After releasing "Hello Pig", an album which much of the core fan base hated it looked like finally the Levellers had lost their way. In truth it was an album they had to make to avoid becoming the indie Status Quo, but thankfully they have that fire back in their bellies and return with a new album reminiscent of the classic "Levelling The Land" in October preceded by the single "Pretty Target" in September.
Prior to the album release the band look set to host their own two day Green Blade Festival featuring appearances from the likes of Primal Scream amongst others. In a world where even Glastonbury is televised and the true festival spirit is lost along the way, the Levellers look set to bring back that original ideology behind a festival.
Q: Green Blade Festival. Your own 2 day festival over the September 7/8th weekend. I guess in a nutshell its about getting back to that old festival spirit free from corporate sponsorship and the like?
A: Basically we just wanted to get a festival together like in the days when we were younger, not like the huge commercial things you have these days. Even Glastonbury's really commercialized nowadays....since Channel 4 got in there everybody has started to realize how good it is. I mean it was popular before then, but the last 10 years it has rocketed and has changed alot in the last 15 years definitely.
They're (Reading, V Festival) great if you have never been to one before. For me, they're all a bit of a pale shadow of the one's we used to go to which were just full on chaotic affairs where real strange things could happen.
I just don't think you could get a band like the Levellers starting now. The climate isn't there for those type of people to get together.
Q: It must be hard organizing this alongside the touring, recording and just the general day to day lifestyle.
A: Luckily we have quite a few contacts in that scene so were just pulling in a few favours and doing a lot of stuff ourselves. Especially because we want to have it as a yearly thing. The whole thing is its not just about the Levellers - were just going to be one of the bands that are there. I haven't actually seen the list of who's playing yet, but the only one I know from talking about it is Primal Scream because Mark's mates with Bobby and Mani.
Q: It looks like September will be a busy month for you guys. Not only is there the festival, but you've got the new album released a month after. From what I've heard its supposed to a return to the old "Levelling The Land" era Levellers. Is that a fair assumption?
A: Its a bit like "Levelling The Land" meets "Mouth to Mouth" kind of thing. Its definitely a pop sort of record, but its still quite varied really. A lot of them have got married and kids and stuff, not that there's lots of baby songs or wedding songs, but they see the world from a different perspective.
The single is probably going to be a song called "Pretty Target", but nothing been decided yet because we've got about 2 or 3 really good singles on it. We don't want to get to the situation where were ghettoized playing to the same people so if this doesn't crossover to a new audience we'll probably have to start thinking about if anyone's interested or we still want to do it.
For me personally, if you're not reaching out to new people then there is no point in doing it. Metal music has always been a young fella's taste and hopefully as they grow a little older they will broaden their taste's a little.
Q: The last album "Hello Pig" was an album that divided fans. Looking back in retrospect do you still stick by it as a piece of work?
A: The fans hated it and we kind of knew they would...but it was just something we had to do. We had to stretch ourselves and go somewhere a bit different. Initially this one is a bit more of a return to a more familiar sound, but we did learn a lot from doing "Hello Pig" and there are still some strange bits in the new one. We've always done strange bits from "3 Friends" which is one of the first songs we ever wrote - a sort of big psychedelic monster so it has always been there - its just that on "Hello Pig" we really wanted to make an album that was not formulaic basically. If we would have carried on down that road we were going we'd have ended up the indie version of Status Quo!!!
For all of us the only regret we have in terms of recording is probably the 3rd album we did. And that's because we were exhausted at that point and there were a few songs on that, that shouldn't really have passed the quality control.
Q: Its been nearly 15 years now as a band and you're still selling out major venues with little or no press support. Did you ever imagine it would last this long?
A: The maddest thing in terms of that reading through a book "The Storm" which George Burger wrote, a history of the band sort of thing. This book was written 3 or 4 years ago now but that was really mad because it relates it to all the political stuff that was going on at the time. Its quite interesting I suppose, cos' although we were living it we never really thought about it and never really saw it in context.
Q: It was five years ago today (May 1st) that Labour came into power and I remember the same night it was a Levellers gig at the Manchester Academy. In retrospect now it wasn't the great revolution we all expected it to be was it?
A: We were sitting up in Manchester University Students union watching the votes coming in and it was great. The way I look at it is that they're all pretty much the same as each other, but I was so glad to get the Tories out that anything would have been a breath of fresh air really. But there haven't been any great vast changes on a street level....they have a lot of good intentions and they have done better than the Tories have done, but I think our views on Politicians are pretty well known.
The thing is all the major political parties are so close together its so grey that people are looking for the extremes, one way or the other, if the right right and there probably will be countering extreme left groups as well or the ones that were already there will resurface. But its always disturbing when someone like Le Pen or the fella that was in Tower Hamlets a couple of years ago...its always in times of National crisis...that these things happen.
Q: You guys have always tried to document what is happening around you. Not just in terms of songs and in interview, but you also run the alternative news service Schnews. Would you like to tell the readers a little about it?
A: Schnews is associated with us through a group called Justice, and they work through here at our centre in the Metway. They are basically an alternative news service and we met them because we all used to live in squats. As a bit of a publicity stunt, and also a great idea, they opened up a Squatting Estate Agency. It was great....they squatted in a shop in Brighton and just put up all these empty houses in the window.
It caused such a stink in the local press that they decided to make a go of it and so they got this newsletter together highlighting local relevant events from a bit of a street level perspective. They do quite of a lot benefits and events...the first gig were doing of this tour is actually a benefit show for the Miscarriages of Justice.
The band tour throughout May / June
For more info:
Post your own Levellers reviews / comments on our Message Board