GOODBYE VICTORY ROAD
INTERVIEWING PAT MCVICAR
When Pat McVicar made contact with us about his mod opera Goodbye Victory Road we jumped at the chance to talk to the man about the project. Pat kindly sent us the album which consists of 23 fantastically penned tunes echoing the sound of the revival period. Goodbye Victory Road tells the story of Billy and the anguish of a young mod trying to escape his council estate trappings, set over multiple parts it's been bought together by some incredibly talented musicians with the guidance of our interviewee who himself a musical talent as well as a great story teller.
In this exclusive interview Pat tells us about the project, his own youthful experiences, his band and the others he's worked with on Goodbye Victory Road and the future plans for this modern mod story........
Hi Pat, can you tell us a little about yourself, where you are from and what your local mod/scootering scene is like.
I live on the London Kent border but I'm originally from South East London. I'm a starving song writer who moonlights as a painter decorator. I'm not really sure about the scooter scene. Clubs don't seem to put on annual events anymore. I've got a few friends with scooters locally. They seem to ride on Sundays and do some of the national runs. Last one I went to was the Big 7 do.
Can you tell us about your influences in the mod/scootering scene, when and how you got into it, what you love about it, your own personal clothes and music tastes and some of your favourite places you like to go.
The music came first. I grew up with The Beatles, The Stones, Del Shannon as a kid. I remember Mott, The Sweet and The Small faces on the radio. I'd bought Dr Feelgood before I bought punk records. I started going to scooter runs and discos in the mid and late 80's. There weren't many mod types but the music was good. Soul and mod guitar bands were played by the DJs. No ska. As my understanding of song writing improved and punk stopped being a creative force my musical output started to use more mod influences. I was in a couple of indie type bands, playing Camden gigs too late to be discovered. Also I'd started popping down to Medway to see bands. There and Southend have been a couple of my main places to go for music. As for clothes, I think my style would mostly be casual mod. Desert or monkey boots, Levis, Fred Perry, slim fit button downs. Crew or roll neck jumpers. Monkey Jacket, Levi cord jacket. I did have a US army Korean war parka. I really like Tootal scarves. What do I love about the mod thing...... Lots of really good bands, getting to dress in decent clothes in the company of people doing like-wise and meeting some genuine people. No aggro...... and it's kind of nice to be into something that isn't part of today's bullshit, hyped-up world
Can you tell us about your love of playing drums, what initially sparked your passion?
Strangely enough playing drums isn't something I love. I first started playing when I realised it would be easier to learn than find a decent reliable drummer. I was playing bass at the time and had only started at that when our bassist at the time moved to the coast leaving his bass behind. If I could pin point a spark then it would be hearing Buddy Ascott from The Chords filling songs with plenty of action. Actually more so than Keith Moon because The Chords were faster. I find it hard to talk about drum stuff with drummers. I don't know anything about the gear or techniques. I bought a nice Premier kit 10 years ago but I always use a 1970's Ludwig Rocker kit I got off ebay for 120 quid.
Can you tell us about your favourite early bands and the influences they had on your life
I've already mentioned growing up with music in the house. Our neighbour was a big help, he used to get box loads of knocked off LPs and he'd let me take a bundle every so often. Me and my mates used to go to Greenwich market, Woolwich market and other places where you could pick up unfashionable records cheap. Punk bands that had failed like The Boys, The Vibrators, The Jolt, etc. At some stage I probably picked up The Pleasers, The Times and The Gents from one of the stalls. All these records are in my head somewhere. I think the main thing is that music used to be important, it shaped our opinions on culture and to a certain extant where we stand. For me music is British. The whole mod thing is British, not in a lets wave the flag way. It's more of a picture fading, the last few people with any taste surrounded by madness, being ignored by the media while they push the most awful crap our way. You can maybe tell I spent today on a job where one of the other trades had Radio One blaring out.
