JUNGLE RECORDS
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Jungle Records

SPECIMEN, The Batcave, The 80's, etc

An interview with Jon Klein by Stephan, August 1997 for Orkus Magazine

TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT THE EARLY DAYS OF SPECIMEN AND THE BATCAVE......

"Specimen was formed in Bristol in 1980 by Ollie Wisdom, Kev Mills and myself. (Jon Klein). Ollie had just returned from a 6 month journey through Africa and I was recently out of hospital having broken my back, so Specimen was in a way our rehabilitation into civilisation!"

"Our first show was in Bristol at a street party celebrating the wedding of Princess Diana and Charles. Very soon we moved to London only to find it very quiet indeed. After just one show at Dingwalls we decided to organise our own events in order to avoid the London Rock Club Scene. Our first event at the Embassy Club brought as a publishing deal with Rusty Egan (Rich Kids/Visage) who had recently bought Trident Studios, legendary for it's historic recordings like David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust" and Lou Reed's "Transformer", records that had a deep influence on us."

HOW DOES IT COME TO THE FOUNDATION OF BOTH THE BAND AND THE CLUB.....

"We met many bands in a similar postition to ourselves...nowhere to play! Ollie found a club called "The Gargoyle" that had been open since 1927 that ran as a strip bar during the day but Wednesday nights it would become The Batcave. We'd built up a team of people to deal with many aspects of the club including finding cabaret, bands, decoration and the Press. Initially the English Music Press responded well to our intentions and consequently people knew we were opening the club and a lot of people turned up! We had a 200 metre long queue on our opening night and this queue would become an integral part of the scene. Travelling up four floors in a tiny elevator, you passed through a coffin gateway into a well dressed labyrinth featuring a cinema/cabaret theatre, hybrid disco, live music and an atmosphere of midweek mayhem! The success of the club attracted record companies and it seemed we'd broken the circle at last..."

DID YOU FEEL A PART OF THE EARLY GOTH SCENE, POSSIBLY EVEN CO-CREATING IT?

"For myself at that time Bauhaus wore theGoth band - I'd seen them quite early on and did like them a lot, though I'd say Specimen were still more under the influence of punk which was still the most recent revolution. The club was always filled with many colourful individuals - on various nights you'd bump into Boy George, the Virgin Prunes, Gary Glitter, Ultravox, Jimmy Pursey, The Banshees, Marc Almond, Vince Clarke (then in Yazoo), Nick Cave, Wayne County, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, blah blah blah...!

It was one such night that we spotted Jonny Melton who would later become Jonny Slut - the evil face of Specimen."

WHAT IS YOUR OPINION NOW, LOOKING BACK ON THE EARLY EIGHTIES...

"Looking back on the early eighties I think the only place to be in London was the Batcave as things seemed to happen fast and it was always full of opportunities to be creative. The first New York Batcave shows were like the Disneyland of Hell - a real mental place to be. Our US motto was "have a truly vile day", accompanied by our tourbus anthem - "The Asshole Family"..."

AFTER SPECIMEN SPLIT UP YOU JOINED MANY DIFFERENT BANDS, WHOSE, WHY, AND FOR HOW LONG.....

"I played with Siouxsie for over a period of seven years and for the last three albums. Then I worked for Sinead O'Connor, but I always got involved in creative projects when and whenever possible. Why? Why not! I always had a passion for playing guitar."

WHICH LEGENDARY BANDS PLAYED THE BATCAVE AND WHY DID THE SISTERS OF MERCY NEVER PLAY THERE.....

"Legendary bands? Hmmmm! Test Department played their first ever live show at the club - great! Also Jimmy Pursey paid Alien Sex Fiend to go back onstage and smash their TV after their debut performance, and we presented Mrs Fiend with a personalised Sex Fiend teapot! What else? Oh yes - Marc Almond threw a major tantrum at his manager live onstage one night, whilst Frankie Goes To Hollywood were turned down for a gig because they were too cloney, and then went on to hit number one a few months later. There was no reason for no Sisters, I guess our paths didn't cross...."

IF YOU COULD TURN BACK TIME, WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE.....

"I wouldn't change a thing if I had the chance. We lived life to the maximum while it lasted. With Kris Needs around (then Music Magazine editor, now DJ), every day was an adventure."

ANY SPECIMEN PLANS FOR THE FUTURE? NEW ALBUM, TOURING....

"Getting back together? Doubtful! The humour and bad behaviour of Specimen was very much about being in our twenties. It really was part of the chemical equation of our group. Also I know Ollie for one has settled into the international Techno-Trance scene, Kev takes his holidays in Cambodia when not working on TV and film soundtracks, Jonathan Trevisick runs a circuit of clubs, Jonny moved on into singing and performing as well as DJing, and Tim, another drummer, studies 3D animation in San Francisco. We really wound up all over the place!"

WHAT ARE YOUR MUSICAL ROOTS......

"Jimmy Hendrix, David Bowie, The Velvet Underground, Kraftwerk, The Sex Pistols, Pop Group, Joy Division, Bauhaus, ELVIS, Roxy Music, Liza Minelli and Marlene Dietrich."

THE SO-CALLED INDIE/GOTH SCENE HAS MANY NEW VARIETIES, SUCH AS TECHNO, ELECTRO AND METAL. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT IT......

"There is generally a lot of hybrid activity going on in much of today's music. If the music is good and seems to have a reason to be or is done from the heart - that's OK. I started out as a loud guitar player and one day I found the volume knob so I had the choice of being a loud or quiet player, then I bought a synthesizer and had even more knobs to play with! These mediums all have the potential to make valid music."

THE UK MARKET SEEMS TO IGNORE GOTH MUSIC. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHY? CAN WE JUST BLAME THE MUSIC PRESS FOR THEIR IGNORANCE OR WOULD THIS BE TOO EASY....

"The UK record market has always been the most quirky and unpredictable on the planet. It really is nothing new. With regards to the music press, hmm! It probably needs more indie/goth bands to buy more journalists lager, lager, lager!!"

WHICH NEW BANDS HAVE ANY INFLUENCE ON YOU....

"I saw a band from Israel called the Bigots recently and they were well entertaining. I've also been hearing about a band called "Strapping Young Lad" that I want to check out. I find though that I'm less influenced by other bands these days."

FINAL WORDS.....

"Final words? I've just remembered a Specimen show in Los Angeles 1983 where we were convinced by Stevo to put Ein Sturtzende Neubauten on as support. They used Jackhammers on the stage which was directly above our dressing room causing the ceiling to completely crumble into the forty cups of tequila and orange on the table. They then managed to set fire to the stage which got quite out of control - none of the fire extinguishers in the theatre worked so we were pissing on the fire and using lager, and all in all it was a memorable night! Hot!...I could spin so many yarns of our misadventures, but I'm sure some of them would still put me in jeopardy of repercussions to this day!"


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