Interview: Dead Sheeran
This government and their stupidity gave me to the inspiration to literally spew words out daily. I could have written another ten songs, and the new one I’ve just started will be even angrier now we’re heading back into lockdown.
Dead Sheeran have just released their first full length album A National Disgrace and just like their self titled first release, it’s an encapsulation of the strange times we are living in at the moment, capturing the frustration, anger and stupidity perfectly in a barrage of fury and humour. We caught up with the man behind Dead Sheeran, the brilliant Paul Catten to talk about A National Disgrace, the biggest influences on Dead Sheeran and how the band came about as well as his love of Crass, his recent solo album, involvement in the Tairrie B album and the possibility of writing a football song for Hereford FC in a great chat from a great artist.
E&D: A National Disgrace. Dead Sheeran’s first full length album is coming out next month. Can you tell us about the album and it’s creation?
Paul: I started the album straight after finishing the first record, was feeling inspired, plus lockdown seemed never ending so time wasn’t a problem, Literally getting up at 8.30, eating breakfast, then going straight into the studio for the day. I took a bit more time with this because to be honest, the first record was purely going to be four tracks on my bandcamp page, and then move on. It was purely down to pissing about with a video that people took any notice. This time I wanted to make a record that sounded like me as Dead Sheeran, whereas with the first record some of the influences behind it shine through (something I’ve not really done before). To me this album doesn’t sound like anyone, and I certainly didn’t want to write a record exactly the same as the last one. That’s not in my musical make up. It could have sounded like anything to be honest! Lyrically, arrangements and everything else is a step up, and this time I took time to produce it and mix it well, the last one was 2 weeks start to finish. This took a couple of months in all I think. There’s lots of flavours on there, pure rage, a pop song, some quirky post lockdown stuff. It’s an album people can make up their mind if they like it or not. If they do then great, if not, even better!
E&D: With the shit show that is going on with the country at the moment, was it easy to write songs that fit the music you’re making as Dead Sheeran?
Paul: Too fucking right it was. For a start I’ve been writing lyrics for 30 years pretty much, I have a grip on that job. Plus, I swear a lot, I’m fucking abusive to people in charge and power, and I had been training to write these words over Twitter for a few years. This government and their stupidity gave me to the inspiration to literally spew words out daily. I could have written another ten songs, and the new one I’ve just started will be even angrier now we are heading back into lockdown. Some lyrics on the new album aren’t aimed at those clowns, there’s some self aware type stuff on there, which came out as lockdown ended. As long as the Tories are in power, I’ll always have lyrics to throw around. Absolute bunch of cunts.
E&D: Was making the album a cathartic experience for you?
Paul: Oh God, yeah man, both Dead Sheeran records because music’s always my get out clause for keeping my mental health together. I mean, things were documented fucking years ago, sometimes I know when I need to make a record, you know what I mean, particularly that time in my life because obviously it was all going on. My wife, she was working away so I was left unattended! I got into the habit of getting up and sticking the news on and by fucking nine o’clock in the morning, I’m bloody furious! Some of the lyrics made it kind of humorous, but that’s just me fucking dealing with it, the pen is mightier than the sword. I can fucking abuse people and win the fight that way if I wanted to but without it, it would have been a struggle.
E&D: You’ve just done a video for the song ‘Keep Your Distance’. Was making the video and the song as well a good chance to vent about the idiots we’re dealing with during this pandemic crisis?
Paul: Yeah, Well, at the time I wrote it, there was still lots of people just going, this is fucking ridiculous and the guidance was you really need to wear one. I’m not pro mask or I’m not anti mask but I’m just into not spreading my germs to other people and that what we need to do. It took them fucking long enough to decide that we need to wear masks. If we had some people leading this country who knew what they were doing, we’d have had masks on months ago and we might not be back in this situation now. It’s aimed at that particular bunch of people. I totally get the anti mask demonstrators, don’t get me wrong. It was written a while ago and you get people saying it works, it doesn’t work but you get people wearing visors. I don’t walk the streets in a mask but in the shops I do of course. Where does the line stop though. Wear a fucking mask and shut the fuck up! Look after each other. Unfortunately, we’re in such a divided state, if it’s not masks, it’s Brexit, it’s this, it’s that. People are just finding an excuse. I don’t really want to do anything this government tells me but as far as wearing a mask, it’s just common sense.