Now can you tell us about your first break, who gave it to you and what was it like
I wouldn't say that I've ever had a break as such although some decent promoters have been good to give me and my mates decent support slots...... and of course underground radio and magazine writers have always helped. I did go to American with a band once. One big support as part of two weeks of sleeping on floors budget rock n roll. We didn't talk to each other on the plane back. Some bookings to honour when we got back and then the end of another band.
Have you been in any other bands before The Dying Breed?
Yeah, lots of effort going nowhere. Some good records and some not so good. I always make a rule to move forwards and not look back.
How did The Dying Breed come together?
I'd had another band suffer a slow painless death and was left with a bunch of unused songs. A couple of friends had become inactive, both guitarists. I'd come across Jay playing and singing a song by The Kink on Youtube. I didn't even know he could sing. When he agreed to have a go in a new band I asked Stu to join on bass. The first rehearsal was really rough. I'd written the songs on bass so Jay was trying to work the guitar in. Stu kept telling me I was playing badly as he couldn't get the bass parts to fit. 2nd practice it just clicked. Rehearsals are always fun. No ego.
There are three of you in the band, can you tell us about the other members and the style of music you play
Jason William, guitar and vocals. Stuart Harris on bass. I suppose we're a 79 style band although we've made no attempt to be like The Jam or any of the others from that time. My making complete demos of songs on bass, drums and vocals is probably quite unusual. I just try to make the songs interesting. With our first material I tried to get a soul vibe going, Jay adding slashing chords and some interesting guitar ideas. Stu improves some of the bass. We don't really sound like anyone else. We don't really have the technical ability to re-create the sounds of the past.
Moving onto Goodbye Victory Road. Who wrote it? How did the idea of a modern Mod opera come about? what made you decide upon the era and the location it is set and can you give us a feel of the storyline.
Goodbye Victory Road came about by accident. I had a set of lyrics from about ten years ago and the album title. The lyrics were about British social conditions and some personal stories. One was about Billy James. A friend who has some film experience suggested that characters could be added/given more depth and more could be made of it plot wise. Obviously I was a bit deflated but I suddenly came up with a load of good ideas and was scribbling down part songs. The era is one that I felt comfortable writing about as I grew up during it.
The location again is where I grew up, although the name is different and I decided to be vague about where in the country the story is based. Without giving the whole thing way...... Billy James is born in a working class family, They move to a block of flats on a council estate. There's stuff about school not being up to scratch and Billy's best mate Pip who is possibly Autistic (Autism didn't exist in the 70's). Along the way Pip decides he's gonna be a pop star. Billy is an amateur boxer. Billy picks up on the mod thing (probably in 1978). A local band starts called The New Wave. Pip joins. I won't spoil the ending. About the song writing. Some of my lyrics were worked into songs by others which I think helped keep the 23 song album interesting. So thanks to James Cattermole, Richard Johnson, Martin Holt, Dave Hayman, Paul Osborn, Jason Williams, Phil McDermott and Rob McManus.
Being based around the mod revival period, were influences taken from your own life or views of the time?
I was never a mod but there were mods (and skinheads) in school and at that age there isn't that much difference as you hung around together and everyone had a Harrington and sta-prest and listened to The Jam..
The mods and the later part of the album are based on two things mostly. The New Hearts and their disillusionment with punk and the way that feeling carried through to Secret Affair. Also a mod gang from the next estate along from mine that could almost hold their own against the local (and seriously hard) skinheads in a ruck. The observations about working class life and stuff that happens in GVR are based on my life and people I know or have met. I've stated before that GVR is a true story. Well it is, although people and events have been mixed up to suit the narrative.
The main character Billy, could you tell us about him, his life and his connection with the project’s theme.
