now, can’t we?

Do you think he’s a


Does he think he’s
a vampire?

have to ask him.

Okay. Final
question. You are sitting here and wearing shorts and sandals. Now how punk
rock is that?

Who gives
a fucking flying bullock. Piss off.

The Damned
play Mon., Oct. 22, at Irving Plaza, 17 Irving Pl. (15th St.), 777-6800. Their
new album,
Grave Disorder, is out now.