E&D: Are you pleased with the reaction to Dead Sheeran so far?
Paul: Yeah, because the truth of the matter is, I didn’t write it for any other reason than I do with a lot of the stuff I write, like an electronic noise album or something. I mean, music I’d just a hobby these days. My days of touring and all that are long gone, my life is different now. The idea was, do four songs of basic influenced stuff and just bang it on bandcamp and if you have a listen, you have a listen and if you don’t, that’s fine. It doesn’t make any difference. It doesn’t cost me anything to record because I recorded it all at home but I knew when I finished mixing it, coz normally I would’ve mastered it myself but I wanted it to sound a lot better so I paid to get it mastered and it was only because we had free time. I would’ve never have done a video. I can’t be arsed doing that sort of stuff, It was only because I put a video up, and you can kind of gauge it by my Facebook feed.
If I put music up, the people who are into music or musician friends will like it and the other half of the people won’t take any notice but when I put Dead Sheeran up, everybody fucking liked it! I thought, that’s weird. People were writing all sorts of nice stuff, Louder Than War jumped on board. People listened to about thirty seconds of The Fonz and said “oh it sounds just like Sleaford Mods”, and probably that thirty seconds does, I said that in the first place but listen to the rest of the record and you’ll find actually it doesn’t. Once people bumped their arses off that trip, they started realising what it was about. What it has done, and I am pleased with the response, is that’s it’s made me enjoy the music thing again. I’m completely fucking DIY. I put everything together, the videos and I deliver half the fucking albums by hand! The response has been good and of course, I got that free advertising on BBC One, the One Show, the other week which was hilarious.
E&D: Did you know about that beforehand?
Paul: Nah, I was at boxing and my fucking phone was buzzing and I finished the session and I looked at my phone and it said I’d been tagged in this picture, I had a look and I was quite excited! When I got home, I caught it on catchup and it couldn’t have been better placed! I was chuffed about that and it just reminded people. The vinyls pretty much sold out, not far off so I’m going to put it out on a CD with extra tracks. My ethos in music, Gav, and always has been, all the different stuff I’ve done over the years, is if you like me stuff then that’s great, I really appreciate it but if people really don’t like it, then I’m just as fucking happy at that because it means I’m asking them questions, they can’t get their head around it. It doesn’t make any difference to me. If five people had listened to it on bandcamp, of course I’m pleased.
All the t-shirts sold out, I’ve sorted all that out, all the stuff I used to do twenty five years ago with Medulla Nocte, I’ve enjoyed that as well. I’ve done everything for A National Disgrace and then we’ll just see what happens. I don’t care about reviews or anything like that. I just put the thing out there and if people like it, that’s great but if not, I’m not really bothered, my life doesn’t depend on record sales anymore. That’s not what it’s about. I’m me, I’m just Paul Catten at the end of the day. It took me literally five minutes to think of this name, Dead Sheeran, not even that! Just for a laugh, that’s how serious I took it. The fucking funny thing about it all was the album cover was a selfie that I did on my phone, I colured it in on a phone app. It took zero time because I wasn’t planning on doing anything else than sticking it on Bandcamp. It’s great and I’m pleased and it’s nice to actually have a different fucking audience as well in lots of ways, people that would never listened to any of my other stuff. I think a lot of people that have listened will never ever like Bedwetter or something like that, that’s really out the cat amongst the pigeons!
E&D: You mentioned Sleaford Mods earlier as an influence on Dead Sheeran, but it seems like Crass are much more of one. How much of an influence were Crass on you?
Paul: They were the game changer for me. I’m fifty and they’ve been with me since I was thirteen! I was listening to punk from about eleven. I told this story to somebody the other day actually about Crass. A mate of mine at school, said my brother gave me this punk record and it’s shit and it was the Big A Little A/Nagasaki nightmare 7”, I got it home and I was listening to the Damned and after, I put the Nagasaki Nightmare side on and thought that’s a bit fucking weird, a bit later, and I was always a B-side kind of guy, with Adam & The Ants and the Pistols. It was always the b-sides that got me so I put the other side on and it was Big A Little A and I listened and it was like what the fuck! This is incredible! It’s the best thing I’ve ever heard! First, because there’s swearing and second because it’s proper punk rock! I can remember we used to go on the bus to Gloucester to a record shop because everything was still pay no more than a fiver!