Billy is a mixture of actual real people. I've tried to write him so that the listener can get an idea of how things were in the days when kids and adults had nothing in common, before mobile phones, back when kids used their imagination to create their own world. Billy's bright but he doesn't achieve. He's destined to be factory fodder. No uni for kids back then. He joins the boxing club (a fairly common thing at the time). The mod thing and the boxing give him a confidence and identity. He could be more but tradition tells him otherwise. His brother (Graham) is the opposite, he's going places. This becomes obvious in GVR part 2. So Billy is basically a wasted opportunity like most of the raw talent from Victory Road estate, society doesn’t need him. The good jobs are already spoken for.
Producing a mod opera must have been challenging, how did you bring together all the collaborators to the project. As well as your own band The Dying Breed there are other well connected mod bands playing on the album, can you tell us about them and the different roles they play within it.
Luckily during my time in messing around in bands I've met some really decent people and so I just asked if they'd be interested. The first band meeting to discuss GVR was in the Nags Head in Rochester. We had a beer and a read through of a 16 song version of the mod opera. I was a bit apprehensive but Si Phillpotts (The Bresslaws), Dave Sawicki (The Deccas), James Cattermole and Richard Johnson (both British Litter) were impressed and really positive. I then recruited Dave Pattern who plays guitar and Andy Morton (harp) in local RnB covers band Special Branch. The Dying Breed had played a couple of gigs with them in the past. Sea Jays, a face from Colchester sings and plays harp. Martin Holt from The Loop (a band I've seen numerous times) plays some guitar. Jim Stewart who lives across the road from me, his sax playing has really helped give GVR a touch of quality. Charlotte Patman's vocals have been a real bonus. I'm hoping to make more use of her talent. Maybe release a 7” single if we can generate the interest.
Where was the album recorded and what are the different styles played on it?
The album was recorded and the follow ups are still progressing at The Fort which is situated just outside Chatham in Kent. The engineer/owner James Feist has been great. We first used The Fort as it was cheap, with the idea of just doing some demos. We liked it there so we stayed. It's hard to say what the styles are on the album. Songs like We are The New Wave, Rats, Kung Fu fights and Glory Boys are definitely aggressive mod. Some songs (New Wave Radio and Victory Road Bubble for example) are maybe indie. I wrote Going Steady with Joe Jackson's It's Different For Girls in mind. The opening song (All grown up) was supposed to be a bit like a song from "Oliver". Mostly we just have guitar songs (and some oddities) that I hope will be regarded as fitting the mod theme.
Goodbye Victory Road is part one of a two part series, part one is currently available, can you tell us what to expect in part two, when the recording will start and who will you be working with.
GVR is actually a 3 or even 4 part story. We already have 12 songs started in the studio. Release hopefully Summer 2021. In part 2 Billy comes out of Prison and tries to get back into life. Amongst other things he becomes a professional boxer, gets married and gets a mortgage…. but the main theme of part 2 is how his brother (Graham) is willing to tread on people to become successful and how this puts the brothers on different sides of where the story is heading. I can't say anymore right now. Work on part 2 will involve most of those on part one. There are more characters on part 2 so we'll need a few more voices. Maybe a couple more song writers to add tunes to my lyrics. I've not approached anyone as yet.
Where can our readers learn more about both the project and your own band The Dying Breed?
GVR facebook https://en-gb.facebook.com/goodbyevictoryroad/
You can buy GVR from Detour Records here
The Dying Breed facebook https://www.facebook.com/thedyingbreeduk/
This is where we recorded GVR https://www.facebook.com/thefortstudios/
Lastly, once the project is finished what are your next plans for it, a stage show perhaps?........
A few people have already suggested that Goodbye Victory Road could be a stage show. I think a film version of Billy James' life with flashbacks to his mod days and as a child would be great. If you're a famous film producer then I'm here waiting. Realistically GVR will have to become a gigging band of some sort in the near future. It would be nice to think that there are people out there willing to involve themselves in a project that has no friends in high places.
I'd like to thank Suit Yourself for wanting to spread word of Goodbye Victory Road.