I think Christ -The Album was the next one, and that just started me off, that band shaped me politically as a person and then from there I got into Conflict and Subhumans, all the anarcho bands from that scene in the mid 80s, so they’re always my go-to band and of course, they’re a big influence. Sleaford Mods too, because they were one of the bands in recent times that hit me in the same way. It was like, a band that talks like I do, finally! Saying something useful and lyrically superior to what I’d heard before. That was why I wasn’t trying to reinvent the fucking wheel. I was just doing something that appealed to me, I’m not coming on to steal anyone’s crown. The Crass thing is because that’s that’s how I view things politically, god forbid, if I hadn’t discovered Crass, I might have ended up being a fucking Tory, fuck that. Telling me that Thatcher was a twat and I’ve maintained a dislike for the conservative party ever since.
I’m glad people hear the Crass influence because on the early biog, that again took me about ten seconds to write said it sounds like Crass, Sleaford Mods and Cockney Rejects. They are three bands that have shaped me. The Rejects, purely because I used to love that aggro, the football and the boxing and everything like that, Crass for the politics, Ignorant was one of my favourite vocalists. Listening to Crass and miming in the mirror as a kid, a huge influence, oh man, Crass all day long! I’m having a Crass resurgence in the car again at the moment. What a band! I’m old but unfortunately I’m still not old enough to have seen them live, I’m a bit gutted about that.
E&D: I saw Steve Ignorant when he played in Hereford with, when I lived there a few years ago, were you at that gig?
Paul: With Slice Of Life?
E&D: Yeah, it was
Paul: No, there was a reason I didn’t go and I can’t remember what the fuck it was, actually, I was in Sheffield. It was in the Booth Hall wasn’t it?
E&D: Yeah, great venue.
Paul: I was like for fucks sake, gutted about that, maybe next time! Next time he plays, Dead Sheeran need to be on the bill! Do you still live in Hereford?
E&D: Not any more, but I lived just around the corner from Edgar Street actually!
Paul: The sacred home!
E&D: Talking of Hereford, as a Hereford United fan, would you love to write a song for them to come out to or when they scored?
Paul: Well, I can’t stop swearing, that’s a problem! It would be great. I mean, if we ever, ever return to football, do you know what I mean? It’s funny because when I used to do the football blogs, yeah, it was always tempting, but I remember the last time someone wrote a song for the club and came out on the pitch and sang it, it was literally the fucking worst thing I’ve ever heard. I’m not even joking. It was so fucking awful. That’s where the Cockney Rejects had it sussed, football anthems. Maybe that’s something I need to have a look at in the future. I can’t imagine The Fonz being shouted at the Meadow End! .
E&D: You also released a solo album this year, how’s that been received and have you got any plans for a follow-up a solo album?
Paul: It’s a fucking great album and really I should. I listened to it in the week actually and I just thought, you know what, I should have done more with this and maybe I will now I’ve started this little label with the Dead Sheeran stuff. Its a fucking great album and it gave me a chance to really explore avenues I hadn’t done, like singing! I’ve never really bothered by it in the past and there’s some tunes on there. The people that have heard it are like why the fuck isn’t this on like a major label or whatever. It’s got that kind of Manson, Faith No More feel but there’s lounge on there and the people that have heard it, have freaked about it but not enough people have heard it.
What was on my mind recently, was maybe I should do a video for a couple of songs and push it back out that way. I don’t have any CDs left so the only way you can get it is online. Unfortunately around the time that I should have been pushing it, everything started going tits up in the country so I just started on something else. I have thought about it, but again, it’s time because that solo album took me pretty much a year from start to finish. It took me six months to write and record. I’m saying six months, I’m not fucking Queen, in the studio twelve hours a day! I mean evenings and holidays and spare time and I spent a long time on the production to get a really produced album which was a challenge to me.
I want to do a follow up but I feel like I’ve explored the avenues I wanted to. I’d always wanted to do a lounge track and I did that, problem is by doing that, a lot of people thought I was taking the piss and that absolutely wasn’t the case, it’s just putting other influences in. I’ve done hardcore and metal to fucking death and I just wanted to show a different side. It’s just finding the time for a follow up, at the moment I’m concentrating on the Dead Sheeran thing for a while, eventually I’ll get fed up with it and start something else! I’ll still be releasing records when I’m seventy to be honest with you mate!
E&D: You also recently featured on the new Tairrie B album on a cover of the John Lydon/Afrika Bambatta track ‘World Destruction’. How was that experience and how did that come about?
Paul: That was great really because it’s a great song. I toured with Tairrie when Murder One played with them, we did did a couple of tours. Barrabus did a couple of tours and then I think Lazarus Blackstar, we even played a gig because of that connection, so we knew the guys well from touring and we stayed Facebook friends. I haven’t actually spoken to Tairrie for a good few years and then I saw I had notification on my phone, I’d had a message from Tairrie, I’m doing this album and I want us to do this cover and the voice that we wanted was, because it was originally the John Lydon, we wanted somebody who’s kind of got that sneer about him, which is very Dead Sheeran, do you want to do it? We had a chat about it on Skype and they sent me the file over and smashed it out.
I can remember fucking loving that tune, ‘World Domination’, the original. it was at school and I can remember loving it because obviously I was still into the Pistols and John Lydon and PIL, so it was great. It was easy for me to basically be Johnny Rotten, man. I’ve spent my fucking life doing that! We’ve done a video. I filmed a few bits here and send it over. I was flattered because I remember Ian Glasper giving me a copy of the Manhole Cd, saying have you heard this, it was great. Then, I went to see Tura Satana and Tairrie was always in Kerrang! I’ve always held her in high regard and touring and getting to know her and Mick, they’re great guys so I was flattered to be asked. That’s one thing I have done this year is a lot of guest appearances. I was trying to list them but I can’t fucking remember them all! The rest of the Tairrie album is really good too coz I listened to it, she’s back on fire.
E&D: Obviously you’ve been in so many bands, Medulla Nocte, Murder One, Barrabus, Lazarus Blackstar to name few. Do you look back on all your former bands with fondness?
Paul: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I do to be fair. Now the only one that I was really kind of bitter about was Medulla Nocte for a long time because I fucking hate the second album but put it this way, I’d have given anything to have gone and done a fucking gig with Jammer again and it would have been Medulla Nocte. Me and Neil, the guitarist we didn’t speak for a number of years but put some water under the bridge a bit. At the end of last year, we met for the first time in years and that kind of settled it back down. When Jammer passed, his missus gave me his video camera stuff with his cassettes and he was a right hoarder so there was stuff that I hadn’t seen before, stuff I’d didn’t even know existed so I started posting a few things up, I should put up more than I do but it’s just time. I just thought, they were fucking great days and there was live footage but there was lots of footage of us pissing about in the van and that.
You’ve also got to remember, in the Medulla days, we started from scratch and learned to play from scratch. It wasn’t a bunch of musicians who got together playing covers or whatever. We started Medulla because we all got into Slayer! Before anyone had ever heard of us, we’d been playing for four years! There were things like the first time we were in Kerrang! or getting your picture in Metal Hammer then the gigs stared getting bigger. What I look back at Medulla is that it was really fucking exciting, all of a sudden you’ve got a full page picture and a double page feature in Kerrang! and the next thing, you’re on tour with Soulfly or whoever. I look back on it now, and it was a bit crap at the end, but it was nobody’s fault apart from the band but maybe if that hadn’t napped, we wouldn’t have gone onto other things. Murder One was a different animal altogether, it was let’s stop being so serious about stuff and just enjoy ourselves. That was good fun, playing Download and all that.
Yeah man, I do look back on it with fondness. I’m older and I move on but these are all little chapters in life and I can’t look back on them with regret, I mean Murder One had some tragic moments but I still have good memories and we had some good times. We did what we had to do. I was in three bands at that time! I was in Co-Exsist, Lazarus Blackstar and Murder One! Fuck knows how I managed that but I did! All good memories mate and you can’t hold onto grudges and stuff like that. I’d only look back like that if I hadn’t given 100% and gone onstage and not given 100% then I’d have bad memories but regardless of the band, I made sure I did my bit. Lots of good times, you forget about the arguments and the punch ups and everything else, do you know what I mean?!